Library Naps

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: February 02, 2018

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Submitted: February 02, 2018

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Library Naps

On a late afternoon in October I overheard their quiet plotting. Their whispers soothed sweetly like a lullaby, purring against the swell of the AC. They drummed at a keyboard and scratched their pencils on loose leaf, flicking it with a snarl. I was napping on the third-floor near the periodicals, hunched at a carrel, drooling on . The text was cracked to chapter five The Crisis of American Colonial Society: 1740-1765, which for Christ sake would lull anyone into a nice siesta. The library made me sleepy. I don’t know what it was, but no matter where I set up camp I went down like plummeting timber. My friends thought I was insane or day dreaming. They didn’t give a hoot about the Dewey Decimal System and they sure as hell didn’t believe me. A chronic library napper was not a reliable source.

The traitors plotted on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons. As soon as I dozed- tap- tap, cackle, sneer. I’m not shitting you, like clockwork. The third floor was supposed to be serious. Seniors researching their thesis and English Lit nerds who enjoyed the silence. It had plush armchairs that sank your ass into fluffy delight. I know- sit at a carrel, but I napped there too so might as well be comfortable. The cozy chairs lined stacks and were flush up to the elongated card catalogue. The mahogany radiated despite the harsh fluorescents. I only heard them as I slumbered. Wide awake and high on a double shot of espresso they were nowhere to be found. Maybe, I was nuts? But the scheme was too precise for my scattered noggin. I wasn’t that organized or creative for that matter.

“We have to decode the main frame on the first floor. It’s to the left of the circulation desk.”

It sounded like two chicks, but a few freshmen in Parker still had that prepubescent squeak. Skinny runts. Probably didn’t even know who the Velvet Underground was and what did they have against Dewey. Dude was just trying to catalogue a heap of books.

I needed to catch these assholes. Everyone thought I was a joke. I mean... why would I make up a conspiracy theory about The Dewey Decimal System? It was fucking ridiculous.

My roommate Tommy had a stash of Adderall so I swiped a few and bought two triple shots from the Den. It was Halloween and the Lacrosse team sponsored a costume party in the gym. Everyone went except the Lit nerds and Seniors. Hawaiian Punch and Vodka, no thanks. Leaves crunched into fragments as I made my way, and twisted branches clawed at the indigo sky. It was a full Hallows moon. Burnt amber, sinister, and cracked. It winked at me.

“Pete, you headed over to the gym?”


Tommy was a few steps behind wrapped up in tattered TP. He must have run out because he wasn’t fully covered. Random pieces dangled from his wrist and forearms, one eye hidden underneath that linty mess.

“Naw, Mummy?”

“Yea, I ran out of TP. Heading over to Hattfield to snag a few more rolls. What are you up to?”

“You know, the library.”

“Chronic napper. Parker Posey is not the Librarian. It’s just a dream dude, you have to give it up.”

“You say tomato, I say tomato.”

He waved me off and jogged towards Hattfield leaving a trail of TP in his wake. The air was crisp. It smelled of kindling and smoke, my breath escaped in thick plumes. I had no ideawhat time it was. I never wore a watch. What is time anyway? Just some random constraint the man lays on you. It was Friday, so those fuckers better show. I had already downed three Adderall and chugged the triple shots. I might have gone a bit overboard. My hands shook and my left eye ticked. Didn’t matter, I sure as hell wasn’t sleepy.

The lights from inside beckoned and brimmed with warmth. It invited me with its bright smolder. Beep said the book metal detector. Who steals books? No one. One librarian sat at the circulation desk, Mrs. Palmer. She was half snoozing. Reading glasses dangled from a chain just below a string of pearls. Her hand propped up her pumpkin head, eyes sealed into tiny slits, a hushed snore. Drool crept out of her bottom lip. It was like taking candy from a baby. She was practically handing the library over to them. Dewey would be so disappointed.

It was dead. Biography was empty and one Lit nerd skimmed National Geographic in periodicals. I ran my palm along the smooth surface of the card catalogue. It was silky and cool. I yanked out a drawer and thumbed through Social Sciences. The cards were sallow and musty. Alexandra Lebowitz struggled at microfiche trying to hook the canister on to the reel. The film whipped round and round and sailed on to the carpet landing in a flimsy coil. I let out a loud chuckle, I couldn’t help it. Mrs. Palmer snorted awake and pretended to check in books and then started to pick her nose. I headed to the third floor. That was the scene of the crime.

I wandered stacks hunting from row to row, listening for their muted squawking but there was no tap or scribble. It was quiet like church on Sunday morning. My favorite plush chair summoned me. Its cushions offered a balmy hug, but I refused. I was here on official business not for a library nap.

