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Apr 29, 2021

Coming of Age Drama Fiction

 - The Great Library Caper

Suzanne Marsh

“No, I am not going to take you to the library, you knew when those books were due.

Your choice is return them and pay the fine out of your allowance.” Some choice I thought. I was not going to pay a fine to the crumby library, I would be paying Miss Higginbottom’s salary; that simply would not do. I began to think of ways to sneak the books back into the library without getting caught. Miss Higginbottom would find them on the shelves and think it a mistake. The more I thought about it the more I thought it could work. The question was could I get away with it.

The library was located in an old mansion in town. Rumor had it that it had once been a fine residence but was willed to Miss Higginbottom who gave it to the library; so long as she was alive she would be the head librarian. That little bit of trivia really has nothing to do with caper. The caper began when I decided to return the books to the shelves they belonged on; in my childish mind; I

thought; that would be the end of the matter. Miss Higginbottom noticed me with my baggy sweater. I quickly turned and walked the other way before she could get up from behind her desk. I managed to get out the library door and out onto the street before she made it down the stairs. I knew that this was not the best idea I had ever had so I decided to call my friend Caroline, she always had scathing brilliant ideas, I really needed one at the moment. After all my new ear pods hung in the balance. Caroline was more that just my best friend she was my cohort in a good many escapades over the years.

“Hey Caro, are you up to something a little different. I have to return two library books that

are over due. Miss Higginbottom almost caught me this afternoon.”

“So, why not just pay the fine as your Mom suggested.”

“I can not if I want those gorgeous pink ear pods. “

“Oh, I see. How are you going sneak past Miss Higginbottom?”

“I don’t know, any suggestions.:

“Yeah, Miss Higginbottom is like a crazed mother eagle when it comes to books being returned.

The best bet might be to sneak in at night and return the books.”

“Will you help me Caro?”

“Yes, of course. How about Friday evening. We could tell our parents we are going to a movie

sneak into the library through one of the basement windows, return the book and no one will

be the wiser.”

“I knew you would have a scathingly brilliant idea. See you Friday.”

I hung up my cell phone and headed home. I felt relief until I began to think of going through the basement window of the library. Caro was not a small person; I hoped she would fit through the window. To late to worry about that now; Friday night it was. School the rest of the week seemed boring somehow as we continued to plot our breaking into the library. We had watched all week to see where Deputy Harry Miller parked his car. The sheriff was usually home no later than six o’clock.

Friday arrived with a great deal of trepidation. I had to make myself concentrate on my studies. My mind was on Caro and I breaking into the library. I hoped we would have no problems...I was in enough trouble with my parents as it was. Then I decided, what could possibly go wrong. Mom and Dad were out of town; I was spending two days with Caro and her family. I thought the whole thing through during History class. It sounded great. Miss Hammer jarred me out of my reverie:

“Jackie: since you seem so involved in your thoughts perhaps you would like to share

with the class the Battle of Gettysburg.”

I gulped I hadn’t read the chapter about Gettysburg.

“The Battle of Gettysburg was begun on...it was a three day battle.”

“Jackie, I want to see you after class”

It had to figure, one of the few times I wasn’t paying attention she had to catch me. I waited as class let out. Hiss Hammer was never one to beat around the bush:

“Jackie, I don’t know what your problem is but you need to pay attention in class; especially

if you plan to graduate in June.”

“Yes, Miss Hammer and I do apologize.”

“Good then no more day dreaming.”

“...no more day dreaming.”

Friday evening just around seven o’clock Caro asked her parents if we could go to see a movie. Her parents said yes, that they would take us, drop us off and return to pick us up. I smuggled the two books out in my backpack. Thus far, Caro’s plan was working to the letter. Her parents dropped us off in front of the Star Theater. It was roughly three blocks from the library. We waited until her parents drove off; then we walked quickly toward the library. It was almost seven o’clock, the lights were still on in the library; that could only mean one thing: Miss Higginbottom had not left the building yet. I though: ‘oh crap of all the times for that miserable old biddy to decide to work late she had to pick this one.’ Caro must have read my mind:

“We are going to have to go to the movies then come back. All she needs to hear is a pin drop

and we are in big trouble.”

“Yeah, I know. Okay let’s go see Wonder Woman 1984.”

“Sounds good.”

We quickly found two seats near an exit. We would have to wait until the movie was almost over before we could try the library again. Caro kept her eye on the time. Just as Wonder Woman was about to dispose of a threat, Caro poked me with her elbow, signaling it was time to leave. I quickly pulled on my backpack. We exited the movie theater, walking slowing toward the library. We stood on the other side of the street to be sure that Deputy Sheriff Miller was patrolling somewhere other than the library. Everything looked great.

Caro motioned me to move toward the basement window. I watched as she removed the screen. We were in like Flynn or so we thought. Caro got stuck half way in, I pulled her arms but she was stuck. This did not bode well since half of her was in basement while her legs and feet dangled out the window:

“Jackie, go return the books then go out the other window of the basement. See if you can

dislodge me that way. If not you will have to call the fire department. I can't stay like this

forever.”

I raced like a mad woman up the stairs; only to see a light beneath Miss Higginbottom’s door. That was odd but who knows maybe she was working late. No that did not make sense, maybe it was another patron of the library attempting to return a book. I was pretty sure I was not the only in the

library. I quickly made a U turn going to down several isles until I found the vacant spot where one book belonged. Then I turned down two more isles. I placed the book carefully on the shelf. Mission accomplished. Now all I had to do was get Caro out of the window she was stuck in. I ran back down the winding staircase to the basement. Caro was still stuck; well there were not to many choices but before we could make one, Deputy Sheriff Miller pulled up his siren blaring. He quickly assessed the problem. Nothing got by him:

“You’re stuck, I am going to call the fire department.”

I felt my stomach lurch. The fire department arrived within minutes, they called the rescue unit. The main question was how to get Caro out of the window. Deputy Miller in the mean time phoned Miss Higginbottom. When I heard her chirpy voice I knew we were in trouble. It was her in her office. Miss Higginbottom somehow managed to make it down the flight of stairs:

“Well, what do you two girls have to say for yourselves? In my day we would have returned

the books, and paid the fine. Jackie, I knew you had two outstanding books but I never

for a moment thought you and Caro would break into the library. I have called your

parents. They should be arriving shortly. Your mother left me a phone number this

afternoon just in case you tried something foolish.”

‘There goes my new pick ear pods’ I sullenly thought. Shortly thereafter my parents and Caro’s parents arrived. I knew I was in trouble when my Mother arrived:

“Jacqueline Margaret why in the world did you break into the library? I told you that you

had to return the books and pay the fine.”

“I wanted those pink ear pods.”

“Of all the ridiculous answers you have given me over the years this one is right on the top

of the prize list.”

The rescue team was still trying to extract Caro from the window. However Miss Higginbottom at that precise moment told the Captain of the rescue team that perhaps lard would work better than a pry bar. She wobbled up the staircase returning with a huge can of lard. Finally Caro was free and the great library caper came to an end.  

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