Timeless Spirit Logo THE BOOKSHOP

A Spiritually Enlightening Online Magazine. November's Theme: "Celebrate"
Volume 4 Issue 1 ISSN# 1708-3265
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The Bookshop
Chapter Two

by Jennifer Kusz
formerly Jennifer Monaghan

Jenny changed into a pair of linen pants and a tank top, slipped her feet into a pair of flip flops and, without bothering to brush or tie back her hair, grabbed the book and stepped outside. Once on the front step, she stopped. This is silly, she told herself, turning to go back inside. This is more important than you think, spoke another voice deep within. "Follow your instincts, my mother always told me," Jenny said aloud. "Well, Ma, I hope you can see me from up there because for once I'm gonna listen to you, even if I do feel incredibly foolish right about now!" With that, Jenny marched to the bookstore, intending on questioning Diane about the apparent lack of contents in the book. Diane, however, was nowhere to be seen.

"She's home with her kid today, he's got the flu," the girl behind the counter announced.

Jenny sighed, shuffled her feet to the back of the store and fell, defeated and disappointed, into her favorite chair. Turning and reaching down to the bottom shelf, she fit her fingers into the space where the book had been last night. She was just about to put the book back on the shelf when she felt a tug on her arm. A small boy leaned over the chair, staring at the book.

"What's that?"

"Oh, just a silly old book."

"What's it about?"

"It's supposed to be an adventure."

"Can I see?"

"Well, there really isn't anything in it."

The boy grabbed the book from Jenny's hands. "I just wanna see," he said, opening it. To Jenny's surprise, the book was filled with pictures - sketches and paintings of ships, a long haired maiden with a jewel on her brow, a king and a queen elaborately ornamented from head to foot, horses galloping in the desert and countless other images. Words graced the unpainted pages, beautiful and wondrous words Jenny had longed to read since childhood.

"Davey, what are you doing?" a woman called. MAGI'S MAGICK SPELLS

"Nothing," the boy said, dropping the book and scampering in the direction of the woman's voice. Jenny reached down and picked up the book with care. She sat quietly for several minutes, stroking the cover, almost afraid to open it again and yet anxious to read the words inside - the words she hoped were still there. Slowly, with caution, she lifted the cover and peeked underneath. There, on the first page, was the same message she had read previously: for Jenny, may you find in this humble story the adventure of a lifetime and a love worth your dreams. But added to the bottom of the page was a smaller message, one that she had not noticed before. Or, perhaps, one that had not been there. It said, simply, Are you ready? "Yes," Jenny whispered. Are you sure? It was the faintest of whispers, almost inaudible, a touch of sound on the eardrum much like the tickle of a soft breeze. Jenny swiveled around to find the source of the whisper but saw no one. Goosebumps sprang to life on her forearms, butterflies danced in her belly. She nodded and, stuttering with hesitance and nervousness, whispered back. "Um, y-y-yes. I-I am. Ready."

All at once, the chair beneath Jenny dissolved into nothingness. The room became a blur, books melting into one another and vanishing altogether, shelves slowly fading until no evidence was left of their existence. The pictures and old paintings, the mismatched chairs, the front counter - all evanescing before her. The ballroom carpet was the last thing to disappear, its pattern remaining etched on the surface of this otherworld for some time, seemingly an anchor connecting Jenny to reality, as if waiting for her to reverse her decision. As startled and frightened as she was, however, stubborn resolve won the battle and soon the ancient ballroom pattern died out and was replaced by complete darkness. The absence of light experienced so utterly was shocking to Jenny's senses. Accustomed to the constant glow of city lights and suburban street lamps, she had never experienced this level of blackness.

Disoriented as she was, Jenny sensed that she traveled through a tunnel of sorts. She moved through this tunnel at a gentle speed, as though floating along a docile river, though to what destination she had no inkling. She closed her eyes, leaned back, folded her hands behind her neck and relaxed, surrendering to the flow, trusting in her grandfather, trusting in his book. She relaxed so deeply that she must have fallen asleep because when she next opened her eyes there was a sea of stars above her head. Her feet were wet, along with a few locks of hair. She could hear water running and the surface on which she lay rocked lazily from side to side. Shadows passed between the stars, silhouettes of tree branches naked in winter sleep. The air was chill. Shivering, Jenny pulled herself to sitting and hugged her knees. She was indeed on a raft, floating down a lazy winding river. The stars lent enough light for her to see that nothing, other than the occasional bare tree, graced the surface on either side of the stream. The water was mellow but the current just swift enough to render a swim potentially dangerous. Now what? Jenny asked herself silently, feeling somewhat less resolved than previously. She felt a pang deep within, wondering what would become of her and whether or not she would see her beloved Lila and Gracie and her precious cats again.

Tears pricked her eyes and a sob threatened to escape her throat. No, she told herself. I will not let you cry, not here, not now, not like this. You agreed to this adventure, now you must live it out, no matter what the end. With that, Jenny straightened her shoulders, lifted her head high and took a deep inhale. She held the breath for a moment and then let it out slowly. She repeated this twice more and then set her mind to the task of developing a plan. First I have to get off this raft. The water is calm but swift. Up ahead it could be treacherous. But how, without risking a drowning death? She thought hard and long and came up with nothing aside from jumping in the water and attempting to paddle to shore. Never having been an expert swimmer, this did not seem like the ideal solution. She continued to drift, continued to think and continued to feel more and more hopeless as the night wore on.

