How could I ever pass up the opportunity to help my mothers’ best friends’ colleagues’ aunty run her library, while she heads to Vegas to spend her divorce settlement money on overpriced liquor and, I’m sure, at Chippendales. Mummy was thrilled that I finally had something to do for my gap year. I told her not worry and that I would find a job on my own, but as my mother is, she went on a worldwide search to help me.
My love for libraries runs so deep that I even spent every lunch hour in elementary school with Mrs. Keller. She always smelled like old pennies and tequila. I also spent it with Ms. Orbu in junior high school… and Mrs. Chang in high school. They were a supportive bunch of fantastic ladies; hopefully I can be as enthusiastic and wise as they were.
“Places like this were built to strengthen and entertain the young and old minds of today. Thousands of stories lie in the maroon bookcases and shelves, from storytellers far and wide, ready to transport you into magical worlds.”
The middle aged man who stands by the desk responds with a puzzling look,”…I just came in to ask for directions to the café with the giant singing cup that sings alternative rock versions of Britney Spears songs.”
There are two other patrons standing behind him, tapping their feet on the wooden floor in an impatient matter. I remember important words my mummy used to say all the time, “Impatience isn’t attractive, Don! You’ll never find a woman with that kind of attitude.” Now, my older brother, Don, is out of the basement and married to an assertive dentist, who just happens to work at the same dental clinic as my mother. No matter the circumstances, keep a calm outlook and be patient.
“Of course, it’s along 6th Avenue. Just cross the street, don’t forget to watch out for cars and cyclists, and then walk all the way to the end, and turn right when you get to the cross walk.”
“Okay, got it-“
“In short, cross the street, walk to the cross walk, turn right.” It’s always helpful to create short versions of long instructions.
“Yeah, thanks. I got it.”
I smile brightly at the man dressed like my cousin, Omar. He’s been in jail for the past three years, but before he committed burglary and was charged with possession of narcotics, he worked as an artist. My mummy says that’s just a code word for unemployed.
I look over to my right and see Susan, Maria, and Faiza, the extra support staff that my mothers’ best friends’ colleagues’ aunty employed to help around the library. She called them inferior librarians, because they have to do all the back breaking work and don’t get to ring out books or sign packages. They are huddled closely in the corner, pointing at me and whispering.
I send them a loving wave, but wave my hands for them to get to work. “You can’t be gossiping on the job ladies! Remember, I’m keeping notes for…”
I don’t actually know my mothers’ best friends’ colleagues’ auntys name. She just sent me a long email with all the details of my role and how she trusts me to run her library smoothly. I am a charming, intellectual young man who has the ability to man a 3,000 square feet cozy, Scandinavian farmhouse style library called Forest Meadows Library, with absolutely no previous experience.
A small girl in an annoyingly pink summer dress shushes me. She’s reading a thick book that looks bigger than any textbook I have ever had.
The patrons in front of the desk are waiting for me to serve them, but I need to help the little girl, who is clearly reading a book not suited for her age.
“One moment please, I’ll be right back with you.”
I leave the desk and walk towards the little table in the colourful kids’ corner.
“Excuse me little girl, the picture books are over there. See?” I nudge my head to the large sign with PICTURE BOOKS written in block letters, hanging above a shelf.
What looks like her mother appears from behind me, arms crossed, a brown leather bag hanging from her shoulder.
“You know they probably had to kill five snakes just to make that bag.”
She scoffs, “What are you doing near my child?”
“Sorry, I was just telling her…actually this is perfect that you’re here. Your child should be reading something that’s in her reading level. She looks about…five years old to me-“
The little girl jumps up from her seat, “I’m nine.”
“And she is perfectly capable of reading books above her peer’s level.” her mother says.
“Wow, that’s amazing! When I was nine, I got my head stuck in a bike tire, and the firefighter’s almost decapitated me from the rescue saw they used. I’m okay now; I actually plan yearly meet-ups with the firefighter that cut me out. Mario. He loves bistro sandwiches.”
