The Adventures of Marian, the slightly aggressive Librarian,
Duo; the continuation of our little drama; our intrepid heroines descend into romance and danger……
The key didn’t seem to want to go in the lock. She shoved it toward the lock one more time, and then the keyring slipped out of her hand. She heard it clink on the steps…….but she couldn’t see it. She got down on her hands and knees and felt all around on the cement……and Mike did the same thing……and she banged her head on the doorknob, and they both giggled until they were totally out of breath, and lying on the front steps.
After they wound down, Mike looked over at her and said, “I’m glad I came out of the bowling alley when I did.”
“I don’t know anybody else with green hair.”
“Oh.” Henny put her hand in her hair; a reflex, assuming that he didn’t like it……
“I think it’s pretty.”
“Oh.” She put her hand down and blushed. “Really? You don’t think I’m too old?”
“No.” He leaned close and then kissed her.
It wasn’t at all like kissing Sid. Everything was perfect when she was with Sid. He was perfect, she was perfect; he did everything perfectly, and it was always just exactly what she wanted him to do…..ok, except for the other stuff, the stuff she didn’t like. She tried not to think about that part.
She and Mike, on the other hand, were lying on the hard steps, the edges poked her in the softest places, and her head hurt where she’d bumped it; she was more than a little dizzy, maybe from the beer, and Mike had spilled ketchup on his shirt. The cheeseburgers he’d eaten in the bowling alley were on his breath, and he didn’t kiss her exactly as she wanted to be kissed…….
…..but she put her arm around his neck and kissed him back.
After a few minutes, Mike said, “Can we go inside? I think I scraped my elbow on the cement.” And Henrietta said yes…..and it wasn’t until they found the key, and got it in the lock, opened the door, and Mike stepped inside, that Henrietta remembered she didn’t live alone.
“NO! You can’t come in.” She pushed him backward out the door.
“Ummm……my roommate. Is home. And……it wouldn’t be a good idea.”
“You didn’t say anything about a roommate.”
“OK.” He heaved a sigh. “I’ll call you, OK?”
Henny smiled. “OK.”
After he left, she wondered if he had her phone number……but she was in the book, wasn’t she? He’d find it.
The next morning, Marian came in the library humming. Henny’s head hurt, so she didn’t ask Marian why she was in such a good mood, didn’t ask her anything, didn’t want to talk, didn’t want to do anything except type; and she wasn’t sure how long she could do that.
She’d fallen right into bed last night, and right to sleep, so she didn’t find out how the cyber-espionage was going; and she’d almost been late for work, so she didn’t say Hi to Sid before she left, either.
Marian got the letter opener she used when she was in a good mood--it was shaped like a scimitar--and started opening mail with a flourish.
Henny closed her eyes for a few seconds. She wondered if she was coming down with something. Along with her headache, her stomach was a little upset. She was certainly thirsty. And maybe a little dizzy.
Marian wasn’t humming any more. Henny forced her eyes open.
Marian was dead white. She sat down heavily, the swivel chair creaked and the legs settled. The hand holding the letter started to shake.
“Marian--“ Henny winced at the sound of her own voice. “What’s the matter?”
“I can’t believe it. I can’t believe they would do this to me.”
“What?” Henny might have asked the question a little louder, but she didn’t think she could stand any more volume.
“The board held a private meeting. They’re suspending me; prior to a possible dismissal.”
“Oh my God,” Henny forgot about her headache. Well, not really, you can’t forget about something that hurts; but she pretended she didn’t have one, and reached for the letter.
Marian let her have it.
It was a two-page letter. The board apparently had a long memory; the incident with the copier toner and Mr. Davies was there in print, as well as the duct tape thing, and the problem she’d used her little pistol to take care of. Then there was a complaint by old John Johnson…..and the board wasn’t sure she was entirely blameless in the case of the accused felon that took refuge in the library (as if Marian could have done anything about that!).
There had been complaints about the service. Marian was characterized in the letter as being loud and abrupt, rude and physically intimidating…..and then the real kicker….the board was not sure her morals approached the high standard they expected of one in the position of authority she now held.
Oh dear. Henny hated to hand the letter back to her.
“How can they do this to me?” Marian said. “And look at this. Look who signed this---see? How does he dare to talk to me about morals? After the things he asked me to do.” She muttered a word that made Henny blush. “I have very high standards. I didn’t sleep with scuzzy old Whatsisname from the Road Department, did I?”
Henny stepped back when she saw Marian’s fists clench. “Now, Marian---don’t do anything you’ll regret later.” She realized as soon as she said it that it was a silly thing to say. Marian very seldom regretted anything.
Marian said some more words that Henny was pretty sure the board really wouldn’t have liked if they’d heard them. “How dare they have a private meeting!! Without me!! I’m going to find Lester and shout some sense into his hearing aid! The nerve!”
“Now, Marian---I don’t think that’s quite the thing to do. That’s what they’re upset about. You know?”
“Aaarrrggghhh!!!” Marian reached for something, anything……her hand landed on the phone, and she threw it as hard as she could------!! Unfortunately, she only got the handset….and it wasn’t a cordless….and the springy cord stretched to its limit and then flew back…..and hit her in the nose. “Ow!”
Henny sighed. She refrained from making any remarks at all; she was sure Marian’s nose was telling her everything she needed to hear. That was the beauty of consequences; they spoke loudly enough on their own without any help from anybody else.
“Dabbit.” Marian held her hand over her nose. Henny was alarmed to see tears glistening in Marian’s eyes. She didn’t think she’d ever seen Marian cry……
“Well, look at it this way--“ Henny hurried to find something to say to distract her. “You can spend the time getting caught up on your housework.”
