The stacks feel so close. They stretch so high that they appear to meet. It feels more like a cathedral than a library. The colors of the books are so bright, and the sunlight pours down on Ruby though there are no windows in the stacks.
Ruby is looking for a book to hide the money and she feels irritated, rushed to complete this task though she doesn’t know why. She pulls a blue book off the shelf, is it Moby Dick? Even in her dream she thinks this is a poor choice. The book is old and some of the pages have been mended with yellowing tape that’s making them stick together. It smells funny, too. Not musty like old paper, but antiseptic, like a hospital. There are pictures in the book, drawings, really. An old, tired classic long forgotten on the shelf.
She presses the bill into the center of a page, closing it with finality and pushing it back onto the shelf — squeezing it a bit because the shelf is so crowded and the books are so tight together.
A warm breeze brings a sweet, yeasty smell, like bread rising and Ruby turns to see Artie, her late husband standing next to her. He’s twenty-five years old, his face sunburned like the first time they met. He’s holding his old, sun-bleached Red Sox cap in his hand. Ruby’s frozen to the spot, hand to her throat, afraid that her slightest movement will make him shimmer away.
“Ruby, my jewel.” He slides the cap through his fingers. A small motion, unguarded and odd for a ghost. “Always with your head in a book. Too smart to end up with the likes of me, and yet….”
Ruby knows she’s dreaming. Artie died five years ago and despite all her lonely nights of wishing this is his first appearance in her dreams.
“Artie, why now?”
“Just wanted to keep you on your toes, but you don’t need me anymore, Ruby.” He smiles. Light pulsates around him. Ruby struggles to keep from squinting.
“Have you been playing ball, Artie?” This is all she could think to ask. She’s so much older, does he see?
“No ball playing, but we watch. We watch over, and I watch over you, too. You’ve always been good, Ruby. They’ll never see, and they’ll never know, but that’s the point, isn’t it? Life can be hard sometimes — even in the little ways”
Ruby wakes to the grey pre-dawn, hears the sound of rain against the window, feels Pinsky’s light cat-weight warming the bed’s edge. She pulls the covers close around her and says quietly, “Artie, love of my life, you have no idea.”
Looking to catch up with Ruby, Viv and their friends of Benjamin? Links below.
Chapter 1 Introducing Ruby, Viv and St. Benjamin
Chapter 2 Boychik Luis and Bubbe Bev
Chapter 3 Bright Lights and Big Bev City
Chapter 4 Ruby and Viv Find Their Big Girl Panties
Chapter 5 Mother’s Little Helper — Part 1
Chapter 6 Mother’s Little Helper — Part 2
Chapter 7 Rich or Poor, It’s Nice To Have Money