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Ellen

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In tiptoes the lanky, long-limbed librarian, ducking her head as she approaches the doorway. Sagging her shoulders, she attempts to vanish into the bare beige walls of the quiet library. She walks up to her desk stiffly, sits down and assumes her position at the check-out desk. Her gaze runs around the room, scanning her surroundings, she notices a teenage boy, a mother and her child, and a crippled old man in the corner between the science fiction department and the autobiographies. As she studies them, trying to figure out whether they are in need of her assistance or not, the mother catches her eye. They stare at each other for a moment, but not more than a second, for the librarian ducks her head instantly, a look of sheer terror in her eyes. The mother turns back to her child, pulls out a tissue, and wipes the snot off his face. The librarian jerks her chair around, her heart pounding, hands shaking; she takes a couple of jagged breaths. She mutters to herself quietly, “Breath in, breath, out, it’s okay Ellen, you don’t need to talk to her. Breath in, breath out.” She takes a still trembling hand to a book and gently caresses its crackling spine; her features soften and she breathes a sigh of relief. Slowly her breathing calms, her heart stops its frantic tempo, and she wipes off the beads of sweat that had emerged in her moment of panic. She brings her hands to her lap, smoothing the imaginary creases and wrinkles of her skirt, brushes the invisible dust off her blouse and turns around, determined. The librarian begins to arrange the books in front of her, placing them in order, preparing them for their trip back to the shelves. She handles each book delicately, cradling them in her arms like small children; love in her every gesture she fawns over each of them. Finally the teenage boy walks up and drops his books in front of her, “Can I check out these books, Ma’am?” She whispers a hurried yes, scans the books and stamps in their due dates. The boy walks away never noticing her rapid breathing, or her eyes blue with fire as she mutters to herself, “Never careful, never gentle, no respect for books!”



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