LibraryWork

Submitted into Contest #91 in response to: Set your story in a library, after hours.... view prompt

125 comments

American Fiction

Lizzy liked nothing better than walking over to the public library immediately after school. As the other schoolchildren had collectively decided she was weird, she ignored them in return, preferring to go down Oak Street, turning left on Maple Avenue, and taking a quick right on Sycamore Lane. On her way to the library, invariably her ratty shoes would come untied or she’d lose her jacket, but Lizzy didn’t mind the cold. 

Her stepmother would yell at her about the jacket, but Lizzy knew her stepmother didn’t need that as an excuse to be cross with her. 

Sometimes Lizzy didn’t walk to the library. Sometimes she skipped or hopped. Sometimes she galloped like a horse. Sometimes she walked backwards. When Miss Barsanti, the Physical Education teacher, taught her class how to square dance, Lizzy tried to Do Si Do or Promenade to the library, but it was hard without a partner. It was hard in class, too, when no one wanted to Allemande Left. But Lizzy paid no mind. At 3:00 p.m., the library patiently waited for her to arrive.

It took Lizzy exactly seven minutes to walk to the library. It took longer if she hopped. 

The librarians greeted her warmly, occasionally offering her a bag of potato chips or even an oatmeal raisin cookie. She’d graciously thanked them, as she was always hungry after school. At the far table in the corner by a bay window, Lizzy carefully unpacked her frayed bookbag, pulling out colored folders containing her 4th grade homework. Lizzy called it librarywork since there wasn’t much she did at home. Her father worked nights and her stepmother sat on the back patio with the neighbor ladies and smoked. They talked about things Lizzy didn’t understand.

Lizzy would make herself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on Wonder Bread for dinner, cutting it diagonally. It tasted much better that way. She cleaned up since her stepmother preferred her to pick up after herself. She minded her stepmother, but normally it was just to wash up and go to bed because school came early in the morning. Lizzy was well aware that school came early since she walked herself to school, then after school to the library, and then to the house her stepmother declared was too small.

Lizzy looked at her librarywork in front of her, preparing to do battle. She had already washed her hands, taken a large drink from the water fountain, and sharpened three pencils at the library customer service desk. One of the librarians gave Lizzy a piece of what she called coffee cake, but Lizzy thought it tasted more like cupcakes than coffee. She’d once tasted coffee from her stepmother’s mug. It was awful, especially after she was slapped for doing so.

Lizzy’s yellow folder contained her much despised math worksheets. Dutifully, she practiced her multiplication tables, penciling in answer after answer on the rote problems, furrowing her brow as numbers seemed to be the devil’s alphabet. Science was next, neatly tucked into the green folder. Occasionally a topic would intrigue her, sending Lizzy into the stacks in the grown up section of the library, where she would look for oversized books on volcanoes and butterflies. She’d already read most of the books in the juvenile section. 

Lizzy took a break from her studies and crawled on all fours in front of one of the librarians who was shelving books. She looped her bookbag around her midsection so it rode on her back.

“What are you today, Lizzy?”

“I’m an Australian quadrupedal marsupial,” she replied, making a low grunting noise.

“Koala?” the librarian guessed.

“Nope.”

“Kangaroo?”

“I’m not hopping . . .” Lizzy laughed, then motioned to her bookbag. “And I do not have a front facing pouch. Mine is backwards.”

“Can I have another clue?”

“I have cubic feces,” Lizzy said, grinning from ear to ear.

“Your poop is square?” The librarian looked over her glasses. “Are you a wombat, Lizzy?”

“Correct,” Lizzy replied, holding one finger high above her head. “I am a wombat. You get a point!”

“And why do wombats have backward facing pouches? Did God make them in a hurry?”

“Wombats burrow underground. The babies would get buried alive!” Lizzy rolled over on her back and enacted a credible suffocating death. 

“Looks like God knew what he was doing with the momma wombats,” the librarian said, not breaking her stride in ordering books on the shelves. 

“I guess so,” Lizzy said, remaining uncommitted. 

“Lizzy, do you know why wombats have square poop? I cannot fathom a possible reason,” the librarian stopped, looking Lizzy full in the face. 

“It’s easier to stack and mark their territory,” Lizzy replied matter-of-factly. She then appeased the librarian by adding, “I guess God took his time with that particular wombat feature.”

They both smiled at each other. Lizzy the wombat crawled back to her table in the corner. 

The red social studies folder awaited her with names of far away places like the Tigris and Euphrates. Lizzy went off to discover the aisle on ancient civilizations and lost track of time while flipping through a travel guide on Egypt. 

