Spider-Man: Far From Home Makes the Villain Matter

by Banned Library in


Halfway through Spider-Man: Far From Home I turned to the person next to me and said, "I think this movie just shifted into high gear." In response, her boyfriend leaned over and said, "Stop talking to my girlfriend during the movie." After that I kept my comments about how better the effects and villain get once the whole story is laid out.

     After the effects of Thanos's Snap and Unsnappening in the Avengers films, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) just wants to have a nice European vacation. He's gonna see some sights. Take some pictures. Tell MJ (Zendaya) how he feels about her. Too bad for them, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) need his help to beat some elemental apocalypse creatures with some leftover Tony Stark tech.

     With Spider-Man: Homecoming, Jon Watts proved he could weave a good story around kids and superheroics. Having already proved he can deal with menacing figures going against children in the not-too-talked about Cop Car, he almost cookie cut the menace from Kevin Bacon in that film onto Michael Keaton's Vulture. Here he ziggs a bit, implying the gravitas in Mysterio while undercutting it with a twist that comics readers will see coming but is thrilling anyway. When Mysterio proves himself to not be the gracious mentor but a scheming actor, Gyllenhaal gets to stretch villainous side, not pure evil like he showed in Nightcrawler but the laughing menace Tom Cruise showed in Magnolia. He's a showman with a dark side and that resonates far more than dark and cackling.

     When Mysterio shows his true colors, the movie really comes alive. Until that second act reveal, most of the action and effects seemed lackluster. Possible big budget fatigue, but the giant water monster and the backpack wearing Peter Parker in a carnival mask looked cartoonish. Then Mysterio's effects to disorient and play with Parker's senses turn the effects budget up to eleven, providing sequences that rival Doctor Strange's multiverse and Ant-Man's microverse effects for "man I wish I was in college and on drugs right now" effect. The amazing hallucination effects fall apart once you think about how we are shown dozens of people work to make the other effects possible but handwaving plots is Marvel's true superpower.

     Unfortunately, all Marvel's bad traits are on display here as well. As cool as the hallucination sequence is, it and all the other fight scenes are chopped to hell. No matter how much money the John Wick franchise makes proving good action have to be seen, Marvel still cuts too quick and too often to get a good feel about how particular fights are going. Nowhere is this more clear than the ending battle on the London Bridge with Spider-Man going against a bunch of drones. It's mostly dull with misdirection and confusing more than it is thrilling.

     Walking out of the theater dodging that guy and his girlfriend, I have to say I enjoyed the movie overall. A fun movie containing enough pathos to move us through the end of Phase 4 of this big weird money-making experiment. Mysterio himself also hints at bigger and better things, being an effective villain not in his over schemes in this film, but the secrets he lets out after his defeat. Whereas the Vulture kept Parker's secret identity, Mysterio let that secret fly and the implications are fascinating to think about.

Check it out before it leaves theaters




Tap Tap Tap

by Banned Library in


The Director checked the basement and the books. The animals were in their cages. Nothing has been disturbed. Whatever had happened, it had not come for his basement collection. He had felt something enter the library. He had suspicions Brenda had something to do with whatever it was.

    The back stairs echoed under his feet. He placed them with deliberation. Most people thought if you stomped around you made people aware of your presence. It's true, but stomping around causes first annoyance and then dismissal. You become someone else's problem. Reorganized in the collective unconscious as unthreatening.

    Moving with quick tapping steps caused others to view you as important. They pay attention. They become aware. The Director took the steps one at a time, tap tap tap of his shoes, pushing off a step before the foot fell to increase the sound of his arrival. His normal steps would have pushed off after the shoe landed causing little to no noise at all. If Chris was at his post at the reference desk on the second floor, he would know The Director was on his way.

    But Chris was not ready for anything.

    "Brenda okay?" Chris said.

    The Diretor took his time. "She's headed home. Not feeling well I think."

    "That's good."

    "Is Freddy up here?"

    "Sure. I think he had a cart over around the cook books."

    "Thanks."

    "Everything okay?"

    The Director resisted the urge to hit the weak bastard. Chris had done his part. The first part anyway. If he could, The Director would pity the reference librarian. "Fine. Just making sure the circulation desk has coverage tonight."

    Chris said something as The Director walked away. He found the boy shelving books. A grass stain covered the back of the boy's sweater. Freddy winced as he reached up to place a book on the shelf.

    "Freddy."

    The boy turned. "Hey. Sir."

    "I heard you did okay during the chant."

    The boy grinned. "I think so."

    "Good. I might have something else for you to do."

    "Anything. Whatever you need, sir."

    "Thank you. I need you to talk to Brenda."

    "Is she ready?"

    "Not about the journey. She's not ready. But I want to know more about her. Talk to her about the library and her health."

    "Her health?"

    "Yes. I am worried about her. If she begins to have troubles at her job, you and I will not have time to do our good work," The Director said.

    "Yeah. That makes sense."

    "Then you will talk to her. See what she knows. Find out what happened this afternoon. She had an episode. I'm sure you've heard."

    "Saw her leave. Yes, sir," Freddy said.

    The Director turned to go but paused. "And Freddy?"

    "Yes, sir?"

    "Because she left, I need you to be on the circ desk. Kiera leaves at six, so finish up that cart and work it until close."

    "Yes, sir," Freddy said.

    "Good. That's my boy." The Director continued on past Chris at the reference desk. A clear thought danced in The Director's mind about Chris overhearing the conversation. The Director dismissed the thought as he dismissed the man. Neither mattered.

To Be Continued…




A Brightness in the Void

by Banned Library in


A flash. A brightness in the void. All around the library came the sound of tinnitus. A constant whine as if an explosion had rocked the building. As if the glass should fall in, the plaster should crack on the walls, as if the dust should be shaken from the top of the shelves to dance in the afternoon sun.

    I was aware of myself again. I had a sense of me. A brief moment in time as the library adjusted, but building around me solidified. I was awoken by a sound no one else seemed to have heard.

    Save one.

    Brenda screamed. She had been at the circulation desk. Kiera had been talking to a parent about readers for her child to prepare for kindergarten. Chris had been at the reference desk upstairs helping an old man with his password. The Director had been in his office, reviewing the budget for the next month. All of them made their way to the reference desk as Brenda let out one giant scream followed by short breaths.

    The Director reached her first. He came to Brenda and put a hand on her shoulder. "Are you okay?" he said.

