To the man who, over the course of a half hour on our doorstep, persuaded my father to purchase a year’s supply of classic literature; who may or may not have had any personal interest in classic literature himself; who very well may have been in the door-to-door bookselling business purely for the money, since it was 1996, and there was still sort of money to be had in books; who may have found himself unemployed a year later, when Amazon colonized the universe, but who, that day, may have celebrated with a juicy steak dinner at a nearby supper club, congratulating himself on a home-run pitch to yet another gullible hick; but who, upon collecting Dad’s Visa card number and signature, processed the order, money-back-guaranteeing that once a month, two leather-bound volumes arrived on our doorstep in glorious, gilt-edged pairs — Pride & Prejudice and Walden, The Scarlet Letter and Great Expectations, Emma and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man — packages my dad always saved so that I could open them and order them on the bookshelf, which had previously housed several editions of the Bible and preacher autobiographies like Jim Bakker’s I Was Wrong; meanwhile, my high school English teacher assigned Agatha Christie and Louis L’Amour in College-Bound English and dreamed aloud about being rid of us, tanning and listening to Jimmy Buffet on some sunny Mexico beach, and spent an entire semester reclined with his feet on the desk, barely sentient while we took turns reading aloud a modernized version of Shakespeare (“Yo, Mercutio! What’s up, bro?”), ignoring my impassioned requests to read the original because, he said, we “just weren’t smart enough”; and so I returned home at the end of the school day filled with fire, a vindictiveness that would not be in vain, because our home now housed a small library of classic literature, built slowly over the course of that year, and I plucked a volume from the shelf in an act of private teenaged rebellion, my reactive state subdued slowly, page by page, through timeless stories; and who, for that reason, will always be my legendary white knight, my literary prince, my mythological hero forever journeying the flat, empty miles of America’s Dairyland with a sedan full of catalogs and credit card receipts to avenge the miseducation of angst-ridden youth:

Thank you.

Anna Vodicka