by Rebecca Freeman
I’m surrounded by shelves of books in the library. In my desk drawer though, just underneath some of my folders, is where I keep my favourite book ‘The Wizard of Oz’. It doesn’t belong to this silent building, it was given to me as a birthday present when I was three, and my dad read it to me most nights before I went to sleep. It was my favourite film too, and still is. Each night, he’d bring me a glass of milk, tuck me up in my 101 Dalmatians quilt cover, make sure that my little pink bear that he won for me was tucked in next to me, then he’d sit at the edge of the bed, open the book, and begin to read. He pronounced every word with so much emphasis; he could’ve made a TV guide sound interesting. It was just us, and as busy as he always was, he’d always make time for a bed time story.
I’m pretty sure that over the years, he’d learned the story by heart- I noticed how sometimes he’d say paragraphs without actually reading them. I’d glance at the pictures on the page, visualised myself dancing along that yellow brick road with Dorothy, the Tin man, Scarecrow and Lion, wearing those sparkling ruby slippers. Then, dad would kiss me on my forehead, say ‘sweet dreams Lucy’ and then ‘don’t let the bed bugs bite.’ He’d place the book on my bedside cabinet. Just before he left my bedroom, he’d close my curtains, hiding the purpled-dusk sky and soon I’d fall asleep. As time flew I kept telling him that I’d grown too old for stories, so- thus ‘The Wizard of Oz’ collected dust on my bookshelf- it almost got thrown out with some Disney books that we’d given away to charity, but that book reminded me of dad and how he used to be- so I kept it.
It’s the end of my shift now, I leave the library and I get into my car, the book sleeps on one of the back seats as I drive to visit dad. As I step into the entrance of the home, a nurse directs me to his room where he is sat at his table reading todays paper, with a plate of chocolate digestive biscuits and a tea next to him. ‘Your story tellers here’ one of the nurses is smiling. She has a chair ready for me to sit on, like she always does. I sit beside him. He looks at me and gives me an absent-eyed look through those worn-out eyes of his.
‘Hello, I’m Lucy’ I say,
‘Oh hi, I’m George’ he replies.
He gives me the smile he used to give me when I got all of my spellings right at school. He then asks ‘so what book is it?’
I hold it up.
‘I think I’ve heard of that one’ he tells me, and then asks ‘would you like a biscuit?’
I nod, pick one up and bite into it. He smiles at me as I open the first page of the book, he listens intently as I read our favourite story.