Column: Book lover confesses to novel sins

By SCOTT SAALMAN

A book about a missing boy I was reading recently went missing.

It has been two weeks now, and “Remember Me Like This,” by Brent Anthony Johnson, has not resurfaced.

I ache for its return so I can finish it — book lovers understand — and I feel lousy because I’m to blame.

I recall savoring the novel’s sweet spot, the point where the plot was building steam, making it hard for me to put it down. Unfortunately, I had to put the book down so I could remove the cheeseburgers from the grill and take them into the kitchen. I still see myself putting the book on the nearest flat surface, my car’s trunk lid and thinking, “I won’t forget it’s here.”

Later, I drove my Corolla to pick up some Corona. Later still, I was about to read in bed, but I forgot where I last read “Remember Me Like This.” Then I remembered and rushed to my car.

The book was no longer on the trunk. I recalled the beer run. I re-drove the earlier route to the liquor store, hoping to find the book in the street, unmolested, but no such luck. Too much time had passed. Obviously, someone had found the book, my book — and taken it.

There should be a universal law for lost books: If a book is found in a street, relocate it to the nearby curb (for its safety) and leave it (unless the weather is bad) so that the book’s real (albeit forgetful) owner has a fair chance to reclaim it.

I decided to re-drive the route again. I became scientific and selected an already read book from my bookshelf, “State of Wonder,” by Ann Patchett, and placed it on the trunk lid. Her book is only 17 pages shorter than Johnson’s, so it seemed like a logical selection. The odometer hit .2 miles when “State of Wonder” hit the pavement during a Justin Street incline.

Ground zero, I thought.

I was in my own state of wonder.

I scooped the Patchett book (undamaged) from the street, leaned back on the idled car and suspiciously watched the nearby homes. It was midnight. The houses were dark, except for a single glow in one of them.

My book, I thought.

I imagined a stranger in bed with my orphaned book, rejoicing in a false sense of book ownership despite the visible paper trail of dog ears blazed by its rightful owner. I grew jealous as a cuckold. I wanted to howl like a broken-hearted hound.

I mustered barely enough self-restraint to keep from window peeping — and to keep me from possibly being arrested. The judge surely would’ve thrown the book at me — but not my book.

Putting the book on the car’s trunk was a stupid move. Full disclosure: I did the same thing a month earlier. I left a library book on my car. I didn’t even know it was missing until the librarian called to tell me that someone had found it and returned it. She said she had put it on hold if I still wanted it, but I sensed in her restrained voice a different message: “You better not dare step foot in here again you book-hating piece of —”

Recalling the “happy ending” of the lost library book, I regretted not writing my name and address inside “Remember Me Like This,” increasing the odds that a good Samaritan would contact me.

I worried my book had already ended up in some black market for used and abused books, its price instantly slashed, soon to be en route to some creepy person who, out of extreme cruelty, reads only even-numbered pages.

I put a notice on Facebook and in the local paper, offering a $10 reward, with no luck, though my Florida Facebook friend Susan responded: “I’m almost done with that book if you want me to tell you what happens.”

Susan can be cruel.

What’s worse, I had recommended the book to her.

The book’s recovery seems futile at this point, but I still have hope. I’ve considered buying another copy, but haven’t done so yet. What if I’m reading it, start to love it too, and suddenly my old book returns? — then which copy do I read? It’s doubtful I’ll buy another because of the principle of it all. As my kids have heard time and time again, I deplore having to repurchase lost or broken items.

I must confess that I did read a couple more chapters of an unpurchased copy of “Remember Me Like This” in an armchair of a bookstore, but that was mainly to keep the story fresh in case we reunite.

And yes, I did actually return to the library to see if they had a copy, but it was checked out. I’m not sure they would’ve loaned it to me anyway. I’m pretty well scum there. Rightfully so. Books deserve better.

I know from the book’s jacket cover that the missing boy returns after four years. This is not a spoiler since the book actually begins with the boy’s return, which is part of the book’s charm. I can’t imagine waiting four years for my book to return, though. I wonder how all this will end. Happily. I hope.

Scott Saalman and the Will Read and Sing For Food players will perform a public benefit show Monday, July 14, 7 p.m., for Habitat For Humanity of Dubois County, at the new science and tech building at VUJC. Admission: $10 donation to Habitat for Humanity.




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