This is a story about Billy, a boy who tried to build his own bookcase. Billy took the parts out of the box, but there were so many and they were so very confusing that he was sad and wanted to give up. But then his friend Pencil-Ear showed up to help!


At least, Billy thought Pencil-Ear was showing up to help. But Pencil-Ear went away and Billy never saw him again. So he had to build the bookcase himself.

After a while he got very sad and frustrated. So he called his friend Ike A. After all, Ike A had sent him the bookcase as a gift! And talking to Ike A made Billy feel better for a while.


But Ike A lived a long way away, across a big ocean, and could offer nothing more than kind words. So Billy went back to work.

After a long, long time he finished building his bookcase. And then he had a great idea!


(As you can see, Billy was 11 years old.) Wouldn’t it be wonderful if he could affix his bookcase to the wall with some kind of bracket?

And look: there’s a bracket in the package! But it has a warning label on it — Oh no! That means that it shouldn’t be used, don’t you think?


But Billy liked his idea so much that he ignored the warning and tried affixing the bookcase to the wall anyway — and it fell on him and killed him, just like Leonard Bast in Howards End!


Though the fall of the bookcase onto Billy made a terrible racket, nobody heard it. Pencil-Ear was down at the corner pub trying to use his funny pencil tricks to pick up women.

And far away, across the great ocean, Ike A began to laugh.

about the author

Alan Jacobs is a Distinguished Professor of the Humanities in the Honors Program at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and the author most recently of The Book of Common Prayer: A Biography.

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