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A Library Tragedy
“‘But my mommy said I’m not allowed to go out of the forest!’ said Little Kangaroo.” Tamar rolled her eyes. She couldn’t believe that Kyla had convinced her to get this job at the library, reading idiotic books to five year olds!
“Keep reading,” demanded one of the toddlers.
“OK,” she snapped, “Little Kangaroo goes out of the forest and is hit by a cement mixer. The End.” As if one cue. All of the children began wailing.
“We want a better story! That’s a bad story!”
Tamar wanted to scream, and would have, if she hand not been sitting next to the sign saying ‘Please Whisper!’ She tried to remember exactly how she had got snookered into doing this. Her best friend, Kyla had gotten a job in the library shelving books. She had picked up a flyer asking for someone to read stories to little kids every afternoon.
“We can work at the library together!” she’s squealed happily. At the time it had seemed like fun… and it paid very well. Tamar had also assumed that she would be allowed to pick the books herself. Each one was more moralistic than the last. So far she’d read: Little Elephant Learns to Say Please, Little Cat Goes For a Walk, and Little Spider Get a Bad Haircut and Everyone Laughs At Him, But He Doesn’t Care Because He Knows That He Likes It. If she did this much longer she knew she’d crack.
“OK, story time is over, bye bye,” she announced, and the children filed out the reading room. Tamar smacked the cover of Little Kangaroo Goes Out of the Forest. She threw it on the floor and stamped on it. That felt very, very good. At that moment, Kyla entered the room.
“Umm…” she said, “Is there a reason that you’re stamping on a book? I thought you loved books.” Without speaking, Tamar bent down, picked up the book, and thrust it at Kyla. Kyla opened it and started giggling. “‘Little Kangaroo had learned an important lesson: He would never disobey his mommy again.’ Gosh, that’s subtle.”
“It’s not funny,” said Tamar, “This is the fourth book in the series I’ve read so far. I was not made for this job.”
“Maybe you should ask if you could read other books.”
“I did. They said if I didn’t like these I could read a series that’s cranked out by the same author, called something like Self-Righteous Jill and Her Obnoxious Puppy.”
Kyla started laughing and couldn’t stop. She actually fell on the floor and laughed Tamar poked with a toe.
“It’s not funny,” she said again.
“‘Self-Righteous Jill…’” She rolled over and gasped with laughter. When Kyla laughed, she laughed very loudly. A librarian turned around to glare at them. Tamar hauled Kyla to her feet, where she collapsed against Tamar’s shoulder.
“Take deep breaths,” said Tamar, “Please try to calm down.” She had done this too many times before.
“Sorry,” breathed Kyla, “But it is sort of funny, in a horrible way. ‘Little Kangaroo…’” She looked like she was about to laugh again, and Tamar dug her nails into her arm.
“Come on.” They walked out of the library. It was very hot, the air sitting on them like a blanket.
“I wish there was such a thing as outside-air conditioning,” said Kyla wistfully.
“It’s called The Wind,” snapped Tamar, still in a bad mood from Little Kangaroo.
They were walking to the little local coffee shop, where they always went after their jobs in the library were over.
“A medium strawberry smoothie,” said Tamar.
“A small hot chocolate with skim milk and whipped cream, please,” said Kyla. Kyla always got hot cocoa, even on crazily hot days like this.
They sat down. Kyla carefully removed the lid from her cocoa and started licking off the whipped cream with her tongue.
“You know, that’s really gross,” commented Tamar, “You shouldn’t do it.” Kyla smiled sweetly at her, taking another lick, and getting some whipped cream on her nose. Tamar snorted and turned away.
“You’re still annoyed about the Little Kangaroo thing,” said Kyla sagely.
“You know, the worst part is,” Tamar burst out angrily – she had wanted to say this for a while – “The kids like the stupid stories! They think they’re good! They’re hopelessly brainwashed! Today I told them that a cement mixer hits Little Kangaroo and they believed it! They were sad about it! They have no capability of thinking for themselves! ”
Kyla nodded sympathetically. “I know. It’s awful.”
“I was not like that when I was five…” Tamar muttered darkly. “When I was five, I went to art museums and listened to Mozart and read the classics.”
The next afternoon, Tamar was back in her reading chair, having just finished reading Little Slug Gains a Positive Self Image. A little girl came up to her. She looked a little younger them the rest of the children. For about ten seconds, she just stared at Tamar, who tried to smile pleasantly.
“Why are you here?” asked the girl. Tamar was taken aback. She was confused.
“To read you stories,” she answered, unsure.
“No, I mean why are you here. You obviously don’t like it.”
Tamar had no answer.
“And you couldn’t believe that any of us really like these demented stories, or were genuinely sad when you said Little Kangaroo got hit by a cement mixer, or that any of us even believed it. We’re just playing along! We’re only here because out parents force us to be! You don’t want to be here, and neither do we, but we might as well cooperate. You’re being absolutely hostile and abrasive for no reason!” With that, the girl, who could not haven been more than three feet tall, turned, and went out of the room,
Very slowly, Tamar got up. She walked to the main desk and asked to speak to the head librarian.
By the next afternoon there was a new girl sitting in the story-reader’s chair.