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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 27 page 07

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“You don’t have to do this. Everybody in line is going to get a copy of the book,” Jerome argued.

“Listen,” the man holding the gun said, “You can cling to all of the hope you want, but my wife and I aren’t. We’re getting a copy of that book, period. So you guys have a simple choice: quietly let us sit in front of you until we move on, or we hurt your friend here and force all of you to leave the line and take him to hospital.”

“Yes, okay,” Yusef said, “Go ahead. We won't say anything. Just let him go.”

The couple with the weapons moved ahead. They sat in front of Jerome, Yusuf, Shawn and Van for only a few moments before they got up, approached another couple in line about fifteen spots ahead, and repeated the same threatening process.

After the couple was out of sight, Jerome and the other young men discussed the possibility of sleeping. Nobody seemed too keen on the idea, particularly Shawn, who was still shaken up.

“We have to sleep,” Van said, “it’s the only way to make the books arrive faster.”

An agreement was made between the young men that they would sleep in shifts, as a means to vigilantly maintain their place in line.

Jerome volunteered to keep first watch. Yusuf, Shawn and Van went to sleep.

After about an hour a police car passed by, flashing a light on every person it passed. The light was so bright it forced Jerome to turn away and caused Yusef’s eyelids to flutter before they opened.

“Where were they earlier?” Yusef said.

“How did you sleep?” Jerome asked.

“Not well,” Yusef replied. “Anyway, it’s my turn to keep watch. Go get some sleep.”

Jerome nodded his head, leaned back against the wall, buried his face in his forearms, and willed himself to sleep.


—♦—


Awakened by a rough shaking of his arm, Jerome raised his head.

“Look,” Van said, “I bet the books are in those armoured trucks.”

There was no world leader, no beauty queen, no movie star, and no hero inside of the trucks, just books written by a computer, guarded by a dozen gun-toting cops on wide-bodied motorcycles. Nonetheless, just like everybody else, Jerome shouted and clapped as the caravan of armoured trucks passed by.

“Do you really think there will be enough books?” Van said.

“They made it pretty clear in the announcement there would be enough for everybody in line,” Shawn said.

“The couple who pressed a knife and gun against your side didn’t seem to think so,” Yusef recalled.

“I wonder if the cops caught them,” Van said.

An hour passed, and the line did not move. After an eternity at sea, the people in line could finally see land, yet they remained on the ship, tired, hungry, and thirsty. They started shouting at each other, accusing one another of cutting and stealing their spots. Their words grew angrier and angrier. Scuffles broke out in parts of the line up ahead and scuffles turned to brawls as the restlessness of the people reached its boiling point.

Jerome started to panic. Looking at the faces of his new friends, he was convinced they felt the same. That panic turned to terror when somebody tossed a bottle that nearly struck Van’s head. It narrowly missed, but exploded against the same wall the young men had used as a pillow just hours earlier.

“Why are they fighting?” Shawn said. “We’re almost there.”

Right when it seemed like chaos would take over, finally the line-up started to move. The fighting immediately ceased. It was as if the rage and violence had never happened. People started to cheer and clap, just as they did when the caravan of trucks first arrived.

After an hour of measured shuffling, Jerome could finally see the entrance of the book store. But when it came the turn of Jerome, Van, Shawn and Yusef to walk in, the line abruptly halted as the store’s front door slammed shut.

“What the hell?” Yusef said.

“Are there are no more books left?” Shawn said.

Shawn’s words were already being repeated throughout the line behind them, except not as a question but as a definitive statement. And that statement was followed by furious shouts throughout the line.

Van started to swear, loudly, while Jerome started to panic, quietly. Jerome looked behind him at the people in line. Their furious shouts turned to violent shoves. The people, denied a tangible source to blame, turned on each other. Vicious blows were exchanged. One person punched another, sending them to the pavement, only to be punched themselves by somebody else who sent them to the pavement, and that's how it went, further and further down the line like an infection of rage.

<CONT...>