The library copier is a dangerous animal. It always needs to be fed, the call coming from different voices at different times of the day. At any moment one of its minions will be sent to the circulation desk, the pitiful call of "toner's low" or "needs paper" whispered in reverence on their lips. They do not know how fickle this beast can be, how little it cares about them.
I sometimes sit at the circulation desk and watch the copier when it is alone. I can imagine its impatience, being alone in its little cubby under the stairs. Has it heard the stories of other characters that dwell in such places, the little boys that have giants come and take them away to schools of witchcraft and wizardry? Does it know about the dragons that dwelt under mountains, sitting on hordes of treasure and only venturing out when they felt the need to torture villagers? Does it want small armies to come and attempt to vanquish it?
I cannot tell and it does not say. Or at least the small blue and white screen does not betray it. It just sits, waiting for one of its minions to come along and be frustrated by its fickle temperment.
"God damn machine," the old man said, kicking the base of the copier and leaving a small black scuff on its white plastic exterior.
"Judge Oldman," I said, "Having a little trouble?"
"This machine. This thing just won't do what it's supposed to."
"What do you need?" I asked.
He let out a breath and handed me a piece of paper. On it was a picture of Judge Ford Oldman, his name, and the words "Vote for me. I'll do it."
"Running for mayor against Cutter again, judge?"
"Damn right. Can I count on your vote?"
"Heh, officially as a public employee I cannot comment on political matters to patrons while on the job."
"Hogwash," Judge said, "You just don't like polititians. Neither did you grandfather. Smart."
"Liars and theives," I said, thinking back to my grandfather's own political speeches from the pulpit of the circulation desk.
"Until the library budget renewal came up. I seem to recall Aubrey being a bit of a firecracker when it came to that."
"He had his opinions," I said, "So, what's the copier doing?"
"I just want thirty copies of this, but the damn thing keeps turning them into that long paper."
"Yeah, it changes its mind on occasion. What you need to do is force it to do the size you want."
I inserted the keys to override the money catcher, then showed him how to set the paper size. A minute later, the copier spit out thirty duplicates of Judge Oldman's political ad. I waived the usual twenty cents per page fee, but he shoved a five dollar bill in my hand anyway. With that kind of spending, I worried for our town's budget if the judge actually happened to win.
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