Tuonen Hauki (plasticsturgeon) wrote in kevinshapiro,
Tuonen Hauki
plasticsturgeon
kevinshapiro

Kevin Shapiro, Boy Orphan: Episode 733.51

Kevin sat on the floor of the upstairs stacks in the public library, wearily staring up at a battered old Edward Gorey alphabet poster depicting The Gashlycrumb Tinies. He hugged a few precious books to his chest. The pickings had thinned after the library's funding had been cut; no new books arrived to take the places of the ones that were lost, stolen, mutilated, drastically misfiled, or eaten by hungry pica sufferers. They'd thinned even further when the ban on pro-gay books had passed--no more Shakespeare or Melville or LeGuin.

It sometimes took him a week to find even one "new" book that he could stand to read. Once he found one, he would read it voraciously--as much as he could before the library closed--and hide it in the Economics section where no one ever went. He also had a stash in an air vent over by Folklore.

He knew at least two other kids who did the same thing. They didn't talk much, but sometimes a new book would appear in one of his stashes, and, later on, he would return the favor. He never thought of this as stealing, even though it pretty much ensured that no other patrons could get at their finds. They were preserving the books, keeping them safe and sound in the library where they belonged.

And so the books grew fewer and fewer. Today, Kevin had an early Tepper, a Pinkwater, and a new (to him) Kiesel. He clutched them to his chest, inhaling their dusty, lovely smell. He wanted to wait as long as possible before he opened them, so he looked up at the poster again.

"At least none of those terrible things have happened to me," Kevin mused. He shuddered as his gaze passed over K, the little girl struck by an axe. Black gore poured from the wound on her chest, and her huge, hollow eyes looked as stricken as he felt. He looked closer--someone had crossed out "Kate" and scribbled "Keats" above it.

He looked at L. "Leo" too had been crossed out, and "Lorca" inserted above. They had all been replaced: "Maud" with "Marlowe", "Titus" with "Tolstaya", "Victor" with "Vonarburg", and so on. The graffiti artist apparently hadn't been able to come up with any authors whose names began with X--"Xerxes" had been replaced with "Xena, Warrior Princess".

Kevin's eyes filled with tears.

He tried to read, but all he could think about was those authors, hacked and stabbed and burned and trampled and gone, gone forever. As if they had never been.

A month later, the library ran out of everything but Danielle Steele, and Kevin Shapiro died of ennui.
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