Books In The Trees


As soon as I understood what a book was, I resolved to become a bookkeeper. To the dismay of my parents, I was forever climbing trees with hopes of catching an unwary volume. Of course, I never did; they were far above me, flapping unmolested from branch to branch.

My proudest achievement was to bear back to earth a whole egg, but my pride turned to dismay when my mother scolded me and insisted that I put it back in the nest immediately. “That might be another Calvino or Bulgakov!” she told me. I had no idea what she was talking about, but I made the long climb anyway. (I have a strong suspicion the egg hatched into one of the flock of self-help books that used to stoop upon us as we walked, tangling their claws in our hair.)

It was not until I began my training that I realised how much more was required than the ability to climb trees. There were cliffs, mountains, and sea-stacks to be scaled, of course, but also the myriad arts of classification and cataloguing, acquisition and disposition. The reward for endless hours of drudgery was the stoop of a thriller from a clear blue sky, the heavy “whump” of a fantasy series flying north for the summer, the chirping of young pamphlets in the spring.

I have grown old in the service of these magnificent creatures, but I prepare for my retirement with growing dismay. The age of the book is ending. The wide forests are no more, cut down for wood and land and greed, and the great flocks of books that filled the skies of my youth have dwindled to lone volumes fleeing the hunters. Now all kinds of buzzing, brightly coloured things clamour for our attention, and books are almost forgotten.

In an attempt — perhaps it will prove vain — to preserve what we can, we have trapped many endangered books and placed them in sanctuaries we call ‘libraries’. It breaks my heart to see them trammelled so; yet perhaps I shall live to see the day when booklets bred in these libraries are released back into the wild. May the last sound I hear be the rustle of their leaves.


Tim Jones‘ short fiction and poetry has appeared in magazines and anthologies in New Zealand, the UK, the USA, Australia, and Canada. HeadworX Publishers published his first collection of fiction, Extreme Weather Events, in 2001, and he has recently followed this up with his first collection of poetry, Boat People, also from HeadworX. To complete the set, he’s working on a novel.