Someone told me a true story the other day. It’s about a librarian and a ghost: perfect for Friday the Thirteenth.
A few years ago, a newly minted librarian found work in a primary school. Between reading sessions and book fairs, she browsed the shelves, trying to get a sense of what the students were reading.
She’d open books at random, scan a few passages, and pop them back again. She smiled over feisty puppies and nodded at ambitious heroines, but nothing she found surprised her. Until.
Until the day she opened a book and a piece of faded pink construction paper fluttered to the tile like an errant leaf.
She bent down, rescued the scrap, and squinted at it. In a child’s tentative handwriting, the note read, “This book is great. You should check it out because the dragon is actually a good guy!”
She moved to toss the note away but then, on instinct, she placed it back among the pages and closed the cover.
Over the following years, the librarian found dozens of books with notes scrawled in pencil, in marker, in crayon. They ranged from book reviews to words of encouragement: “Whoever you are, you look really cool today!” Every one was in the same handwriting.
These days, when curious parents ask what she likes best about her job, she tells them she’s been blessed with her own personal phantom. Instead of an opera, he haunts books. Instead of music, he’s obsessed with words.
She thinks about him over coffee sometimes, when the library is quiet and she can track lazy dust motes through the air. She wonders if he used to stick his nose deep in the bindings and inhale, like she still does in secret.
Her mystery ghost could have attended the school five years ago, or fifteen. He could even be a she, although she has a hunch he’s not. Whoever he was, she can perfectly imagine his small shadow creeping into the library during recess or after class, adding one more message like a precious flower to be pressed.
Does he even remember doing it? Might he have a child of his own now, and have revisited his old school during some parent conference? She’ll never know, but now, whenever she trades in a novel at a second-hand book store, she makes sure there’s a note tucked between the pages.
Have you ever found a message inside a book?