    Brenda glanced at his hand. He removed it. She took a step back as Kiera walked from children's.

    "What happened?" Kiera said.

    "Something," The Director said.

    "Nothing," Brenda said. She wrung her hands and swallowed bile. "I'm okay."

    Chris walked down the steps. The patron he had been helping followed. Chris surveyed the scene. The Director nodded to him. Chris nodded back and turned around. "Let's go work on that password some more, Mr. Clark."

    "Are you okay?" The Director said to Brenda.

    "Just a start. My imagination," Brenda said.

    I felt her lie. I felt everything in the library affected by the flash. It centered around Brenda. A nuclear fallout glow around her radiating in a gentle wave. Inside her, where she grasped her shirt, was a hole that held flat dark.

    I checked The Director and Kiera. The Director maintained the steady hum of life I felt from everyone in the library. A steady thump of a heartbeat. The in and out wheeze of breath. Gurgling and sloshing and dividing and using energy life. In The Director it felt off, though. As if a single flute player in an orchestra had fallen off the beat just enough for a well trained ear to hear. I expected The Director's body, my body, to feel wrong, either by his nature or by my own assumptions. On his hand where he had touched Brenda's shoulder was a bit of the glow. A small shine on the palmed fingers he rubbed against his pant leg. An unconscious movement.

    "If you're sure," Kiera said. She glanced at The Director for confirmation.

    The Director said, "When Freddy arrives, why don't you go home for the day?"

    "I could do that," Brenda said.

    "Only if you feel like it."

    "That might be okay." Brenda's hand circled her chest around that blank spot. It was smaller now, filling in little by little. Right after the flash it had been the size of a baseball. Now it was golf ball sized. The glow was fading as well, the brightness of it a dull shine across the library. I heard Brenda thinking, "It's gone." Clear words, not intention or base emotion besides a deep sadness from her. Whatever had happened, it had started with something in Brenda she knew about.

    "What's gone?" I said and startled myself with my own words. My incorporeal form had become my default. I scanned the building and saw no reactions to my words.

    Then something said, "Me."

To Be Continued…




Lots of Packing

by Banned Library in


The Director opened the old crate. He removed the straw. Too much, maybe, but the monks were thorough. He pulled out the three books and lay them side by side on the table.

    The covers absorbed the fluorescent light. The leather felt warm. The Director could imagine the animal that provided the leather screaming as the hide had been removed. He wondered if it had a name. Did the monks give names to the creatures they cared for? Or did they take them from their mothers and age them until the time for binding came?

    An idle thought.

    Each book had a golden wax seal. One for the snake. One for the rabbit. One blank, the surface almost reflective.

    Brenda walked into the back room of the library. She held a stack of books in her arms. The Director wheeled a cart over to her. He saw her flinch away. No matter. He would not touch her until he had to. "Here. Let me help," he said. He took half the books from her. He arranged them on the cart, nonfiction on one side and fiction on the other.

    "Thanks," Brenda said. "New books?"

    "Yes. Some reference books," The Director said.

    "Want me to catalog them?"

    "No. But thank you. I'll take care of them myself."

    "Lots of packing. Kiera would say they overdid it. The environment, you know."

   "I assume so. But you can never be too careful. They are handmade volumes."

   "Genealogy?"

    The Director flinched at the word. "What?"

    "Are they for genealogy?"

    "No. Just reference."

    Brenda gazed at him, those big doe eyes studying. The Director thought he saw something else there. Not her watching, but listening. What was the dumpy circulation librarian listening to? What went on in her head besides echoes? Did she scream in there? The lack of thought must be deafening. He could stop all that. Later. Maybe he would make his own books.

    He said, "How is it out there?"

    "Fine. Kids are out of school. Freddy's running late, but I have it," she said.

    "Okay. We want to have a good day, right?" Keep her off balance and away from the books. He did not like the way she watched them, listening.

    "I have it," she said.

    "Good. Thank you, Brenda. You do such a good job." Sometimes all people needed to be pacified was to be told they were doing a good job.

    She smiled a tight little smile, said thanks, and went back through the door. The Director watched her go. He gathered the three new editions to the library. Walking down the back stairs, he used his key to enter the library basement. He flicked the switch on the wall and the lights came on with a slight hum.

    In one corner, a small cage glowed. The computer servers sat humming in there. Wires ran from the cage and up into the ceiling and walls. A long electrical box was fixed to the wall next to the cage. Along the walls of the large room, half the size of the library, lived the books in storage. Extra copies of best sellers, valuable books of local authors, and others forgotten and covered in dust.

    The Director passed the equipment and the bags of salt and sand bags. He walked the three new books to the back corner. There he lay them on the floor at each point of a large triangle painted in red. The paint glowed under the stark fluorescent lights.

    Three cages sat along the back wall. In one lay a snake, curled and watching. In another was a rabbit, huddled far away from the snake in a corner. He fed them and cleaned their cages. Once the third cage was occupied and the time was right, he could begin. He had not named these animals. Once he began, names would not matter. Hell would fall.

To Be Continued…




Imagine a Dragon

by Banned Library in


One of the members told Freddy he had done well. That made all the difference. The meeting had been a success, another round of chanting. Freddy had lead them, the words of the old tongue falling from his mouth in nervous clumps. When others said the words, a rhythm was created, a musical dance that caused the group to sway. Some said the words like a speech, loud and clear, causing the group to stand and cheer and become a unit of like-minded beasts intent on a single goal. Others whispered the words, the group leaning in to hear and drifted like a child hearing a bedtime story. When Freddy finished, everyone had given a light clap.

    Still, he had done a good job. He had been told so.

    Freddy walked to the library. His afternoon shift started soon. The day became cloudy as he walked. One long white cloud with a bulbous end stretched across the sky below the gray overcast. Freddy imagined a dragon following him. He thought also of going home for his rain jacket, but he did not smell rain in the air. At most, he could make it home a little wet.

    He passed the old C Store on his way. A gas station built a dozen years ago by the Porter family. The same gas station his dad had been seen visiting the night he left. Freddy had never wondered if there was an A or B Store. He did not like to think about the place.

    "Hey, Fred," Jake Porter said.

    "Hey," Freddy said and kept walking.

    "Stop for a bit," the boy said. He was eighteen and had graduated a year ahead of Freddy, but he always seemed younger. Jake hung around the C Store even when he did not have to work a shift.

