“Book Bound” [Rated G]



Clara came in the front door with her arms piled with quilts. She called out, “Mom! Do we have any more shipping boxes? I finished four more quilts tonight and I want them to go to the auction too.”

Martha came and took the quilts from her daughter and laid them out across the couch. Martha said, “Oh my! I never believe it’s possible but they just get more intricate and beautiful every time. I know we can’t keep them all, but I hate seeing them leave the house. If you keep this up, we’ll have to get you a sewing machine.”

Clara said, “I could never do quilts with a machine. That would take forever! Do we have boxes?”

Martha said, “No we don’t but it doesn’t matter. The auction is tomorrow and we can’t get them there in time … unless I take them and I’m not going to. AND I want a chance to photograph them before they are gone for good.”

Clara said, “I could run them there before school.”

Martha said, “The auction house doesn’t open until 9:00am and you have to be in school before then. You can’t just leave them outside their door.”

Clara said, “Maybe I can do it during my lunch break. I don’t even have to go to school. It’s not like I learn anything there.”

Martha said, “You learn how to live in a social setting by being in school. That’s important too.”

Clara said, “In that case I’m flunking.”

Martha said, “The auction house already printed out their programs so they wouldn’t want any last minute additions. Plus, I don’t think it’s a good idea to put any more quilts in that auction. You have 32 quilts there already. Scarcity makes the price go up. You have so many there that the price will probably drop because people will wait to bid on the next quilt if the price goes too high. Then if they run out of serious bidders, the last ones may go for cheap. We are taking a chance selling them this way. We are guaranteed a hundred dollars profit by selling them off your web site. Let’s just wait and see how it goes tomorrow. Maybe you should take a couple of them back out to the barn with you. It’s snowing like crazy and it’s going to get cold out there tonight.”

Clara said, “I don’t need any blankets. It’s just a habit to have one. And if I wanted another blanket, I could get one in town for ten dollars – these I can sell for $150.00.”

Martha said, “But these quilts are nicer than any blanket you could buy. Wouldn’t you like to sleep under something you designed and made yourself?”

Clara said, “They aren’t so special. It’s not like they take any time at all … am I listen to language tapes or play music and sing along while I make them. Besides, I need the money more than I need a blanket.”

Martha said, “You NEED no such thing. If you keep this up, you’ll put us in another tax bracket. I know you aren’t spending the money on your wardrobe. You must be redecorating your loft … or are buying a lot of music CDs these days?”

Clara said, “I need the money for books. My budget only allows me two percent of my income for books … and I want some science books that aren’t available in paperback or in any used book store.”

Martha said, “Why don’t you just change your budget? It’s silly anyway. We only allowed you to pay us fifteen percent in rent because we thought you wouldn’t be earning more than maybe $100.00 a month. We kind of thought that it was funny to accept fifteen percent, but now it’s embarrassing. That’s a barn loft not a penthouse apartment. You are making me feel like a slum lord and a sweat shop owner at the same time! Stop paying us rent money!  Go buy your books … and go see a movie for goodness sake!”

Clara said, “You AGREED that I can pay rent and I’m holding you to that! AND I don’t like movies. They’re annoying. Twenty-four still pictures a second? It’s very hard for me to fall for the illusion that those pictures actually move.”

Martha said, “Suit yourself but we’re not spending any of the money you give us.”

Clara said, “You had better! At least pay down the mortgage on the farm or farm equipment. What are you paying in interest – nine percent? If it makes you feel better, add my name to the deed or something, but pay off that debt. I’m only giving you a measly fifteen percent and its easy brainless work for me. YOU set up the website, YOU process the orders, YOU call UPS to make the pick-ups, YOU made all the arrangements with the auction house and YOU keep all the books on my expenses and income. Maybe I should give you twenty or twenty-five percent … maybe fifty percent since you’re my partner. This is all a lot more work for you than it is for me.”

Martha said, “That’s non-sense! Making a few phone calls CAN’T be more work than hand stitching thirty-thousand tiny pieces of fabric together and then quilting the entire thing.”

