Sticks and Graveyard Dirt

by Banned Library in

The box buzzed and the gate opened slow and steady. Kiera drove the library van forward. The familiar drive rocks crunched under the tires. In her mind she knew she could turn around at any time. She was not the little girl that had first come to the King House twenty years before, but Kiera always came back.

    The compound stood empty once again. Kiera parked the van by the Big House and got out. Around the back of the van she picked out the supplies she needed. Glitter, glue, burlap squares, and twine. Sticks gathered from the grounds of the branch library. Dirt from the library graveyard. Everything needed for her craft project.

    The door opened slow. Ms. Davis's eye showed in the crack. "Kiera," the elderly woman said. Long ago a much younger Ms. Davis had also said her name. Ms. Davis did not smile then either.

    "Ms. Davis. I'm here for the craft time."

    "Are you alone?"

    "You should have let me see the children."

    The door opened wide. "You know how they are with strangers."

    "He was my boss."

    "Still. Strangers upset the little ones." Ms. Davis slumped now. Once a towering figure, her back arched and bent. A small cane held her up, gripped by one veiny hand. The black dress fell straight, giving away no curves or semblance of the body underneath. Ms. Davis had bent but not broken. Not yet.

    "Set up on the tables. I will send them out," Ms. Davis said and stepped back. The door closed with a thump.

    The day had a gentle wind that blew the tall trees into a gentle sway. The picnic tables, three of them, sat in the sun. Kiera set supplies out for eighteen children. Six to a table. She expected less. Kiera kept busy, hearing the doors of the small buildings around the Big House open and close. Behind her, small feet shuffled through dead leaves.

    "Miss Kiera?"

    Kiera finished placing the last of the supplies and faced the children. Six of them all dressed in the King House uniform of white t-shirts and denim plants. They were set apart by their jackets, complexions, and hair. The girl who had spoken stood front and center. Her wild and curly hair blew in the wind, hiding and accenting her face and big brown eyes.

    "Hi, Maisey. Want to make something fun?" Kiera said.

    The children surged forward. They wrapped around her. Keira said hello to each of them, touching the tops of their heads and laughing as they swarmed around her. She asked them questions. How was the cold? Is the food better? What's your favorite book now? All the questions children talk about with friends. Kiera took each child in turn, all of them gathered around one table. No new children at least, but at least one missing.

    "What's all this?" Maisy said.

    "I thought we could make something special. Where's Patrick?" Kiera said.

    Maisy shrugged. "He went away."

    Kiera let that go. Kids came and went here in all sorts of ways. She would stop that. She explained to the children what they would be making. She held up an example, but said theirs did not have to look exactly like that as long as it stuck to the basic shapes. For the next hour Kiera taught the children how to tie the sticks with the twine. How to bind the graveyard dirt with a little hair or spit and wrap it up in burlap.She went over how to hoop and lash the twine into shapes to hold the whole thing together. Little fingers worked, and Kiera encouraged them. They smiled a few times.

    Far later, looking back at this hour, she remembered the ones who smiled.

    At the end of the hour a sharp bell rang out. All the backs at the table went straight, even Kiera. She told them to go on. She could finish. They had done enough. Then she watched them walk back to the small buildings surrounding the Big House. Kiera resisted the urge to tell them to run, get in the van. She resisted yelling to them not to worry. It would be over soon.

    The hard work was done for them. She gathered each sculpture with their small bags. Bound hoops and string and sticks. With care she packed them away and got in the library van and left King House. With luck and a lot of hope, she would only come back to face Ms. Davis once more.

To Be Continued…

One Rule: No Kids

by Banned Library in

Kiera had one rule: no kids. The last time she had sold pot or pills to someone under eighteen she had been seventeen. She had never been that desperate or greedy. She even made Freddy wait until he was of age, but once he was a customer she liked his business.

    Then Freddy came with his secret club talk. She had been amused. Then, knowing what she knew, she got a little worried.

    The children's librarian crossed the park and saw the woman pushing the stroller around the track that looped a lazy snake around the playground and the picnic areas and back again. Kiera slowed and let the woman catch up.

    "Hey, Mary," Kiera said.

    The woman showed teeth in a flashy grin. Rounder around the chin, another baby on the way maybe. "Kiera, I love those boots. Have I told you? Bold."

    "Thank you."

    "And that dress. Just a keeper."

    "Kind of you. Got it at Fridays."

