Thanks to everyone who took the time to write and read responses to the TBR story challenge. I’m delighted to share my offering. I hope you enjoy the story. Happy Reading!
Readers Anonymous: A 12-Step Program
I have a book problem. Check. First step done in my 12-step program.
Sucking in a breath, I push through the library’s wooden doors, ready to deal with my kindle addiction. The fluorescent lights shine on colorful shelves and comfy chairs, and I resist the temptation to browse. Some of the titles pop from the spines as if sprinkled with magic dust. The covers of fantasy books attract my eyes like lodestones. Down by my ankle, my Kindle tugs on my jeans and whispers, “Just read the blurb. Do it, do it, do it.”
I drop my gaze to the chubby little pest and shake my pant-leg loose of its grip. “No. We’re here to deal with your insatiable appetite. This has to stop.” My stubborn kindle digs his claws into my right boot, and I march to the meeting room in the back, dragging him across the worn carpet with every other step.
The room is almost bare of distractions. Someone with foresight covered the bookshelves with mismatched tablecloths. Four folding chairs form a circle, occupied by four women with a variety of e-book readers, every one of the devices glowering in defiance. The women look harried, and they scooch over to make room for one more chair.
They start introducing themselves.
Shelley smiles broadly and goes first. She’s in her twenties, a sales rep, who knew she had a problem when she started reading thrillers while stopped at traffic lights. Getting rear-ended propelled her into the group. She thinks she’ll be ready to move on after a few more meetings, but her e-reader squirms on her lap like a hungry toddler in a candy store, ready to raid the chocolate bars.
The woman to Shelley’s left rolls her eyes. She’s Mildred, a middle-aged reader of horror and a voracious fan of Clive Barker and Stephen King. She keeps her pudgy Kindle on a leash, which she’s tied to her chair. The growling beast has finished off a jar of red herrings, and Mildred ignores the thing as it shreds the corner of the carpet with its serrated teeth. “I keep him in a locked cage at home,” she says as if she’s kicked the habit.
“But, dear, you haven’t removed his internet access,” the next lady points out. “He’s sneaking anthologies.” Harriet is about ninety, sitting primly in a black coat and lace-up boots. The flattened hat on her gray head sports a flurry of raven feathers. She’s a life-long reader of Gothic romances.
When it’s Harriet’s time to fess up, she sighs dramatically. “My switch from hardcovers to paperbacks initiated an inevitable slide down the slippery slope into ebooks, and I’ve become addicted to having books at my fingertips.” Her kindle swoons into her leg and bats its eyelashes seductively. She frowns and locks the things between her heels.
“I like the instant gratification too,” I admit. “As soon as I finish a book, I like starting a new one.”
The next lady in the circle pats my knee and snaps her gum. “We all do, dear. I’m Greta. I’m a sci-fi binger.” She dresses like she’s going to a dance club the minute the meeting adjourns. She crosses her legs, and her spikey heel whacks her battered tablet flat onto its cover. She scoops up the pot-bellied blimp and sits it on her lap. “I put the thing on a diet. You know… buy one, read two.”
The other women nod knowingly, including me.
“Then, I’ll have one of those days. You know the kind.” Greta huffs. “We just fall off the wagon and start buying trilogies, and suddenly I’ve lost months of progress.”
Mildred rolls her eyes. “I told you not to sign up for Kindle Unlimited.”
“But it’s such a good deal,” Shelley pipes in. Her e-reader squirms from her lap and waddles to the door leading to the stacks. He collapses and starts wailing.
“And that’s what you end up with.” Mildred cants her head toward the tantrum.
“Try to ignore him,” Shelley whispers.
His misery is hard to overlook, but it’s my turn. “Well, I’m Diana, and I’ve noticed that my kindle is growing a paunch. I know there are people with nearly a thousand books, and I’m not that bad yet…” All four of them suddenly look everywhere but at my face. “But I have months’ worth of reading that I’ll never get to, and it’s only getting worse.” My greedy little Kindle grumbles and snivels until I stuff it in my bag and close the zipper. “It doesn’t stop. It’s insatiable.”
“They lack restraint,” Harriet says. “Too much passion and desire.”
“Never a dull moment though.” Mildred gives the leash a tug, and her kindle gnashes its teeth. “Save it for when we get home,” she mutters, and it plops down on its haunches and glowers.
Greta unwraps another piece of gum and pops it between her scarlet lips. “I’ll admit, I can’t remember the last time I was bored. I just finished the best book, my favorite this year. I’d definitely recommend it.”
“Oooh,” Shelly hurries to the door and grabs her e-reader. It quits hollering and gurgles at her. “What’s the title?”
“Shelly!” Mildred frowns. “No new books!”
Shelly stops short and pouts as she takes her seat. “But… it’s Greta’s favorite.”
“I read an excellent romance mash-up by an indie author.” Harriet’s face lights up. “It had the perfect blend of thrills and lust.”
“Gah!” Shelley looks stricken. Her e-reader drools on her hands.
I give her a commiserating smile. I want to hear about the books too. Just the sound of a great title makes me want to snuggle up with my roly-poly Kindle and read. I unzip my bag and let the poor starving porker out. It climbs onto my lap, looking morose. The group sits silently for a moment, both ladies and e-readers. The steam’s run out of our meeting.
“I don’t know if this group is the right fit for me,” I say.
Shelley tucks her hair behind her ear. “It is kind of depressing.”
“There’s a degree of hopelessness.” Harriet’s lips pinch as the brightness in her face dims.
Greta gazes down at her tablet. “I never liked book-diets. They’re just fads. They never work.”
Mildred draws in a resigned breath, and her gaze pins me to my chair. “Do you have any ideas as to how we can make our group function better?”
“Actually, I do.” I smile at the ladies. “How about we turn it into a book club?”