Tap Tap Tap

by Banned Library in

The Director checked the basement and the books. The animals were in their cages. Nothing has been disturbed. Whatever had happened, it had not come for his basement collection. He had felt something enter the library. He had suspicions Brenda had something to do with whatever it was.

    The back stairs echoed under his feet. He placed them with deliberation. Most people thought if you stomped around you made people aware of your presence. It's true, but stomping around causes first annoyance and then dismissal. You become someone else's problem. Reorganized in the collective unconscious as unthreatening.

    Moving with quick tapping steps caused others to view you as important. They pay attention. They become aware. The Director took the steps one at a time, tap tap tap of his shoes, pushing off a step before the foot fell to increase the sound of his arrival. His normal steps would have pushed off after the shoe landed causing little to no noise at all. If Chris was at his post at the reference desk on the second floor, he would know The Director was on his way.

    But Chris was not ready for anything.

    "Brenda okay?" Chris said.

    The Diretor took his time. "She's headed home. Not feeling well I think."

    "That's good."

    "Is Freddy up here?"

    "Sure. I think he had a cart over around the cook books."


    "Everything okay?"

    The Director resisted the urge to hit the weak bastard. Chris had done his part. The first part anyway. If he could, The Director would pity the reference librarian. "Fine. Just making sure the circulation desk has coverage tonight."

    Chris said something as The Director walked away. He found the boy shelving books. A grass stain covered the back of the boy's sweater. Freddy winced as he reached up to place a book on the shelf.


    The boy turned. "Hey. Sir."

    "I heard you did okay during the chant."

    The boy grinned. "I think so."

    "Good. I might have something else for you to do."

    "Anything. Whatever you need, sir."

    "Thank you. I need you to talk to Brenda."

    "Is she ready?"

    "Not about the journey. She's not ready. But I want to know more about her. Talk to her about the library and her health."

    "Her health?"

    "Yes. I am worried about her. If she begins to have troubles at her job, you and I will not have time to do our good work," The Director said.

    "Yeah. That makes sense."

    "Then you will talk to her. See what she knows. Find out what happened this afternoon. She had an episode. I'm sure you've heard."

    "Saw her leave. Yes, sir," Freddy said.

    The Director turned to go but paused. "And Freddy?"

    "Yes, sir?"

    "Because she left, I need you to be on the circ desk. Kiera leaves at six, so finish up that cart and work it until close."

    "Yes, sir," Freddy said.

    "Good. That's my boy." The Director continued on past Chris at the reference desk. A clear thought danced in The Director's mind about Chris overhearing the conversation. The Director dismissed the thought as he dismissed the man. Neither mattered.

To Be Continued…

Imagine a Dragon

by Banned Library in

One of the members told Freddy he had done well. That made all the difference. The meeting had been a success, another round of chanting. Freddy had lead them, the words of the old tongue falling from his mouth in nervous clumps. When others said the words, a rhythm was created, a musical dance that caused the group to sway. Some said the words like a speech, loud and clear, causing the group to stand and cheer and become a unit of like-minded beasts intent on a single goal. Others whispered the words, the group leaning in to hear and drifted like a child hearing a bedtime story. When Freddy finished, everyone had given a light clap.

    Still, he had done a good job. He had been told so.

    Freddy walked to the library. His afternoon shift started soon. The day became cloudy as he walked. One long white cloud with a bulbous end stretched across the sky below the gray overcast. Freddy imagined a dragon following him. He thought also of going home for his rain jacket, but he did not smell rain in the air. At most, he could make it home a little wet.

    He passed the old C Store on his way. A gas station built a dozen years ago by the Porter family. The same gas station his dad had been seen visiting the night he left. Freddy had never wondered if there was an A or B Store. He did not like to think about the place.

    "Hey, Fred," Jake Porter said.

    "Hey," Freddy said and kept walking.

    "Stop for a bit," the boy said. He was eighteen and had graduated a year ahead of Freddy, but he always seemed younger. Jake hung around the C Store even when he did not have to work a shift.

    Jake said, "Ain't seen you around much."

    "Been busy. Working," Freddy said. He slowed.

    "That's cool. Listen, I got something you might like. Better than that old stuff."

    "I ain't doing that no more."

    "It's the shit. Not like that old stuff. You'll never believe where I got it."

    Freddy did not say.

    "Wanna guess?"

    "I'm late for work."

    "Then you know. Heh. I bet you do. Why you ain't been buying from me."

    "I ain't doing that no more."

    "Yeah. Okay, baby. I know you."

    "Don't call me that," Freddy said. All the good will he had from the meeting leached from him. He stopped. Reminders did that to you. Put you back in old places with old memories and stop you cold. All it took was a word to break your resolve and reclaim a part of your heart.

    "Okay, baby. Don't get mad. I'm just offering you some primo-"

    Freddy hit Jake with a wild punch. Right in the chest. It staggered the other boy with a small smack and a deep echo. Freddy's knuckles throbbed.

    "You dick." Jake threw a punch of his own. His landed in Freddy's stomach, up and under his ribs. The breath wheezed out and up and acid filled his mouth. Freddy had to lean forward, right into a punch to the jaw.

