The truck engines thundered into life as they prepared to depart for the various book depots all over town. The roars and sputters of the engines drowned out my thoughts allowing me, for a brief span, to forget my misfortune.
I heard sounds of laughter and greeting echo through the warehouse as the drivers and morning workers greeted each other. How happy they were! Oblivious to the suffering and pains of the helpless limbless comme moi. Oh that I had hands and legs and the might to use them! I would have kicked open the doors of that accursed truck that brought me here and would have stood there, laughing, as the books inside whimpered in fright. Oh those goddamned devils! Those sadistic criminals! How heartless were they, to despoil my very appearance! What had I even done? I had hardly spoken a word to any of them and I had made sure of abstaining from all kinds of contact with them but to the devil with all of my precautions!
How cruel can you be Fate, for singling me out and destroying me blow-by-goddamned-blow! You snatch my dream, crippling me from the inside and yet, cruel Fate was not satisfied and had to not only tarnish but completely rob me of my invaluable luster as a paper! Unpardonable. I am not some riff-raff paper cut out from your backyard tree to accept my Fate and slosh around in my misfortune. No. One fine day, I will break free from these fetters and hunt down every single one of those devilish books and will make sure I will throw them into the darkest of all Hell to suffer and rot.
While I lay thus, contemplating the various tortures I could possibly subjugate my black-hearted counterparts to, the warehouse grew ever more silent. Subsequently, abject silence prevailed. Strangely, lying there sandwiched between dirty books amidst the silence felt very safe, like nothing could ever harm me again. My anger and distress ebbed away as I began to feel fuzzy. I settled down for a nap.
Five minutes later I was flung into the world of the Awake by one of the warehouse workers, as he unceremoniously dumped us all onto a rectangular piece of cloth out on the damp and hard street. I was out on top this time and blinked in the daze the sudden exposure to daylight had left me in. Gradually, my vision cleared and I could see lots and lots of legs bustling about over the muddy puddles and whatever little was left of the road. There were small tents propped up against the walls all along the road with the hawkers seated beneath them, screaming to the world the myriad benefits and virtues of their priceless wares. People would stop by these tents and inquire about an item and before long, a heated discussion would break out. A few minutes later, the inquirer would hand over to the hawker some paper and the hawker would in turn, give the requested item. Darn humans! They need paper for everything and yet they bandy us about in all manners just because we can’t speak audibly enough for ourselves.
I was atop a heap of books under a tent similar to the ones all along the street. Our hawker was an old and wrinkled little fellow, dressed in an all too large shirt with an outlandish deerstalker adorning his head. His eyes were shrouded in a million crinkles and a white cigarette was plonked into place between whatever little remained of his teeth. A hopeful smile played on his lips constantly and his eyes lit up every time a person walked by. He croaked out all kinds of things about us. “Export reject books for sale! Export reject books for sale! Negotiable prices! The best of quality at the least of cost! Don’t miss out on this special offer!” And so it went on. The poor fellow was parched but went on screaming, stopping only to steal quick puffs from his precious cigarettes.
I saw little hope as the endless array of legs went on and on with not a single one stopping by our tiny little tent. Only when the sun had risen up to its highest did the poor old fellow cease. He fished out a sandwich from a box and munched away at it, all the while keeping a keen watch on the road. Just as he glanced down, perhaps for another sandwich, a little boy appeared, peering curiously at the books at his feet- his big brown eyes jumping from one to the other.
In no time, the old man launched into guffaws and smiles, chattering away to the child about us.
The child listened with great interest and all the while, continued to stare at us. I lazily stared right back at him, watching his big brown face screw up in concentration as he tried to analyse the books.
“Never judge a book by its cover, son!”, quipped the old fellow. He reached out and picked the first book he could get- me.
“Ah! This was the one I was looking for. Perfect for young ‘uns like you, I’m sure! Not too big and yet big enough to attract a second glance, I say! Why, this little fella will drive your chums up the wall with envy! Ideal for little schoolboys like you!” Here the old fellow paused, gazing intensely at the child’s face- his mouth wide open in his hopeful smile with a couple of teeth sticking out here and there.
The child stared at me, soaking in every detail.
“How much?”, he warbled in his high, child-like tones. The old fellow pointed at a board he had planted in front with the price painted on it. The child glanced at it and without a word of protest, handed over the money to the old hawker. The old man fished out a nice little paper cover from under his money-box and put me inside it, wrapping me up warmly. He croaked an elated thanks and handed me over to the child, whose tiny little hands I could feel clasping me with child-like excitement coursing through their pudgy little fingers.
I could feel him trot along the street, not stopping for a moment. Finally, I heard him open a door and answer a woman’s call in his high voice. He then ran for a bit and then stopped to place me on a hard surface.
Then gently, as though fearing any untoward incident, he extracted me from the cover and placed me on a piece of cloth atop a cold and hard wooden table.
He then vanished for a few moments, only to return with a fat and browner lady by his side. He grabbed me with excited hands and thrust me into the woman’s hands. She held me up against the light and turned me over, exclaiming every now and then how perfect a notebook I was. She took no notice of my loose pages or my damaged binding and could only marvel at my immense luster. The child had a wide smile planted on his face as the woman handed me back to him. She patted him on the head and left the room, leaving me alone with the child- who positively seemed too excited to move for a few moments.
Then, with a sudden burst of energy, he sat himself on a rickety wooden chair and gingerly placed me down on the table. He grabbed a pen from a stand on the table and then, with supreme excitement painted all over his face, he opened my cover. I shivered with a sense of duty. I let a passing wisp of wind cleanse me of any dust and stiffened up my first page, which was trembling in anticipation of the Pen.
The child screwed up his face in concentration and placed his left hand flat over my open cover. I stared at the descending Pen, my nerves alight with a sense of purpose and duty. I then felt the warm and even tip of the Pen, strangely tracing a comforting path, as it coursed along the upper right side of my first page.
The boy busied himself with a few lines more, operating under the utmost concentration. He then ceased to write and sat back to admire his first few words on me. Then, with a satisfied expression (presumably because of my more than capable skills as notebook-paper) he closed my cover and carefully placed me on top of another book on his table, a hard and fat one by the feel of it.
I heard his tiny feet scamper out of the room just as he shut the door with a thud.
I lay there, breathing in the new air. Just this morning I was at the bottom of an endless pit of despair and hurt, certain of nothing. But thanks to that good old fellow and his supreme salesmanship, I was here- transported out of suffering just as quickly as into.
I glanced around the room and came upon a photo of the child and the woman I had seen earlier. There, right there, clasped in the woman’s arms lay my purpose. I steeled myself up. I was going to give this child every last bit of paper I had and will make sure that not a word of his goes amiss! I recognized him as my one true master, who had given me a fresh lease on life. He had brought me back from the proverbial dumps and set me here, allowing me to finally realize my potential as a notebook! No, I will not falter again nor will I allow myself to be faltered!
And thus, armed with this new-found purpose and elated at my rebirth as a notebook, I trembled with excitement as I awaited the return of my Master’s tiny little footsteps.