Amelia’s raincoat was actually pertinent during one of the visits. Large drops of rain bounced off the cobblestone paths and soaked into the trees’ thirsty bark. Wes and Amelia, and both of their families, decided to check out the Millennium tent. Amelia and her parents were more interested in the time periods the circus tried to replicate than the cliché circus acts like the contortionist, although word was she was pretty incredible.
“We’ll have to check her out next time,” Wes’s Dad suggested.
The Millennium tent represented the sharp shift of the time from the physical to the technological by housing literally thousands, if not millions, of what those millennials and baby boomers called books. They were said to be some of the last ones ever printed.
When they approached the cream-colored tent, Amelia’s mother laughed. As it rose upwards to its point, or whatever the top was, and who knows because no one could see it, it got skinnier and skinnier. But its top appeared to reach up into the clouds, the extravagant golden trim trailing up and up.
“Is it foggy or does that tent always poke its head into the heavens?”
Inside were wooden shelves, metal carts, and other miscellaneous formations containing both hardcovers and paperbacks. But the wooden shelves were what made it such a feat. They extended way up out of sight, rising taller than seemed possible in any tent Wes had ever seen.
Again with the acrobats, only they could really reach the top shelves. There were light wooden ladders but they seemed weak and rickety. And they certainly weren’t for those afraid of heights, which Wes had never been fond of.
He walked over to one of the shelves and ran a slim finger along a row of mismatched spines.
“I wonder what it’s like to read one.” Wes jumped at the sound of Amelia’s quiet voice. He didn’t realize she was beside him.
“You never have?”
She shook her head. “Have you?”
Wes nodded. “My grandma kept a stash in her attic. She said they were her own grandma’s.”
“Did they look like these ones?”
“What did they say inside of them?” Her wonder had made her inquisitive.
“Some of them were about the war. Others about life before the war. And some about mermaids too.”
Amelia’s eyes widened. “Mermaids! Did it say they were real?” From afar, her parents were watching her. They shared a glance and smiled before approaching an acrobat hanging down from a shorter shelf behind the counter.
“I don’t remember. I think so.” Wes pondered.
“I knew it!”
Amelia’s mom and dad came up beside them. “You can take one if you want, sweetie.” Her mother’s voice was calm.
Her mother nodded. “The woman said it’s okay. Since you’ve never seen one before. You have to return it on your next visit though.”
The limitation didn’t stop her. Amelia was overwhelmed. “Which one should I take?”
“Wes, have you read any before?” Her father asked. Wes nodded, glancing over at his parents flipping through a large emerald book with what appeared to be photographs on the inside. The pages were tattered. “So what would you recommend?”
“Haven’t you read any, Mr. Martin?”
“I have. But it’s been awhile. And it was until I was much later than your age, so I wouldn’t know what to suggest.”
Amelia looked up at her father, seemingly hurt. “Why didn’t you ever show them to me?”
Her dad shrugged. “I only had a few, and I’m not sure what ever happened to them. I must have misplaced them.”
Amelia wasn’t fully convinced but turned her attention back to the books in front of her. “Which one should I pick Wes?”
Wes studied the spines. One of them was mustard yellow and said The Life and Times of Peter Flint in black. Another was striped in pink and blue and read The Roots of Rabbit Stew and other Culinary Treasures in white. To the left was a spine of deep magenta. It had golden-rimmed corners and marks that made it look as if it was textured. The letters had shadows underneath. It was titled Modest Muse and Other Poetic Techniques. Wes pulled it off the shelf and let it rest in his hands. The cover had the same title only in larger, curly font. The corners were also golden-rimmed, but the entire surface also seemed decorated with shiny gold flecks. It was almost glittery, and when Wes tilted the book side to side in his hands, the flecks danced in the light.
He was a bit unwilling to take his eyes of the mesmerizing design, but he glanced at Amelia. Her eyes were even wider now than they had been when he mentioned mermaids.
Her expression made Wes smile. He knew he’d picked a winner. “You’re gonna be the best poet out there.”