And finally, the purple folder had a worksheet for Language Arts. I saved the best for last, she said. Lizzy loved the Beverly Cleary series her class had just started. She thought Henry Huggins would have definitely been her best friend if she lived on Klickitat Street in Portland, Oregon. Lizzy hugged her book. She hugged most of her books. I saved the best for last, she said aloud. 

Her father said that, too, whenever he was home and tucked her in. He would sing her the “Silly Lizzy” song he’d made up long ago and kiss her on top of her head, saying I saved the best for last. He’d usually have dark circles under his eyes from working double shifts, but her mother’s medical bills still came in the mail at regular intervals in thick manila envelopes. It was strange to see her name because she’d been gone for so long. Lizzy would trace the letters of her name on the paperwork.

“The library will be closing in five minutes,” announced a librarian, causing patrons to attend to their belongings and take their items to the check out desk.

Lizzy would normally follow suit, packing up her librarywork in the requisite colored folders, bidding the librarians goodnight, and walking home in the dusk to make her peanut butter and jelly sandwich. 

But tonight she was a wombat and would burrow under the stacks in the adult section of the library. When the librarians checked the bathrooms and straightened the tables and chairs, they would leave—and leave Lizzy alone in the peace and quiet of the library. No one would yell at her to wash up and go to bed. 

If she became hungry, the librarians wouldn’t mind if she helped herself to the leftover Chinese food in the employee refrigerator or the remaining coffee cake that didn’t taste like coffee at all. If she grew cold, she could help herself to the box of lost & found items under the main circulation desk, as there were always sweaters and jackets and sunglasses and umbrellas left behind. And if she grew lonely, there were all of her friends in hundreds of books happily awaiting her to only turn the page. 

Lizzy listened quietly as the librarians made their appointed rounds. Then suddenly the lights were turned off. A lock clicked. 

Lizzy rolled out from under the shelves and stretched like all wombats do when leaving their burrows and began to Do Si Do around the library just like Miss Barsanti had taught. 



April 25, 2021 00:13

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125 comments

Scout Tahoe
03:33 Apr 30, 2021

I remember Beverly Cleary. I love Beverly Cleary. You wrote such a calm yet extravagant story. It feels youthful but timeless at the same time, like it's all happening at once all over the world. I like the perspective of Lizzy - she's like a fairytale. This new style you've tried out is nice. I have no critique, nice job!

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Deidra Lovegren
11:08 Apr 30, 2021

Socks is still my favorite book. That and The Mouse and the Motorcycle. She was OG.

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Scout Tahoe
04:04 May 03, 2021

Who isn't? Still swooning over BFG & Pippi Longstocking. I mean, that sister was *hot*.

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This is sooooo emotional! It was absolutely beautiful and you've written it so well! Loved it! Keep writing!

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Deidra Lovegren
10:26 Apr 27, 2021

Thanks! I appreciate the encouragement ❤️

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;) Welcome!

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Helen Ross
14:04 Apr 25, 2021

Oh my gosh this nearly made me cry!! It's so beautiful and well written, somehow with a child's perspective and a bittersweetness that only comes from hindsight as well :((( I loved it so much! Well done x

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Deidra Lovegren
15:53 Apr 25, 2021

Thank you so much, Helen! I wanted to try my hand at being “Harper Lee” — using a POV that you so eloquently articulated. I also wanted to pay hommage to Beverly Cleary who died recently; her books got me through childhood. And I wanted to celebrate the amazing kids who feel like they are round pegs in a square hole world.

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Helen Ross
16:39 Apr 25, 2021

you did an amazing job of it!! round pegs unite <3

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Helen Ross
16:39 Apr 25, 2021

you did an amazing job of it!! round pegs unite <3

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Helen Ross
16:40 Apr 25, 2021

you did an amazing job of it!! round pegs unite <3

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Kylee Haverty
01:18 May 04, 2021

AMAZING!!!!! You did a fantastic job of writing this story, and in the perspective of a 4th grader. I love this story and it is so wonderfully and beautifully written! Great job!

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Deidra Lovegren
18:21 May 04, 2021

HUZZAH - O to be a 4th grader again. Any age before traipsing off into the puberty forest :)

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Kylee Haverty
19:00 May 04, 2021

OMG YES! Lol.

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23:30 May 02, 2021

I only have one problem with this story. I want to read more! Lizzy the wombat is adorable.

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Deidra Lovegren
18:26 May 04, 2021

Lizzy will grow up and marry the love of her life at age 31. She'll meet him in a laundromat, as he'll be reading "The Nix" or "Infinite Jest." They'll go get ice cream and both will order two scoops of vanilla in a cup. They will have jobs they don't care about but live in a prefabricated log cabin and write wonderful stories together. You can see them in the 60's and 70's, happily quoting Monty Python lines and making very bad puns, walking their black labs. He won't like beans, but she will figure out a way to make chili without them. It ...

