The garage was so full of miscellaneous items, from a baby buggy, not a stroller, but an actual English Pram to a bird cage. Knick knacks, baskets, boxes, a sewing machine, old computers, a teeter totter, it was a collection of items so vast, so random that Simone did not know where to start. It was like falling into a deep hole and not knowing which way was up. This is so overwhelming, how did I get here? Her parents just wanted to be able to park her car inside the garage. Right now, a matchbox car couldn’t find space.
Simone came up with a plan that did not involve matches and gasoline, which was her first plan. She decided she would organize the garage by quadrants, that way the whole job will take four days and it would also involve a dumpster. Since most of the boxes were on one side of the garage, she would tackle those first. It was the hope that they were mostly full of clothes and old stuffed toys, that way she would quickly sift through them and probably donate and throw most of it away.
The larger boxes were full of clothes, but it seemed that as the boxes got smaller, they also got heavier. She found jewelry, probably costume in the smallest box, Mom will probably have lots of fun going through these baubles, she thought to herself as she continued rifling through the jewelry.
After her first day of garage cleaning, she felt as if she’d ran a marathon. Her muscles ached in places that hadn’t been exercised in a while, she felt grungy and kept detecting the scent of old fruit. When she discovered it was her own scent, she decided it was time to stop for the day, take a shower and tackle the garage again in the morning. As she pushed the unopened boxes back into the garage for the next morning’s work, she saw a small, bright blue box, labeled “Textbooks”. This box can’t be too difficult to clean out, she opened the box, assumed it was a bunch of old schoolbooks which were probably outdated, and she could just donate. One of the books caught Simone’s eye, she recognized the clear plastic cover and the numbers on the spine of the book as a library book. She read the name of the book, it was, “Understanding Calculus”. This book was a like a time machine, it took her back over 10 years ago to her college days. Math was never her favorite subject, but if she wanted to graduate, Calculus had to be passed with a grade of “C” or better.
Simone sat in the yard looking through the book. As she fanned through it, a few notes fell out that were stuck in the book. Her instructor for Calculus was Dr. Kim, he was brilliant and made Calculus as understandable as he could, but it was still a mystery to Simone. That’s why she checked out books from the library to help her, not just this one, but there were an army of books she’d used. Wait, when was this one due back? Did I buy it? Simone tore through the book looking for a date to return. She found the pocket in the inside front cover where a card was inserted, she pulled it out and read the last date, April 9, 2009…12 years ago! I don’t remember getting any reminders in the mail, I must have been too busy since I graduated less than two months after the due date. She quickly scanned her memory and remembered too that her parents moved during that summer, so if any reminders were mailed, they may have been lost due to the move. I wonder how much I owe in late fees, like thousands of dollars! She worries, then wonders, should I just throw out the book and pretend I never saw it, who’ll know? But as she thinks about it, she knows she will never do it. This was probably the last book she checked out to help her pass her class, so it may have helped her earn her degree. She thought about her choices and made a decision; I have to do right by this book and return it.
Simone was satisfied by her day’s work and went into the house to make herself presentable enough to walk into a library. “I don’t think that library is there, it moved really recently,” her mother said sadly. “I didn’t like when they closed it, but you know the kids these days, they don’t go to libraries like they used to, not with computers and their phones,” she shook her head.
“Well, as long as there is a library in town, I’m sure they’ll accept it,” she said as she picked up the book, her purse, keys and walked out the door.
“Pick up some bacon for breakfast!,” her mother yelled out the door.
The town was small, it won’t be hard to find a place to just drop the textbook into a book-drop at the local library, Simone felt happy that she decided to right her negligence. She remembered that the library was located on Rose Avenue, but just as her mother said, it was no longer there, it’s a Starbucks now. After 20 minutes of trying to find the new location for the library, Google had nothing, frustration was starting to set in, Rats! Probably because they just moved! she said out loud, then looked to see if anyone was watching her talk to herself. I’ll ask at the Stop N’ Go, the gas station down the street from where the library was once located. “Excuse me, can you tell me where the new location is for the library?” Simone asked an attendant who was busy sweeping up old candy wrappers and soda bottles that people deposited near the gas pumps, the trash can is right there, this must be aggravating for the attendant, she could feel his annoyance as he used gloved hands to pick up the trash.
“Lady, I don’t know, maybe ask someone inside,” he said obviously in a foul mood.
Simone walks inside and stands in a line as she waits to speak to the cashier. Finally, after waiting for what seemed like a huge stretch of time, she approaches the window, “Pump number?” the man behind the register asks in a mechanical tone.
“Oh, I don’t need gas…” she starts to say.
“Cigarettes?” he points to the myriad of tobaccos organized neatly on wall behind his chair.
“No, I only need to ask a question,” she’s feeling as if this is a mistake, “do you happen to know where the library, the one down the street…” she’s cut off again.
“Not there anymore.”
“I saw that, do you happen to know where they’ve moved to? There’s no sign and I’m not able to google it,” she finally finishes her question.
“There was a sign, maybe it blew away and no, I don’t know where they relocated to, maybe they didn’t?” he suggests, then continues, “there is a library in the next town, about 10 minutes away, take highway 57,” he looks at the clock up on the wall, “there may be traffic at this time,” he tries to look behind Simone. “Next…pump number?” he says to the young man standing behind her.
