Halfway to the End of July | Newberry

Halfway to the End of July

The two officers from the Death Investigation Unit silently searched the death scene, one the back seat and the other the trunk, ignoring the front seat where the driver, beyond noticing, was silent as well.

“What have you got?” the officer in charge of the investigation finally said.

“Hermann Hesse, Jennifer Crusie, Rebecca Wells.”

“Divine Secrets?”

“Ya. You?”

“The Help. The Da Vinci Code.”

“Seems definite.”

“I’ll call it in.”

She called headquarters, which unknowingly quoted her. “What have you got?”

“Froze to death. Looks like another attempt to deliver books to the Book Fair.”

A sigh came from the phone. “When will they learn?”

For those who have not noticed, it is now January in Chicago. And though it has been sitting around quietly for a while, pretending to be November, it has now launched into Full January Mode, with wind chills well below zero. The folks who deliver the weather like to overstate things, hoping someone will listen, but it seems likely that next week’s weather will make today feel like Simi Valley, California. Wind chills of thirty below and some more snow in between the gusts.

Ah, it takes me back to the Good Old Days, when I would step out onto the Loading Dock and find the pigeons and robins sitting shoulder to shoulder in out of the wind. I’d scold the robins. “I thought you guys flew south!” They eyed me with caution but they didn’t fly away. It was too cold to think of giving up a relatively warm roost unless I came at them.

And WHY was I stepping out on the Loading Dock in that kind of weather, Porkchop Popsicle? I was checking to see how many boxes of books had been dropped off overnight, when the wind chill was forty below.

You don’t HAVE to do this, you know. Now and then we start to worry that we’re running short of books, but don’t worry about us and risk your life bringing us presents. We HAVE a copy of Moby Dick. We can sit and read it aloud to each other if there’s nothing else to do.

I do not wish to seem ungrateful. I thank the people who sent that run of Rick Riordan in hardcover (we almost NEVER get any of his books except in paperback.) The people who noted that their set of the Cambridge Poets was complete have earned our gratitude as well. (In fact, we never get a complete set. Someone will invariably take Keats or Byron to the cabin the summer and leave it behind.) And the person who brought us the shoebox full of Nintendo Game Cartridges has given us something to research on the computer. (If you’d given us the game systems themselves, we’d have something to do if we’re snowed in here. Ah well, back to Moby Dick.)

But though my gratitude is warm, the wind is still cold, and surely anybody with any sense—and a pile of books—is going to sit inside next to a roaring fire, drinking hot chocolate and waiting for the Marquis of Alverstoke to propose to the heroine or for Ged to confront the dark shadow which has been pursuing him. If you don’t have a roaring fire, a grumbling radiator will do.

Don’t feel you MUST wrap yourself in seven layers and bring all those paperbacks you’ve finished before the thaw. After all, THEN you can slip and drop them in the mud before you donate them, and that’s nearly as much fun.


I just wanted to express my warm gratitude for the Ursula Le Guin nod, someone I never tire of.

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