The children were making too much noise. One of them had even just run past him. The child had been singing. Singing for goodness sakes. When did this start being allowed?
When did the hallowed halls of his childhood become this romper room games session? Once you would walk in here under the gimlet eye of the on-duty librarian. Woe betide any child who moved at speed or called out to their friends. “This is a library” – the librarian would say with a stern look. “If you want to stay, you must be quiet”.
In that quiet space you could almost hear the dust particles fall through the late afternoon sun. Fall and bounce off the marble floor. The books were lined up, spine to the edge in near uniform size. The titles, authors name and genre symbol the only signs that this book might be one to take off the shelf and take home. A mis-shelved book, a library misdemeanour.
He had been here every week since he was first brought in to get a library card. And had come regularly, taking his pile of books to the librarian. She had taken the pile from him, turned to the back, stamped the date sheet with the return date in two weeks time and written his library card number on the book card . She had then taken the book card out and added to the pile with all the other books taken out that day.
But today there was no enforcement or expectation of quiet. The dust motes weren’t dancing. And the marble floor had been swapped out for carpet. The child running past him, clutching a large colourful book stopped. She was still singing, “hush little baby don’t say a word, mama’s going to buy you a mockingbird” but she fell silent and looked down at her feet, then back up at him. ” I don’t remember the rest” she said sadly.
The moment stretched between them…and in contravention of a lifetime’s library silence, he said, ” but I do”.
Together, in the library, they sang “hush little baby, don’t say a word, mama’s going to buy you a mockingbird. And if that mockingbird don’t sing……..”
Written to a random three word prompt (Revolt – Urban – Library), I took the opportunity to write historical detail. It felt like it shouldn’t be history – but librarians stamping books? That’s history, isn’t it?
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