Clara said, “Whatever. So the auction should be over before I get home from school. If I get $100.00 for each quilt, that’s two dollars for each quilt that goes towards books … sixty dollars. That won’t go very far.”

Martha said, “Those chickens haven’t hatched yet, Clara. The minimum bid on the quilts is forty dollars. You don’t have shipping costs but you have at least twenty dollars material in each quilt … and the auction house gets ten percent of the proceeds or $320.00 – whichever is more. This is a gamble. Don’t set yourself up for a disappointment.”

Clara said, “I guess I’ll just have to work harder. I’m going to bed, Mom. See you tomorrow.”

Martha said, “Good night, Dear. Pleasant dreams.”




Thirty minutes later, Jon called from upstairs, “Martha, come up here. I want you to see something.”

Martha called back, “I’ll be right up. Do I need to dress for the occasion?”

Jon said, “Maybe later we can do the clothing optional bit, but this has to do with our problem child.”

Martha came upstairs. Jon pointed out the window and said, “Do you see what’s in the back of the truck?”

Martha said, “A big pile of snow.”

Jon said, “Look closer.”

Martha squinted her eyes then gasped. She ran down the stairs, grabbed a coat and went outside. She went to the back of the truck and climbed into the truck bed. She brushed the snow off of her daughter and asked, “What ARE you doing?!”

Clara said, “I was sleeping.”

Martha asked, “How long have you been sleeping out here?”

Clara said, “Ten or fifteen minutes.”

Martha asked, “How many days?”

Clara said, “A month or two.”

Martha asked, “Which is it – one month or two?”

Clara said, “Three … in a week it will be four months.”

Martha said, “You couldn’t sleep in the house, so we gave you an entire barn for your lab and bedroom. We give you your privacy out there. It’s your place to do with as you like. I’m just glad you can stand being in the house long enough to change clothes, eat and bathe. But I CAN’T have you sleeping outside. The barn is bad enough. If someone saw that you had to sleep outside, they’d come and take you away from us. Is that what you want?”

Clara said, “NO! Of course not! But nobody will see me out here.”

Martha said, “I don’t care if they see you or not. I will not have you sleeping outside as if you’re an animal. If you are getting to the point where the barn loft is too small for you, then you are getting worse and we have to do something about it. I feel bad enough that I let you …. OH! Just make a choice. Where are you going to sleep – in the loft or in the house? Decide.”

Clara said, “No, Mom. I can’t sleep either place.”

Martha said, “Why not?” Clara didn’t answer her so she repeated, “Why NOT?!” When she didn’t get an immediate answer, she hopped out of the truck and marched to the barn. The main floor was full of old machinery that Clara was tinkering with. Martha made her way through it and to the stairs. There was only a narrow passage because both sides of the steps were lined with neatly stacked piles of books. Upstairs was a maze of more books in very precise arrangements designed for easy access. There was very little room to stand. Clara’s bed was disassembled and her couch was standing up on end to provide more room for books. The only open area was Clara’s quilting area. It was next to the large window so that Clara could sit there without much sense of being enclosed. She found her way back through the walls of books and headed down the stairs. Clara was near the bottom of the steps waiting for her. Martha said, “I guess I haven’t been out here in quite a while. I have to tell myself that I’m lucky that I don’t have to search for drugs or that you don’t collect things like cats and dogs. I didn’t see any comic books up there either.”

Clara said, “The stories in comic books are a little to implausible for me to waste my time reading them. My books are mainly about the natural sciences and medicine and philosophy … and some law … and some fiction.”

Martha asked, “Why do you have so many books?”

Clara said, “Because I have a lot to learn.”

Martha said, “But you’ll never be able to read them all.”

Clara said, “I already have. That’s why I need … why I want to buy more.”

Martha said, “Ever hear of a lending library?”

Clara said, “Ever hear of a six book limit? And I can’t read at super speed in a library if there are other people there. I’ve done it and I’ve read a lot of books in the school library and the one in town, but I have to always be aware of other people instead of concentrating on what I read. And those books are usually not specific or exacting enough for me. I want to put my books somewhere, but there isn’t any good place. The barn isn’t even a good place. It gets too humid or too dry. I can be outside. I can handle the heat and cold and the wet and the dry, but the books can’t. I could build a library for them, but wood is so expensive. I’d fell my own trees, but we don’t have that many and the ones we do have are too pretty to cut down … and I don’t want to leave the animals homeless.”

