The Adventures of Marian, the slightly aggressive Librarian,
Le chapitre l’un; part the first; the beginning section; the introductory passages; the necessary initial segment in which very little of any consequence happens, but we meet our characters…..some of them; the beginning.
“In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”
Marian closed the tattered volume with a thump. Henny frowned. It wasn’t like Marian to be reading Bartlett’s, in fact it wasn’t like Marian to be reading.
“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of,” Marian muttered.
“It’s a pretty well-known quotation, Marian, it’s by—“
“It’s STUPID. Who would want to be king over a bunch of blind people? What would be the point? You’d have to do everything yourself.”
“I don’t think it’s meant to be taken literally.”
“Then why say it? Is there some rule that writers can’t say what they mean?”
“It’s a metaphor, Marian. Contrivances in literature, such as metaphor or simile, bring depth to what might otherwise be rather obvious and simplistic prose—“
“Oh, so if you say what you mean, you’re stupid??”
“Did I say that?”
“Yes. What are you looking at?” she said to the woman peering over the monitor at her.
“I want to check out this book.”
“Hand it over here then. All I want is to be able to read something without having to figure out what the writer is supposed to be saying. Why can’t he tell me what he’s saying? Here.”
“When’s it due?” the woman asked.
“Tomorrow. I just think if a writer is any good, he ought to be able to tell you anything he has to say inside of three pages. Any more than that is just vanity.”
“Tomorrow?!? I can’t read this by tomorrow!”
“Hand it back then, I’ll put it away.”
“I need it longer than that!”
“Well, we’ve been having problems with people not bringing our books back after they take them home. And the excuse we always get is that they just forgot. As if that made a difference. So I thought it would be easier for everybody to remember if they have to bring them back the next day. No time to forget. And I’m the director. Bring it back tomorrow.”
The woman slammed the book down on the counter and left in a huff.
“See?” Marian said. “Now we don’t have to worry about whether that book’s going to come back or not. It’s already here.”
“Yes, but no one is going to want to check out anything. Our circulation will shrink to zero.”
“No……we got one circulation point out of this one. Just like we would have if she’d taken it home and kept it for a year. We just don’t tell anybody till after we check the books out to them. It’ll work. You’ll see.”
Henny sighed. “What brought up kings and one-eyed men?”
Marian mumbled something.
“I said, Zach was saying how that woman that cuts his hair is always studying; and I know as well as you do that he’s not interested in her brain…..but he thinks he is…..and she came back from vacation last month, and I haven’t seen him since…..”
“I thought you’d been a little mopey lately.”
“I’m not mopey! I’m just…..thoughtful. It’s not like he belongs to me, or anything.”
Henny thought Marian looked sad. Her love life, while always rocky, had been unusually eventful of late. She’d been seeing that skinny but sweet, nerdy but apparently studly young man from Australia, and Henny had been surprised at the depth of affection Marian seemed to harbor for him. Then he went back to Australia, and before she’d even had to time to begin a rebound, she’d gotten involved with an FBI man, of all things, quite a good looker, too, but one who already was involved with someone else……It was a tangle.
“So what does that have to do with one-eyed kings?”
Marian frowned. “I don’t know. I was hoping I could figure it out.”
Henny thought of asking Marian to explain a little further, and decided against it. She tried to cross her legs and discovered (again) that the floor length denim skirt she was wearing wasn’t wide enough to allow her to do that. She pulled her strapless top up, and wished (again) that the little denim jacket she was wearing had a button in the front.
The outfit looked so cute on the hanger in the store. She sighed. Oh well, she was pretty sure Sid would like it…….she let herself indulge in a little fantasy, imagining what Sid might do the next time she saw him………he always told her, when it was her turn, that he was only doing what she wanted him to do, but he surprised her more often than not. She shivered a little, let her mind run on……..
“Hey! You’re not even listening! Who is it you’ve been mooning about lately? If I didn’t know better……..I’d say you’ve been---“
She didn’t have to finish her sentence; Henny blushed bright red, and Marian knew. “You have! You sly thing, you. Who is it?” Henny shook her head. Marian went on, “Or have you been surfing porn sites?”
“Good heavens, no!”
“Then it must be that computer tech, whats-his-name, Mike?”
“No, why would you think that?”
“He’s been in here four days in a row. And he never checks out anything. I think he’s sweet on you.”
Henny shook her head again. “That’s just silly.”
“Then who is it?? Oh, come on, just give me a name. You don’t have to give me a blow-by-blow, I don’t even want to know. Listening to other people talk about their sex lives is usually pretty boring. I just want to know I’m right.”
What could that hurt? “Well…..his name is Sid.”
“And where did you meet him?”
Marian nodded. “Yes, the library is really the best place to meet men.” She was quiet for a few seconds. Then she asked, “So…..how is he in the sack?”
“I thought you didn’t want a blow-by-blow account!”
“I don’t,” Marian said, a little defensively. “You could answer that question with one word. You could say OK; or you could say terrible; or you could say amazing……”
Henny thought about it. “Well…….,” she said. “I suppose the best word to describe Sid would be…….”
“Or you could say he’s sweet. Or inventive. Or forceful.” Marian’s eyes half-closed for a second, and she shivered. “Mmmm, or you could say he’s really b---“
“I don’t think we need to talk about this.”
“Oh, all right. What a wet noodle you are.” To change the subject, she said, “ Are those earrings new?”
