This was it. The day. The final day.
Tom picked out his outfit that morning accordingly. Shoes that were easy to run in, pants that weren’t too tight and a light jacket that hadn’t failed him yet. He glanced up at the calendar pinned with care to his wall. The date was circled twice in red, a very stark and important reminder of just how important this was.
Library books due!!! It stood out to him with three exclamation marks. Three! It had to be taken seriously.
He grabbed his backpack, opening it to check that the three nestled books were safely stored. He slid one out to look at. A grinning pilot battling sky pirates greeted him. The famous Captain Jones and his amazing adventures. Tom had spent hours joining the erstwhile young pilot on his adventures. And as the captain would say, ‘check, check and check again!’ Tom glided his finger over the book with a grin, replacing it carefully into the bag.
Shouldering his precious cargo, Tom marched down the stairs to the kitchen, ready to go. Mum was still in her gown, sipping a cup of coffee and scrolling idly through her phone. Her eyebrows were furrowed together in a small frown, the look melting away quickly when she saw him approach.
“Morning sweetheart,” she said jovially, “How did you sleep?”
“Good!” Tom accepted her kiss stoically, “Mum, when are we going?”
“Going where?” she asked.
Tom shot her an incredulous look; how could she forget?
“We have to go to the library!” he reminded her, “Bonnie said they had to come back today. I promised!”
“The library is closed, Tommy.”
The words hit Tom, but from far away. How could the library be closed? It was Saturday, they had until six o’clock to go. If they didn’t bring the books back today, then…
They’d be overdue!
Tom’s eyes widened in horror.
No, he promised Bonnie!
“Why?” he whined, looking up beseechingly at his Mum. Her smile was a little strained now as she placed a hand on his shoulder and squeezed gently.
“Everyone just has to stay home for a little while,” she explained carefully, “Remember? You didn't have school yesterday either. And I’m sure Bonnie will understand. She has to stay home too.”
This was an odd notion to Tom. Bonnie didn’t live at the library? That was hard to imagine. She was always there! Whenever Tom saw the older woman she was standing next to a bookshelf in the library, thumbing through the pages of a book with her spectacles sitting on the edge of her nose.
Tom scrunched up his nose.
“But what about the books?” he protested.
“I don’t know,” Mum seemed a bit confused herself, “But we’ll find out soon, I’m sure. Why don’t you go watch TV and I’ll bring you some breakfast?”
Tom didn’t want to watch TV. He didn’t want to have breakfast either, even if his stomach growled at the thought of Mum’s Saturday pancakes. He wanted to go to the library! He wanted to hand his books back to Bonnie, show her how responsible he was! He wanted to sit in the little corner in the back and start reading the next book in the Captain Jones series while Mum browsed the shelves. He wanted to present his library card and show Bonnie the things he had chosen.
No! Bonnie had to be there. Mum had just made a mistake!
He spent all of five minutes pacing around the living room, ignoring the TV and feeling the weight of the books on his back. What should he do? Today was the day.
He took out the second book, the one with a silhouette of a man holding a grappling hook, and opened it to a random page.
'Nothing interferes with the mission.'
He replaced the book and, clutching the straps of his backpack closer, Tom headed straight for the front door. There was nothing for it. He’d have to go there himself!
He tiptoed passed the kitchen, putting every move the super-spy Alex Flynn would put to use. Flynn ‘moved like a shadow.’ Tom wasn’t exactly sure what that meant, but he guessed it must be a very sneaky way to get about.
‘I’m a shadow. I’m a shadow. I’m a shadow,’ he chanted to himself, shutting his eyes as he passed by the kitchen.
Mum didn’t say a word, too focused on mixing pancake batter.
Elated, Tom almost sprinted the rest of the way down the corridor, remembering only last minute that he was a shadow and shadows were meant to be silent. Still, he was almost there, the door just steps away. He extended his hand out, ready to grab the handle. This was it. Then it was just a couple streets to the library. He was going to make it.
