Here to Help

by Banned Library in

"I need books on nuclear power," the lady said. She wore a garbage bag around her waist like a skirt over jeans. On her head was a grocery bag, a paper one cut out like a medieval helmet with the face exposed. The old Winn-Dixie logo with the red check mark was a faded pink. Brenda had not seen that logo in years.

   Brenda said, "I can do a little search for you. See what we have. If you need more research, you might want to talk to our reference librarian upstairs."

    "Can't do stairs. They fail too much," the woman said.

    "We have an elevator."

    The woman made a face and waved her hand. "Too many bugs in those. Get in the gears."

    "Let's do that search." Brenda typed 'nuclear power' into the library's website and got thirty-seven hits. She spun the screen to face the woman.

    The lady took a step back, her garbage bag skirt rustling. She turned the Winn-Dixie Helmet around. On the back, a window had been cut out and covered with cellophane. Words above the woman's eyes read "Be Gone Electrons."

    Brenda swallowed. "We've got a few books on nuclear energy. Science books. Some in the political section talk about law and such. What kind of information do you need?"

    "Where are they?" the woman said, her voice vibrating the cellophane of her Winn-Dixie helmet. Brenda named her Dixie.



    "I can get them for you."

   Dixie leaned in close and said, "Then you would have the bugs."

    "I can take the stairs."

    "Can't risk it."

    "There's some in the children's section."

    "Show me."

    Brenda walked Dixie over to the juvenile nonfiction. The patron turned her bag around to show the helmet style again as she looked over the books. She picked one titled "Ernie and the Reactor" about a prairie dog learning about how nuclear energy works to power cities. By the end, Ernie the prairie dog seemed satisfied.

    "He's not dying," Dixie said.

    "Children's books tend not to," Brenda said. She kept a few steps away, both so she could see the circulation desk and to stay away from the lady. She saw Amy come down the stairs and waved. Amy stopped for a second, gave a small shake of her hand, and hurried out. Dixie said that book would do.

    "Okay," Brenda said. She checked Dixie out, her real name Cecilia Banks. Ms. Banks had a clean record, no overdues or fines, and kept a distance from the desk as Brenda scanned the book.

    "I'll return it clean," Ms. Banks said and left.

    "What a nut," the silver dragon in Brenda's heart said, but Brenda scolded it not to judge the more addled mortals around them.

    She was here to help.