    Jake said, "Ain't seen you around much."

    "Been busy. Working," Freddy said. He slowed.

    "That's cool. Listen, I got something you might like. Better than that old stuff."

    "I ain't doing that no more."

    "It's the shit. Not like that old stuff. You'll never believe where I got it."

    Freddy did not say.

    "Wanna guess?"

    "I'm late for work."

    "Then you know. Heh. I bet you do. Why you ain't been buying from me."

    "I ain't doing that no more."

    "Yeah. Okay, baby. I know you."

    "Don't call me that," Freddy said. All the good will he had from the meeting leached from him. He stopped. Reminders did that to you. Put you back in old places with old memories and stop you cold. All it took was a word to break your resolve and reclaim a part of your heart.

    "Okay, baby. Don't get mad. I'm just offering you some primo-"

    Freddy hit Jake with a wild punch. Right in the chest. It staggered the other boy with a small smack and a deep echo. Freddy's knuckles throbbed.

    "You dick." Jake threw a punch of his own. His landed in Freddy's stomach, up and under his ribs. The breath wheezed out and up and acid filled his mouth. Freddy had to lean forward, right into a punch to the jaw.

    "You fucking dick," Jake said. Freddy fell to his knees. He felt a kick in his back and fell forward. His face landed in the grass but his hands scraped on the sidewalk. Another kick and he stopped moving. A glob of spit landed on his face.

    "Just wanted to share," Jake said.

    The grass felt cool under his face. The concrete of the sidewalk was cooling as the clouds filled the sky. Freddy rolled onto his back. The cloud dragon had broken up. Freddy lay there waiting to get his breath back.

To Be Continued…




Sticks and Graveyard Dirt

by Banned Library in


The box buzzed and the gate opened slow and steady. Kiera drove the library van forward. The familiar drive rocks crunched under the tires. In her mind she knew she could turn around at any time. She was not the little girl that had first come to the King House twenty years before, but Kiera always came back.

    The compound stood empty once again. Kiera parked the van by the Big House and got out. Around the back of the van she picked out the supplies she needed. Glitter, glue, burlap squares, and twine. Sticks gathered from the grounds of the branch library. Dirt from the library graveyard. Everything needed for her craft project.

    The door opened slow. Ms. Davis's eye showed in the crack. "Kiera," the elderly woman said. Long ago a much younger Ms. Davis had also said her name. Ms. Davis did not smile then either.

    "Ms. Davis. I'm here for the craft time."

    "Are you alone?"

    "You should have let me see the children."

    The door opened wide. "You know how they are with strangers."

    "He was my boss."

    "Still. Strangers upset the little ones." Ms. Davis slumped now. Once a towering figure, her back arched and bent. A small cane held her up, gripped by one veiny hand. The black dress fell straight, giving away no curves or semblance of the body underneath. Ms. Davis had bent but not broken. Not yet.

    "Set up on the tables. I will send them out," Ms. Davis said and stepped back. The door closed with a thump.

    The day had a gentle wind that blew the tall trees into a gentle sway. The picnic tables, three of them, sat in the sun. Kiera set supplies out for eighteen children. Six to a table. She expected less. Kiera kept busy, hearing the doors of the small buildings around the Big House open and close. Behind her, small feet shuffled through dead leaves.

    "Miss Kiera?"

    Kiera finished placing the last of the supplies and faced the children. Six of them all dressed in the King House uniform of white t-shirts and denim plants. They were set apart by their jackets, complexions, and hair. The girl who had spoken stood front and center. Her wild and curly hair blew in the wind, hiding and accenting her face and big brown eyes.

    "Hi, Maisey. Want to make something fun?" Kiera said.

    The children surged forward. They wrapped around her. Keira said hello to each of them, touching the tops of their heads and laughing as they swarmed around her. She asked them questions. How was the cold? Is the food better? What's your favorite book now? All the questions children talk about with friends. Kiera took each child in turn, all of them gathered around one table. No new children at least, but at least one missing.

    "What's all this?" Maisy said.

    "I thought we could make something special. Where's Patrick?" Kiera said.

    Maisy shrugged. "He went away."

    Kiera let that go. Kids came and went here in all sorts of ways. She would stop that. She explained to the children what they would be making. She held up an example, but said theirs did not have to look exactly like that as long as it stuck to the basic shapes. For the next hour Kiera taught the children how to tie the sticks with the twine. How to bind the graveyard dirt with a little hair or spit and wrap it up in burlap.She went over how to hoop and lash the twine into shapes to hold the whole thing together. Little fingers worked, and Kiera encouraged them. They smiled a few times.

    Far later, looking back at this hour, she remembered the ones who smiled.

    At the end of the hour a sharp bell rang out. All the backs at the table went straight, even Kiera. She told them to go on. She could finish. They had done enough. Then she watched them walk back to the small buildings surrounding the Big House. Kiera resisted the urge to tell them to run, get in the van. She resisted yelling to them not to worry. It would be over soon.

    The hard work was done for them. She gathered each sculpture with their small bags. Bound hoops and string and sticks. With care she packed them away and got in the library van and left King House. With luck and a lot of hope, she would only come back to face Ms. Davis once more.

To Be Continued…




A Silver Sheen

by Banned Library in


Chris sat at the reference desk and read the synopsis of his favorite show. The Yellow Tiger had gone up against some pretty bad dudes last night. Chris did not watch the show. He had gone right to sleep.

    In his mind, he thought over Amy's proposal. More money for the library. New computers for the lab or some of those reference books The Director wanted. The Friends of the Library might go along with his suggests. The Director had some ideas, he said. No, not quite. The Director had said, I'll tell you, my boy, I have big ideas for the reference collection.

    When the Director said that… Only one person had ever called Chris "my boy," and it was not the Director. The Director. When had Chris started thinking of Elliot Harker as the Director? An okay librarian, got the job because his mom was librarian back in the day, that's what people said. The last library director had been garbage, though, and at least the Director listened to you even if he did not always…

    There it was again. The Director.

