December 5, 2012 § Leave a comment
The Man From the Library
Mam took a man out of the library, she couldn’t afford one just yet. It was just me, her and waxy cards, our names in our hands like proof we were important. We walked, mitten tugging a hand towards an outing, an outing that had nothing to do with work, shops or too tight shoes.
‘Can I really have anything I like?’ I said, ‘Can I?’
‘So long as you look after it,’ she said.
We stood at the crossing like pelicans crossing for important business in their tuxes.
The library smelled of wood and people sucking cough drops to stop themselves yapping.
‘Sshh,’ Mam said, ‘we have to be quiet now, so people can think about what they need.’
I buttoned my lips. The chairs were bright, small all set up just for me. I peered into book troughs like looking in a rabbit hutch. There was a rabbit inside, and a brother and sister I needed, and a dog with a ball. I could take anything home. I shook off mittens, stroking the rabbit, pages quivering like whiskers I couldn’t have.
Mam walked down the aisle considering everyone. Not anyone would do. There were ladies who danced and ones who cooked, but she hadn’t time. The men section was best. Men slouched and stood straight under their labels. Humour. Home Improvement. Entertainment. Lifestyle. Oversized. Mam took her time, turning each guy around to read the blurbs on his back. Some were short, fat, skinny. Some had shiny new faces. She stroked Cliff Richard again and picked up a man who looked easy to read.
‘I’ll give him a try,’ she said, ‘if I don’t like him, I can always bring him back early.’
The man smiled, he had creases around his eyes, and a mouth someone underlined. Mam stuck her nose in him and closed her eyes. He smelt like semolina, bubble bath and other people’s houses. The librarian opened his shirt, stamped and watched us leave – me and my rabbit and my mother with a man she’d put back on the shelf many times.
Mam took the man to bed, reading the dates on his chest, the coffee ring on his fingers. It was reassuring to know so many women had checked him out, were waiting for him to come back.
‘Looks like a doozie,’ she said.