The Librarian

(November 23, 2022)


  The librarian peered over the wire-rimmed glasses perched on the tip of her slender nose to see an older woman and two children about ten and thirteen come through the door. Marking her page, she put the book she was reading down and said, “Welcome to our library. I’m Miss Emma. Can I help you find something?”

Olivia and Matthew silently looked around in awe, this being their first visit to the library.

Linda, their grandmother replied, “We’re looking for something to read while school is out for spring break.”

“You’ve come to the right place. You can find anything you can imagine here,” Miss Emma assured them.

Matthew asked Miss Emma, “Why are you wearing funny clothes?”

Miss Emma looked down at her white cotton dress with puffy sleeves, lacy collar, a wide belt accentuating her narrow waist, and hem at mid-calf showing off her pointed high-top lace-up boots.

“I don’t think my clothes are funny, I think yours are,” Miss Emma snickered.

Linda explained, “She’s probably wearing a costume to celebrate the one-hundredth anniversary of the library.”

“No, actually I put this on this morning to start my first day on the job when the library first opened.”

“I don’t understand,” Linda puzzled. “Are you saying you’ve been here for one-hundred years?

“That’s right.”

“So you’re telling me you’re over a hundred years old?”

“One hundred twenty-three to be exact,” Miss Emma beamed.

“How is that even possible?” Linda wondered aloud.

“Here in the library time stands still. People come in and literally get lost in time. You can travel to times long ago and immerse yourself in history or the timeless classics. Black Beauty is always my favorite. You can transport yourself into the future of some utopian world or explore the universe and discover strange new worlds. For some it’s a portal into a fantasy world of wizardry, magic and mystical creatures. Some people like myself simply travel to far off places they would otherwise not go and experience the culture. Some are seeking adventure while others lose themselves in a hopeless romance novel. Perhaps current events and biographies interest you, and there’s always a good mystery.”

“I used to love reading Nancy Drew when I was young,” Linda said.

“Yes, I remember you!” Miss Emma exclaimed. “Oh, and by the way you, have an over due book.”

Surprised Linda asked, “How could you possibly remember that?”

“Like I said, time stands still here. It seems only moments ago.”

“You have been here all this time, haven’t you?” Linda gasped. “I bet you’ve seen a lot of changes.”

“I sure have. The building has been added onto twice and updated several times. Computers have replaced the card catalog. I don’t miss that, but I do miss stamping the due date inside the front cover.

“It used to be just printed books, but anymore you can check out an ebook. Call me old-fashioned but I don’t see the enjoyment in that. I love the smell of a new book and even the musty scent of a very old book. To me there’s nothing like sitting down to a real book and getting lost in its pages. Then there are folks who just don’t have time to read but still enjoy a good book. They can check out an audio book and listen while they scurry about.

“Look around to see what interests you, but don’t be like the young woman over in the corner in the flower-print pants and halter-top with the stack of books next to her. She came in in nineteen seventy-two and never left.”

Linda looked her way, almost as if she recognized her from high school. Then it dawned on her. It was Norma, the shy, brainiac girl who always kept to herself. One day she disappeared and rumors abounded as to her fate. Some said she had run away, others said she had been murdered and that her body had never been found.

Linda cautiously approached Norma to be sure. Sensing her come near, Norma looked up. “Norma!” she called out. “It’s me, Linda. You know, from high school.”

Shaking her head, Norma didn’t recognize the sixty-some-odd-year-old woman standing before her.

Linda continued, “I sat behind you in Missus Larson’s eleventh grade English class. That is until one day you up and disappeared.”

Looking closer, the light of recognition came on in Norma’s eyes. “My goodness, Linda! You look so old. What happened?”

“I’ll tell you what happened, you lost all track of time. That was fifty years ago.”

“It was?” Norma said, looking at her watch. “My mom is going to kill me! I was supposed to be home hours ago to watch my younger brothers and sisters so mom and dad could go out.”

Linda watched as Norma sprang from her chair and sprinted for the door, disappearing into a flash of light, back to her own time.

“What just happened?” Linda asked in amazement.

“It happens all the time,” Miss Emma said. Folks come in and stay for weeks, months, and sometimes years. When they leave they go back to when they came in.”

On a hunch, Linda asked, “Do you have a collection of old high school yearbooks?”

“They’re over against that wall,” Miss Emma said pointing.

Linda looked through them and pulled out her 1973 high school yearbook and turned to the senior section. Dumbfounded, there was Norma right where she was supposed to be. “I don’t believe it! Time really does stand still here.”

For what seemed like the next few minutes, Linda, Olivia and Matthew browsed the library shelves looking for something to read. Linda found “Where the Crawdads Sing” a novel that had been made into a recent movie she had seen at the theater; she wondered if it was as good as the movie. After reading the first two chapters she determined that it was and wanted to finish it. She also found what promised to be a juicy romance novel.

Looking at her watch and wondering where the time had gone, she rounded up her grandchildren and approached the desk. Books stacked, Miss Emma issued Olivia and Matthew their very own library cards. Linda had lost hers long ago but she was still on file and received a replacement, after paying for the lost book.

Linda checked out her books, and for her husband the first two volumes of a historical novel series. The books, about a naval aviator, enticed her by their romantic element. She had turned Olivia onto “Nancy Drew” and she checked out four books. Matthew got three volumes from the “Dog Man” graphic novel series.

As they were about to leave three hours later with their bag full of books, Linda said to Miss Emma, “We had a marvelous time. We’ll be back in two weeks to return these and get more.”

“I’ll be here,” Miss Emma assured her.

Two weeks later when Linda returned the books, she saw the same man she had noticed two weeks earlier sitting in the exact same spot. Miss Emma was still wearing the same clothes that didn’t look all that out of place for some odd reason.

“Did you enjoy them?” Miss Emma asked with a smile.

“We sure did. I don’t know why I haven’t been back all these years.”

“It seems like only a few minutes to me.”

“Yeah, I suppose it does,” Linda acknowledged. “I’m going to take a few minutes and look around.”

“Take all the time you want,” Miss Emma encouraged. “After all time is meaningless here.”

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Contact: Gordon G. Buttars