Notification came that a book I’d asked our local library to get was waiting for me. The next day, Jack and I were running a couple of early morning errands and wound up at the library about 5 minutes before it opened.
We weren’t the only ones waiting. On the porch paced a bearded man in t-shirt and baggy gym shorts. I’d seen him walking around town the past few weeks. He clutched two paperbacks at his side, the kind of thing a fifth or sixth grader might check out, History of the Flag or Rocks in the Painted Desert. Slim, floppy, full if information but not big words. I had noticed him about town because he usually carried a couple such books with him.
One of the librarians emerged from a side door, wearing a crisp black shirt, buttoned at cuffs and collar, and began watering the flowers on the porch troughs. He and Wandering Guy exchanged a few words, and then Crisp Shirt went back in via the same side door.
When the library opened, I followed Wandering Guy in. Since he was busy with Crisp Shirt Man at the desk, I browsed a few crochet magazines and checked the new releases. Apparently someone had come in from the side door behind Crisp Shirt—whose nametag read William, Keeper of Dungeons and Master of Disaster.
Our library does a weekly D&D game among its many side hustles. William is the kind of dignified person who works his desk with an air of holy priesthood fulfilling a scared duty, yet also somehow underemployed for his skills. He is awesome to watch with people.
As I noodled about killing time, the person who had gotten in the side door could be heard singing softly to herself, a tuneless version of Amazing Grace. She was on verse three when I got there and kept going until she ran out of breath around verse 8.
The silence filled the library. William finished with Wandering Guy, who cocked an ear in the direction of the now-missing hymn.
As I slid into place before William’s throne—I mean desk—Wandering Guy gave what can only be described as a tiny shrug, and started a cheerful, out-of-tune rendition of Bless the Lord O My Soul—the worship chorus, not the hymn full of thees and haths.
William’s eyes rolled, but he said nothing as he found my interlibrary loan. “Looks like a good read,” he said of The Drunken Botanist. “We thank you for your custom and hope you enjoy your perusal of this fine volume.”
It may have been a trick of the lighting, but I’m pretty sure William gave a slight yet courtly bow as he passed the book over the counter in both hands, akin to a cleric setting forth a quest.
I thanked William, waved to Wandering Singing Guy, and started out—at the exact moment the unseen woman in history began to harmonize on the Bless the Lord chorus.
I love libraries. You never know.