Merry Christmas to all.
I wish you all a stable table for Christmas and quiet feet in the New Year, a consistent increase in your bank account and a consistent decrease in your golf score!
I’ve been busy this Christmas season. I’ve been writing and I’ve written a little end of the year story just for you.
I normally post these stories on my ‘Letters to My Grandchildren’ blog but this marvelous Christmas Eve I thought I would share this story with you, both on my ‘Letters to My Grandchildren’ blog and here on this site. I sitting here this lovely, cool Christmas Eve listening to traditional Christmas music I remember as my mother’s favorites, drinking egg nog and absorbing the odors of pumpkin pie and baked ham. Wish you were here!
Here’s the story I’ve written just for you. Let me know what you think.
The Ordinary Man and the Book Dragon
© 2019 by Barney Beard
My Dear Grandchildren,
Before you read, I want to tell you something. I like to read books. I like to write books. I like to give books to my grandchildren. I like to have books under my bed, in the closet and under my chair. I like to have books everywhere. I found this marvelous quote by C. S. Lewis. I must confess, the growing number of folks who think books and bookshelves a nuisance, disturbs me.
“I am a product of endless books. My father bought all the books he read and never got rid of any of them. There were books two deep in the study, books two deep in the drawing room, books in the cloakroom, books two deep in the great bookcase on the landing, books in the bedroom, books piled as high as my shoulder in the cistern attic. In the seemingly endless rainy afternoons, I took volume after volume from the shelves. I had the certainty of finding a book that was new to me as a man who walks into a field has of finding a new blade of grass.” C. S. Lewis
Chapter One The Ordinary Man
Once upon a time there was an ordinary man who had an ordinary family. He lived in an ordinary house and drove an ordinary car to his ordinary work. If you were to pass this ordinary man in the aisle at the grocery store or if you were to walk past him on the sidewalk in your town, you wouldn’t notice him. He was ordinary.
If you did happen to glance at him, you wouldn’t remember him, for he was quite ordinary.
Day after day after day the ordinary man worked in an ordinary factory at his ordinary job. He worked for years and years and years and years doing the same ordinary thing all day, every day.
The ordinary man always worked. He was never lazy. The ordinary man worked because he loved his family.
He believed what his father told him when he was a boy, “If you can put both feet on the floor in the morning, you can go to work,” and that’s what he did. He worked. The ordinary man always went to work. The ordinary man was reliable. He never missed a day of school or a day of work in his life.
Because he was ordinary and loved his family, he made certain his children had shoes on their feet, tasty food on the table and a safe, warm, dry, snuggly place to sleep at night.
It was a good thing the ordinary man worked hard at his ordinary job because he had eight children. The ordinary man loved his children, every one of them.
Each evening as the ordinary man arrived home after his ordinary work, his children would greet him merrily at the door and squeeze him with multitudes of hugs and cover his face with soft kisses and tell him how glad they were he had come home.
Every evening the ordinary man and his ordinary family would eat together. After their wonderful, nutritious meal of ordinary food, his entire ordinary family would sit by the fire and listen to the ordinary man read aloud.
The ordinary house was warm and made a great deal warmer by the marvelous stories, the exciting tales of adventure and the multitudes of sagas, narratives, fables and yarns the ordinary man would read aloud to his children.
This man was quite ordinary. He lived in an ordinary part of the country on an ordinary street with dozens and dozens of ordinary houses occupied by ordinary people who lived ordinary lives much like his, but there was one extraordinary thing about this ordinary man. He loved books and he loved to read.
Chapter two Extraordinary on the Inside
The ordinary man was ordinary on the outside, but extra-ordinary on the inside, extra-ordinary indeed because he loved to read books. He loved to read. He didn’t watch television. He liked to use his thinker when he was reading. He liked to read the thinks that other people were thinking. In a book, the ordinary man could read the thinks of people who lived long ago.
While reading, his extraordinary thinker was busy thinking about all kinds of thinks. He used his thinker. His thinker was always full of thinks.
