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Trading words

How long or short is a year?

That long ago we strolled nonchalant and unmasked into the Old Mall and bought a dead tree book or traded a book with the freebies cart. 2020 followed “like a tedious argument of insidious intent.” Now we still shy away from De Vargas for fear of the common air.

The De Vargas freebies cart was a way of trading books on the honor system. Another is a book cabinet we’d long seen on East Alameda. Several such cabinets dot Santa Fe and other places worldwide. Some bear Little Free Library plates.

A streetside bookshelf is the ultimate contact-free open-air trading system for dead tree books. We got a kit. All parts, fasteners, and glue, ready to build, like a model airplane: glue and screw Panel A into Side B. Our cabinet has the shape of an outhouse. We won’t share a Sears Catalog.

Parts not supplied: tabs G and H (uprights) into slot I (a hole we dig near the sidewalk), topped by plank J, leveled for the cabinet to alight. Then, as Perseverance said on Mars touchdown, “Hello, World. My first look at my forever home.”

Which “World” was Perseverance greeting: Mars or Earth? Some programmer must have put those cute words in its head. The first word stash in the head of our book cabinet will be books from an estate sale. One small step.

Somewhere, someone, without a mask, writes a book. Then masked folks print, deliver, sell, buy, and share. Somewhere, someone, without a mask, reads a book.

Books mask the boredom that separates us. A streetside book cabinet masks the fear of the common air. And gives us something to do while the laundry’s running.