The Fourth Grade Bookshelf

 

The librarian pushed down on the book with her ink-stained, silver stamp. It printed a blurred date on the library card: “October 21.” At the age of eight, I didn’t have many dates I needed to remember. Mom’s birthday. Christmas. And now, October 21st.

“Rich Mitch” was certainly not high-brow literature. But it was a book on the fourth grade bookshelf. And I was only in the third grade. So, that book was a treasure.

Thankfully, the librarian didn’t notice the illicit selection. After all, I was pretty stealth in my pursuit. That afternoon, after exhausting the books on the third grade bookshelf, I had snuck around to the fourth grade bookshelf and grabbed the first thick book I could find with my chubby fingers. It was a thrilling feeling. A deliciously naughty feeling. An incredibly confident feeling.

I read “Rich Mitch” three times before October 21st. I read it during recess. I read it during the commute to dancing school. I read it on Saturday mornings in my bed under a pile of patchwork quilts. “Rich Mitch” certainly had big words and long paragraphs, but I devoured each sentence bite by bite.

On October 21st, I returned the book. I decided to forego the “library book drop slot” since it seemed too heartless. Instead, I said my goodbye and physically handed “Rich Mitch” to the librarian.

“Wasn’t this book on the fourth grade bookshelf?” the librarian asked me. She walked away with a forgiving smile before I could even give her an answer.

For the rest of the year, the librarian turned her head as not to notice when I drifted toward the decadent fourth grade shelf.

It was our little, wonderful, secret.

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