Twice as Nice
"H e's already read this one," Cleo said, setting the small hardcover copy of Courgette Farming down on the table before plucking out the teabag from her mug. The Vandagyre inspected the satchel's tag for a moment before tossing it into the wastebasket.
"Drat. I was hoping he hadn’t approached a read this dry," Jamie sighed with a wry smile. He picked up Courgette Farming and flipped it over to look over the back cover's synopsis. He waved the book at Cleo. "Any chance you're looking to start a hobby in gardening?"
Cleo shrugged and laughed, accepting the book that had already been rejected twice. "I'll save you the trip to the Money Tree and see if I can become Neopia's next major courgette farmer. Porter didn’t seem too enthused when he was going through this one."
Without a doubt, Porter always kept a few spare books in his rucksack whenever he was out and about, just in case he were to finish one. And when he was at home, a book would never be too far out of reach.
While the Bori did adamantly enjoy reading and gleaning the information he could find within the pages, Cleo and Jamie knew he had a goal as well: to reread a book. In Neopia, there was a rare phenomenon in which a book would not disappear immediately after being finished, but rather, stay fully intact and available to be read once more. Hearing about this phenomenon had Porter fascinated from the very beginning. Imagine! A book you’d be able to read through, not only once, but two times! He simply had to see this for himself.
The household had come to affectionately refer to Porter’s objective as the “Dud.” It’d certainly taken a while for everyone to become accustomed with the mass amount of hardcovers he’d lug through the door before rifling for the possibility of the Dud. Cleo had once made a fuss when he had finished a book at the breakfast table. The book had disappeared in a way quite sootier than normal, which shrouded their food with purple smoke and a taste that Jamie could only have described as "like a dusty calendar." It was then agreed that mealtime would serve as Porter's recess from reading.
Porter emerged from his room, tendrils of red smoke unfurling from behind him as he closed the door. Another book finished; that one had been Chomby Dental Care. The Bori was admittedly relieved whenever he finished a book about hygiene (and there was absolutely a surplus of them) and watched it vanish, as they were often incredibly wordy. However, he remembered feeling distraught when he'd finished Defending the Castle. What exciting tales were contained within those pages, gone as soon as he'd reached the end? He’d moped about the house for a while after that one, bitter that he’d zipped along the exciting final bits of lore rather than steadily savoring them. Of course, it had occurred to him before that he could always leave the ending unread, but it was unbearable not knowing the outcomes of the characters' struggles, and so Porter firmly adhered to the practice of reading books the way they should be; to the very end. The Bori plopped down on the couch and cracked open a colorful hardback.
Jamie squinted at the cover. "’Learning your ABCs and 123s’?""
"Not a single stone unturned," Porter insisted, feeling his face turn warm. It was true that his selections would have to be eclectic if he hoped to ever find the Dud among all the books that existed in Neopia. At this point, he’d realized that he’d have to swallow his pride, and if the Dud ended up being a beginner level book, so be it.
No such luck there, however, and in a billowy cloud of yellow smoke, the book was no more. ---
Hours passed, and the Bori continued this monotonous sequence of events, as he’d done on any other night. Sometimes, Cleo would pop into his room and listen to him read a few excerpts for the sake of changing the pace. Or Jamie would set down a plate of whatever spoils he had found from his daily rounds at the health food shop for Porter to pick off of. As hours passed, and the moon moved from one side of the window to the other, the house would grow quiet and Porter would regularly be the last one to go to sleep.
Much to silence’s discontent, his stomach churned out an irregularly loud rumble. This even alarmed Porter, so much so that it halted the whole operation and convinced him to make a late-night snack run to the Neopian Bazaar, lest the growls pry the entire neighborhood awake.
Porter soon strolled to the Bakery, invited by both the inviting glow of lights and smell of freshly baked pastries that emanated from within the shop. After pondering a while in front of the grand dessert case, he decided on a couple sandwiches and left with a wave goodbye to the Breadmaster who continued his duties with a jolly hum.
It was meant to be a brisk walk back home, but the Bori was admittedly hungry enough to unwrap one of the sandwiches he’d just purchased. After all, the sooner he refueled, the sooner he’d be able to return to his books.
As he was preoccupied with neatly tearing away at the parchment paper around the warm bread, he briefly met eyes with a Lenny who was tending to a wooden cart. Porter nodded in greeting as he passed by, but soon paused; a light flickered in his eyes, and he immediately backpedaled. He gaped at the wooden cart. Upon closer inspection, the kiosk-like cart was filled to the brim with…
“Books!” Porter yelped out giddily, and then sheepishly recoiled as he realized his outburst.
The Lenny let out a chortle, and she nodded with a grin. “Travelling library,” she explained, beckoning with a wing to the various titles in tow. “I take it you’re a bit of a reading enthusiast? Would you care for one of these?”
“Absolutely!” Porter hesitated, looking pensive. “Er, though it might be difficult.” He told the Lenny about his current pursuit.
The Lenny’s eyes twinkled. “A ‘dud,’ eh? That’s ambitious, I have to say,” she said with admiration. “I do think I can help you though. How about a trade?”
Porter took notice of her attention directed at the remaining sandwich he still honed. He laughed. “Sounds good to me.”
The two made the exchange and warmly wished each other farewell. With a wrapped copy of one of the cart’s books, Porter proceeded home.---
The Bori loudly yawned to himself. He had immediately started the book he’d received from the travelling library as soon as he’d returned home, and now it was nearing the end of the night and the end of the story as well. Drowsily, he followed the tale of the protagonist to its end as the remaining pages dwindled. He smiled at the ending as he finished the last few lines. As much as he understood the appeal of the occasional offbeat downer ending, the happy ones did seem to lift his spirits as well. He closed the book and stretched, setting it aside before reaching for the next one closest to him. Perhaps one more before he would retreat to his bed. Porter studied the illustration on the cover of the book he was about to begin before a realization slowly hit the haggard Bori. His gaze floated up to the corner of his eyes where his previous book still sat nearby.
Had he not finished it? The Bori retrieved it and flipped to the back cover, quickly inspecting the last pages. He sat still for a moment before and standing up with a start, almost bursting out with happiness, but quickly shushed himself as it was well past the hour. But he’d finally found the Dud! Porter paced a few circles around his room and excitedly turned the book over, ready as ever to read the tale over again, until he paused. He stared at the cover for a moment. Finally, the Bori smiled to himself and quietly set it on his bookshelf. He knew he’d enjoy reading it again.