earlier this week, things have been quiet. Well, relative to normal library activity, anyway. No random creepy people, no drop-ins by the board of directors, and no murder investigations. Just mothers yelling at children about books lost over the summer and the like. Business as usual.
This is an odd time of year. I am not sure how weather behaves in other parts of the world as I have only been a visitor outside my little town, but here late August is a strange time. Visions of hurricanes past loom in the distance, a surge of rainstorms cause the humidity to rise and drop and the temperature fluctuates each and every day. This is a good time to sit out by the pool when there is sun and sip a beer under a porch listening to thunder. Yesterday there was sun.
If you do not own your own swimming pool in Bannville, there are a few places you can go. If you have a friend that is well off or lives in an apartment complex, you can always hit them up. The YMCA has a nice one that rarely has snakes in it. I tend to choose the one at the Bannville Country Club because they have one of those little tiki pool side bars. Call me an optimistic drunk.
When my mother suggested I take the day off while her and Betty run the library, I took her up on the offer. I set off to do a little swimming at the golf course.
I had been there an hour and had a comfortable beer buzz when Forrest Devillis came running by carrying a water noodle. His stumpy legs carried him past us and into the pool, a head long not-dive that only small children can muster on hot summer days. Seth followed him to the edge and watched until his son surfaced clinging to the noodle.
“See, Daddy? I dove,” Forrest said, spitting out the chlorinated water.
“I see, little bit,” Seth said, “You be careful in there okay? Hold on to Mr. Noodle.”
Forrest laughed and splashed, “Mistah Noodle, haha.”
Seth turned to me. When not facing his son, the mask fell away. He looked tired, his face pale with dark circles under his eyes. His bloodshot eyes darted around and took in the surroundings. I had seen that look, often in the mirror. Stress and insomnia, dark outlooks for the future, and a careful protectiveness.
I stood up from the patio chair I had been lounging in and offered him a beer from the cooler I had sitting beside me. He took it with a nod, shook my hand and sat down.
“You doing okay,” I asked.
“Eh,” he said, “Adjusting. I thought I was young, man. Fit. Chasing after him, though... I don’t know how Ava did it. Then there’s the nightmares...”
“Yeah, I’ve had a couple, normal type stuff, but Forrest... Wakes up at all times of the night screaming for her. I go in to help, but... Sometimes you just want to reach out in the dark and see your mama coming, I guess.”
“I guess so.”
“Daddy,” Forrest called. In his little mouth, the word came out rhyming with “teddy” with the common drawl of the land. He came running over to us and jumped in his father’s lap. Seth reached for the towel too slow and got a lap full of wet toddler.
“Forrest, do you remember Mr. Banned. From the library?” Seth said.
Forrest looked at me, his little eyes red from the pool chlorine squinting. I know he was trying to place me, his little brain whirling with all the fresh images.
“Monkey George?” he said.
I laughed, “Yeah, bud, I showed you the books with Monkey George in them.”
“This is my daddy,” he said.
“Yes, sir. You keeping him safe?”
Forrest did not smile at this. Instead he put his head down on his father’s chest. His little arms went around his father’s neck.
Seth hugged his son back. They seemed to cling to each other for a minute before Forrest broke away.
“Water,” he said, pointing to the pool.
“Why don’t you go back in, play with the other kids?” Seth asked.
Forrest jumped down and ran full force into the pool, his little legs spinning like Wile E. Coyote over thin air before splashing down. Clinging to the noodle, he kicked his way over to where the other children were playing Marco Polo. He did not seem to understand the game, but called out the words just as loud as he could.
Seth fell asleep in the chair, his hand clutching the beer. I did not know if he had put sunscreen on, so I repositioned the big shade umbrella over him.
So we sat that way for about an hour, Seth fast asleep while I watched his son play. I thought about what the two of them must be feeling, how they were coping. Would Forrest remember his mother at all? How do you tell a child, even a grown one, that their mother was murdered? I resolved to look into it more, to check and recheck and see who had been in the library that day.
Who else is going to do it? The police stopped investigating any avenue other than me, and that’s circumstantial at best. Mom’s worrying about keeping the library afloat. The Board only wants a new director in and me out. I can not quit and go somewhere else, not until this all ends.
What is a librarian to do?
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