    Chris shook his head. He wiped his hands on his face. Did all the motions of what people did in movies when they were thinking too hard. The Yellow Tiger could wait. HE lcosed the browser and stood up. Stretched. Noon at the library and the sleepy town had not yet woken up to come do research. The second floor was empty. Chris did a slow spin, bouncing his eyes over the genealogy room where he had killed his father. Out of mind, the past is dead. He took a walk. Around the stacks, hands in pockets. Back straight. Nobody on the second floor to help. He took the stairs down, the front stairs to the circulation and children's area. To the computer lab. He had not taken the back stairs, the emergency stairs that also lead to the work room since… Best not think about it.

    Brenda stood at the window. A few people flipped through magazines. All dozen computers were full, people clicking and hunting and pecking. A mother with a stroller sat at the small table in children's. Kiera was gone, either to the park or on outreach. Chris stood by Brenda at the window and looked out at the bright Mississippi day, already seventy degrees despite the cold wind blowing leaves.

    Brenda said, "I saw Amy yesterday. What did y'all talk about?"

    "Funding. Her company wants to donate to the library. To the Friends," Chris said.

    "That all?"

    "Yeah."

    "She talked to Elliot about that at lunch a while back. The Director has been dealing with it some, I hear."

    "He mentioned reference books."

    "Would they get used?"

    Chris said, "Depends. Always need more updated tax and legal stuff. Medical. Some tech books."

    "That's what he wants?"

    "We didn't talk about it much."

    Brenda faced him. Chris found her eyes haunted with dark circles.The lines on her face stood out and her hair, always a tangle of frizzy brown, seemed more like a nest. She said, "I might have you order me something."

    "What kind of something?"

    "Dragons."

    His mind slipped into reference mode. Open questions, let her talk. "What kind of dragons?"

    "Like, how you let one out." Brenda was biting her lip, the skin turning white.

    "What do you need it for?"

    "Let out a dragon in me."

    "We speaking in metaphors?"

    Brenda went back to the sunny day with no answer.

    "Are you okay?" he said.

    "I just think something bad's coming. And there's something in me that can help."

    "A dragon." When she did not answer, he said, "Maybe I can look up someone to talk to. A professional. The state insurance is-"

    She spun and with force stepped close. Her normal brown eyes took on a silver sheen. Wild and fierce. A trick of the sun, Chris thought.

    "I don't need help. This whole world needs help and in me I can give it. Brenda broke away, stamping back to the circulation desk. Chris and the magazine readers and the mother in children's watched her go.

    The computer lab people kept on clicking.

To Be Continued…




Here to Help

by Banned Library in


"I need books on nuclear power," the lady said. She wore a garbage bag around her waist like a skirt over jeans. On her head was a grocery bag, a paper one cut out like a medieval helmet with the face exposed. The old Winn-Dixie logo with the red check mark was a faded pink. Brenda had not seen that logo in years.

   Brenda said, "I can do a little search for you. See what we have. If you need more research, you might want to talk to our reference librarian upstairs."

    "Can't do stairs. They fail too much," the woman said.

    "We have an elevator."

    The woman made a face and waved her hand. "Too many bugs in those. Get in the gears."

    "Let's do that search." Brenda typed 'nuclear power' into the library's website and got thirty-seven hits. She spun the screen to face the woman.

    The lady took a step back, her garbage bag skirt rustling. She turned the Winn-Dixie Helmet around. On the back, a window had been cut out and covered with cellophane. Words above the woman's eyes read "Be Gone Electrons."

    Brenda swallowed. "We've got a few books on nuclear energy. Science books. Some in the political section talk about law and such. What kind of information do you need?"

    "Where are they?" the woman said, her voice vibrating the cellophane of her Winn-Dixie helmet. Brenda named her Dixie.

    "Upstairs."

    "Bugs."

    "I can get them for you."

   Dixie leaned in close and said, "Then you would have the bugs."

    "I can take the stairs."

    "Can't risk it."

    "There's some in the children's section."

    "Show me."

    Brenda walked Dixie over to the juvenile nonfiction. The patron turned her bag around to show the helmet style again as she looked over the books. She picked one titled "Ernie and the Reactor" about a prairie dog learning about how nuclear energy works to power cities. By the end, Ernie the prairie dog seemed satisfied.

    "He's not dying," Dixie said.

    "Children's books tend not to," Brenda said. She kept a few steps away, both so she could see the circulation desk and to stay away from the lady. She saw Amy come down the stairs and waved. Amy stopped for a second, gave a small shake of her hand, and hurried out. Dixie said that book would do.

    "Okay," Brenda said. She checked Dixie out, her real name Cecilia Banks. Ms. Banks had a clean record, no overdues or fines, and kept a distance from the desk as Brenda scanned the book.

    "I'll return it clean," Ms. Banks said and left.

    "What a nut," the silver dragon in Brenda's heart said, but Brenda scolded it not to judge the more addled mortals around them.

    She was here to help.




Full Discretion

by Banned Library in


Chris watched the young man, seeing himself a long time ago. He had wandered in a library in south California, a little building in  seaside community and applied for a job. The woman took a look at him and smiled. At the time he had just left his father's church. He still wore his hair long, and it was a warm chestnut without the pepper of gray. "Do you know much about libraries?" the kind woman had said. He had told her he knew some, enough he thought he could help out. Her name had been Yvonne. She had saved him. Chris stood and walked to the stacks. "Can I help?" he said.

    Freddy startled, dropping the books in his hand.Up close, the young man had the air of prey. Jumpy, wild, open to running. His eyes were red and rimmed dark, his hands with a small tremor.

    "You okay?" Chris said, bending to retrieve the books.

    Freddy bent as well, gathering the books. "I'm fine." His face settled back to talking mode. A small pretend smile. "Not sleeping much. Maybe getting a cold."

    Chris did not think so but didn't say. Everyone was entitled to secrets. "That's rough. I think I've got some cough drops or something in my desk."

    "No, no. I'm okay. Fine. Just tired. I'll get something after work."

    "If you need to go home, we can handle. I'm not that bad at shelving," Chris said. He tried a smile.

    The page nodded and gave a soft thanks. He pushed up the sleeves of his sweater. Chris saw the tattoo on the boy's arm and dropped the books he held. They both went for the floor again.

    "Freddy, where did you get that?"

    "They were just returns."

    "No, not the books." Chris grabbed Freddy's arm and said, "Not the books, you fucking moron. The tatoo." His vision tunneled, and he felt sick. As sick as Freddy looked. From the corner of his eye, he saw a patron at the reference desk.

    "Don't you go anywhere," he said and let the boy go.

