The Clumsy Me Test
Astrid lugged her bag up the steps of St Paul’s, the strap digging further into her shoulder with each step she took. She didn’t know why she’d agreed to this stupid ‘book-off’ with Felicity. She just couldn’t stand the way Felicity waved her e-reader around at work like it was going to revolutionise reading and save the world at the same time. She was determined to prove to Felicity that books should be made of paper and ink not plastic and megabites.
Felicity was standing at the top of the steps, leaning against a column. A slim leather handbag was draped over her shoulder. She laughed when Astrid reached the top.
‘You brought them then?’ she said, adjusting her glasses.
‘Yes, fifteen books, like we agreed,’ Astrid dropped her bag onto the floor and rubbed her shoulder before opening the bag to reveal two rows of paperbacks of assorted sizes.
Felicity slipped her reader out of her bag and waved it at Astrid, ‘Two hundred and thirty-nine books,’ she said, ‘And considerably lighter than your fifteen. I think I win the first test. Your turn.’
Astrid slumped on the floor next to her bag, her shoulder still ached from her short trip from the bus stop, ‘Let’s try a speed test: pick a book and start reading.’ Astrid reached into her bag and grabbed a book.
‘Wait! I’m not ready. Give me a title and count to three.’
‘You might not have the same books.’
Felicity peered into Astrid’s bag, ‘Yep, got them all.’
‘Fine, Douglas Adams, Hitchikers Guide. Ready? One two three, go!’
Astrid plucked the book out of her bag and flicked to the front page. She glanced at Felicity who was still fiddling with the screen on her e-reader. Astrid grinned and started to read:
“The house stood on a slight rise just on the edge of the village-,“
‘Wait! Nearly there, okay, scroll down, select, here it is.’ Felicity stopped and looked at Astrid who was halfway down the first page, ‘Okay, fine. You win that one, but I wasn’t far behind. Me next. Come on.’
Felicity walked off through the entrance to St Paul’s. Astrid sighed, lifted her bag back onto her painful shoulder and hurried after her.
‘It’s so dark in here,’ Astrid said, her voice echoing.
‘Precisely. Now read.’ Felicity switched her e-reader on, her face lit up by the gentle glow of the screen. Not to be outdone, Astrid pulled her book out of her bag, but try as she might, she couldn’t make out more than the odd word or two in the dimly lit entrance.
‘Fine,’ Astrid said, ‘You can have that one. My turn.’ She picked her bag up and walked back out into the sunshine. Once outside she shuffled through her books until she found the one she was looking for. She handed it to Felicity, ‘Read the inscription,’ she said.
Felicity looked at the book, it was Wuthering Heights. She opened it and read:
‘“To my very own Cathy, I will always be your Heathcliff.” Yuck! Really?’
Astrid snatched the book back, ‘We were sixteen. It was romantic. And I was trying to make the point that my books aren’t just books, they’re memories, pieces of history. You don’t get that with your electronic doodah.’
‘What happened to Heathcliff?’
‘He got off with Maria Prendergast at my seventeenth birthday party.’
Felicity laughed, ‘I’ll let you have that one, but only because I feel sorry for your poor cheesy seventeen-year-old self. Now it’s my turn. For this challenge, you have to find a quote in a book that you’d like to remember, highlight it, then close the book, open it and try to find it again.’
Astrid stared at her in horror, ‘Deface my books? What kind of heathen are you?!’
‘I can do it with my e-reader, are you saying you can’t do it with your antiquated printed booky thing?’ Felicity jabbed a manicured finger nail at Wuthering Heights. Astrid pulled the book out of her reach, clutching it tightly to her chest.
‘I could. With post-it notes.’
‘Do you have any post-it notes?’
Astrid shook her head.
‘Fine, then it’s my point. Your turn.’
‘The Clumsy Me Test,’ Astrid announced. ‘Wait here.’ She slipped Wuthering Heights back into her bag, pulled out another book and ran down the steps.
‘The Whaty-what test?’ Felicity called after her.
At the foot of the steps, Astrid watched the passersby for a while then began strolling up the pavement, the book open in front of her, reading as she went.
‘I can read while I’m walking along with my e-reader, too!’ Felicity shouted down from the top of the steps.
Astrid smiled and let the book slip between her fingers. It landed at the feet of a tall man walking in the opposite direction.
‘Oops! Clumsy me!’ Astrid said, ducking down to pick up the book at the exact same time as the tall man reached for it. Their fingers brushed together.
‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo!’ the man said. ‘One of my favourites.’
‘Me too,’ said Astrid. ‘Did you read them all?’
‘Couldn’t put them down.’
Five minutes later, having given her number to her tall dark stranger, Astrid ran back up the steps. Felicity was nowhere to be seen. Astrid’s bag lay where she’d left it, wide open. She bent down to zip it up and noticed Felicity’s e-reader discarded on top of her copy of Atonement. She grinned, then turned and scanned the pavement, finally spotting Felicity a few yards away, a copy of Life of Pi in her hand.
The book tumbled through Felicity’s fingers.
‘Oops, clumsy me!’ she said.
Written for the Daily Post Weekly Writing Challenge: Mind The Gap – Books versus E-readers. I think I’ve proved that books win. Hands down. Every time.