Saturday Stories: The Raid

Vintage library with shelves of old books.

The door burst open and the uniforms swarmed in, surrounding the old man in his easy chair, who raised his hands with a calm bemusement on his face.

“How may I help you, gentlemen?”

“We’ve good reason to believe you’re storing explosives and incendiaries in this household.”

“As you can see.”

Indeed. The wall was lined with shelves, and the shelves were packed floor to ceiling with lettered rectangles of varying thickness and height, colors and styles.

On one shelf next to a desk, a disk was rotating, the end of a narrow metallic stick placed on its surface, and a song was coming out of two boxes that looked like oversized AI assistants.

“And it’s one, two, three, what are we fighting for? Don’t ask me I don’t give a damn …”

“How do I turn this off?” the lead uniform barked, weapon trained on the old man’s chest.

“Lift the tonearm, silly.”

“What is that, some kind of code?”

“There’s a lever at the base of the tonearm,” the man said patiently. “Or just lift it off the record.”

“I know how to do it, chief.” Another uniform stepped forward and plucked the stick off the disk. The music stopped suddenly. “My grandparents owned an antique shop.”

“You folks needn’t be so scared,” smiled the old man. “I’m a harmless old coot.”

“Harmless?” snapped the chief. “You’ve been hoarding all this materiel, dangerous objects.”

“Wisdom of the ages,” he countered, “forgotten books and recordings that oughtn’t be forgotten.”

“Many of them packed with hateful words and radical ideas,” the chief accused.

“Oh, yes, ideas can change minds or increase understanding. They can even hurt,” the old man said. “That’s why they’re important to preserve.”

“All the books and music you need are on the Cloud,” the chief insisted. “Possession of physical books and recordings is prohibited by the Intellectual Property Act of –”

“What the Cloud gives, the Cloud can take away,” the old man said softly. “The only way I know I can have these when I need them is if I own them.”

“So you admit –”

“I admit ideas and stories and beautiful songs into my mind every day, all day. Keeps my mind active. No offense, but I don’t think you’ve activated your mind in a long, long time.”

The chief uniform stared hard into the old man’s eyes and, without turning away, said, “Get him out of my sight.”

“Should I read him his rights, sir?” another asked.

“I know my rights,” the old man grinned. “Do you?”

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