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Clement's Corner: Treasured Possessions

Owen Clement’s story emphasises that a good book deserves an appreciative reader.

Certain books of Frank Slaney’s had always been his most treasured belongings. To see them ready to be sold off cheaply in his garage sale deeply distressed him.

There bundled up with a coffee table book titled “Herbs and Spices” by a well-known authority of her day and other out-of-date travel books was his much-loved read and re-read hardback copy of “Lost Horizon”. In another bundle sandwiched between biographies of notables of their day was his once treasured copy of “Call of the wild”. “Grapes of Wrath” and other cherished classics were similarly tied up in a dozen other bundles.

To him it seemed close to sacrilege. He had happily offered other items such as his lawn mower, his ancient garden tools, his exercise bicycle and his furniture to be disposed of, as they would be surplus to the needs in his new address. But to see books that had touched him, taught him and guided him ingloriously bound with other lesser works made him feel as if he was being disloyal to old friends. He knew that it had to be done, as space in the retirement village where he was headed was severely limited.

He picked up the bundle with “Lost Horizon” and for a few moments x-rayed James Hilton’s words and characters on the pages with the hope that its future owner would also be transported to his or her own Shangri La. Sadly he replaced the bundle and wandered on.

Unable, due to his poor state of health, to become part of the sales team, he had accepted his neighbour’s kind offer to undertake this task. Standing back he watched with mixed feelings as the bargain hunters pawed through the items. And then his attention was drawn to a bookish looking teenager with his father who stopped at the piles of books. The boy bent down and peered at the titles. Snatching up the one of the bundles he excitedly pointed out “Lost Horizon” to his father. Frank could not hear what transpired but apparently, not interested in the other books in the pile, the man decided not to make the purchase and gave it to the obviously disappointed lad to return to the table before walking on. Frank immediately hobbled up using his cane and bade the lad to wait a moment while he extracted Hilton’s masterpiece from the pile and handed it to him. When the father saw what Frank had done he offered to pay for the book. Frank held up his hand and said, “To find someone who would cherish this book as much as I did is all the payment I want”.

They were about to thank Frank when he hastily bade them to wait again and taking the boy’s arm moved from one pile to the next extracting all his once dearly loved books and handed them to the boy, again refusing payment.

The day he had dreaded had turned out to be one that he would always remember with great satisfaction.

© Clement 2008

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