Martha said, “Oh, Clara! We have to do something. You can’t sleep outside.”

Clara said, “Yes I can. It doesn’t bother me at all.”

Martha said, “Let me rephrase that: I won’t ALLOW you to sleep outside. You can get out our tent and sleep out tonight, but that’s it. Tomorrow, I’ll rent a storage building and, after school, you will pack up at least half of these books and we’ll put them in storage. If you can’t sleep in here after half of them are out of here, then you will have to pack up and haul off as many as necessary until you can sleep in here. Do you understand me?”

Clara said, “Yes, Mom. But I really like having them available.”

Martha said, “That’s tough. I won’t have you sleeping outside. Now let’s get something else straight. Will you let me use the rent money you give me to pay for a place to keep your books?”

Clara said, “But that’s YOUR money. I should have to pay to take care of my stuff. I’m not a little girl any more.”

Martha said, “Agree that our fifteen percent can be used to pay for a place to store these or Goodwill will be getting a rather large delivery tomorrow.”

Clara said, “Mom! That’s blackmail!”

Martha said, “No, that’s my prerogative and your choice. Which will it be?”

Clara said, “OK, Mom. Use your money if you want to. I’m just going to have to make a lot more quilts.”

Martha said, “Not on the weekends you won’t! I’m closing the sweatshop too! And I’ll be coming out here and checking up on you more often.”

Clara said, “Mom! What did I do? Why are you being like this? I thought you were my best friend.”

Martha said, “You’ll have to find someone else to be your best friend. I’m your Mother and I’ll have to remind myself to act the part. I’ll see you at breakfast. Goodnight, Honey. I do love you, you know.” Martha briefly rubbed her daughter’s arm as she headed back to the house.



Clara got home from school and stuck her head in the door. She said, “Mom, do you think Dad can run me into town so I can get some boxes so I can pack my books?”

Martha said, “I don’t think he can. He’s already in town … at the lumber company.”

Clara said, “I wish you would use the money I gave you to get a cell phone rather than wasting money on renting a storage place. If Dad had a phone, we could call him and ask him to bring home boxes. I guess I could run back into town and try to find him.”

Martha said, “Just stay here. He’ll be home soon enough. Come on in and sit down. You’re causing a draft. Cold may not bother you but it does bother me. And please pull your hair out of your face. That may fly at school, but I like seeing your beautiful face when I talk to you. And hiding behind your hair won’t fool me. I don’t have to see your face to know that you aren’t very happy. I can hear it in your voice.”

Clara said, “You’re right, I’m not happy. Those books are like friends to me.”

Martha said, “I think you need human friends.”

Clara said, “Well human friends are okay when it’s not winter, but they can’t sit out and talk as long when it’s this cold.”

Martha said, “Well, why don’t you bring your friends home? I wouldn’t mind. And you’re Dad wouldn’t mind flirting a little with your girlfriends.”

Clara said, “I don’t think Dad would like flirting with my friend at all. What am I going to pack my books in Mom?”

Martha said, “I decided today that rather than pay rent on a storage building, that you can build a place to keep them in. That’s why your Dad is at the lumber yard. He’ll get enough wood for you to start the job, but you can design it any way you want to. We can go back for more supplies when you decide exactly what you need.”

Clara said, “I guess that’s okay. At least they’ll be closer and I can dig out books as I need them pretty fast without anybody watching how fast I do it. I hope he gets enough for me to make it bigger that four foot by eight feet. I don’t think I could get many books in a shed that small and I’d hate going into something that tiny even for a second or two.”

Martha said, “I’m sure Jon will get enough materials for an adequate building. You really must be sad. You didn’t even ask.”

Clara said, “Okay, I’ll ask. What’s for dinner?”