    "You fucking dick," Jake said. Freddy fell to his knees. He felt a kick in his back and fell forward. His face landed in the grass but his hands scraped on the sidewalk. Another kick and he stopped moving. A glob of spit landed on his face.

    "Just wanted to share," Jake said.

    The grass felt cool under his face. The concrete of the sidewalk was cooling as the clouds filled the sky. Freddy rolled onto his back. The cloud dragon had broken up. Freddy lay there waiting to get his breath back.

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…

Choices Coming

by Banned Library in

Freddy rubbed at the tattoo and checked his phone. Late in the afternoon, no messages. The meeting was tonight. He could hold out until then. He hated Kiera for not selling to him and loved her for the same reason.

    Maybe he just wanted to fuck her.

    "I don't know how you can wear that sweater. It's sweltering in here."

    Freddy looked around and saw no one. He was standing in the fiction section near the back. He had pushed his cart of books, M to S, and had been shelving them for an hour or so without paying attention. A few people had come by, but nobody needed anything. Freddy kept his head down. Nobody asked him much if he could help it.

    "Cat got your tongue?" The voice was deep and rolled like thunder over cold mountains. Slow and will ill intent.

    To his right maybe? Freddy slouched a little and got his eyes in line with the shelves. Over the tops of the books he could see nobody stretching three rows or so to the far wall. He turned left and found eyes staring right in his.

    They were blue. Crystal blue surrounded by dark black hair. Freddy had gone on a trip to Key West with his mom's church group one year. They had driven eighteen hours in a hot van on the youth pastor's crusade to save the gays. On the way, they had passed Pensacola and Panama City and Tampa and signs for Walt Disney World, places a lot closer Freddy felt could use Jesus just as much as the gays.

    And they were not eighteen hours away.

    They had spent two days walking the beaches of the small island handing out tracts and spreading the good word. Mostly they had been laughed at, sometimes scoffed at. One man yelled at them to mind their own damn business.

    One morning, Freddy had woken early and walked from the economy motel down to the beach. The sun was rising, a bright pretty day coming. Freddy spent an hour staring at the Carribean before him, thinking he could see Cuba just ninety miles away. The water glittered and stretched as far as he had ever seen. A secret lost place shining warm and lonely. The blue of the water, the depth of it existing made him feel small and cold even as the sand warmed between his toes.

    Looking into the man's eyes through the stack of books had the same effect.

    "Can I help you, sir?" Freddy said.

    They eyes kept on him, watching. They squinted as the man smiled. A rumble came through the shelving. Freddy realized the man was laughing at him.

    "No, son. I'm doing quite well," the man said.

    "Okay, well, let us know if you need anything," Freddy said. He turned away, back to the cart of books. For the first time since he had begun working at the library, he could not think of what to do with them. He rubbed absently at his tattoo.

    "Maybe I can do something for you," the voice said again, this time right in front of Freddy on the other side of the book cart. The man stood like a monument to disheveled fashion. He wore a dark suit, double breasted and open to a vest and tie loose showing an open white collar. An unruly dark mane of hair wrapped his head, so dark the skin and his blue eyes popped. Those eyes in the nest of black hair popped like robin's eggs in a dark bush. Freddy lost his thoughts again.

    "What?" he said.

    The man picked a book from the cart. A book of poetry. "Maybe I can help you. Some advice."

    "I don't think so," Freddy said.

    The rumble started again and the beard moved as the man shifted his face to a smile.

    "Well, Fred. That's up to you. Choices coming, big ones. One man in this place, he already became stuck. What's your thoughts on the matter?"

    "I don't follow you."

    The man said, "Give me time. You have a choice coming. One way or another, nothing so crude as a path. There will be someone who asks you a question about dragons and you can say no."


    "A woman downstairs needs help. You can choose to help her or not. Everyone needs help, right? But how you help shows what kind of man you are."

    Freddy tried to look away. "I can help you find a book or something, but if you have a reference question Mr. Chris might be better."

    "Oh, he made his choice. While ago. Now it's your turn. I'll be seeing you, Fred," the man said and placed the book of poetry back on the cart. The name Milton peaked out in gold lettering.

    "People call me Freddy," he said as the man turned to go. Those eyes looked back and winked. The eye closing felt like an eclipse. A secret between them, but Freddy had no idea what that could be.

    "Be seeing you," the man with the black hair and suit said and turned and left.

    Freddy walked after him. "Sir," he said, watching the large shape walk away. He saw the man was barefoot. Thinking of nothing else, he said, "Sir, I'm sorry, you have to wear shoes in the library."

    Freddy followed the man but kept his distance. The guy was just so big, but his bare feet made no sound. Freddy reached the stacks the man had turned down and found no one.

    The man had gone. Freddy felt hot suddenly, his seater confining. His tattoo burned, and he wanted the pills now more than ever.

To Be Continued…

If I Had Skin

by Banned Library in

When Kiera walked in the library with her dumb red hair and stupid boots on, I jumped out of my skin. If I had skin. I might have skin. Might not, and if not, it's because Kiera killed me. Or was there when I became a ghost.

