That’s QUITE the late fee!

June 28, 2019

When a long lost book mysteriously re-appeared in the return bin after 40 years, we had no idea how fascinated people would be with the story. The MYSTERY surrounding the disappearance inspired some very creative short stories.

Rhonda Lamoure Schindelka

My legal name is ‘wilderness survival’ I have also been called ‘a complete handbook and guide to pioneer living in North America’. I was born in 1976 to my author Berndt Berglund. My disappearance has baffled those at Union Bay Library on Vancouver Island for 4 plus decades. I was borrowed from my home in 1977 and throughout my years and travels I have had the opportunity to help many with their life’s journey. My abductor finally decided to return me anonymously as apparently my return could have cost $4500. I’m not sure if they will ever know, but this was capped at $10 years ago. I am in excellent physical condition and not near ready for retirement. Once I return from Courtney B.C. I look forward to continuing to help others find their way.

Cathy Sands Unruh

“Wilderness Living, what’s this library book doing in here, Grandpa?” Ben asked. “Book?” Graham replied. The two of them were in the back yard going through the Westfalia camper that had been parked there for as long as Ben could remember. He’d played in it as a kid and had coveted the yellow type 2 Volkswagen ever since.

“Let me see that book” Grandpa said. “Where was it?”

“Up there, under a blanket in the loft, when I popped up the roof.”
Graham paused for a moment, lost in thought, then said. “This book is an unfulfilled dream, Ben. Grandma and I read it sitting right here in this van when we were camping and planning our new life together, living like pioneers somewhere up island. We were so young and itching for an adventure.”

“What happened? Did you go settle on a patch of forest?”

“No Ben, our dream changed. The year was 1977 and we found out Grandma was expecting a baby — your dad. A family became our new dream and priority. The wilderness camp, and obviously this book, was set aside and forgotten. We went camping once more but we broke down on the way home. We had to have the van towed. We couldn’t afford to fix it so it’s been sitting here ever since. I always meant to get it running again, have had plenty of people knock on our door asking if I’d sell it but I’ve always thought of it as the first member of our family. Here’s the key, Ben. Happy Birthday. It’s yours now, go sit in the driver’s seat and fire him up.”

Jaskiran Chana

The Union bay was where I had first laid eyes on her. She dressed in blue with ruffled ivory lace always wrapped around her neck. She had won me over with her morning virulent laughs. Alice, always chuckled after I’d say ‘good day ma’am’ and that’s when I knew that she was the one. I would leap across the entire island, to make sure that I was the only man who’d hear her laugh.

Although we hadn’t had much money back then. Alice would bring buckets of butter clams back home for us. She coated them in pounds of garlic butter and quite frankly she was the only woman who knew how to cook them.
We spent most of our days near the water. Where Alice spent hours reading through her own selection of books. She adored nature and always wanted to explore. Alice was fascinated about the idea of travelling the nation with nothing but one book. She called it, “Wilderness Living.”

Soon Alice’s heart gave away and much like the burning embers, she too disappeared into the ebony night. The ocean breeze never felt the same after she left. I would reminisce about when we would look up at the stars and follow the constellations together. Each day I would be reminded of how the island winds swayed our little canoe; but the waters never quite felt the same.

Today, was the day that I had lost my dearest Alice. She would have wanted this. I tell you that woman would’ve never wanted her old man to go through any trouble. It’s been several years since Alice’s death and I wanted to revisit the laughs, books and stories that the two of us had shared together. I decided to finally look through her own writings and old collection of books. As I made my way to the very last one, I found a scrap of paper. And for the very first time I knew that Alice had been with me throughout all these years. I chuckled. It read, “George Please Return Wilderness Living, DUE!!!”

Su Ann Quah

The time-traveller stepped out of his craft, peered around and found himself looking at towering trees as far as the eye could see. Some odd animal or other was making a sinister sound somewhere in the bushes.

“I have no idea what I’m doing. Better see if I can get a guide from a library,” thought he, for there were no more trees nor forests on Earth in the year 10,996.

Off he went to the library and picked up the first book he could find from the “Outdoor Living” section. The cards and stamps tucked neatly inside the book jackets were all odd to him, as were the books themselves. Paper? The only ones he’d ever seen were locked preciously behind glass displays in museums. Luckily, he’d been traversing through space and time in his nifty little craft for years, and so took everything in stride. And with that, he set off into the woods with his trusty little companion, discovering history in real time, in wondrous technicolour.

Years went by and he conveniently forgot about his little adventure out in the woods of 1977 Earth. Today, he suddenly remembered. “Oh crap, I’d better return it. Hmm… might make a little escapade to Earth in 2019 and return it then instead. Why not? Let’s see what’s happened since 1977,” he muttered to himself.

