Stories often give the impression that librarians are mousy and dull. However, as Michael checked out a stack of birding books, the woman at the reference desk reminded him of a pileated woodpecker he had seen once in Forest Park. He doubted she would appreciate being compared to that particular bird, but her hair blazed like the flame red bird’s crest he had glimpsed only once.
She spoke with a clipped foreign accent and when she smiled, his heart fluttered as fast as a hummingbird’s wings. He found the book he had been searching for on the computer, so what could he ask her? How does an average bearded, bespectacled biologist, and freelance writer, get a date with you?
Boldness was not his forte, patience was. Hours of sitting in duck blinds, or remote forested areas crouched, cramped, and cold waiting for the perfect photograph for his next book, which was his talent.
‘May I help you with something?’ The lady asking for location of ship’s manifests had walked away from the rare bird lady’s counter and left him standing in her line of sight. There was no blind to hide behind.
‘I, er. no, I don’t … Uh, just need to check these out.’’
‘A bird lover, I see,’ she said, as she ran the books through the scanner. ‘I like birds too.’
She cocked her head to one side as she pushed the books toward him on the counter.
‘Pardon me,’ she said, ‘but you look so familiar. Do I know you from somewhere?’
‘Well, uh, I come to the library quite often.”
“No, that can’t be it. I just started working here this week.’
He could not imagine ever seeing her anywhere without noticing her.
‘I’m Michael Zimmerman.’
‘Hm-m, Michael Zimmerman, maybe you just look like someone else I know.’
Nondescript, yup, that was him all right.
‘Maybe so,’ he said.
He turned away and then turned back again.
‘What was your name, you know, in case I make a connection?’
‘Natasha Orloff.’ No ring on her left hand.
‘Have you lived here long?’
‘Yes, my family moved to the Willamette Valley in 1992 when I was ten.’
His brain still worked. She was twenty-six years old to his twenty-eight. He loved the way her accent turned family into “fomoly.”
‘Well, I’ll probably see you here again then.’
‘Yes.’ She smiled again and he suddenly felt like he was too weak to carry this stack of books.
The library’s computerized slip said his books were not due until the twenty-fifth, but he wanted to bring them back the next day. Of course, birds often fly away if you are too persistent. So, he plunged into his research, edited, and had enormous difficulty concentrating.
He walked into the library one week early on the seventeenth and was let down when he saw a spiky haired brunette advising an older couple on where to find maps of Belgium. Where was Natasha? Was this her day off?
He looked around as he proceeded to the 598 section. No sightings of her. He pulled out five selections on nest boxes.
Maybe she was on lunch break in the cafe downstairs, it was close to noon. The aroma of tortilla soup met him as he walked down the stairs. Loud chattering came from the lunchroom when he looked in. He sighed and sat down at a table. May as well have made-from-scratch soup and peruse his books.
Looking at the pictures of birdhouses, he wondered if Natasha had one. Some of them were ornate, but he had built several for his own yard. He thought she would probably like to watch the nest building process, and the parents feeding their young. He shook his head. I am getting way ahead of myself. She likely has a boyfriend, even if she doesn’t right now, she probably would not be interested in me.
However, he purposely walked through the main lobby on his way out. The same dark-haired women sat at the reference desk.
He thought of the countless times he had slogged through wetlands and never saw one bird, or had the photograph ruined by another person or animal spooking his quarry, or a sudden rainstorm drenching him. Sometimes, he would come back later to the same locale and be able to capture the perfect picture for one of his books. He just needed to be patient.
But in this case, he had a tough time being patient. He had not read all his books or as usual made notes for a bibliography.
When he went out on errands that same week, he thought, “The library isn’t that far out of my way. I will just see if she’s at the front desk. It will only take a minute.”
But the front desk was occupied by another lady, a grey-haired woman with a pencil speared above her ear. Her pursed lips made Michael think of the librarian who had shushed him when as a young boy he had talked to a friend in the silent sanctity of the hallowed place.
“Hello,” he said, as the lady peered at him above her bifocals, “Is Natasha here today?”
“Yes, she is …
Then heard a distinct call behind him.
‘Michael, Michael.’ Natasha was living proof that redheads can wear pink, especially fuzzy pink form-fitting sweaters.
‘I figured out where I know you from. Your picture is in a book I checked out on backyard bird watching. I look out my window every morning at my bird feeder before work and watch them. There are chickadees, cowbirds, and a noisy one note Stellar Jay I’ve named Rock Star.’
Was it possible she could look prettier when she was excited?
‘Uh, have you ever gone bird watching out in the woods?’
‘No, but I’d love to go’
His mind focused and clicked on a mental picture of them hiking in the conifer forest. ‘I belong to a bird watching group, there’s about ten of us, you would be welcome to come with us.’
‘When?’ she said.