“See it was this flower that I was telling you about, Glenn, remember?” Anna pushed closer to me as I stood near the checkout counter. Her phone outstretched, showing me the pink wildflower.
“That’s a nice picture.” I said lamely, trying to gather a stack of books large enough to excuse myself from the conversation.
Anna pushed herself closer. Her glasses sliding down her nose. “You really think so?”
I could see my face reflected in her lenses as her intense blue eyes tried to stare deeply into my own.
“I-Yeah, you should go out there again and get more shots.” Things were feeling uncomfortable, very uncomfortable. Around us the library bustled with it’s quiet movement. Patrons moved from stack to stack, absorbed in their own little worlds.
No one caught my imploring glances, not even my right hand reference librarian, Kara looked my way. I could see her shoulders shaking with suppressed mirth.
I’m going to kill her.
Anna continued to prowl forward, boxing me between a shelving cart and the desk. “I was planning on going back out there this weekend. Are you on shift?”
“Well yeah, I’m here right?” I said, distract by a staff member depositing a large stack of books and DVDs onto the desk.
Anna blinked, regarding me with her flashing glasses. “Well, obviously Glenn, but I mean this weekend.”
She pushed her frames up with a well manicured turquoise fingernail, “I know you don’t really have a social life outside of here, and you probably could use the company-“
A spluttering cough came from reference and Kara stood up, coughing into her elbow. Distracted Anna turned towards her. I slithered between the cart and desk grasping the large
“Oh gash Kara, are you alright?” Genuine concern etched itself into Anna’s thick eyebrows as she hovered.
Clearing her throat, Kara looked over at me with a wink, “I’m quite alright Anna, really. Thank you.”
I disappeared into the stacks, weaving as much distance between me and Anna as possible. It wasn’t that Anna wasn’t a nice person, or that I’m some kind of jerk. But she just was . . . well Anna. Looking down I saw that my stack contained some language and prep test books with a smattering of fiction classics.
Thank goodness, I’ll be out here for a bit.
Setting myself to work I bobbed between patrons and stuffed books between more books. I reorganized the dewey decimal numbers on book spines and pulled books to the front of each shelf.
Nice and tidy.
Suddenly a book slid out of my grasp and crashed to the floor. The other books, feeling left out of the excitement, followed their fellow to the floor.
“For crying out loud.” I muttered under my breath, as I squatted down to pick them up.
“Glenn!” Hissed a voice behind me, making me jump and kick the books down an empty isle.
It was Kara, short hair waving around and face flushed with excitement.”She’s here! She’s here!”
I looked up and down the empty isle. “Um . . . who?”
Eyes rolling in exasperation to the ceiling Kara clicked her tongue, “Scanner Girl! Scanner Girl is here, and she’s headed your way!”
Heart leaping into my chest I froze, unable to think. It had been a few weeks since Scanner Girl had come in and I had, unfortunately, taken her down with my barcode scanner. . . and face. Since then I’d been avoiding her like the plague, not wanting to assault her again with deadly library force.
Cogs began turning in my head, “Where is she? How do you know she’s coming right to me? What did you-“
“Never mind that,” interrupted Kara, “Take this, it’s the book she’s looking for.”
My eyes goggled at the book, a GRE test prep paperback. “What? Are you crazy?”
Kara flipped her hair and gave me a cool look, “You can finally impress her. Heck, you can finally talk to her.”
“But . . .” My thoughts revved inside my head. What should I say? What would she say? Does she even want to talk? Wait, did I bathe today?
“Okay hurry up, she’s going to be in that section any minute. Move!” Kara yanked the books I still held in my other hand and pushed me towards the adult non-fiction section.
“What should I say?” I said over my shoulder.
“Hi, of course!” hissed Kara as she bent over to retrieve my fallen books.
In a dream I walked down the center isle, my hands starting to sweat.
Okay, breathe, you can do this. Breathe. Just say hello, ask her how she’s doing and then shelve the book and walk away. Okay? Make it nice and simple.
I read the dewey decimal numbers on the end of one of the stacks. It was hers. Heart now pounding in my throat, I cleared my throat and stepped around the corner.
“Glenn!! Oh this is fantastic!” Called Anna, her voice rending the very fabric of space. Anna stood there, as if she’d been waiting there all along. “Daddy come here, there’s someone I want you to meet!”
Is this some kind of joke? I’m going to kill Kara! Wait did she say daddy?
A short, balding man stood behind my co-worker. He had the same piercing eyes, and even glasses. Sporting a bushy mustache that all but took over his upper lip, cheeks and mouth, he regarded me for a second.
“Daddy this is Glenn, my co-worker I’ve been telling you all about.” Some how Anna was clutching my arm, like a Chinese finger trap. I strained ever so slightly against her pull and her fingers bit into my arm.