He didn’t watch the news or weather. In fact, he didn’t watch television at all. He didn’t listen to radio talk shows or allow his mind to be anesthetized by constant background music.
The ordinary man liked to think. He would think all day and half the night about the things he had been reading. He would read books written by people who wrote about what went on inside of their thinker.
The ordinary man understood that reading is television in reverse. The ordinary man understood that reading activated his own imagination and intelligence. Reading gave his own ideas reality and helped him see the world in a new way.
The ordinary man had learned that those who watch television have someone else’s imagination pumped into their brain with visual images. He knew when a person stares at the dumb television, somebody else’s ideas are going into that person’s head. His father had told him:
The television puts things in, It tells you what to think,
It hypnotizes and paralyzes, It makes your brain shrink.
People who watch television never write about what they see or think. The ordinary man knew books filled his thinker with his own ideas and imagination and made him, and anyone who takes the time to read, bigger, brighter and bolder.
Reading, the ordinary man knew, was like a magnifying glass for his imagination and intelligence, allowing his thinker and his imagination to roam the world or even the universe.
Watching television, the ordinary man knew, makes a person want to go to bed late and makes them tired in the morning. The ordinary man knew that reading caused him to use his imagination and think, it made him want to get up while it’s still dark and read more and write about the adventures that came into his thinker, exciting adventures that took him everywhere.
The ordinary man knew when a person views a television program someone else is using their mind. When a person watches television, that person becomes a passive receiver of other people’s visual ideas. Over time, the television watcher’s mind becomes like an old storage unit stuffed full of someone else’s visual junk with no accompanying words.
The ordinary man had decided long ago he would rather use his own mind. I’ll put my own things in my own storage unit, he said to himself. He understood clearly they don’t call the things people watch on TV ‘programs’ for nothing.
The ordinary man loved books and loved to read. Every evening he would read to his children. He would read to them by the fire and every night in their room at bedtime. After he tucked each of his children into their cozy bed under the warm quilts and blankets, he would read a bedtime story.
After the children were tucked in and their story had been read, the ordinary man would whisper into each child’s ear just before he left them, “You’re my favorite.” The ordinary man loved his children. He loved all his children.
When the ordinary man read to his children, he never skipped pages or bits of the story. The ordinary man loved to read. Every night after his children were tucked in their beds, he would read by the fire.
When it came time for the ordinary man to go to his bed, he would lean back again his pillow and read some more by his bedside light.
He would get up before dawn and put on an ordinary fire before he went to work. The ordinary man always got up early because he didn’t watch television at night, play video games or text on his phone. He always had a good night’s sleep because he never stayed up watching television.
When the ordinary man walked through his house he walked slowly. He would reach to his left and to his right and touch each bookshelf as he passed, allowing his hands to softly brush past his treasures. He had an affection for his books as if they were a part of his family, which they were.
He was an ordinarily good man with an extra-ordinary thinker. He was an ordinary man living in an ordinary neighborhood with ordinary neighbors with an extraordinary love of books and reading.
Chapter Three His Ordinary Bookshelves
The children in the neighborhood would come to his house and look through the books he had on his many bookshelves. The ordinary man had lots of ordinary bookshelves and some extraordinary bookshelves. He had bookshelves in the living room. He had bookshelves in the dining room. He built bookshelves in the kitchen and in the hallway. He had bookshelves in all the bedrooms. He had bookshelves on the landing and at the top of the stairs. Each of his children had their own bookshelf.
The ordinary man built bookshelves in the attic and in his garage. All of his ordinary bookshelves went from the floor to the ceiling and there were books behind books.
The ordinary man taught his children that when a person opened a book and began reading it was like having a private cinema inside your head.
The ordinary man knew those who read books learn how to use their thinker. He knew using one’s thinker is important.
The ordinary man knew people who watched television all the time and talked about other people, were not thinking. They weren’t using their thinker. Those who only go to the movies and stare for hours and hours at the images they see on television are like the animals and the birds. The images people watch on their television bypass their thinker.
Animals observe and react. Animals don’t read or write or think. The ordinary man wanted to think about things. He wanted to use his thinker and he did.