I inched along sliding my back laterally on top of the books. Their spines bumped up my vertebrae like a rickety staircase. I popped my head around the corner. Two drama chicks sat at a kidney shaped work table dressed in all black and Birkenstocks, one laptop between them.

“Mrs. Palmer is out cold behind Inter Library Loan. She wouldn’t even know it was gone.”

They smelled of patchouli and sweat. I plugged my nostrils and took another step. “We could get expelled.”


“Stop being such a chicken. No one will find out.”


“I don’t want this on my permanent record.”

“There is no such thing as a permanent record. Jeez.”


Their voices were low and I didn’t recall that rotten stench which certainly would have woken me from my slumber.

“I can’t flunk bio. My mom will kill me.”

“No shit. The final is on reserve. All we have to do is copy it. Mrs. Palmer won’t even know it went missing.”

Wrong library crime. Fucking cheaters. They were everywhere tonight.
I headed to the fluffy chair. I needed to think. Maybe, it was early and they decided to

party it up in the gym before making their final move. It was coming, Halloween was the perfect night to take down an icon. Plus no one was paying attention. Well, no one except me. Damn that chair. It tried to coax me into a lovely slouch and levitate my ankles into horizontal respite, but I had those triple shots on my side. Counting sheep was not in my immediate future. Ok, time to regroup. Perhaps they switched locations or even floors?

The plan was pretty brilliant. It would definitely fuck shit up. I literally wanted nothing to do with it. I’m no hero, hell I’m not even full of school spirt. They invaded my turf and I needed to defend it. I respected Dewey as a regular dude. He didn’t deserve this. Tommy said I was obsessed because of Parker Posey and , but that was a bunch of BS.

I meandered, skating my Chuck’s along the Berber carpet. It was a muted limey green, but smooth as ice. I picked up speed as I rounded the corner into Philosophy. The downward slope propelled me into Jean-Paul Sartre which wasn’t a coincidence. I was clearly having an existential crisis. I flipped through fanning the pages into a light buzz just below my chin. I snapped it shut, but re- opened it. Melvin Dewey had signed it out in light pencil. March 5, 1995, Feb 3rd, December 9th, and October 25th. His penmanship was geometric, in all caps, or illegible. Someone was trying to fuck with me, probably Tommy. Asshole.

“Oh Bob, stop. Someone will hear us. Shhhh.”


“But, I can’t resist. You are just too delicious, Judy.”


I peeped through the empty slot only to catch a glimpse of Professor Jansen shoving his tongue down Dean Wagner’s throat. Her twiggy legs coiled up his back into limb like knots. He had her pinned in between the stacks. I thought I might vomit. Why doesn’t anyone respect this institution? Even the goddamn teachers.

I placed the book back onto the shelf and sprinted to Literature. At least the Lit nerds would be quiet. I skimmed the shelves- Becket, Camus, Nietzsche, Kafka, Melville. Eh, Melville. I wasn’t a fan of Moby Dick “Call me Ishmael” ... what does that even mean. I flipped through searching for the quote but the library card caught me again. Melvin Dewey had signed it out two times, but over the summer. Now this was serious. One time was a joke, two times was a clue. What else had he checked out? It was map to what they were planning and where theywere going. Philosophy to Lit, Lit to...what? I just needed to follow the checked-out books and voila?, mystery solved.

I bit back a yawn. The triple shots were starting to wear off, palms barely quaked. Man, I had a high tolerance for caffeine and prescription drugs. The plotters seemed to favor themselves as smartass intellectuals. Like they went to Harvard or Yale. This was Colby College. I mean our mascot was a white mule. If I was a highfalutin asshole what section would I go to next? History? Technology? Probably history. Something to do with revolutions, French or American? Maybe they were a fan of Wood’s ? No, too conservative for a couple of dorks trying to take down the library.

Liberty or Death: The French Revolution and headed back to my chair. I sunk into the ultra-downy cushions like it was quicksand. I rubbed my cheek on its velvety arm and cracked open the text. Yup, Melvin had signed this one out too. They underlined passages, sentences, whole paragraphs and anything to do with Napoleon. I tried to skim their annotations but my lashes fluttered and my cranium slumped tiptoeing its way lower and lower.

“Peter Bower, wake up! This is no time for napping.”

“Huh? I’m not asleep.”


“Yes, you are. Wake up young man.”

Christ, some library narc was spying on me.

“Listen bud, mind your own business. Ok?”

My palms clung to the cushions and I tried to propel my torso vertical. I shook my head and abandoned the text on to the carpet. I was ready to throw down, especially if it was a freshman. I glanced up, it was a full- blown literary hail-storm. Books plummeted from shelves, airborne and sailing with unapologetic abandon. Their pages skimmed the ceiling and hummed into a weird sing-songy banter. Card catalogues toppled over and gushed into snowy white tributaries.