Stepping out of his time machine, the traveller walked briskly towards the library and saw that they now had book drops. Huh, great, he wouldn’t have to bother paying the late fee. He nonchalantly drops the book inside, and without another look back, whisks away into the dying sunlight, dreaming of his next trip through time.

Trena Carpenter

Deep in the woods on Vancouver Island, surrounded by large old trees and crisp blue bodies of water a small cabin sits, mostly untouched after four decades. While the wood shingles have seen better days the cabin if you look past the cobwebs and thick layer of dust still holds the magic of the man who built it.

He worked in a busy bank office but always felt something was missing. One day he decided to escape every day hustle and bustle, get his hands dirty and go off grid. He withdrew every dollar from his bank account and headed to his local library. He found the perfect book called Wilderness Living and as he turned each crisp page he knew he was making the right decision. He loaded a second-hand Ford pick up truck with what he would need to build his cabin and the supplies the book he would refer to as his “manual” suggested he bring for ultimate survival.

As he drove deep into the forest the book sat beside him on the seat. Once his cabin was built and he had sufficient wood on hand he dug one hole 7 paces east and 37 paces west from the cabin’s front door and buried every dollar he had saved in a glass jar. Once he filled the hole he placed a large quartz rock on top as a place holder. After 6 years he decided to go back into town, he dug up one hundred dollars with dreams of a Coca Cola and a brand new blanket. Fully prepared to return not only to his beloved cabin but his buried treasure. One hundred thousand dollars buried in a shallow hole marked with a single rock. He left his “manual” on a log stump used as a table and off he went with just enough gas to get to town. The land looked different than he remembered and in the way he got lost deep in the woods past a new logging slash that wasn’t there 6 years previously. He eventually got stuck in a shallow creek along an old cut block growing over from misuse.

His truck sputtered out of gas. He eventually left his truck trying desperately to find the safety of his cabin, wandering first for days then for months his beard grew long his hair unruly and as he aged his mind began to go. One day a surveyor for a local company came across an old man near a creek, looking wild and crazy the old man kept repeating he needed to find his money, that he knew he buried it somewhere nearby. He was taken to hospital with severe dehydration and treated for an infection. No family was located but he met a wonderful older nurse also seeking companionship. They fell in love and spent many years together, every once in a while he would mention his buried lost “treasure” and she would softly pat his arm and listen to him recount his story yet again about being lost in the woods.

No one believed he had chosen to go deep in the woods years before but rather that he must have suffered a head injury and made up portions of his story. Sadly, he passed away some years later surrounded by people he loved.

In 2019 a young vibrant couple went snowshoeing and came across a small cabin tucked deep in the woods. It was clear the cabin had sat for some time, the only items inside were found on a log round they assumed used as a table. Though the rest of the cabin had a thick layer of dust sitting there was a library book labeled Vancouver Island Regional Library titled. “Wilderness Living” in pristine condition. The pages still crisp and eerily not a spec of dust as if it was place there just yesterday. Beside the book a simple to do list and an old glass Coca Cola bottle, lid still on.

The list simply read.
To do:

  1. Buy blanket
  2. Enjoy a coca cola
  3. Return overdue library book
  4. Number four was smeared they couldn’t make out what the old man had written

The couple couldn’t help but feel the magic in the cabin and while they left the note, and bottle of Coca Cola they couldn’t help but feel the right thing would be to fulfill the to do list and dropped the library book into the night drop box when they got back to town. That night the woman had a dream 7 paces 37 paces kept repeating over and over. She woke up knowing she had to return to the cabin and help finish that to do list….(to be continued)

Gary Greiss

I believe a son or male in the family borrowed it because he’d been thinking of getting out to try wilderness living. Or maybe it was her (but I doubt it.) He took the book with him after reading it for awhile, thinking he may need it & probably would be back soon. But he did it way yonder from home. He loved his new life & after a while didn’t need the book & maybe even forgot it. But sometime recently he found out he was sick. He either sent word to his family or notified them by mail (once a week good old-fashioned airstrips.) Remembering the book sent it home & she trooped it off, the rest may be history…who knows?

