"Anyone can slay a dragon. . .but try waking up every morning and loving the world all over again. That's what takes a real hero." - BRIAN ANDREAS
I have woefully neglected the Co-Dictators of the Universe, so to appease them, I offer this (hastily written, once-edited) entry to their Story Sharing awesomeness. It shocks even me.
The door sticks, so I jam it hard with my hip, and it opens onto the alley with a light rain of pale green plaster. The usually comforting smell of burned cigarettes and urine is tinged with a sour, acrid tang. Vomit, just in front of the dumpster, which is on my left, the south end of the library. On the north end is access to the street, so I move that way to escape the smell of someone else’s puke.
“Assholes,” I mutter, lighting up. I can’t smoke on the front steps: “it’s bad for the patrons” and Williams nearly pissed herself trying to stay all sweet apple pie while she explained, my first day, that I couldn’t smoke in the stacks. Shit, I have a library degree, does the woman fucking think I’d endanger the only extant copy of 聖教初学要理 in America? She seriously needs to get laid.
(Oh, and for those of you who don’t read Japanese, that title is: A fundamental Catechism of Christian Doctrine. Did I mention it’s the only copy in America? I mean, the volume is a wood-block print made up of Japanese paper with Japanese binding, printed at Nagasaki. I might vomit just thinking about anything happening to it.)
That’s the problem - not people not reading Japanese, or needing to be laid, but people thinking that librarians are all cardigans and bobby socks and don’t smoke. Like, if you’re intelligent enough to read, you’re supposed to think smoking is a cardinal sin, a crime, a waste of your goddamn youthful health. Bullshit.
Librarians aren’t supposed to have tattoos, either, I think, looking fondly at the newest ink, a flower-bedecked swastika. Its vibrancy stands out against the rest of the ink covering my right arm, varying degrees of darkness depending on their age.
It’s my dinner break so I have 20 more minutes than when I sneak a usual cigarette break. And anyway, I’m not hungry lately, not for food. I light up again, concentrating on the sky changing colors so I can pretend I’m meditating instead of just being lazy. I name the kaleidoscope hues: mauve (from Latin, the color of the mallow), amber (from Arabic ʼanbar, ambergris), violet (from Latin viola, a violet, not the musical instrument, whose origins are Old Provençal, from viula).
What a crappy week. Leaving my diamond nose stud at Carl’s and knowing that he’ll hock it because he hocks everything to pay for his disgusting habit and it doesn’t even matter how many times I deep throated him. Bastard.
The sky’s going from mauve to indigo, and I’m getting skeeved by these deep shadows that look like they’re pissing oil on the graffiti.
And the dissertation committee asked the most inane questions about my theories on 3D imaging and rare manuscripts. What will it cost? Who the fuck cares? Those cocksuckers have no imagination. This is why God made rich patrons who want their name on a library building even though they use books to wipe their asses.
As I pull out my third cigarette (and last, I swear silently to my mother, but I am skipping dinner and I need satisfaction somehow), I notice a little pile of grey lint. No, not lint, some kind of finch. Bombycillidae, maybe? Unlucky guy is dead, his eyes squeezed like someone’s popping a zit. Which reminds me of my dead Uncle Ernie, God rest his soul, the giant zit in the powder blue suit. I close my eyes and cross myself.
After my 10-second memorial for Uncle Ernie, I reach for my cell phone to call and check in on Gooney, my little sister. That’s when I notice another pile of grey lint, two inches north, with its eyes oozing pus. Puzzled, I look around for a cat, or raccoon, or some natural predator of finches. (This is why I’m a vegan.)
Checking again, I realize there’s another finch, nestled up next to the second one. Maybe I missed it, but I don’t think so. Where the hell are they coming from? The roof? I jump up, bouncing on the balls of my feet to try to see a shadow, an arm, or something.
“Okay, whoever you are, that’s just sick. What’s your problem, you son of a bitch?”
When I stop bobbing, I notice a fourth finch, several inches from the others, with blood smeared on its stomach. I reach for the mace that I keep in my bra (cleverly hidden since both the canister and my underwire are black). It’s there, but I still pull the chain from my waist, and move toward the door.
I hear a muffled sound, like someone trying to pretend they’re not throwing away a tampon wrapper in the bathroom. Another bird is in line with the others, only this one seems to be slightly alive, choking a quiet death croak, begging to be put out of its misery.
The next one lands on my boot, gore splattering up my shin. Another, behind me, smears something wet and sticky like snot down the back of my head.
Shit, why is the door shaking, I think, as I try to fit the key into the door, and I realize it’s my hands shaking.
Shit, shit, shit. Another bird thuds, this time on my shoulder, bouncing off with the smell of sewage and decay, but this time I don’t even look, don’t even breathe, just turn the key in the lock and pull, pull.
The door sticks.