Rain on the green

by Suw on March 1, 2009

First draft of opening scene from Revenge of the Books of Hay. Comment at will.

Ernest Scrimshire pulled the nape of his jacket up over his head. He hesitated on the bookshop doorstep as the heavy oak door shut behind him, then plunged into the pelting rain. The remains of the castle loomed up behind him and provided some shelter for a moment or two, but soon he was at the top of the steep steps that lead down to the Castle Green. They were slick and dangerous, and he took a hold of the hand rail, still holding his jacket up with his other hand. It wasn’t far to home, but he’d be soaked to the skin before he got to the other side of the tiny, irregular walled green. It was barely 15 yards across but the rain was coming down like stair rods.

The lush grass, thick after a wet summer and long overdue a mow, soaked up the weather and soaked the bottoms of his trousers. Bookshelves backed up against the walls as if defending themselves against all that lay outside, or perhaps they were cowering away from the torrents that lashed them.

Ernest felt a pang of guilt as he hurried past the exposed and vulnerable books. Every time it rained, he wished he had found time to erect some sort of shelter for them, just something to keep the worst of the rain off them. But every time it was dry he was busy with other things, with urgent things that couldn’t wait. Or couldn’t wait insofar as Griffith Loyd was concerned, at least. Most things could wait for Ernest.

He hurried home, leaving the soggy books behind him. Sad and unloved, they stood in serried ranks along the shelves: outside, unprotected, at the mercy of the elements. As if the desultory prices they were on offer for, 30p for a paperback, 50p for a hard cover, wasn’t insult enough. And this in a world where 50p barely bought half a loaf of bread.

The Literary Guide to the United States stood next to More For Timothy and Indoor Plants, A Compendium, but should any brave souls take a shine to one of these illustrious titles and try to remove one from the shelves, they would find the covers stuck together, past rains and subsequent hot spells having bound them together as fast as any glue.

The poor large format books were relegated to the lower shelves, no longer lined up neatly, but piled in sorry heaps. The weaker, thinner paperbacks curled up in pain, their pages wrapped foetally around their spines, their deformity crushed into place by heavier hard covers. The muddy path that lead the book buyers around the green threatened to cast its muck over everything, except the mould had got there first. Mildew spots grew on every page, consuming the type and eating away at the paper.

No one would want one of these pathetic books in their house. They weren’t even fit for kindling in the town’s many fireplaces. Instead, they sat on their shelves, quietly rotting.

The wind swung to the north and a different cadre of books cringed away from the cruel rain.

Stuart Ian Burns March 3, 2009 at 9:41 am

I love this: there’s a clear sense of place, it offers an attitude to books which explains the title and puts the reader in the position of sympathising with what many might assume are inanimate objects but are actually full of life. Plus – though I know this might not be the case depending on the cover — I’ve no idea what the genre is going to be. Sure the title evokes sci-fi but it could equally be a detective story, a literary puzzle or some lovin’ between the shelvin’. Or all of them (it’s possible).

Suw March 8, 2009 at 6:49 pm

Thanks for the comment, Stuart. I have to confess that I’m not entirely sure what genre this will fall into. Possibly fantasy. I am sorta hoping that, when I post it up here, other people will tell me what genre it is. 😉

Stuart Ian Burns March 14, 2009 at 9:40 pm

It’s good that you’re not sure of the genre, I think. Many’s the book I’ve read which slowly goes down hill because the author’s decided which genre they want their book to inhabit and finds themselves simply regurgitating the tropes. The best books (and films actually) leave it to the reader (or audience) to decide for themselves.

Worst quote in relation to this? Some actor from Battlestar Galactica saying “We’re not really a sci-fi show.” Really?

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