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20:55 May 04, 2021

❤️Thank you.

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Niveeidha Palani
04:28 Apr 30, 2021

I love this, Deidra. Distinctly reminds me of hopefully optimistic nerds. Like me. Honestly, you injected some pretty deep emotions into the girl. Her abusive stepmother (well duh, typical stepmother) and her dad that doesn't particularly care. Seriously. Love this piece. ❤❤

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Deidra Lovegren
11:09 Apr 30, 2021

At their core, I think all nerds are optimistic. It's usually the dumbasses who are pessimists :)

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Niveeidha Palani
10:43 May 02, 2021

True, true. Valid point. ;)

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Gerald Daniels
17:54 Apr 29, 2021

I hate coffee cake. Great story.

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Deidra Lovegren
17:56 Apr 29, 2021

Seriously. Right up there with fruit cake and red velvet cake and a urinal cake.

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Gerald Daniels
18:46 Apr 29, 2021

... but don't those urinal cakes look appetising...☺️

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Deidra Lovegren
19:06 Apr 29, 2021

And they SMELL fantastic!

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Gerald Daniels
20:10 Apr 29, 2021

I'm so glad it's not just me :-)

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H L Mc Quaid
10:04 Apr 29, 2021

Absolutely wonderful storytelling and tight writing. I enjoyed it immensely 😊. As for a title, if you're still looking... A few suggestions Burrowed books/A burrow of books A Marsupial's tale/Tales of a Marsupial The Wombat's sandwich

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Deidra Lovegren
16:02 Apr 29, 2021

Marsupial's Tail would be very punny. :)

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H L Mc Quaid
16:11 Apr 29, 2021

Ha, yes it would. 😂

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Aisha Khan
23:08 Apr 28, 2021

I didn't want this piece to end. I especially loved Lizzie's character and want to be her best friend now!

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Deidra Lovegren
16:08 Apr 29, 2021

Poor little kid won't realize how cool she is until college. Middle school and high school will suck, but she will absolutely blossom in college and life. :)

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Aisha Khan
23:10 Apr 29, 2021

Yes, those times are the worst. But I guess the more she grows and learns about herself and the world, the more she'll realize how special she is! :-)

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Safaa Ismail
01:33 May 20, 2021

I totally agree, as a middle schooler myself. If i could give my past self any advice, it would be to definitely not follow what other think as cool, and to follow myself. It can be hard, and sometimes a big journey, but it’s one that’s worth it. 🙂

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Corey Melin
22:17 Apr 28, 2021

Loved it. So many times that I would love to live at the library as I pour over the countless reads. Superb.

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Deidra Lovegren
22:18 Apr 28, 2021

Library would be awesome — a museum would be even better ❤️

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Corey Melin
22:20 Apr 28, 2021

A library within the museum is heaven

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Deidra Lovegren
16:09 Apr 29, 2021

A frozen yogurt parlor inside a library located within a museum.

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Fawn Marshall
17:23 Apr 28, 2021

It's hard science that sandwiches taste the best when cut diagonally.

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Deidra Lovegren
19:33 Apr 28, 2021

Especially with the crusts off.

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Fawn Marshall
19:55 Apr 28, 2021

You don't eat the bones?!

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Deidra Lovegren
19:58 Apr 28, 2021

I'm crust-intolerant.

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Fawn Marshall
20:21 Apr 28, 2021

Well, I guess nobody's perfect =p

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Keya M.
16:54 Apr 28, 2021

There is something so heartwarming about reading a story from a child's perspective. You get that childlike feeling that's simply inexplicable. I really related to Lizzy, as a voracious reader myself, and I loved how the library was her haven away from the troubles she faced at home and at school. Incredible as always Deidra! ;)

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Deidra Lovegren
19:32 Apr 28, 2021

YAY -- I'm glad you were a fellow wombat growing up like me.

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Keya M.
12:50 Apr 29, 2021

SQUARE POOP FOREVER!

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Deidra Lovegren
15:34 Apr 29, 2021

We actually need teeshirts with that slogan on it.

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Keya M.
16:14 Apr 29, 2021

Agreed lol.

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Ramie Creates
12:11 May 06, 2021

I always feel bad when kids don't get the things they deserve, just like a mother, a family and love. It hurts realizing there are so many children who can't enjoy the things people take for granted. Lovely writing!

