A Silver Sheen

by Banned Library in


Chris sat at the reference desk and read the synopsis of his favorite show. The Yellow Tiger had gone up against some pretty bad dudes last night. Chris did not watch the show. He had gone right to sleep.

    In his mind, he thought over Amy's proposal. More money for the library. New computers for the lab or some of those reference books The Director wanted. The Friends of the Library might go along with his suggests. The Director had some ideas, he said. No, not quite. The Director had said, I'll tell you, my boy, I have big ideas for the reference collection.

    When the Director said that… Only one person had ever called Chris "my boy," and it was not the Director. The Director. When had Chris started thinking of Elliot Harker as the Director? An okay librarian, got the job because his mom was librarian back in the day, that's what people said. The last library director had been garbage, though, and at least the Director listened to you even if he did not always…

    There it was again. The Director.

    Chris shook his head. He wiped his hands on his face. Did all the motions of what people did in movies when they were thinking too hard. The Yellow Tiger could wait. HE lcosed the browser and stood up. Stretched. Noon at the library and the sleepy town had not yet woken up to come do research. The second floor was empty. Chris did a slow spin, bouncing his eyes over the genealogy room where he had killed his father. Out of mind, the past is dead. He took a walk. Around the stacks, hands in pockets. Back straight. Nobody on the second floor to help. He took the stairs down, the front stairs to the circulation and children's area. To the computer lab. He had not taken the back stairs, the emergency stairs that also lead to the work room since… Best not think about it.

    Brenda stood at the window. A few people flipped through magazines. All dozen computers were full, people clicking and hunting and pecking. A mother with a stroller sat at the small table in children's. Kiera was gone, either to the park or on outreach. Chris stood by Brenda at the window and looked out at the bright Mississippi day, already seventy degrees despite the cold wind blowing leaves.

    Brenda said, "I saw Amy yesterday. What did y'all talk about?"

    "Funding. Her company wants to donate to the library. To the Friends," Chris said.

    "That all?"

    "Yeah."

    "She talked to Elliot about that at lunch a while back. The Director has been dealing with it some, I hear."

    "He mentioned reference books."

    "Would they get used?"

    Chris said, "Depends. Always need more updated tax and legal stuff. Medical. Some tech books."

    "That's what he wants?"

    "We didn't talk about it much."

    Brenda faced him. Chris found her eyes haunted with dark circles.The lines on her face stood out and her hair, always a tangle of frizzy brown, seemed more like a nest. She said, "I might have you order me something."

    "What kind of something?"

    "Dragons."

    His mind slipped into reference mode. Open questions, let her talk. "What kind of dragons?"

    "Like, how you let one out." Brenda was biting her lip, the skin turning white.

    "What do you need it for?"

    "Let out a dragon in me."

    "We speaking in metaphors?"

    Brenda went back to the sunny day with no answer.

    "Are you okay?" he said.

    "I just think something bad's coming. And there's something in me that can help."

    "A dragon." When she did not answer, he said, "Maybe I can look up someone to talk to. A professional. The state insurance is-"

    She spun and with force stepped close. Her normal brown eyes took on a silver sheen. Wild and fierce. A trick of the sun, Chris thought.

    "I don't need help. This whole world needs help and in me I can give it. Brenda broke away, stamping back to the circulation desk. Chris and the magazine readers and the mother in children's watched her go.

    The computer lab people kept on clicking.

To Be Continued…




Full Discretion

by Banned Library in


Chris watched the young man, seeing himself a long time ago. He had wandered in a library in south California, a little building in  seaside community and applied for a job. The woman took a look at him and smiled. At the time he had just left his father's church. He still wore his hair long, and it was a warm chestnut without the pepper of gray. "Do you know much about libraries?" the kind woman had said. He had told her he knew some, enough he thought he could help out. Her name had been Yvonne. She had saved him. Chris stood and walked to the stacks. "Can I help?" he said.

    Freddy startled, dropping the books in his hand.Up close, the young man had the air of prey. Jumpy, wild, open to running. His eyes were red and rimmed dark, his hands with a small tremor.

    "You okay?" Chris said, bending to retrieve the books.

    Freddy bent as well, gathering the books. "I'm fine." His face settled back to talking mode. A small pretend smile. "Not sleeping much. Maybe getting a cold."

    Chris did not think so but didn't say. Everyone was entitled to secrets. "That's rough. I think I've got some cough drops or something in my desk."

    "No, no. I'm okay. Fine. Just tired. I'll get something after work."

    "If you need to go home, we can handle. I'm not that bad at shelving," Chris said. He tried a smile.

    The page nodded and gave a soft thanks. He pushed up the sleeves of his sweater. Chris saw the tattoo on the boy's arm and dropped the books he held. They both went for the floor again.

    "Freddy, where did you get that?"

    "They were just returns."

    "No, not the books." Chris grabbed Freddy's arm and said, "Not the books, you fucking moron. The tatoo." His vision tunneled, and he felt sick. As sick as Freddy looked. From the corner of his eye, he saw a patron at the reference desk.

    "Don't you go anywhere," he said and let the boy go.

    Chris walked to the desk. He has seen the woman before, seen her with Brenda and the Director. Tall blonde, good figure with good clothes. Money came off her in an aura. She wore it with the same comfort others may where a favorite team jersey. He had seen the same look on many women in that small California library.

    "You're Chris, right? The reference librarian?" she said.

    "Yeah. Can I help you?" Chris's voice shook. He forced himself to concentrate on the woman and calm down. Put up the public service front.

    The woman gave no indication she was affected. "I'm Amy Berry." She held out a hand.

    "Brenda's sister," Chris said and gave her hand a small shake.

    "Yes. But I'm here with my company. The Director said I might talk to you about some opportunities?"

    "What kind?"

    "We're looking into making donations. Here. Support local communities. I thought, well, librarians already do that. As you said, my sister does. So why not support them?"

    "That's nice. What kind of donations? I'm sure the Director told you about our vendors. Most donations go through the Friends."

    "Yes. I've been told you're the liaison to the Friends of the Library. I was wondering more about them."

    "Not a lot to tell. They do a few book sales a year, with the normal sale going on downstairs. Older items, discards, and book donations. Most of the money goes to fund summer reading programs and after school activities. Snacks. Kiera mostly handles those transactions. I sit in on their quarterly meetings as a representative of the library." Chris flashed to other meetings, darker meetings, with members wearing tattoos and chanting in unfamiliar tongues. He thought about Freddy again, wondering what the boy had gotten himself into.

    Amy smiled. Chris had seen that tight smile. It said things were quaint, slow moving. Money moves faster where she's from.

    She said, "Do they take donations?"

    "They do. Plus membership fees that get you access to the meetings and the annual dinner. Some coupons around town. But they get full discretion on how that money is spent. In the charter. We can suggest things, but as an independent nonprofit they can do with it as they wish. Far as I know, whatever money they get can be used for anything they deem worthy of benefiting the library. Can't be earmarked."

    Amy frowned. "I see."

    "But they usually take our advice."

    "And when do they meet next?"

    Chris circled the reference desk. On it lay a monthly calendar, spread out wide. He put a finger on the last week of the month. "End of March. Last Saturday."

    "Who can attend the meetings again?"

    "Any member. Lunch is served."

    The woman smiled and reached into a pocket, pulling out a small folding wallet. "How much does a membership cost?"

To Be Continued…