“See what happens when you nap. CHAOS. Fucking Chaos”

What the hell was going on?

“You were supposed to save the library.

Its fate rested on your cracked-out shoulders.” It was Dewey himself.

He was standing above me shaking his head, arms folded in authoritative disappointment. He stroked his scraggly beard and took off his spectacles cleaning them with a tiny silk cloth. Books continued to fly overhead. He seemed pretty calm for a library apocalypse.

“This is not real. It’s just a dream.” I squished my eyes shut and pinched my forearm to wake up.

“Oh, but it is young man. This is what life looks like without the Dewey Decimal System. Everything falls to bits.”

A book of sonnets conked him in the head, but he ignored it and sat down in the fluffy chair across from me. He picked up the sonnets and opened it like he was about to do a formal reading.

“How can I fix it Mel, how?

I found the books signed out in your name. I just need to find the next section.”

He read out loud.

“There’s a book called
‘A Dictionary of Angels’
No one has opened it in fifty years, I know, because when I did,
The covers creaked, the pages rumbled. There I discovered...”

And he snapped it shut.

“Pay attention!”


“Mel, was that a clue? Should I go check out the dictionary?”

“Tick tock, tick tock, tic tech”


“Wake up!”

The floor vibrated and books persisted with their nose-diving, I pulled my knees into my chest and scrunched up into a tiny ball and closed my eyes.

“Mel!” Someone was shaking me.

“Peter wake up. Mrs. Palmer will hear you.”


“What?”


I blinked open, one eye at a time.

clutching a microfiche canister. I shot up. Books were shelved and organized, card catalogues stood upright and full. There were no mountains of literary masterpieces or paperbacks floating. Dewy was nowhere to be found.

“Crap, I fell asleep.”

“You sure did. And you were loud, like very loud. Yelling something about Melvin Dewey.You are super weird. Now be quiet, I have a twenty-five-page sociology paper due tomorrow.”

“Quiet!”
 

Mrs. Palmer loomed behind Alex. She had library stamps in both hands, crumbs dotted the rim of her bottom lip. She smelled of moth balls. I gagged.

“Sorry, Mrs. Palmer.” We said.


“Don’t make me make me have to come up here again.”

We nodded. She shook her head and made her way back downstairs. She dragged her left foot as if she had a peg leg, grunted, and swayed those stamps. Alex rolled her eyes and turned.

“Wait, Alex. Look.”


I picked up the French Revolution text and showed her the card with Dewey’s signature on it.

“I found two more books signed out in his name. One in Philosophy and one in Lit.”

“So, what. Someone, is playing a joke on you. Lay off the weed dude.”

“I am telling you this is for real. Let’s go to technology.”

“Did you hear me? I have a twenty-five-page paper due.”

“Humor me. This will only take fifteen minutes.”

She tapped her tennis shoe onto the limey carpet and blew her bangs skyward.

“Fine. Fifteen minutes and then it’s back to microfiche.”


We climbed to the second floor. Alex tossed the canister from one palm to the next and skipped every other step. A pencil swayed from her ear like a mini suspension bridge. She must have been in the mood to procrastinate because why else would she come? She clearly thought I was high as a kite.

“What’s your paper about?” “Mass media and public opinion.” “Cool.”

I never really noticed her before. She was friends with Tommy’s girlfriend, but a sophomore. I think she was in the Outing Club. One of those all natural, Patagonia wearing vegan’s. She wasprettier than most granola chicks. Her hair looked clean and hung loose to the middle of her back like silky golden yarn.

We weaved through religion, geography, and rhetoric and made our way to the 600’s. Mel said “tick tech” He was telling me where to go. The heat pumped and droned through the vents in short bursts dousing its stale breeze on the back of our necks. Alex trailed shuffling her sneaks along the carpet. I scanned stacks, there had to be a book on code.

“Ten minutes.”


“Shhh.”


“What are we even looking for?”

“They have to know how to code if they want to un-code.”


There were so many books on computer nerd nonsense I had no idea what to pick. I was a psychology major.


“Just search the books to see if Melvin checked any out.”

“This is beyond ridiculous.”


We started plucking text after text, skimming, flipping, and re-shelving. Unplugging and plugging up the slots like it was the final piece to a jigsaw. We got into a pretty good rhythm, almost symphonic. Alex placed the microfiche canister in between her knees and hopped from one section to the next.

“Ok, it’s not here. Can I go back to my paper?” She pulled out the canister and hugged

it.


“Ah ha!”

Code Complete. I flashed the card to Alex. This time his signature was in red pen and cursive.