Marian shot her an evil look.
“Or…….you could take a vacation! Go see somebody. You know?”
Marian was still holding her nose, but her eyes looked a little more hopeful as she considered the possibilities.
“I don’t hab any budey.” She wasn’t dismissing it, though; she was thinking about it.
“You could get a loan.”
“I could go to Australia.”
“Do you thigk he would be happy to see be?”
“Why wouldn’t he? Hasn’t he written you?”
Marian took her hand away from her face and smiled. “Yes.”
“Well, then. That would be perfect. They’re actually doing you a favor.”
Pauley Palootzka came up to the counter with a stack of books. He shoved them at Marian, and put his hand inside his overalls, hitched up his underwear. At least Marian hoped that’s what he was doing. “I wanna get these,” he said.
“I’ll take care of this,” Marian said. “While I think about it.” She picked up the stack and put them next to the scanner.
“I don’t have my library card,” Pauley said.
“You don’t need it as long as you know your name.” Marian looked at him.
“Miss Marian, you know me, Pauley Palootzka. I worked on your car.” He shook his head and laughed, a big horse laugh. “You’re sure a card.”
“Uh huh, that’s me.” Marian looked at the first book. “Chaucer, huh?”
“Yeah, I like him. The dog chewed up my copy.”
“Kant. Kierkegaard.” She raised an eyebrow. “Montessori. Something coming up I haven’t heard about?”
Pauley laughed again. “Nah. Just having an argument with my cousin.”
“Aristotle. Camus. Machiavelli?”
“Yeah, to balance out the Kierkegaard.”
“Yeah, I like to keep a book in the bathroom.”
She typed in his name, and ran the books under the scanner. “OK. There you go. Happy studying.”
He snorted with laughter. “Miss Marian, you make me laugh all the time.” Shook his head again. “I don’t know why you’d think I was studying. I just wanted a break; astrophysics is interesting and all, but sometimes ya want something a little lighter.”
He tipped his baseball cap and left.
Through the window, both the ladies watched him stride down the sidewalk, his shoelaces flying. And they were both silent for a few moments; then Henny said, “Did he get the books on astrophysics here?”
“I don’t see how he could have.”
“Well.” Marian took a deep breath, and raised her chin. “I am on suspension. Therefore, I am going home. I’m going to pack my suitcase, and shake old Van Briggle until he gives me a loan, and then I’m off to Australia. If you have a problem…..you’ll have to call the board.”
Henny smiled. “Have a good time.”
Marian marched out the door, and Henny’s smile faded. How was she going to manage by herself?
It didn’t take too long to squeeze some money out of the banker, she was lucky enough to snag a ticket because of a cancellation, she packed in half an hour, and she was on her way. She thought about calling Arthur to let him know she was coming, but what if his mother answered the phone? She’d slammed the phone down the last time so hard Marian couldn’t hear out of that ear for an hour. No, a surprise would be more fun, anyway.
The trip was miserable. She had to change planes four times before she finally got on one that looked like it might make it over the ocean…….Out her window, she watched, envious, a sleek Concorde take off just before the plane she was on lumbered down the runway.
She sighed, tried to find a comfortable way to curl up in her seat, and attempted to nap.
She must have succeeded, because when she woke, there was some sort of uproar going on. “This is what happens when you can’t book in advance,” she thought groggily. She grabbed her purse, crawled over the man in the seat next to her, and headed for the restroom. A person chattering in a foreign language jumped in front of her, waving about what looked a little like a plastic gun.
“I’m not in the mood,” she said. “I have to go to the bathroom.” The regulars at Marian’s library would have known by the tone of her voice to get out of her way, but this fellow was from out of town.
He waved the toy some more; some of the passengers screamed. Other men started shouting in the same language.
Marian gave him a push. “Sit down and shut up. You’re on an airplane here.”
He pushed her back, chattering away, wild-eyed; spittle flew, landing on her good suit. “All right,” Marian snarled. She raised her purse and clonked him with it on the side of the head. He went down, she stepped over him and continued to the restroom. As she passed one of the stewardesses, she said, “Isn’t one of your jobs to keep the passengers in order? What do they teach you these days?”
Inside the restroom, the door locked, she dropped her purse. It thumped on the floor. When they cremated her grandmother, her steel hip joint had survived the furnace….but wouldn’t fit inside the urn, and Marian said she’d take it. Last year, Marian got out a bottle of nail polish she didn’t use any more, and painted the steel knob and spike with it, three coats. So now, it was “Radioactive Red”, and it weighed a ton. It had come in handy on several occasions.
She wondered now, in the toilet, how it was the airport security guys hadn’t picked up on it when her purse went through the x-ray thingie. Must have been the nail polish, she decided. I guess a good nail polish can disguise almost anything.
The plane banked sharply, suddenly, and Marian was thrown off balance, against the wall of the little room. If she’d had time to think about it, she might have been grateful she’d not been out in the body of the plane with the rest of the passengers, to be thrown from one side of the plane to the other. She didn’t think about that, though; she’d banged her shin against the plumbing and she was thinking how much her leg hurt, not about how horrendous the turbulence was. She did think, for a second, that it was like being in an earthquake, although she’d never been in an earthquake, and didn’t really know how that felt; and they were up in the air instead of on the ground; and usually the ground didn’t tilt the way the plane seemed to be doing. But otherwise, she was sure it was just the same.
And then she didn’t think about anything, because she hit her head against the same plumbing, when the plane tilted the other way. This is the point at which you always read, in novels, “everything went dark.” Well, in this case, Marian didn’t know if everything went dark, because she was unconscious.