The Literary Girlfriend: Revenge of the Public Library
Even though I was certain Daniella was capable of reading classic literature, I wasn’t sure where she should start. When she had her thick glasses on and held a Jane Austen book where everybody could see it, people who didn’t know her assumed she was educated. But all she really read was trashy romances. At some point, somebody would figure out that she was a literary fraud, and if she was going to snag a rich husband, she would have to delay that moment as long as possible.
Authors like Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte might be worth reading, but they weren’t the authors to start with. Daniella needed something short, something that wouldn’t brand her as illiterate, but something that would hold her interest. Then it hit me. Poetry. Daniella could read poetry. But since money was now an issue and poetry was risky as far as taste was concerned, we decided to borrow some poetry from the local library.
I thought maybe Daniella would like reading some Sylvia Plath or Anne Sexton because both dealt with crazy shit in some way, and Daniella liked to complain (or brag) that there was always “crazy shit” going on in her life. I figured maybe Daniella could relate. And I wasn’t worried that she’d get depressed reading Sylvia Plath or Anne Sexton. Daniella wasn’t the type to stick her head in an oven; she was the type to smash a bottle over an ex-boyfriend’s head. As long as I wasn’t on the receiving end, I respected that.
The last time Daniella and I had been at this library, she had caused several mini-scenes, coughing loudly, eating corn chips, and strutting around in a really tight, thin t-shirt. On this Saturday afternoon, Daniella was much more mellow. She had on her thick black glasses, and her hair was pulled back, and her sweater-jeans outfit was nondescript. And the library was quiet too. It was crowded, but people wandered around the shelves without talking, and others sat at table and couches reading newspapers and magazines. The librarians didn’t even give us dirty looks when we walked in. I thought, maybe this would be uneventful after all.
But as soon as we found the poetry shelf, I regretted not driving to the main branch library downtown. Our local library’s poetry selection sucked. No Anne Sexton. And only one Sylvia Plath, a beat up copy of The Collected Poems. Daniella immediately reached for a thin booklet of Robert Frost poetry. Of course, she had gone for the tiniest paperback available.
“Should I wear a beret when I read these?” Daniella asked.
“You’re not ready to be pretentious yet,” I said.
I was about to suggest an anthology of poetry when some little kid went screaming across the library between the fiction and nonfiction sections making a “RRRaaaaaaarrrrrTTTTT!!” sound. We couldn’t even tell what that sound was meant to be. From my brief glimpse of him, I could see he was a boy, probably six or seven, with a bowl haircut. Still, he was too old to run in a library, and (this might not be fair, but) boys with bowl haircuts almost always misbehave.
Daniella rolled her eyes at the noise. Yes, she was annoyed at somebody else acting up in a public library.
I pulled out the copy of Sylvia Plath’s The Collected Poems and handed it to Daniella. Daniella flipped through the pages.
“This is almost 400 pages,” she said.
“It’s poetry,” I said. ‘You don’t have to read all of them. Just skip and choose.”
“This one doesn’t rhyme,” she said, stopping at a page.
“Poetry doesn’t have to rhyme,” I said. “There are other literary devices like metaphors and…”
Daniella slammed the book shut near my face.
“I was kidding,” she said flatly, and I couldn’t tell if she was serious, but she kept the book.
As she stepped out of the poetry row with her three books, the screaming boy plowed front first into Daniella, his head plummeting smack into her breasts. He was either very lucky, or he was a little pervert in the making.
“Motherfu…” Daniella said, and then she caught herself. “Mother. Where is your mother?” she asked sweetly. It probably sounded sincere to anyone who didn’t know her.
The boy pointed to the opposite side of the library, but I couldn’t see anybody. That wasn’t surprising.
“Young man, you shouldn’t run in the library,” Daniella said. Then she ruffled his hair and redirected him to the other side of the library.
“Nice recovery,” I said.
