© Knot Magazine. Kristen D. Scott. All Rights Reserved 

2014-2020 No images, or words may be taken from this site 

without permission from Knot Magazine and the artists included. 

 

"Danger: Don´t Read Indoors!"

by Daniel Fishman

 

 

 

          My parents1 invented a rule for me in my middle school years: no reading indoors during the day. 

 

They were full-time writers. They didn’t like me reading so much. 

 

          They said things like, “You should be outdoors. Playing. Doing something.” Meaning reading is 

 

doing nothing. Is that how writers should talk about readers?

 

          On procrastination breaks from writing, maybe, in their writers’ uniforms (stained old bathrobes, 

 

everyday pajamas, worn-through slippers) they filled coffee cups, or watered plants, or consumed an 

 

unshared snack while they put me and my off-track life back on track (in their own minds) by pushing 

 

me to leave that unnatural reading life behind. 

 

          Who were these people? 

 

          My step-father brought Spiderwoman and X-Men comics as gifts from trips, shared his 

 

childhood love of The Hardy Boys by reading their mysteries out loud, tried to broaden my reading 

 

experience by giving me John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley the year before the rule.  (Later he’d 

 

give me the work of his writing mentor, Joseph Hansen, and his own beloved and well worn copy of 

 

John Updike’s Bech is Back to help me learn to write.) Mom brought me poetry anthologies as gifts 

 

from her trips, considered certain authors and books sacred, wept with gratitude when I traded treat 

 

tickets at a school book fair for my own first copy of Mary Poppins the year before the rule. She read 

 

Kaufman & Hart plays to me when I was sick, as her mother had to her. She knew Jane Austen and E.M. 

 

Forster could teach you how to love, and she pushed copies of Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure on me 

 

periodically as if it were her own spiritual autobiography. 

 

          These two people didn’t want me reading so much. I shouldn’t be wasting time reading other 

 

writers’ words.

 

          Instead, I should do something normal and useful, like run around outside with other kids or 

 

beat up some other boy. Interact with the beautiful landscape they’d brought us to.

 

          To be fair, the outdoors world was astonishing. Just past the wide, open back porch, a wooden 

 

dock to the air, the world fell away in slopes into canyon. Acres of oak meadow and chaparral over the 

 

dry decomposed granite as the basis of the soil, home to snakes, gophers, lizards, sage brush and other 

 

native plants in profusion hiding quail, live oaks and cacti clusters providing homes to songbirds of all 

 

kinds, while kites and hawks wheeled over all their nest sites as hunting grounds. Definitely worth 

 

looking at, worth exploring. 

 

          So with the new rule in place, I never read indoors during the day: I went out to the porch, under 

 

or up trees, in fields, meadows, groves, on rocks, by creeks, and in skylit caves, and continued my 

 

reading of various books out there in the Great Book of Nature.

 

          Now, I must say, I’m grateful. For those great reading experiences, and all the ones that came 

 

after. In college, by the banks of Strawberry Creek in damselfly mating season with Toni Morrison’s The 

 

Bluest Eye, surrounded by the darting blue male “devil’s darning needles” (another name for dragonflies 

 

and damselflies) and the gray females whose clear wings caught such sun glitter, as they bent their 

 

bodies into the heart-shaped mating position. Over the murmuring water of that creek, communing too 

 

with Diana Wynne Jones’ Magicians of Caprona and Dante’s Inferno (closely related works). Learning 

 

from the squirrels in the redwoods and C.S. Lewis how to deal with John Milton’s undending egregious 

 

argument (clothed in his magnificent language) in Paradise Lost. The sunny shady pleasure of Sexing 

 

the Cherry with Jeanette Winterson in the hammock in the plum tree of my twenties. How the 

 

hummingbirds bragging and brawling worked their way into my writing, under the influence of Cesar 

 

Vallejo’s wild imagery and sublime language, and the divinity of Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments 

 

series with its monsters and Shadowhunters fighting and falling in love, surrounded by the climbing 

 

clusters of pink roses called Cecil Bruners and the deep red crocosmia known as Lucifer in the gardens 

 

of my thirties and forties. Jane Austen and J.K. Rowling unfolding their worlds’ dangers and dances 

 

with the pollinating bumblebees among the constellations of agapanthus blooms. Redwoods and beaches 

 

and books, human voices in symbols, translated through my synapses with the wind and salt in the air.

 

           I guess I should thank my parents for the rule. I do some of my best reading outdoors.

*****************

1 Meaning here two of my three parents, my mother and step-father; my father had no part in these shenanigans.

 

 

 

 

                                      Fifth generation Californian D.H.R. Fishman began this story with some family history

                                      about his great-great-great grandparents’ arrival in Southern California. His work has 

                                      appeared in print and online in places including San Diego Poetry Annual, Poppy Road 

                                      Review, Lucidity, and The Walrus