It was one of those wet days that made me feel like a pond creature. I was running off the weight, and my stop, after a hot shower was the city library. There are places I go, and just listen, even though most people don’t, and if I open my ears, I will hear strange stories. The librarians are a combination of sweet and sour. They know me—even though I’m the sort of person who tries to be unknown. One of them wears a tight dress, with an accordion key chain around her arm. She stares at the computer screen like she’s hypnotized. The other is a blonde in her late 30s, and always says “hi” to me. There are two overweight women with tattoos and short black hair. They frown at me. There is a lady in her late 60s, who calls me the friendliest person in the world—she doesn’t know me very well. The last one, knows me by name—and wears skinny jeans, with a Dr. Suess t-shirt. The first time I met her, she lectured me about running in the dark without a flashlight. Now, we’re good friends.
This library is well-lit, clean, and the sort of place I would suspect to find a deviant—a person planning to blow up the capital—because they’re bored. Teenage girls talk about community college professors and orgies—they gossip about their love triangles—and who got scared. The boys are the homeschool sort— friendly, but they might as well be another species.
I love the library because it’s part of me. The places that we go, compulsively, become part of our personalities—the pizza parlor, Thai restaurant, and golf course.
But this story is not about that. I began to notice him.
He was homeless, and smelled a bit ripe. The patrons ignored him completely—like they couldn’t see him, but I found him fascinating. He read Playboy and drank from his water bottle. He wore camo fatigues, a curly beard, and a Raiders sweatshirt. He was in his late 20s.
I was hunched over my laptop, when an elderly man in a blue suit walked in. Then he spotted who I was pretending not to look at. The business man, but no—that’s not quite right, walked up to the kid.
“What are you doing? We agreed that you would move on from here,” he said.
“But I can catch him, dad.”
“You can only catch someone, if they’re as lazy as you are.”
“Just give me time.”
“I’ve brought the pen and contract—sign it in blood and we’re done.”
“I won’t sign.”
“You’ve done nothing here, in the last week, but ogle librarians.”
“I’ve done more than that.”
“Besides ogling your magazine…”
“Well—what would you have me do?”
“Go someplace where your talents can be put to good use.”
“Political campaigns, massage parlors, college campuses… the library is the last place you would find someone to convert to our side. It’s full of free thinkers, and people without social lives.”
“What’s wrong with them?”
“They can’t be tempted.”
“What about knowledge?”
“What about it?”
“Knowledge is tempting.”
“Okay—but it’s theoretical.”
“But what if it’s not?”
“You think he’s smart enough to figure-out what he doesn’t know?”
“I think he knows that his understanding is limited—and he’s searching for something higher. What if I helped him out a bit?”
“He won’t talk to you.”
“Trust me—he doesn’t judge a book by its cover—and I’ve been watching him.”
“I can tell I won’t convince you.”
“Have you ever?”
“You have the rest of the week—and then I’m sending you back to school.” The blue suit left. His hair was whiter now. He had lots to worry about.
“Was that your old man?” I asked.
“Are you finally going to college?”
“Only if I can’t succeed. The classroom is not the real world—I’m sure you know that.”
“I’m afraid most of my knowledge is theoretical.”
“Would you like to change that?”
“I can get you out of the library—give you that power you’ve been searching for—all I need is for you to sign on the dotted line.”
“Let me see,” I said. It was a contract for my soul.
“Sorry pal—it looks like you’re going to need to spend some time in the classroom.”
“Then I’ll take another drink,” the demon said.