Chapter 1 : Dancing Dust
Ozzy narrowed his curious little eyes
and looked up to the highest shelf. Around him dust flew through the chamber, a
light coming from an enormous lamp, attached to only three strings to the
ceiling, softly touched the particles.
The beam of light swung back and forth, throwing shadows over the piles of
books and papers which were stalled around in the back of the bookstore.
The little boy, who stood amidst all this, nodded shortly to himself, as if he’d made a decision. He knew the shop owner wouldn’t approve of his plan, that’s why he figured he shouldn’t tell him about it.
That’s why the little boy stepped as nonchalant as possible towards the enormous bookshelf, which covered most of the wall, from the floor up to the ceiling.
Gathering up all the power he had in his tiny arms Ozzy lifted up the ladder, which leaned against the side of the bookshelf. He couldn’t lift it up very high, causing the ends of the ladder to scrape over the wooden floor, but he didn’t really care. He’d just put a book over the scratches to cover up, so the old fart wouldn’t notice.
Ozzy put down the ladder at the front of the bookshelf, and the thud made the lamp swing around dangerously. The little boy looked to the left, to the front of the store. The old fart lay, as usual, with this head on the counter, sleeping. Passer-by’s could see him through the front window when crossing the street, which made it no surprise that the only regular the store had was a ten-year-old, whom didn’t even have money to buy something.
Finally having positioned the ladder, Ozzy climbed up with hand and feet. The gaps between the steps were too wide for him to cross at once, so it took some time to get to the top. When he got there he had to wipe the dust from his trousers, since the ladder was really, really old and barely used. He sighed, placed his hands on his hips and started reading the titles of the books in front of him. He had to turn his head about ninety degrees, since all the titles were written vertically.
The ladder under his feet started to shake, as if it was suffocating by the weight of the little boy, but the boy himself didn’t really pay attentions. He had other business to attend to, or so he figured.
“Hmmm…” he grumbled out loud, scratching an invisible beard on his chin. It was a gesture he’d copied from the shop owner, who’s facial hair was really in a league of its own. Ozzy thought beards and moustaches were rather strange. In fact, facial hair seemed unnecessary to him. Hair itself seemed weird.
The little boy glanced over to the counter, where he could see the body of the owner go up and down with every breath, accompanied by soft snoring.
Then he stretched out his arm to touch a book which he’d seen on an even higher shelf. Some books were just so old the title had faded away throughout the years, as well as the colours. The book Ozzy was looking for had a faded dark blue cover, with the title written in a colour which used to be gold.
He smiled happily, and descended back to the ground, the book under his arms. The ladder itself let out soft cries, as if a few screws were starting to get loose. The boy wondered what would happen if he were to fall down, but the thought that this could actually become reality didn’t come to mind.
Both his feet on the ground, Ozzy decided there was no need to put the ladder back in place, since there were barely any customers and not even the shop owner himself hung around this part of the store. The dancing dust particles were proof of that.
The little boy made haste towards a heavy slide door. As he progressed through the store papers flew around his ears and the shelfs trembled with every step. Even a little boy seemed enough to make the entire building collapse.
The shop owner had put a paper on the door saying ‘Staff Only’, but that didn’t bother Ozzy. He carefully put down the blue book on the ground and grabbed the doorknob with both hands. With one foot against the wall he managed to pull it to the opposite side. There was a lot of scraping and scarring coming from the floor as a new space behind the door was revealed, which led to a special place.
Ozzy stepped inside and searched with his hand for a switch. With some flickering, light emerged from three TL – pipes attached to the ceiling, a modern concept in comparison to the old dangerous lamps inside the store.
The little boy grabbed his book and entered the new space, leaving the door open behind him. The shop owner wouldn’t wake up for at least another hour and by the time he would, Ozzy would be long gone.
