The inquisitive one was sitting with a group of friends who had gathered to read books together. Some of the friends were old, some were new, some were happy, and some were blue. And one of them was starting to get red in the face. This was a new friend, who had forgotten to bring a book with her.
“Oh no,” she said. “This is embarrassing. Reading silently amidst friends is not going to be very fun without a book.”
“That’s okay, because I brought two books with me,” said the inquisitive one. “I was going to read this red one. Do you want to borrow this blue one?”
“Oh, yes, thank you!” said the new friend.
Soon after that, the group of friends read silently together. When they had stopped reading, the inquisitive one spoke up:
“I’m really enjoying this red book! How do you like that blue book?”
“Oh, this blue book is so good!” exclaimed the new friend. “In fact, this blue book is amazing. I am enjoying it so much. I hate to give it back to you!”
“You can borrow it!” said the inquisitive one. “Just come read with us again and return it to me. I received it as a birthday present and am very excited to read it, as I have never read that one before; but you can read it first.”
“Oh, thank you. You are so kind!” said the new friend.
And when the group of friends parted, the new friend took the blue book with her.
Many months passed, during which the inquisitive one saw no sign or trace of the new friend or the blue book. The inquisitive one thought often of that blue book. It was a trade paperback. Its cover was pristine and the color of the deep sea. Its pages lay flat and crisply together. It was a twentieth-century masterpiece known for its beautiful language and harrowing subject matter. It seemed like the type of book one could fall into and have trouble escaping from.
Alternate Ending #1
The new friend carried the blue book with her everywhere she went. She read a few pages every day. She read in the pool as the grandkids splashed beside her, and she read while walking through a morning mist that turned to drizzle. She read while drinking coffee and accidentally spilling it, and she read while eating those deliciously crumbly butter cookies, the kind that you should never eat in bed unless it’s laundry day and you have not yet done the sheets. She read while riding a Ferris wheel with the grandkids, and she accidentally dropped it while at the highest point. (She had to ask the attendants to retrieve it from the thorny bushes where it had fallen.) She read in the kitchen as her boyfriend cut up a pomegranate and then chopped up some beets, using a macho knife with maximum flourishes and pizza-dough-like tosses for effect. She folded down many of the pages, and she took copious notes in the margins. She tore out the least interesting pages, to teach the grandkids how to make origami cranes.
And finally, after months of reading, she finished the book!
Sometime after that, the new friend showed up at a meeting of the group of friends and handed the blue book to the inquisitive one.
“It was really good,” she said. “Thank you!”
The inquisitive one stared at the book in disbelief.
The inquisitive one opened the mouth, but nothing came out.
“But listen,” said the friend, “I actually ended up with two of these. Would you like this one instead?” And she slid a brand new copy of the book from her purse.
“Oh, haha, sure!” said the inquisitive one, in joy and relief.
And they had a long talk about the grandkids over two glasses of very red wine.
Alternate Ending #2
Unbeknownst to the inquisitive one and the new friend, the spine of the blue book was infested with microscopic worms. As the new friend was reading the book, some of the microscopic worms inched their way up her arms and into her ears. They began feeding on the new friend’s brain cells. The new friend soon lost the memory of ever having gone to the reading group.
“Where did I get this book?” she wondered, while pouring boiling water into the flowerpot instead of her mug.
“What happened at the beginning of this book?” she wondered later on, while reading the book on a Metro train that was quickly moving farther away from her intended destination.
“What is a book?” she wondered even later on, while wandering through a bookstore, looking for the dairy section.
The new friend took very good care of the blue book, but sadly never finished it.
Alternate Ending #3
The new friend finished the blue book within 24 hours. It was that good! Indeed, it was such a powerful novel that it changed the new friend’s life forever. The new friend realized, through the reading of the book, that major life changes must be made, and must be made right now. The new friend had several epiphanies, all prompted by the blue book, within those 24 hours, one of which was that she was living in the wrong country and engaging in the wrong activities. So she packed up the suitcases, grandkids, and boyfriend, and moved to Tonga in the South Pacific. Once there, she enrolled in college courses in real estate law, and signed up for lessons in snowboarding.
The new friend was so engrossed in all of this life upheaval that she was unable to make it back to the reading group in the Washington, D.C., area. Instead, she put a note in a bottle thanking the inquisitive one for introducing her to such a wonderful and powerful and truly life-changing book. She set the bottle off to sea, confident that it would have its own special adventures, too.
Alternate Ending #4
Many months after attending the reading group, the new friend showed up at the reading group again.
“Hi, do you remember me? Here’s your book back,” said the new friend to the inquisitive one. The inquisitive one took the gently used and obviously well-taken-care-of book from her hands, delighted to see that beautiful blue cover again.
“Hi, thanks so much!” said the inquisitive one.
“Sorry I haven’t come to the reading group until now. I finished it long ago, but I got so busy with the grandkids and everything else. I have been meaning to come and return the book to you.”
“It’s okay, no worries! Was it a good book?”
“It started out great! But the ending was kind of blah. Nothing really happened. It just seemed like ordinary life, nothing very exciting or interesting, you know?”
“Oh, that’s too bad,” said the inquisitive one.
“It made me wonder, couldn’t the author have written something more entertaining? Why am I reading this? This is putting me to sleep, and it’s not even teaching me anything, either.”
“Oh, that’s too bad,” said the inquisitive one.
And then they started talking about the new friend’s grandkids.
Their personalities didn’t mesh, and the conversation was somewhat awkward.