    Chris walked to the desk. He has seen the woman before, seen her with Brenda and the Director. Tall blonde, good figure with good clothes. Money came off her in an aura. She wore it with the same comfort others may where a favorite team jersey. He had seen the same look on many women in that small California library.

    "You're Chris, right? The reference librarian?" she said.

    "Yeah. Can I help you?" Chris's voice shook. He forced himself to concentrate on the woman and calm down. Put up the public service front.

    The woman gave no indication she was affected. "I'm Amy Berry." She held out a hand.

    "Brenda's sister," Chris said and gave her hand a small shake.

    "Yes. But I'm here with my company. The Director said I might talk to you about some opportunities?"

    "What kind?"

    "We're looking into making donations. Here. Support local communities. I thought, well, librarians already do that. As you said, my sister does. So why not support them?"

    "That's nice. What kind of donations? I'm sure the Director told you about our vendors. Most donations go through the Friends."

    "Yes. I've been told you're the liaison to the Friends of the Library. I was wondering more about them."

    "Not a lot to tell. They do a few book sales a year, with the normal sale going on downstairs. Older items, discards, and book donations. Most of the money goes to fund summer reading programs and after school activities. Snacks. Kiera mostly handles those transactions. I sit in on their quarterly meetings as a representative of the library." Chris flashed to other meetings, darker meetings, with members wearing tattoos and chanting in unfamiliar tongues. He thought about Freddy again, wondering what the boy had gotten himself into.

    Amy smiled. Chris had seen that tight smile. It said things were quaint, slow moving. Money moves faster where she's from.

    She said, "Do they take donations?"

    "They do. Plus membership fees that get you access to the meetings and the annual dinner. Some coupons around town. But they get full discretion on how that money is spent. In the charter. We can suggest things, but as an independent nonprofit they can do with it as they wish. Far as I know, whatever money they get can be used for anything they deem worthy of benefiting the library. Can't be earmarked."

    Amy frowned. "I see."

    "But they usually take our advice."

    "And when do they meet next?"

    Chris circled the reference desk. On it lay a monthly calendar, spread out wide. He put a finger on the last week of the month. "End of March. Last Saturday."

    "Who can attend the meetings again?"

    "Any member. Lunch is served."

    The woman smiled and reached into a pocket, pulling out a small folding wallet. "How much does a membership cost?"

To Be Continued…




Insanity All Around

by Banned Library in


I was aware of everything that happened in the library if I did not concentrate. It was damn eerie. For most of the day I had followed myself, but as my body went about doing average library chores my mind had wandered.

    I had seen Brenda remember her last time in the woods. Her belief of the dragon inside her. She missed most of all the relationship with her sister. Now that Amy was back in town, closer than ever, that gap between them was wider than before.

    I had seen Kiera manipulating others. Turning down Freddy, dealing pills to the mom in the park. Kiera had designs, but they were not on the surface, not of her thoughts or her actions. I wanted to watch her more, but my mind could not hold on to anything.

    I had seen Freddy talking to the dark haired man in the black suit. I had seen Freddy's tattoo, the snake and the rabbit, same as Chris. I was mystified as Freddy at the words of the man in the suit, confused about the choice. I know about the dragon in Brenda's mind, but no one else but she did.

    When I came back to myself, my spiritual self in one place, I freaked the fuck out.

    To be spread so thin, to see and hear in the thoughts and memories of the staff, all of it was too much. I tried to rage. My phantom limbs, even invisible to myself, passed through books and computers as I roared. The anger felt hollow as well, empty without a voice or body to have the experience. Nothing about me felt real.

    Insanity followed.

    I'm sure of it. If all you are is your thoughts, then they feed back. They can tell too much about yourself. The realization, the hard fact that the world goes on without crashed on me. With a body, with a way to interact with the world, it's a simple idea to grasp. Babies learn non permanence. If something leaves, it still exists. A simple, logical skill humans develop to plan and survive.

    But if you leave, if you cannot be perceived, you doubt your own existence. Without the proper motivators, a proper island to land on, the mind goes mad.

    The more mad I went, the more I felt the loss of myself. Like missing someone, the less I could reach out, the more impact was felt. I was alone, truly alone for the first time ever, surrounded by people who could not or would not see me.

    The crashing reality of my own nonexistence filled me over and over. I lost all round and floated through the library faster and faster. From the front door past Brenda to children's where Kiera lead a story time and back to the stairs and up and Chris helping a man print his resume and to the stacks where Freddy put away book after book and back down to the desk where Brenda said "Come again" not to me and back to my office, the Director's office, where my body sat on the phone with a vendor ordering paper, paper, paper, how could my body do something so normal as order paper when I was lost in the library, lost and alone.

    I went around and around the library. Over and over until I settled myself and felt the whole place again. I waited and begged for sleep, for reprieve. To wake in a dream. To be rid of it all.

    I gave up and found a corner and stood staring at the blackness of the wood floor meeting the molding. The molding met the sheetrock that spread up and up to the ceiling in all directions. I followed all the directions at once, spreading myself again through the library until I was all over the library.

    Then I watched.

To Be Continued…




Choices Coming

by Banned Library in


Freddy rubbed at the tattoo and checked his phone. Late in the afternoon, no messages. The meeting was tonight. He could hold out until then. He hated Kiera for not selling to him and loved her for the same reason.

    Maybe he just wanted to fuck her.

    "I don't know how you can wear that sweater. It's sweltering in here."

    Freddy looked around and saw no one. He was standing in the fiction section near the back. He had pushed his cart of books, M to S, and had been shelving them for an hour or so without paying attention. A few people had come by, but nobody needed anything. Freddy kept his head down. Nobody asked him much if he could help it.

    "Cat got your tongue?" The voice was deep and rolled like thunder over cold mountains. Slow and will ill intent.

    To his right maybe? Freddy slouched a little and got his eyes in line with the shelves. Over the tops of the books he could see nobody stretching three rows or so to the far wall. He turned left and found eyes staring right in his.

    They were blue. Crystal blue surrounded by dark black hair. Freddy had gone on a trip to Key West with his mom's church group one year. They had driven eighteen hours in a hot van on the youth pastor's crusade to save the gays. On the way, they had passed Pensacola and Panama City and Tampa and signs for Walt Disney World, places a lot closer Freddy felt could use Jesus just as much as the gays.

    And they were not eighteen hours away.

