Sunday Scribbles Writing Prompts, Week 10: Library/Books

Welcome to Sunday Scribbles!

Today marks week 10 of the 52 week writing challenge!

Introductory post: Sunday Scribbles announcement post
Past prompts: Sunday Scribbles past prompts

I am a ball of excited nerves right now: I will be starting editorial work experience in London tomorrow, wish me luck 🙂

Anyway, Last week, I ran a poll on Twitter to decide the prompt for the 5th March. Second place was Library/Books, and I liked the idea of it. So:

The prompt for Sunday 12th March is Library/Books:sunday-scribbles-12th-march-libraryooks

For this weeks prompt, I wrote about a young man who uses his local library and books/comics as an escape from a poor home environment.

Potential trigger warning: emotionally abusive parent/stressed parent who takes it out on his family.

My Attempt:

Carl stretched his arms above his head and listened as his joints cracked. His pencil tapped an idle rhythm on the paper in front of him, an English assignment titled, ‘The Science of Deduction: Sherlock Holmes across history.’

Books were scattered across his desk. The complete works of Sherlock Holmes, and a couple of other interesting takes on one of the most famous fictional detectives. On top of that, a rental copy of BBC’s Sherlock, due back at the library today.

Carl glanced towards his bedside table, where his collection of Green Arrow and Flash comics balanced precariously. The latest ones were in his bag, so that he could hide in the school library at lunchtime and pass the time. The adventures of the Flash and the Green Arrow were tough, and the trials that they faced were hard, but despite that, they always overcame adversity and made the world a better place.

If only real life were like that. 

Carl’s ears pricked up as he heard a door slam downstairs. He shot up to his feet and crept over to his bedroom door.

Through the crack, he heard his mother ask, quiet and meek, “How was your day?”

“Is dinner ready?” Carl heard his father demand.

“It’s nearly done… I had to…” his mother stuttered.

Carl flew away from the door. He grabbed his bag from his bed, and he shoved the DVD from his desk safely inside. His father had raised his voice now.

“It’s supposed to be there!” Carl’s father yelled. Carl just knew that his father had gestured towards the dining room table. Dinner on the table when he got home, or just before he left for work, was necessary to keep the peace, but it was exhausting treading on eggshells every day. 

“I know, but the kids…” Carl heard his mother murmur.

Carl flinched, and his shoulders tensed as a loud bang sounded downstairs.

“Let me guess. Carl,” Carl heard his father growl. Unfair as always. Carl did have a sister…

Carl crept down the stairs, silent and breath held. If his father saw him…

The third step from the bottom creaked. Carl froze, but his father’s hearing was as sharp as a knife when he was in one of his moods.

“Speak of the devil. Pick that crap up,” Carl’s father shouted as he gestured to Carl’s coat and shoes, which lay on the floor by the door.

“Mum does her best,” Carl murmured, meek, as he grabbed his coat and shrugged it on. God. Nearly eighteen, and he still couldn’t stand up to his father. Carl’s face twisted into an expression of pain and sadness, and he rubbed a hand over his face. His fingers caught in his golden locks, but freeing them was a welcome distraction from the man who seethed in front of him.

“Don’t talk back to me, boy,” his father said with a scowl. Carl picked up a shoe and stood on one leg as he pulled it on. “Where are you going?”

“Out,” Carl insisted. He sucked in a breath and levelled what he hoped was a glare towards his father as he pulled on his second shoe. No time to lace them. He had to leave.

“No, you are not. You will sit and eat dinner with your family,” his father ordered.

“It’s not ready,” Carl retorted. He regretted the words the instant they left his mouth, but there was no taking them back. Before his father could react, he turned and pulled the door open. It slammed behind him.

The chill autumn wind caught his coat, and it flew behind Carl as his quick steps took him away from the house. Once he had rounded the corner, he knelt to tie his shoes. The whimper he let out sounded foreign to his own lips, and Carl pulled his coat tight around himself as he straightened. There was only one place he could go when all was lost. Carl glanced at his watch. The library was still open. Quick steps carried Carl away from the house that his family owned in the suburbs, and towards the only place he felt he could call home.

