LoStoWriMo stands for "Local Story Writing Month" and documents my goal to post an original short story every day for the month of November. The length of the story does not matter. All stories should be viewed as rough drafts. If you would like to indicate that you read the story without having to think of something to say, please feel free to write "Mark as read" in the comments. While I usually like to respond to comments, for the purpose of this exercise, I will refrain except to say "Thank you" the following day.
THE MAP TO ANYWHERE
It is possible that my favorite book from childhood no longer exists. The Map to Anywhere was the only novel published by Nesbit Goudge, though the luminaries of the children’s book world predicted that the author had written a number of unpublished manuscripts. Despite many letters pleading for a sequel to The Map to Anywhere, Nesbit Goudge refused. “A story knows how to end itself,” Nesbit Goudge said in a rare interview. “Authors who refuse to pay attention to the natural endings of stories write sequels to delay the inevitable.”
Truly, there was no need for The Map to Anywhere to have a sequel. Every time I read the book, the story changed. At first, I thought it was only that I discovered new things about the story. The main characters were twins who lived in a small house at the edge of a village. In the story, the twins discovered a map under a floorboard, and by following the map’s directions, discovered a wondrous land with talking beasts, wishing wells and magic rings. In some ways, The Map to Anywhere was evocative of the other books on my shelves, but it was different in that the story took new twists each time I read it. Once, the twins were captured by aeronauts in zeppelins. Another time, the twins had to outwit the gnome king into giving back their stolen map before they were turned to stone.
The last time I read The Map to Anywhere, I was twelve years old. In the last chapter, the twins had discovered a spring that would grant ageless youth to anyone who drank from its waters. One twin decided to drink from the spring, while the other twin refrained. The story ended with one twin journeying beyond the boundaries of the map, while the other went home. It was the first time the story ended with the twins parting ways.
The next time I looked for The Map to Anywhere, the book had disappeared.
I asked my mother where the book had gone. “Look under your piles of clothes,” she replied. I looked all over my room. I even cleaned my room. The book wasn’t there. As I grew older, I read more books for classwork than I did for pleasure, but I still wondered where my favorite book had vanished. When I graduated from college, I asked my mother again, “Where is The Map to Anywhere?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she replied.
“The Map to Anywhere,” I said. “By Nesbit Goudge. It was my favorite book as a child. I haven’t seen it in years.”
My mother looked at me, slightly puzzled. “You had many favorite books,” she said. “I don’t remember ever seeing that one.”
I started to look for The Map to Anywhere in libraries and bookstores. No library owned it, which meant I couldn’t get it through interlibrary loan. The booksellers sent out queries to their contacts, but for a long time, no one in the used-book industry had ever heard of it. I began to wonder if I had imagined the existence of the book.
Eight months ago, while searching yet again for The Map to Anywhere, I found an online interview with Nesbit Goudge. The interview was on a children’s literature blog called Books Apart. The scope of the blog focused on reuniting people with their favorite books from childhood. Nesbit Goudge talked about the process of writing The Map to Anywhere, the publishing house’s small print run, and how the larger publishing houses started a bidding war to buy the book.
“I refused all offers,” Nesbit Goudge said in the interview. “They told me that the book would reach more readers, and I said, ‘The book will reach the readers who need it.’ They told me that the only way the book would ever be considered for a Newbery award was if they republished it, and I said, 'The book doesn’t need a Newbery award.'”
I was excited to have proof that The Map to Anywhere existed. I left a comment on the blog that said, “Please, please tell me how to get a copy of this book again.”
Nesbit Goudge answered the comment directly. The author wrote, “I’m confident that The Map to Anywhere will show up when you need it most.”
The next day, the blog disappeared. I found no mention of Nesbit Goudge anywhere else on the internet. I had printed out a copy of the interview, but when I showed it to my mom for proof of the book’s existence, she said, “It sounds as if you have the beginning of a story to tell. I’d love to read it when it’s done.”
As Nesbit Goudge said, “A story knows how to end itself.” While I am tempted to stretch this narrative out a little further and give you a satisfying conclusion, the truth is that I have not yet found The Map to Anywhere. I still suspect that I imagined the story. If I did, this is how it would end: I went home and found the book under a floorboard in my room. I read it in one sitting, and it was every bit as wonderful as I imagined.
This is how it really ends:
I am still looking.