Off the Shelves

Once upon a time there was a teeny, tiny worm who lived in the house of a nice young family in this very town.  No one in the family knew he was there, because he lived quietly among the books on the tall shelves in the family room.  He was, of course, a book worm, and he took his job very seriously.

During the day, he wove his way in and out of the books, checking for problems and trying to help.  Some problems were simple, like bent pages and cracked spines which could be taken care of with some smoothing and a little binding glue.  Other problems were a bit more…challenging.  Like the time when someone scribbled all over Alice’s face in Through the Looking Glass.  Try as he might, the book worm could not get those stubborn marks washed off, and he didn’t dare break all the mirrors, for that would ruin the story.  He was able comfort her, however, with a special visit from the shy little kitten and a hot cup of tea, provided by the lovely sisters over in Pride and Prejudice.   Worse was the time when a corner got ripped off of Jack and the Bean Stalk and Jack climbed all the way out and into the science fiction books on the shelf above.  He was nearly swallowed by a giant sand worm before the book worm showed up with a thumper and dragged him home.  There was no way to repair the torn illustration, but you can be sure that Jack was much more careful after that.

These sorts of adventures and misadventures kept the book worm very busy, and he was happy to feel that he was successful in his work.  He had a knack for calming the wild things (as he really never needed to blink) and he knew exactly where the Jaberwocky liked his back scratched.  The family had no idea of the many catastrophes he prevented each week, and that was just the way he liked it.  After a long day of work, he would choose a nice book to curl up in (He used to favor fantasy  for the fascinating dreams, but he got so tired of being woken up by dragons and giant wolves that he switched over to basic travel books with their lovely beaches peaceful forests.) and hum softly to himself as he fell asleep.

The young family grew.  The children learned not to rip pages and scribble on illustrations.  The book worm was relieved.  The parents took the chapter books off the higher shelves and the white witch learned all over again that Aslan always wins, which made her much easier to live with.  Then, the children began to read for themselves.  At first, that was a happy time.  The poky little puppy got lots of exercise and Junie B. Jones got to let off some of that excess energy.

Then the disaster happened.

When he thought about it later, the worm thought that he should have known.  Children who would mark their spot by turning down page corners were bound to be careless from time to time.  Was it really such a surprise, then, when they went to bed one night leaving a pile of books scattered across the floor?  And really, that might not have been so bad if so many of them had not been…shudder…OPEN.

The first one he noticed was Little House on the Prairie, which would have been a disaster if the Indians had gotten out, but fortunately, only Jack the brindle bull dog burst from the pages, chasing a rabbit.  He was a very obedient dog, so a few stern words and he went straight home.  The book worm was just trying to locate the rabbit when he saw the other books.  Chapter books and picture books, fiction and non-fiction, at least a dozen books in all, lying open on the floor.  In moments it was pandemonium.  Goblins poured out of The Hobbit, the atlas emptied kangaroos and koalas onto the carpet, George Washington barked orders at everyone, and hippos went berserk.  There was no hope of sorting it all out.  It was all the book worm could do not to get trampled.

He scrambled up onto the shelves and looked around at the chaos.  The Sisters Grimm were fighting off Count Olaf, while the very hungry caterpillar ate his way through the Sesame Street cookbook.  What to do?  What to do?!?  The book worm knew he needed help, so he eyed the shelves, thinking through his options.  This would be tricky.  If he got the wrong pages, it would end in disaster.

He started with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, making sure to catch Harry alone with Ron and Hermione.  They agreed to help at once, so he tipped their book, ever so carefully, and they leaped out, slamming the pages shut on Voldemort and drawing their wands.  Mother Goose was next, and even harder.  There was only one page, right in the middle of Snow White’s tale, that showed a bubbling cauldron standing all alone.  If the page turned even a little, the witch would be there, too.  The book worm braced himself in the exact spot and gave a final wiggle.  The book toppled over with a mighty thud.  The book worm waited, barely breathing.  Deep inside, the three billy goats gruff were making a lot of racket, but no witch’s cackle could be heard, only the soft bubbling of the potion above his head.  The book worm smiled.

It took the young wizards and the little worm most of an hour to douse everyone with the sleeping potion.  The very hungry caterpillar ate a dipped apple right away, of course, but the goblins were darting about everywhere, using their shields to keep the potion from hitting them, and the hippos each needed several doses to finally settle down.  Finally the book worm used himself as bait to lure the great goblin right into the cauldron itself.  After he went, the others were rounded up quickly.  At last, all the escapees were caught, and the floor was littered with slumbering children and snoring kangaroos.  The book worm began the long task of dragging everyone back into their books.  He just lugged the last hippo into place when the sun came up and he heard footsteps on the stairs.

“Oh, those kids,” someone said, as large hands began gathering up books, shutting them tight and placing them on the shelves.  The book worm breathed a sigh of relief, inching slowly off toward the Lonely Planet books, while the voice loudly explained to someone that books are never, EVER to be left on the floor.  He knew of a nice little hammock in Jamaica that would make the perfect place to take a nap.

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