    The mother clucked her tongue. "I can never make it there. Only open one day a week. Who can remember?"

    "Some things are worth remembering," Kiera said, thinking that anyone with a calendar could make do.

    "Listen. I thought I might be a little low this month."

    "You thought?"

    "I am."

    "Then you get low." Kiera held her smile, picture perfect for walking on a brisk day.

    "But I need… He just gets so agitated. With the new job. And he's missing the money."

    "Tell him you bought something at Fridays."

    "He'll want to see what I got."

    Kiera maintained an easy pace, her boots clopping on the soft asphalt of the track. She liked that sound. "Then buy something cheap that looks expensive."

    "What if he asks for a receipt?"

    Mary whined more, Kiera giving non committal answers. She would listen all day and talk about story times, books for growing readers, anything for the library. For wives drugging their husbands into submission she had little patience.

    Kiera said, "Then break up. I'm not a doctor and this is not a pharmacy. I don't bring lollipops for the kids."

    "That's not fair," the young mother said.

    "Lot of that going around," Kiera said. "Do I need to go back to work?"

    "I want it."

    "How much?"

    "About half."

    "Then you get about half."

    "He gets so sad, though. He's been playing with Ginger. Not just pushing her stroller with his foot. Getting down and holding her. And he holds… Can't I just make it up next time?"

    Kiera had a hand in her pocket counting out the pills in the little plastic bag. She said, "Not how it works."

    Mary slowed. Kiera slowed to match. The wheels of the stoller squeaked a little. A squirrel ran in front of them and from inside the stroller came a cry and a pudgy arm reached out.

    "Okay, I guess. Okay," Mary said.

    Kiera began putting the pills back into the small bag. A small envelope appeared and disappeared. The small bag of pills went the other way.

    "If this is short, this is the end," Kiera said.

    Mary said nothing.

    The two walked in silence around the track, around the picnic tables and the playground. The small arm reached out again and again. They talked some more, chit chat about the weather and the town and the summer reading program. Ginger would be old enough in a few years, but she could get her thousand books before kindergarten badge this year. Maybe her father could read to her, Kiera said. Mary teared up.

    Kiera broke off where they met. She said, "See you at story time" and did not wait for a reply.

    She had an idea about what to do with Freddy. If he had a secret club, she knew a few people as well. If the boy kept on, she would tell the bossman. He had changed so much since their visit to the branch library. He could make all her problems go away now.

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…

Never Blood

by Banned Library in

I took the knife and raised it to my hand. Kiera's hand snapped out, slapping me before I could cut.

    "Never blood," the children's librarian said. "This place has too much and always wants more. A bit of your shirt will do."

    Obeying, I untucked my shirt and cut a small strip from the bottom. I put it down next to the strip of Keira's dress and handed her the knife. She clicked it shut and stored it in her boot.

    "Okay, bossman. Let's go back."

    I said okay but felt off. My head began to swim. The edges of my vision turned grey and dark. "I don't feel so good," I said. I felt myself drop and the soft wet earth met my knees.

    "It's okay. Just keep walking," Kiera said.

    Inside I felt a tugging. Not a stomach spasm. A tug and push, as if something were trying to make room. I gripped the slimy grass with my hands and felt pressure behind my eyes. My ears popped and everything swam. Now my vision went sideways, my stomach following. I dry heaved.

    Kiera stood over me. Her shadow felt cold in this chilly place. From far away, I heard her say, "No, he's not ready."

    Her hands came under my arms. I tried to rise. I tried to go with her. My stomach wretched and a green yellow bile of breakfast came up. How long had it been since I sat down with Amy and Brenda?

    "Not now. Not now. We have to prepare," Kiera's voice came from the darkness as it took me over.

    When the light came back, I stood on the second floor of the library. I was in the stacks, right around the books on baking. I reached out to steady myself and found no support.

     A small giggling child rounded the corner and ran through me.

To Be Continued...

The Wild Branch

by Banned Library in

Forgotten things have a life of their own. They grow and fester out of sight, relics of memory. In a perfect world, they would decay and rot and be eaten and grow something new. Perfect worlds do not exist.

    The old branch library had its own graveyard. I stood next to the children's librarian over a freshly dug hole containing the body of the reference librarian's father. The man had tried to kill me earlier this morning. As the sun dipped behind the trees, I wondered about his reasons and this place.

    "Who dug the grave?" I said.

    Kiera smiled. "I'm sure he's around here."


