To her former coworkers and few family members, Kyoko went hand in hand with books. She was never seen without her nose stuck in one, or at least holding one with her finger marking a page. She read while eating, while pooping, while working – until she was fired – she even read while falling asleep. Her last boyfriend even complained that she was reading while he was trying to kiss her. He’d opened his eyes in the middle of the lip lock to find her looking over his shoulder at the book she had set up on the couch behind him.
Kyoko just could not get enough of books; they were her only true passion, her only want, her only need. She got everything out of them, friends, adventures, love, sex, fear, peace, hunger, satiation; there was nothing Kyoko did not receive from her books.
Her bed was littered with them, her apartment was filled with them, she had tiny paths that wove through stacks and piles of books. She did not care what she read, as long as it was paper with words on the pages. She read encyclopedias, dictionaries, self-help books, biographies, and children’s books.
The libraries in her hometown knew her well; she was at every used book sale, stocking up on tomes of every size and shape. She had taught herself to read in several languages, just to broaden her literary horizon. Her compulsion was taking her too far; she’d lost her job because she couldn’t stop reading. She had even been reading a Dr. Seuss book while her boss was firing her, and it infuriated the man to no end that while he was canning her, she sat in the chair looking down with a satisfied smile on her face.
In the past few weeks, she’d found a nasty side bar to her obsession. Now that she had no money, she still had the overwhelming need to get more books, and she figured out that she would have to steal them to make do.
First driving, then biking when gas money ran out, she ventured to towns farther and farther away to visit their bookstores and libraries. She usually carried a large shoulder bag, and she would surreptitiously slip books inside while shopping. To avert the clerks’ suspicions she would often buy one small book for as little as she could dicker it down to, and then reap the benefits of her ill-gotten gains at home.
Eventually the shops got wise to the book bandit, as she was now known on the news, and her picture started to circulate. Her mother wanted to know why she’d seen Kyoko on a picture at the supermarket with the caption,
Do Not Allow This Woman Into Your Store
If Seen, Please Call Your Local Police
Known Book Thief
Kyoko had no answer for her mother, other than there must be some mistake; she would never steal anything, let alone something that made her so happy.
Kyoko could not understand why people wanted to deny her the only pleasure she got out of life. Why would anyone want to prevent someone from reading?
Pedaling away from the curb on another book trip she almost ran into a walker. The person was not paying attention because they were looking at one of those electronic readers that held thousands of books in their little boxes.
Kyoko hated those readers, she could not fathom why anyone would want to forgo the beauty of holding a book in their hands, the smell of the pages, the feel of the binding crackling under fingertips. The wonder of turning the page instead of pushing a button.
Her head filled with a rage and her eyes filmed over with crimson, she had no control over her arm that reached out and snatched the reader from the person’s hands. She took no notice of the startled look in their eyes while she threw the blasted thing into the street. She went back to pedaling her bike on her trip, ignoring the shouts of the person and the sounds of the reader being crunched under the tires of a passing truck.
The hand on her shoulder that stopped her cold was not something she could ignore. Her annoyance faded into fear when she turned and looked directly into the policeman’s face. The smirk on his face and surety in his eyes told her that she’d been caught finally.
The papers announced that the Book Bandit had been captured and was currently awaiting trial. The police searched her apartment and found books that had an estimated worth of over $250,000. She’d had thousands of books; one paper even ran a photograph of her bed. She had apparently taken the time to stitch old book bindings together to make a sheepskin blanket, and she rested her head on a pile of children’s books instead of a pillow.
Her mother was quoted in the paper, “I bought her a book reader, I have no idea what drove her to do such things and live in such a way.”