The Adventures of Marian, the slightly aggressive Librarian, #5 :
Love and Peril Behind the Check-out Counter
The satisfied feeling stayed with Marian all morning, even though she had to use Goo-Gone on her face to get the sticky stuff off. It stayed with her while the repairmen arrived, and left, and arrived and left. About noon, however, someone returned a book about Australia, the Mysterious Continent, and she got a little sniffly.
No doubt about it, she was going to miss that skinny boy. He was a good roommate; picked up after himself, knew how to cook a few things, and didn’t hog the blankets. Didn’t take offense when she spoke her mind, and was a lot of fun in the sack. What more could you want?
She’d tried as hard as she could to put some meat on his bones while he was staying with her, but she was afraid whatever meat she managed to put on him, she then worked off him.
Some young thing would probably snap him up as soon as he got back, now that he had some experience and a little more sophistication. Marian sighed. Isn’t that always the way?
She tacked a sign on the door of the children’s section when she arrived that said, “Disaster Area Keep Out” in red. Of course every child that came in (and their parents) wanted to see the Disaster Area, and kept opening the door and going in, so she had to take the sign down. She considered putting a sign on the outside door that read “No children allowed today” but decided one of the board members might drive slowly by and see it. After the raking over the coals she’d gotten last winter about the sign she’d put up telling everybody to leave their books in the book drop and come back when the weather was better, she decided she’d better not. She still couldn’t understand why the board was so upset. She’d just been trying to avoid all the mud in the carpet. That just made sense.
The cleaning lady would have thanked her, but nobody asked her.
Old John Johnson came up to the counter and leaned on his elbows almost all the way over it. “Miss Mott,” he whispered.
He crooked his finger at her. “Can I talk to you?” he whispered.
“This isn’t a church, you know,” Marian said as she approached him. “You don’t have to wh—“
“Shh,” he said. “I just want to tell you what’s going on back there.” He pointed at the computer area.
Marian raised her eyebrows. “OK…..”
“There’s a kid back there on the computer. I think he’s looking at—“ He blushed. “—at naked women.”
“You think he’s doing that, or you think they’re naked?”
“I think—“ he blushed again. “—they’re naked. I’m not sure,” he said hastily. “I didn’t want to see it if they were. But I think so.”
“Naked women. And you didn’t want to see them.”
He shook his head. “No, ma’am. That’s obscenity. That’s perverted. That’s just not right. Why, anybody could walk by there and see that. And then what?”
“I don’t know, John. Then what?”
“Somebody better go back there and put a stop to that.”
“All right, you go on home, and I’ll take care of it. Can’t have any naked women around here.”
“I’m not done reading my email yet. I just thought you oughta know.”
Marian followed him back to the computer table a few seconds later, and walked silently up behind the young fellow in question. She didn’t sneak, she didn’t have to try to be quiet, the carpet muffled her footsteps and the air conditioner fan made enough noise to drown out any other noise she might have made.
He was a scrawny looking young man, with a mop of red hair. He was looking fixedly at the monitor. On the monitor was one of those little video things that loop, so you see the same few movements over and over again. There seemed to be lots of them to choose from but the young woman in the one he was looking at held her bare breasts up with her hands, and then let them drop. They jiggled and swayed for a few seconds, then she picked them up again, and dropped them again. Over and over and over.
He was entranced. Didn’t move a muscle. Well, at least not any of the muscles Marian could see from the back. “Ahem,” she said. No response. She tapped him on the shoulder.
He jumped a foot up into the air. “M-m-m-miss M-mott! I—“ He punched the power button on the monitor and the screen went black.
“Rats,” Marian thought, “I forgot to look at the address.” Out loud, she said, “Petey Peterson, what do you think you’re doing? You know you can’t look at pornography in the library, except for the art books.”
“I didn’t do it, Miss Mott, honest! It just popped up while I was doing my homework. I just hadn’t had a chance to click it off. Honest.”
“Don’t bother lying to me, young man. You spent the last ten minutes ogling that overdeveloped young woman’s bosom, and I know that because I was standing behind you for that ten minutes.”
He didn’t reply. He was staring at a point somewhat lower than Marian’s face.
