Chapter 7:

Expanse of the Library

Drinking Coffee while Dinosaurs Roam My Backyard


The bookshelf is getting full. To tell the truth, it is already full. Alright, alright. To tell the absolute truth it has been full for quite some time and I’ve been fudging things for as long as I can and now it’s all reaching the end of the road.Bookmark here

First I started putting some of the less relevant books in the back row. It’s a pain, I would really like to see the back of every book I have, but what can you do? When I had played those cards to the last spade I realized that with pocket books I could actually fit three rows on a single shelf. That meant breaking up some series that had different size books in them but I felt it was a necessary sacrifice.Bookmark here

Now I look at the shelves with growing desperation. My latest stratagem, stacking similar sized books to maximize the space usage to the last cubic centimeter, is on its final leg and it’s missing the knee already. I have two books in my hands and try as I might can really fit only one of them in the shelf. No more gimmicks. No more mathematical tricks. No amount of hours spent on a CAD program finding even better ways to optimize things will let me off the hook. Next step would take me outside of Euclidian geometry and having read all those tales about elder gods and whatnot I’m not desperate enough to go there. Instead I have to face the reality. I have to finally admit it.Bookmark here

“I have too many books.”Bookmark here

“But dad,” says Milla beside me. “You have told us that reading is important and you can never have too many book.”Bookmark here

I look to my right. How…? I’m quite sure they were both outside and I didn’t hear anyone coming in. I resolve to check for hidden tunnels later.Bookmark here

“Well, yes, but I’ve run out of space as you can see.”Bookmark here

“But dad,” says Meri from my left. “You have said that space is infinite, so how can you run out?”Bookmark here

It’s got to be tunnels. We had a long talk last week about not teleporting inside the house and usually such talks are good for at least one month.Bookmark here

“Well, yes, but I can hardly store my books in orbit.” I point up and for a moment I imagine how a space station library would look like. Although trying to keep two thousand books in place in a zero-G environment would be a hassle.Bookmark here

“Why not move them to the secret room?” says Milla. “In the basement.”Bookmark here

What? We have a secret room in the basement? How come I haven’t heard of it before? I almost ask about it when it occurs to me that we don’t even have a basement. Or at least we didn’t used to have one. I guess this all goes beyond a few measly tunnels.Bookmark here

“Show me, will you.”Bookmark here

The hallway seems a bit longer than yesterday and sure enough there is a door I’ve never seen before. Or noticed. I’ve seen enough videos of people playing volleyball while someone in a gorilla suit dances in the background where the trick is that you never see the gorilla suit the first time you watch the video because your attention gets diverted elsewhere. This is probably something similar. I don’t see the door because I don’t expect to see one.Bookmark here

Or maybe the door didn’t exist yet this morning. I’ve got to come up with a complete, fool-proof set of rules of tampering with the floor plan which I’ll call The Art of House Stretching and Why Not Do Any of That.Bookmark here

We go down and there is a door. A wooden one, quite similar to the one upstairs. Milla and Meri stay behind me a few stairs up as I reach for the handle. I recall when I was cleaning their room once and opened a cabinet and found where they store the ball pit when it’s not in use. I brace for bombardment of plastic spheres and pull the door open. However caution was, this time, unnecessary. Bookmark here

The room is a small one and quite narrow. I estimate that I could put shelves against one wall and have just enough maneuvering space to browse the books without my but hitting the other wall. The room is, in a word, perfect.Bookmark here

“Yeah, I can use this. Thanks.” I sort of would like to know where the room came from but in the larger context it’s not really important. I turn to ask for the girls to help me carry the books but they are nowhere to be seen anymore. Typical.Bookmark here

I didn’t hear the door upstairs being used so I get even more invested in my tunnel hypothesis.Bookmark here

Righty then, let’s get to work. First I just have to go get some new bookcases from the recycling center and then the show is on.Bookmark here

The room’s looking good. The new shelves are up and the books are in, even the one I couldn’t fit in the old shelf, but something is still bugging me. I still have to stack books in a way that detracts from the beauty of a well-organized library. If only I could fit in one more bookcase I could do away with the unsightly stacks.Bookmark here

Actually, it kind of looks I could. There is some space between the shelf rows and the back wall. Strange that I missed that while measuring the room. I must have made a mistake when adding the numbers up in my head. But never mind that! I can get one more bookcase from the recycling center and that’s that problem solved.Bookmark here

