To describe my bookshelf I have to write a little about my grandparent's place. When I was a kid I spent many weekends at their two-story house. It was a comparatively modern place and a carbon copy of the houses to either side of it, but through the eye of my imagination the nights were crowded with monsters—such as "the great old ones” from Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos, vampires from Bram Stokers Dracula, and pirates from Treasure Island. My small bed became the only safe haven on Wells’ Island of Dr. Moreau. In that upstairs room I discovered the first book I can remember reading just because I wanted to—The Land That Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burroughs. The cover art was done by Roy Krenkel, Jr, and the picture captured my imagination. After reading it, the small plot of grass behind my grandparents house became a prehistoric land peopled with savage animals and savage men—a land where I battled the half-man Tsa to free my princess from his bestial clutches.
I suppose my mom and dad sent me to stay at my grandparents to get a break from me and my teenage attitude. But then again maybe it was to look after poppa. The old man was beginning to get a little forgetful and had a tendency to wander off, if left alone. There were many years of living between me and my granddaddy, but we still enjoyed each other’s company. We had an unspoken agreement—he talked and I listened. I can still picture the old man in his liberty coveralls, felt hat, and shiny black shoes. In my mind’s eye I see him frozen in time, sitting on the front porch swing with a flyswatter in one hand, and a glass of ice tea in the other—alone in my memory, until I place my own form in the swing beside him, or see my thin legs racing across the yard to show off my new sneakers. I remember glowing with pride when he praised my efforts—calling me ‘hoss’ and ‘stout.’
Poppa was in the National Guard when the race riots were going on. He told me enough about what happened back then to make me want to read more on the subject. That old man wore many different hats in his life. He built bridges for the county, worked at a saw mill, roofed houses, and made moonshine. I guess he was my bookshelf. The stories he told allowed me a glimpse of a wider world beyond my own cares and problems; an exciting world where anything was possible and anything might happen. Hell, I even learned how to make moonshine.
Paul Peppers is a diesel mechanic working in Cartersville Georgia. He holds an Associate of Applied Science Degree from Coosa Valley Technical College. He is fifty-three years old. His work has appeared in The Western, Larks Fiction Magazine, and Drunk Monkeys.