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Deidra Lovegren
12:55 May 06, 2021

Paradoxically, many children who are deprived actually excel far greater than their peers later in life. Just another thing on my long list of questions for God... Malcolm Gladwell covers this in his book "David & Goliath" -- or here is a great article about this strange human phenomenon: https://www.npr.org/sections/krulwich/2013/10/15/234737083/successful-children-who-lost-a-parent-why-are-there-so-many-of-them

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Ramie Creates
10:25 May 07, 2021

Oh thanks I'll look at it. Once I too used to question that to God, but maybe I got my answer. This is my view only, I think every hardship someone goes through is a test, to make us stronger. All of our destinies are connected. I've seen children who're deprived but they turn out to be better human beings than the ones born with silver spoons. It hurts me when because of somebody's ignorance, an innocent child suffers. Just like you wrote in the story, because of Lizzy's mother, she stayed in the library and felt like an orphan, when she ha...

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Deidra Lovegren
11:34 May 07, 2021

I think your view is very wise and correct 🙏🏻

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Alma Palahniuk
22:05 May 04, 2021

This was so beautifully told. I love how innocently you presented the darker sides of the little girl's life, it truly showed that childish perspective on things.

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Deidra Lovegren
11:04 May 05, 2021

Thanks so much. I was trying for a Scout-voice from To Kill a Mockingbird, but 3rd person and not 1st.

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Rochelle Smith
12:18 May 04, 2021

So good! Really enjoyed Lizzy’s POV. Loved the small snippets of backstory. The story has a Cinderella fairytale vibe - Such a fun, easy read.

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Deidra Lovegren
18:18 May 04, 2021

Glad my prose went down smoothly. Sometimes I get too caught up in my own head to write with any clarity. Appreciate your kind remarks!

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Lindsay Santana
05:22 May 04, 2021

SO WELL WRITTEN, I can feel the emotions of the character, this was so emotional I almost cried, I have no critique, super well written.

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Deidra Lovegren
18:19 May 04, 2021

I think Lizzys reside in all writers -- all of us unicorns with unique gifts to share, if only anyone were kind enough to ask. :)

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Elizabeth Inkim
05:14 May 04, 2021

Fantastic story; the storyline and character got me; they were very grounded. I loved the style of this too. I wrote a story for this prompt too, it's called "Hide and Seek", and I would love to know what you think. Although from your story, I think you might like my stories "Nothing Gold Can Stay" or "Lighting in a Bottle" more.

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Nina Thompson
02:25 May 04, 2021

Such great storytelling! The reader can see so much of Lizzy's life through her actions and her perception of her home life. I especially like how the librarian engages with her. I can imagine how much affection they have for Lizzy and how sad they must feel for her, spending all of her time with them. The story is half sad and half hopeful--maybe Lizzy's imagination will see her through all of the hard parts of life.

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Deidra Lovegren
18:20 May 04, 2021

Librarians are all demigods walking the earth. Every librarian or media specialist I've ever met has been a godsend. Truly the best (and smartest) of people.

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Philip Clayberg
21:06 May 03, 2021

What a wonderful story. Thank you so much for writing it. I especially liked the scene where Lizzy imitates a wombat and the librarian has to guess that's what Lizzy is. If you ever feel like writing them, I would love to read more stories about Lizzy. Editing comments (even if it's too late to fix your online copy; you can still fix your offline copy): much despised math worksheets. ["much despised" should be "much-despised"] because school came early in the morning. Lizzy was well aware that school came early [an unusual phrase, "s...

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Deidra Lovegren
18:23 May 04, 2021

No. 2 pencils would have been killer. Especially the black Ticonderoga ones, the veritable god of all pencils. Thanks for the feedback. UGH. I wish you were my editor....

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Philip Clayberg
19:10 May 04, 2021

I remember that type of pencil from grade school in the 1970s and early to mid-1980s (I graduated from high school in 1985). Every time there was a test that used Scantron sheets for the multi-choice answers, they would say, "Does everyone have a No. 2 pencil? And don't forget to fill in the entire oval." You're welcome. I try to do my best. I'm not a paid/professional editor and didn't learn how to edit in any structured form. I learned it mostly from transcribing for my mother (a German- and French-to-English translator). I would s...

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Reagan B
19:02 May 03, 2021

I just really want to say thank you, oddly enough this story was just what i needed today. Also it is really freaking amazing, and I have no idea how you did that, I can't even imagine writing something so good. I loved it so much.

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Deidra Lovegren
18:17 May 04, 2021

Reagan, that is the best compliment I've ever received. Thanks for hanging out with me and Lizzy. I imagine most of us are Lizzys on Reedsy: kindly introverts attempting to share and connect our worldviews. C.S. Lewis wrote we read to know we aren't alone. So true.

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