Saturday, November 25, 2017

The first sky parlor

Sitting on the edge of Ari’s bed, Glaydis folded her hands in her lap, cleared her throat in a quiet, dainty way, and then began.

“One of the first books ever to be printed as several copies at once was the Gutenberg Bible. That is where it all started.” She turned to Ari. “Do you remember, dear? That new book smell, right off of that creaky press. The ink smell was overpowering, so oily and metallic. We didn’t like it at the time, but now...” she drifted off for a minute, and Ari patted her hand. Shaking her head swiftly from side to side, as if to shudder away a ghost, she continued. 

“We each of us, the first Word Watchers, got a copy of the Bible. Forty-five of us. Not the ones on that cheap paper, but the copies on the lovely lovely vellum. Of course, it was 1454, and you didn’t even know from day to day who would still be around the next day, what with the plague and various viruses always making the rounds...”

“Not to mention the food poisoning,” Ari put in. “Remember that eel pie from the shop down the lane?” It was his turn to shudder away a ghost. “Ugh. Thought that was going to carry me right away.”

Glaydis smiled at him, as if to say, Not likely, dear, and went on. “Since we didn’t know what time any of us had left, we all felt that we had to rush. That bible had 42 lines of print per page. It’s an important number, 42, something we all recognized quite at once. It had turned up again and again, and Ari and I were the first to realize its significance. Go to the 42nd page. Line 42. And that’s how the Word Watchers were born. That Bible was the first book in the Collection.”

Sophy, not surprisingly, was utterly confused, unable to follow any of it. Eel pies? Vellum? Guten...who? Glaydis paused and noticed it. Turning to Ari, she said, “I’m afraid we’re not being very clear about all of this. It was so long ago when we started, and I’m just not quite sure how to tell the story.”

Ari placed his gnarled, papery-skinned hand on hers and said, “Start with the first Sky Parlor. That’s the best place to begin.”

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