Andrea M Walkus-Andrew

Well, here is why I took so long to return this book. I was just a young ‘un…okay! Fine, I was a city slicker looking for some excitement when I found this book and checked it out. I was prepared to guffaw at its contents then header to McDonald’s for dinner but I got into the story and dang it! I couldn’t put it down! I became obsessed with this place called ‘the wildnerness’ so I went to the woods of Stanley Park and built my cabin deep in the trees. Hey, in my defense, I didn’t know there were natural woods on Vancouver Island. We were just visiting and I forgot to tell my mom I took the book. Anyways, long story short, I accidentally took the book with me and didn’t resurface until just recently and snuck the book back in. I sure was afraid I owed lots but I read your article and I’ll be back to check it out again. I won’t take as long to return it! I promise. Hehehe…

Makiko Johnston

Well, it was me who borrowed it, this is how it happened—I took out the book with good intentions of getting outside more. And while reading it in bed, it fell behind the headboard. Afraid of the library fine, I quit going to the library all these years. Found the book yesterday—40 some years later when my kid came over and told me I needed to Marie Kondo my hoarding room. I made my kid return it after looking up what time the library closed on the internet. I also told my kid I’d buy her dinner if she returned it for me. The next day, I went to the library nonchalantly to take out a book about traveling to New Zealand. The clerk said, “Oh you don’t have a membership. Are you new to town? Are you planning to travel?

Kimberly McLeod

Perhaps a fisherman sailed up to the dock in Union Bay, walked into the book store & decided to alter his path by living off the grid in the deep bush of Cape Scott. 42 years pass & he’s decided he wants to reinvent himself as a Registered Massage Therapist. After 10 years of studying the soft tissues of the body & working on his trusty sidekick Barry, the black tailed deer he’s ready to embark on a new journey & sharpen his people skills again one client at a time! So he heads back to the Union Bay branch library & trades in his “wilderness living”, for a newer copy of “ethics for massage therapists”. Off he goes to start the next chapter of his evolution.

Drea Nicole

I sat alone on a rough pine shelf, next to the old stone fireplace. Next to tomes of Shelley, Blake, and Defoe. Each page of my companions well worn and well read next to my pristine leaves.
The owner of this rustic lodge had returned from a long day of fishing at the lake, in a boat of his own design. Everything here was of his own two hands creation, except us, the residents of the shelf next to the fire. Once his belly was full of fresh caught trout, he gazed up at the shelf. His eyes danced across the titles, familiar to him, until he reached my spine, on the top shelf.
“Oh no!” he exclaimed, leaping up and grasping my cover in his hands, “How could I have forgotten?!”

Michael Indge

The year is 1977…the Cold War continues on its path towards world destruction. Between March 29, and April 25th, the Soviets detonate 5 nuclear bombs in underground explosions. The Americans, between February 16 and April 27, detonate 6 of their own. It is all but settled now, the best chance of survival is in the wild…cities will be the first to go when the flames come. Our intrepid library patron sees all this, and knows that they must make haste to the local library so as to read up on skills that will keep them alive in the forest. Having found a suitable plot of land, they start to build. Nights of endless reading, days of endless work, but time is of the essence and weary eyes and weary body are no excuse when preparing for survival. Days become weeks, and the weeks become months. Each night our library patron gazes at the book…“I really should return you,” they think to themselves, “though I imagine that the cities and towns are all but dust by now…it is only you and I, and together we will survive.” It is now mid July, and the onset of early summer brings with it a cool-warmth, far cooler than the fire that most likely cleansed the towns and cities. “Maybe it is safe now to try and salvage for supplies,” thinks the library patron. They make their way back to town, but hear familiar sounds…cars, dogs, and people talking…why, nothing has happened! All that time building…all that time reading…and the world is still as it was! The utter embarrassment of it all…but wait…it seemed like mass war HAD broken out! The library patron couldn’t help but overhear groups of people talking about a war in the stars. “Excuse me,” said our library patron, politely interrupting, “what is this war in space you are talking of? Have the Americans and the Russians really taken the war to outer space?”“N’aw man, STAR WARS! The best movie ever made! A total cultural phenomenon! Didn’t you see it?” replied one of the group members. About two months back, May 25, 1977…Star Wars: A New Hope was released in theatres…but our patron had been too busy preparing for bombs that had not fallen, and now they were completely out of the cultural loop. Any attempt at re-entering was futile, and our patron could only respond in social settings with “no, I haven’t seen Star Wars, I don’t understand that reference.” The world had now been split into two types of people: those who had seen Star Wars, and those who hadn’t. Our patron, feeling like an outcast, returned to their log cabin, the one made from their blood, sweat, and tears, and with information provided by the book. “There’s no going back now,” thought the library patron, “I’m no longer in the loop, there is nothing back there for me.” While initially dismayed at this outcome, our library patron’s spirits started to lift upon catching the fragrant aroma of the flowers and plants that surrounded the cabin…and it was then that they realized that the book had done everything it had promised and more. Not only had it taught them how to live in the wilderness, it had actually returned the library patron’s soul to the wilderness. “This is where I’ve always wanted to be, and I made it,” said the library patron, giving a thankful smile towards the book.

