I’ve read a lot of books but I’ve never burned one. I was excited about the book burning party that a priest was going to hold in Florida. It’s not often that these world wide events occur with a do-it-yourself option. Attendance is usually required and that makes me sleepy to think about joining. Anyone can burn a humdrum book anytime, but a book burning party has to be carefully crafted and planned. You can’t send a Facebook invite to all of your friends on Thursday and expect them to have a book all picked out and ready to burn by Saturday.
I wanted to being a part of something bigger than my self and book burning sounded like something I might enjoy. I didn’t have any religious books that I wanted to burn but I really wanted to participate in the event anyway. I could have checked one out at the library but I stopped myself because I imagine the fine would be pretty steep for trying to return a pile of ashes. Instead I looked through my own library for a book to burn.
Which book do I smite? The Home Workout Bible? Did the book we chose for the burning have to be religious? It is not a religious book anyway (unless you worship your biceps) but I haven’t read it yet so lets find something I have already read. Calculus? Too frat party… Cell by Stephen King? This one deserves it. Oh does Cell deserve to be burned, but it just wasn’t doing it for me.
Then I came across Axis by Robert Charles Wilson. This is the sequel to Spin, one of the most fascinating books I have read. It’s not that Axis was particularly terrible, but that it was a huge letdown compared to the predecessor. The potential difference between these two books is planetary… Robert Charles Wilson, thanks for taking such a great idea and turning it into a terrible book about sand monsters. Your sequel has earned the book burning torch. I even had it in hard cover so I am doubly owed this honor.
With my selection made, I leaped out the door like it was the first day of summer, book and lighter in tow, and set out to make a fire. The burning would take place at a major intersection for maximum exposure. In a book burning it is the size of the fire and the amount of people you can get yelling that matters.
Then I had to laugh at myself. I realized I had no idea what time the burning was to begin. I slapped my forehead and took out my phone.
I called the angry priest’s church and there was a message on his church phone that said the book burning was canceled! I was crestfallen and confused. How can such a well conceived and thought out event like this be canceled? Phone in one hand, book in the other, I made a quite a show of how upset I was to passing motorists.
However, I had already invested so many minutes in this and was not about to walk home without burning something. With new found vigor, I hopped atop a utility box and boldly exclaimed my intent.
I waited until the cars nearby had stopped at the red light and began, “Robert Charles Wilson! You captured my imagination with Spin. You reeled me in and spit me out into a boring planet of dust monsters and long car rides. Axis went the wrong direction and with this flame I announce my sincere dissatisfaction!”
I clicked the grill torch underneath my copy of Axis. I aimed the flame at the dust jacket hoping that it would catch first. I held the flame for a moment but the wind blew it out. A lady in her van was looking at me appearing quite vexed. She may have been confused since the flame went out and only thought I was standing on a telephone box holding a book for no good reason.
With some effort, I got the dust jacket to glow slightly but no flame would catch. I clicked the lighter again and again but it kept getting blown out. It was as if God was telling me something…
Like a sign from heaven, the sun shone in an aura around the Marathon gas station sign which coincidentally occupied my corner of choice. Of course! God was telling me that I needed higher octane fuel.
I walked over to the nearest gas pump. Luckily it was not pre-pay only so I didn’t have to pay. Just so you know, political-statement-gasoline is free of charge. I squirted a few drops of gas on the book (which I had placed firmly on the ground as to prevent static sparking). Then I remembered how mad I was after reading Axis and doused the book with a gallon and a half of fuel, flipping pages to maximize absorption.
I dropped the hose and triumphantly ran back to my perch. I held the book aloft and set it to flame.
The flame took with an instant brilliant burst. At last I was making a statement! I held the book and chanted for all of the passersby to know that I was making a statement about the disappointingly bland novel.
But the book started getting hot very quickly. I threw it on the ground and satisfyingly watched it burn. But my hand was still hot. My whole arm was getting hot! My shirt was on fire! My face felt burny! I began screaming uncontrollably and tried to pat down my arms with my other hand but that hand started burning too!
I ran to a lady at the gas station filling up her Mercedes. I screamed for her help but she ran away, leaving her pump unattended! Not only did she leave without helping but she left me with a moral dilemma. Do I selfishly search out for more help or do I chivalrously attend to the fueling automobile? It would have looked bad if on such a day of moral authority that I think only of myself, so I dashed over to watch the pump to make sure it did not spill during the rest of the fueling process.
She had tripped the lever on the pump so I could stand there, arms a fire, and watch without having to touch the handle and get her germs on me. I tapped my foot, arms at my side, and watched the numbers roll on the pump and began to wonder how big her gas tank was. I couldn’t call to her because she was already across the street running towards Target. There must have been a sale.
I saw the man at the neighboring pump jump across his passenger seat into the driver’s seat. He tore out of the gas station without taking the nozzle out of the car. I waved to him but it was too late and the hose broke and started flapped around the parking spot spraying gas everywhere. It sounded cool when my flaming arms cut through the air.
It was at this time that I realized my book burning was getting out of control. All of the maps, travel brochures, and coffee were also going to become victims of this day if the gas caught on fire. That was not my intention. I wanted to run in and save as many gummy peach rings as I could.
I made my way towards the gas station doors and I began to become very sleepy so I took at nap at the step of the store. At this point I don’t remember what happened. I woke up in the hospital.
Sorry Robert Charles Wilson for burning your book. I now know that book burning is not a good idea and have learned an important lesson. I think you’re a good writer, but I wish you had gone a different direction with Axis. I don’t like monsters made out of ash or sand or whatever it was. It was like a year ago when I read it. I wish it had been more like Spin. Lets agree to disagree and not blow up any more gas stations. Deal?
Also please don’t make Vortex suck.