“I am sorry!” screeched my colleague Susan. “You may NOT use language like that while you are here, this is a PUBLIC place!”
Susan was dressed like a witch, green face paint, warty and the daggers she gave the pair she was addressing were straight out of a Hollywood horror.
It was Halloween, a day when the staff embraced the chance to play dress ups. I’d chosen my vampire costume with a smile on my dial that morning but by the afternoon my false teeth were lost and the Transylvanian accent had become little to scarce. The moment I saw the trio I knew I had to fly in and save the witch. These two would be my next customers, a father and daughter I guessed. They were identical in beige cardigans and their hair in a bun. The spitting image of a librarian from the 60s, down to the broken pair of bi-focal specs repaired with tape. I could not see what could have possibly annoyed the Wicked Witch of the Children’s Area so I gave her a nod and took over.
“Greetings and velcome to de Library!” I began with a smile. These two had put in a great effort with their costumes so I felt it only right to do the same.
“We are at the Library? Where are your uniforms?” asked the girl.
She looked between me and Susan before the witch rolled her eyes and turned, wandering off.
The man beside the young girl ignored us all and continued his mutterings.
“Visit the past to save the future…”
“Is your father ok?” I asked, concerned. “Vat is it you vish to know?” I then added as an after-thought, feebly attempting to keep up my vampire character act.
“The Oracle told us that what we seek could be found in a library… We have dressed to blend in…” continued the girl, ignoring the man. She seemed confused which in turn confused me.
“We need information now!! The answers are here!” the man rudely addressed the girl while ignoring me.
“You know who we need..?” I asked. “Not Louie, not Huey..?”
All I got were blank looks.
“They are the famous nephews of Donald Duck?” I prompted.
The looks continued and the incomprehension remained untouched.
I sighed, heading for the non-fiction. “So what information do you actually need?”
We passed the zeroes and I smiled inward. ‘Hippo Eats Dwarf’, a book about hoaxes was the greatest title from our collection in my opinion. I considered pointing it out to the pair that shuffled behind me but thus far my humorous attempts at customer banter had been either ignored or completely misunderstood. The 200s, religion did not seem what these two required, they seemed very focused but not overly faithful. Passing the 613s I blushed, we had a few sex education books but they were never on the shelf, sometimes loaned out but usually stolen.
“What are these?” enquired the girl, pausing at 629.287.
“Manuals for cars, vans, utilities, bicycles…” I explained. “Books about fixing vehicles when they breakdown.”
“Any of them flying vehicles?” the man grunted.
Before my eyes the girl devoured three manuals in as many seconds.
“All of the vehicles roll along the ground…”
“None of them fly?!”
“We do have some books on planes… No manuals though…” I suggested, desperately.
“No planet destroyers? Not even a cruiser?” grumbled the man. His bun bounced as his top hand slammed into his palm. The repetition of fury sounded like music, the slap, slap, slap of a basic beat.
The 790s resulted in small victories as man and girl sped through Star Wars, Star Trek and Doctor Who. As the excitement grew between the two I thought of Banks, Asimov, Baxter and Wells.
Our copy of War of the Worlds had lived in the collection for almost six decades, as I further queried these customers and discovered the specifics of their visit it seemed likely this and this alone was the title that would meet all of their needs.
“I know just what you need, I shall return in just a moment,” I promised. “Please just stay here.”
The hallowed ‘stacks’ was the area at the very rear of the library where we kept the new and the old. Books waiting a dust jacket and spine label were in one section of the compactus with an illustrated copy of the bible, the original Wizard of Oz and numerous Sci Fi and Fantasy novels, the originals published in the 50s, 60s and 70s all housed safely in the second half.
“Davidson!” barked the Head Librarian as she caught me snooping around those very old titles.
She was dressed as Victoria, Queen Victoria and looked characteristically annoyed.
“Ma’am,” I replied with a regal bow.
“What are you doing back here? And where is your accent?”
“Vat could you possibly mean, oh vondrous vun?” I quickly replied, remembering my costume.
Dress up day for Halloween had been my idea.
“Better!” Queen Victoria barked. “But it still does not explain why I find a vampire hiding in this section of the library…”
“De sun, it vas very bright?” I offered.
“I vas hoping de children of de night could help me vid dis query?” I said quickly. “Dey vere here not long before, I am certain dat I heard a howl…”
“Davidson, I am your Queen and I demand the truth!” my superior announced as she drew herself up to her full height and looked me in the chin.
Under such a vicious and regal stare I could not keep the story within. I blurted it all out. The Head Librarian listened carefully, nodded in places and not once pulled me up for my lack of accent.
“Agreed,” she stated as my story finally finished. “Mister Herbert George Wells sounds like exactly the author this father and daughter are seeking.”
I felt as though I had morphed from the dunce in the corner to the favored pupil.
“And what of my suggestion of the Wells’ classic, The Time Machine, will that fulfil the customers’ query?” I asked.
The bubble popped and suddenly I was dunce again.
“Of course, Davidson,” Queen Victoria suggested as a dismissive. “There was never any doubt.”
As the Queen of the Library left me in peace I daintily pulled our crumbling copy of said title off the shelf and with precise movements gently wrapped it in carry cloth.
I found father and daughter in amongst the adolescent fiction examining a panel in one of the comic books. After a cough that caught the pair’s attention I silently offered forth the bundle.
As the man took it into his hands and began to unwrap I noticed the coffee stain on the cover, the pungent smell as the pages whipped by, the grubby finger prints. None of these had been evident in the semi-dark of the back area but they were clear as day now. It seemed not to bother the pair however, ignoring all that made the book no longer shelvable and powering on through an abrupt read.
“This is the one… It’s all here…” the man announced, snapping the classic shut.
Satisfied that they were satisfied I began then to gently guide the pair back toward the information desk.
“With a name and address we can look you up in our borrower’s database…” I began.
That was when the glasses came off, the figures shimmered and the pair suddenly disappeared.
As I locked eyes with the wide ones of Queen Victoria all I could do was shrug.
“Vat?” I asked with a rise of my false eyebrows.
That was the Halloween of 2005, the best costumes ever.