The ordinary man had books in the cupboards and books in the closet. He had books under the bed.
You should have seen the happy children reading all kinds of interesting books in his ordinary house. They read books about places, books about things, books about puzzles and books about pigs. There were books about kings and queens and books about adventures of every kind.
There were books about dragons and books about knights. There were adventure books about handsome princes who rescued beautiful damsels in distress.
There were books about travel and books about far-away lands. There were books about whales and eagles. There were books about birds and flowers. There were books about the stars and how to get there from here.
There were books about everything that had happened in the past. There were books about things that were happening now and books about things that were going to happen.
The ordinary man had story books and picture books. On his many bookshelves were adventure books so exciting they would make your spine tingle and your liver quiver.
There were frightening books that would make you cover your head when you turned the light off at night and wonder what was lurking in the closet or behind the curtains or under your bed.
There were science books that explained all kinds of things about our world. On the bookshelves were books about how to have fun with numbers.
There were books about words and language. There were books about writing and paper and pens. There were books about calligraphy and books about printing.
The ordinary man would bring new books home almost every day and he never got rid of any books, except those books he gave to his children.
There were books about music and books about birds.
There were books about everything.
Chapter Four Things Change
One day his oldest child became an adult and moved far away and began a family of his own. It was a sad day but the ordinary man knew that was the way things are. Things change. This ordinary world continues to be ordinary.
The ordinary man continued to read.
Then his next oldest child moved away and began a family in the ordinary way.
The ordinary man continued to read.
Soon the rest of his children became ordinary grownups and moved far away and lived in ordinary houses on an ordinary street and had ordinary jobs.
The ordinary man’s house was lonely.
The ordinary man’s house was lonely except for one thing.
The ordinary man continued to read.
Chapter Five The Book Dragon
The ordinary man’s children moved far away. His ordinary children soon had ordinary children of their own. Like their father they lived in ordinary houses and had ordinary jobs.
Then, as it always does in every ordinary land, the book dragon came. The book dragon hates adults and hates children even more. The book dragon hates books, bookshelves, libraries, writers and thinkers.
The book dragon loves animals that fuss and fight and squabble and quarrel. The book dragon wants children to use their eyes and not their thinker.
The book dragon gets great pleasure when humans behave like the animals and argue and bicker and don’t use their thinker.
The ordinary man had read about the wicked dragon and how he had destroyed whole cultures by teaching them to stop reading.
The ordinary man knew all the old legends about the book dragon’s coming. The ordinary man understood how the book hating serpent deceived people and persuaded them to get rid of their books and their bookshelves and watch television instead. The old deceiver wanted people to stop using their thinker.
The ordinary man knew the book dragon passionately hated children who were learning to think. The book dragon hated them with every cold drop of his black blood. The book dragon hated books, bookshelves, libraries, writers and reading.
When the ordinary man’s children moved away the book dragon came. He began to lure the children away from books and reading. He smiled to himself as he taught them the empty pleasure of watching moving images without using their thinker. There was nothing the book dragon loved more than a home without books.
All the of the ordinary man’s children who moved away had telephones, televisions, tablets, watches and other devices. They sent text after text. They watched show after show. They read less and less. They never went to the library or bought a book. Instead of thinking they would talk about what everyone was doing and why they didn’t like their neighbors.
They watched their shows in the evening. They went to bed much too late and then had to get up before they were finished sleeping so they could go to their work.
They had children of their own and were busy. They gave away all their books. When they were tired in the evening they would lean back on a soft couch and mindlessly watch television. They didn’t read to their children. They let the children stay up later and watch television. Their thinkers began to get dusty and rusty.
Every morning the grown-up children would wake up tired. Every morning on their way to work they would say to themselves that when they got home in the evening after their work they would go to bed earlier to get enough sleep, but every evening after they had supper they would relax on the couch and turn on their television and let their mind go numb. They would watch and watch and watch and think not at all. In the morning there was nothing they could recall.
Like electricity and water, the ordinary man’s children were following the path of least resistance, the path laid out for them by the book dragon who wanted to control their empty minds by supplying endless amounts of meaningless visual trivia.