The river began to flow more vigorously as the sun started to glow beneath the horizon ahead. At least I know I'm going east. As if that is much help, Jenny thought cynically to herself. Then she noticed something of significance. The population of trees had grown dense, some donning branches low to the ground, extending their arms out and dipping their hands into the water as if they were children playing and splashing merrily on the riverbank. Being of equal distance from either side of the river, Jenny could reach none of these promising branches.

She scrambled about the raft, trying to direct it closer to one side of the river, to no avail. Maybe I could jump far enough to catch a branch. Maybe I could swim just enough to grab one. And maybe I would get sucked under and my drowned body would be carried away never to be found. These thoughts and others tumbled in Jenny's mind like clothes in a dryer, none of them fruitful.

A decision was imminently necessary - stay on the raft and risk the unknown or jump off and risk immediate failure. Up ahead - waterfalls, rocks and boulders, strong currents, white waters and who-knows-what-else! Here - branches to catch, a current growing swifter by the minute… "Oh, what the hell! Carpe diem!" she shouted and leaped into the water, reaching out to the welcoming trees. Her hands touched nothing solid, just liquid and air. Inhaling water, she struggled to right herself. Grappling, flailing both arms and legs, Jenny searched in desperation for the surface. Fingers and toes began to tingle, unconsciousness threatened, and then her lungs found air, sweet air. Choking and gasping, she kicked desperately toward the embankment, fingertips almost brushing the tips of many branches before finally enclosing around a thin extension of willow. It wasn't much, but just enough to bring her closer to a steadier limb. She slapped her palm into it, wrapped her fingers around it, holding on with one hand while still clasping the willow branch with another.

It was then that Jenny realized something was completely amiss, more amiss than the bookshop disappearing and more amiss than suddenly finding oneself on a raft in the middle of nowhere. Her hands, her dainty feminine hands that had caressed the cheek of her lover and stroked the muzzle of her greyhound and scratched the chins of her cats, were gone. They were replaced by long, rugged fingers and massive palms. Her forearms were strong, sinewy and undoubtedly masculine. She struggled to look down and found that her chest was broad with tufts of brown curly fuzz poking out from beneath her torn shirt. She nearly let go of the branches in surprise, but held fast, using her newfound man-strength to pull herself upward.

She wedged her feet into the roots that wound their way below the surface of the water, jutting out as if for just this purpose. She climbed them like stairs, eventually coming fully out of the water and falling face-first into the grass and mud. "Oh sweet earth, sweet beautiful earth!" she sang, voice still clearly her own but somewhat deeper. She kissed the grass, sprang to her feet and hugged the trees, danced through the tears of the weeping willow. "Thank you thank you thank you!" She spread her arms, lifted them to the sky and wept herself, so grateful to have survived this ordeal that she nearly forgot her newfound discovery. Upon seeing her hands above her face, however, Jenny remembered.

Examining herself from head to toe, Jenny could see nothing left of her womanhood. Her feet were shod in large leather boots fit for travel. Breeches, thin and torn in several places, covered lean, hairy legs. Blood traveled down her knobby knee from a small laceration, soaking through the fabric. Her shirt was old and worn and clinging to a hard, muscular stomach and chest. She ran her hands along this unfamiliar body, fascinated and repulsed at once. She paused just above the groin, seeing the alien appendage outlined through the wet fabric of her breeches, not quite comprehending at first. Slowly awareness dawned with the coming of the morning sun and Jenny tilted her head back and let out a boisterous laugh, this time in a voice deep and husky, yet somehow melodious. "I wonder what Lila would think of that!"

Continuing her exploration, Jenny next touched her face, her hair. Cheeks and chin were rough, hair was long and wavy and partially tied back with a leather cord. Bending down to look at her reflection in the water, Jenny saw that hair and whiskers alike were a grizzled brown. The nose was prominent, the cheekbones broad, the eyes colored blue and bright with mischief. There was a sad wisdom in the eyes, almost undetectable beneath the twinkle and shine. Who am I? Jenny suddenly wondered, realizing that this man was not Jennifer Murphy, the reclusive and solitary writer and aspiring author who loved her cats and her books and an exquisitely artful woman named Lila. This was someone with secrets of his own, loves and aspirations and dreams of his own - a life of his own. You have quite the sense of humour, Great-great-great-grandpa! Now how do I get back to me, and how do I get this guy back to himself? "And what if I lose myself in the process?" she pondered aloud, quietly. A sense of urgency coupled with fear caused panic to brew in the pit of Jenny's stomach. A voice spoke inside her head, one not entirely her own: Breathe, Jen, just breathe. Don't be afraid, you have to be brave now, brave like this man whose body you now inhabit. Be brave, have faith and hold on tight to your love for Lila, let that be the light that brightens your darkness, the compass that guides you home…

Please return next issue for Chapter Three!

Jennifer is happily married to a wonderful woman, Lisa. Theirs is a union of true, deep, respectful love… the kind we all dream about. Of course we mustn't forget… their beautiful little fur-family! Her two cats - Max and Hazel, dogs - Daisy (and Queenie, who is frolicking in puppy-heaven), rats Charlie, Tobey, Fifi, Eowyn, and Gloria. Her hamster - Poohbear and aquatic-turtles Maximus and S.A.M.

Jennifer is embarking on a new career as a Behavioral Analyst and also works part time at a group home providing care to persons with physical and developmental disabilities.

She is also a writer and poet with a passion for the written word since childhood. Jennifer's poetry has been featured in The Prologue, an annual publication of the University of WI, River Falls, Body Mind Spirit Magazine and here at TSM.

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