“Someone has too much time on their hands and this proves nothing.”

She was right. We hadn’t found anything concrete and I still looked like a delusional lunatic, but then there it was. The monotone tapping and loose-leaf scratching, a weird kind of Morse Code.

“Shhh.” My index finger pursed to my lips and I signaled Alex to follow.


We slinked along the edge of the bookcase one foot in front of the other like a high wire act. I stopped short and she toppled into me. I snatched a text leaving a mini alley to spotlight them, or at least the back of them. It was one dude and a chick. The light from Inter Library Loan illuminated their shadows in a marigold hue. A few fluorescents flickered above in fleeting rifts and whines. Their backpacks were still strapped on and baseball caps topped their heads with the brims reversed. I could almost make out the Colby logo and that stupid mule.

“Jesus Christ, this is not BASIC. We just need to input the code into the matrix and it will crash the hardware.”

He shook his pencil. They were whispering, but it was loud enough.

“I know asshole, Computer Science is my major. Let’s just get this over with and then we can be free and clear.”

Alex patted my shoulder and flashed the library card with Dewey’s signature. I nodded. We needed a plan. Shit, I should have been more prepared. I came to solve a crime with no back- up. Alex indicated the canister and yanked out the film and handed it to me. She tookthe pencil out from underneath her ear and poked a hole into the film and wrapped it around two times. Yea, this chick was fuckin MacGyver. Alex stood up and whipped it like a lasso with the pencil at the tip. The plastic soared in delicate spirals and landed around his feet. I hurled the canister, it popped the chick in her left bicep. We both jumped out.

“Jig is up. Now step away from the computer. Campus Security is already on the way.” I lied.

Alex flicked on the overhead switch swathing the room in halogen hell. They both turned.

“Ouch”. The chick rubbed her arm.

“Tommy. What. The. Fuck.”

He still had smatterings of white lint dotting his navy sweatshirt. A lone piece of TP swung from his pants pocket.

“Becky!” Alex said.


“You fuckers are like Bonnie and Clyde. A crime card caring couple. Man, what did Dewey do to you?” I shook my head. Traitors.

“Listen, Pete. I can explain. We don’t give a fuck about Dewey. We had no choice.”

“Whatever man, like I can ever trust you again. You made me think I was crazy. You made everyone think I was crazy.”

I put my hand up. I had enough. “Listen, I am telling you...”

“Pete, watch out!” Alex said.


Mrs. Palmer was running full steam ahead with two library stamps in each palm. Her glasses swayed from that neck chain like a pendulum, grey curls wet, pantyhose wrinkled and twisted. She had smudges of ink on her cheeks and was yelling.

“DEWEY, DEWEY, Damn you Dewey.”


She stopped ten feet away twirling those metal stamps like she was about to toss Nunchucks. I mean what was she going to do? Ink us to death?

“Brats. I’ve had it. You rich kids respect nothing. I will finally be free of numerals, decimals, and classifications. Now you can experience life with-out the Dewey Decimal System. You’ll see.”

She rubbed the ink smudging them into large charcoal clouds. I looked at Tommy. He nodded. I patted my back pocket, I felt a tiny text. I didn’t remember putting it there, but tugged it out anyway. It was the book of sonnets from Dewey. I flung it like a Frisbee and it sailed, knocking Mrs. Palmer Square on the bridge of her nose. She crashed onto the carpet into a large rotund heap, blood oozed from her nostrils. Her arms and legs splayed out wide, fingers clutching both stamps. I walked over to check her pulse. She was woozy, but fine.

“Put your book back properly, sign it out, check it in...” She mumbled.


“Alex, call campus security.”


“You liar.” Tommy said.


“Shut it. You have got a lot of explaining to do.” He got real quiet and looked down.

We all stood there waiting in silence for security. Not one peep was uttered. We encircled the evidence listening for their walkie-talkies. Becky started to cry.

And just like that we saved the library. I became a bit of a celeb. People wanted to meet me and sign an autograph on a library card of course. The vindication felt fantastic. Alex and I started to hang out. She was pretty damn cool. Turns out Mrs. Palmer was blackmailing Tommy and Becky. She caught them stealing test answers for the European History final and used them to try and transform the library into literary madness. I still love a good library nap. I get my best ideas when the chair seduces me into sweet surrender. Once in a while Dewey visits me. He’s real proud. His library is an oasis of precision and detail and he sits in a fluffy chair across from mine reciting a new poem. The books whisper, the words purr, the shelves extend their knowledge, and the letters hike off the page in a single file line marching and dancing on to those tiny white cards. The drawers receive the prose with open arms and curtsy before slowly sealing them in with its brilliance.


© Copyright 2018 Michelle Blair Wilker. All rights reserved.

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