Blog 12: Subpar Coping Mechanisms Bonanza

I walked into Laman with a Big Gulp soda and a chili dog bigger than my head. I sat them down on a table across from the study rooms, and the tiniest piece of chili rolled onto some papers that I didn’t notice before. Hoping I didn’t ruin anything important, I took a look at the document. Laman had put a new food policy in place. No outside food is allowed, and you have to eat the food from the café in the upstairs rotunda. I felt a wave of guilt but, as to stop myself from panicking as usual, I rode across it on a surfboard of gentle inquiry. I slowly, calmly and carefully approached the circulation desk.

The librarian said, “I’m sorry. Did you just let out a yelp?”

I said, “No, I’m not freaking out. Am I in trouble? I brought food from outside the safe zone.”

She said, “It’s okay. It’s a fairly new policy.”

I sneaked back out to my car and sucked down that chili dog quicker than you can say “library behavioral code violation.” Truth be told, I could not sleep at night if I knowingly broke the rules. I don’t know how I’m going to confess to the North Little Rock chapter of the Chili Dog Society that I dropped some delicious ground beef. Chili dogs are to be cherished and handled with care. Corndogs, on the other hand, are a disgrace to the –dog world. That’s right, I said it. I don’t even care if their inventor rises from the dead, out of the trash bag he’s buried in, and chases me down the street. He brought shame to a once-proud, junk food-based community.

I re-entered the library, doing my best to pretend like the incident did not occur. Though I did sweat a lot. I reached the end of the desk where they keep the event calendars. The design for December looked lovely. But, to my horror, the events on the calendar where sparser than that time I tried to grow a mustache! But I took a deep breath, and prepared to ask the librarian why.

The librarian said, “I’m sorry. Did you just let out another yelp?”

“I’m just not with it today. So, why are there fewer programs this month?”

“People tend to travel a lot during the holidays so we don’t have as many events,” she said.

“True. Come to think of it, I will be gone for two weeks, driving an RV cross-country with my buddy, Mosquito Mike. We’re going to see every chili canning facility in America,” I said. “There’s one in Nebraska where they have a giant model of a human digestive tract where you can walk around and pretend to be chili. Really, the taste of it on your tongue is only ten percent of the experience.”

“I hope you have a fun trip,” she said.

I thanked her and left the library, where there’s always something going on and something to learn.

Blog 11: The Life and Afterlife of Terrance

Lilith McFarlin

Something terrible happened to me. I was jumping on the trampoline in my backyard when I got distracted by a squirrel that fell from a tree. Halfway down, it appeared to hang in the air, then I felt a pain across the entire backside of my body and hit my head. Before I lost consciousness, I realized we were both falling.

I woke up two-and-a-half months later to my daughter, Penelope, telling me I’ve been in a coma all this time, and I better wake my lazy self up. I asked her why she was being so harsh with me, and she revealed that saying, “I love you” didn’t do anything. But every time she called me a deadbeat sleepy dad, my foot wiggled. Then my whole leg, and you can guess the rest. I asked her why I’ve gained so much weight since I’ve been in a coma. Why wasn’t I skinny? Penelope said she threw my favorite quadruple cheeseburgers with extra bacon in the blender and poured that into my IV every day. Even though quadruple cheeseburgers are a sometimes food, I guess I was technically on vacation since I couldn’t work.

I asked Penelope what month it was and, thank goodness, I hadn’t missed the Black History Month display at Laman. There’s one book on MLK that has a picture of him giving a speech and, if you squint, you can see my father in the audience, eating a quadruple cheeseburger.

I think about how fun it will be until I ask Penelope if she ever turned in my library book. She said she waved it over my nose for the first few weeks of my hospital stay because the smell of Laman made my nostrils wiggle. Then she read it herself, threw it in the drawer by my bed and forgot about it. I asked her if she had lost all ninety-seven of her marbles.

I threw open the drawer, grabbed the book with its gorgeously glossy cover. Then I ripped the IV out of my arm and made a run for it. When I had made it halfway down the street, Penelope came running up behind me. She yelled, “DAD, YOU’RE IN YOUR HOSPITAL GOWN!! THEY WON’T LET YOU IN LIKE THAT!!!” I don’t know if you’ve seen someone sprint while putting on khakis, but I did it smoother and quicker than any of those fools. Penelope kept running with me. When I asked why, she said, “I gotta see this.”

I swear the automatic doors opened in slow-motion. My khakis made a dramatic swish-swish noise. I got to the front desk and asked [Name Redacted] if there was any way she could forgive me and my wretched soul. I was sure the book was marked lost, but it was here. She said, “Oh, well, it’s in good condition and you brought it back. So we’ll waive the fine. No problem, Mr. Terrance!” I have never been more relieved. “Say, I was flipping through a book on our display and I saw a picture with a guy that sort of looks like you in the background.” I felt like I had just reached the glorious afterlife since I’d spent so many weeks in the dark.

