The package looked like any other Amazon package. I don’t consider myself a superstitious gal, but it arrived on my doorstep on Friday the 13th of April, so maybe I should have known better. I carried it up into my apartment without the slightest inkling that I was also carrying out the final step in a crime. (I was probably distracted by the all-consuming desire to stuff my face– a sensation that often accompanies the act of arriving home after a long day away from my kitchen.)
It all felt so normal. When you hear about this kind of thing on the news, you always think, “How could she not know? She must have known.” But I didn’t. I swear; it was just like any other package.
That is, until I opened it.
With one smooth slice of the scissors down the center, it was suddenly so obvious.
The scent hit me first. An odor so tangible, so familiar. It smelled like a bike ride followed by two hours curled up in a dark corner with Mary Higgins Clark; a fragrance of childhood afternoons. It stunk of adventure, mystery, and mildew– the aroma of time with a subtle bouquet of knowledge.
It smelled like a library book.
No, that isn’t possible. Not even the basest Amazon seller would have the stomach to consign a book stolen from the library, one of the few remaining institutions that still lends goods for free. That’s what I thought too. I would have sworn that my olfactic sensory cells were deceiving me. But then I lifted out the book.
The hardcover was wrapped in plastic and secured with tape that had long since lost its stick. A white label on the bottom of the binding read “FIC McD.” I fanned a few yellowed pages until I reached confirmation: a red stamp with the words, “Property of Cliffside Park, PUB. LIB.” Unnerved, I already knew what I would find inside the back cover, but I couldn’t help myself. I flipped the book and gasped. Not only was there a barcode sticker for faster checkout, there was also an empty envelope for the Date Due card. Sadly, this book would never again need such a card. This book would never again be stamped with a blue or black month abbreviation and date. It would never again be smashed through a Return Book slot. This book was forcefully removed from circulation long before its time, only to be sold on the black market for $4.32. That’s the price put on greed by Amazon seller Accessory International LLC, a fitting name for a company that would involuntary make all of their customers into accessories.
Curious about the rightful owner of this book, I googled Cliffside Public Library. The first headline? “Fire rips through Cliffside Park library.”
Books, computers, and town treasures including historical maps and yearbooks were all ruined in the fire two years ago. After extensive renovations, the library was reopened this past September.
But the book I hold in my hands is by no means a bouncing eight month old book. This book is riddled with stains and tears. This book has seen kitchen tables, train rides, and the inside of purses. Which means this book is not just the product of a lame money making scheme by a New Jersey Amazon seller. This book narrowly escaped one of the worst fates imaginable. This book is a survivor that has more than one story to tell, if only you are willing to listen.
Okay, okay. I’ll return the book.