by David J. Villaverde

It began at a tender age, stemming from a deficiency in diet.

At first her pica was reckless and random, just a young drunk, following impulse and stimulus whenever the taste for rust would flare up. Her ravenous little mouth got caught consuming dirt, pebbles, tree bark - any nauseating inedible substance within arm’s reach. Once she even swallowed a miniature toy race car.

Daddy’s solution was to have her suck on stones. It kept her away from the soil but had the unfortunate side effect of making her salivate with a pronounced urgency, like a coonhound dying in the noon sun.

It was a temporary solution, and as that it worked, although dirt always found a way to cake on the drool seeping from the corners of her lips.

Then came the library; it was Mommy’s idea.

Much to our astonishment her peculiar eating habits vanished overnight. By some miracle her appetite for reading had supplanted her hunger for the dangerous metals lurking in ordinary objects.  God had granted us clemency.  That was right around the time books began mysteriously disappearing from the county stacks.

The library became a daily occurrence.

She would beg to go, pulling on pant legs and attaching herself to ankles until the grown ups lost their will to resist. Her histrionics grew into a renowned affair, known three towns over. It was even worthy enough of a paragraph in our humble regional gazette, Little Local Loves Library. We all thought she just loved to read.
Everyday she went. Mommy would drop her off with a wave and a smile before returning to her gig moonlighting at the local diner to put food on the table. So there, sandwiched between shelves she would stay, pouring over pages, oversized Lisa Frank backpack in tow, with only the elderly librarians to supervise as she tore through every novel, one by one. She was a voracious reader. Everyone thought she was a genius. She never bothered with the children’s section, preferring the company of more accomplished authors.

She finished Melville in five days. That had to be some kind of record.

This went on for years until one of those lonely old curators caught her in the act. She was sitting cross-legged on the floor, deep in a Hemingway. It was late, Mommy was working a double. In that deprived quiet a curious tearing flooded the corridors. Once every thirty seconds, like clockwork. Individually she ripped out each and every page with the same plastered delight. She crumpled each severed sheet in her hand and shoved it in her mouth with a lack of ceremony incongruent to her efforts. It was murderous. It was meticulous. It was a feast. That poor librarian almost died right then and there, jaw trembling and hand shaking, as her adopted daughter slew the only natural born children she’d ever had.

The mystery was solved. All the books had been disappearing right down her greedy gullet. Her backpack was filled with the empty spines of decapitated classics. In a small town, that was about as scandalous as things ever got.

They agreed not to press charges if we promised to never come back.

She never could read, not a single damn word. We’d all been hoodwinked by our desire to believe that one of us was special, that one of us was someone – something beyond average.

Not much has changed.

Yesterday I found her in a bookstore, still busy devouring the words she can’t read.

Maybe by some miracle she’ll digest all the knowledge found in books. She’ll recite every word, every page number, every earmark, every note scrawled in the margins. Maybe then we can go back.

But probably not. 

We’d all be better off sucking on stones.

DAVID JOEZ VILLAVERDE is a native of Floyd County, Virginia, a University of Michigan alumnus who currently resides in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His poetry has been featured inThe Loyalhanna Review and he has forthcoming piece in Apocrypha and Abstractions.  His thoughts can occasionally be found on schadenfreudeanslip.com


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Passionately Ran, Compassionately Fed.


Belle Rêve Literary Journal is a southern literary experience. Our mission is to capture everything that makes the South and its residents unique through the best contemporary literature we can find. We publish new works weekly.