This story is #11 in a series;
the first 8 reside at Denim-Blues ~ Figments.
Henrietta Hodge walked in the door of the library just as a black-clad man at the checkout counter leaned across it and said to Marian, "Beware," in a spooky voice. He trapped Marian in his dark, almost cadaverous, gaze (or tried to; Marian was fairly hard to trap) and continued, "Apocalypse approaches. The Day of Reckoning is at Hand. Ye shall be judged."
"Ok," Marian said, and handed him the book she had just checked out to him, Win More Rubbers! "We'll be on the lookout. Have a good day. Win a rubber for me."
Henny took off her jacket. "What was that all about?"
"Um...well.....hmmm......I think his brother is coming to visit. You know they've never gotten along."
"Oh. Of course. That would make sense, the high school reunion is this weekend."
"Oh, no, is it? Do you remember where we hid the yearbooks last year?"
"We put them back in the newspaper closet, remember? Up on the top shelf. You fell off the ladder."
"No.....I don't remember that."
"Well, the doctor did say you might not."
"What doctor? I didn't fall off a ladder."
"Yes, you did, dear." Henny patted Marian on the shoulder as she squeezed by her to the processing computer. "And directly afterwards you started thinking you were Mata Hari. But that was last year - all over and done with. Don't worry about it."
"What are you talking about? I don't even know who Mata Hari is."
"Look her up." Henny grinned. "You were quite good. I was impressed."
"I think you're off your rocker."
"That's what you said when we tried to tell you you were plain Marian Mott."
Marian thought darkly that "plain" was not an adjective she had ever expected anyone would use in speaking about her. "Maybe you were off your rocker then too."
(Dark gaze, thinking darkly....now all we need is some dark listening and it will be a completely dark day at the library....)
Henny smiled again, scooted the piles of books around so they were closer to hand and started typing.
"You're in a good mood today," Marian said. "Did Mike get back from New Jersey already?"
Henny smiled some more. "Yes, day before yesterday."
"Did he learn all about....whatever he went there for?"
"I don't know, we haven't talked about that yet." She closed her eyes before she smiled this time.
Marian could see that line of conversation was heading toward Dullsville. Nothing more tedious than having to talk to somebody who's obviously getting some when you are not.
"Ok.....what are these?" She motioned toward a box of dusty books sitting near the coat closet.
"Oh....those are donations. Myra brought them in yesterday, she got them at an auction. She was buying shells for her shell collection....and she accidentally sat down on one of the pointy ones, and ended up with books."
"I'll put them on the sale rack then," Marian said. It always made her feel good to get rid of things. She had played the Red Queen once in a grade school play; screaming "Off with her head!" at the top of her lungs every five minutes was one of the best school memories she had. She didn't actually get to get rid of anyone's head, unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view, and what role you had in the play), but the essence of all good acting is temporarily convincing yourself that what you are portraying is real....so she enjoyed it while it lasted.
"No, no, there's some things in there we might want. See, there's the lastest installment in that vampire series. And there's a book about ancient Egyptian art. And there, look at that one. It has illustrations by whatshisname, the dead guy that's so good....um, Wyatt."
Marian picked that one up. It was a nice forest green on the outside. "The Adventures of Robin Hood," she murmured. "I loved that tv show when I was a kid." She flipped through it. Henny was right, the pictures were really cool. Men in earth tones with big muscles, and carrying weapons. What could be better?
She sighed and put it down again.
"Are you ok?" Henny asked.
"I'm fine. I think it's just the time of year. You know, nostalgic."
Henny looked dubious. Marian wasn't known for being mushy. She was a woman who lived her life in the present. The past never seemed to interest her. Much.
The director headed for the storage room. "I'll get the ladder, you gather up the yearbooks. We've got to get them put away before the nostalgic hordes from out of town descend. Nobody's stealing any more of the stupid old things on MY watch."
"I think you should let me get up on the ladder this time."
"Because you fell off last time."
"I did not! You're trying to make me think I'm nuts."
"Silly. I wouldn't do that." She started humming. Marian rolled her eyes and went to get the ladder.
It didn't take long to get the vintage books safely stowed. There was only one worrisome moment, when Henny thought she might have to jump out of the way (like last time) but it passed; Marian got her balance again, and shoved the last of the books up on the shelf.
She climbed down and dusted her hands off. "There," she said. "I don't know why we don't just leave them up there instead of moving them back and forth every year. Just, you know.....leave them there."
"We can't do that, people want to look at them. There's no point in having things in a library that nobody gets to look at. We're not a museum."
"So why do we have these dumb old things then?" Marian muttered, but under her breath. They'd had that discussion before. Marian always lost.
Before she followed Henny out of the airless storage closet, her gaze fell upon a blue cardboard box that had been jammed next to the slide projector on the bottom shelf.
