NO ONE IN THE LIBRARY IS READING

BY MARIE POTOCZNY

There are mice in the library, and the teenagers are having sex in the reference collection.  The junior high boys are expressing their constitutional rights to look at pornography, and the girls are shredding the magnetic strips out of back issues of Vogue and People to steal for their bedroom walls.

The FBI man lurks in the corner waiting to see who will read To Kill a Mockingbird so he can arrest them; he is also sometimes the library’s public masturbator.  He puts a paper bag over his head when he unzips his pants but everyone knows who he is by his shoes.

The soccer moms are in the toilet snorting coke.  Their cell phones ring, and ring, and ring.  The senior citizens have been let loose from the old folks’ prison, and they shuffle around in the reference collection trying to get the teenagers having sex to listen to their stories about the war and nylon rationing.

Someone calls on the telephone and asks, “Is there a Mr. Coholic there?  A Mr. Al Coholic?”  The librarian asks, and everyone laughs including the FBI man dusting for fingerprints near Leaves of Grass.

A man tries to sneak his book, “Carburetor Repair in 30 Minutes” into the overnight book drop.  The librarian says, “Hey, you can’t do that.  That’s the Overnight Book Drop.”

The man has a dirty shirt and fingernails.  His hair is slicked back with the same grease he uses on his Mustang.  The book, “Carburetor Repair in 30 Minutes” is also black and greasy, and the spine is broken.  The librarian pinches it with her library tongs and holds it out for the man to see—her shoe tapping on the floor like a schoolteacher’s.

The man does not like schoolteachers.  They remind him he did not do well in school.  And libraries make him nervous; someone might point a finger and laugh at him for not being smart.  But the man doesn’t really know this about himself, so he is getting mad at the librarian and getting ready to call her uptight and a bitch even though he sees she is pretty underneath her glasses and has shapely legs.

The librarian hates to be called uptight and a bitch—it’s jerks like him who don’t value books and who make her mad—even if he does smell wonderful and raw of lava soap and car grease.

They are getting ready to fight.  The library watches.  The teenagers having sex pause in mid-kiss, still pulling on each other’s lips.  The girls shredding magazines and the boys looking at porn, pause.  The FBI man and the old people watch.

A mouse runs across the floor between the librarian and the man.  She breathes.  He breathes.  They attract together like violent magnets.  He sweeps her up into his arms and carries her out.  They set off the metal detector.  The library cheers.