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Blog 17: Emotional Canyon

by Lilith McFarlin

I haven’t shaved in so long, I just found an entire bag of Fritos in my beard. Ever since I was furloughed from my job at the mannequin factory, all I’ve been doing is reading books on Libby and grunting at my daughter, Penelope, to bring me more Fritos. She’s only here on the weekends, but somehow the chips keep coming. Some people might find this disturbing, but why look a gift horse in the mouth?

Even though I don’t miss mistaking our especially realistic mannequins for coworkers and having to ask the same questions over and over again until I find a real person, I miss my sense of purpose I get at my job. I’ve filled that emotional canyon with unemployment checks and e-books. I still miss having a physical book to hold in my hands—perhaps occasionally whispering sweet nothings into its spine. I heard that my beloved Laman Library is beginning curbside service soon, but I’m not sure when it will start.

I get a conveniently-timed phone call. It’s good ol’ [name redacted], telling me my hold has come in. All I have to do is schedule a time that I can come in and pick up my book. I choose first thing in the morning when it’s cool, because I am an exceptionally sweaty man. How many times a day can I realistically change shirts? I ask them how I can be sure that the books are safe with the pandemic and all. They tell me that the books are quarantined upon their return, so I don’t have to worry about infecting Penelope who has asthma, making her high-risk.

All I have to do now is wait for my time to park at Laman so I can call them so they’ll leave my books on the table by the front door. Now I just need to do something about this beard so they don’t look out the window and think I’m someone else, trying to steal my own checkouts. I, of course, will be wearing my face mask.

Blog 16: In Laman’s Terms Special Edition – Laman Speaks!

Terrance is at home, glued to his smartphone, reading ebook after ebook on Libby during his self-isolation. My apologies – I forgot to introduce myself. I am the Laman Library. You read that correctly, I am the very building that has all the books, computers, and overly caffeinated librarians like [name redacted]. I must confess that I am a seriously lonely building. I don’t often use my power of verbal communication because it startles people, and I get a lot of unwanted attention from the CIA. But things got so desolate the other day, that I asked a passing pedestrian what her favorite color was and she got so spooked that I swear she evaporated.

Despite all of this complaining, I do realize that the decision for me to temporarily close my stunningly beautiful, automatic doors is for the greater good. There is a dangerous virus making its way around the world, and I shudder to think of what it’s doing to my patrons, and what it could do if I discouraged their social distancing and safety by being open. I would also like to humbly point out that the library is more than just me, even though I’m extremely attractive in a big-grey-genderless-structure sort of way. The people who usually work within my walls are now busting their humps to make online programs that you can enjoy from home. You can even get wifi by parking in my parking lot so you can also keep me company if you so desire.

These include computer classes and clubs (Podcast and Film—which are Facebook groups; Anime is currently on Discord but is moving to FB) from LINC. Cyber Saturday is still going on as well! You just need to join the discord server with the code: discord.gg/SWEMBE after you download Discord from your app store. A lot of this is going on in Google Classroom and the William F. Laman Public Library Facebook page, and there will even be a writing workshop along with other creative and crafty programs including art tutorials, rock painting, and even a cooking show! Don’t forget that you can check out ebooks, using apps such as Overdrive, Libby, and Hoopla. In case there’s anything I’ve forgotten, do remember to head over to the Facebook page for a more comprehensive list of fun and interesting things to do. While these times are hard for everyone—myself included—with all of these fantastic things, I think we’ll get through it.

Blog 15: Mirror Shades

Today, I am feeling reflective, and it’s not just the mirror shades I have on my face to let people know I’m cool. It’s been one year since I simply showed my photo ID at Laman to get my library card and started my love affair with that beautiful place. As I walk over to the study area, I feel the dramatic wind coming from the heating unit blowing through my hair. My #1 Dad sweatshirt flows like an evening gown. I sit down, and get out my Danielle Steel novel that I’m finishing, since it’s due today and I don’t feel like renewing it. Although, if I did, they would be helpful and let me have it longer as long as another faithful patron didn’t have a hold on it.

