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The Book by P.C. Reynolds
A forest green Jeep Wrangler weaved through the country roads of north Georgia. The cool breeze of twilight provided respite from the hot summer day. Jack and his father were on their way to their favorite coffee shop – Jittery Joe’s. It was a recent ritual that he and his dad began after Jack had moved away for college. The coffee shop was an hour away but it held special memories of his childhood, not to mention a favorite hang-out spot for accomplished and aspiring writers alike. His dad was a writer – best-selling writer at that – though it’s been a long time since he wrote that book. He hadn’t published one since; he felt that that one book was his contribution to the world and the rest of his stories were best shared with his loved ones.
Jack always looked forward to these times with his father. Times for them to just talk about any and everything – from adventures they had shared in the past to dreams of the future. Sometimes, Jack would do most of the talking while his dad listened intently. These were treasured moments in Jack’s life, especially since he had recently grown to understand his deep need to spend time with his father. It had been nearly eight years since his father had adopted him. The world treated Jack harshly before the adoption; a time which Jack rarely brings up in conversation unless prompted, but remembering those times brings him gratitude for his new family. It pained him to realize how often he could take his relationship with his father for granted when the first fourteen years of his life were spent in one foster home after another. He truly loved his father and hated being separated from him, and it would be at least a year before he finished his education in New York.
The trip to Jittery Joe’s was nearly as good as being at the coffee shop. He often stared out the passenger window and watched the pine trees whiz by. Sometimes the fireflies along the back roads would make the experience almost magical as they danced through the evergreens. Jack would always take the opportunity to breathe in the fresh country air. It was wonderful, with the strong pine fragrance accented by the faint aroma of honeysuckle.
The hour travel seemed to go faster than normal, but in any event, he was glad to be at the coffee shop. Jack and his father were greeted with head nods by the baristas across the counter as they entered the double doors. It was hardly a place for loud obnoxious greetings. A strong coffee aroma set the tone of the uniquely elegant interior. The flooring was clear marble tile with old newspapers underneath which you could clearly read. Some of the newspapers were dated as far back as the 1800s but all were tinged yellow with age. The setting reminded Jack of a library. Bookshelves lined some of the walls, along with library style ornate wooden tables and lamps with green glass lamp shades. They both ordered their drinks. Jack, a caramel macchiato and his father a regular coffee – black. They found a table by a bookshelf and Jack examined some of the book titles and authors, especially one in particular caught his eye.
“So Jack, have you met any nice girls lately?” his father asked. His dad always asked questions like that whenever they were together, and they never got any easier to answer. He had a fine way of making something very natural very awkward. He always thought his father did that for kicks.
“There are a lot of great girls in New York, but I haven’t found the one…yet,” Jack replied.
“Ah son, I know what you mean. You’re a hopeless romantic to the core, just like me. You’re looking for that once-in-a-lifetime transcendent love,” his father said looking up with dreamy eyes and making a rainbow-like arching motion with his hands.
“Very funny, dad,” Jack said, while looking at the table with a hint of red appearing in his cheeks. His father gave a chuckle.
“But seriously son, take your time. You’ll find her one of these days,” his father said sincerely. At that time Jack’s dad looked over to another table where a gentleman was waving him over.
“John Ambrose, what’s he doing here? I haven’t seen him in years. Do you mind if I go over and say hello?”
“Absolutely. Go catch up with your old friend,” Jack implored.
“Thanks, son, oh and by the way.” His father reached over for a book on the bookshelf and handed it to him. “Take a look at this. I know you’ll love it.” With a wink at Jack, he walked over to sit with his old friend.
It was the book Jack had noticed earlier. It had a beautiful cover; perhaps beautiful isn’t a strong enough word to describe this book, Jack thought. It was a work of art, a true masterpiece – definitely handmade. He had seen similar books before, but they were usually beautiful on the outside to make up for the lack of content on the inside. He didn’t recognize the author – Joshua Anderson – nor did he recognize the publisher. It was probably a private publisher. He was surprised to find how smart and witty the book was once he started reading the introduction. The story was excellent; it drew him in and held his attention. Halfway through chapter one, he realized how captivated he was. It had it all, it was: smart, funny, adventurous, suspenseful, mysterious, romantic, relatable. It was a true epic. There was also a sense of familiarity with the style of writing. It was like he had read many of the author’s other works – perhaps he had under a different name. The plot was familiar even though he didn’t know how it was familiar.
He held his place with his finger, and briefly reflected on his previous thoughts of the cover. The cover didn’t do the book justice for the beauty found within. He had just finished chapter three but it only took reading chapter one to realize the thickness of detail this book possessed. It had to be over one thousand pages and well over forty chapters. He then dove back into the book with great eagerness. Some time later, his train of thought was halted when he felt a tap on his shoulder.
“Its time to go, Jack,” his father said.
He looked around and chairs were being stacked onto the tables, where did the time go, he thought. Closing the book he realized that the beauty of the cover wasn’t diminished by the book’s content, in fact, it was magnified. Now he understood the different symbols on the cover, and what the color scheme represented. When Jack placed the book on the shelf it was as difficult as walking down a street with gale force winds blowing against him. As they were leaving Jack leaned over to get one last look at the book, but he wasn’t able to see it. The baristas waved with a smile as Jack and his father left.
The trip home was silent as Jack stared out the window in deep thought over the book. He contemplated the color scheme - the browns of the trim and border. The picture on the front of the book was an artisan’s oil painting of a gorgeous flowering vine climbing a large tropical tree while beautifully transitioning into a woman climbing. He knew what it meant now – the vine symbolized-
“Hey Jack, you seem kind of quiet. What’s on your mind?” his father asked.
Jack turned and squared his shoulders to his father, “Dad, I must have that book.” “I looked for a price, but I didn’t see a bar code, price, or anything.” He turned his shoulders back to the road. “I wonder how much they would sell it for? I don't care if it's expensive.”
“Son, they're not a bookstore and those books…they’re set apart, especially that one.” “Plus if it was for sell you couldn’t afford it anyway…it's priceless,” his father explained. “A book like that…must be given.”
“Given?” he said with curious astonishment. His father nodded in agreement. Jack returned to staring out the window, now noticing the crescent moon in the starlit sky and said: “I’ll do whatever it takes.”