The librarian, Miss Franklin, interrupted me at closing time one night in the midst of deciding between The Mirror Cracked Side to Side or Murder Under the Sun and asked if she could make a recommendation. I nodded and she pushed a copy of The Mists of Avalon into my hands.
“If you love this adventure then come back to me and I’ll offer you an even more exciting one.”
I devoured the story and returned to the library two days later expecting another book recommendation. Instead, she offered me a job. While it paid almost nothing, I could not complain because it allowed me endless access to my favorite place in the whole world.
Initially, my duties were not what I would call ‘exciting’ or ‘adventurous’. I was to collect the books left out on the cart and wheel them back to the main desk so Miss Franklin could re-shelve them. As her trust and confidence in me grew my duties gradually extended in prestige to tasks such as refurbishing the free pencils and paper and reshelving books. Later, I was deemed competent enough to re-file the cards back into the card catalog.
Only one task remained for me to master- stamping the ‘checked out’ books. Miss Franklin demonstrated this task with pride showing, with great flourish, how to pry the little rusty dials around in a circle and set them to the correct month, day, and year. She vehemently stressed that no other date was to be stamped in the book other than the current one. I always assumed that this was due to the collection of fines.
Content with my duties and responsibilities I honored Miss Franklin’s request and left the little stamper in its place of honor in the upper right-hand corner of her desk. Well, that is, until that one fateful day when Miss Franklin disappeared into the back room to process a large shipment of new books and periodicals.
I was placed in charge of ‘the desk’ with the strict instructions that I was to stamp books ONLY with today’s date. My first hour of official ‘desk duties’ began rather uneventfully with a phone call looking for a pizza place, an elderly woman wondering where the washroom was, and a seven-year-old boy proudly getting a book stamped by himself for the first time. I took great pride in the latter, as it was my first solo stamp ever.
I dutifully double checked the little wheels to make sure they all lined up to September first’s date, inked it up, and away we went with a final and official sounding thud. The next three hours were not as breath taking. In fact, they were downright boring with no one crossing the revolving door’s threshold, no calls, no questions, no stamps, not even any check in’s from Miss Franklin.
I passed the time by folding note cards into paper foot balls and ‘flick-punting’ them into the garbage can. I obliged a little piece of string that was begging to be wound and unwound around my finger till the tip of it turned purple. I checked the pencil containers. They were full. I checked the paper stacks. They were full. Deflated, I settled back down behind the desk and looked at the stamp; it looked back at me. Then I looked at the door to the storage area. No Miss. F. I looked back at the stamp. It seemed to whisper up at me.
“Spin me. Go on, just give me a little spin. Try it. It’ll be fun!”
I picked it up and changed the ‘months’ dial to October. Then I looked shifty eyed left and right before stamping it on a piece of scratch paper. Suddenly paper pumpkins and bats appeared on the walls and the Halloween themed books were on display over the center book shelf. Outside the sky had deepened to grey, the wind whirled leaves and trash across the sidewalk, and the trees were in full autumn blaze. People rushed by in winter jackets with ski hats and scarves pulled tightly around them. I looked down in disbelief at the thin sweatshirt I had brought with this morning when the high temperature was to be seventy-nine degrees.
“What just happened,” I asked myself out loud.
Myself had no good answer for me. I looked down at the rubber stamp I was holding and it dawned on me that the collection of fines quite possibly had nothing to do with Miss Franklin’s warning. I spun the dials back to September and stamped the scratch paper again and viola, it was back to being today.
“Wooooaaaahhh,” I uttered as possibilities manifested in my head.
Miss Franklin was still busy with her cataloging in the other room. A crazy thought entered my head. No. I couldn’t do that could I? I totally could! I rummaged through the returns stack and found The Mists of Avalon. Now what year had that been?
“I would try eleven hundred and fifty if I were you,” said Miss Franklin matter of factly from over my shoulder.
“Miss Franklin,” I squeaked. “I uh, I wasn’t. It’s not what it looks like.”
“Let’s see. You have a copy of The Mists of Avalon sitting open next to your left hand. In your right hand you hold my rubber stamper. If I didn’t know better, I would think you were planning on going off on an adventure to meet the old gal?”
“Yes, that was pretty much exactly what I was planning.”
“Quite Frankly I’m surprised that it took you this long to figure it out. I mean I GAVE you the book. I TOLD you NOT to change the dials on the date.”
“You WANTED me to figure it out?”
“Precisely. I’ve grown tired of solo time travel. I mean what good is an adventure if you have no one to share it with? I can’t even tell other people about my journeys. If I ran around telling everyone about the heart to heart I had with Joan of Arc the other night they’d lock me up in the looney bin! Well, are you going to stand there gawking at me all day or are we going to go on an adventure?”
I smiled my biggest, most mischievous smile at Miss Franklin as I slowly turned the ‘year’ wheel to eleven hundred and fifty. She motioned for me to go ahead and stamp the book. The thud of the rubber stamper meeting cardboard binding echoed throughout the library as Miss Franklin and I set off to write our own version of The Mists of Avalon.