He reached the town centre in no time, and Carl kept his hand clutched tight to his bag as he wandered through the streets. The town centre was a little rough at this time of night, and a group of youth’s yelled obscenities towards him as he headed towards the library entrance.

The sigh of relief as he pushed open the heavy wooden door was involuntary. So was the small smile which graced his lips. Carl’s shoulders slumped, and he released his tight grip on his bag as he felt the warmth of the library surround him. The bag swung free by his side as Carl walked towards the library desk. Shelves stretched high on either side of him, a narrow passage lined with books, but it was comfort that Carl felt, and not claustrophobia.

An elderly lady with the whitest curls and large thick glasses smiled wide as Carl approached.

“Thought we might see you today,” the lady greeted.

“Hello, Miriam,” Carl smiled, and he dug into his bag for the DVD. “Just returning this.”

“You coming next Tuesday?” Miriam asked, as she took the DVD and pointed to a poster on the front desk. Volunteers wanted.

Carl nodded. “Of course. Wouldn’t miss it.” 

Miriam sighed. “That makes one of you. Rest dropped out.”

“Sorry.” Carl looked down. There was a small hole in the toe of his trainers. His father would blame him for it. More apologies. The only way to keep the peace at home.

“Oh, you don’t need to be sorry, dear,” Miriam blustered. “You only ever apologise when something is your fault!’

Carl frowned. “Never that simple.”

He had yelled back to his father once. The resulting screaming match had not been pretty.

“Keeps the peace?” Miriam asked with a pointed look towards him.

The quick upward movement of his head to meet her eyes was all the answer she needed.

“Chin up, dear,” Miriam reassured him with a smile. “You’re off to university soon. Can leave it all behind, start afresh.”

Carl nodded. She was right. Nine months to go. “See you later,” he said with a forced smile.

Miriam nodded and waved as he walked away.

It was a well trodden path that Carl followed through the library towards the young adult section, but it was a lesser used route, which branched off to the left, that took him towards his destination. The back of the library. His home.

The table was small, with only two seats, and it was rare that anyone else ventured back here. The light was poor, there were no windows this deep in the building, and tall bookshelves shielded the table from view. It was empty as usual.

Carl flung his bag onto the surface of the table, and his coat on the back of the chair. Table claimed, he turned and placed his hands on his hips as he pondered his next move. The words of his English teacher came back to him.

“If you like Sherlock Holmes, you might enjoy some of the young Sherlock Holmes adventures,” Mrs Simmons had insisted, when Carl had shown her his project plan earlier that week.

“Let’s see if she’s right,” Carl muttered to himself, as he left his bag in search of the book.

The library was a maze to an outsider, but Carl slipped easily among the shelves, intent on his destination. One of the librarians, Lily, grinned as he passed by. It was infectious. Carl’s lips stretched into an awkward smile, but he did not stop to chat. There would be enough of that on Tuesday night, especially if it were just the two of them.

Carl reached the right bookshelf in no time at all. There, in the middle of the shelf, was the first of the young Sherlock Holmes books. It would be a new world to escape into, something to keep him in his room, and away from his fathers tirades. Lost in his thoughts, Carl reached out. He did not notice the young man until their hands connected on top of the same book.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” a young man with mousy brown hair looked up to murmur with a bright smile. “Did you want this one too?”

Carl nodded, heart racing, and he felt his throat constrict with awkward nerves. “My… friend recommended it,” Carl lied. He didn’t want this stranger to know that his only friend was his teacher.

“You have friends that read?” the young man exclaimed, eyes wide and surprised.

Carl was unable to stop the small smile as he replied, “Just my teacher. Sorry.”

“Hey, don’t be sorry, my teacher is the only friend I have who reads too!” the young man laughed. “I’m Damien.”

Damien extended a hand out in front of him.

“Carl,” Carl offered, and he took Damien’s hand. Damien’s handshake was firm, and his grin confident.

