Most are pretty straightforward. They wave, hit their friends on the shoulder, say “It’s the library guy.” You can wave at them and they wave back. If you speak to them, often the bubble is broken and they see you are just some dude getting more toilet paper at the Wal-Mart.
A select few see you as their friend. These are the patrons that bother me the most, not because I dislike being nice to people who recognize me from one place or another, but because they stop you. They question you. They only see you in your role as their librarian and not just the dude that really needs to get more t.p. at the Wal-Mart.
So after another uneventful day of straightening and re-hanging quilts, I went out to the grocery store. I needed bacon. Damn manly bacon. Not toilet paper. Anyway, I was in and almost out when I felt a tap on my shoulder.
I turned around and was face to tattooed face with Can Opener Man.
“Hey,” I said.
“You were there,” he said.
“Um, I work at the library,” I said.
“Yeah, yeah, saw you there. Later. After. Saw you with the girl.”
“The girl,” he said, tilting his head, “Her. I miss her.”
Confused, I fumbled in my mind to recall my last encounter with Can Opener Man. I could not connect any girl to that point. Unless...
“You mean Natalie? Did you see me out with my friend Natalie at one point?”
His eyes squinted into slits causing the wrinkles to fold the can opener tattoo on his face inward. It looked like he was crushing the space between his eyes with his thoughts.
“You know damn well who I mean, Mr. Banned. Saw you with the girl you hired. Right choice for that children’s librarian job, Mr. Banned. But then I saw you with her. I saw how you looked at her. Saw what you did.”
I stood my ground as he began to shake. Several people around us were beginning to look. I hoped one was going to get someone with authority. I tried to stay calm.
“You must mean Ava, sir. Yes, I worked with her. She was a kind person. Did you know her Mr....?”
“Coyote. Yeah, I knew the girl. And I know what happened cause I was there. Broke my heart to see it, Mr. Banned.”
“I’m not sure I know what you are talking about...um, Mr. Coyote.”
He waved a hand in front of my face. For some reason the gesture calmed me.
“I don’t expect you do know what I’m talking about, library boy. She had powerful charms. But I know what I’m talking about and that’s all you need to know. Okay?”
I nodded although I was unsure of anything at that moment.
“Good. You go on now, Mr. Banned. Do what you have to do. Just remember that I’m watching. You do good work. Hate to see it end.”
A manager had been called and arrived just as Can Opener Man AKA Coyote walked out the sliding doors marked “Enter.” The crowd watched him go, murmurings around the fringe.
“Everything okay, Evan?” said Tom, the manager.
“Yeah, yeah. I think I’m ready to check out,” I said.
“Number six is open. Let me know if there’s a problem.”
“Sure, sure,” I said.
I checked out and watched for Coyote as I walked outside. He was not in the parking lot and not under my car waiting to slash my heel and kidnap me as I left. I checked. Twice.