Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Monday, November 16, 2009


"Don't," I told myself for two weeks straight, "don't go to the library for those three days. Remember it. They'll be closed for renovation. Don't forget."
"I won't forget," I said, and I surely meant it. Over and over I told myself, all but writing the dates on my hand.
So it was with a measure of amazement that I stood, books under arm, mouth agape, outside the library, under an enormous banner ten feet long and three feet high that fervently declared the library was presently closed.
"Well," I said. "Well."
I did not know what else to say. I thought about the two or so miles I had walked already, and I thought about the way back. I sank onto a stone wall, attempting to gather my thoughts and, while I was at it, give myself a little talking to for such a dreadful lapse of memory.
I noticed a tiny old woman striding closer to me; I noticed her from a distance. She was clearly bound for the library, eyes on the concrete.
Myself, I had halted some fifty feet from the doors, but the little woman took longer to comprehend the situation. She marched, unseeing, right up to the automatic doors before she noticed they were not obeying her. She took a startled step back and raised her eyes to the sky and to the banner.
To my utter astonishment, she let out a very loud and anguished expletive, the tiny woman with the book bag.
"Closed!" she shrieked. Her head whipped wildly from side to side, as though somebody would come forward and admit that it was a practical joke, just a joke, and would she like to step inside now?
I perched on the wall for a while: now that my own disappointment had ebbed somewhat, I took note of other patrons as they approached, and I observed the rainbow of ways that people react to change and adversity and dismay. Some, visibly affronted or embarrassed, pretended they did not want the library at all, that they just intended to walk up to the doors and back home again; others sought explanation or assistance or a sympathetic eye from other confused souls; still more slipped surreptitiously around the back in hopes of discovering another entrance.
It held more fascination for me than any book I could have collected that day.


Pauline said...

ah yes, the best stories are the ones we are writing ourselves ;)

Nan said...

I wonder if the banner noted that it would reopen at a certain time. Did the people know it was going to be closed temporarily or do you suppose some of them saw the sign and thought, 'this is it - closed forever' -

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Pauline, indeed they are :)

Nan, that's a fine point- the banner only stated that the library was closed but there were notices on the door to explain why. But yes, perhaps they thought it was lost forever!

Shaista said...

I loved this piece! You write so succinctly and cleverly... and I would react much as the little old lady did :)
Our local library has been refurbished, and has just re-opened. It smells of new paint and has a bathroom, and several self-service machines.. but oh, how I miss the old one!

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

thanks for the kindly words.Whata nice surprise to get a new visitor :) I'm glad you stopped by here. I'll be checking out your blog too.

Morning's Minion said...

I've been thinking about this essay since I first read it several days ago. I'm trying to think how I would likely have reacted--because I can readily see myself forgetting the closure notice and going round with my books. I likely would have felt foolish and exasperated in equal measure. I hope I wouldn't have stood there cursing!

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Morning's Minion, It all depends, I suppose, on where the person had come from just prior to that. Perhaps on any other day or any other time of day, all those people would have reacted differently. There are days when I really want something at the library- that day I was just going by for a browse and to drop books off, and so it didn't trouble me as it might have if I'd had something in mind. So I wonder how much the actions I saw were real reflections of those people, or a reflection of the day in question. I'd have to sit there a long time to find that out :) But it would be a good study nonetheless.

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