There once was a woman who loved books. She lived alone
in a house with fourteen rooms, and she lined each and every
one with bookshelves. The guest room had leather-bound books.
The solarium had red books. The bathroom had books with
laminated pages, so she could read in the shower.
Her favorite was the rumpus room, which contained books
with that old-book smell. Whenever the woman felt sad, she
would go to the rumpus room and take a deep sniff. She always
But even this huge collection was not enough, so the woman
borrowed books from seven different libraries. She kept
them in her breakfast nook, where a set of rotating shelves
kept them moving until, on their due date, they were dropped
into a box on the porch. After breakfast, the woman would
carry the box to her van (a bookmobile purchased at auction
from the local school district) and spend the day driving
from one library to the next in search of new titles.
In order to maximize her reading time, the woman equipped
the house with ninety-two lamps. But the constant turning
of switches played havoc with her arthritis, so she had
a computer chip installed in her forehead. The lamps came
on whenever she was within ten feet, creating a cloud of
light that followed her around the house.
The woman decided she should pay a special tribute to her
pastime, so she commissioned an artist to build a fountain
in the shape of Gutenberg’s press. He surrounded the
fountain with statues of the woman’s twelve favorite
authors. When you pressed a statue’s hand, it recited
excerpts from the author’s work in a replication of
the author’s voice. The final touch was the tilework
in the fountain pool, which was inscribed with the entire
text of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,”
her favorite book of all.
On the night of the fountain’s completion, the woman
went to her room and read a book. When at last she felt
drowsy, she used a remote to turn off the chip in her forehead,
sending the room into darkness. She settled her head on
a pillow stuffed with shredded pages from the sonnets of
Shakespeare, and drifted off to dream of books. Later that
night, there was an earthquake, and the books fell from
their shelves, killing the woman.