The Optimist

By , Pullman, WA
He was an assistant librarian. The head librarian was ten years older than him and had bad eyesight. The assistant librarian was very popular with little children but not with adolescents or adults. Though the parents always thought something was wrong with him, they bought their children to the library and had him help them find good books. They just wanted their kids to read and that was usually enough.

One day, Mr. Query accompanied his six-year-old son Charles to the library. The assistant librarian greeted them enthusiastically. Mr. Query thought this was odd because Charles only went to the library about once a month. What was there to be so excited about a boy who read monthly?

Charles went straight to the comicssection and grabbed a comic with a scandalously red cover. Why do they have to make them so red, Mr. Query wondered. He sat down on a chair at the newspaper coner and started reading The New York Times. He looked appreciatively at the small fonts, efficient and understated layout, and the ordinary pictures that did not stand out much.

When Mr. Query looked up after finishing the obituary, he saw that the enthusiastic assistant librarian was talking to Charles. Wondering what they were talking about, he shifted the chair so that his left ear was pointing to the direction of his son and the assistant librarian. As he expected to, he could hear the conversation while pretending to read the sports section.

“Do you have GigaRobot 8?” Charles asked the assistant librarian.

The librarian beamed as if that question was the best question he’d ever been asked.

“Lots of boys have asked for that,” said the librarian. “So we’ve ordered two copies! Isn’t that grand? They’ll arrive in two weeks!”

Charles frowned. “But I don’t come here in two weeks. I’ll come in four weeks.”

The librarian smiled widely. “That’s fine. What’s important is that you’re reading.”

Charles looked at the back cover of the scandalously red comic book for a second and turned to the assistant librarian as if he was bored.

“Why do you work here?” Charles asked.

“Well, isn’t it obvious?” The librarian said, emphasizing ‘ob’ with great force. “It is simply the best ever job in the world!”

Mr. Query frowned much like Charles did a minute ago. This librarian was really odd.

“Why?” Charles askd suspiciously. Mr. Query was satisfied that his son also saw something seriously wrong with the librarian.

“Well, it just is. Don’t you see?” said the assistant librarian, exasperated a bit that the small monthly-reading boy could not see it.

“No, I frankly don’t.” said Charles. Mr. Query chuckled.

A bit crestfallen but still mysteriously perky, the librarian carefully removed the brown leather glove from his left hand. To Mr. Query’s surprise, it was missing its pinky.

Charles gasped.

“You see,” said the pinkyless librarian with a triumphant note. “I even lost my left pinky while working as an assistant librarian. And I still love this job!”

“How was it chopped off?” asked Charles. The librarian grimaced for a second at his rather violent expression, but continued.

“I was cleaning the library’s garage where they have tools for binding books. Two mallets fell on my left pinky and it had to be taken off.”

“But you still kept your job. Why?” asked Charles piercingly. Mr. Query flexed his left ear.

“Well,” started the librarian with an exasperated note, “it is the greatest job ever in the world, I’ve told you. And a finger is nothing. I should be thankful that I’m not starving or being cheated by a con artist.”

Charles wasn’t satisfied.

“Did you get some sort of compensation for that from the library?” he asked shrewdly.

“Why, you little boy!” exclaimed the librarian. “The library didn’t give me anything for that accident, but I should still be grateful that I didn’t lose my arm!”

Charles scoffed. Mr. Query was beginning to think that the assistant librarian was a maniac who should be locked up in a mental hospital. Worried that this maniac might influence his son, Mr. Query stood up.

“Do you have anything to check out, Charles? Let’s go home.”

Charles stood up at once. “No, I haven’t finished two books at home.” Charles hesitated, but also said, “Could you buy me a triple threat chocolate ice cream on waffle cone? It was really stuffy here.”

“Of course.” said Mr. Query. His son, a mature boy, did not often ask for treats so Mr. Query was happy to buy anything when he asked.

Charles ran toward the automatic door ahead of Mr. Query. However, they were stopped by the assistant librarian.

“Boy! How could you not thank your father? Do you think everyone gets to enjoy a triple whatever thing whenever they can?” the librarian asked furiously.

Charles turned around to face the librarian. “What do you mean?” he asked. Mr. Query did not say anything because he believed Charles could handle the odd librarian.

“I mean,” said the librarian angrily. “There are people who don’t have anything to eat but stale oatmeal all day! Some people don’t even have stale oatmeal, they have to eat stale bread!”

Charles frowned yet again.

“It’s stuffy in here. I could do without it, but I haven’t had ice cream in a while so I thought I’d ask. And my father said yes.” he said.

The librarian seemed to be on the verge of exploding.

“But you have to be okay with what you’ve got! Why do you have to ask for more?”

“Excuse me,” said Mr. Query. “You’ve disturbed my son enough. We’re leaving, Charles.”

So, with the fuming assistant librarian behind them, the father and son exited the library.


A month after, Mr. Query saw a news article about the crazy assistant librarian. The article’s title was “Mentally Unstable Librarian Forcibly Taken To A Hospital.” The librarian had somehow got his leg stuck in a printing press while giving a tour of the local publishing house to children. Although the leg had to be chopped, the librarian kept smiling and saying that “I’m okay, I have a job, food, and a house.” Because he did not show any sign of pain, agony, or anger at not being compensated at all by the publishing house or the library, he was declared mad and sent to a hospital. Mr. Query sincerely hoped that the librarian would be fully cured.





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