Avast and ahoy!
No doubt you are perplexed, dear readers, by Yours Truly’s drowned silence during this most exciting time of year for Bookmarks. You may have guessed that my busy schedule has kept me from writing as much as I would like. But my business has not been of the usual sort.
You see, I had heard discomforting reports from Cecilia my messenger pigeon, who supplies most of my information regarding atmospheric conditions. She had sensed a disturbance in the east that threatened to pour rain on festival Saturday. I quickly contacted my relatives at Kraken Cove to ask whether there was some oceanic turmoil going on, and what I heard was truly frightening.
“Dear Karl,” wrote my aunt Katherine, “I am sorry to be the bringer of bad tidings, but dreadful happenings have occurred in recent weeks in Kraken Cove. You will remember, of course, the terrible Lord Krakenatus, whose reign of terror was ended only by the valiant efforts of your dragon friend. That was years ago, but the memory of the wicked creature’s defeat lives on like a painful wound in the memory of his son, young Kronos the Kraken, whose life you foolishly spared after his father’s downfall.
“Oh, my naive, merciful nephew! You should have known then that Kronos would rise to take his father’s place as Dark Lord and general Mischief-Maker of Kraken Cove. For truly, the young prince of the oceanic abyss has built himself a palace in the deepest vents of the ocean. Even now he sits fuming at the success of his father’s conqueror, envying your celebrity and your impeccable literary taste.
“His rage he channels into waves, his screams into thunder. He wields a dark magic unknown to us civilized krakens, with which he stirs up storms and hurls them across the ocean. And you should know that he has saved the most fearsome storm for the weekend when he knew he could do you the most damage. He intends to batter Bookmarks with rain and thunder, to flood the store and blow the signing tent off its poles; to strike the information booth with lightning, to make every food-truck meal soggy before it reaches the consumer’s hands.
“Woe, woe to Bookmarks if his plan should succeed! He would doom the festival and make the store so soggy that jellyfish would take up residence among its shelves. He would unleash such a hammering of rain that you could hear no author’s voice above the din. Oh, my dear, dear Karl, there is nothing you can do now but flee his dreadful wrath!
“Love and kisses–Your Aunt Katherine”
But I did not flee, dear reader. Instead I packed my bag full of festival books and set off to Kraken Cove myself, determined to save Bookmarks, whatever the cost. I found the young Kronos son of Krakenatus, Lord of All Oceanic Evil, sitting in his dark throne room on the ocean floor. He turned a hateful eye towards me as I entered. I bowed before him, and he laughed an evil laugh.
“You think you can convince me to show mercy for your little book festival, foolish kraken? Remember the disgrace you did me when you foiled my father’s plan for world domination! I do not forgive so easily.”
“Now see here, O Lord Kronos son of Krakenatus, Dark Lord of the Deep,” I said, trying to reason with him. (I was a little intimidated, I will admit, by the anglerfish bodyguards who glared at me and bared their teeth from either side of the throne.) “Flooding the festival would be a foolish thing to do. If you ever intend to spread your dark dominion onto dry land, you had better not take people’s books away from them. Your greatest weakness is that you underestimate the profound love of a reader for a book. Robbing people of the chance to meet over forty-five fantastic authors, including multiple New York Times bestsellers and award winners from across the country, would turn humanity against you. It could be your downfall.”
“Ha!” he cried. “You stupid squid! You put far too much faith in books. I do not believe that anyone has ever loved a book as deeply as you say. I have certainly never felt much affection for a book. I’ve never been much of a reader, you know. In school I was always the slowest reader in the class, and teachers often got mad at me for being distracted and plotting world domination while I was supposed to be doing homework. I do not believe that reading could ever be pleasurable, and I tell you your book festival is built on delusion!”
“Aha,” said I. “I think I have just the thing to change your mind.” And with that I pulled from my bag a copy of Dav Pilkey’s Dog Man and handed it to him.
Lord Kronos son of Krakenatus opened the book and snorted derisively. “Ridiculous!” he exclaimed as he read the first page. “What is this worthless garbage?” But still he turned the page, and soon his laughs of derision turned into ones of hilarity. “Well, this is actually quite good!” he cried as he closed it. “Give me more.”
And so I did, feeding him volume after volume until he had worked through Dav Pilkey’s entire oeuvre. I smiled despite my nerves, knowing that I was slowly turning him into a reader. For no one, however reluctant to read, can resist the lure of Dog Man and Captain Underpants.
“Allow me, Lord Kronos son of Krakenatus, to bestow upon you this majestic garment,” I said, pulling out a red cape from my bag. “I think it is a fitting adornment to your royal person.”
He read the inscription on the cape, and his eyes widened. “Is this true? Does reading truly give one superpowers?” I nodded. “You know I am always hungry for power. Give me more books! All the books you have!”
He devoured them. (Some metaphorically, some literally, for it is said that his stomach is lined with teeth and can digest any mineral or vegetable matter he puts in it.) I guided him through our children’s and young adult titles and then supplied a mix of adult fiction and nonfiction. He did not rest, he did not sleep, until at last he had finished Zinzi Clemmons with tears in his wide, hungry eyes.
It took a full week for him to read the books I had brought. He had completely forgotten to send his terrible storm, and I had heard from Daisy that the festival had been a great success. Now, on Monday, he looked up from his book and asked me if I had any more. This time I told him I did not. He trembled, shivered, and seemed to come to his senses. The spell of the books had broken, and his rage returned.
“You have deceived me!” he cried. “It was all a trick to make me spare the festival! I tell you, you have made a grave mistake.” And with that he ordered his court magicians to raise up another storm and turn it against Winston-Salem before I could try to fool him again.
His haste may have worked in our favor, as the storm seems to have turned off course and weakened as it comes ashore, but I fear that the rage of Kronos son of Krakenatus may do much damage and inconvenience to innocent people.
Stay safe, dear readers. Protect yourselves from the storm. I have returned to Bookmarks and will help to ensure that the store is protected from the worst of the hurricane. We will be open limited hours this weekend, but do stop by to pick up reading material and scented candles, in case the power goes out.
Karl the Kraken