Scenes from the Library

A toddler wanders through the library, dropping books and babbling. In an instant, Carol, the librarian, appears in front of him.

“Be quiet,” she whispers.

The toddler turns around and walks the other way, still making noise. Instantly, Carol stands in front of him.

“Please, I’m warning you,” she whispers.

The toddler walks past her.

Carol detains the toddler. The police arrive and arrest him. The judge sentences the toddler to three years in prison.

At home, after the sentencing, Carol shakes her head. “I tried,” she thinks. She pours herself another scotch. No rocks, no soda. Both are too noisy.

***

Carol sits at her desk, reading quietly. She’s at peace.

Just then her head snaps up. Through the front doors she sees that a knight in full armor— with a one-man band bass-drum, holding cymbals—is about to walk through the door.

She snatches her walkie-talkie off the desk. She speaks calmly and evenly.

“This is Carol upstairs. I’m gonna need some back up.”

***

A library patron approaches the front desk. Carol stands—scanner at the ready.

The patron says, “How many books are we allowed to check out?”

Carol winces. She whispers, “The limit is twenty-five items. But, for future reference, we prefer the word ‘permitted’. ‘Allowed’ . . . it just sounds too . . . it actually contains one of our banned words.”

“What word is that?” the patron says. The patron looks annoyed.

Carols looks around.

“It contains the word ‘loud,'” she says. “And that doesn’t work for us.”

Carol points to a sign that says, “Quiet, Please.”

The patron blushes, and nods.

***

Carol faces off against Gloria, her fellow librarian, in a book scanning race. Beth, another librarian, judges the race. Beth holds an air horn, ready to call the race. Carol’s movement are assured and deliberate, very smooth. Gloria is working hard and she shows it. The library patrons watch, rapt.

Carol’s pile diminishes rapidly. Beth holds up the air horn and the patrons brace themselves in anticipation.

Carol finishes scanning her last book. Gloria still has a small pile. Beth presses the air horn. There’s no sound. Gloria stops. She huffs and puffs, defeated.

Beth smiles at the patrons.

“It’s empty,” she says. “The click of the button is enough.”

Carol says, “That’s just some library humor.”

The patrons laugh quietly, hands over their mouths.

***

Carol stops shelving books for a moment and looks at the fish tank. “Such beautiful creatures,” she whispers in her mind. “I wonder if I’ll ever know why I love them so much.”

Then she realizes why. “So quiet,” she thinks.

***

Library patrons gather around the front desk. Carol breaks breaks down her 9mm pistol, very quickly and very quietly.

Carol whispers, “And of course, I have a silencer.”

Everyone nods approvingly.

***

Carol is at a doctor’s appointment. The doctor places the stethoscope on her chest. He frowns and moves it. He waits. He frowns and moves it again. Then he stops. He smiles.

“There it is,” he says. “Nice and steady. But very quiet. I can barely hear it.”

“Thank you,” Carol whispers. “I’ve been working on that.”

Scenes from the Library

Books with Teeth? Bat Wings?

My parents moved me into my room. Come on. It wasn’t my room. It was a room owned by books. They sat, straight-faced, on shelves and stared at the opposite wall, careful to show how they took no notice of me. My parents wanted me out of a room full of smaller kids, they said. They moved me into a room full of books, every book bent on murder. Not books about murder. Containing the odd murder, I’m sure. But not thrillers or how-tos on murder. It was the books themselves that wanted to erase me.

When he moved me into the room, my dad said, “Keep an eye on the shelf. It’s pretty stable, but if it falls on you, that’s it. That many books, it’s heavy. You’re done.”

Then I dreamed every night about the books bringing the shelf down on me, hating me in the room. My parents just laid out futon on the floor for me. I didn’t have a real bed. Just a mat, like some paralytic in the New Testament. If the shelf fell, it fell right on me, flat down. I’d be jelly. Ready for the jar and the label. I cowered in the shadow of books.

One day I thought about all this perceived animosity between me and these books. Why did I think the books wanted to erase me, end me? Where did that come from? Why did I imagine them with teeth? Bat wings? Voracious appetites for human souls?

I took a book down from the shelf and read it. The Horse and His Boy. I read it. Harmless. I read another. The Grey King. Fine. The D’Aulaires‘ Book of Norse Myths. I don’t see a problem. Cat’s Cradle. On the Road. A Good Man Is Hard to Find. Miss Lonelyhearts. The Brothers Karamazov. So on.

I looked up one day. Horror crept over me like a wine stain on a page. I was jelly. I was gone. There was nothing left of me. It was all books. The books had gotten inside me. They had erased me.

Books with Teeth? Bat Wings?