The topic for Thing Write Thursday this week is to write about an abandoned building.
“I dare you,” she said. “I dare you to just go look in the window.”
“I’ll do more than that. I’ll go inside.”
And with those words I walked up the cement sidewalk to the abandoned branch library in my neighborhood. It was Halloween night, 1977 and I was 12 years old. I wasn’t particularly brave but I was very competitive and I wasn’t going to back down from a dare like that one.
The double front doors were locked, of course, but I would not be deterred. I knew this library, I had visited it weekly for years before it closed, so I walked around to the side where the basement windows were, the ones that went directly into the children’s room. Luckily (or maybe unluckily) the window was unlatched. I pushed it in and crawled over the edge and dropped to the floor.
It was dark. And cold. Colder than outside. I’m sure I would have been able to see my breath if I could have seen anything at all. And then I remembered the flashlight in the bottom of my trick or treat bag, the one my mom had insisted I bring with me. I turned it on and the light shone weakly around the former children’s room. Memories of happy times rushed back to me. Carefully choosing books to bring home. Attending story times and puppet shows. Spending hours reading on the little couch in the corner while waiting for my mom to pick me up.
All of that was gone now, though. No books filled the sagging shelves, no happy greeting came from Miss Keane, the librarian, no colorful posters lined the walls. My library, the one I loved, was empty of treasures and full of cobwebs. And probably mice and spiders, I thought, as I shuddered.
I didn’t need to see any more. There was nothing left to prove, I had done more than I’d been challenged to do. Plus, it was creepy in there so I went back to the window and scrambled through to my friends waiting outside.
“What was it like? Did you see any ghosts?! Where you scared?” They gathered around me, eager for tales of fright.
“No,” I said, “no ghosts or scary monsters. Just a sad and empty library. Let’s go get more candy before we have to go home.”
As we walked away, though, I couldn’t help but glance back at that vacant place. And I realized, there are things that are scarier than ghosts and monsters. A shuttered library, one without books to lend and librarians to help, is perhaps one of the scariest things of all. I vowed, right then, to never let this happen again. To make sure that libraries are free and available to everyone. To make sure that no library in my town would ever close again. To become … a librarian.
So, my question to you – is that a true story from my childhood? Or is it fiction?
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