“I need to print something from my phone,” the nervous person in front of me stated. I smiled. I always smile, no matter how many times a day I hear this request. “No problem,” I say, and hand them our printout of instructions for mobile printing. They take it without a word, and I say, “If you need any help, feel free to come back. The printer is right here in front of us, sometimes it can take ten minutes or so to go through, and the machine only takes coins, ones, and fives. No cards.” They nod and wander off. The person behind them saunters up.
“Can you tell me where the astrology books are?”
“Of course! Better yet, I can show you. It’s one of my favorite sections!” Which is true. A lot of the books get checked out and never returned, so I try to keep them as up to date as possible, ordering new copies when I notice some have been checked out for sometimes YEARS. Many people scoff at me, how could a librarian be so into astrology, of all things! It is just FUN, I say. I’m not sure why some people are so against fun. Or why they expect a librarian to be. I am certain these people must be Capricorns or Virgos.
The man looks a little impatient or bored, I can’t quite tell which, so I begin walking over to where the astrology books are without making chit chat. Fortunately for him, we just received a shipment of new books that I’d ordered, and they had just been put on the shelf.
We arrive at the appropriate shelves, but I see nothing. None of the books I had ordered and just placed over here the day before yesterday. Not a one. My eyes were as big as saucers, I was sure. I began to stutter, “There were just here, the other day. I placed them here myself.”
“Figures this janky country ass library doesn’t have shit,” the man muttered. To which I took offense!
“Now see here! Our location may not be prime real estate, but our librarians, all of us, are all exceptionally educated and we do our very best to fill this library with all of the most educational and fun information available, both new and old. I’m going to see if they’ve been checked out or just moved. Do you mind waiting here?”
“Sure, I have eons of time,” he snarked. I let it pass and pleaded, “Wait right here.”
Who would be so snarky about astrology books, anyway? They aren’t detrimental to anyone’s day to day life, like say, a book on how to handle your own divorce, or how to write a will. Whatever, I thought. I was most irked that I couldn’t find the brand new books that I had just ordered myself.
I half ran, half walked back to my desk, looking at my list of titles that was still on my desk, typing in each one to check its status. They were all still here. All checked in.
I turned around and asked each of my colleagues, but none of them had seen them. Or even realized that we had them. I sighed. “Where the fuck could they be??” I grumbled. My colleague cackled. “Such pretty talk for a librarian!” I scowled. “Fuck off, this is a big deal.” They cackled some more.
I looked over at the man, who looked irritated and now even more impatient. I went over to him with my disappointing news.
“I’m so sorry, sir, I do not know where an entire section of books has gone. Do you have a library card already? If so, I can put them on hold for you, and when I find them, I can give you a call or send an email to let you know they’re available. Was there a title or subject in particular you were looking for?”
“I don’t have a library card. I’ll just come back or check another library,” and he stormed off.
This whole scenario burned me up. WHERE could they be???
An hour later, a woman who resembled Miss Almira Gulch from The Wizard of Oz, stormed right up to my desk. “I heard there are some missing astrology books,” she smirked. How on Earth could she have heard that? I’d only mentioned it to my two colleagues, neither of whom could give a rat’s ass.
“May I ask how you heard? Do you know anything about them?”
“Yes, they’ve been removed from the shelves. Certain… people have recently become very in need of such books and they aren’t the sort of people we want in this library.”
“Well now I’m all kinds of confused, because the library serves the community and is for everyone.”
“These people are not part of our community.”
“How do you know, and who are you to make this sort of call?”
“I’m Vixanne Vie, I am the half sister of the mayor of this town–”
“However, you are not the mayor, so you have no actual authority. In all truth, these books have been stolen. I demand that you return them at once.”
Vixanne laughed. “You don’t know what you’re even requesting. Once these interlopers get out of here, they’ll be returned, but not until I believe that it’s safe to do so.”