Damien nodded. “Cool. Hey, I know! You can have this book first, if you lend me somethin’ else to read!”

Carl looked down and scuffed his feet on the floor. “The only books I own are comic books,” Carl muttered, as his mind conjured up an image of the bare bookshelf back at his parents house. “Unless you like ‘The Flash’…”

“More of a ‘Green Arrow’ man myself,” Damien interrupted with a smile.

“Did you see the most recent one yet?” Carl blurted out before he could stop himself.

Damien shook his head. “Had to miss this week. Spent all my money on comic con tickets.”

“I wish I could go,” Carl murmured, and he glanced away. By the time he had saved up enough from his part time job, the hole had appeared in his trainers. His dad would never pay for new ones, so Carl had to content himself with comics. He forced a smile and turned back to Damien. “I have the latest comic in my bag, if you want to borrow it.”

The grin that split Damien’s face was bright and open. “Lead the way!”

It was unusual to share his table with another person. Unusual, but not unwelcome. Carl placed a bookmark in between the pages of his book at chapter two, and he listened with a smile as Damien gushed about comic con.

“I was lookin’ forward to it, even got two tickets, but then my girlfriend dumped me. Apparently, tickets to comic con was the, ‘worst Valentines gift ever,’ ” Damien complained. He made a gesture with his hands as he said it. Air quotes, Carl realised.

Carl looked down at his shoes, but he nodded, decisive, and looked up a second later. “I can buy the spare if you’re selling?”

Damien glanced down at Carl’s feet and tilted his head to the side. “Tell you what, you let me borrow the new comics each week, and you can have the ticket. I could do with the company, and there’s no sense us both buyin’ them now that we’re friends,” Damien grinned.

Carl looked up at him with wide eyes. “Really?”

Damien nodded. “Thursday nights, here, are good for me, but I’ll also be here on Tuesday’s.”

“Me too,” Carl replied with an excited laugh. “Although I’m here most nights really. Only place that feels like home.”

Carl’s eyes widened the moment that the words left his mouth, and he stood abruptly.

“Hey, it’s okay,” Damien rushed. He stood and reached his hands out to place them either side of Carl’s shoulders. “At my house, my mum’s always fightin’ with my dad. It’s not home.”

Carl looked back towards Damien and closed his eyes. After a moment, he nodded and opened his mouth to speak.

A loud grumble split the silence between them. Carl’s lip trembled, and he looked down at his stomach.

“Hungry?” Damien’s lips twitched into a smile. “Come on, I know a great Italian a few blocks over.”

Carl held up his hands in protest. “I can’t…” 

“Afford it?” Damien finished. “Yeah, you can. My dad’s the chef, an he’s workin’ late. He owes me.”

Carl tilted his head and considered the boy in front of him. The large clock in the centre of the library chimed, and Carl flinched, startled. 8pm. The library was closed. His stomach grumbled again, and Carl nodded towards Damien.

“All right, lead the way,” Carl replied. He would be lucky if they had saved dinner for him back at the house anyway.

Damien grinned, and together, they headed out of the library. Their endless chatter about comic books and comic con plans carried on easily over dinner, and by the time Carl got home, his father was in bed. Regardless, it didn’t matter any more. He had a new reason to look forward to going to the library, and a new friend to run to when things got tough.

End Prompt.

I can relate to Carl. I grew up with a father who let his work related stress impact negatively on his family. Books, stories, art, and writing were my escape. They still are, but these days it is less about necessity and more about fun 🙂

If I ever do a ‘comic con,’ prompt, I will revisit these characters. They will go to comic con dressed as Flash and Green Arrow!

Next Sunday’s prompt:

I decided that third place in the poll, ‘Stairs,’ will be next Sunday’s prompt:

Sunday Scribbles 19th March Stairs

If you try next weeks prompt yourself, let me know how it goes. Post your attempt on your blog on the 19th of March, and leave a link in the comments below this post so that I can read it 🙂

If you can attempt the prompt in less than 140 characters, you can also #sunscribbles on Twitter. I am super interested to see what you all come up with 🙂 

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