The Corner Library
At the age of nine, my world revolved around books. I had not yet gotten into hard science fiction or whimsical fantasy; I liked Westerns, I liked books about animals, and I LOVED horror.
Pulp novels about cellars, attics, woods, fairgrounds, you name it. Anywhere abandoned suited the genre. Dark corners where the half-known lurked. The terrible consequences of the foul play of others.
I lived, in those days, in a tiny village, next to a beach, on a small Scottish island where it was always sunny, or always storm-wracked, depending on the mood I’m remembering it in. My school, with its pointy modern roof like the teeth of a shark, stood a half hour’s walk from our house in the woods. It being a school of only around fifty pupils, there was no library on site. But fear not, the council ran a mobile library that visited on Thursdays. It would park-up at my end of the village, opposite the playing fields at Sandbraes, outside Jimmy Shand’s house. I particularly remember kind old Jimmy, with his two French Springer Spaniels standing sentinel outside his 1970’s bungalow. I ran up to hug those dogs on the way to, and the way home from, school every day; and smiled shyly at Mr Shand.
Well, on the Thursday traipse home from school, the library van would be waiting for me by the kerb. I clambered up the fold-down steps to enter into four walls lined floor to ceiling with an array of possibility. I’m sure there was more to the selection than the books that caught my eye, but all I remember is the choose-your-own adventure novels, the Hardy Boys, and the horror section.
Every week I’d pick as many books as were allowed and place the stack in front of the librarian, who would rubber stamp my choices with the date I had to finish them by.
I don’t know how I got them the three-quarter mile to my house in the woods, maybe I stuffed them in my school bag amongst the pencil shavings and gobstoppers. But I got them there all right. And by night I would crouch in a nest made of duvet and read by torchlight.
The horror novels made my hair stand on end. Constantly glancing up, two, maybe three times in a row to try and catch the ghost as she came through the solid oak door. Or flicking the curtains by my bedside up and out in a frantic scrabble to uncover the werewolf behind. If a pee was necessary, a few quick thrusts of my plastic replica Roman short sword, under the wooden bed my dad had made me, would sort-out the monster thereunder.
Many a night I fell asleep by lamplight, the stories blending into my dreams as I fought to stay awake long enough to be in them to the end. A habit that died out in the smartphone era. I hope there is a place for mobile libraries in the lives of future generations. The lamp that burnt my bed to smoking ruins one night as it toppled under my sleeping leg did not go out, it merely added a little adventure to my life on an island in my youth.