Laman is the municipal library of North Little Rock, and as a lifelong North Little Rockian, I am proud. Although I have told my daughter Penelope that I disapprove of her getting a tattoo someday—but respect her right to get one—I have “Dog Town” tattooed on my forearm, right above Snoopy from Peanuts. All programs are free and open to the public, which is how I was able to brang my cousin, Stank Bait, to Bingo last week. They didn’t even mind that he was from out of town, even though he couldn’t sign up for a library card that day because he needed to get a Gateway Project application. It was a good thing the program was free, on the count of he spends all his money on stank bait, and sometimes those battery-powered bass that you put on your wall. Then you press the button and they sing. You get the picture.

As I’m walking out the door, ol’ [name redacted] hands me my fax I had sent to the library. I pay one dollar, as it was only one page. It was from Stank Bait. He just wrote:

“You’re better than fishing, and my wife left me because I fish too much.

Yours truly,

Stank Bait.”

I am overjoyed.

Blog 14: Hidden in Plain Sight

I walked through the graceful, automatic doors of Laman. I waved at the library worker, good ol’ hard-working-but-otherwise-nondescript, [name redacted]. I took a stroll right over to the Danielle Steel books, because that woman is the Ozzy Osbourne of romance novels. But instead of bats, I assume she eats oatmeal and scones. Instead of face-melting guitar solos, she just makes me believe in love again.

I have come for her masterpiece, Rich People Fall in Love, or Become Rich then Fall in Love, or Whatevs: A Novel. It takes place in New York City or some such setting, and it has a great airport scene. As I walked to the shelf, I tried not to get too excited, because I might have passed away from being too happy. It happens in Danielle Steel’s books, and they’re all loosely based on true stories.

I didn’t get too happy because, when I looked closely, the book was not there at all—not one bit. So I did my breathing exercises until my face turned blue, then I stumbled up to the front desk in a slightly dizzy, but decidedly calm fashion.

“Where is the best book in the whole world, Rich People Fall in Love, or Become Rich then Fall in Love, or Whatevs: A Novel?” I said.

“It’s February, so it might be on our Valentine’s display. Let’s check over there,” said [name redacted].

Good old [NR] led me over to the display table, and light practically radiated off the book. A tear even came to my eye. I checked it out for twenty-eight days. [NR] reminded me that I could call and renew it if I needed to. All I had to do was give them my mother’s maiden name for my security word. I needed that, because I’d only read the book fifteen times, and I wanted to have a while for my sixteenth through twentieth readings. There’s always things that I’ve forgotten. Did you know that the female protagonist wears a blue blouse from chapter ten all the way to chapter thirteen? I left Laman, once again feeling happy enough to croak at the beginning of a romance novel.

Blog 13: Glitter Computer

After the countless hours I spent on the phone with tech support and the warranty people, the computer company has finally given me a new laptop. It was hard to convince them that, yes, it did blow up in my face. It burned down my house of cards. What kind of weirdo makes something like that up?

I’ve gotten access to my own computer again, but they can’t stop by to set up my internet connection until Thursday, so I’m at Laman Library using their WiFi, which is free. They also let you stay here all day if you need to.  I find the one labeled “Laman_Guest,” and I simply click on it because there is no password. Since I’m off work today, I spend my whole morning surfing the World Wide Web. I’m doing a research paper on David Bowie and how he inspired me to break masculine stereotypes and start wearing glitter on my person. I even paint a lightning bolt across my face when I’m feeling particularly pretty.

I finish my research paper and I hit print, thinking it will go to the printer like everything else I print in this lovely place. But no printer shows up on my screen. I have never experienced such heart-throbbing calamity. I run to the front desk like the bolt of lightning over my eye. I scare one patron so badly, I hear her call the police and say, “I’m at the Laman Library. There’s a suspicious man running around, screaming about David Bowie. He’s slightly overweight and appears to be in his forties. His face has a storm on it.”

The North Little Rock Police get there at the same time I do. Boy, that was quick. I explain the situation to the officer, and she is so understanding that she offers to meet me for karaoke later and promises to sing Mick Jagger’s part of “Dancing in the Street.” I ask the librarian at the front desk why the printer is giving me such icy silence. Apparently, the printer is not emotionally unavailable. It just doesn’t have a wireless printing option. I get back on my laptop and share it to my email. Then I log onto an express computer and print my paper like I did before Laptop, Jr. arrived. I once again feel satisfied in my experience.