Thursday, June 07, 2012

Shoes which will never stop running

Have you ever fallen in love with somebody you never met?  Have you fallen without seeing a photograph, without speaking or writing a single word to that person?  A heart given so resolutely to a complete stranger sounds absurd, doesn't it?  And, yet, if you think about it, anybody who reads for the pleasure of it, eventually, will tumble into that state of madness. He will find the book, the author, the voice to take his heart and his breath away.  

Even so, few authors, few works will captivate us past the time we finish the next fine book.  There would seem to be no true love, other than to the fluid language.  Except, of course, there is.  

A chance meeting with a boy at the end of his school year, with a new pair of sneakers and a valiant heart to drive them faster than the wind, and I was smitten.  That boy was every laugh I ever had, every leaf I ever chased, every glint of sunlight from creek to cheek.  And he existed only in the mind of the man who wrote him into being, and in those of us who were introduced to Dandelion Wine.  

But the boy was never my love.  

The boy who stole my young heart was the one who kept telling me stories, kept me breathless in anticipation of his next word, his next phrase, his next surprise.  I read every word of his I could come across.  Ray Bradbury was my secret love.  

I wrote to him, some years ago.  I even mailed my letter to him – something I had not done before or have since, for any other famous person.  It was a simple note: Thank you.  Your stories have touched me in a way none other could.

I hoped he would receive the envelope, open it, and read into it how much was left unspoken.  And, oddly, I cared none at all whether he replied.  I only hoped he would never feel his work had been less than it was, less than magical.

This week, Ray Bradbury's typewriter has gone silent.  There will be no new words from him, short of a true miracle, one as powerful as any he imagined. Sadly, those are far too scarce for us to hope for, today. And, yet, love – or its fount – is not gone.  Douglas Spaulding's brand-spanking-new sneakers will continue to lead the winds across the prairie and down through the ravines, stirring up dust and kicking up fresh-cut grass in heartbeats and breaths of Bradbury's prose.  

That love will never leave us.

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