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

An Interview

by Crane Stompard

I was working as a dishwasher when I had the idea to interview for a teaching position back on the east coast.

(My sister, who reads all my work before publication, tells me that a former high school teacher of mine sent me an email about a teaching position at a private school in Philadelphia. So she’s making me say that it wasn’t my idea.)

But I did have the idea to find another school in the area and interview there as well. I had to buy a plane ticket anyway, I figured.

(My sister says that she actually suggested that I interview at the school in Lancaster in order to put the plane ticket to better use. Further, she says that I have no ideas, and do whatever anyone tells me to. Debatable.)

I was a dishwasher who had recently almost graduated from college. “Recently” because I’d completed all of my coursework just a month prior. “Almost” because I hadn’t finished the required thesis. “Dishwasher” because I had the exact credentials necessary for the job—an almost complete Bachelor of Arts degree.

However, my tutelage under Kingston (see the previous post about his wonderful influence on me here), and my whole-hearted acceptance of his controversial belief in subtext proved a difficult pill for the first school with which I interviewed. The Private School in Philadelphia seemed to be fully embroiled in the battle against the notion of subtext. I had no idea that the very ideas of which I’d been drinking so deeply had aroused such a terrible ire in the educational community.

The board of The Private School focused directly on my relationship to Dr. Kingston’s work. They asked me to give an example of the sort of work I’d do with my students, if accepted to the position of 10th Grade English Teacher.

“I imagine that I’d choose something exciting, something on a larger scale, perhaps Big Trouble in Little China, or maybe Big with Tom Hanks, or even Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. Then I’d show them how subtext operates out of sight in a text, underneath the obvious elements that we all see and acknowledge.”

The board members looked confused. A doddering woman of nearly 40 summers raised a frail hand.

“But those are all movies from the 80s,” she said. “We’re a school with classical leanings.”

“I see,” I said. I nodded and narrowed my eyes. They were a shrewd bunch here at The Private School. “How about Dustin Hoffman’s 70s classic, Little Big Man?”

“How about something by Austen?” a simpering man in a sweat-stained polyester button up from K-Mart said.

I happened to have recently viewed Emma by Jane Austen, and had a full subtextually driven lecture in my proverbial back pocket, with special reference to Gwyneth Paltrow’s faltering accent as proof of the movie’s meta-critique of capitalist systems and society. I unleashed this. I spoke with great passion, and in my reverie may have drifted into some rather provocative (even crude) language, especially in my descriptions of several of the picnic scenes.

When I was finished, they had relatively few questions. They told me that it seemed like I had no actual understanding of literature, that no one actually practiced in Marxist critique called it “Communist”, and that my obsession with Dr. Kingston’s theories was probably not going to stand me in good stead professionally.

“Ahhh, it comes out,” I said. “Academic jealousy.”

They denied it.

“Oh, please. You’re threatened by the idea of subtext, and our scathing communist readings. But Dr. Kingston and I, we’re going to shake things up. We’re going to shake the world up. Like a can of paint. We’re going to put the world into one of those crazy paint shaking machines like you see at Home Depot, and that paint shaking machine represents our theories, and it’s going to shake you until the new colors of our theories work their way through the entire can of paint.”

“So your theories are the paint shaking machine and the new colors?” the simpering man asked, his sweat soaked shirt sticking to his ribs.

“And they’re also the paint that we’re going to paint the world with!” I said. “A deep Communist red.”

“Are you a communist?” the woman of 40 asked. This interview had so strained her that she now appeared to have aged to at least 42.

“I though the world was the paint can,” the simpering man simpered. He dripped a shower of sweat onto the floor, and the noise, similar to the soothing sounds of the rainforest, threatened to lull me into a capitalist dream. I could see a quotidian existence stretch out before me. I could see myself floating through the haze of McDonalds, McMansions, McWalmarts, McStarbucks, and McWendys. But it was daybreak, and I wasn’t about to sleep. Not anymore. I called upon my inner resources and blocked out the sweet liquor of the sound of sweat trickling on tile. I stood up.

“It doesn’t matter what the paint can stands for. This interview has ceased to matter. I’m going to throw off the yoke of oppression of this interview and leave. I’m going. Thank you for your time.”

The room rang with the conviction of my words, the conviction like a dry wind in the room, evaporating the pool of sweat on the floor, and leaving a fine, dusty layer of salt. The simpering man himself may have actually become a pillar of salt, but I will never know because I never looked back. (My sister says that it is extremely unlikely that he actually became a pillar of salt, but I reminded her that God’s ways are not our ways. She probably then said something about me being proof of that, but I didn’t hear it because I’d already turned on my Echoes of Nature: Rainforest CD full blast.)

As I drove back to my parents’ house in their blue Dodge Dynasty, I thought about the subtext of the interview. They’d primarily attacked how little I seemed to have read, and how I seemed focused on movies from the 80s in lieu of proper literature, and how I had absolutely zero knowledge of teaching techniques and classroom control.

But I knew the truth. As a master of subtextual reading, I could see that they were well aware of the threat Dr. Kingston’s radical theories posed to their cushy way of life as well-fed capitalist pigs living on their exorbitant teachers’ salaries. They were scared of subtext, and had every right to be.

An Interview