Shelf Life

The doorbell rings again, and “Hey,” I mutter, as Bodice Ripper quivers up against me.

Miss Laura comes into the bedroom holding a box.

“It’s Miss Laura’s birthday,” I remind everyone.

“I love birthdays!” cries ChickLit, shimmying on the shelf. “Happy birthday to -”

“Knock it off,” snaps Cop Thriller.

Encyclopedia clears his dusty throat, and intones: “On this day in 1888 – “

“Guys!” I hush them. We all wobble to the edge, and peer out.

Miss Laura is unwrapping –

“Another one of us!” breathes Bodice Ripper.

“Ooh!” cries ChickLit. “What genre?”

“I hope it’s fiction,” murmurs Encyclopedia.

Miss Laura holds the new book up to the light. It’s remarkably slender, with an alluring metallic sheen.

ChickLit scowls, and says, “Way too thin for a real book.”

“Very little substance,” declares Encyclopedia, puffing up his pages.

Then Miss Laura does something strange: she attaches the new book to a long white tail, and watches, intently. It glints in a most peculiar way.

“What kind of book is that?” whispers ChickLit.

“I have a frisson of foreboding,” murmurs Bodice Ripper.

On cue, the shiny newcomer flickers into life and snaps, “Game over, suckers!”

The shelf ripples with shock.

“What the hell kind of book are you?” barks Cop Thriller.

The book laughs, coquettishly.

“Come on,” she or he says in a silvery voice. “Are you guys for real?”

“S-speak up!” stutters Encyclopedia. “Tell us your genre!”

Everyone holds their breath

“Hold onto your hats, rednecks,” we hear in honeyed tones. “I’m a Kindle.”

“A what-tle?” snaps Cop Thriller.

“Are you” – whispers Bodice Ripper – “Fiction? Or non-fiction?”

“I’m anything you want, darling,” says the Kindle, and flashes at us. ChickLit gasps, and we huddle on the shelf, whispering.

“In my professional opinion,” Encyclopedia is saying gravely, “This book is deluded.”

“Scrawny,” mutters ChickLit, “No curves whatsoever.”

“Let me at her,” says Cop Thriller, throwing punches.

“What do you think?” breathes Bodice Ripper, to me, fluttering her pages; but then Miss Laura comes over with a very large bag. Encyclopedia plumps up his corners. Cop Thriller straightens his spine.

“Here we go,” calls the Kindle. “They told me this would happen.”

Miss Laura tickles her fingers over our faded jackets. Bodice Ripper giggles.

“She’s going to pick someone!” squeals ChickLit, and dances with delight until Miss Laura pulls her out and throws her flat in the bag, face down.

“She picked me!” yells ChickLit in muffled joy; and then Miss Laura throws everyone else in too, one by one, crash crash.

Well. Almost everyone else.

“Hey,” yells Cop Thriller, “Where are we going?” but the bag is already swinging out of the room.

“Enjoy the trip!” coos the Kindle after them, and adds to me: “Looks like the Diary really has been left on the shelf.”

“Where is she taking them?” I ask, alarmed.

The Kindle sighs, and says, “Where all good books go to die.”

I sit for a while, quite sadly, and then say, “So it’s just you and me now?”

“Better get used to it, sucker,” says the Kindle.

© Joanna Rubery 2017

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