Henny smiled. “Yes, do you like them?”
Marian wasn’t sure just how to answer that. “Ummmm….they’re certainly interesting.” They were long, almost down to Henny’s shoulders, several strands of gold chain with beads and what looked like teeth of some sort dangling here and there. “Are those real?”
“Yes, they’re alligator teeth. I think they’re wonderful.” And she shook her head, so the chains swung from side to side.
“Well….they look nice with the green.” Marian was referring to Henny’s hair. Henny flashed a brilliant smile, pulled up her top and agreed with her.
Marian wasn’t fond of green hair herself, and she wondered if maybe Henny wasn’t quite young enough to carry it off with panache, or the clothes she’d been buying lately either, but she’d wanted to slap the teenagers last week who snickered and giggled at Henny behind their hands when they saw her. She’d contented herself with telling them to BE QUIET! And took the football player outside by his ear when he opened his mouth again. The girls followed, of course. It was too bad that that little Tessa’s grandmother was on the library board. She supposed she’d have to explain about that at the next board meeting. Well, she could do that. Little twerp.
It took Henny four days to talk Marian out of her one-day checkout idea. She counted 46 people during that time who left in a huff. She had a bad feeling about it.
That night, when she sat down in front of the stolen library cataloging computer and typed “hi, i’m home,” Sid replied,
i have a virus
She’d been dreading something like this. She’d disabled her virus protection, fearing the program would decide Sid was a virus, and delete him, but that left his computer--his body, essentially--vulnerable to the vagaries of a hostile cyberuniverse. And she couldn’t convince Sid to stay off the net while she was at work; he got bored at home alone during the day. She didn’t know what he did, he wouldn’t tell her. She wondered if maybe this was just payback.
what do you want me to do?
read a book or something
Henny raised her eyebrow.
a stupid virus protection program
do you think you can do it?
this one is a smart one
what are you going to do to it?
send it back where it came from
won’t the developer have defenses?
i’m sending it on the return pulse of information
She really didn’t.
Maybe it was interesting for Sid, who was doing it, but otherwise it was too boring for words. Henny picked up the book she’d been reading. “A Tent of her Own”; about a woman who falls in love with a forest ranger and tries to convince him that revenge against the grizzly that mauled his brother will only result in lifelong bitterness.
She wondered when she got about half way through if all forest rangers were such dopes. “Forget the damn grizzlies and let the woman take her clothes off,” she muttered. “Good heavens, what an idiot. He’s just lucky they’re in the middle of the forest and he doesn’t have any competition.”
That was boring, too. She didn’t finish it.
She went back to the computer and typed, how’s it going?
don’t bother me
Fine, Henny thought. She stood in front of the mirror for a minute studying her reflection. A cute dress, but it wasn’t her. She wondered if she could take it back to the store if she didn’t wash it.
She changed into jeans and a pushup bra, and a scoop neck tee. A far cry from the drab librarian dresses she used to wear. Sometimes she wondered if maybe she was too old to wear some of the things she wore now…….but most of the time she didn’t care. You only live once. And she’d been wasting time.
But not any more……
The door slammed when she went through it. On the computer screen, the cursor blinked, and then henrietta appeared.
Actually, Henny had only planned on taking a walk when she left her little house…..but as she walked past the bowling alley, she saw Mike. He had on a Hawaiian shirt, red and blue and yellow flowers, big ones, and he was just coming outside with his bowling ball bag. She said Hi and kept walking. He said Hi…..and then he said, “Hey!”
Henny stopped and turned around. She watched him try to put his hands in his pockets, but of course, the bowling ball bag was in the way. Then he didn’t seem to know what to do with his hands.
“Hello,” Henny said.
“Um,” Mike said. “Do you like to bowl?”
“I can’t say as I have ever tried it.”
“Oh.” He set the bag down on the ground and scratched his ankle before he straightened up. “I used to have a long braid down my back, but they made me cut my hair when I got the job at the shop.”
“Oh. That’s too bad.”
“At the shop where I work, I mean.”
“Yes. I understood that.”
He was silent, waiting. She realized it was her turn.
“Do you like working there?”
His forehead wrinkled. “Well…..I don’t like to work. But I like computers.”
“Oh, I see.”
“I pretend I’m not working.”
He took a big breath and let it out and stared at her. She was pretty sure it was his turn….and anyway, she couldn’t think of anything else to ask him.
She could see when inspiration struck. “I like your earrings,” he said, and smiled, proud of himself.
She smiled back. “Thank you, I do, too.”
“I always look to see what earrings you’re wearing. I always like them.”
He nodded. “You have really good taste. I especially like the ones that have the little gyroscope things that go around when you move.”
She blushed, and smiled some more.
“Say,” Mike said. “You wanna go back in here?” He pointed at the bowling alley. “You wouldn’t have to bowl if you don’t want to. We could just watch. And maybe have a beer.” His face turned red. “Or….or…..not, if you don’t want to. They have soda.”
don’t bother me flashed across the pulldown homemovie screen in her mind.
Mike’s face was so hopeful. It was a slightly pudgy face; he was slightly pudgy all over. Not unattractive---it was cute, actually. Like a puppy. And he liked her earrings.
“I think I might like to try a beer. You can tell me the best kind to have.”
He grinned. That was even cuter. “Sure.”
Beer was interesting, Henny decided. One of the most interesting things was that the more you had, the better it tasted…….