I get a few weird looks but also some smiles. Apparently the staff don’t quite know what to make of the man so obsessed with bookshelves.Bookmark here

I carry the new case in and rearrange everything. The stacks are history, which is a huge improvement. Now it all looks as it should. Very pro. The only thing that would improve the situation further is if there was enough room to arrange the books in single rows.Bookmark here

Wait, isn’t it actually possible to put shelves on the other wall as well? I measure the room with my eyes, then I spread my arms to get a feel of the space. It’s not as cramped as I first made it out to be. Goodbye, cursed double and triple rows! Back to the recycling center.Bookmark here

They greet me by my first name. In just one day I’ve become a regular.Bookmark here

After much sweat and toil the new batch of bookcases are in place and loaded. I take a step back and admire the results of my hard work. All the books are in a neat order and I can see them all, every single one of them. Good, good. With the books out of the living room I can decorate the shelves with various souvenirs and knickknacks that have accumulated over time.Bookmark here

But that can wait until tomorrow. I’m getting a little tired. It’s been a long day, after all.Bookmark here

Oh snap. It’s already evening. I hope that Milla and Meri have gotten started with their supper already. Bookmark here

But of course they haven’t. When I emerge from the depths of the earth they are chasing fireflies outside around the pool. Either that or the sprites have come for a visit once again.Bookmark here

“Five minutes, girls. I’ll make some sandwiches for you and then it’s bedtime.”Bookmark here

The next morning I sleep in. Milla and Meri are perfectly capable of making their own breakfast as long as they mind the fact that the knives for cutting bread are sharp. They just prefer that someone else does the work. And I don’t mind, it’s one of the dueties of dads all over the world, after all.Bookmark here

When I finally get up I put the coffee pot on the stove and go look outside. It’s sunny but there are heavy clouds hanging in the horizon. We’ll be getting rain later. Good for the plants, it’s been a few weeks since the last one.Bookmark here

Are the kids swimming? I step out and look at the pool. Or the lake, if that’s what you want to call it. At the very least I can’t see the other end without binoculars. Still I suppose technically it’s a pool still seeing how there are very few tiled lakes in the world. Bookmark here

On the table there are plenty of crumbs suggesting that Milla and Meri actually have eaten their breakfast without me reminding them. A rare occasion. It’s been a regular tea party by the look of things. There’s a pile of plastic cups and the area is littered with stuffed animals. The girls would better get them inside before the rain.Bookmark here

Ah, zucc me. They are not the only ones who have to grab their stuff. I go make the coffee and drink it while cursing my tardiness.Bookmark here

There’s plenty of stuff on the front lawn. They should be in a shed but I haven’t gotten around to building a new one after the one we had got wiped out by a freakishly rogue meteorite. Our possessions survived intact but the building itself got blown into smithereens. Smithereens the exact size for our fireplace I might add.Bookmark here

I can blame no one but myself. After grumbling for months about how the shed was too small and too rotten and how I should really build a new one but demolishing the current one was too onerous a task the first stage of the problem got solved in a flash. And a bang. A loud bang. The staff at the seismic station a thousand kilometers away called to ask what in the name of Einstein was happening around our parts. Bookmark here

Anyways the new shed has been on my to-do list for two weeks but I’ve kept postponing the project because there was always something more pressing to do.Bookmark here

And now it’s time to pay the piper.Bookmark here

But there’s still some time before the rain front gets here. After I finish the pot I go out to see how bad the situation is.Bookmark here

Oh my gosh we have a lot of stuff. There’s bikes and lawnmowers and skis and gardening equipment and all sort of assorted and unassorted junk that could maybe come in handy at some unforeseeable point in future. Not that the rain would probably damage most of it but I prefer to risk it. Instead of water it could be hail.Bookmark here

I bet I could fit at least all the skis in the library room, against the back wall. And the butterfly nets. Except the largest one, I suppose. We used that to catch the flying hippos after the gravity cancelling mines incident at the zoo park. I grab what I can and head downstairs.Bookmark here

The skis and nets take up only one corner. I can bring in my woodworking tools. And maybe a bike. It turns out I can fit in all the bikes. And the winter tyres for the car. And the lawnmower. One by one I carry items in and every time there is a little more space that I can still use. In an hour the front yard is empty of all the junk.Bookmark here