She hadn't really forgotten about the box, she remembered putting it in here...but it had been quite a while since she'd thought about it. It was full of memories and even though she lived her life in the here and now, she couldn't quite bring herself to put it in the trash; so she'd put it in here, out of her life. Out of her mind. The box, not Marian, no matter what Henrietta said.
She looked behind her. Henny had gone back to the checkout counter. It wouldn't hurt to look at the stuff in it....it was the time of the year for nostalgia....and no one would know.....
Marian quietly closed the door and sat down on the floor. Then she had to get back up on her knees to get some leverage - the box was really jammed in the shelf tight. The side ripped when she yanked on it.
"Fine," she muttered again, and ripped it farther, on purpose. Reaching her hand inside through the hole, she pulled out.....an ugly brown tie.
As has been said, no one would have described Marian as maudlin. Nor syrupy, sloppy or sappy. Maybe cornball....once in while...but her strength of character and courage under fire were legendary. If they could have seen the expression on her face just then, fingering the length of fabric...they would have been justly confused. Misty-eyed was simply not a description anyone ever thought of applying to Marian.
An ugly old tie brought back some lovely memories. Not many, the owner of the tie had only been in the library, oh, 45 minutes or so....but Marian, even as unsentimental as she was, had saved those minutes in her memory to drag out and sniffle over at some future date. Officer White. Big and unassuming and big, and sentimental, too, in his own way. "See ya," Marian murmured. She sighed.
She reached into the box again, and this time pulled out what appeared to be a black ribbon. She brought it up to her nose and sniffed it. "Phew." It smelled like the slimy and algae ridden sea; she held it farther away. Once she couldn't really smell it anymore, it became a symbol of pleasure rather than icky sea creatures. The man whose hair it had slipped from had had laughing green eyes, and a willingness to please beyond a woman's sweetest fantasies. The cards from Brazil had slowed and stopped in the years since he'd been here. She did not doubt that he would come to see her, should he ever be nearby....but he was a sailor. He traveled the world, and it was impossible to tell if he would ever come this way again.
Marian sighed. It was so stuffy in here....she sighed again, sat down, and tried to ignore the sweat on the back of her neck. The storage closet didn't really need ventilation, she supposed, but it still seemed miserly not to have put it in anyway. How was a person supposed to moon over things comfortably without a little breeze to cool her off after remembering some of those hot-and-bothery things?
The next thing that came out of the box was an empty clip for a pistol. An odd keepsake, perhaps, but she felt lucky for having managed to save any souvenir at all from her FBI agent.
FBI men had always sort of reminded her of cats.....not the licking themselves part , but the way they compulsively clean up after themselves and cover their tracks - the same way cats scratch up the cat litter after they.....ok, the analogy breaks down if you follow it very far, but that's what they reminded her of, anyway. Cats.
Zack had left her for a woman who quoted Shakespeare and knew what to do with his thick mane.....which didn't seem quite fair to Marian. The injustice was not that he'd chosen someone else. You didn't get a cupcake every time, that was just life. But Marian felt that she and the HairDresser hadn't been competing with the same weight in their saddle bags. You know? Playing with a different number of players on their teams; on a tilted foosball table. Gophers mounds in one half of the football field. Uneven. Not fair.
The HD was talented in two completely different areas....it was kind of scary. On the one hand, she played the pseudo-intellectual who could quote from all those old boring books at the drop of a hat; and on the other, she was the regular person who cut people's hair for a living. Shakespeare&Steinbeck-slash-John&Kate+8.
Marian only had one arrow in her quiver. Her main talent was just being herself. Marian 24/7. Superior though that might be, she thought the lack of diversity sometimes put her at a disadvantage.
She supposed Marian 24/7 might be too much for some men.
Zack had seemed like someone who could handle that....goodness knows he knew how to handle her when he wanted to.....and goodness knows she liked being handled......but....sigh....that's the way the cookie crumbled. She half expected to see crumbs fall out of the empty clip.
She reached her hand into the box again, and pulled out another stringy sort of thing.....a really long shoelace. She had to think a minute to remember where that came from....and then she remembered removing a certain young hoodlum's shoes. And then other things. And then.....probably the less said about that the better. She yanked the piece of torn cardboard off the box and fanned herself with it. It was certainly warm in here. Really warm. She yawned....took some deep breaths....but it didn't help. She'd have to bring a fan in with her the next time...she almost felt like she couldn't quite get her breath....but it was just possible it was the memory of her young hoodlum wearing nothing but his tattoos that was responsible for that.
There were other things in the box, but these few items gave her plenty to think about. She leaned back against the ratty volumes of yellowing newspapers and fanned herself. Closed her eyes and indulged in a little melancholia...a few moments of longing for the past....a bit of sappy sentimentality...some.....
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