Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night 2 works despite being bonkers insano pants

by Banned Library in


Prom Night 2: Hello Mary Lou
Starring Michael Ironside, Wendy Lyon, Lisa Schrage

Mary Lou (Lisa Schrage) wields her youth with the insane bravado of a biker on speed. She's prom queen and she'll sleep with whomever she wants, drink whatever she wants, and play her music loud and proud. Then her boyfriend burns her to death. A few decades later, sweet virginal Vicki (Wendy Lyon) finds Mary Lou's prom crown in an old trunk and shenanigans ensue. What kind of shenanigans? Well, the ghost of Mary Lou can't seem to decide how to kill a pregnant girl, so it chokes, hangs, and then throws her out a window. Mary Lou gets tired doing poltergeist shit so she possesses Vicki, shocking everyone with a very liberal attitude about her body. As the climax freight trains its way towards prom, you bet your ass everything goes Carrie and the body count rises. Depending on your point of view, Hello Mary Lou is either the greatest horror movie or a rip off of all the better horror movies. The effects hold up pretty well with special mention to the scene where Vicki gets sucked into the chalkboard. The acting by a crew of unknowns is amazing. The one deviant in the cast is Michael Ironside playing the older firestarting boyfriend of Mary Lou and father to one of the boys. A recognizable face only adds to the substance of the movie. The combination of silly slasher and psychological ghost horror gives the movie more legs that it needs, zooming along from set piece to set price. By the time Vicki makes her turn, the movie has more than given its entertainment value.

Breaking the mold of the normal slasher, Mary Lou creates a sense of unease through a lens of crazy "let's just do this next" that will leave you guessing and/or cheering through your first viewing.

Carrie (1976)
Starring Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, John Trovolta, William Katt, Betty Buckley



Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark tells the best campfire tales without pulling punches

by Banned Library in


Four kids decide to combat evil after evil decides to kill them in this adaptation of the beloved and befeared children's book series.

When you get right down to it, the only way any of us will be remembered is by stories. Stories our families tell, stories that get written in the newspaper, stories that are whispered over campfires. In one way or another, you become the example for others to follow. When Stella, Chuck, and Auggie take their new friend Ramon to the Bellows mansion on Halloween, all they know about Sara Bellows is that she could tell a hell of a story and killed multiple children. By the time the film is over, only Stella (Zoe Margaret Colletti) is truly capable of telling their story along with the truth behind Sara Bellows. Director André Øvredal crushes the hell out of this adaptation of the children's classic series, using the flair he showed in Troll Hunter with the grounded simplicity of The Autopsy of Jane Doe. The stories told throughout feel as though they come from the books as told around campfires. Stephen Gammel's classic images compound the telling just as they did in the story, making a corpse looking for a toe as horrifying as any challenged unleashed in the Saw movies. Made for teens, this adaptation does not hold back showing psychological and physical consequences of tangling with a demonic entity. The most horrific section did not have a monster or creature on the prowl but a poor girl in a bathroom not wanting the boil on her face to ruin her big night on the stage. Her screams and those of her brother (played wonderfully by Austin Zajur, the awkward teen equivalent to Finn Wolfhard's tween joker in It: Chapter One) still echo off the tile of my mind. On top of all the horror, there are good messages in here of social acceptance, duty, and racial equality that are threaded with calm deliberation. That's more than I ask for my silly horror, especially when done this well.

For those of you questioning if studios are capable of making good horror for the younger set, get out there and see this movie now.

The Autopsy of Jane Doe
Starring Emile Hirsch, Brian Cox, Olwen Kelly, Michael McElhatton, Ophelia Lovibond



Crawl (2019) is a hell of a good time

by Banned Library in


Crawl
Starring Kaya Scodelario, Barry Pepper

A daughter goes looking for her dad in a hurricane and finds a whole mess of alligators. Who knew this might be the best horror of the year?

Director Alexandre Aja became prominent with psychological horror thrillers like High Tension and self aware monster flicks like Piranha 3D. In Crawl, he flexes both those muscles to create a great little monster movie that's better than it needs to be. Haley (Kaya Scodelario) leaves her swimming practice in a hurricane to go look for her father (Barry Pepper). She finds him trapped under the house, hunted by several alligators. As the basement begins to flood, Haley and her dad battle the gator menace while watching looters and rescue workers get taken out by the way over the top pissed off reptiles. The story bounces back and forth between a tight thriller with a countdown clock (it's a big ass hurricane coming bringing all the water) and a grisly visceral violent ballet. Bites matter when they need to, showing off blood and breaking bones. Then when Haley needs to swim or her dad needs to fight back, all injuries are put aside. Make no mistake, getting bitten by a ten foot gator in this movie means a lot until it doesn't, and that's okay. Horror movies are made on less. For the most part, I believed that these characters would fight back with everything they had. That belief carried me much farther than my actual knowledge of how alligators and hurricanes behave. As Haley fights the alligators, she elicited several "fuck yeahs" and fist pumps from the audience I saw it with. She's strong, badass, and yet vulnerable enough to think that maybe she won't make it out okay. There's enough character failures here for any semblance of triumph to be great.

A no-duh double feature with last year's Hurricane Heist, Crawl creates enough atmosphere and self awareness to make its runtime fly by.

The Hurricane Heist
Starring Toby Kebbell, Maggie Grace, Ryan Kwanten, Ralph Ineson, Melissa Bolona
Piranha 3D
Starring Elisabeth Shue, Ving Rhames, Adam Scott, Richard Dreyfuss, Jerry O'Connell



Mary Poppins Returns with flash and cheek reaching for the original magic

by Banned Library in


The magical nanny Mary Poppins comes back to the Banks family after a few decades to sing songs, teach lessons about being a kid, and kick some nostalgic tires.

Thinking back on the original Mary Poppins, beyond the ear-worm songs, brings to mind a fresh faced 29 year old Julie Andrews as a kind yet stern nanny to some neglected kids. They needed a nanny, and she delivered. In the 2018 version, it seems Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) has returned to those kids who are all grown up to help them remember to be kids. Jane (Emily Mortimer) and Michael (Ben Whishaw) have followed in their parents footsteps as an activist and a banker. Tragedy has followed them, however, as their parents seem to have gone off to a farm in the sky, and Michael's wife and mother of his children has died. Alone and about to lose the family home, the Banks family needs some help. Mary Poppins literally rides in on nostalgia, an old kite from the first film bringing her to earth. From there, the nanny and lamplighter Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda) jump and dance and sing to bring some joy and peace to the Banks family. For the most part the journey is delightful, as is Colin Firth as the greedy bank manager trying to steal the family home. The musical numbers are a throwback to music videos of the 1980s with lots of bright colors and smooth dancing. While watching, I hoped that they would lean in a bit more with the plot as a true musical, but for the most part they are spectacle. One in particular, a bawdy cabaret number "A Cover is Not the Book" had me thinking a creepy thought, "well, this one is for the moms and dads out there." Overall, the tone of the film scratches the nostalgic itch while, like most other sequeled properties, misses what made the original special. Mary Poppins (who I realized while writing this can only be referenced by her full name) is more cheeky and clever, not talking down to the modern audience with spoonfuls of sugar. Emily Blunt is the standout star of the film, the focus of every scene she's in with magnetizing effortlessness. For the most part, the film updates the original, yet at times does not feel like its own thing. It could be compared to rebuilding a classic car with newer materials, something about the plastic and flashy curves cannot reproduce what heavy steel and solid lines create.

A fun family film with flashy musical numbers, this film curses itself with the original's shadow.

Mary Poppins Returns
Starring Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Julie Walters



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.