He pulled the tattered book from its bag and looked at the cover. He’d been looking for a copy of this particular novel for years. Still finding the artwork on the front slightly unsettling, he began to flip through the pages.
Suddenly, something fell out and landed on the floor with a thud. When he realized what had been stuffed inside the pages for him to find, his heart began to race.
Idaho native Brian Franklin had been obsessed with literature from a young age. By the time he turned twelve, he had plowed through all the sci-fi and fantasy books his local library had to offer.
At first, his parents were thrilled that their son was such an avid reader and encouraged him at every step of the way. As Brian got older, though, his mother became increasingly concerned about his all-consuming hobby. And she was right to be.
You see, Brain wasn’t like the other children his age. Instead of getting out and about and goofing off with his friends like other boys, he preferred to be alone in his room, deeply lost in a book.
By the time he was in junior high, his mother couldn’t keep up with the books he was reading. She worried even more when his taste in books took a sharp turn.
In high school, Brian’s grades began to fall, and getting him up for school was becoming a chore. Every morning, his mother would find him sleeping through all his alarms – with an open book and a stolen flashlight with dead batteries in his bed.
By now, he had an extensive collection, and he had become obsessed with dark literature and banned books. His mother could see he was receding from the outside world, but she had no idea what to do about it. One day, she snapped.
Brian’s mother worried about the books he was reading. She hadn’t read them herself, but she had a feeling he was reading books that went against all the core values she had tried to instill in him as a child.
She had to take a stand. But the books weren’t just corrupting his young mind – she worried that he spent far too much time in his room and wasn’t developing the important social skills needed for the real world. Before she could decide what to do, one particular book forced her to act.
While Brian’s mother didn’t know what most of the books her son was reading were about, she knew this one. It was on the top ten list of most controversial books and had been previously banned.
She knew it contained graphic violence and is widely considered to be one of the “sickest” books ever written. Just looking at its cover sent a chill up her spine. She didn’t want it in her house.
Brian had forgotten about the day his mother ripped the book out of his hand when he was fifteen years old. Now at the age of thirty, he had a steady job, a wife, and a child on the way.
He had a nice house in the suburbs, and he never missed a chance to remind his mom that he’d turned out okay in the end despite her worries. But soon, that memory would come rushing back.
Brian was running some errands in town when he found his feet taking him to the Goodwill store a block away. He hadn’t shaken his book addiction as an adult, despite his mother’s efforts.
He loved nothing more than to browse through the old, dusty novels, flick through their yellowing pages, and wonder about the lives of the people who had donated them. He almost felt one book’s presence on the shelf right away.
Brian couldn’t believe it. He’d found the book he’d been searching for for so many years. He was immediately transported back to when he had first encountered it when he was just fifteen years old.
The book’s presence on the shelf was almost audible – as if it was calling out to him. The cover he recognized so well depicted flames, with a mouth twisted into a hellish scream below. No wonder his mother had detested it.
It was Anthony Burgess’ 1962 cult classic, ‘A Clockwork Orange’ – the very book that had prompted his mother to lose her mind. When he had first spotted it in a bookstore at fifteen, he already knew he wouldn’t be allowed to keep it. But he still bought it. It had been irresistible.
As he walked past his mother, who was sitting in the living room, he held the shopping bag protectively tucked under his arm. She asked him what he’d bought and all hell broke loose.
His mother ripped the book from his hands with a shocked look on her face. He hadn’t been sure if she had watched Stanley Kubrick’s movie adaptation of the novel, but she definitely knew enough about this book to know that she didn’t want it under her roof.
She was shocked by the book’s subject matter. But she was even more shocked that her son wanted to read it. After she ripped the offending book into pieces, Brian never had the chance to read it again. Until now.
Brian never really forgave his mother for that. But he loved her. Not wanting to alarm or disappoint her further, he resolved to focus more on his studies until he moved out of her house.
Now, as 30-year-old Brian handed the book to the cashier to ring up, he broke out into a sweat the same way he had all those years ago. He felt fifteen again. Of course, he had no idea there was something hidden inside it this time.
Brian was ecstatic about his purchase. He had built up a considerable book collection over the years, and he couldn’t wait to add this one to his shelf. It was special.
He opened the bag and noted that the book was heavier than he remembered. He inspected the cover. It was a bit tattered, but it still unnerved him for some strange reason. He opened it and began to flip through its yellowing pages. Suddenly, something fell out with a thud and landed on the floor.
Brian couldn’t believe his eyes. When he realized what had fallen out of the book, his heart started to race. It was a heavy wad of cash. With shaking hands, he began to count it.
Someone had hollowed out the last half of the book to make a makeshift compartment. The amount of money that had been inside made him feel less annoyed that the book was unreadable.
Brian counted the money again. The one-hundred-dollar bills totaled a whopping $5,000. But now, he found himself in a moral quandary: should he return the money to the charity shop or keep it? Heaven knows, $5,000 would be immensely helpful with the baby on the way.
But he didn’t have to think about it long. Without more than fleeting temptation, he gathered the cash up and returned it to the Goodwill store – his moral compass intact.