Blog 10: The Regularly Scheduled Program

Lilith McFarlin

I have some extremely bitter feelings about the way bingo turned out the other day. I only got a pack of toiletries and a water bottle. I had my eyes on that flowerpot. It wasn’t dipped in gold, but it might as well have been. The plastic was so shiny. I was last in line, because I was taking an iconic bingo selfie. As I got closer, sweat was running down my face like a football team. Then, the lady in front of me bought it with her bingo tickets. She had to know I wanted it by how my sweat made me stink.

When she turned back to talk to me about how my daughter’s oboe lessons were going, I’m sure she noticed I was making flowerpot contact instead of eye contact. To the untrained ear, her laugh when she talked to the bingo lady sounded like a friendly chuckle. I know it was maniacal, like she had just assassinated Ronald McDonald.

Now I’m back for a crafting program. We’re going to make dog and cat sculptures out of paint, some glue, plastic cups, and other household items. I made a test model at home. Well, two test models, because the first one spontaneously melted.

I sit down next to two ladies who tell me all the library gossip. Apparently, one of the librarians put a large print in the standard print section by mistake. Oh, the scandal! We all make our sculptures, and the lady running the program said my use of glitter was refreshing. I reminded her that my teeth are also very white and sparkly.

I leave the lovely Laman Library, feeling like a craft project held together with the finest glue that money can buy.

Blog 9: Mid-Life Crisis

I walk into Laman for the first time in a while, and you won’t believe what’s waiting for me. Everything in the whole, entire total place has been re-arranged. This unsettling event, I think, makes today perfect for me to have my mid-life crisis. I just turned 40, so I need to get that started. I can’t exactly afford a sports car, and I don’t have the time or energy for a real second job.

I could dance on the street corner dressed as Mr. Peanut, because that’s my only costume that has the mandatory less-than-seven chili stains required to join the Costumed Dancers’ Union. But that would embarrass my Penelope and I already do that enough. I feel that embarrassment builds character up until the point that it causes a child to grow up to be a bank robber. So I’m going to forgo the midlife crisis and channel all my confusion into a passion for freeform jazz. I go up to my librarian friend, [Name Redact-asaurus Rex].

I say, gently, “NR! How are things arranged now? Are they arranged at all? Is it total madness? If I look behind the desk, will there be DVDs lodged alphabetically between your toes?”

NR hands me a paper bag to breathe in, as I’m doing some light hyperventilating.

NR says, “I’m going to show you where everything is now and, as I do it, I want you to imagine the sound of ocean waves.”

I says, “On the beaches of Normandy during D-Day?”

“No.”

As she shows me around, she explains that the free space upstairs will be turned into a makers’ space, which will help out creatives and people who like computers. I might even be able to 3-D print myself a girlfriend. Except the date will come to a screeching halt when I pour white zinfandel in her mouth and it spills everywhere. I thank NR, though I admit that my head is still spinning faster than the Tasmanian Devil. Before I leave my favorite library, I check out the exciting murder mystery I keep hearing about, which takes place in Paris. It’s called Blood on the Crepes. From what I understand, they find the murder weapon inside a baguette. I imagine a lot of it would still be clean, so I sure hope they solve the crime before that delicious bread gets moldy.

Blog 8: Dream Cop

The night of the Infamous Burrito Drop of 2019, I had me one wild and crazy dream. The burrito spillage incident left me strangely hungry for burritos. I just wanted to treat melted cheese and ground beef the right way. Everyone has their own way of processing trauma, or so says the internet. Anyway, the world spun into view like a Microsoft PowerPoint slide transition.

I was in the lovely Laman Library, which is how we all referred to it, like it was a Hollywood starlet. I looked down, and I had a badge on my chest and a billy club on my belt. When I looked closely at the badge, there was the shape of a book engraved in it. Next thing I knew, there was a kid running down the aisle at over nine miles per hour. Red and blue lights flashed out my eyeholes and I was on his tail. We zig-zagged through all the empty shelves. The non-fiction collection was being moved around and condensed so they could put the fiction downstairs.

I shouted, “Freeze, punk!” and the little scamp transformed into a book. He floated in the air for a second, then hit the ground. I put him on the shelf and walked away awkwardly. Then, I heard the thump of hip hop across the library. When I got to the back, what did I see? A man blaring Kendrick Lamar in a public space. I like Kendrick, but there’s a time and place.

