October 29, 2015

Living in the margins (a short story)

There’s a book in a second-hand bookstore. It’s an unassuming book, by an author you won’t have heard of. If pressed, about ten people would call her their favourite author, but none of them have ever met each other. To most people, it’s just another book.

This unassuming book by an unassuming author with its unassuming story goes unnoticed by most, but inside that book, something wonderful has happened. Written in pencil and scraggly handwriting in the margin of every page is another tale. A second story that deftly weaves it’s way around the book’s printed narrative. Picking up on plot points, themes and characters it expands, expounds enhances the story, turning it into something far greater. In many ways, the story in the margin far surpasses the story of the book itself.

But for all it’s brilliance, the story in the margin is never part of the book. It might react to the events of the book, it might comment, reflect, sneer or applaud at the happenings, but the book itself remains stoic. No matter what the story in the margin may do to the characters, no matter where it may take the story, the book itself will never acknowledge it. The book remains isolated, separated. Its story is already written, and while the reader may branch off into something new when they peruse the margins, they’ll eventually return the unmoving core of the book itself.

And that story in the margin? Alone, it’s nothing. It’s taken the book and made it a part of what it is. Without it, it’s simply the disjointed scribbles of a mad man. But it knows that while it may be part of the book, the book will never be a part of it.

One day the bookstore owner absentmindedly picks up the book and flicks through it. Noting the scribbles, he figures that can’t be right, and spends the afternoon cleaning up the ‘damage’ with an eraser. By the evening there’s no evidence left that the story in the margin even existed other than the fading scent of rubber and few scuff marks.

The writer of the vanished tale sits at home and knows that one day he’ll find someone that wants to tell a story together.

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