The special place was a reading chamber, were there stood a big bookcase with special books, personal belongings of the shop owner. In the middle stood a special table with a special bureau lamp. It belonged to the shop owner’s wife, who was an artist. After her death the shop owner had made some slight changes and turned it into the perfect reading spot. He did leave the inkpot, which she used for her last work. The first time Ozzy entered the special reading chamber to read a forbidden book he’d asked about the little pot. The shop owner wasn’t mad about the fact he entered the secret reading chamber, but more about the thought the little boy might touch his beloved inkpot.
“Don’t you dare touch that, you little brat!”
With a loud thud the blue book came down on the small table, and the little boy turned on the small lamp. After a slight struggle Ozzy managed to climb onto the chair, which was supposed to be for grown-ups. It was custom-made, perfectly measured for the shop owner’s wife, who was probably half-giant.
But Ozzy read grown-up books, which meant he could sit in the grown-up chair. He’d never read a children’s book again. Ever.
With big eyes the little boy awed over the cover of the blue book in front of him. He was almost certain there wouldn’t be any pictures in it, but he still wanted to read it. The fact it had been stored at the top shelf of the bookcase meant it held many secrets, things most common folk wouldn’t know. Ozzy wanted to learn all about these kinds of things, especially the uncommon things.
He sat on his knees to get a better view and then opened the mysterious book. As always he was greeted by a cloud of dust and the smell of old papers.
Leaning on his hand Ozzy started reading the first page, but turned it after a couple minutes. Foreword of the author. Always boring. This one had a length of two pages. Two pages!
The little boy glanced shortly at the index and continued till he’d found the first chapter, which included a picture, to his surprise. A very beautiful picture. An illustration of a man wearing green trousers and a red sweater and a purple hat. His cheeks were reddened and his dark eyes had an excited twinkle in them. Ozzy frowned, and leaned forward till his nose almost touched the paper. The man had wings. Weird.
After some staring the little boy turned the page, and on the next there was only text in really, really tiny letters. Satisfied he started reading. He let himself get dragged in by the words, which always happened when he was reading. His surroundings seemed to fade away, and without warning he ended up in a place where time was not of the essence. There was no dancing dust, no old papers, no unstable ladders or lamps that could crush you if you weren’t careful enough. Ozzy turned page after page, reading the interesting bits and skipping the boring ones.
This was the way he spent most of his days in the bookstore, from opening till closing, for as long as he could remember. In the beginning, he only hung around the front part of the store, where books were stored out on tables with price tickets attached to the. The little boy got ‘expelled’ from this area after a customer fell over the boy laying in the middle of the path with a book in front of his face. He then had to sit in the children’s corner of the store, where the books which children his age were supposed to read were also stored. But it wasn’t really a place to read. The spot was separated from the rest of the store by a few bricks made of sponge-material. There stood a few beanbags and there lay some toys on the floor.
The beanbags were nice, but not ideal for Ozzy’s taste of books, which were mostly around three hundred pages or more. It just wasn’t comfortable. That’s why he ended up leaning with his back against the wall. He ignored the warning the shop owner gave him about reading books above his age. He would be expelled from the store entirely, which seemed ridiculous to Ozzy. He once asked the man about it.
“How is it that someone can be ‘too young’ to read a particular book?”
Shop owner sighed and asked himself why the boy had to ask the complicated questions first. “Well, some writers just specialize themselves in a certain group of readers and the age range in that category. You can cry about it all you want, kid, but that’s how it is.”
“But that doesn’t make any sense” the boy had replied. “It’s all the same letters, the same words and language. Every person who can read should be able to.”
“That’s not really the point” the shop owner had sighed again. “It’s about understanding what’s been written. There’s no point in reading a text and not understanding what it’s about.”
The little boy had been silent for a while. He’d scratched his imaginary beard again. “Maybe not. I don’t always understand every word either, but there are dictionaries to deal with that problem. I learn while reading. So I can read grown-up books, because I’ll learn more words. I’ll learn more vocabulearn.”
“It’s ‘vocabulary’, to be exact” the old man had mumbled.
“That’s what I said” Ozzy quickly said. The shop owner had rolled his eyes and grumbled behind his moustache, but didn’t comment any further.