Feature Story: The Book Eater & Miss Dust

Posted: August 23, 2012 in Featured Stories

Thanks to a trip to Georgia I’ve been away from my computer since Friday and unable to post my newest article on time, but I’m going to try and right my wrong by giving you fine folks a late night short story(two technically) and resume regular posting on the 24th.

I chose to feature this story for it’s interesting characters and use of perspective to create a coherent, mysterious and strange narrative. Last week I mentioned in my article that characters need to be more then funny and skilled, they have to be interesting, both the Book Eater and Miss Dust delve into what it means to make a character interesting.


The Book Eater and Miss Dust

by ~hummingbear

They say a mouse can fit through a crack the size of a flat dime. Well, that’s me. I’d love to be introduced to somebody else who can fit through a storm window. I was lucky tonight. It’s the time of year when it’s too cool at night for air conditioning, yet the heat from the day leaves everything stale. I don’t mind.

After I get inside the library, I crack open more of the windows, relishing the sound of the breeze ruffling the pages of the periodicals. I like the smell of this place – mildew, cantaloupe, and something else, something that smells like a person I used to be. Agh, fuck that.

I creep around the edges of the space, mindful of the red blinking light behind the desk that means a front-facing camera. It’s become a particular science of mine to make these spots livable, to give some random kids an unexpected day off. On the news, they call me the “Book Rat,” and to be sure, the title tickles me. Still, the picture they always show gives me some relief; I look nothing like that now. 

The first novel is one of those tween vampire romances, and I rip off the cover with relish. I stuff the blank front page in one cheek and shred the rest into a yellowing Wal-Mart bag. This shit is better than Winterfresh. So much hope! So much anticipation! I can taste it in their invisible fingerprints. The next is an anthology of folk tales. These pages go into one of the black bags I pilfered from the janitor’s closet. 

Then, Mein KampfHounds of the Baskervilles, and Frankenstein. I chuck everything about Francis Bacon in the trash bin and rub the scented sections from “Cosmopolitan” all over my neck and armpits. Bits of notebook paper are skewered on my beard. I sample a bit of dictionary but spit it out immediately. The atlas tastes the same. 

It depends on the library, but I always end up eating a different number of books. This one is small, so I leave the field guide section alone. Though, I make sure not one Harlequin romance remains. My lips are stained blue-black and my hands shake. A doctor would probably call the yellowing of my eyes jaundiced, but I feel wise, like I have old pages instead of frosted windows. 

I have four trash bags full when I am finished, and I line them up in the reference section. I nap on top of them for a while, long enough for the sky outside to start turning gray. I trot out the front door, giggling madly as the alarms blare. I leave a fox trail of tattered Bible verses.

My friends saw him coming from a mile away. I notice, I notice when some kid is gonna sneak in and pilfer the place; they leave the windows unlatched. But this guy, this guy did it right – he reached in from the outside. But still, I saw that flicker of light, saw the disturbed motes fluttering in the late afternoon rays. That scabby hand, purple at the fingertips – it sure did catch my attention.

When it’s a little brat smudging up the aisles, I lock the window. I press my face to the glass to scare them away. If they break it, I make jerky. Well, this guy, this guy I let into the library, because I could tell he was an artist like me. He uses his nose like I use my breath, and my friends like him.

My friends, my friends. They rise at each of his shuffling footsteps. They whorl under his twitching nose. I am the dust woman, and that man is the tree king, the pulp lord, the prince of paper. It’s been a long while since I’ve seen a real man. He slipped through the window like water and danced along the edges like I do when I come out from the ducts. 

For a second, he met my eyes. But he skittered to a dark corner when he caught the red, flashing light. I don’t know why they changed from blue; something in the night, in the pink dust from the insulation took them captive and made me able to see the tiniest disturbances in the air. I can hardly open them in the light of day.

I cringed at the first page he tore, but it was a tightening of muscles set to release, because the next leaf wound me tighter. I resented the shuffle of plastic, but the long wet drips of his saliva from cover to cover held more of my attention. He was an artist, a true consumer, a pure aesthete that appreciated art in the physical. He could feel the words like I can feel my dust.

I tried to work up the courage to speak to him or at least to throw my favorite volumes from the high corners, but I couldn’t bring myself to disturb. When he fell asleep on his bags, I crept from a top shelf and ran his dark bristles beneath my fingertips. His eyelids were almost see-through. His hands were hard. Before he could wake and the light would hurt my eyes, I pulled a piece of notebook paper from his beard and slipped it on the tip of my tongue like a communion wafer. It tasted… dusty. And I loved him all the more.


If you enjoyed this article feel free to check out the rest Humming Bears work on her deviant art page here.

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