Tuesday morning ~ I had never gone to bed. I don’t know why, I just couldn’t sleep. Wide awake and tense, I could feel something in the air, but I didn’t know what.
I stayed by the window, just watching, waiting. The postman was coming up, and being that the postmen and women out here have been known to chuck the mail at my house and run away like so many “ding dong ditchers” I knew it would be best for me to keep lookout, if I couldn’t sleep.
Finally, the postman ran up, checking at my doorstep a package that was two days early. I had a gut feeling it was the $12.56 I had just spent, shipping included, returning to me in the form of something rare.
Upon opening the package, I was delighted to see a polite “thank you” post-it from half.com (by way of Amazon) and beneath that, the very book I had waited 20 years to own…
Now, to tell you this story, I have to go back in time. WAY back.
I was brought up a Whoite by my mother. For those who don’t know, that’s the old term for a Doctor Who fan. Today, Hollywood calls us “Whovians” but once we were Whoites. Each Sunday night, we’d watch Star Trek : The Next Generation, the pop on over to WTTW (Chicago’s PBS station) to watch Doctor Who. The episodes came to us mixed up, way out of order. Some nights, we’d watch one episode with Doctor #3 (Jon Pertwee) followed by two episodes with Doctor #4. (Tom Baker) Other nights we’d watch Doctor #7 (Sylvester McCoy) travel through time and space with his companion, Ace.
When I was 5, not yet 6, I went to the school library one day, and discovered this book, sitting on a tall shelf that nobody went near.
Who would believe it? It’s not an educational book, so how did it end up here?
What’s more is that NOBODY at the school had EVER heard of Doctor Who before!
But somehow they had acquired this book.
The book was written in 1986, so it’s as old as I am. It’s an alphabetized list of companions the Doctor had (up through Mel) with notes written by the late John Nathan Turner, who worked on Doctor Who from the late 1960’s until 1989, and from there appeared for many other Doctor Who related projects until his death in 2001.
Every week, I would check this book out, along with 2-5 other books. Nobody else wanted that book, so I never saw the harm in it.
Too bad the librarian did.
Every week, I would be bitched out by the librarian and school faculty ~ many of whom I did NOT know personally ~ because they were sick of me checking out the same book.
Mama would have to come to my defense every week, proving with book reports and photos that I WASN’T just reading “that book” but many others as well. In fact, I would re-read the book after my homework, as a present to myself.
“Koriander needs to stop hogging that book so the other children can borrow it!”
The 9th time I heard that lame excuse, I brought over all of my classmates, my bullies, and even children from other classes. Each boy and girl told the truth. They didn’t know anything about Doctor Who, didn’t want to know anything, were sick of me even bringing it up, and furthermore they did NOT want that book.
“Koriander needs to broaden her horizons! She can’t ONLY read about Doctor Who.”
After my verbal report on the beheading of Marie Antoinette ~ complete with a scaled model re-enactment involving a Barbie doll and a working guillotine I had made out of popsicle sticks, this myth of me being closed-minded was busted.
I was doing extra schoolwork, which actually pissed off the school board. They threatened to hold me back a year, just because I was “showing them up”.
I was being punished for being a studious child, and liking a book they didn’t want me to have.
Finally, they banned me from the library all together. Yes, they banished a child from learning. Way to go Kenwood in Hammond, Indiana! Ignorance really is bliss, ain’t it?
In 1993 I moved to Virginia Beach. There, I was sent to Glenwood.
I was depressed, almost 1000 miles away from family, in a climate I wasn’t used to, I felt that every day was a living hell…
Until I went to the school library…
I couldn’t believe my eyes. There in the non-fiction section was this book once more. I resumed checking it out, weekly.
A very snarky and RUDE librarian decided to make a bitter enemy out of me. She tried imposing limits on what I could check out, only allowing me that book if I checked out a certain number of titles. She didn’t believe that I could even finish more than 5 a week.
So I checked out 15 chapter books.
THEN that book.
THEN wrote 15 short reports on what each book was about.
She was livid, accusing me of plagiarism, Cliff Notes and lying.
I presented her with photos of me doing 15 books worth of homework.
I then stuck my tongue out.
And was sent to the principal’s office for insubordination.
Again, Mama came to my defense on a weekly basis, fighting for my right to read whatever I wanted. How could it be that yet ANOTHER school was trying to keep her kid from gaining an education, just because of one damn book??
And again, when the topic of “other children” came up, I had grades K-8 come to my defense, telling the librarian and the faculty that they did not care about or want to check out that book. EVER. Under ANY pretenses.
Fast forward to the Spring of 1994.
I had accidently spilled bubble solution on the book.
Fearing the worst, I ran to my mother, crying.
She herself being a former librarian, took the book aside and got the bubble suds out.
Miraculously, it was now CLEANER than it had been before! And not one word or picture damaged.
The school librarian STILL pitched a fit, charging my mother $14 for the damage.
“But the book is cleaner now than it was BEFORE Kori had it!”
“You still owe us for her damage.”
“How about I buy the book outright, and get you a replacement?”
“NO!! You’re trying to bribe me. You need to make restitution!!”
“… WTF do you think that is??”
The librarian wouldn’t budge.
Within a few weeks, I was BANNED from that library too, with the librarian even LAUGHING in my face about it! “HA HA Just TRY and get the book NOW! Serves you right.”
Serves me right? For WHAT? Enjoying a good book? Doing my schoolwork? You BAN a child for this? Fuck you!
It was one of several times I was not sorry to be sent to the principal’s office. For the record, Mama actually agreed with my colorful statement.
So for the remainder of my time in Virginia, she took me to the Virginia Public Library… which had THAT and one other Doctor Who book!
And that team of librarians never cared how many times I checked it out.
But alas, I soon departed for New Jersey, and wouldn’t see any copy of that book again…
For years, I tried to find another copy, even tried unsuccessfully to buy out the copies my old schools had, but nobody wanted to give it up. EBay searches came up empty, and even the vast internet couldn’t grant me any more knowledge of that book.
… Until last week.
While filling out my birthday wish list, I stumbled upon the book by mistake. At first, the book was out of my price range, but the seller ~ without my ever contacting ~ dropped the price! For $12.56, the long search was over.
Which takes me back to Tuesday, when I unwrapped the book.
It smells just the same as before. That same sweet and woodsy smell, reminiscent of bubble suds. (I checked, this isn’t a school’s book. It’s fresh.)
A first edition from 1986, the same year this fire tiger was born.
With all it’s outrageously 80’s artwork intact.
A 20 year odyssey for an unearthly child.