Every day the ordinary man’s ordinary children would let the fluffy, furry, frothy, foamy, feathery images from the television stuff the corners of their mind until their thinker was numb and they began to nod off and they would trundle up the stairs to their bed and begin sleeping fast because they had gone to bed much too late once again.
Chapter Six His Grand Idea
Every evening the ordinary man would come home from his work and read books. He would go to the bookshops and thrift stores and buy books.
Then he had a magnificent idea. He would send books to his darlings.
He decided he would send books to his grandchildren. The ordinary man loved books. He wanted his grandchildren to love books more than they loved their phones, tablets or television. Above all he wanted his grandchildren to use their thinker. He wanted his grandchildren to be happy, literate adults and not be like the animals that lived by what they saw without thinking.
The ordinary man sent books to his grandchildren. When he would send a book to his grandchildren, he would tuck a dollar bill inside the pages of each book. The book dragon hated the ordinary man for sending books.
Despite the book dragon’s hatred, the ordinary man sent his grandchildren books for their birthday. He sent his grandchildren books for Christmas. He would send his grandchildren books in the springtime and in the autumn.
The next year the ordinary man sent books to his grandchildren and also to his children. He always put a dollar inside of each book he would send.
The next year he sent books to his grandchildren, his children and also to his sisters and brothers. He always put a dollar inside of each book.
The next year he sent more books. He sent books to his grandchildren, his children, his brothers and sisters and to his nieces and nephews. The ordinary man loved books.
The next year he sent books to his grandchildren, his children, his brothers and sisters and to his nieces and nephews and also to his cousins.
The next year he sent even more books. He sent books to his grandchildren, his children, his brothers and sisters, his nieces and nephews, his cousins and also to the children of his nieces and nephews and cousins.
That was a lot of books and a lot of dollar bills, for the ordinary old man put a dollar bill in every book.
He loved to read books. He loved to think about books. He loved to read about the wonderful things other women and men had written since the world began. He loved to read what other people had thought inside their thinker and written in a book. It was thrilling that the ordinary man could read precisely what people were thinking who had lived many centuries in the past.
The ordinary man had a birthday.
Then he had another birthday.
Then he had several more birthdays.
Every year he sent more and more books. Each with a dollar bill tucked inside. He wanted his family to know that there is treasure inside of a book.
The years passed. The ordinary man had become an old, ordinary man. The ordinary man became an old, lonely, ordinary man, an ordinary man who extraordinarily loved books and wanted others to love books, too.
Chapter Seven The Ordinary Old Man
The ordinary man retired from his work. The ordinary man decided he would save money. He didn’t buy a new razor. He didn’t go to the barber. He let his hair and beard grow. He wanted to save his dollars for important things, like putting them inside of books he would send to his loved ones so they could use their thinker.
The ordinary man was neat and clean. He no longer had lovely brown hair. His hair had turned white as snow. The old man was an ordinary, old man.
He sold his house in his ordinary town and bought a little ordinary cottage towards the north out in the country. He had a table and chairs. He had a lamp. He had bookshelves. He had bookshelves in every room on every wall, floor to ceiling.
Every morning the ordinary old man would take the bus into the big city and visit all the libraries to buy the old books they didn’t want. Since the book dragon had come, it had become fashionable to get rid of books. There were lots of people who didn’t like books.
The book dragon went to the library. Even the library threw old, unwanted books into their big dumpster. The big green dumpster behind the library had a picture of a smiling book dragon on the front.
The book dragon loved that dumpster.
The ordinary old man with the white hair and the long white beard would visit all the thrift stores and buy books. He would buy all the books he could carry. Almost single handedly he fought the influence of the book dragon.
The ordinary old man would visit all the shops in town that sold books. He would buy all the books that people no longer wanted, all the books he could carry home.
Every morning and every evening the old, ordinary man would read his books and think about his children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews and cousins.
