The Adventures of Marian, the slightly aggressive Librarian, #8 :
"MARIAN! What are you doing? Stop it, stop!"
Henrietta Hodge rushed into the library and dropped the morning mail she was carrying. "Marian!" She grabbed Marian's arm, and got swatted a couple times with the Weekly Interrogative ("the newspaper that asks more questions than it can possibly answer") before Marian went back to using it on the elderly man cowering in front of her.
"Stay out of it, Henny! This old fart deserves everything he gets!"
Henny got between them. "You have to stop! Violence doesn't solve anything!"
"Sure it does!"
"No, it doesn't!"
"Ok, maybe not, but it makes me feel better."
"Hitting the person who upsets you is the easy solution----"
"So? That doesn't necessarily make it bad. Sometimes the easy solution is the right one! Otherwise, what good are all those labor-saving devices??"
"--and you're a better person than that."
Marian let the paper drop and glared over Henny's shoulder at the man. He straightened, looked for the blur that he knew was she, and said, "You're dead in the water, now, sweetie. I won't be treated like this. Say good-bye to your cushy job." And he headed toward the public restrooms.
"Marian, are you out of your mind? Lester's on the board."
"That's the whole point, isn't it?" Marian's eyes flashed. Not like camera flashes, she'd look like an alien if they did that; more like……little emergency lamps. "They're going to review my contract in a few days….you know they want to fire me…..and Lester thought he'd get me in the back seat of his Pontiac in exchange for putting in a good word for me. That's if he stays awake long enough. As if I'd even consider going to Bingo with him after this." The emergency lamps stopped flashing and filled with tears. If they'd been real lamps, there would have been a nasty short circuit, but in Marian's case the short circuit was history. Been there, done that.
"Darnit," she said, and her lower lip trembled.
Henny's eyes narrowed. "He said what? What did he say to you? Are you telling me he attempted to buy your favors with promises of employment??? Do you know what that is?"
"Yes, it's rotten. It's crummy."
"I hate him. And it's not like he'd be able to make a difference anyway. Everybody on the board wants to get rid of me."
"It's sexual harassment. It's attempted…..attempted…..pornitude. I think it's illegal." Henny picked up the newspaper Marian had dropped. "Where is that pig?"
Lester Limehouse, cousin and heir three times removed of the manufacturing Limehouses from Portland, who seldom enters the library unless he needs a bathroom or there's free food………had a really tough time getting to the front door when he came out of said bathroom.
Nasty old fart.
Marian blew her nose. "You'll probably get into trouble now, too."
"I'm not going to worry about that--it takes them 6 months to decide to do anything, so I'm safe for a while. It's you we have to think about. There's got to be some way to make them realize all the contributions you make in the workplace."
"Contributions? Like what?"
"Um……." Henny's forehead wrinkled. "Well….." She looked down at the floor. "You, um, hmm."
"You're very stylish." Henny smiled. It was the fakest smile Marian had seen in a while, but she appreciated it just the same.
"Thank you. I'm not sure that will make much of a difference. It's kind of silly, really….to be so upset about it. I can get another job. It's just…….I don't know……I never cared all that much about books, most of them aren't about much of anything, but…….they kind of grow on you, you know?"
Henny smiled a real smile. "Yes. I do know."
"And it's been my responsibility to look after them, and take care of them……so now it feels like something will happen to them if I'm not here to do that."
"You know what I think I'm going to do if I get the boot?"
"I think I'll torch the place."
Henny shut her eyes and rubbed her forehead. "Marian…..."
"Ok, I suppose I wouldn't really." Marian sighed. "It's just nice to think about. What a lovely bonfire we could have."
Henny made a mental note to herself to make sure all the fire extinguishers were charged and ready.
Marian helped Henny pick up the mail that was on the floor. "What's this?" she said. "Why do we keep getting these strange magazines?"
"What's this one?"
"Onanism Monthly. Fresh ideas to raise your spirits. I never heard of that one before…..and what the heck do you need a magazine about spirits for?"
Henny took it out of her hand and cautiously opened it up. "Ummm…..I don't think it's about spirits."
"Well, whales, then. You don't need a magazine about them, either."
Henny closed the magazine, and her mouth. Didn't say a word.
"I'd like to know who's ordering these weird magazines for us."
"Well…..there was one that wasn't so bad……."
"That's true……it's too bad we didn't get any more of those."
Both ladies, deep in thought……..till the cataloging computer began to whine like a fractious child.
"Oh dear," Henny said. "I thought Mike fixed that. I'll have to call him."
"He ought to have fixed it the last time. If he hadn't spent most of his time sitting on the floor looking up your skirt, he might have. I don't understand it, he can look up your skirt anytime, but he has to do it while he's working on our computers."
Henny smiled and blushed. "Well……you don't have to worry about that today, I'm wearing shorts."
She was. Marian thought about asking her whether shorts were really appropriate library wear……but after she looked closer, thought better of it.
It didn't matter. Henny told her about them anyway. "They're made out of bookmarks. Louise made them. What do you think?" She twirled so Marian could get a glimpse of all sides.
"Well……it's certainly colorful. And so……apropos."
Henny glowed. "That's what I thought. She's so talented. She's going to make me a coat and hat next."