    They had spent two days walking the beaches of the small island handing out tracts and spreading the good word. Mostly they had been laughed at, sometimes scoffed at. One man yelled at them to mind their own damn business.

    One morning, Freddy had woken early and walked from the economy motel down to the beach. The sun was rising, a bright pretty day coming. Freddy spent an hour staring at the Carribean before him, thinking he could see Cuba just ninety miles away. The water glittered and stretched as far as he had ever seen. A secret lost place shining warm and lonely. The blue of the water, the depth of it existing made him feel small and cold even as the sand warmed between his toes.

    Looking into the man's eyes through the stack of books had the same effect.

    "Can I help you, sir?" Freddy said.

    They eyes kept on him, watching. They squinted as the man smiled. A rumble came through the shelving. Freddy realized the man was laughing at him.

    "No, son. I'm doing quite well," the man said.

    "Okay, well, let us know if you need anything," Freddy said. He turned away, back to the cart of books. For the first time since he had begun working at the library, he could not think of what to do with them. He rubbed absently at his tattoo.

    "Maybe I can do something for you," the voice said again, this time right in front of Freddy on the other side of the book cart. The man stood like a monument to disheveled fashion. He wore a dark suit, double breasted and open to a vest and tie loose showing an open white collar. An unruly dark mane of hair wrapped his head, so dark the skin and his blue eyes popped. Those eyes in the nest of black hair popped like robin's eggs in a dark bush. Freddy lost his thoughts again.

    "What?" he said.

    The man picked a book from the cart. A book of poetry. "Maybe I can help you. Some advice."

    "I don't think so," Freddy said.

    The rumble started again and the beard moved as the man shifted his face to a smile.

    "Well, Fred. That's up to you. Choices coming, big ones. One man in this place, he already became stuck. What's your thoughts on the matter?"

    "I don't follow you."

    The man said, "Give me time. You have a choice coming. One way or another, nothing so crude as a path. There will be someone who asks you a question about dragons and you can say no."

    "Dragons?"

    "A woman downstairs needs help. You can choose to help her or not. Everyone needs help, right? But how you help shows what kind of man you are."

    Freddy tried to look away. "I can help you find a book or something, but if you have a reference question Mr. Chris might be better."

    "Oh, he made his choice. While ago. Now it's your turn. I'll be seeing you, Fred," the man said and placed the book of poetry back on the cart. The name Milton peaked out in gold lettering.

    "People call me Freddy," he said as the man turned to go. Those eyes looked back and winked. The eye closing felt like an eclipse. A secret between them, but Freddy had no idea what that could be.

    "Be seeing you," the man with the black hair and suit said and turned and left.

    Freddy walked after him. "Sir," he said, watching the large shape walk away. He saw the man was barefoot. Thinking of nothing else, he said, "Sir, I'm sorry, you have to wear shoes in the library."

    Freddy followed the man but kept his distance. The guy was just so big, but his bare feet made no sound. Freddy reached the stacks the man had turned down and found no one.

    The man had gone. Freddy felt hot suddenly, his seater confining. His tattoo burned, and he wanted the pills now more than ever.

To Be Continued…




One Rule: No Kids

by Banned Library in


Kiera had one rule: no kids. The last time she had sold pot or pills to someone under eighteen she had been seventeen. She had never been that desperate or greedy. She even made Freddy wait until he was of age, but once he was a customer she liked his business.

    Then Freddy came with his secret club talk. She had been amused. Then, knowing what she knew, she got a little worried.

    The children's librarian crossed the park and saw the woman pushing the stroller around the track that looped a lazy snake around the playground and the picnic areas and back again. Kiera slowed and let the woman catch up.

    "Hey, Mary," Kiera said.

    The woman showed teeth in a flashy grin. Rounder around the chin, another baby on the way maybe. "Kiera, I love those boots. Have I told you? Bold."

    "Thank you."

    "And that dress. Just a keeper."

    "Kind of you. Got it at Fridays."

    The mother clucked her tongue. "I can never make it there. Only open one day a week. Who can remember?"

    "Some things are worth remembering," Kiera said, thinking that anyone with a calendar could make do.

    "Listen. I thought I might be a little low this month."

    "You thought?"

    "I am."

    "Then you get low." Kiera held her smile, picture perfect for walking on a brisk day.

    "But I need… He just gets so agitated. With the new job. And he's missing the money."

    "Tell him you bought something at Fridays."

    "He'll want to see what I got."

    Kiera maintained an easy pace, her boots clopping on the soft asphalt of the track. She liked that sound. "Then buy something cheap that looks expensive."

    "What if he asks for a receipt?"

    Mary whined more, Kiera giving non committal answers. She would listen all day and talk about story times, books for growing readers, anything for the library. For wives drugging their husbands into submission she had little patience.

    Kiera said, "Then break up. I'm not a doctor and this is not a pharmacy. I don't bring lollipops for the kids."

    "That's not fair," the young mother said.

    "Lot of that going around," Kiera said. "Do I need to go back to work?"

    "I want it."

    "How much?"

    "About half."

    "Then you get about half."

    "He gets so sad, though. He's been playing with Ginger. Not just pushing her stroller with his foot. Getting down and holding her. And he holds… Can't I just make it up next time?"

    Kiera had a hand in her pocket counting out the pills in the little plastic bag. She said, "Not how it works."

    Mary slowed. Kiera slowed to match. The wheels of the stoller squeaked a little. A squirrel ran in front of them and from inside the stroller came a cry and a pudgy arm reached out.

    "Okay, I guess. Okay," Mary said.

    Kiera began putting the pills back into the small bag. A small envelope appeared and disappeared. The small bag of pills went the other way.

    "If this is short, this is the end," Kiera said.

    Mary said nothing.

    The two walked in silence around the track, around the picnic tables and the playground. The small arm reached out again and again. They talked some more, chit chat about the weather and the town and the summer reading program. Ginger would be old enough in a few years, but she could get her thousand books before kindergarten badge this year. Maybe her father could read to her, Kiera said. Mary teared up.

    Kiera broke off where they met. She said, "See you at story time" and did not wait for a reply.

    She had an idea about what to do with Freddy. If he had a secret club, she knew a few people as well. If the boy kept on, she would tell the bossman. He had changed so much since their visit to the branch library. He could make all her problems go away now.