The library patron attempted to return the book three times, though it seemed as though the book had grown fond of the patron as well, for whenever the patron returned back to the cabin, the book had already mysteriously reappeared back on the cabin’s mantle. Years passed, and the library patron’s body aged, as all things do, yet the book remained in pristine condition. Finally, one night, the patron’s eyes closed forever, but not before offering a soft smile and a thank you towards the book that had taken them into the wilderness, just as it had promised. While it cannot be scientifically proven that books themselves can cry, it can be said that a good book certainly knows when it has been appreciated, and can extend that love to the next reader. With its previous partner’s life fulfilled, it was now time for the book to return to the library in hopes of helping another patron return to the wilderness.

One of our followers submitted this adorable cartoon as his submission. Thanks Marty.

Erin Jeffery

In 1977 an elderly woman named Iris walked to her local library in Union Bay. She lived alone, was widowed, and had no family. She’d been knitting by the fire all winter, but when she turned on the radio and heard the song “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac, it awoke a spark. She set her hair in curlers and bundled up for a walk to the library to find a book on wilderness living. Upon arriving home, she made herself a cup of tea and sat down to read this inspiring book. She couldn’t put it down. She stayed up much past her usual bedtime. The next day Iris was determined to make a change in her life. She purchased a small old canoe she found for sale in the local newspaper. Iris was a very strong woman. Although she was 80 she met the gentleman selling the canoe at a local boat launch. She loaded it with tools, her favorite cooking pot, and some food and she canoed over to small island off Denman Island.

She found a perfect spot and using this book she built a small home out of driftwood and used the canoe for a roof. She didn’t miss town at all she foraged for berries and cooked crab and clams on her campfire. She made quite a few wild friends. Birds a squirrel, and an otter who she named Charlie. She drank from streams and She was happy. The wilderness brought her so much more joy than her house ever did. No one ever reported her missing and to this day her disappearance is still a mystery. No one ever found her body when she passed… but in 2019 someone from Union Bay who was boating in the area found the old camp on the island. They thought nothing of it. There are many places where people have camped on islands. Then they found this book inside her favourite cooking pot with a lid sitting on a remote beach all these years. Sitting in that cooking pot kept the book in incredible shape even though she was in the wilderness all these years. They realized it was a library book and decided to return it to the library. Only Iris knows the adventure this book brought to the last 20 years of her life.

Don Moffatt

There was a young teller
a button-down feller
who’d dot every “i”, you see

and with no refrain
he’d take every pain
to ensure that he’d cross every “t”

He was also quite punctual
But to him it was just functional
To be Mr. Service, 10 ’til 3

One day after work
This responsible clerk
Found a strong urge to flee

O’er beer at the Bard and Banker
He developed quite a hanker
“More to life, there’s got to be!”

He buttoned his jacket
and left the pub’s racket
for the library just up the street

“It’s a manual I need
To be done with greed
There! “Wilderness living” is for me!”

He checked out the book
And found a close brook
Then made for the nearest tree

For forty-two years
He conquered his fears
And did better than Sam McGee

Donna Sweeney

My husband borrowed it with the intention of coercing me into living in the wilderness. After reading it I decided he was delusional and told him that. Apparently he hung onto it in the hopes that I would change my mind. In packing to move into a condo I found the book in our home library and returned it.

Su Watkins

It was 1977, spring. The air fresh and the sun warm. John had just taken a book out of the library. He was happy and a little excited. This book was going to give him new skills. He could learn to live as a wilderness explorer. After trying some of the things in the book he continued to learn more and more. The book was kept safe in a special bag he carried in his backpack. He forgot to return it as this was the first book he had borrowed and really didn’t know how it worked. It slipped his mind. Over the years he had stopped carrying it and it was put safely away. He grew to be a fine man with a loving family.

The years passed and one day after John and his son had come back from a wondrous camping trip in the wilderness. His son marvelled over the new things he learned. They sat talking and John suddenly remembered where he had first learned these many skills. He searched for the bag in which the book had been safely stored. When found he and his son poured over it, enjoying and learning together.
John knew that the book should have been returned so later that day they made a trip to the library. In order to return the book so that others can enjoy and learn as well.

Donna Levesque

The book was found beside a dead body in the wilderness. They had remembered their book but forgot their axe. The book was in great shape because it was in a protective Vancouver Island Regional Library book bags.