The door opened.
Tom was startled slightly, his hand still out stretched as Dad walked in, a bag of groceries in one hand and a large plastic packet of toilet paper in the other. He looked surprised to see Tom, then his face melted into a smile.
“Hey kiddo,” he ruffled his son’s hair, “Where are you off to in such a hurry?”
“Outside,” Tom admitted automatically. Darn it! Flynn would have handled much better under interrogation.
“Not today, I’m afraid,” Dad ushered him back towards the living room, “We’re having a stay at home day today. I’ll be fun!”
Tom eyed his dad suspiciously. This stay at home thing was getting weird.
“You went out,” he stated pointedly.
“Well, I had to make sure we had everything for our stay at home day,” he explained.
“What do we need more toilet paper for?” Tom asked, eyeing the plastic bag, "You already bought yesterday.'
“You can never have too much toilet paper,” Dad laughed it off.
And so Tom was thwarted for the first time.
The second time he tried he was still mimicking Alex Flynn, even taking out the book to double check the details. ‘Closed doors always mean open windows,’ Flynn declared with one last laugh as he leapt from the castle’s highest window.’
So that was it. Tommy just had to find a window to leap out of.
The easiest would have been the living room window, but while this was ideal for sneaking out of without being noticed, it would only lead him to the back garden. The back garden was enclosed on all sides by a high wooden fence. The side gate was locked and Tom had no idea where Dad kept the key. So...pretty useless for his plans. The most ideal window would have to be the one in the kitchen.
Tom employed his shadow technique, even holding his breath this time as he tried to pass by Mum and Dad unnoticed. For some reason, it didn’t work. Mum and Dad must had read Alex Flynn too.
Attempts three through six ended in equally abject failure, the wisdom of the super spy and daredevil pilot doing him little good. He was caught twice by Dad, once by the dog discovering him and barking like mad and the last by Mum, who was decidedly unimpressed with his plan. It was time to take out the big guns. It was time be like Jack Sleaford.
Jack Sleaford was a master magician. ‘He could disappear and reappear on the utterance of the magic words and the power of his own enormous will.’
And thanks to ‘The Great Escape of Jack Sleaford’ Tom knew exactly what the magic words were. So he sat down in the middle of the living room and closed his eyes, focusing on where he wanted to go.
In his minds eye he saw the tall, wooden shelves lined with books. The tables with people reading or working quiet. Bonnie’s wide smile when she recommended a book. It was a place filled with worlds. It was an explorers dream. It was safe. It was warm. It was the library.
“Transporta!” he cried, putting every ounce of energy into his cry.
He opened his eye, expecting to find himself where he needed to be, but all he saw was their brown couch and the flickering of cartoons on the muted TV.
So that was it. His books were overdue. Bonnie would be really unhappy with him and his record of returns would be ruined. This was a disaster! An absolute disaster! Why? Why couldn't he just go to the library?
Tom removed his backpack, letting it drop to the carpeted floor with a thump. The books inside were silent.
Hearing his mother's call, Tom slunk back to the kitchen.
“Here’s your pancakes!” Mum sounded cheerful again, “Eat up.”
The pancakes smelled delicious, but tasted dull on Tom’s tongue. He felt like a failure. He hadn’t-
“Oh guess what?” Mum said suddenly, excited.
Tom’s gaze shot up.
“She did?” he asked eagerly.
“She renewed your library books for you,” Mum smiled, “You can keep them for longer. No fines.”
Renewed? They had been renewed! That was fantastic! That solved everything! That was-
Wait a minute.
He shot upstairs, ignoring his mother’s protests. He took down the calendar and counted. You could keep renewed library books for an extra three weeks.
“Ah ha!” he exclaimed triumphantly, finding the right date and grabbing a red pen. He wrote Library Books Due!!! With three exclamation marked and circled it twice.
It was time to plan.