The young boy’s mother was furious with him.
“All you do is read!” she shouted. “There’s more to life than just books.”
Startled by her entrance, the boy wrenched his gaze from the last paragraph of the story he was reading. His mother waited by the door for him to respond, but the boy could think of nothing to say.
“Don’t think for one moment, young man, that I don’t know what you’re doing here all by yourself,” she continued, her arms squared below her breasts.
“I don’t understand,” the boy stuttered, squirming under his mother’s angry stare. “What am I doing?”
She leaned forward, happy to reveal the truth: “When you read in that bed for hours and hours you’re storing all those plots and twists and endings in your head so that you know what to do in the real world,” she whispered, as if the world might hear them. “In case your life starts following the same pattern as one of your books, you’ll bring up the memory of what the hero did when he was in the same situation and copy him.” Then she leaned back and looked him in the eye. “That’s not how life works, young man. You can’t live in a book. You’ve got to live your own life.”
“Books don’t teach you anything, they’re only a world of words,” she was telling him. “You’ve to go outside if you want to learn. You have to leave this little room, walk out the big front door, and see reality!”
Unsure where to place his eyes, sure that his mother’s face was not the place, the boy looked down at the words of the last sentence he’d just finished.
“No! Don’t look at your book,” she barked. “Look up at me, tell me what you’re going to do.”
The boy’s eyes shot up, but not before reading the next line. He opened his mouth. “I love you,” he told his mother.
His words caught her by surprise. The boy watched as a battle raged on her face between the angry lines that had characterized it only moments before and newer, softer ones. Anger fought valiantly but soon succumbed, and his mother’s hands fell to her side. Her furrowed brow became placid, her eyes lost their glint, and she smiled.
“Why son, that’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me.” The two smiled silently at each other for a moment. Then the boy’s mother suddenly remembered some errand she had to do, and still smiling to herself, walked out the door, all grievances forgotten. As her footsteps retreated down the hallway, the boy returned to his book, rereading the previous sentence.
“I love you,” the sentence read.
“Why, that’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me,” replied the heroine of the book. And then the last line in the book – “and they lived happily ever after”.