    Or something. What I am is up for debate. I had been spending the day trying to knock things over. Rattle things. Ghost shit. I was all filled up on Brenda's drama. She was worried about talking to Freddy about doing drugs, going over the speech a dozen times. Even the greeting. "Hello Freddy." "Hiya, Fred." My favorite was ""What up Free D?" I had no idea she talked to herself and liked her just a little more for it.

    When the children's librarian who was there when I became incorporeal walked in the door, I was ready for something. Anything. Kiera would mention me not being there, or someone would ask "Hey, where's the library director you disappeared with hours ago?"

    Kiera walked to the children's section and right to her desk. I watched as she checked her email and otherwise went about her day. It was frustrating in its normalcy. Nothing on her planner said "Kill the boss." She sent no email to some dark website. Just a few messages to the company that does the graphics and an email to parents bringing snacks to story time.

    "The fuck did you kill me for?" I said into the silence, nobody not even Kiera able to hear me.

    She kept right on working, humming a Ruby Soho by Rancid, a punk song I had grown up with. Had she not made me into a ghost, I would have kept on thinking Kiera was a cool person, what with her hair and clothes and "who gives a shit" attitude. I was going over her better, non-murder-in-the-woods attributes that I did not notice Freddy walk over.

     "I need more," the library page said.

    Kiera gave him a smile. "Not here," she said.

    Freddy paced back in forth, two steps left and two right. "But I had my last and I need more. Just a little now. I have the money." He pulled from his jeans a small folded pack of bills, twenties and fives.

    Keira kept up the smile, the same smile all library staff use when a patron is about to lose their shit over something stupid. She moves slow, leaning back without giving ground. Freddy is in some attack mode and to go defensive would only agitate. This is true for people who are not often predators, but think they are when moved by something. Freddy's need for whatever he was smoking behind the diner was pretty strong.

    She said, "I'm sorry, but as I said, I don't keep things here." She put a hand on the left side of the desk, one on the right. "Library. Other things. Catch up to me after six today, down at the Fitz. We'll talk then."

    "You know I can't go in there no more," Freddy said.

    "Then wait outside."

    Freddy and Kiera stared across the desk.

    He shook his head. "I… I don't even want to."

    "Then don't. It's a nasty habit."

    "That's not fair."

    "Who said this was fair?"

    "I have friends now. Powerful friends. They could stop you and stop all this."

    Keira laughed. "Dear heart, this has already started. The snowball is halfway down the hill. I get you want to jump off. No ill will, but don't threaten me or mine."

    "What the fuck does that mean?" Freddy said, voicing my own thoughts.

    Kiera waved her hand. "Let's get some work done."

    "I'll go to the boss. Say what you do."

    "I think the bossman is a little too busy for that," she said, using the nickname she had for me. "And he would side with me. There's been a lot of changes."

    "The hell I would," I said, but no one hears.

    She continues. "Now, just out of curiosity, who are these friends you're going on about?"

    "They… I… It's a secret. A club or something," Freddy said.

    Kiera brought her hands together in a small clap. "A secret club. Do you have a tree house? Can girls join or is it just you fellas?"

    Freddy's face went hot. His eyes grew wet. Kiera's mocking hit the wrong button and his fists bunched and he leaned over the desk.

    Keira kept her ground, saying, "Not so fast. Don't you want to talk to the bossman first?" She raised a finger to the front door.

    I screamed. My self, my ghost form whatever wailed into the void of whatever I was. What walked through the door confused and terrified me, causing me to back up. Swirling thoughts were all that I was.

    I walked through the front door. My body. And it was laughing.

To Be Continued…

Ghost in the Library

by Banned Library in

Freddy the library page said, "No problem. Just bring back the book and we can work on the fine."

    An elderly fist fell on the circulation desk. "Do I look like somebody who would check out a vampire sex book?"

    "I try not to judge, sir," Freddy said.

    The old man's piercing blue eyes held Freddy. The library page looked back at the screen. The eyes were too blue, too easy to fall into.

    "Maybe somebody in your family?"

    "I been alone twenty years. Since Jesse died. All alone, not reading vampire sex books."

    "Okay. I'll let one of the librarians know about your case and they'll be in touch."

    "You can't do nothing?"

    Freddy shook his head.

    "Okay. You do that. Now check me out."

    The old man slid a pile of DVDs across the desk. He snatched up his library card and stowed it in an old wallet that creaked when he put it in his back pocket.

    Freddy punched in the override code. He scanned each item, opening the cases to see if the right DVD was in the case. "Do you need a bag?"

    The old man said, "Nah. And where are all the librarians?"

    "Well, Ms. Brenda had to go talk to her sister. Mr. Chris went home early. Kiera and Mr. Harker, they…" The boy trailed off as he tried to remember where Kiera had taken me.

    I watched this happen from behind Freddy. I tried to touch the desk, the computer, the stapler. All passed through hands I could not see. I was a ghost in the library.

To be continued...