I could feel the air around us thicken as Anna’s father looked me up one side and down the other. The hair on my neck and arms performed the wave as I heard myself gulp.
“Errr . . . Hi.” My throat had gone dry.
Father? I’m meeting Anna’s father? What is this, are we engaged? Woah, why is he still looking at me like that?
Anna looked from me to her father, her smile faltering for a minute. “Oh sorry, that’s me being stupid! Glenn this is my dad, Kent. Daddy, this is Glenn.”
I tried to say, “please to meet you”but nothing came out. I just sort of nodded my head as I shook the man’s proffered hand. Kent stared, his handshake leaving much to be desired.
Something please fall from the sky right now.
Anna plowed through her father’s obvious discontent at my presence, “Anyway, Daddy, Glenn was just talking about taking me to that beautiful thicket we found the other day up the canyon. Remember? With those wild corn flowers?”
I offered another nervous smile to the man who clearly thought this potential match for her daughter was living up to none of his standards. It was at this moment that she came around the corner. Dark hair hanging around her beautiful face. A notecard clutched between her fingers.
Our eyes met. Mine went wider as she stopped in her tracks.
“Anyway, so my dad works for the military. He’s a civilian on base working on engineering a new type of cockpit style. It’s probably something you two could talk about for hours. I mean-“
Whatever else Anna was saying droned into the background as I watched on in horror. Scanner Girl’s eyes move first over Anna’s father and then the girl herself. Her eye shifted back to me. With a face forming an inaccurate understanding of the situation she took a step back.
No! It’s not what it looks like! I’m not meeting her father! I’m not even interested in her! Holy fire, why did you have to walk around the corner now.
My eyes were looking at here, imploring her help without realizing it, and she saw my desperation. Her face flushed and she quickly looked down at her paper, then to the stack of books in front of her.
“Well? Glenn?” Anna’s voice brought me back to the awkward, real-life situation.
“I’m sorry, what?” I said, avoiding Kent’s continued stare. It was like he was trying to force me into the ground with just his vision.
Anna blinked, “Um . . . Were you not listening?”
Behind them both Scanner Girl continued looking for her book, desperate to leave us all behind.
It dawned on me that she couldn’t go anywhere. Her book was in my hands. I looked down at the bold GRE title and took a breath.
Come on, you’ve got to get it to her. I scolded myself. And then, at the sight of Scanner Girl just out of reach something inside me snapped.
“I’m sorry, I need to shelve this book.” I said, suddenly moving forward.
“What? Glenn, wait.” Anna grabbed my other arm, trying to pull me back into a conversation that I was not ready to have, least of all with her father. I did the only think my brain could think to do: I kept walking.
My foot caught the tip of Kent’s shoe, that combined with Anna pulling on my arm threw me off balance and into the bookshelf.
“Oooomph.” I said as I connected with the metal shelf. There was another second where time stopped, and I was able to look right at Scanner Girl. And then a cascade of books fell on top of me, her and Anna’s father.
“DADDY!” Wailed Anna as her father disappeared under a flow of pages and breaking covers.
Scanner girl gave out a soft cry of surprise and was knocked onto her backside. A large thesaurus bounced off of my head as an ACT prep book slammed into my face. I went down, hitting my head on the opposite shelf. Stars exploded in my eyes.
Anna screeched again, “Daddy! Are you alright?”
In a minute all the books had emptied themselves from their perch. A flock of dust bunnies drifted down on all four of us.
A voice spoke over me as I got on hands and knees, “Oh my gosh, are you alright? I’m so sorry, are you hurt?”
The library was shifting around, and I could hear rushing feet headed towards us.
“Is everyone alright?”
Scanner girl crouched by me, her hand on my shoulder, “You aren’t bleeding, are you feeling alright?”
My face and head throbbed but I nodded and started to stand up. Behind us Anna had extricated her father from a volume set of mathematics and was staring at Scanner Girl, her face growing scarlet.
“Thank you,” I said trying not to sound in pain, “But I think this is the book you’re looking for.”
From around both sides of the book shelf came several librarians and a janitor.
“Is everyone alright? Glenn, are you okay? Anna, did your father get hit?”
Scanner Girl ignored the newcomers and looked down at the proffered book.
“How did you-? Um, thank you.” She looked bemused and confused at once.
I smiled, guilt making my face hot. “I’m sorry, it’s involved. But I think that one should help.”
One last book fell from the shelf and toppled down onto Anna’s foot. She screamed.
“I’m Glenn.” I said, sticking my hand out to Scanner Girl. She took it slowly, trying to hide a smile, but failing miserably.
With a laugh she shook my hand and said, “Hi Glenn, I’m Mische.”