I said, “I am a sinner, who’s probably gonna sin again. Lord forgive me, things I don’t understand. Sometimes I need to be alone. Bi—“

He turned into a dang book, too. It really killed my vibe. I put him on the shelf, once again hoping that no one noticed. I got curious and opened him up and heard a scream. I walked away even quicker this time. I tried to restrain myself for a little while, but I kept seeing infractions, like leaving trash on the tables and breathing too loud in the quiet zone. I got so carried away, that I decided to go undercover.

I wrapped a secret microphone in a burrito tortilla, and placed it in the bathroom. I put my ear piece in, and waited outside. I heard my arch nemesis say, “It’s about that time again.” Then I heard some chewing noises that were just plain gross, so my dream replaced them with a drum solo. After the final crash of a cymbal, there was a pause. I was afraid he’d eaten all the way down to my listening device. Then I heard him say, “Well, I’ve eaten half the burrito. Time to get some cheese across that sparkly clean floor. Oh yeah, oh yeah.” Plop.

I burst through the door and held out my library card like a gun. He turned into a whole dictionary. I left the bathroom in a hurry, not having the time to look natural. I found a free chair in the reading area, which was hard, because the giraffes were having a meeting.

Then, a librarian dressed like Billy Idol came up to me with a cart full of the books that used to be unruly patrons.  She said, “Hey, little Terrance, what have you done? Hey, little Terrance who’s the only one? Hey little Terrance, shotgun!

I felt my arm squish, morphing into the table of contents. I woke up to my daughter, Penelope, laying with her head on the pillow next to mine, her torso on top of my arm. She’d had a bad dream, too. If I learned anything from this ground beef-induced experience, it’s that I should never take matters into my own hands at the library.

Blog 7: The Blog Awakens

I bought a new computer since I buried my exploded one in the backyard. The mourning period is over, and I am back playing solitaire. I am playing that sad, lonely digital card game, because my internet has yet to be repaired from when the shrapnel of my laptop impaled my modem. I need to recover financially before I can call the Cyberspace Squad to hook me up. I need to go to Laman so I can use their Wi-Fi. I bet all my Facebook friends think I died in the explosion, which I’m sure was covered on the local news.

I pull up at the library, and I walk up to the front desk, where I am greeted with a smile.

The library worker says, “Hello, Mr. Terrance. What can I do for you today?”

 I say, “Hello, [name redacted]! I was wondering, how do I connect to the Wi-Fi?”

“The name is Laman_Guest, and there’s no password.”

“Thanks, [Ol’ Namey Redacty].”

I go back into the study area, I open up my laptop, and I get connected to the interwebs. After I update my Facebook status, letting everyone know that I am, in fact, still alive; that I’m okay except I’m still having to draw on my eyebrows and exactly half of my beard. My eyes wander and they are caught by the glossy cover of Mad Magazine. I pick it up and take a look.

I laugh so loud that I am hushed by [Ol’ NR]. I ask if there’s any way I can check one out, and it turns out shelf lifts up like a magical treasure chest. The gold is back issues of my favorite publication, which I can enjoy in my own home without disturbing others. Well, except my daughters, but they’re already disturbed enough. They’re having to grow up with me, after all.

My redacted friend tells me they’re due in two weeks, which is plenty of time for hilarity to ensue. I leave feeling satisfied, though I am a little embarrassed about my noise pollution.

Blog 6: Time Keeps on Slippin’

By Lilith McFarlin

I got off work a little late today, but they didn’t suck all the life out of me, so I figured I’d head to the library. The fact that it’s Friday makes me think back to the crazy Friday nights I used to have. One time things got all fuzzy, then I woke up in a lush garden, just in time to dodge the bite of a giant Venus flytrap. He kept coming after me, so I grabbed a nearby squirrel by the tail and slung it at him. I ran away while he was chewing then prayed to Squirrel god for forgiveness.

Anyway, when I finally made it to Laman, it was all dark on the inside. I asked out loud to no one in particular, “What kind of voodoo is this? Did a witch make all the lightbulbs disappear?” Then I looked to my right and, to my horror, I saw posted on the window that the library closes at 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. If this were Sunday, I really would have messed up because they’re closed all day. I opened my bag and said to my library book, “I’m sorry I didn’t get you home on time, but I am returning you the same as when you left. I hope I don’t have to pay a fee.” Then I remembered the last time I was late, they told me they don’t charge late fees. They didn’t even ask what my intentions are with their library.

I go home, disappointed in myself, but I have to remember that this is a learning experience. When I’m in my recliner, I read the last two chapters of The Stitch-Free Lover. It was so good, I had to read it twice. At least I didn’t have to renew it and keep it from someone else even longer. That’s the book that made me believe in love again. I can now feel the breeze of a bright future.