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by Nydas


Life in the Library


It was the hairs that first alerted Lucy Brown to the possibility of animal life in the library. Thick, wiry, white hairs about the length of her little finger randomly spread over one of the beanbags in the children’s reading area.  Lucy was always first to arrive and although she was only a junior librarian, she had been given the responsibility for opening up mainly because the head librarian, in a moment of uncharacteristic kindliness, felt sorry for her standing alone outside waiting to be let in.


 Books were and always had been Lucy’s whole life. Shy, timid and retiring by nature she experienced every story she read as if she were taking part herself. At thirty eight, her own forays into life’s real adventures has never gone according to plan, the big romance had turned out to be a womanising lothario, the career ladder seemed to require a certain amount of Machiavellian confidence that she had never been able to muster and pregnancy had only happened once, by accident and she had miscarried in her fourth month. On the whole, Lucy felt it was easier and far less painful to live life through books and, although she felt the occasional desire to have someone to talk to other than herself, was generally happy with her lot. She never caused offence, pleasantly plain, with shoulder length brown hair, slim build and a kind, approachable face. She was not too shy to talk to people who approached her for help, they were always satisfied with her service, but too shy to approach people herself. That she loved her job was evident in the comfortable, satisfied way she moved around the library.


As she started work, beginning the task of putting yesterday’s returns away, she wondered about the hair. It would seem most likely that it was rats, but would there not have been other evidence, droppings and such like? The hairs were too thick to come from a cat and the only other option was a dog, but what would a dog be doing in a library? As she pondered she heard the heavy footfall of her boss, Miss Ballast and she felt the drop in her spirits that always accompanied her arrival. The only good thing about Miss Ballast was her name, Lucy would think of it when she was being subjected to one of the frequent lectures she received on how she should be doing her job. It was first name, Effie, which really made it fun, it was as if her parents had been able to see into a crystal ball to give their daughter a name that would perfectly described her appearance.


As she went about her work later in the day, Lucy could not shake the feeling that she was being watched but every time she looked around to try and catch the culprit there was no one obvious. On one occasion a young girl, about five, was looking past her and laughing, tugging at her mothers sleeve trying, unsuccessfully, to get her attention as if to show her something. Lucy turned round to try and see what it was that had caught the girl’s eye, but could only see the desk by the far wall with the main library computer on it. It was whilst she was sitting at this computer later in the day that she let out a yelp as something wet and warm made itself known to her shin. She shot away from the desk looking around to see if anyone had heard her outcry but no one had paid any attention even if they had.  She tentatively approached the desk again, with heart beating fast and saw, peeking out at her, the small, round cheeky face of a pure white West highland Terrier.

‘What are you doing here?’ she whispered as she moved forward offering her hand to the creature to see if it would let her approach. It moved slightly forward and she became aware of its’ wildly beating tail and the accessories that indicated that it was in fact he.  She stroked his head and wondered at the brazenness of the beast having spent the night in the library and most of the day without being seen. It was obviously an intelligent dog and, in the absence of a collar, Lucy assumed it must be homeless so the attraction of the warm library at the beginning of winter was obvious.


‘Lucy!’ the warm inviting tones of Miss Ballast’s foghorn of a voice boomed across the library causing one old lady to drop the book she had been looking at.


 ‘Lucy, have you finished inputting those returns?’ Miss Ballast approached fast, Lucy was now standing with her back to the desk trying to block any potential view the big woman may get of the dog. Why she felt suddenly protective of him she was unsure, although she was aware that Miss Ballast hated dogs. Lucy’s affirmative answer was difficult to deliver mainly because the dog was busily licking the backs of her legs. Miss Ballast grunted in response and walked off obviously disappointed that she hadn’t been able to launch into another one of her lectures. 


Once she had gone Lucy sat down on the chair suddenly exhausted and completely at a loss as to what to do next. Evidently the dog knew exactly what to do as he popped his head out from under the desk and, having checked the coast was clear, quickly moved always keeping to the white walls whenever possible heading in the direction of the automatic doors. Lucy followed at a little distance watching what he did and marvelling at his ingenuity. His coat made him difficult to see in the harsh light of the white painted library.  Amazed that no one appeared to notice him she watched as he waited patiently for the automatic door to open then sat in the foyer waiting for the outer door to open to make his escape. 


It was towards the end of the day that she next spotted him. It was quiet on this afternoon with very few visitors and Miss Ballast was walking along one of the rows of books on the fiction side of the library. Not expecting anything to be in her path, she was reading the cover of a book and neglecting to look where she was putting her feet. As she moved her foot towards the ground she felt something soft beneath it but, too late to stop her foot’s progress, stood full weight on the obstacle. The offending item let out a mortally wounded howl and jumped backwards into a little boy who, evidently terrified of dogs, screamed piercingly and wet himself. His mother, rushing to his aid, slipped in the wee, stumbled forward and, in an attempt to stop herself falling, grabbed at Miss Ballast. Miss Ballast, severely traumatised by now and barely able to grasp what was going on, felt her own balance wavering and found herself descending sideways into a bookshelf crammed full of paperbacks. This same bookshelf decided it was no match for Miss Ballast’s portly form and gave way graciously, starting a chain reaction that could only be called a domino effect.


Lucy, by the time she reached the mêlée, all the time avoiding falling books, could not contain her mirth and, having checked that no one was hurt, burst into peals of laughter that refused to stop.  At her approach the dog leapt towards her and landed in her arms licking her face enthusiastically, evidently none the worse for his terrifying ordeal. The tears were flowing down her face by the time Miss Ballast managed to regain her composure.

‘Lucy Brown!’ She bellowed, ‘What do you think you are doing bringing your dog to work?’


 The little boy’s mother, looking very cross, gathered him up and stomped to the borrowing counter demanding to see the manager.  Miss Ballast moved to the counter and sat down with the mother, where they both shared their disgust and considered what should be done about it. Lucy, who had stopped laughing now and instead, was worrying she might be sacked, sat down at the desk on the other side of the library looking at the damage done. She stood up and began to try and right bookcases, putting books back into the shelves as best she could.


‘I can sort them into the right order on Monday if I still have a job,’ she thought.


 The dog had disappeared again and she tried not to feel too bitter towards him. Never before has she lost control of her composure in quite that way and although it had been a delicious moment, seeing her boss with her skirt over her head, it was not worth risking the job she loved. She swallowed hard as Miss Ballast approached her and murmured a quiet plea to whoever might hear under her breath.


Miss Ballast was clearly embarrassed by the whole event and angry that Lucy had found it so funny, but she was no fool. She was aware that she was unlikely to find another librarian who was as reliable and hard working.  She settled for giving Lucy a lecture to die for and, suitably divested of her disgruntlement, finished with a parting shot about not bringing pets into work. Lucy felt the lecture was a small price to pay if it meant she kept her job and immediately forgave the dog for any potential risk, instead deciding that it had probably, all things being equal, been one of the most satisfying days of her life, a day when life had been as good as any book.



© Nydas 2011


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