8 November 2009 | Vol. 9, No. 3

The Paranoid Retired Gentleman and His Library Visit

To him, the problem with a public library was that it had too much sincerity about it. Everything was so nonprofit and earnest. Even the posters showed a pacifist propriety. He felt judged by the public library.

The staff spotted him as an imposter. They stared at him as if they suspected he was somebody who didn't read much but liked to pretend he was a closet scholar with his wide-eyed look of insatiable curiosity. The librarians trusted sleeping vagrants more than they trusted him!

"Phony!" shouted the eyes of the reference librarian.

He flashed his trifocals as a counter argument, but her chiseled expression did not change. "I'd wager you don't even have a library card."

"So what?" his eyes shot back. Then his eyes spoke loudly: "I come to the library to read right here in the stacks." His eyes scanned a shelf, then regrouped and went on: "I respect books so much that I wouldn't take one home and ruin it with coffee stains and cat pee."

Her eyes heard what his eyes were saying, but they answered back in the way one set of eyes says to another set of eyes, "Shush!" Her eyes glared silence. They drank silence. They looked like eyes that didn't get enough silence at the last Quaker meeting. Speaking of Quakers, don't ever think they don't judge you. They do. Librarians are all latent Quakers, he thought. And vice versa.

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About the author:

Jim Heynen has published dozens of books including novels, short fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. His stories about 'The boys' have been featured on National Public Radio's All Things Considered, and the Minnesota astronaut George Pinky Nelson took a taped collection of Heynen's stories for bedtime listening on his last space mission. Heynen's most recent collection about boys, The Boys' House, was named Editor's Choice for Best Books of 2001 by the Bloomsbury Review, Newsday, and Booklist. He lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.

For further reading:

See the complete list of work by Jim Heynen at 42opus. Browse the contents of 42opus Vol. 9, No. 3, where "The Paranoid Retired Gentleman and His Library Visit" ran on November 8, 2009. List other work with these same labels: fiction, flash fiction.

42opus is an online magazine of the literary arts.

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