The mother and daughter duo share a wide eyed look.
“Enjoy your time at Forest Meadows Library,” I look at the cover of the paperback book the little girl is reading, “And enjoy reading Tolstoy.”
I turn around to leave, but the mother brings my attention back around, “One quick thing, I’m writing a paper on fast fashion and its effects on the environment, could you show me where you keep books that relate to that?”
“Fast fashion and its effects on the environment? I’ve never heard of that genre of books.” I say loudly.
“That’s because it isn’t. And I think you should keep your voice down, there’s people reading and studying.”
“If I keep my voice down, you won’t be able to hear me.”
“Look, I’m just looking for books on the topic of clothes consumption and the environment.”
I nod my head in understanding and guide her through the library. My checkered sneakers make obnoxious squeaking noises every step I take. Mummy warned me about wearing these shoes, but I insisted they weren’t going to be a nuisance. I wonder how she’s doing. Before I even unlocked the doors to the library this morning, my phone was buzzing with blue text bubbles from her. Asking me if I’m okay, did I arrive on time, do I have my inhaler? Yes, yes, and check! She’s more nervous about my first day than I am. I’m sure she’s relaxing in a golf cart on a vibrant, green golf course. Dad mentioned he was going to take her there today, their day off work, and have a double date with our neighbors, the Garzas. They are a very kind couple from Italy; who seem to love having company around, especially Rob. That’s probably why I see so many different women come to their house at night, and Rob is there to greet them with a warm hug.
“Excuse me, but do you know where the books I’m looking for are?”
I look around where we’ve stopped. We’re in an aisle.
I’ve been taking this poor woman around the store, wandering like a headless chicken. She rolls her eyes at me and walks away.
I return back to my post being the chunky, rectangular maple wood desk.
“Sorry about that, how can I help you on this sunny morning?”
“Yeah, well the first thing you can do is work faster. There’s barely anyone in line and I’ve been standing here for 15 minutes.”
“I am so sorry to hear that. Wow, I’ve said sorry twice now, what am I, a Canadian?”
I laugh at my incredibly humorous joke, but it doesn’t seem to crack the hard shell of the lady who stands before me, holding three novels.
“Timeliness and efficiency is a Forest Meadows Library promise. Our motto.”
Faiza walks past the table, “We don’t have a motto.”
I shrug. They should make it a motto.
“So, I’m trying to return these books-“
I almost point my fingers to the door, but I remember what mummy told me once, “People who point their fingers are rude and will never amount to anything.” I can hear her sweet voice sounding in my ears every time I’m about to do something wrong. She’s amazing.
“We don’t sell books here. We’re not a bookstore.”
She holds a blank look, “I know that. I was trying to return these books but your book drop off is broken. It’s not opening.”
“Ok. What is that?”
A silence hangs between us, tenser than my father on poker night.
“Are you new here or something?” she asks me.
“Yes, this is my first day, and I absolutely love it! I’ve only been working for approximately, one hour and twenty-five minutes, but I think I’m going to enjoy it here.”
“Yeah, that’s great. Question, are you high?”
I let out an ugly snort, “Absolutely. I’m high on the wonders that this place holds, and the great responsibility that I carry on my shoulders to make sure that the wonders of the pages flow into your hands. Our motto.”
Faiza walks past the desk again, this time, holding a stack of comic books, “Once again, we don’t have a motto.”
“I’m going to look for someone else to help me. Hey lady, come back!” the patron leaves my view and follows Faiza’s tail.
Oh well, guess it’s on to the next one. I’m sure Faiza will help her and figure out what a book drop off is.
The next patron walks slowly to the desk.
“Good morning! You can come closer, I don’t bite. Unless it’s pasta, sourdough bread, or the eraser end of a pencil. How may I help you?”
“Man, after witnessing all of that, I don’t even know,” they laugh and shake their head, “Do you even know anything about your job, or about this place?”
“Of course, this is a library. And I am a librarian.”