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Nearly Work is a short story about a librarian named Basil. Please read it and enjoy.
Click below for the story.
The library was a place that Basil hardly wanted to be in when it was open. The problem was that being there was his vocation. Many years ago he had chosen to spend his working life in libraries; he considered it to be a noble profession. He didn’t want to become caught up in any rat race trying to pull one over on a friend to get ahead. After all, he liked his friends and shuttered at the thought of rats. There were no rats in the library, but instead there were winos and miscreants, along with the more generally retarded, pompous and slovenly. Basil liked the library. Basil did not like the people. The library was a place that Basil hardly wanted to be out of when it was closed.
After locking the regal looking doors to the library with his coworkers he often drove his car on a mile circuit around three blocks, allowing enough time for the others to begin their journeys home. He would park his red 1989 Saab down the street from the library and walk up the hill to the doors. At this moment countless grand ideas crossed his mind. Gateway to Knowledge, Portal of Principles, Postern of Observation. Reopening those doors was excitingly naughty for Basil. Always he would scurry into the library as to not be seen. After this hurried motion, the library would be still and silent.
The library somehow managed to change from an entity which resembled the Platonic Form of Shit into one closer to the Form of Library. It was indistinguishable from the mythical Libraries of Basil’s dreams. Whether this transformation was something real or simply a function of his misanthropy, he did not know, but the lack of patronage afforded Basil many pleasures. The first times Basil visited the library at night he did only official library business; he felt too guilty to do anything else. Using his fountain pen and the library’s official letterhead, he would sit not at his desk, but in an oak study carrel and accomplish various tasks.
On his first visit he wrote three book reviews for the library newsletter. During his second visit he did some budgeting work. The numbers made him retch. The budgeting was so tedious and unbibliographic he was forced to move to the stacks to continue. While emotionally fulfilling this location bothered his back. He then collected 12 volumes of the Oxford English Dictionary on a book cart and brought them to the oak carrel, nearly filling the workspace with their bulk. There he worked for three straight hours.
All that he accomplished after hours allowed him to do little during the day. This was fortunate because the daytime library was all the more intolerable; he had actual experiences to verify just what a library could be. He helped patrons begrudgingly and he found himself lying to them, telling them they would have to come back tomorrow for their information because he was very busy with another project at the moment. He would keep a log of the queries that he received and then answer them in a solemn and serious manner at night.
But after the initial six months of doing library work at night, with his reluctance to enter the library (it had been obliterated by the ecstasy found within) his guilt vanished as well. He strolled around the library like a browsing patron. He was not like any browsing patron, though, he was the Patron with perfect Knowledge of the Library. If only all patrons could be like him, he lamented while secretly gloating about his superiority. He read the periodicals that caught his eye in the previous eight hours. He studied the atlases. He read books.
Basil was now spending all of his free time at the library. Every other Friday night, though, the library was held captive by a book discussion group. Although this pained him, on those nights he did not haunt the library until 11:00 PM. This allowed him to mask the obsessive nature of his new hobby; it forced him to have an evening playing darts with friends from more social times. This was an utterly joyless affair for Basil. He couldn’t concentrate on the dartboard and each time he stepped up to the oche he felt unsteady as if the library was pulling him closer. He never was a proficient dartsman so his miserable scores fortunately didn’t arouse much suspicion. After their three games Basil would immediately but without erratic haste, drain his pint and drive to the library.
He sometimes brought picnics for his evenings among the books. His meals consisted of a sandwich (made of one slice of American cheese between two pieces of while bread), a banana and a thermos of Earl Grey tea. He took his picnic in the 914s, sometimes reading about faraway places, other times just gazing at the tomes. One day after his picnic while shelving the volumes of the OED he brought to the 914s, an idea sparked in his mind. It took him only three minutes to arrange the 22 volumes of the dictionary into two columns on the floor. He gently placed his body on them and laid face down and within the next three minutes he fell asleep.
When he awoke his body was gnarled with knowledge. He fished his pocket watch out of his trousers and saw it had reached 6 AM. Employees would be entering the library in about two hours. This was his motivation to shelve the five years worth of “Harper’s” and “The New Yorker” back issues that were arranged down the staircase of the library. He had arranged the magazines in reverse chronological order starting at the top. Doing this had sickened him because he found 38 misfiled items but looking at the literary waterfall pleased him. Starting at the bottom of the staircase, he put them in their bins. After returning the occupied bins to their proper location he rushed out of the library to straighten himself for work.
So, how are you like or unlike Basil? Do you ever dream of a library all for yourself?