You’ve read this story before.
By: Timothy McGuire
He woke up at the same time every day, though he didn’t have to. He walked into the bathroom, had a good morning pee, started to head out into the kitchen when he stopped and looked at himself in the mirror. Was that a permanent line in my forehead now, he thought. He was 47 then.
He went back into his bedroom and lied down, thought about his position in life and the sweat started beading on his brow almost immediately. He grabbed his cell phone and performed the now daily ritual of checking his bank account. The numbers just kept getting lower. He pulled his eyes away from the screen and thought that even his phone would soon become a luxury he could not afford.
He walked into the kitchen, to look what he could eat for breakfast. Not much, a tiny bit of milk bordering on expiring and some not yet stale store brand cereal. He sat down to eat, once done he looked up and said to no one ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do’ and the tears instantly came. This also became a daily ritual.
By the time the crying stopped, the sun was usually fully up by then, a year ago at this time he would be getting ready for work. A place that he no longer wanted to be at, with people who no longer wanted him there. He would always promise himself afterwards that if things didn’t change by the age of 50… he would never quite finish the thought, though dealing with one’s own brain, there’s never an unfinished thought. One day they called him into the office and fired him, for things that have been done the same way for years. Ironically, he had to wait to get fired for the ‘witness’, the number 2 in charge, he was usually late 9 times out of 10, casually apologizing with an $10 coffee in his pudgy little hands. Once the deed was done, he felt relieved, and panic all at once.
Now, driving to the local coffee shop, another daily ritual, waiting in the long line to pay for a drink he really shouldn’t be buying, but it’s worth it for the 20 to 30 seconds of flirting with the girl at the window, Ana Beth. She’s memorized his order by now and flashes her smile. He feels special for those few seconds, it quickly fades as he hears the her state the name of the next customer behind him at the drive thru.
As he drives home, he’s about to pass the library, that he’s passed hundreds of times before, but today for whatever reason he stops. The place is quiet as libraries usually are and he just started looking up and down the rows and rows of books, not knowing what he was looking for when he eyes just stopped on one title:
You’ve Read This Book Before
By: Fran Siss
He borrowed it and headed home.
He zombied out in front of a screen watching videos of people watching videos of people hurting themselves and reacting to it. It was a good waste of time while he drank his coffee. He was about to pick up the book when the urge to nap came upon him and he quickly gave in.
When he awoke, he noticed the sun was going down and figured it was almost dinner time, but he wasn’t too hungry just yet, instead he turned on his side and almost dozed off, when the cell phone on the night stand chirped saying it needed to be charged. Instead of going back to sleep he grabbed the library book and started to read.
It wasn’t exactly a mind blowing story, boy meets girl they fall in love and more than likely live happily ever after, he hadn’t gotten that far yet. It was the title that struck him, it was just strange, and nothing in the book seemed strange at all. It felt familiar, right from the first line, ‘He woke up at the same time every day, though he didn’t have to,’ felt comfortable.
After a little while of reading, he finally did feel hungry. Knowing there was no food in the house he’d have to go out. Found a bookmark and was about to save his place when he noticed the page was torn. It bothered him for whatever reason. He went about finding a scrap of paper to tape to the front to inform the library of the damaged pages, he noted the page number.
He went out to the nearest taco shop, getting one hard, one soft and headed back home. Ate in front of a screen watching videos of people reviewing other peoples reviews of movies. He glanced down at the book and noticed the author’s name Fran Siss, it didn’t sound real to him. It was his own middle name. He finished his meal and returned to reading.
The character in the book, who had a similar name to his own, met the love interest, a fairy tale sounding name Anagelina Elizabethe. It was predictable and boring and when he decided to turn in, grabbing his bookmark, again the page was torn, the number missing. He penciled the new number down as well. He fell asleep.
The next day, being exactly the same as the day before, he found himself in line for his daily dose of caffeine facing Ana Beth, giving her his order for the millionth time. The computer is taking longer than usual today, but she keeps smiling making small talk he doesn’t really seem to hear. His eyes wander from hers to her lips to her neck to her chest, and stay there just long enough for her to notice and give a good clearing of the throat. ‘Your change.’
Out of character he mentions that her name is similar to the name of a character in the book he’s reading. He says the name with a slight made up accent which she smiles at and says, that’s cute. And wishes him a good day. Back to the comfort of home.
He sits in bed and reads more of the book, each time he stops for whatever reason, the page he stops on is torn, there are 5 torn pages before he hits page 100. He was actually thinking about giving it up. Despite its interesting title, the beautiful love interest, and the calming effect the story had it was boring, even when the book presented a twist, the main character, the guy with a similar name, gets killed in a random robbery. That was page 100 actually, and he closed the book and thought about that is something that would probably happen to himself. He decided to return the book.
It was the middle of the night and he couldn’t sleep, he looked down at the book with the note on the front informing the librarians of the 5 torn pages and decided to return it. He drove to the night drop off box and was about to throw it in when he noticed the note was gone, this angered him a little bit, but also thought to himself, ‘figures.’ He threw the book back into the passenger seat and drove away.
Headed back towards home, he passes one of those 24 hour gas stations advertising gross oversized frozen drinks, decides to stop in to get one. He checks out the candy aisle maybe get a candy bar as well. He heard giggling voices and noticed at once, the beauty from the coffee shop Ana Beth looking at which six pack of beer to drink, she notices him and gives a half hearted smile and seems to be relived when someone comes up next to her, she whispers something to him, they both look at him, and he hears only a few short words ‘…staring at my chest.’ He turned away instantly thinking to himself that she had it all wrong, but he knew it didn’t matter.
He strolled up to the counter to get his drink, forgetting about the candy bar. The cute cashier, Beth, gave him a genuine smile and a friendly hello. He wasn’t feeling to friendly at the moment and went to pull out the money to pay, and the note from the book came out stuck to the cash, it fell to the counter. As she reached for the money he noticed on her wrist a little tattoo of a stack of books, smiled and thought it was cute. His attitude brightened a bit and once again out of character said out loud ‘cool tattoo, on my way to return one now.’
Beth smiled and handed him the change, and picking up the piece of paper she asked ‘oh, did you still want to play your lotto numbers?’ He turned and started to say they were not lotto numbers, but changed his mind, smiled and then nodded.
He became a millionaire that Friday, asked Beth out on a date Saturday night. Two years to the day, they welcomed baby Frances. He never did return that book to the library, the late fees must be outrageous!