Reserved Parking
By Casey Clabough

      I have the fortune—good or bad, depending on one's point of view—to reside in the rural county in which I was raised and profess English at a small college in an unremarkable city some twenty miles to the west. My wife and I both have family in the area and there is many a Sunday afternoon I doze in the wake of a generous meal as the idle sounds of gossip or a televised sporting event curl about my lazy ears. When I go into town I frequently encounter the people with whom I grew up and with whom I now joke about our age, our families, our careers, and the events that pass for news in the sleepy district we call home. On occasion we summon up the bonds of old friendship and familiarity, and call on each other when our various areas of professional expertise may prove of some aid in dealing with an unforeseen event or crisis. I need only implicitly infer what comfort arises from the presence of familiar faces when confronting a manifestation of adversity which lends itself to extreme foreignness.  
            Of course, nothing prepared anyone for the house-sized book that appeared one hazy August morning in the parking lot behind the county public library. It was initially reported by a man walking his dog at first light, the otherwise benign creature's hackles rising and a low growl emerging from its throat as its owner, a retired airline pilot, guided them toward the dim, hulking object. Unable to make the thing out in the graying light and suspecting the shape something deposited by the county overnight, the former airmen resolved to pilot his dog in another direction, though, civic-minded fellow that he was, he did see fit to inform county law enforcement of the indistinct mass he had glimpsed.
            When my phone rang later that morning it was Ronnie, a county deputy I’d graduated with from high school.
            “A book?” I repeated when Ronnie had related the appearance of the massive object. “How did it get there?”
            “No one knows,” he said. “At first we thought it was some kind of joke, but when the highway guys tried to bulldoze it on out of the way, it wouldn’t budge.”
            “How do you even know it’s a book?”
            “Hell Professor, I reckon you’ve handled enough of ‘em: it looks like one. We even tried to pry open the cover with the dozer but no dice there either. In fact the machine busted a hydraulic hose tryin.”
            “This all sounds crazy, Ronnie, but why are you calling me about it?”
            “’Cause we need an expert opinion, Professor—from someone we can trust. Books are your whole deal, right?”
            “Sure, but not house-sized ones with no titles.”
            “That’s just it.”
            “What is?”
            “Seems it’s got a title and author etched into the cover up where no one can see. We had no idea they were there until we flew a chopper over the thing.”
            “Well let’s have it.”
            “Necronomicon, by some fella named Abdul Alhazred.”
            “Never heard of it.”
            “Neither has anyone we’ve talked to, which is why I’d like for you to look into it for us.”
            “It sounds like it may have been written in another language, Ronnie. I doubt I’ll be much use.”
            “We’d be obliged if you’d try, Professor.”
            “Get me out of my next speeding ticket?”
            “You bet.”
            “OK then.”
            “Thanks . . . Oh and Professor: confidential and all, you know.”
            “Sure Ronnie. Confidential.”

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Casey Clabough is the author of the travel memoir The Warrior's Path: Reflections Along an Ancient Route as well as four scholarly books about contemporary writers. He serves as editor of the literature section of Encyclopedia Virginia and as general editor of the James Dickey Review. His first novel, Confederado, will appear in 2012, as will his fifth scholarly book, Inhabiting Contemporary Southern & Appalachian Literature: Region & Place in the 21st Century.

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