She’d worn her sexy little black dress to the airport this morning; she wanted to make sure Arthur knew just exactly what he was leaving behind. She hadn’t worn it for a year or so, and it could be it had shrunk just a tad…….and then she hadn’t had time to change before opening the library…..so young Mr. Peterson was getting a better look than he ordinarily would…….
“In your dreams, Sparky,” she said and thumped him on the side of the head with her finger.
“Before I escort you out of the library, I’d like to know how you found that site.”
“Well……,” he said. He looked guilty. “I googled high heels……”
“High heels? Was that young woman wearing shoes of any kind?”
He thought about it for a minute. “I don’t know.”
“That’s what I thought. Well, don’t do it again in here. We’ll all get in trouble and they’ll take the computers away. Go buy yourself a Playboy and go home.”
“Playboy’s lame,” he muttered.
“Whatever. Just keep it at home.”
“But I have to do my homework.”
“What kind of homework do you have to use the computer to do?”
“I’m writing a paper on the development of sexual fetishes from perversity to cultural norms, and I need a half a page of sources.”
“Are you serious?” He nodded. “What class could that possibly be for?”
“That’s a class?”
She gave up trying to be reasonable. “I don’t care. That woman and her boobs don’t count as a source; they’re impossible to annotate. And if you don’t stop staring at my chest, you’re going to be doing your research from the emergency room. Out."
He got up from his chair and sauntered out, trying to pretend that he was going because he wanted to, not because he was afraid of being injured by the librarian.
John Johnson, who’d been listening avidly, and wasn’t even trying to pretend otherwise, said, “Good for you, Miss Mott.” However, his gaze was also directed somewhere between her neck and her waist, and she thumped him on the head with her finger, too.
“We don’t need any hypocritical closet pervs in here, either. Go home to your mother.”
“You don’t need to get violent.”
“You don’t know how lucky you are I’m in a good mood.”
John had just left, muttering that she wasn’t being fair, when someone Marian didn’t recognize entered the library. This person strode right up to Marian where she stood by the newspaper shelf, and said brightly, “What do you think?”
“Excuse me?” Marian said. Then her jaw dropped. This person, who had Army green hair in little spikes and curls all over her head, and long earring with little bells that tinkled constantly……..was Henrietta!
Maybe not. Marian peered at her. Yes, it had to be Henny. There was that little scar on her chin from the time the squirrel had gotten in the library somehow, and bitten her, and she’d had to have rabies shots, and then they’d found out it wasn’t rabid at all, but instead was a trained attack squirrel that had managed to escape its handler. Had to be Henny.
“Oh. My. God.”
Henny flicked the little bells on one earring with her finger. “Aren’t these cute?”
“Oh. My. God. What did you DO?”
“You were right about the red—the green goes much better with my complexion. Oh, and guess what?” Henny blushed. “I got a piercing.”
Marian was speechless.
“The girl at the hair salon wanted to put a stud in my nose,” Henny snorted with laughter, “and I said if I had a stud, I could think of better places to put him than my nose,” she laughed some more, “but anyway, I said I didn’t think I was quite ready for that, so then she said, why not my navel, that way if I wasn’t sure I wanted anybody to see it, they wouldn’t, and then if I got one of the other kinds of studs,” she laughed again, “it would be just for him, so I closed my eyes and let her do it, and you know what, it hurt, but not as much as I thought it might, and I looked at it in the mirror, and I love it! Do you want to see?”
“Sure,” Marian said faintly. “But not if you have to take your clothes off.”
“Oh. Well, maybe tomorrow. And then I got one of those new long bras that kind of scootches you together, and then it goes down to your hips, and you can kind of……attach other things to it, I guess.” She looked a little uncertain. “I didn’t quite understand, but the man said I’d figure those out once I had it—“
“Yes, isn’t that odd, there was a man in this store selling all sorts of different kinds of underwear, he didn’t seem embarrassed at all, so I figured why should I be? And there were other things in there that I didn’t really know what they were for, and a few things that, quite frankly, Marian, shocked me, you know, to find them in a shop, but it was fun to look, and the nice man put a couple little things in my sack as a free gift, I don’t know what they are yet, I haven’t looked, but I thought it was nice. He seemed concerned and said he wanted me to be safe, and I told him I always drove very carefully, so he didn’t have to worry.”