He would send them all books. He would put a dollar in every book he sent to his relatives. They hardly every thanked him. He wondered if they ever read the books but he knew they liked dollars. He knew his grandchildren would always remember there was treasure inside of a book. Even if they took the dollar and gave the book away or put it out in the musty shed instead of on a proper bookshelf, that was alright.
The old ordinary man knew his family would know, at least in a small way, that there was treasure inside the pages of a book.
Sometimes the old, lonely, ordinary man would make new friends. If they were young, they would become his ‘e’ grandchildren, his ‘extra’ grandchildren and the old, ordinary man would add them to his book-sending list.
The old, lonely, ordinary man sent lots of books.
One day he would go to town on the bus and buy books. The next day he would go to the post office and send books.
His hair became whiter. His beard grew longer. Because he was retired and an old, ordinary, lonely man he became rounder.
Every year he would get rounder and rounder.
Every year he would send more books.
Every year his beard would get whiter and longer and he would buy and send more books and become shorter and rounder.
The ordinary, old, round man was happy reading books. He was happy thinking about the things he had read. He was happy reading the words that women and men had written in the distant past. He loved to think. He loved to read the things people had written. He loved to read what people had thought on the inside of their thinker.
The old, ordinary, round man never watched television. He hadn’t watched the news or weather in fifty years. He preferred to read and think.
The old ordinary man didn’t want his thinker filled with meaningless visual images and conflicting emotions. He wanted to reserve his thinker for thinking.
Chapter Eight The Northern Visitor
Then one day there was a knock at the old, ordinary, round man’s door. A man was there. He was a short man, shorter than the ordinary, old man. The visitor at the door had clear, friendly eyes and he looked at the old, ordinary man with kindness.
He asked if the old, ordinary man would like a job, an important job.
What was the job, the ordinary man asked.
You’ll be traveling all over the world gathering books and giving books to children and their families.
I’m an old man, he said. I’m an ordinary, old man. How can I possible travel the world giving away books.
The visitor looked at the old man with affection. You have been giving away books for many years. You are good at acquiring books and giving them away. You are not selfish. You give away dollars to everyone. There are children all over the world who would love to read books. We have a job for a person just like you.
I think about that sometimes, the old, ordinary man said to his visitor standing in the doorway. I wonder what is going to happen when all the children stop reading and only stare at the television and quit using their thinker and become like the animals.
We think about those things, too, the short man at the door said to the ordinary, old man. You are the person we want. You can be trusted. You care about children and what goes into their minds. You know the value of books.
The old, ordinary, round man with the long white hair and the long white beard smiled. He liked the idea the short man at the door was putting into his thinker.
He cared about what was going into children’s thinkers and what was not going into their thinkers. He cared. He cared a great deal.
We want to give you even more power to give books and help those young thinkers grow into the literate, happy adults you wish them to be. We want to help you stop the advance of the treacherous book dragon.
What will I be required to do?
You will leave here.
I must leave my house? The old man asked.
Yes, you will be required to leave this cottage. You will be given another residence conducive to the distribution of books to promote the growth of thinking in children.
Where will I go?
If you decide to do this work, you’ll be taken to a place where you can continue the work you are doing now, the work you love. You will be given helpers, many helpers. You will be able to give away many more books than you can imagine.
I would like that, the old, ordinary, round man said. I would like that more than I can say.
Books are a gift, the man at the door said. You understand the value of books as no other. You are to be given this gift because you understand giving. The only thing one can ever keep is that which one gives away. You have understood that for many years. You can’t take it with you, but you can send it on ahead.
I understand, the old, round, ordinary man with the white hair and long white beard said, but I’m worried about the book dragon. He seems to be getting stronger. I’m afraid.
I wouldn’t be too afraid of the book dragon, if I were you, the short man at the door said. The pendulum will swing. There are powers much stronger than that evil black thing with his cold blood.
Should I hope?
Of course you should hope. Books will live. You shall live. Your mind and your thoughts shall live. The pendulum will swing. Be not afraid.
I believe you. I’m ready. Where shall I go to begin this work?
Written by: Barney Beard for his grandchildren
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Copyright 2019 by Barney Beard. All Rights Reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without permission in writing from the author.©