Cassandra’s Tears

Tears of joy, tears of pain, we are reflected in the salt-water pools we create. So let us build a fleet of paper boats and sail them on our ocean of indecision, laughing at the wind-whipped white-crested waves that would wash over us, drowning us in our own despair, yet somehow never vanquishing us in the end.

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Location: Lennoxville, Quebec, Canada

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

One Afternoon in the Library

It was very quiet in the library. Daylight slanted in through the second-story window, and golden dust motes danced along its blinding beams. The books on the shelves glowed in the afternoon sun, glinting gold themselves as the gilt lettering on a spine or the gold leaf along the top of the pages reflected a gleam of light. A smell of leather binding and dry paper hung in the air, and the general silence was punctuated regularly by the ticking of the grandfather clock in the entryway. It read 4:44 p.m., getting close to closing time.

The few remaining patrons would be thinking about leaving soon, gathering up their belongings, putting on coats and hats, checking out books and going home for supper. But right now it was calm and peaceful. Miss Pringles in the English literature section was completely engrossed in A Tale of Two Cities, occasionally making notes on a pad as she deciphered Dickens. Jenny Bealey was quietly poring over the Encyclopaedia Britannica in the reference section, also taking notes as she researched the human digestive system for biology class. In the periodicals, Mr. Grub was lazily turning the pages of this month’s Car & Driver, stopping now and again to look hungrily at pictures of the Lamborghini he could not hope to afford on a vice-principal’s salary.

At precisely 4:45 p.m. the grandfather clock broke the stillness by striking the three-quarter hour. The door flew open, and a tall man entered the library, carrying a large bag over his shoulder and smelling in some indefinable way of cat urine. A gust of wind followed him into the building, and a lone oak leaf fluttered in and came to rest on the rotunda floor as the heavy door swung to. Miss Hobbs, the librarian, looked over the tops of her little, half-moon glasses and said in a voice barely above a whisper, “May I help you?”

The tall man put his sack down on the floor and took off a cap, revealing deep-sunken eyes in a craggy, emaciated face. His jacket was mustard yellow, his pants brown, and his shabby shoes looked down at heel and out at toe. In a voice that sounded like coarse sandpaper being rubbed on a rasp, he said, “Have you got any books on Italian Renaissance art?”


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...smelling in some indefinable way ..."

There's nothing indefinable about the way anything smells of cat piss.

Otherwise, I love the Tom Waits character.

11/23/2009 12:00 AM  

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