"Aren't they a little poky when you sit down?"
"A little. I can live with that. I really love the variegated yarn."
"You don't really like them, do you?"
"Well……no. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't wear it if you want."
"You're very elegant all the time, you're very stylish looking……but don't you get bored? With your clothes, I mean. They're all solid colors, and all sort of……color coordinated. Boring. Sort of."
"Boring. I see."
"You could wear some brighter colors, you know. You'd look fabulous in purple."
"Henny……looking fabulous has nothing to do with the color you wear."
"Oh." She looked downcast. You might think that a bit extreme, to look as if one had been thrown down, just because of a style related remark…..but that was Henny. Just when you were certain she didn't give a tinker's darn about the way she looked……you realized you were wrong. She cared, she just……cared differently.
Marian hadn't had very much experience in trying to make someone else feel better; especially not because of something she'd said. Usually, you know, she said what she meant and stuck by that…..but she hadn't meant to make Henny feel bad.
So she said that. "Now, now, I didn't say that to make you feel bad. What I actually meant was…." Here was the tricky part. "…..um….you always look fabulous no matter what you wear."
Henny knew she was lying. It was ok. Marian was compromising her principles to make her feel better; friends do that for each other sometimes.
"What else do you have there?"
"Mmmm…….oh, the swimsuit issue."
Marian threw it in the general direction of the trashcan. "Who are you putting your money on this year?"
"I think…..Wayne Wonderbrah. He got to it first last year."
Marian shook her head. "Not me. We have somebody new in the running this year. Leslie Legalas. She's been asking about it."
Henny's brow wrinkled for a second, and then, "Oh!" she said.
"I'm hoping for a fight."
There was no fight; just a minor skirmish, and Wayne had nothing to do with it, because his wife came to the library with him. Leslie had her opinion of men confirmed when Little Tommy Cruz's big brother, Pablo, elbowed Leslie in the ribs and simultaneously snatched the magazine out from under her shoe, causing her to land unceremoniously on her derriere.
Marian had to step in then, it looked like there might be blood spilled (Pablo's) if she didn't, and blood is impossible to get out of the carpet. She found that out when she mistook Reginald Rigosi for a Druid the weekend before Halloween. Thank God the board didn't find out about that. Although it probably wouldn't make any difference now.
After that was sorted out and each disgruntled competitor (except Wayne) sent off with half the magazine, Marian didn't have anything to do. Mike was in the nether regions under the counter where even the cleaning lady did not dare to go, pulling the cataloging computer apart. Henny was sitting at the other computer, checking her emails. Marian had just about decided to go in her office and look for that pair of underwear that was lost in there somewhere……..when Henny squeaked.
Mike poked his head out from behind the tower. "What?"
"Come here, look at this." Henny was breathless.
Mike crawled over to Henny's chair; still on his knees, he looked at the computer screen. "I don't believe it," he said. "Do you think it's really him?"
Marian peeked over Henny's shoulder. The email message said, "Have you missed me, Henrietta? Sid."
Didn't seem like much to get upset about to Marian. Rather an innocuous message.
"What should I do?" Henny asked.
"Well….." Mike was very serious. "…..what do you want to do?"
"I don't know."
"If you don't want to get email from him, then block him. If you do……then answer him."
Henny hesitated. "How do you feel about it?"
"He's not my favorite person. Er, thing. But I suppose as long as it's just email it can't hurt anything."
While she deliberated, her notifier dinged to tell her she had a new email. She opened it.
It said, "What's the matter, Henrietta, are you afraid I'm going to send myself to you in an email?"
Another ding. Henny opened the next one. "Or is Mike there telling you not to talk to me?"
Marian was interested in spite of herself. She knew, though, that if something a little better didn't happen soon, she wouldn't be. This could get boring pretty fast. "Who's Sid?" she asked.
"Oh….." Henny blushed. "He's someone I used to……know."
"An old boyfriend? Hmmm……I remember now. He's the one who used to make you blush. The one you wouldn't tell me about."
Henny blushed redder.
"Ok, I've officially lost interest now. I'm going to go back in my office and pack." Maybe it would be easier to see the underwear if she put the stacks of stuff that were on the floor into boxes. She really liked that pair--it was polka-dotted, red on white, with lace around the legs, and Velcro on the sides. She tried to remember who it was that had taken them off her………maybe she should get a sheet of paper and make a diagram, put the men she had known down one side, and the ones who'd known her across the top……maybe she'd need two sheets of paper. One for the fellas that had actually been with her in her office, and one for the men who she wished had been in her office…..that wasn't going to help her find her underwear, but she felt like reminiscing. She grabbed a box of Kleenex on the way.
When Henny stuck her head around the door frame a little later to tell her she had a phone call, there was a small mound of crumpled Kleenex on the desk. Marian had written only seven names and a question mark on one sheet of paper. The other sheet was covered with doodles of hearts and other interesting body parts. She'd been thinking--always a dangerous occupation--and realized if she wasn't at the library anymore, some of the men on that list wouldn't know how to find her, should they ever want to. She sniffled hard, and reached for the phone.
A deep voice with an interesting accent said, "Marian?"
Her heart leapt. Some other parts of her body had similarly athletic reactions.