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

Justin Barnum
17:20 May 03, 2021

Such a fun story. I loved the references to B&J on Wonder Bread, cut diagonally, and Beverly Cleary. Some very fond memories.

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Deidra Lovegren
18:25 May 03, 2021

Thanks, Justin :) I'm just glad I had an awesome mom instead of a chain-smoking step hag. Lizzy will be just fine, though.

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Emily Lawson
14:49 May 03, 2021

Nicely written.

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Deidra Lovegren
18:24 May 04, 2021

YAY

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14:35 May 03, 2021

I love this. It paints such a lovely picture of this little girl. I remember when I was like that, and this brought me right back to it.

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Deidra Lovegren
14:53 May 03, 2021

Mission accomplished, then. Childhood isn't as carefree as we'd like to remember. Always to struggle to find ourselves, where we fit in, and who we belong to.

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Kayla Wamslay
15:16 May 01, 2021

Wow! This story definitely painted a picture in my head. I could clearly see Lizzy, her stepmom and her dad in my head. Keep writing this is great!!!

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Deidra Lovegren
16:14 May 01, 2021

Thanks for the moral support :)

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Wizard Oblivion
15:03 May 01, 2021

This is so happy and sad at the same time! I couldn't help but feel really sad about the condition of Lizzy's home. But then her love for books and the library was like a warm hug that canceled out the sad parts. not canceled precisely, it balanced it out and that is what makes this story so beautiful!

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Deidra Lovegren
16:13 May 01, 2021

Hopefully like life, the universe evens it all out in the long run. :)

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14:42 May 01, 2021

I loved this! I think you might win..

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Deidra Lovegren
14:56 May 01, 2021

I’m just here for the free therapy 😀

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Rachel Loughran
09:45 Apr 28, 2021

This was great! What a brilliant kid, and so well realised. Living at the library would be a bit of a dream, huh? I saw the conversation below about titles - I also struggle with them, and sometimes find the easiest thing is just to focus on a single word or phrase from the story that feels particularly nice or friendly to me, even if it's only said once. In this case I wondered if "Librarywork" would be a good title for this story? It was such a lovely detail, and absolutely something a kid like Lizzy would think of. Great story! Thanks...

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Deidra Lovegren
16:05 Apr 29, 2021

Rachel -- you are a genius! That is the best lesson on entitling stories I've ever had, and I'm an old English teacher. If I win, I will send you a portion of the proceeds. :) Thanks for the great suggestion!

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Rachel Loughran
16:19 Apr 29, 2021

Oh my goodness, thank you! I'm happy to have been of assistance!

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Deidra Lovegren
16:20 Apr 29, 2021

I hereby dub you "Queen of Titles". You now have the title of being in charge of titles. Huzzah

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Rachel Loughran
16:21 Apr 29, 2021

I look forward to my next challenge!

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17:38 Apr 27, 2021

great story! she's a child- you got that across very well- but she has some of the bittersweetness and world-weariness that only comes from growing up or being neglected. you emphasized the conflicts in this story without letting them take over. nice job.

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Deidra Lovegren
16:11 Apr 29, 2021

YAY Thanks for the analysis and kudos, Kate.

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01:48 Apr 30, 2021

anytime. :D.

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Dorsa S.
13:55 Apr 27, 2021

splendid! you mixed the smarts and innocence of young children flawlessly. loved it! :)

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Deidra Lovegren
18:18 Apr 27, 2021

YAY -- Thanks, Dorsa!

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Valerie June
22:04 Apr 26, 2021

Living at a library would be my younger self’s dream come true. The little details you included like how Lizzy went to the library and what she was learning about made the story realistic. Kids don’t care about “adult things” and you portrayed that extremely well. Somehow you made the idea of a wombat, girl, and library flawlessly work together. Once again, Deidra prevails! The only thing I’d point out is that I was a bit confused by the title. Other than that, a delightful read as usual.

