I dropped a juvenile mouse into my baby girl's terrarium. That's Lupe, a 12"-long Rosy Boa. I keep her on the back shelf. She's a hit with the school kids, and has done a great job at driving up circulation. I'm often tempted to mark her down as a volunteer!
At the rodent's final squeek, as Lupe's jaw distended and covered its slightly wet hide, I turned to process the day's periodicals. I was marking their receipt in the file when he came in. I had just opened, and my usual Internet-friendly patrons would not arrive for at least another half hour.
But there he was. Hey, with our budget, I'll take all the foot traffic I can get. "Hi there!" I said, as I stuck a date tag on this month's Interview magazine. "What can I do for you?"
He was a tall, chubby man, with a ginger goatee matching his close-cropped, thinning hair. He wore pleated khakis and a raglan sporting a large "W". "Yeah, hi. Listen, I was hoping you could find a place for these."
He hoisted a bundle of pamphlets. Tracts, more accurately, consisting of a few pages of poorly drawn cartoons and Bible verses. The comics seemed to warn children off of Halloween and Islam. I knew just the place for them.
"I can process them, then, and put them in the Christian literature section where they can be checked out."
"Oh, no, see, they're for people to have. For free. Like the stuff you got over there." He gestured with a fat, freckled hand at the top of the short bookshelves by Juvenile Non-fiction -- one of the few free surfaces I can spare for local newsletters, health alerts, scholarship applications, and citizenship pamphlets. I have almost no space there, and am jealous of every square inch. Internally, I whimper a little.
"Perhaps we can find them their own vertical file, and with a sign telling patrons to 'take one', over there in the 200 - 290s, where we keep our Bibles and other Christian literature."
He shook his head with some vehemence, a slight sheen of sweat on his forehead. "No, no, no!" What I had earlier mistaken as a naturally ruddy complexion I now realized was a manifestation of a continually seething, low-grade anger. I began to get a little nervous. "They should be right there," he continued, jabbing his finger in the same direction.
I was on the verge of arguing with him, but I stayed cool. "You wouldn't even want to take a look? We've got these wonderful vertical cutaway files," I proffered one of the particleboard lovelies, "and I can make a neat little sign for it on the computer and put it right over there," I pointed. And I stretched: "Wouldn't it be better to place it with all the serious Christian stuff that people will see?"
He pursed his lips, furrowed his brow, and followed me to the shelves to the right of the encyclopedias and philosophy. I began to explain my suggestion when he, scanning the spines, widened his eyes a bit and again shook his head. "No, no, this won't do. Won't do at all."
"Look at this," he seemed almost to whine, "you got this all wrong. This Hindu-Buddha-Moozlim crap don't belong here. See? It's fiction. You need to find somewhere else for it. It should not be put here this close to the word of Jesus."
"Well if you notice, sir, the materials on other religions is separated from the Christian literature. In fact, there's some controversy about that because Christianity takes up one whole section of the Dewey Decimal system, while every other religion is relegated-" I stopped short, noticing the weird glint in his eye. This was not the route to take.
Try another: "Sir, I'd love to accomodate everyone who comes in here -- the library's for everyone! -- including you, but there are others in this community-"
"Son, don't you know who I am?"
"Um. No, actually." And I bristled a bit at the "Son." I mean, the guy can't be more than seven or eight years older than I.
"My name is Ezekial Ephraim Jebidiah Genesis Dooley."
Holy frijoles! It's the multi-millionare dollar nut! The one building his castle, an exact replica, I'm told, of the Tower of London, not 20 miles down the county road.
As if reading my thoughts, he said "Yeah, that's my castle out there. And come Dominion, when this finally becomes a nation under our one true god, Jesus Christ... Well, let's just say I've got my own Tower Hill."
Needless to say, I kept my peace. Money is money, even if it does come from weirdos, and, I thought, if I can just stall him, find something with which to placate him...
"And as far as you're concerned," and at this, he leaned in and jabbed my chest, "I am the community." We walked back towards the front desk, nearer the computers and the patrons' table.
He hiked up his pants a bit, a self-satisfied half-smirk lighting his face, and placed his hands on his hips. "No, I can see we're gonna need to make some changes 'round here."
Oh, brother, I thought, Wait til I bring this one up with the trustees.
"Yup, some big changes. But first things first: let's get that other stuff off the shelves. It's about time we had us a good ole book-bur-"
Suddenly he was frozen. The next words came out as a horrified whisper: "Behind you!"
I turned around, only to see Lupe bobbing her head against the glass. The little mouse seemed to be going down quite nicely.
"Oh, that's okay-" I began to reassure him.
"The serpent... Those red eyes... A servant of the Deceiver!"
I waved my hands. "Oh, no, no, it's just my pet snake. Her name is Guadalupe. She comes from Baja California. She is mucho friendly!"
He began stumbling backwards, towards one of the patron chairs. "Help me Jesus! Get thee behind me!"
"No, wait! Look out!"
He was gasping, flush and trembling with fright, still moving and gibbering. "Ack -- SATAN!!!"
With that, he tripped against the chair, folded, and fell down against the table.
I rushed to his side. His eyes were open. He wasn't breathing. I felt around to the back of his head, and though there was no blood, his skull there seemed to give and fold in a bit.
I couldn't understand. I had heard no sickening crack or that-certain-thud-and-you-just-know, like in those hardboiled novels. He had just fallen with the expected crash, albeit at a scary angle, and now he was dead.
No, this wouldn't do. A multi-millionare dying in a freak accident in my poor little library? The way we're struggling, we don't need that kind of publicity! We'd be shut down for sure. And, almost as important, I'd lose my job.
Who would help the children score their X-Box "cheat-codes" off the Internet?
Wouldn't do at all!
I grabbed his Nike-clad feet, and hauled his outsized carcass around the front desk and towards the back. There was no smell of blood, or of death. There was only Old Spice, the scent of clothes gone sour in the wash before hitting the dryer, and that slightest hint -- sweet and a little musky -- of dried semen. I accelerated my pace.
With four more hours left on this shift, I did the best I could. I propped him up against the toilet, and went back to work.
The next few hours went quietly and smoothly. At no point did I even begin to panic. For a while I even forgot about the corpse in the Library bathroom.
Half an hour from closing, Molly, age 9, came in with her two older sisters to play on the computer. "Just Grandma and Me" is her favorite. First, of course, she asked to pet Lupe.
"Not now, Molly. Sorry, but she's resting after her meal."
"Okay. Oh, can I use your bathroom?"
I almost said yes. "Sorry, sweetheart, but not until the exterminator has come. We've got spiders."
"EEW!" She made a horrified little girl moue, and ran to her sisters' sides.
Not much later, with a tiny sigh of relief, I went to the window and turned out the "CLOSED" sign.
It was suppertime, and I was famished. But first things first: I had a body to dispose of.
To Be Continued...