This story is #10 in a series;
the first 8 reside at Denim-Blues ~ Figments.
It was Saturday. Marian Mott, librarian extraordinaire, was all alone behind the circulation counter. Henrietta Hodges, Marian's executive assistant, was absent, having requested two days of personal time in order to keep an appointment with her general practitioner.
"Requested, hell," Marian muttered. "What good is it to be the boss if people don't listen when you tell them no?"
She looked in disgust at the piles of miscellaneous materials tossed carelessly on the counter by members of the local genealogical society at the end of their meeting.
"I will never understand why grown men and women can't pick up after themselves. Just what do they think I'M supposed to do with this stuff?"
She decided to organize the items by size (instead of color, which was her preference) because genealogy was a serious endeavor, unlike fiction which was generally pretty frivolous. Henrietta would appreciate having all this junk neat and tidy, ready to put away, when she got back. Marian never wanted it to be said she was not considerate of her subordinates.
Marian had never bothered with researching her ancestry, and so she had no idea how illustrious it was or was not. If there had been a king or some other notable historical figure in her background it would not have surprised her, but she was not interested in finding out. She knew all she needed to know about her family already - she was the last surviving member of the only branch of the Motts hardy enough to brave the hazards of residence in the Dangerous Midwest, and the equal of any old dead guy anybody could shake out of their family tree.
Maybe she'd sort them by color after all. The metallic purple cover ("You are Royalty - Prove It!") just didn't look good against the brilliant red canvas one ("Hessians in your History").
The door banged open and Hennie entered, pausing to grab the piece of paper affixed to the glass of the door with tape. Not duct tape - there's NO duct tape at the library anymore for anyone to get into trouble with. Nuh-uh. Just plain clear tape, the kind you use on clear doors.
It's not invisible like they tell you it is...everybody can see it, they just pretend they can't. Marian had often wondered why they didn't make blue clear tape. Or pink. Or lemon yellow. Or lacy. Vines and flowers. Plain clear was so boring; and the "invisible" part smacked of propagandist marketing tactics foisted on and blindly adopted by a naive public. (Marian had read that last part in a magazine, standing in line at a check out counter at the GayGear shop. It made sense applied to more things than you would think. So she remembered it.) (I suppose you're wondering why Marian was standing in line at GayGear....it turned out there were always lots of good looking men in that store, and after the library board threw a hissy fit over the time she was arrested for assault in the TipTop bar (even though it was NOT her fault at all. NOT!) she was more careful where she hung out. Even the most straitlaced old fart could hardly object to a sporting goods store.)
"Hey!" Marian said. "What did you take my sign down for?"
Henny waved the piece of paper in the air. "How long has this been on the door?"
"It's totally rude to tear down other people's signs!"
"Since Thursday. And it works. So you can just go put it back up."
"Marian - you cannot put up a sign that says, 'This library protected by Smith & Wesson'. You just can't."
"I don't know why not. I see signs like that a lot. 'This truck protected by-'. Or 'This house protected by-'. And we haven't had a speck of trouble since I put it up. It works."
"Because we're a public institution. You can't threaten people with death if they misbehave."
"What are you talking about? What threat? Death by salad dressing?"
"I don't know what you're talking about, and I don't think you do either. But don't listen to me. Even though I'm the director. Just throw it away, even though it's been proven to keep things peaceful. The NEXT time something happens, you can just take care of it yourself. Don't look for any help from me."
"I'll be in my office, trying not to think of any more good ideas. Nope, you're just on your own now. Don't whine to me about it. Nope, I'm just Little Miss Ineffectual -"
"Smith & Wesson is a gun manufacturer."
"Oh." Another brief moment of silence as our heroine absorbs all the implications. "So you're saying it's false advertising." She looked pensive. (Which does NOT mean that she's turning into a ball-point, no matter how it sounds. That would be "She was pensive." And how often does that happen?) "Do you suppose the board would let me....no." She sighed. "I suppose not."
Henny shook her head and tore Marian's sign into little bits before throwing it into the trash.
"So..." Marian said. "How are you feeling now? Better?"
"Well...." Henny looked confused. "I'd had this headache for three days...and I had it when I went to the clinic. And now I don't. So I suppose that's good."
"Of course it is! What did the doctor do for you?"
"He didn't do anything....really. By the time he threatened to call the police, my headache was gone."
Marian sat down in front of the computer and rested her elbow on the counter, chin in hand. "Henrietta--what did you do?"
"Well....he ran all these tests. Lots and lots of tests. And then he came back in the room after I was dressed and he said they couldn't find anything wrong with me. Physically. He said 'Physically'...and looked at my hair." Henny's eyes filled with tears.
Marian's eyes narrowed. "Oh! That's so rude! Your hair has nothing to do with anything, regardless of what color it is! I hope you told him off."
"Well....my...my feelings were hurt...you know."
"Of course they were! What a jerk."
"And then...I don't know, I just got mad. Really mad. And I...I...."
"I punched him in the nose." Henny covered her mouth with her hand. "I can't believe I did that. I don't know what came over me. But anyway...then my headache went away. So when he yelled at me, I punched him again, and then I felt much better."
"It's good to know there's something that will make your headache go away. Although it might be tough to find somebody to punch in the nose every time."
