Library Caller

It’s been a hell of a week.  No matter what your political persuasion, it’s been difficult to keep things light, be inspired, stave off the anger, speculation, fear, and grief.  You know what I’m talking about.  I’ve tried to keep writing through it, but haven’t come up with anything worthy of sharing.  Just a lot of swear words and negativity.  I’ve thought, “Maybe I should try my hand at fiction, try writing some dialogue.  It might be a nice change, to escape from all this stuff for a while.”

Something happened last night that inspired me to try it.  It’s dialogue, but it ain’t fiction.

On Tuesday, November 15, 2016, I was working a volunteer shift at the public library.  It wasn’t my usual time; I was filling in for another volunteer who was out of town.  The hours went from 4 to 6 pm, the “sunset” shift.  It would be fully dark out by the time I left.

At about 5:35 pm, the library phone rang.  “Seldovia Public Library, this is Cindy,” I answered.

“How late is the library open tonight?” asked a man’s deep voice.  He spoke with a lot of “vocal fry,” as they say in radio.

“I’ll be here ‘til six.”

“I wanted to see what you have at the library,” he said.  “Can you tell me which John Grisham books you have?”  Twenty books by Grisham were lined up on the shelf, so I asked if he had internet at home, and told him he could search the library’s online catalog.  But he said his internet wasn’t working, so if I could tell him which titles we had he would appreciate it.  He was very polite, but quite slow.  His voice sounded more normal by now, but it was taking a long time for him to write down each title.  I thought he might be mentally disabled, so I went along with it and read all the titles to him.

“The Broker…”

“Ok.”

“…The Chamber…”

“…Yeah.”

“The Firm…”

“Uh huh…”

“This is gonna take a while,” I said.

“Do you have the time?  Is the library busy tonight?”

“Yeah, I have the time.  It was busy earlier, but right now it’s pretty quiet.  There are only two people here at the moment.”

“I really appreciate it,” he said.

“Ok, you ready for some more?”

“Yup.”

“The King of Torts… The Partner…”

“Would you mind going a little slower?”

“The… Part…ner… The Pelican… Brief… Rogue… Lawyer… The Summons…”

After Grisham, he thanked me, and said, “Now, something a bit more abstract:  do you have any Stephen Hawking books?”  There were three.  “Only three?” he asked, sounding disappointed.  By this time, I had revised my first impression that he might be mentally disabled.  But there was definitely something strange about this phone call.  He wrote down the Hawking titles, which unfortunately were longer than the Grisham titles.  I read to him, slowly, “A Brief History of Time…”

“Could you say it a little slower, please?  I’m sorry it’s taking me so long.”

“…A Brief… History…”

“Ah…. Ok…”

“The Theory….”  I was starting to lose my patience.  It took him a while to write down Black Holes and Baby Universes.  I left off the “and other essays” part.

At this point we had been on the phone for maybe 15 minutes.  The other two patrons were still hanging in there at the library, but I was becoming conscious of the fact that I might be bothering them.  The caller asked if we had any Tom Clancy books.  I groaned inwardly.  There were fifteen Tom Clancy books on the shelf.  I said, “Oh, man, you’re picking the authors with the most books!”  “Well, I like the good stuff,” he said. “You still have some time to read me the titles, right?”  I told him yes, I did, but I’d have to go soon.

“Ok,” he said, “let me turn over this piece of paper,” so he could write down more titles.  But by now I was suspecting there was something else going on here, as I could hear some heavy breathing… and he was taking longer to reply in between each title…. And every once in a while I’d hear him say the word “hard” under his breath.

I took the phone and went down the stairs and outside the front doors of the library, said, “Can I ask who this is?”  “Christopher,” he replied, immediately, without hesitation.  “Alright, Christopher, I’m gonna ask you a question: Are you masturbating right now?”

What?!

“I really apologize if you’re not, but it’s pretty obvious what you’re doing.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” embarrassed.  Quiet.