Outside the sky has turned grey and the wind is gushing in a manner indicating that rainfall is imminent. I cup my hands. “Milla. Meri,” I shout. “Get back here. It’s going to rain and you have toys outside.”Bookmark here

In the distance two floating, inflatable Starfighters turn around and start on their approach vector.Bookmark here

Ah, beans. I haven’t even started on lunch yet. As the girls sail to speaking range I motion all around the back yard. “Get all of your playthings inside this instant. I’ll go put the oven on.”Bookmark here

“But dad,” says Meri. “It won’t all fit in our room.”Bookmark here

“There’s not nearly enough space,” says Milla. “Or are you just kidding us?”Bookmark here

There are some dozen tea sets and about thirty stuffed animals. I would like to stay and argue that of course they will fit, they brought them out just this morning, but I don’t have the time.Bookmark here

“Fine. Put them in the basement then and we can sort them out later. Just get it all in so they won’t get wet and I’ll go make something to eat.” I head to kitchen and leave the girls squabbling who will carry which toy.Bookmark here

I put the oven on and pour a huge helping of French fries next to some frankfurters. Before I put them in I check the temperature scale one more time. Good, that 225 degrees is in Celsius and not in Kelvins. I’d hate to deepfreeze the frankfurters again. In about fifteen minutes the food will be ready and in the meantime I chop four carrots into sticks. Bookmark here

We eat and listen to the rain hammering the windowsills. After the meal I stash the dishes in the machine and go take a nap. Two days of lugging heavy objects in a row does take its toll.Bookmark here

I make a point not to sleep more than three quarters during the day or I’ll be dazed off and sluggish for an hour. I get up when the alarm clock tells me to even though my body whines its incessant protests. Some coffee will fix that.Bookmark here

While I sip my black gold I browse my phone for a while but then decide to read an actual book. Let’s see what we have.Bookmark here

For a second I stare at the shelves in disbelief until I remember that I moved the entire library into the secret room. I guess I’m still a bit out of it. Perhaps half an hour would be better than three quarters. I head downstairs shaking my head at my own foolishness.Bookmark here

I open the door and step into the library.Bookmark here

And fall into water.Bookmark here

What just happened?Bookmark here

I drag myself out of the water and look around my library. Bookmark here

It’s not a library anymore. It’s an underground lake. Or rather, it’s a pool, because it has tiles.Bookmark here

“Milla. Meri. Would you come here for a bit,” I call out. In these sort of situations the explanation might be unbelievable but at least it’s close.Bookmark here

“It’s your own fault, dad,” says Meri from behind me. “So no complaining.”Bookmark here

“We did what you told us to do,” says Milla. “We brought our playthings inside.”Bookmark here

“We said they wouldn’t fit,” Meri adds.Bookmark here

“But you insisted.” Milla shrugs quite dramatically.Bookmark here

I look across the vast expanse that is now our downstairs which is probably in violation of more building codes than the municipal bureaucracy could shake two sticks at. “But where are my books and all the other stuff?”Bookmark here

“On the other side of the pool, duh,” says Milla.Bookmark here

Meri wants to make sure the message is received loud and clear. “Duh, dad.”Bookmark here

I scratch my head. “Uhm, can we remove the pool, maybe. It’d make everything else a tad more accessible.”Bookmark here

“Not while it’s raining,” says Milla.Bookmark here

“Because it’d get wet,” says Meri. “The pool would get wet, dad. Duh.”Bookmark here

Yeah yeah, I brought on myself. “You wouldn’t have any alternate solutions?” I ask. The girls promise to go get me a rubber boat, but they remind me that I have to use oars to row myself across because there is a general ban on motors inside the house and the secret room is technically inside the house.Bookmark here

I sigh and sit down. How many kilometers is it to the other shore? Two? Five?Bookmark here

“There you go,” I hear from behind me as an uninflated boat is dropped on the floor. It’s a good thing my lung capacity is excellent, I suppose.Bookmark here

I turn around fast. No girls but manage to catch a glimpse of a trapdoor in the wall swing shut. Ha! I knew it. Bookmark here

Tunnels.Bookmark here

Bookmarked
You can resume reading from this paragraph.