The Printer is Down

On a cold afternoon in a small town library the public printer shook and groaned and its lights went out. A smell floated in the air mixing the acrid tinge of ozone with the oily plastic grease of melting ink. A man stood over the printer, thumbs in the pockets of his jeans, and said, Well, shit.

    He opened the plastic top of the machine and waved at the air he released. More of that smell than smoke. A black film covered the inside of the printer.

    Another man, a librarian, came over. He said, Sir, we ask that you not… and trailed off to silence. Then the second man said, Well, shit.

    A little girl heard the librarian and the man in the jeans curse over the printer and ran back to her mommy. The little girl held her mom's hand and went to the circulation desk. They checked out and the little girl took her books and dropped them to the floor and said, Well, Shit.

    The mother and the little girl made it to the parking lot. The little girl knew she had done wrong and when they were in the shadow of the mini-van the mother struck. A single swat at the girl's backside, a finger in the little face. The mother said, Don't you dare use that language in public. Do you know how that made me look? The little girl began her silent cry and the mother loaded her in the van and closed the door and felt the weight fall on her. She said, Well, shit.

    On the way out of the parking lot, the mother passed by a man walking on the sidewalk. He had dirt and grime on his face and hands. He worked odd jobs when he could and slept on a bench in the shadows of the park. He waved at the mother, and he held up a finger. The van passed through a shallow puddle, and the mother was driving fast enough to spray water on his pants. He said, Well, shit.

    The man wiped at the water as best he could. He walked in the library and saw the two men looking over the printer. He crossed to the circulation desk and asked to use the phone. The librarian behind the desk, a young college student, turned up her nose in reaction, not meaning anything by it. The man said, Well, shit.

    The young college student heard the word and said, You don't have to use that language. He tried to tell her he needed a ride and she said, You can't solicit rides here. He tried to ask polite and nice but got frustrated and mad and said, Well, shit.

    The police were called and the librarian by the printer got involved and the man standing over the printer watched it all happen with his thumbs in his jeans and said, When do you think you can fix this?