I spent most of today working the Friends booth at the fair. Don’t let this spread around, but I had no intention of working any booth at the fair. I just want to sit at home, work on my Great American novel and drink myself to death at night, but Robert Harker can be persuasive.
“What makes you think you can claim the building and not the library itself?”
I stared at the big man, his beard a tangle of black and snow-white wires. He leaned over me as I sat on my porch this morning, enjoying Gone Girl, the Gillian Flynn novel. I was enjoying it at any rate. Then a giant came and began talking, just walked right up and started talking. I agreed to come down to the fair that day and watch the Friends of the Library booth simply to get him to let me have my morning alone.
When I got to the booth to take my shift, Harker was there along with this wife Bernie. She sat behind the small card table talking to people as they passed, offering a $1 chance at a milk bottle toss to profit the library.
“What library?” seemed to be the consensus.
Robert Harker stood off to the side in a heated conversation with Brother Peter Clupper. I chose to ignore the two, but Brother Pete leaned around the bigger man and grabbed my arm.
“Mr. Banned,” he said, “My congregation is growing and our offer for the use of the building stands. We will pay, have heard of your recent problems and will pay for use of the building Sundays, Wednesdays, holidays and of course for revival’s_”
“Man ain’t selling the building. We are rebuilding the library, gonna bring it back and it needs to be free for when it does,” Harker said.
“Even so, it’s not your decision. Mr. Banned, heed the judgement of the Creator, the Fire and his Anvil. The Lord of Light and Heat will remember those who help him…”
“Preacher, you need to leave,” I said and turned away from him.
Harker sent Clupper away and shadowed the man and his associates, several grim looking fellows, around the fair. I sat with Bernie and we laughed as people attempted to throw the little rings around the bottles and gave money for a library that was not.
“Mind if I try?” The Mayor said, walking out of the crowd.
“One dollar,” Bernie said, trading a fresh bill for three rings to William Bilbo.
“Hope you have reconsidered allowing the city to use the building it has kept up for all these years, Evan,” Bilbo threw a ring and it clinked against a bottle.
“Sorry, mayor,” I said as the second ring clinked.
The mayor sighed and gave an underhanded toss, flicking his wrist. The ring sailed through the air and slid neatly over the bottle, easy as you please.
“Then I regret to inform you that you owe the city for this year’s property taxes,” he said, “Somewhere in the neighborhood of $20,000, give or take. Hate to have to do it, but without the city or some church cooperation to give it a lean… You know how it is. What do I win.”
I was stunned. Bernie handed the man a small stuffed animal and he walked away. The son of a bitch even whistled.