Well, I guess our conversation is over, she frustratingly says to herself. No wonder the attendant outside was so annoyed, he has to work with this guy. She decides to travel to the next town, King City.
“Hi Mom,” Simone answers the phone as she’s entering the highway.
“Where are you?” her asks bewildered. “I thought you’d be home an hour ago? Did you find the library?”
“No, I’ve been on a wild chase. I’ve never tried so hard to do something right, that no one will appreciate,” Simone declares and wonders if she should just pull off the highway and toss the book out the window.
“Well, I appreciate you. Should I expect you for dinner?” her mother asks sweetly.
“No, you and Dad go ahead. I’ll be home as soon as I can,” Simone says, deliberately trying to be kind, knowing that she’s feeling agitated, but not wanting it to be apparent. I read somewhere if you don’t feel like being nice, simply act nice and soon the niceness will be authentic.
Turning off the highway and entering King City, the first thing Simone spots is a post with directions for different city offices, police station, civic auditorium, Mayor’s office, administrative offices and down below at the bottom of the list is King City Library. A feeling of relief and much deserved respite washes over her.
Simone follows the arrow indicating the way to the library, she sees more signs along the way, “King City Library – this way”. The apprehension is building, soon she’ll be able to return this book, hopefully they’ll take it, since there’s no library next door, she’s also prepared to pay a hefty fine. I wonder if there’s a maximum amount to pay on an overdue library book? She wonders.
She sees a gray building with a statue out front, maybe a local hero, she surmises and after not seeing a parking lot, she parks her car in front of the building. Before she takes the keys out of the ignition, she notices the time and senses that the sun will be going down soon. I’d better get back soon, still even as an adult, as long as she’s staying with her parents, she feels its best to be home by dark. Simone walks up to the statute, “Morgan Fredericks 1750-1810, a soldier who fought in the American Revolution, that’s original. She continues walking up to the door, where above the door there’s a plaque, King City Library. But hanging on the door is a sign, “Closed due to remodeling, drop off library books at Smith’s Hardware at 1101 Main Street”. Oh, no, not another hurdle, where’s Main Street? She looks for someone walking by, here comes a young girl, “Excuse me, can you tell me where Main Street is? I’m looking for Smith’s Hardware?” she hopes the young girl can be of help.
The girl points down the street, “It’s about two blocks that way,” she smiles and continues walking.
“Thank you!” Simone yells to her before she disappears. She then checks her watch. If Smith’s Hardware is closed or burned down, then I give up,” she promises herself.
The justifies that the trek to Smith’s Hardware is only a few blocks, if the wild chase continues, she’ll go home. As she pulls into the driveway, she first notices that there are no other cars and there’s a fluorescent light in the window that says, “Open”.
“May I help you Miss,” a friendly voice calls out from the first aisle where the lightbulbs are displayed.
“Yes, is it here that I can drop off a library book?” she hopes this isn’t another dead end.
“Well, we stopped doing that a week ago, they stopped picking up,” he sounds truthfully apologetic.
“Where can I drop off an old library book that was due 25 years ago,” she said sounding exasperated.
“Well, young lady…” ‘young lady’, he can’t be much older than me? “We were doing a favor for the library, but since they stopped picking up, mostly because they’re not sure if they’re going to relocate or remodel, we’re not taking books for patrons,” he said, still sounding apologetic. But after noticing how annoyed and frustrated Simone was, he said, “let me take the book, I’ll call in the morning and see if I can drop it off. Is it really 25 years overdue?” he asked, eyebrows raised and surprised.
Simone could only give the saddest of nods.
The two started to laugh, “that sounds like a story,” he managed to push the words out of mouth between laughs.
“I don’t know if I’m so tired that everything is funny, or if the other story of me trying to return the book is making me feel delirious,” Simone was surprised at how the laughter made her feel calm. She thought he looked familiar, it must be his eyes, soulful, like my dad, she felt comfortable with him.
‘I’d like to hear all your stories,” he said as he smiled.
Was he flirting with me, she asked herself, it could be? “Can I leave my number, just in case there’s a fee?” She wondered if he’d use the number to call her himself.
“I was going to suggest that myself,” he grabbed a pen and paper from behind the counter. She wrote down a number with her name and handed it to him.
“Simone Kelly,” he read her name. “My name is Matt, uh, Matt Bradley,” he put the slip of paper inside the book. Just then they both heard the door, a man in blue overalls, walked towards Matt and asked where the ladders were kept.
“I have to get home, it was nice meeting you Matt,” Simone walked out the door and quickly got into her car. The ride home was long, there was Friday night traffic and one of the lanes was closed on the highway, it looked like there’d been an accident, lucky I missed it, she felt fortunate for that today.
Simone arrived home, her mother had dinner ready and she sat with her parents discussing the day and her frustrations with the book.
“Was it worth it dear?” he mother asked.
“I think it was,” she felt like a responsible citizen by returning the book and maybe she enjoyed meeting Matt, just a little.
“What’s that sound?” her mother looked towards Simone’s purse.
“That’s my phone. I turned it on vibrate when I thought I was going to go into a library. She opened her purse and pulled out her phone. She didn’t recognize the number, but saw that it was a local number, “Hello?” Simone answers her phone.
“Hi, this is Matt…”