"I don't want to punch anybody in the nose!"
"Then why did you do it?"
"I don't know!! It was so weird!"
"Well. It sounds like a good solution to me. If it works, it works. And that idiot doctor'll think twice about making fun of women with green hair in the future, and that's all to the good. I guess I don't see a down side."
Henny didn't know what to say to that, and it was just as well, because Just At That Moment -
Isn't it coincidental how things always happen 'Just at That Moment'? Not 'After several moments of awkward silence' or 'After way too many inane comments' or 'I don't know what happens now, so let's just go on'. No, they happen Just at that Moment - -
- - the door banged open again and a hot breeze out of the West blew in, sandy and dusty and dry. A piece of grit flew into Marian's eye and she squeezed her eyes shut for a minute....and when she opened them again, there he was.
She hadn't really expected to see him again, he was a rover, a man on the run, restless and rootless....but she had hoped. Marian's hope wasn't the kind of hope you read about, sunshiny and pastel and sweet - that was kool-aid to Marian's darker, wine-flavored hope...and the realization of it was intoxicating.
"Did you get somethin' in your eye, sweetheart?" he said. She couldn't remember whether she had or not; she didn't even notice the twitch or the tear running down her cheek; she was drunk with the possibilities racing through her mind, now that he was standing right in front of her again.
"Let me look," he said, and pulled a handkerchief from inside his jacket pocket. He tilted her head back with two fingers under her chin. "Look up."
She gave herself into his care; looked at the brim of his hat and tried not to think about his finger and hankie touching her eyeball.
It was no use, she couldn't help it. "Ouch!"
"It's alright now, I think I've got it." He showed her the bit of grit on his handkerchief before running his thumb over her eyelid. "Better?"
"Ohhh....yes," Marian breathed. She didn't know whether to close her good eye and just feel it, just absorb the hot Westernness he was radiating....or try to open the eye that was under his finger tip, so she could see him in 3D....or alternate: open, shut, open, shut. No, no. She opted for shut; waited for him to follow his fingertip with his lips, leaned forward a bit to make it easier for him...
"I came back for my coat."
Damn. "Oh...your coat?"
"I think I left my coat here when I was here before. Did you see it?"
"Um....actually I did. I took it to my house. For safe-keeping."
She was gratified to see him grin. "That's a piece of good fortune."
Marian was overwhelmed with a sudden rush of desire. Luckily he didn't need to hear her acquiescence...she supposed he could see it in her eyes. Or guess it from the way she was pressing herself against him. Or infer it from the way she was attempting to lick his lips...
"In fact...I'm beginning to think this is my lucky day." He slid an arm around her waist.
"Mine too." She wasn't sure if she actually said that or only thought it...but it didn't matter. He pulled her close and leaned in....his lips barely touching hers....
"You won't mind if I use your shower while we're there, will you, darlin'? I'm feelin' a little dusty."
Marian opened one eye. The pounding of her heart, the rush of lustful blood through her veins made it hard for her to hear. "What did you say? You're feeling rusty?" That was a terrible thought.
On the other hand, maybe Marian could teach him a few new tricks if he'd forgotten his own. She could think of a few things that a cowboy might not know....
There was apparently nothing that a cowboy did not know. Rusty or otherwise. Who knew that "Git along, little doggies" could be so romantic? Or "Stick 'em up!" Playing cops and robbers when she was a child was never like this. She smiled to herself, her eyes still closed, and stretched her arms up over her head.
The man she was laying on shifted as well, and wrapping his arms around her, he rolled until she was underneath again. He buried his face against her neck and ...never mind, you can figure that out. (Here's a hint: it's the real thing that the other thing is mimicking. Hey, this is like a puzzle. Two kinds of fun in one paragraph.) He murmured something into her ear that she didn't quite catch (although she thought she caught the word 'Proverbs' near the end), not just because his tongue was as far into her ear as it could go (here's another one!) but because she wasn't paying attention, anyway. Too busy.
She murmured something herself.
"What was that, darlin'?" he said.
Well, slap my chaps, she thought. It seemed he couldn't talk and *ahem* at the same time....so she said,
"Never mind. Giddyup."
He gave her one of those looks that, in the space of a mere two hours, she'd come to love....and giddyupped.
"I don't think we need to get dressed. I don't want to." Marian was sulking.
"Get dressed anyway. We gotta get back. Probably already late as it is."
"Late for what? I'm the director. I don't have to worry about being late."
"Not for work, sunshine. Something else." He slapped her derrierre. "Come on, now. Ribbon's chomping at the bit."
She raised her eyebrow. He laughed. "Come with me now....and we'll find some recreation of another kind later."
Marian sighed. "Oh, ok." Another sigh.
There certainly were a lot of cars parked around the library. Strange....
Ben ushered her through the front door. The lights were off-not that it made much difference, it was only 5:00 in the afternoon-but when Marian entered, they flashed on again, a cheer rang out, and Marian looked up to see a huge banner stretched across the front of the circulation desk that said,
Happy Birthday, Tamara!!!
"Who's Tamara?" Marian asked. Ben grinned, cupped his hand around the back of her head, and kissed her soundly. So then she didn't care who Tamara was or anybody else, for that matter.
And everybody (including Tamara) lived happily ever after. How often does that happen??