Martha said, “That wasn’t the question … but we’re eating out tonight. I figured you should get to chose what you want to eat tonight since you’ll probably be working construction until pretty late tonight.”

Clara said, “Mom, I can put a shed together faster than taking to you about it. That’s like making a bird house only a little larger.”

Martha said, “The question you didn’t ask was about the results of the auction.”

Clara said, “I didn’t ask because I don’t care. I don’t have room for any more books anyway.”

Martha said, “I’m sure you’ll decide that you want to know sooner or later, so I might as well tell you sooner. The auctioneer told me exactly what I told you. He could have gotten more money if you sold fewer at a time … got some competition going. One dealer bought up 15 of your quilts for the lowest price he could get them for. He was VERY happy with his purchase and told the auctioneer that he really stole them from you at that price.”

Clara said, “You always have been a real tease, haven’t you? Now I want to know. How much did the man pay for 15 quilts?”

Martha said, “Sixty.”

Clara said, “Sixty each. He did rip me off. But that’s OK. Like I said, I don’t really care.”

Martha said, “No, the man paid four each … a total of sixty. The highest anyone paid was twelve.”

Clara said, “Oh no! We set a forty dollar minimum. How could they screw up like that? It’s not fair. I lost sixteen bucks per quilt. I bet you chewed his butt pretty good, didn’t you?!”

Martha said, “No Dear, I might want to do business with him again. In fact, he was nice enough to come to settle up with me, so I gave him you the four quilts you made yesterday for his next auction.”

Clara said, “MOM! You didn’t. I could have sold those on my web site.”

Martha said, “But last night you wanted them sold at auction.”

Clara said, “I didn’t know last night that they would screw the entire thing up. This day sucks so bad, I just want to go to bed but I don’t have anyplace I can sleep. OH NO! I forgot. I thought he came to give you a check. The proceeds from selling the quilts wouldn’t have paid his $320.00 fee. You didn’t pay him did you? It was his fault!”

Martha said, “You’re right, I shouldn’t be such a tease. I didn’t pay him anything. He brought you a sizable check. I told you that the lowest price one of your quilts went for was four. I didn’t say four dollars.”

Clara said, “Mom! Four HUNDRED dollars? My quilt sold for … wait … one of them sold for twelve HUNDRED dollars! Which one? I’ll make more like it! I’m rich! I can buy dinner tonight. We can even eat someplace fancy … like Ponderosa Steak House or Ryans!”

Martha said, “I’ll let you buy dinner if you want … but you’re letting me pay for your book storage building out of my fifteen percent, remember?”

Clara said, “I could pay for it Mom. I’d probably want to make it a little bigger than you are thinking.”

Martha said, “I think the size your Father had in mind will be fine, but Dear, I didn’t say “four dollars” but I didn’t say four hundred dollars either, did I?”

Clara said, “Stop kidding around, Mom. This isn’t funny.”

Martha said, “The quilts auctioned as art, Honey. The one dealer bought 15 quilts for sixty … thousand … dollars.”

Clara looked puzzled for a second and then gave Martha a mean look and said, “I TOLD you that I was having a bad day, Mom! That’s not funny at all. You shouldn’t joke around like that! That was just plain cruel! Kids aren’t allowed to do stuff like that but parents can do anything they please. That’s just not right. So, when is Dad going to be home so I can get some boxes?”

Martha said, “Well, I thought I just heard someone pulling in. With your hearing, you shouldn’t have to ask.”

Clara went to the window and looked out. Four large trucks were pulling in. Clara said, “What is that?”

Martha said, “I believe it’s the lumber for your library. Did you decide where you want to eat yet? Since you’re paying, I hope it’s someplace where someone actually takes your order and serves your food. Maybe even a place with table cloths. I don’t want you building that library on an empty stomach … or going your entire life thinking that Ponderosa Steak House is fancy dining.”

Clara didn’t turn away from the window, she just quietly mumbled, “I think I’ll have to get my foot out of my mouth before I can even think about supper. Any place you want to go is fine with me.” Clara stood at the window with her jaw hanging open and a tear in her eye as Jon showed the men on the trucks where to pile everything.

The End.