“I don’t even know if we have a cop in town at the moment, but this is something I’d call the cops about.”

“Please don’t call the cops,” he said.

“This is a pretty messed up thing to do.  DON’T DO IT AGAIN.”

“Ok, but don’t call the cops. I’m sorry.”

I hung up, went back inside, and told the two patrons what had just happened.  I was a bit freaked out, and called a friend to see if I could get a ride home.  I didn’t tell her what was going on, but she put on her shoes and came to the library immediately, no questions asked.  The other two people left.

My friend was awesome.  She said, “So… he called the library to… get off?”  She looked thoughtful, the corners of her mouth turning up in a little smile.  “You know, I love books, but….”

I burst out laughing.  “Oh, I knew you’d be the right person to call!  You could not make this shit up, could you?”

“No, you couldn’t,” she agreed.

I was feeling a little hysterical, tears filling my eyes as I laughed.  “This should be some kind of R-rated episode on Prairie Home Companion: ‘Ruth Harrison, Reference Librarian.’”

We laughed some more, and then she said something like, “The library, of all places.  I guess he’d be sure to get a woman on the phone, right?”

That thought was sobering.  This man probably lives in the same town as me.  I didn’t feel entirely safe going out front to lock the library’s door, with my back turned to the street, then riding my bike home, alone, after dark.  For the first time since I’ve lived here, I felt the shadow of fear.  I said, “I’ve never put up my guard here, that sense of urban awareness you keep in other places.  Now I guess I’ll have to.  That pisses me off.”  Like every other place on the planet, apparently, it’s not safe here for a woman to be outside, at night, alone.  I was glad my friend had a big truck and could deliver me to my front door.  I locked my door once I was inside.  That pissed me off, too.

There is definitely some creepiness to this whole thing, but I honestly didn’t get too weird of a vibe from this guy.  He was totally non-threatening, and seemed young, probably lonely, even kind of sweet in a super weird way, admittedly.  It really is not funny, or acceptable, behavior – some guy calling the library and having sex with himself while talking to the librarian.

Except it is funny.  I can’t stop laughing about it, which is a goddamn relief after taking everything so seriously this week.  What a well thought-out, almost brilliant, bookish, nerdy way to do an obscene phone call!  This guy actually went through the process of considering which authors might have the most books on the shelf, so he could keep me on the phone for the longest time possible.

And I can’t get over the fact that he was getting excited by the titles of books:

The Firm!

The King!

Rogue!

Black holes!  (At first thought, Stephen Hawking is kind of a buzz-kill, not exactly a sex symbol – but then, he did father three children in spite of being wheelchair bound.  What virility!)

Two titles with the word “brief” in them!

Thank god we didn’t get to the Tom Clancy:

The Balance of Power!

Checkmate!

Full Force and Effect!

Maybe he was even visualizing long shelves of books… mostly hardcovers.

A few things are for sure:

You really couldn’t make this shit up.

I am going to tell the cops about this.

And, I will never look at a John Grisham book in exactly the same way again.

This entry was posted in Books, Culture, Language, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Library Caller

  1. Nancy Fowler says:

    A funny story, well written to carry the reader along BUT of course it is also scary. Chances are this man is not physically dangerous, though one never knows, and in a small town you could easily be at risk. Yet you have been violated, your sense of safety and trust ruptured. Be safe. Be well.

    Like

    • Cindy says:

      Oh, yeah, I totally concur, Nancy. I’m pissed as hell that I was “used” by this guy (but still laughing a bit too.) I’m filing a police report, but also it’s most likely this guy does not live here. I’ve been asking around and no one knows anyone by the name of Christoper. I didn’t recognize the voice, and it’s a small enough town that if he is here he’ll turn up eventually = get his ass kicked! The word is out.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Scot Siegel says:

    Yuck, and Ha!, and holy crap. Sorry to hear. Nice piece of writing though. At least you got some good nonfiction out of the ordeal.

    Liked by 1 person

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