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The Book

Kay received many elementary school awards for creativity, probably because she wasn't very athletic or good at math. She decided to take those awards to heart and produce art, even though she has no particular aptitude for that either. Writing is her medium of choice because it's free and doesn't require any clean up.
Geraldine browsed the card catalog and came across a book titled, The Book that Explains Everything that Ever Was or Ever Will Be or Ever Could Have Been. She made a note of the reference number, but when she got to the specified aisle, she couldn't find it.
She went to the librarian's desk, and asked if she knew where it was.
"Oh, yes," said the librarian. "That's a popular one. We don't keep it out, you see. It's much too large for the shelves. It's bigger than the whole library."
"Ah," said Geraldine, imagining a book bigger than the whole library. She didn't think she'd be able to carry it back to her apartment if that was the case, or know where she'd put it when she got there. She didn't want to tell the librarian that though, in case she wouldn't let her have it. "Can I check it out?"
The librarian laughed. "Oh no dear, it's already checked out. Very popular you see, and we just have the one copy."
"Darn," said Geraldine. "Well, can I put my name on the hold list?"
"Well the thing is" said the librarian. "It's such a popular book that we just assume everyone wants to check it out, and we put you on the hold list as soon as you sign up for a library card!"
"That's good I guess," said Geraldine, but it didn't feel good. She lingered at the counter, not knowing what to do next.
The librarian must have noticed, because she said, "You know, a new book has come out, the one over there with the blue cover. Why don't you give it a try?"
Geraldine thanked her and checked the book with the blue cover. It was interesting, but she felt that The Book would have been much more so.
Geraldine had her purse, her keys, her wallet, and a stack of books to return to the library. The books had been just okay, but none of them were what she really wanted to read. None of them were The Book. Now she just needed to get Kayla in the car, and she could go and see if her hold on it had come in yet.
"Honey?" she called "It's time to go to the library!"
Kayla didn't answer. Geraldine checked her room, but Kayla wasn't there. She wasn't in the bathroom hiding behind the shower curtain. She wasn't under the desk in the office. She wasn't in any number of places she usually was. Geraldine was beyond annoyed when she found Kayla twenty minutes later, wedged behind the wheelbarrow in the garage.
Kayla was also beyond annoyed and refused to unwedge herself, no matter what Geraldine said.
"I don't understand," Geraldine cried. "You love the library!"
"I do!" cried Kayla back. "But I hate going there with you! You embarrass me because you always yell at the librarians. You keep asking for some stupid book they never have and are mad all day that they don't have it!"
Geraldine sank to the floor of the garage.
Ah. She hadn't known she was that mom, the embarrassing one. The one her daughter didn't want to be seen with. Why did she yell at the librarians anyway? Hadn't they told her again and again that they'd tell her when her hold on The Book was up? What had she been trying to prove anyway?
She looked at Kayla behind the wheelbarrow, and decided she'd worry about making the Everything that Ever Was part of the title as nice as it could be for Kayla. And for herself.
"How about this," said Geraldine. "Why don't we go to a movie instead?"
Kayla unwedged herself from behind the wheelbarrow. "Really?" she said, dusting off her knees.
"Really," said Geraldine, thinking that they'd go to more movies, and read less books.
Geraldine lay in the hospital bed, trying not to wheeze. Kayla held her hand, while her granddaughter played with a set of blocks in the corner of the room. The girl's father kept shushing her, as if the sight and sounds of the dear girl would be offensive just because Geraldine was dying.
There was someone else in the room too, someone besides the nurses and doctors that kept flowing in and out, looking at charts and pressing buttons.
It was a librarian.
Geraldine squinted her eyes at the man. It wasn't a librarian Geraldine had ever seen before, but she felt as if she knew him. He stood there just like they'd all stood behind the counter for all those years.
"I have this hold," she said, trusting he'd know what she was asking about.
"Oh mom," said Kayla with a kind of hushed agony that would normally have Geraldine putting her arms around her.
"I have good news, Geraldine," the librarian said. "Your hold has come through, I've brought you The Book."
"Where is it?" said Geraldine. The room had gotten dark, and it was getting hard to see.
"Close your eyes," said the librarian. "And when you open them again, you'll see it."
Geraldine looked at her granddaughter, then her daughter. They were so beautiful. She was so happy she had them both with her just then.
She closed her eyes.
Ah, she thought, when she opened them again. Ah, of course. I should have known.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, May 7th, 2019


Writing this story really made me miss the paper card catalog system for finding books at the library. While it certainly took longer to find things, there was always the chance that I'd stumble across something completely unexpected and interesting.

- Kay Mack
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