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The shortest longest story

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posted on Oct, 29 2020 @ 01:37 PM
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"So you want the best book, then?" My uncle peered over his bifocals and folded his newspaper, giving me full attention. "The single best book ever written, the one and only, the all time greatest?"

"Yes please, Uncle Dan." I was 6 years old and very excited. Why mess around with my kiddie schoolbooks if I could take the elevator straight to the top?

"Kids are always so impatient. I didn't get a chance to even learn about The Book until after I'd slogged my way through Tolstoy and Cervantes. But I guess now you know about it, there is no stopping you, eh kid?"

"No sir." I felt a "sir" was in order. My uncle was, after all, about to introduce me to the secret of The Book...the greatest one ever. I sat on the edge of my chair, rivited.

"Well now let's see..." Uncle Dan shifted and sighed. "Actually there are five versions. If you really want some meat on the bone, you should start with Version A. But I don't have a copy."

"No?" I tried to keep the disappointment out of my voice. "Where can I find..."

"There is only one copy and it is 100,000 volumes long. It is locked in a tower under the sea near India, I think. Even if you could go there you still couldn't read it in a lifetime."

"What about the...other versions?"

"Version B is 10,000 volumes long and the only copy I ever heard of was burnt up in a Polish Library in the war. The 1940s war, you understand."

"Oh." I was getting nervous.

"Version C tells the same story as the others, but it is only 1000 volumes long. I saw a copy in Morocco once. My friend Robbie bought it. I heard he went insane around the time he reached volume 409."

"That doesn't sound good. But you said their were 5 versions..."

"I did, and there are. The last two are versions D and E. It just so happens I have a copy of each." His eyes sparkled.

"Where?," I asked, delighted at last.

"Why the attic, of course. Where all uncle's keep their old secrets. Shall we go?"

I scampered up the attic stairs more quickly than Uncle Dan, who followed with some wheezing.

The entire attic was filled with cartons of red-bound books. "Ah, version D, 100 volumes in all," he chuckled.

I picked up one. It was bigger than the city phone book and the writing was so small I hurt my eyes trying to make out some famiar words. "I can't read this!" I wailed. "I'm only 6 years old!"

Uncle Dan nodded seriously. "I couldn't get through it until after grad school. I guess there is only one solution for you. Version E. Only a single volume." He produced a key and rummaged around a dusty old dresser. "Ah, here it is." He held up a single thing red book.

I reached for it, but he pulled back. "Now before I give it to you, I want you to understand...all the versions tell the same story, but version E is special. Did you note how A was longer than B, and B was longer than C, and so on?"

I nodded.

"version E is a little different. It's both the longest and the shortest. I want you to think about that carefully."

I nodded seriously. "I will, uncle Dan."

"Good. Then here you are. Version E in one volume. The best of the best. The greatest book there is." With a theatrical flourish, he handed it to me.

Scrambling, I took it feverishly and opened the red velvet cover. There was only one page to the book, with a kind of pocket embedded in it.

Inside the pocket was something blue made if cardboard. I could just barely read the two big words printed on the front:

"LIBRARY CARD."

Below was printed my name.




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