She took a breath, and beamed.
“Is something wrong?”
“Oh……I forgot……you took Arthur to the airport this morning. I’m sorry. Did he get off safely?”
Henny practically danced over to the check out counter. “So how has it been this morning?”
“Well, I had to throw out---“
Henny screamed. Piercingly. And then a second time. “Where’s the computer?” She turned and grabbed Marian’s arms and shook her. “Where’s the computer?”
“Calm down, it’s OK, I just thought since you were going to be gone today, this would be a good time to send it to the shop to have it fixed.”
“How long ago?”
“Not long; but they said they’d get started right away, so we should have it back tomorrow—“
Henny screamed again. She had a wild look in her eye Marian didn’t like at all. “No! You have to get it back!”
“Good heavens, you’re always after me about the damn thing; it’ll be back tomorrow. They’re just going to put it in a new case and clean the junk out of the hard drive.”
When Henny screamed again, Marian said, “I think that’s just about enough of that.”“Call them!! Tell them not to touch it!! I’ll go and get it, you call them!!”
“It’s just a computer—“
“It’s not JUST a computer. It’s MY computer, and I want it, and when I get it, I’m taking it home, so nothing will happen to it again!”
“You can’t do that, that’s our cataloging computer.”
“I’ll buy you a new one! Marian—“ She grabbed Marian’s neckline and pulled her close. “If they’ve done anything to that computer, I’ll…..I’ll…..never forgive you! Just get on the phone, goddammit, and call them!! It’s a matter of life and death!”
Henny rushed out the door, bells tinkling like mad. Marian sighed and called the computer techs. She didn’t have to look up the number, she knew it by heart. She and the lady who answered the phone were getting to be old friends.
“Darlene,” she said, “have they started on our computer yet? Well, hurry back there and tell them not to touch it. My assistant is coming down to talk to them about it. Got it? Don’t touch it. It’s important.” I don’t know why, she said to herself after she hung up, but I guess as long as it keeps Henny happy, that’s what we’ll do.
The lady at the front counter at Memories (downtown just off the overpass, for all your computer needs) thought at first they were being robbed.
A wild woman with bells hanging from her ears rushed in and shouted, “Where is it?” She got right in Darlene’s face and growled, “I want that computer and it better be just the way it was, or somebody’s going to be sorry.”
Darlene told her nephew later she tried to reach the alarm bell under the counter, but her arms weren’t long enough.
“Didn’t Marian call?” the wild woman asked. She pounded on the counter. “I told her to call!”
“Marian?” Darlene said faintly. “You mean from the library?”
The woman (who had green hair, for heaven’s sake) rushed into the back, where the techs worked. Everybody got out of her way.
She stopped in front of the table where the computer from the library was laying on its side. “Did you do anything to it? Did you?”
“No, ma’am,” Mike said. “Not yet.” None of the other techs could ever remember hearing him talk to a customer more respectfully than he talked to the lunatic. Usually he just grunted, if he spoke at all.
“I’m taking it with me. Don’t anybody try and stop me.”
“You know, it’s dangerous to have a crack like that in the case. It wouldn’t take me but a minute to slip it into a new case for you.”
“Don’t touch it,” the woman with green hair snarled. “and if I find out you’ve lied to me, I’ll come back and take care of you.”
Mike followed the strange woman with his eyes as she carried the case in her arms out the door. “Man, oh, man,” he said to himself. “I didn’t know anybody like that even lived in this podunk little town.”
And when he asked Darlene if she knew who that was, the other techs nudged each other with their elbows and snickered.
She brought it into her house carefully, and set it down on the chair next to the computer table.
She’d meant never to see or speak to him again. She’d meant to go on with her life, and make something interesting out of it, alone if she had to…….but they would have killed him. They would have vacuumed him right out of existence, and never known it. He would have been gone without a trace; and no one would have known except her.
He couldn’t defend himself. He might be a monster, but it wasn’t his fault, and he needed someone to shield him from the vagaries of fate.
“You’re mine now,” she said in a trembling voice. “I saved your life, and now you belong to me.” And then she burst into tears.