Steinbeck’s Ghost

Steinbeck’s Ghost by Lewis Buzbee Read Free Book Online

Book: Steinbeck’s Ghost by Lewis Buzbee Read Free Book Online
Authors: Lewis Buzbee
important-looking suit. Travis counted eighteen people altogether; only two of the seats at the long table were empty. He was glad he’d come, but he was a little embarrassed to be the only kid.
    “Thank you all for coming,” Miss Babb said. “But before we get started, I want to make sure you all have something to drink and some cookies. Rule number one for saving the world: Always have cookies.”
    Travis sat directly across from Miss Babb. He looked down at the mountain of Oreos in front of him.
    “We’re still shy a couple of folks, but—oh, here they are. Constancia, Hilario, come on in; get some cookies.”
    Travis turned to find Hil and his mother, both a little out of breath.
    He smiled at Hil, but tried to turn away, as if acknowledging Hil would make everyone else in the room aware that he was just a kid. Hil, however, would not put up with being ignored.
    “Big T,” he said. “My man, give me some.” And he put out his hand for a Camazotz handshake. They’d invented the handshake that day on Hil’s porch when they invented the Camazotz video game. It was a slow- motion, dead- faced, super- serious handshake that went on forever. Travis hoped no one was watching.
    “Welcome, everyone,” Miss Babb said. “ To the first meeting of the Save Our Library committee.”
    There was a scattering of quiet applause, what Travis’s dad called “tennis clapping.”
    “You all know why I’ve called you here,” Miss Babb said. “But I’d like to hear from you why
you
came. Tell us why you want to save the library. Jack, let’s start with you.”
    “Okay,” an older man said, sitting up straight. He was bald with a silver goatee, and Travis recognized him from last week. He’d checked out books on hydrology, and Miss Babb had made a joke about wells and digging. “My name’s Jack Ray, and I’m a biblioholic.” Everyone laughed. A biblioholic, Travis knew, was someone addicted to books.
    “ Seriously,” Jack said . “ I love this library. Think about it—all these books and they’re free. It’s amazing. Now that I’m retired, I don’t have much money to spend on books and I depend on the library to feed my reading habit. I’m worried that those of us in Salinas without the money to go to the mall, well, where will we get our books? Without books, I’ll be even poorer. Much poorer.”
    Travis had never thought about the library that way. He knew that when they’d lived in Oldtown his parents didn’t have much money, but he only knew that because now they had more money. When they used to go to the library, it was a fun family day, and he didn’t think, back then, that they did it to save money. His parents bought him books from the mail- order catalogs his teachers handed out, occasionally they’d buy him a new book at a bookstore, and he always got at least one new book on his birthday and at Christmas. But the library, that’s where books came from. And they were free.
    Next was Olive Hamilton, one of the grandmotherly women. She was dressed all in purple.
    “I agree with everything Jack said.” Olive’s eyes were pale gray but sparkly. “So let me add this. The Internet. Don’t have a computer; ain’t gonna get one. They’re just too darn ugly. But I do need one now and then—to send e-mails to old friends, and all that. Especially for my family tree, learning about my ancestors. Do you have any idea how many people use the Internet for genealogical research? Without the library, I wouldn’t have a place to surf.”
    Miss Babb went around the room. Everyone had something unique and important to say about the library. People loved the morning story hours for their younger children; so many children had learned to read here. Magazines and newspapers from all over helped people learn about events in the world that TV didn’t show them. The librarians, someone said, were so good at helping people find the exact book they needed or wanted or would love; otherwise, it would take

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