I’ve been having my two high school seniors focus on creative writing this semester. They recently completed an assignment in which they had to write a story of a few hundred words, complete with a surprise ending, beginning with the line, “When they finally unlocked the door, they were met with the smell of furniture polish and old books.” As writing is my jam, I participated as well. 🙂 We had so much fun enjoying and critiquing each other’s pieces, and we’d love to hear what you think as well!
When they finally unlocked the door, they were met with the smell of furniture polish and old books. Of course, they didn’t know it was furniture polish and old books they were smelling. John and Kenny had never even seen anything made of wood, and I’m not even sure they would’ve recognized books!
“What is that smell?” John whispered.
“I don’t know,” said Kenny.
John tentatively pushed the door all the way open allowing the moon’s pale light to flood the room. The light revealed a cramped room with a single chair and desk which had their backs facing the boys. On top of the desk sat a large book with a silver embossed title.
“What is THAT thing?” whispered Kenny pointing a finger at the book on the desk.
“I think they’re called books,” answered John; “I’ve seen people on TV talking about them.”
“Oh,” responded Kenny. “Well, should we go in?”
“I will if you will,” answered John.
“I asked you first!” retorted Kenny.
“All right, let’s go already!” said John.
Both boys entered the room. The floorboards creaked underneath their shoes as they slowly tiptoed to the desk. John pulled the chair out from under the desk to get a closer look at the book. As he read the book’s title his face grew pale.
“What’s wrong?” asked Kenny.
“R-r-read the title,” stuttered John.
“Hey!” exclaimed Kenny. “that looks like the book the police came looking for on Saturday.”
“Y-y-yeah, we should probably l-l-leave it alone,” said John. “Mr. Roberts said that if the government found out that we had those books we could all be killed.”
“Well, no one’s gonna find out that we know about this place and this book anyway,” said Kenny. “Come on, let’s see what’s inside this book.”
“I think I’ve seen enough,” said John.
“Oh, please, what are you afraid of anyway?” Kenny sneered. “You think the police are gonna spot us or something?”
“Yes!” exclaimed John. “That’s exac–”
John’s words were cut off as two cool hands grasped John and Kenny’s shoulders. Both boys slowly turned around to see Mr. Roberts looming over them. He looked at John, and then at Kenny, and said,
“Kinda late to be reading, don’t you think, boys?”
When they finally unlocked the door, they were met with the smell of furniture polish and old books. As the door swung open on well-oiled hinges, they grinned to each other. This was a perfect house for him, just as the countryside and town they’d just traversed so suited the cheerful inhabitants. Sunbeams poured in from the enormous, round windows, gilding the parlor with afternoon light. The creamy walls were framed by trim that matched the oaken floors and furniture. The room’s simple ornaments were solace for weary eyes: books, scrolls, vases, candles, apples, pinecones, flowers and more. From the doorway behind the travelers wafted birdsong on the delicious breeze.
“Can’t you see that he isn’t at home?” said one. “If he were, he’d never stand for our letting ourselves in like this.”
“You’re right, and I’ve got an idea,” chuckled another. “Let’s go hide somewhere, so that when he returns, he’ll have a marvelous surprise!”
At this suggestion, the whole party burst into cheers of assent.
“But we’ve got to keep quiet,” warned the first, “So those nosy, curly-headed neighbors don’t get any more curious about us.”
The travelers removed their boots, not daring to defile the tidiness as they had in times past. As they entered, the floor creaked a welcome. Upon seeing a familiar map lying among other parchments, the travelers once again grinned and elbowed one another. On the same table sat an open jar of furniture polish and a hastily thrown rag. That was curious; did he rush out to get something in the midst of polishing his table?
They continued through the sunny parlor into the kitchen, their minds once again flooded with happy recollections. The memories were tinged with sadness, though, for some of their number were gone now.
“I’m so hungry,” whispered one. “He wouldn’t mind if I took just a little roll or a bit of cheese from the pantry, would he?”
“He minded last time, but he doesn’t have to know!” snorted another in reply.
The first hastened to the pantry, neglecting stealth in his hunger. As he reached his hand out to grasp a tantalizing roll, an unexpected voice spoke from behind him.
“You think you can just barge in here and steal my food again?” The voice had a smile in it.
The traveler whirled around and immediately mirrored the grin. “Bilbo!”
When they finally unlocked the door, they were met with the smell of furniture polish and old books.
“I’m sorry,” said Mrs. Rogers. “This old lock has always been a bit touchy, as I’m sure you remember, dear! But come on in, now. I’m sure you must want to explore.”
Elizabeth did not have to explore, so much as reacquaint herself with the room that had been her great-uncle’s study for as long as she could remember. She hadn’t visited him in years, and as she took in the wood-paneled walls, bookshelves with books in no sensible order, paintings leaning haphazardly against the walls, the heavy antique desk in the center of it all – poignancy overwhelmed her. She could not cross the threshold. She could not even speak.
Mrs. Rogers had no such compunction. She bustled about, opening draperies, swatting away cobwebs, and “tsking” at the clutter.
“He never would let me clean this study. Said I’d ruin it if I did,” she said.
Then she turned and saw Elizabeth, and her face softened with concern.
“Oh, child, I’m sorry. I never thought you’d be so sad, after so long,” she said. “He understood.”
She held out her hand to Elizabeth, and Elizabeth took it. The housekeeper drew her gently into the room.
“Look at this,” said Mrs. Rogers. “He still has the piece of quartz you gave him. See, he used it as a paperweight.”
Elizabeth lifted the glittering rock and picked up the stack of papers underneath. The well-thumbed pages were of her creation – letters, drawings, her first efforts at watercolors, a few rather poor poems – they were all here.
“Mrs. Rogers, take me to see him, please,” she said. “I won’t let him stay in that place a day longer.”