To Be Continued…




Sharp as Icicles

by Banned Library in


The front line of the library, the staff of the circulation desk are well-mannered and personable. They greet patrons. Pound for pound, they see more people than the rest of the library combined. Brenda, the circulation librarian, would have said it was a privilege to serve her hometown like this, but she also believed she was a silver dragon.

    When Brenda was six, she saw snow for the first time. In the deep south, snow falls are rare. Snow that sticks and piles even rarer. Over thirty years before, the snow fell so thick Brenda could not see her sister Amy as Brenda screamed for help in the dark woods.

    The two of them had been walking the area around their house. They often did, even on cold wet days that required thick jackets and rain boots. The two Berry girls wandered through the underbrush, cutting their way with the ease of youth and experience. They would tell their mother when they got home they had been exploring, but more often than not they had walked over familiar land, has rested in the same spots, had played around the same thick pine trees. The subtropical climate caused the bushes and vines to grow and twist and make the woods seem as if each time was the first.

    The snow came and it was a first. The first time coated in cold. The snow fell with thick pats on Brenda's already broad shoulders. She watched Amy in front of her disappear behind the winter veil. The blond hair winked out like a light flipped to off. Just like that she lost her way.

    The snow lasted a day. They found Brenda just off a timber trail. She had burrowed down during the night into the soft pine needles and huddled there. The man who found her, the pharmacist named Shepherd who let her and her sister decorate the Christmas tree, he said, "She was poking out of the snow like a little bird." Her mother cried and held her close.

    Amy cried, too. Brenda laughed and told them about the moon.

    After the snow fell a foot deep, she screamed for her sister. She knew she was lost. She had cried. Then the moon came.

    "It said, 'don't worry, little bit,' and its voice was calm and deep, not like mom or Mr. Shepherd but kind just like them. It said to dig down in the snow and find the pine needles and hunker in. So I did," little Brenda had told everyone. "Then it told me I was a dragon born of the dark of the moon and that it loved me and wanted me to be safe and help people."

    To anyone that would listen, Brenda told her story. Her momma would say, "What did the moon say, baby?" and Brenda would tell it just the same each time. After a while, people stopped asking. They started talking about hospitals and concerns for Brenda's mind. Teachers had her tested. Children teased. Amy began to ignore her sister and make a new path. Brenda learned not to talk to anyone about the moon, about what she was. Anyone but momma.

    But she helped people. She dreamed of opening her wings and breathing fire. The fire would not burn but heal, cold and sharp as icicles. She dreamed of flying back to the moon after she helped everyone she could.

    All her dreams and beliefs came true when she found a book in the library that told her story. The Director ordered it and a bunch more from new sources. He had changed, and she liked the change.

To Be Continued…




Train of Thought

by Banned Library in


Reference work has three kinds of questions. Directional are the most basic. Where's the bathroom? Where are the biographies? When's your cute friend that did the favor for me last time? Next are ready reference questions, basic inquires taking less than two minutes. Do you have the book "Literary Fallacies, Volume 2?" How do you spell "creepy pasta?" Can I get the number of your cute friend who helped me last time? Research questions take the most time, often preceded by a reference interview to narrow down the scope of information the patron wants. What kind of dog is best for urban sheep herding? Where is the Ark of the Covenant buried? What are the laws for stalking cute friends at the library at the local, state, and federal level?

    I walked up to the second floor to find Chris in the middle of a reference interview. Well, my body did. I floated behind it, screaming my spiritual head off.

    Chris asked a question, his dozenth of the reference interview by the sound, saying, "Do you need books on how trains work or how to build model trains?"

    The patron's white hair stuck up all over as stood staring at Chris as if he had just been asked which way his pants were facing. My body stood by and waited, watching the interaction. I held my ground in front of it, gibbering at it. I could not be seen, heard, or felt, even by myself. Had I been in my right mind and not spiralling out of control at the sight of my own face staring through me, I may have realized that I was all thought. All composed of the pure ideas and trains of thought that existed within my mind before I left my body. Minus the heavy emotions brought on by chemicals and hormones. Minus the spikes of adrenaline or pain. All those experiences life taught me were at my disposal, except the ability to accept my uncorporeal reality. Madness is not accepting the impossible, and I was right on the edge of the cliffs of insanity.I was the most myself I had ever been and it left me a gibbering idiot.

    "I just wanna build a train," the man said. He put a fist on the desk with a dry thump.

    "A real train? Steam or electric?" Chris tried.

    "Where's that card thing?"

    "The catalog is on the computer, sir."

    "Bah. Just show me trains."

    Chris click clacked a few keys and spun the monitor around. A listing of books was displayed on the library website. All of them had bright covers depicting locomotives with  call number and status, either "check out" or "available."

    The man jabbed at the screen. "That one."

    "Okay," Chris said. He walked around the desk and guided the man toward the stacks.

    My body walked through me. In my lunacy, I noticed he did not shiver like most people who walked through me. As my only effect on the natural world, I had hoped that would reach to my own corporeal vessel and whomever was piloting it. At least I could give the bastard a cold.

    My double stood waiting for Chris. When Chris came back, his salt and pepper head hung low seeing me standing behind the desk. He stood where the train man had.

    Chris said, "I never did thank you for last week. My dad was… well, he was a lot…"

    My double raised a hand. "Not here. Maybe buy me a beer sometime. But you're welcome. I gotta talk to you about Brenda."

    Chris's face turned a slow white and his jaw clenched. "What's the problem?" he said, trying and failing to be casual.

    "Is there one?" my double siad.

    "No. Did she say there was?"

    "She's worried. She said you drunk called her. Disclosed a prior relationship, that you made some suggestions on your call the other night. So, again, what's going on?"

    Chris deflated. "I was drunk. It's not a thing I wanted to happen. I'll apologize. She was so sweet and I was drunk."

    "Okay. She was worried, that's all. Maybe apologize off the clock, though. Your good at your job. The patience you had with that last gentleman shows it. Brenda and I both want what's best for you. If you need help, maybe call me next time, okay?" My double offred Chris a hand.

    As they shook, I reeled again. Brenda and Chris had anything? And my doppelganger was not a monster. He was, in fact, a better boss than me, a far better manager of people. I started thinking of him right then as "The Director." My mind swam and reviewed the entire interaction and something else struck me.

    I screamed into the void, "What the fuck do you mean all that was last week?"

