Submitted into Contest #248 in response to: Write a story titled 'Persuasion'.... view prompt


Fiction Funny Urban Fantasy

“The Library closes in thirty minutes," a gravelly voice on the intercom announced. It was the time of day that Sarah hated the most. Groaning inwardly, she stood up from her chair and stretched. She was stiff from sitting so long, but it was worth it to spend hours escaping into different worlds. If Sarah could, she would live in the library. 

She stared at the pile of books on the table. There wasn't enough time to decide which books to check out and which ones to leave. Treasure Island was a reread, so that could go back, and the Robert Frost poems could be left for another day. Sarah let out a heavy sigh. Why did there have to be a limit on the number of books she could check out? Sarah continued to shift through the books, moving them from one pile to the other. While the reshelve pile grew smaller, the checkout pile grew bigger. 

The Librarian, Ms. Spencer, was going to be furious with Sarah, but it wouldn’t be the first time. Just last week, Sarah had printed an article for a report when suddenly Ms. Spencer burst from the printer room with a towering stack of paper. Sarah hadn’t realized how long the article was when she hit print. Ms. Spencer came to her with half the article and a lecture. The only way Sarah was going to receive the rest of the article was if she paid double the cost. Meekly, Sarah had handed over the money because she needed the entire article. Yes, she could’ve read the article on the computer, but there was nothing better than holding a physical copy in your hands. 

Beatrice Spencer wasn't one of those friendly librarian types that you see in the movies. She didn’t greet you with a smile and ask you how your day was. Mostly, Ms. Spencer scowled at you as you wandered around the library. If she could chain the books to the shelves like in medieval times, she would. Sarah liked to imagine that Ms. Spencer once had. 

Sarah loved books too, but the Librarian's love bordered on the obsessive. Once, she could have sworn she heard Ms. Spencer mumble "my precious" as she cradled a book against her chest.

“Fifteen minutes until the library closes,” the Librarian’s voice announced impatiently. Sarah felt her chest tighten as panic filled her. She still didn’t know which books to check out and which ones to leave. For a brief moment, she considered taking a few books and stuffing them in her backpack, but that would have been a dire mistake. Ms. Spencer had a nose like a bloodhound. Sarah wouldn’t make it five feet past the circulation desk before Ms. Spencer would corner her by the door and demand Sarah empty her bag. So no, taking the books without checking them out was out of the question.

Sarah could do this. She could whittle down her stacks and exit the library without Ms. Spencer breathing down her neck. Sarah giggled under her breath as a stray thought danced across her mind. Maybe Ms. Spencer was secretly a dragon in disguise. Perhaps, Ms. Spencer lived in the library and her bed was a pile of books. Discarded books, of course, there was no way Ms. Spencer was going to use books still in circulation. The horror! Sarah chuckled to herself, thinking of Ms. Spencer as a dragon with the entire library as her hoard. 

“Ten minutes until close. If you have materials to check out, please bring them to the circulation desk now. If you do not need to check materials out, please gather your belongings and head towards the exit. REMEMBER!! DO NOT reshelve any books or other materials that you have used. Leave them on the tables for reshelving.” 

Only ten minutes left!!! She’d just wasted a third of her time daydreaming about dragons! How was she going to choose? As she nervously glanced over at the circulation desk, Sarah saw a small line beginning to form: mothers holding small children, college students balancing books on top of laptops, and an elderly couple with DVDS in their wrinkled hands.

There was only one option left, and it was a long shot. Sarah was going to throw herself upon the mercy of Ms. Spencer. She would beg and plead with the librarian to forgo the checkout limit just this once. Sarah was the library’s best patron, after all. She had never once caused a disturbance and always, ALWAYS brought her books back on time. Sarah was the very model of the perfect library patron.

Gathering up her books, Sarah stood in line behind a college student who smelled of coffee and desperation. It must be finals week, Sarah thought to herself. 

The line inched painfully forward. Sarah could feel wrinkles forming as she waited her turn. She made a mental note to check for gray hair when she got home. Sarah resolved not to complain; an outburst would send her straight out the library door. She kept quiet. Sarah didn't need her plan to fail before it began. 

Finally, Sarah was the next person in line. The college student in front of her shuffled off, his despair leaving a trail lingering in the air behind him. Sarah heard him mumble, “Why am I majoring in Philosophy?”

Sarah stepped forward and placed her books on the circulation desk. She looked at Ms. Spencer with what she hoped was an optimistic expression.

“Five books check out limit,” Ms. Spencer barked at Sarah, not even taking her eyes off the computer screen. “You know this.”

“Ms. Spencer, could you not make an exception this ti….

“Five book checkout limit! If I have to repeat myself, you will not be allowed to check any books out ever!” Ms. Spencer looked up from her computer and stared at Sarah with cold, hard, unsympathetic eyes. Sarah took a deep breath to calm her nerves and started talking. 

“Please, Ms. Spencer, just give me a few minutes to explain myself. I promise when I finish, you will be on board.” Sarah smiled uncertainly at Ms. Spencer.

“You've got two minutes,” Ms. Spencer replied, crossing her arms, “and this better be good.” 

“Thank you for the opportunity to let me speak… I have been a loyal patron of this library for five years now. In that time, I have always returned my books before the due date to avoid late fees. I never charged for copies.  I also know the Dewey Decimal inside and out, yet per your rules, I leave books and other materials on the tables for reshelving. Finally, every Saturday, I wake up early and come here, to this library to read to the younger children. In conclusion, I am the very model of the perfect library patron. That’s all there is to it.’ Sarah finished and waited with bated breath.

Ms. Spencer stared at Sarah for a long moment but didn’t speak. She just picked up Sarah’s books and began checking them out for her, all of them!! There was no raised voice or slamming of the checkout stamp, just the comforting sound of the scanner as it crossed each barcode. Sarah had done it! She had persuaded Ms. Spencer to override the checkout limit! Sarah wanted to dance right there in front of the circulation desk but didn’t dare risk it for fear that Ms. Spencer would change her mind.

Finally, the last book was scanned and stamped. The librarian stacked the books neatly into two piles and peered at Sarah over the top of her glasses. 

“Well, Miss Sarah, you have accomplished what others before you have not. You have persuaded me to change the rules. Just this once, mind you. 

“Thank you, Ms. Spencer, you have no idea what this means to me.’ Sarah said, blinking back tears. 

“Just remember…if these books are late even for a minute…,” Ms. Spencer leaned in closer and whispered the last bit. “I will rain down fire and brimstone the likes of which you have never beheld until I get those books back!” She turned and walked away. Something startled Sarah. For a split second, she was sure she saw a spiked tail whip out from underneath Ms. Spencer’s skirt.

A whiff of sulfur caught in Sarah's nose and she no longer cared about reading the books she checked out. Instantly, the library had lost that warm and cozy feeling that she had come to love. Anxiety and fear were now filling the spaces between the stacks. Leaving her books on the counter, she turned, ran out of the library and down the sidewalk as fast as her legs could carry her. Again, Sarah saw something out of the corner of her eye. 

Glancing up, she saw a large winged creature soaring above the library. She rubbed her eyes in disbelief; it couldn't be, could it? When she looked again, the skies were clear. 

Quickening her pace, she decided to take a shortcut home. She would be okay once she made it home. Perhaps Sarah needed a break from books; maybe she would try and play some video games. Yes, video games were a safer choice as long as they didn't involve dragons.

May 03, 2024 20:20

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RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

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