The little ones had been hanging around the circulation desk all afternoon. Brenda did not seem to notice, but then the circulation librarian didn't seem to notice much. Celeste felt like a babysitter, not like a library employee.
Celeste sent the children away as the phone rang. Celeste waited like she was taught and caught it on the second ring. Thank you for calling the library. This is Celeste. How may I help you? she said.
The person on the other end of the phone let out a gasp and then a long shuddering sigh.
Thank you for calling the library. This is Celeste. How may I help you? Celeste repeated.
The breath came again and a little laugh. She thought it was a man but could not tell for sure. She repeated the speech one last time and when the man breathed deep and sighed again she hung up.
Who was that? Brenda said.
Some guy breathing into the phone like a creep, Celeste said.
Brenda stood. She said, Did he laugh?
Yeah, a little.
Like a titter or like a full chuckle?
Celeste said, Like a titter? What's going on?
I'm leaving, Brenda said. She gathered her purse and began throwing items from her desk inside. She threw her jacket over her arm and began to walk around the circulation desk.
But what… I don't know what to do, Celeste said.
Don't answer the phone, Brenda said and the circulation librarian walked out the door.
Celeste sat alone at the circulation desk and wondered what the hell that was all about. She wondered what to do. She wondered if she could do anything?
Calling the director was out. Brenda had been clear that if the director was not in the building then they were on their own. Celeste thought about calling maybe the reference librarian, but when he left he looked tired. She decided to call the Children's librarian.
The list of work and personal numbers for library employees was in the second drawer of Brenda's desk. It had the words "Emergency Only" written in Brenda's utilitarian handwriting. She decided that being left alone after a creepy phone call was an emergency.
The number was halfway down the list. Celeste reached for the library phone and it rang. Brenda had said to not answer the phone. It rang and rang, one ring after the other, the little chirp of modern office phones droning over and over. Her hand shot out.
Thank you for calling the library. This is Celeste. How may I help you?
The man on the other end groaned and tittered and sighed. Celeste hung up. She immediately picked up the phone again and dialed the children's librarian's number.
Jackie said, Hello. In the background something shook and banged. Jackie the children's librarian told someone to stop.
Hey, I'm sorry to call you. This is Celeste at the library.
Yeah? What's up?
Well, I've been getting these calls and Brenda left me alone.
What kind of calls?
This guy laughs and breathes heavy. But Brenda just got up and left and told me not to answer the phone.
Then it sounds like you shouldn't answer the phone, Jackie said. She told someone to get going and the knocking started again and Jackie let out a low moan before ending the call.
Celeste stared at the phone. She was pretty sure the children's librarian had brushed her off like Brenda had. And that Jackie had been having sex. She came to a conclusion. They were fucking with her.
Celeste thought about it. She had been working at the library less than a week. She was in high school, her first job, new and fresh and all that. Today was super slow so of course the librarians were playing a joke. They got somebody to call and then Brenda had left. It's like that old story with the man in the babysitter's house. They were fucking with her.
Well, I'm not gonna - Fuck them, she said.
From the children's area on the other side of the library, she heard some books fall. She wasn't alone in the library. The kids were still here and probably getting into trouble. She'd feel better if she laid down the law on some kids.
Celeste walked around the desk and around the stacks to the little corner where the children's area was. The area was bright with bold primary reds, blues, and yellows and lit with a giant window. A big circular carpet lay on the corner, the carpet weaved of a course material with strange symbols all over that gave it an eerie yet beautiful feel.
Okay you two-
Celeste lost her words. Before her in the window stood a naked man. He was six foot or more and large, covered in paint and dirt. He held a cellphone in one hand and himself in the other. He tittered and breathed and sighed.
Moments in human history are recorded on ancient texts in the houses of the gods. The moment the last dodo was clubbed from existence. The first collapse of a human body from the Black Death. The creaks and groans of the World Trade Center's last moments. On this day, Celeste was recorded in these books as she laid holy hell onto the naked man in the children's section.
Screaming in rage and revulsion, the young library employee surged forward. She threw books as she advanced. Her leg lashed out and found the man's groin and something popped. Her hands coiled into balls of iron and where they landed flesh and bone lost the quality of life and returned to meat. When Celeste had finished, her reage quieted, the creature lay broken and defeated. Her last act was to bring a foot down hard onto the man's cell phone.
Splattered in the blood of her enemy, Celeste walked back to the circulation desk and took up her post. The blood of the fallen seeped into the carpet of the children's department. The library stood and gained.