It wasn’t such a big building, but it held so many books! Sarah Jane stood just inside the door and stared at the bounty before her. Clutching her new library card, she stepped up to the first shelf, and gazed at the titles. A label on the shelf boldly announced these choices were Autobiographies. She didn’t care, they were books. Books with stories. She carefully took down the firs six books. That was all she was allowed to check out at one time.
One week later she brought those six books back and gathered six more from the same shelf. By the end of the month she had every book in that category, so she moved on to the next shelf. FICTION it claimed and lured her into another world.
“I’m going to read every book in here!” She told the old woman behind the desk.
“That’s a big order.”
“But a good one.”
It took Sarah a whole year to get thru all the books in the first room and by now she was allowed to check out 10 books at a time. She always read every one and brought them back in one week.
“You’re quite the reader Sara.” Mrs. Hanson smiled as she stamped the cards in the books. She was new to this small town and very impressed with this young girl.
“Sarah, tell me, why do you do so much reading?”
“It’s what I do with my sister.”
“Oh, does she like to read too?”
“She likes to listen.”
“Oh? How old is your sister?”
Sarah ducked her head, her voice soft.
“!0? She should be doing some of the reading at that age!”
Sarah shrugged her shoulders and didn’t reply.
Mrs. Hanson tried again.
“Does she have any favorites?”
“The happy ones.”
“Well, maybe she can come in with you sometime. I’d love to meet her.”
“I-I’ll tell her.”
After the girl left, Mrs. Hanson sighed. Maybe the sister had a problem and couldn’t read. She knew it wasn’t her place to interfere, but she enjoyed her job and the idea of someone not being able to read, hurt her. Maybe she could help Sarah help her sister. She could gently suggest some of the easier reading books the next time Sarah came in.
The following week when Sarah brought back her books and started looking for new ones, Mrs. Hanson stepped out from behind her desk and approached the girl.
“Sarah, maybe if you were to take one of the books over in the children’s area. They are easier to read and have lots of pictures. Maybe you could help your sister learn to read.” She put a hand on Sarah’s shoulder.
Sarah jerked away. “She’s not a baby! She doesn’t need baby books!”
Mrs. Hanson drew back startled at the vehemence in Sarah’s voice.
“I-I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to…”
“I know what my sister likes and I’ll get what she likes and read them to her!”
“Ok, I’ll just…I’m sorry.”
Embarrassed, Mrs. Hanson went back to her desk.
When Sarah brought her selection of books to the desk, they both avoided looking at one another. Mrs. Hanson felt bad she had obviously trodden on some ground that was very sensitive. She could possibly ask around and find out about Sarah and her sister but having moved to this small town from the “big” city, she was looked askance by many of the townspeople already. If she were to start asking about Sarah and her sister, it would be sure to raise some hackles. People seemed to be particularly protective of their little sheltered clan.
The next times Sarah came in, Mrs. Hanson tried to get back to their old friendly exchanges, but Sarah was still a bit wary of her. She ducked her head and let her long hair fall forward over her face. After she left, Mrs. Hanson began to worry a bit. Maybe Sarah was mistreated at home. Maybe she should do something. But what? The girls was always neatly dressed in clean clothes. There were no sign of any bruises and before Mrs. Hanson had tried to pry into the problem with Sarah’s sister, the girl had been always smiling.
Re-shelving the books Sarah had returned, Mrs. Hanson couldn’t keep her mind off Sarah and her sister. Maybe the sister was ill or had some physical disability. That could explain why the sister couldn’t read herself. As she slid the last book into place, she gave herself a shake. It was not her problem. She should just let it go. Of course, she knew she wouldn’t, or couldn’t.
On her way home that afternoon, she stopped by the small grocery store not far from the library. At the counter, as the store owner was putting her purchases in a bag, she smiled at him.
“Sarah Reynolds came in today. She’s quite the reader.”
The man didn’t look up, just nodded his head.
“She said she likes to read to her sister.”
The man glanced up at her and shook his head. Then without a word handed her the bag of groceries.
Red-faced, Mrs. Hanson took her items and left. Evidently, she had again tread on someone’s toes. Small towns were hard to navigate at times. On the way home she made up her mind. If no one was going to tell her what was going on, she’d find out herself.
The following week, when Sarah came in, Mrs. Hanson tried to act normal, but she was excited about her plan. She glanced at her watch. It was just 11:30, but she could always close the library for her lunch break a little early. No one would care. She put the “out to lunch” sign on the door and locked it up, then quickly slipped out the back. She had watched Sarah start walking down the small lane away from town. Good that would make it easier. She waited until Sarah turned off on a small trail, then hurried to beginning of the lane. It was a shaded path that Mrs. Hanson had never noticed before. She stayed far enough back she didn’t think Sarah would hear her following.
A short time later, the path ended in a clearing. As Mrs. Hanson got closer she saw Sarah stop and set down her bag of books. Sarah settled down on the grass next to the small mound and resting her back against the headstone she picked up the first book on the pile, HIS DOG by Albert Payson Terhune.
“This is about a dog! It’s got some sad parts, but it ends good.”