    "Let's work, bossman," Kiera said. She pulled her hair tie from a secret pocket on her dress. Her unruly main under control, she picked up the shovel. Taking a breath, she shifted some of the fresh earth into the hole.

    "Where are we?" I said.

    "Shhh." She continued to fill the grave.

    A few minutes later, she stopped and handed me the shovel. I began to move the earth. The loose dirt went easy, the soil black and shot through with pale red clay. Night soil, graveyard dirt. Different and yet the same as the soil in every other part of the county. Richer, though. Made to eat flesh.

    We switched off every ten minutes or so. I did not feel tired when I handed over the shovel. It just felt right to give the work up. To share it. Trading back and forth, we piled the earth on the body until no more could be moved and the pale grass was exposed to the afternoon light.

    A chill filled the air. I gazed at the woods around me, the dark greens and browns fading to an inky black. My own breath filled my ears, my heartbeat in my chest a thick heavy constant. Kiera leaned the shovel on the old live oak and brushed her hands.

    Again, I asked, "Where are we?"

    "The branch library. Rural number three, I think it says in the old books. Home of the things we lost and stored." Kiera walked a lazy path around the tree until she was out of sight.

    I followed. The children's librarian lay a hand on the tree. Her fingers fit the grooves of the old bark. Above, wind shook the leaves in a shuddered reply. I noted no birds, no squirrels, no life of any kind around us.

    "Who dug the hole? Why don't I know about this place?"

    "Why would you?"

    "I'm the director of the library," I said.

    She laughed. "If that were true, you would not have to ask, bossman. But don't worry. Your mother did well and you've done okay so far."

    "Thanks," I said, feeling off put.

    "Now we just need to give thanks." Kierra reached down to her Doc Martins and pulled a small folding knife from the boot. The blade clicked into place. With a quick movement, she cut from her dress a small swatch and lay it among the roots of the tree. "Now you," she said, holding the knife out to me.

To be continued...

A Drive in the Shadows

by Banned Library in

I sputtered a bit and Kiera kept smiling at me. The children’s librarian moved in close, looking around the empty yard of the compound. Again, I thought I saw movement in the shadows of one building, but lost my thoughts when Kiera spoke.

    She said," New director, back after years of being away, has a dead body on his hands. Well, well."

    Her hand kept on the body wrapped in plastic in the back of the library van. She patted it again, making soft tapping sounds from her fingernails. They were long and red. Her smile was off center, kind in a way that knows secrets.

    "I can explain," I said.

    "Don't want to hear it. Everybody's got secrets."

    "What the hell does that mean?"

    She kept her hand on the plastic and moved in close. Her teeth were white and the hippie air of "everything's all okay" fell away. Something was not okay with the children's librarian. She said low, "You want help with it or not?"

    "What do you want?"

    "To help these kids. To lead story time and raise the summer reading completion rate by ten percent. To keep things going well in this little shithole town. So let's go get rid of this body and go back to work." She lifted her hand and stepped away. I had to step back while she closed the doors to the van and spun the keys around her fingers.

    The drive took us away from town. Right out of the compound instead of left. The trees closed around us. We left civilization, the parts of the world I knew when I was young and entered into older parts of the county and the forest. Telephone poles drifted away and the houses grew further apart. The trees closed in tight as the roads narrowed with every turn. Branches scraped against the van. We went on for half an hour, twisting and turning until we came to an old building.

    The Bates Motel in Psycho was more welcoming. The building stood in a hollow. The path to it was overgrown. White paint clung to the sides out of habit. Kiera parked and got out. We walked to the back of the van and lifted the body out. Kiera, thin and lythe, took the legs, and I hefted the shoulders. The plastic made it slick. I wondered if Christ had used a book cart moving the body in the library.

    Around the side of the building, through an old iron gate and black iron fence covered with vines stood a small graveyard. The stones marking the dead were lopsided and broken. Moss grew on everything. One large live oak stood in the middle, the trunk bigger around than the van. The roots had knocked over a few moments to the dead.

    "Over there," Kiera said. Her voice still maintained that low breathless quality I had never heard.

    We walked with care to the back of the tree. A small grave had been dug, about three feet deep. The fresh earth lay on the side, a shovel sticking out. We dropped the body in the hole.

    "Where are we? An old church?" I said.

    "Can't you feel it?" Kiera said. "This is the lost branch of the library."

To be continued...