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Deidra Lovegren
18:18 Apr 27, 2021

Jose, I am TERRIBLE with titles. If you have a better suggestion, please let me know. Thanks for liking my wombat girl. She seems very familiar to me. :)

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Valerie June
18:25 Apr 27, 2021

Ah, so am I. It's like naming a child; so precious yet so hard to do. If I think of any I'll let you know! 😉

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Deidra Lovegren
16:12 Apr 29, 2021

Someone suggested "Do Si Don't" --> hard no. :)

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Valerie June
16:41 Apr 29, 2021

The new title is much better! I agree, a hard pass.

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Deidra Lovegren
17:01 Apr 29, 2021

Do Si Don't --> kind of clever, though. But doesn't fit the tone. I'm a sucker for a play on words. :)

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21:02 Apr 26, 2021

You have really captured a child-like innocence and the intense focus on small things which characterises so much of youth. A fantastic job, well done! :)

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Deidra Lovegren
21:49 Apr 26, 2021

Thank you, so much :)

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Jaithri K
15:12 Apr 26, 2021

Do Si Do..."numbers seemed to be the devil’s alphabet"..."I saved the best for last"...Wombat!...Living in a library?!....Epic...This is such an epic masterpiece...the portrayal of childhood in all its innocent glory...and the bittersweet tinge of harsh reality...Beautifully crafted...Top notch!

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Deidra Lovegren
15:19 Apr 26, 2021

Yay! Thanks for the great comments—always fun/horrifying to crawl back to childhood.

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Phoenix Langston
03:58 Apr 25, 2021

Ah, it's too bad most of us don't have the opportunity to be Lizzy the wombat more often. Wouldn't it be great if we could just tuck our pouches behind us for a little while and burrow into something we love, whether it's books or anything else? I never thought being like a wombat would be so gratifying!

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Deidra Lovegren
05:28 Apr 25, 2021

This story is pure wish fulfillment. Living in a library 📚? Irresistible to me, especially when I was young.

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Phoenix Langston
05:29 Apr 25, 2021

Oh, me too. I absolutely love the library! Can't wait till I can go to my local one again.

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Esther Kurisu
19:54 May 17, 2021

You can clearly tell what an amazing writer you are and I love the childish-in a good way vibe. :)

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Deidra Lovegren
20:08 May 17, 2021

Thanks for the ❤️

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Echo Sundar
21:17 May 11, 2021

I loved that story! Storys from the view of children are always intriguing and this story was done just flawlessly.

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Deidra Lovegren
15:26 May 12, 2021

Thanks! It's hard to get the right tone for a child. Complicated little people :)

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Echo Sundar
16:38 May 12, 2021

Yes they are :)

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Deidra Lovegren
17:58 May 12, 2021

And when they get bigger, even more so AGHHHHH

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Echo Sundar
17:58 May 12, 2021

🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣 The struggle is real.

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Deidra Lovegren
18:00 May 12, 2021

The struggle is three sons aged 19, 21, 23.

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Ryan Lm Colli
14:20 May 11, 2021

Great story: Pls join this link... https://www.guilded.gg/i/6pR8goy2

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Ashmita Das
10:21 May 05, 2021

I love how vividly you write; its like all of it is happening in real time. I can visualize each and every line and I think that's very beautiful. You are a very good storyteller, the story is not exciting in any way and yet captures the reader's interest and is able to keep it till the end. Well done!

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Deidra Lovegren
11:06 May 05, 2021

Never underestimate the power of the present tense verb! Neal Shusterman uses them in his writing with great style and aplomb. :)

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Angel {Readsy}
20:38 May 04, 2021

Nice

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Deidra Lovegren
11:03 May 05, 2021

Appreciate it :)

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Angel {Readsy}
11:22 May 05, 2021

Highly obliged

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Avid Writer
21:47 May 03, 2021

So sweet! It was indubitably splendiferous how innocent and precious this story was. Lizzy made me smile and reminded me vaugly of myself when I was younger. People should write children more often, you did a genius job of doing such! It really was a story filled with conviviality.

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Deidra Lovegren
18:22 May 04, 2021

Writing from a child's POV is challenging because kids are very smart and very insightful without knowing all the reasons why. I think adults are far more narrow and muted, generally.

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The Cold Ice
05:52 May 02, 2021

Nice story. Wonderful. I loved it. Well written. Keep writing. Would you mind reading my story. “The book reader”

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