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THE BOOKLICE

    Once booklice ate their way right through a display copy of the Constitution.
    As with booklice in general, which seem to have no reason for existence other than the damaging and destruction of texts dear to their owners, exactly where these specimens came from and why they chose to damage one item rather than another defied comprehension. So too did the precise means by which they’d slipped through all the protective barriers surrounding their target in this particular case.
    Some experts in document preservation theorized a breakdown in the cooling system keeping the atmosphere around historical displays temperate had resulted in elevated levels of heat, and with added heat, patriotic visitors to the exhibit began to perspire, and these perspiring patriots soon created the type of atmosphere in which booklice all but spontaneously erupted on the scene. Or so the theory went.
    Other experts, by contrast, saw a more sinister explanation, one that posited the booklice had gained access to the revered document either through official neglect or deliberate sabotage of the longtime safeguards surrounding it. But what sort of person—more like a common vandal than the vigilant guardian the nation’s treasures called for—would deliberately commit such an outrage? It passed comprehending even more than the sudden appearance of the booklice themselves.
    Once present, booklice generally work their depredations in the dark, when they can do so unobserved. In secret they are able to eat holes in pretty much anything on paper and so completely that entire documents may have a “quaint” or “dated” appearance after the booklice have finished with them.
    Most damaged on this occasion was the display copy of the Constitution, but later investigations revealed nearly the same fate had befallen a number of treaties, international agreements, landmark court decisions, and government regulations or protections, from human rights accords to environmental protections to the care of the elderly and the disadvantaged.
    When fumigators were belatedly called in, the extent of the damage done by the booklice was so great that even though they themselves might be dispatched, what it would take to restore the mutilated documents to their former state could take years to determine.