To Be Continued…




If I Had Skin

by Banned Library in


When Kiera walked in the library with her dumb red hair and stupid boots on, I jumped out of my skin. If I had skin. I might have skin. Might not, and if not, it's because Kiera killed me. Or was there when I became a ghost.

    Or something. What I am is up for debate. I had been spending the day trying to knock things over. Rattle things. Ghost shit. I was all filled up on Brenda's drama. She was worried about talking to Freddy about doing drugs, going over the speech a dozen times. Even the greeting. "Hello Freddy." "Hiya, Fred." My favorite was ""What up Free D?" I had no idea she talked to herself and liked her just a little more for it.

    When the children's librarian who was there when I became incorporeal walked in the door, I was ready for something. Anything. Kiera would mention me not being there, or someone would ask "Hey, where's the library director you disappeared with hours ago?"

    Kiera walked to the children's section and right to her desk. I watched as she checked her email and otherwise went about her day. It was frustrating in its normalcy. Nothing on her planner said "Kill the boss." She sent no email to some dark website. Just a few messages to the company that does the graphics and an email to parents bringing snacks to story time.

    "The fuck did you kill me for?" I said into the silence, nobody not even Kiera able to hear me.

    She kept right on working, humming a Ruby Soho by Rancid, a punk song I had grown up with. Had she not made me into a ghost, I would have kept on thinking Kiera was a cool person, what with her hair and clothes and "who gives a shit" attitude. I was going over her better, non-murder-in-the-woods attributes that I did not notice Freddy walk over.

     "I need more," the library page said.

    Kiera gave him a smile. "Not here," she said.

    Freddy paced back in forth, two steps left and two right. "But I had my last and I need more. Just a little now. I have the money." He pulled from his jeans a small folded pack of bills, twenties and fives.

    Keira kept up the smile, the same smile all library staff use when a patron is about to lose their shit over something stupid. She moves slow, leaning back without giving ground. Freddy is in some attack mode and to go defensive would only agitate. This is true for people who are not often predators, but think they are when moved by something. Freddy's need for whatever he was smoking behind the diner was pretty strong.

    She said, "I'm sorry, but as I said, I don't keep things here." She put a hand on the left side of the desk, one on the right. "Library. Other things. Catch up to me after six today, down at the Fitz. We'll talk then."

    "You know I can't go in there no more," Freddy said.

    "Then wait outside."

    Freddy and Kiera stared across the desk.

    He shook his head. "I… I don't even want to."

    "Then don't. It's a nasty habit."

    "That's not fair."

    "Who said this was fair?"

    "I have friends now. Powerful friends. They could stop you and stop all this."

    Keira laughed. "Dear heart, this has already started. The snowball is halfway down the hill. I get you want to jump off. No ill will, but don't threaten me or mine."

    "What the fuck does that mean?" Freddy said, voicing my own thoughts.

    Kiera waved her hand. "Let's get some work done."

    "I'll go to the boss. Say what you do."

    "I think the bossman is a little too busy for that," she said, using the nickname she had for me. "And he would side with me. There's been a lot of changes."

    "The hell I would," I said, but no one hears.

    She continues. "Now, just out of curiosity, who are these friends you're going on about?"

    "They… I… It's a secret. A club or something," Freddy said.

    Kiera brought her hands together in a small clap. "A secret club. Do you have a tree house? Can girls join or is it just you fellas?"

    Freddy's face went hot. His eyes grew wet. Kiera's mocking hit the wrong button and his fists bunched and he leaned over the desk.

    Keira kept her ground, saying, "Not so fast. Don't you want to talk to the bossman first?" She raised a finger to the front door.

    I screamed. My self, my ghost form whatever wailed into the void of whatever I was. What walked through the door confused and terrified me, causing me to back up. Swirling thoughts were all that I was.

    I walked through the front door. My body. And it was laughing.

To Be Continued…




Smoking By the Dumpster

by Banned Library in


Dottie walked in the library about two in the afternoon and headed straight for the circulation desk. She still wore the light blue cafe uniform. She held a dishtowel, wringing it tight. Brenda saw her coming and put on a smile. Dottie had the best gossip.

    "Hey, Dottie. How's the salmon running?"

    "Hey, Brenda. Is that boy here?"

    "Which boy?"

    "The redhead who works here."

    "Freddy? Nah. He comes after school."

    "Well he weren't in school today he weren't. You need to have a talk with that boy," Dottie said.

    Brenda cast a glance around. The library was quiet. All this with Dottie was wrong. The two of them often talked about people in town, sure, but also Brenda's momma or Amy. They had a joke about the specials, with the salmon running. That was Brenda's favorite. Normal, safe things at the circulation desk. Now all this about Freddy. This wasn't how this relationship went.

    "Now, I'm sure you saw something, but it wasn't our Freddy. He's on the baseball team. Say, you got any fresh salmon this week?"

    Dottie shook her head. "I tell you it was him. I had just served the Howell twins their usual, double bacon sliders with cajun fries and cokes. I set them right, you know how Jill likes her ketchup."

    Brenda nodded. "That's how you tell them apart."

    "I decided to take out the trash. I told Ray and got the bags together, then looked out the door for the racoons."

    Dottie paused, twisting the washcloth tighter, and Brenda felt better. All this direct talk of Freddy having problems. That would not work. A story about raccoons in a dumpster though, well, Brenda could handle that right to the ground.

    "I looked out and saw Freddy smoking by the dumpster."

    Well shit, Brenda thought.

    Dottie kept talking. "I thought for a moment that it wasn't. He's so nice when I come for my Barbara Michaels. But it was. He had it cupped in his hand, like, well… You know."

    Brenda did know. She had smoked for years, back when she was in Europe on tour. Those years had been a wile waste of time, playing music for exotic men and smoking all she could, laughing with the boys on the beach until Anthony. Anthony told her about her inner dragon and shown her the way.

    "And I went out after he left and it was not tobacco. You need to talk to him. Smoking marijuana and littering. Just left it right there on the pavement, right by the dumpster where anyone could get it."

    "Or a racoon," Brenda said.

    "I mean, I could have gone to his momma, but I didn't know where he lived."

    "He don't talk about them much. Don't you worry. I'll see what I can do."

    Dottie frowned, dropping the washcloth to her side. "You said that. I guess we'll see."

    Dottie left the building, not even getting a book. Brenda felt unsettled as something inside her moved and stirred.

To Be Continued...