I took a deep breath. This was literally the most goofy thing– stealing shelves of astrology books to shield them from “interlopers”? Either this bitch was certifiable or there’s a lot I don’t know, or she’s one of these “ban all the books” nuts, or, who knows.
“Excuse me, Miss Vie, someone behind you needs some assistance,” I say, to get her out of my face. Thank the gods for people without printers.
Later that evening, about an hour before close, the man who had been in earlier looking for astrology books returned. The sun was setting, and he looked a bit more relaxed and in a slightly better mood. “Hello again!” he said, practically chipper. “I was wondering if you’d had any time to give another look around for those astrology books.”
I give him a sullen face. “I have looked, but a woman came in this afternoon and told me point blank that she heard they were missing and it was she who had them removed. The whole encounter was very odd.”
“Oh really? Did she have black hair, green eyes, and offensively yellow teeth?”
I giggled at his description. “Why yes, she did. Apparently you two know each other? She didn’t have much to say that was kind towards… someone. I’m assuming you.”
“We do know each other. She isn’t who she says she is, that I can assure you.”
“I don’t even know who you are. All I know is I am looking for books that are BRAND NEW that I ORDERED and they are stuck in the middle of some sort of STAR WARS between the two of you.” I smirked at my own stupid joke.
“It isn’t just the two of us.”
“Well that’s so special about those books? Did I inadvertently order silly astrology books that also adhere to witchcraft or devil worship, or turn kids gay? I need to know why she doesn’t want them here. Or why y’all can’t go fight at another library. Or go to a damn book store.”
“We’ve checked other libraries, ma’am, and most of those are not in their circulation. You ordered those books, they aren’t in most bookstores, either, and frankly we don’t have a lot of time.”
I take a seat in my chair. “Time for what?”
“Do you have time for coffee once the library closes?”
“I try not to drink coffee that late.”
“Irrelevant– can we meet somewhere after the library closes?”
I don’t know how to feel about this. I am insanely curious but this is just nuts, and we get people sometimes who aren’t “all there” and I’m not sure I want this person having access to me.
“You’ll be safe, I promise. I just need to explain.”
“My colleagues left for the day and we close in 45 minutes. Just tell me now.”
He sighed. “Okay. I’m just going to blurt it all out, you won’t believe it, but it will all be the truth and I will still need your help if you can keep your wits about you.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Go on.”
“This area was… is… our latest stop. However, the GPS, so to speak, in our.. vehicle, so to speak again, is not working. The uh, person, who can fix it, is at our next stop. Essentially, I need some of those books as MAPS.”
“I’m totally lost. Maps to where? The Milky Way? The Big Dipper?”
“Scorpius, actually. The constellation of Scorpius.”
“OHHHHHHHHHHHH YOU NEED A SCORPIO TO FIX YOUR GPS! I GET IT!!!!” I didn’t get it at all. “Why does Vixanne Vie want to stop you from getting to your next destination to fix your GPS?”
“So she can try to exterminate us before we get there,” he said quietly. So quietly, I believed him into the marrow of my bones. It was a quiet sadness and defeat I had never heard before. “Any idea why she wants to do that?”
“It’s a long story, it’s just a millennia long DISCREPANCY between our species, and she believes if we are gone, her species will rule the universe. Very dramatic sounding, don’t you think? None of us rule the universe– we all exist to make up the universe. She and her clan do not see it that way. A much more volatile group than us.”
“She said she will return them when you ‘interlopers’ are gone. She didn’t specify if that meant dead or off the planet.” I realized what I was saying as I was saying. Off the planet.
“Dead, I’m quite sure, since we need the books to know where to go.”
“I can re-order these books, and have them sent to my house, but it may take a couple of days for them to arrive. Do you have that kind of time?”
“Yes and no… If we can avoid Vixanne for that time, yes.”
“If you can avoid her, I can get you the books.”
And so my spot in intergalactic history as the small town librarian who helped smuggle a species of aliens off the planet to their next destination began.