Daniella waited for me while I perused the row of new arrivals. John Grisham had a new book, but there was a booger on page 54, so I put it back. The new Stephen King book seemed clean, and I reached for a new Lawrence Block mystery when the boy screamed around the area again.
“And I even used my nice voice,” Daniella complained.
As the kid raced past us, Daniella stuck her foot out, and the boy stumbled and then splattered face first on the floor. He jumped up, looking around to see if anybody saw him, when Daniella grabbed him by the sleeve and pulled him to her. Leaning down so that they were face-to-face, she said something low but stern, and the boy’s eyes went wide and his jaw hung open. When Daniella released him, he walked stiff like a robot to the opposite side of the library. Daniella pushed her glasses back up and smiled.
“What did you say to him?” I asked.
“I told him not to run in the library.”
“Uh huh,” I said.
After a pause, she leaned close and whispered, “I told him if I caught him running again, I’d rip his tiny, little nuts off.”
I nodded. That was more like it. I figured it was time to leave before the boy’s mom found out what Daniella had said. Daniella had a history of being mean to moms of little kids.
When we reached the checkout with our books, Daniella whipped out her own library card. “This one’s on me.”
After a moment (what happens next makes more sense if you’ve read this first), the librarian cleared her throat and said, “I’m sorry, but according to our records, you owe $10.40 for Interview with the Vampire.”
“I turned that in,” Daniella said, moving into her debating stance, hands on hips, chest out. “A long time ago.”
“I’m sorry, we never got it,” the librarian said.
“But I know I…” her voice had an edge. Daniella was about to get righteous.
“Daniella, let me talk to you a minute,” I said, and started walking to the biography section. “Over here.”
Once we reached the biographies, I looked down at the floor and stage whispered. “You never turned that book back in.”
“Yes, I did!” she semi-hissed back.
“No, you reshelved it right here.” I pointed to an upper Gs shelf, and the book wasn’t there. “I saw you do it that day you… I asked you out.”
“I did? Why would…” Daniella swirled her tongue in her mouth as she thought. “Shit! You’re right. Why didn’t you say anything when I did it?”
“I… wasn’t thinking.” I remembered the tight t-shirt she had worn that day, and how when she’d reached for the top shelf that the bottom of the shirt had lifted and… I shook my head clear. “That book could be anywhere,” I said. “Seriously, I didn’t know you checked it out. I thought you just pulled it off a shelf before you saw me.”
“Can you believe I actually tried reading it?” Daniella said. “Shit, you want me to pay for it?”
“It’s only ten bucks,” I said casually. Inside, my stomach broiled. The whole point of coming to the library was to avoid spending money, and now we were going to have to pay for a lost book.
“I’ve seen you get pissed over ten bucks before,” Daniella said. “I’ll get it. Besides, we weren’t together yet.”
When we returned to the counter, the librarian said that they had three other copies of Interview with the Vampire that never got checked out anymore so the current fine would cover the book, and Daniella searched her purse/bag for change. It took a while. The time she spent fishing through her bag for $10.65 was probably longer than a $20.00 lap dance at Nero’s, but I kept that thought to myself. Finally, with much patience and no profanity, she found exact change.
“You paid your own library fine,” I said as we left. “Don’t you feel like a better person for it?”
“I can’t carry this book around when we go out,” Daniella said, lifting the 400 page volume up and down over her head like a barbell. “She has shorter books, right?”
“You don’t want to walk around with a Sylvia Plath book if you want to attract a stable rich guy,” I said. “It’s just good poetry to begin with.”
Daniella was actually going to start reading books, the kind she would be able to discuss if anybody asked her. Hopefully, she wouldn’t need to fake read anymore, at least not so much. The next step was to get Daniella to a place where she could meet the right kind of men with money. She’d never find the type of person she was looking for at Nero’s. If Daniella was going to find a naïve rich guy and manipulate him out of everything he had, there was one place where I could take her. She wasn’t going to like it. It was going to take some explaining. But I was confident that Daniella would understand that this was her best next step to achieving her diabolical goal.
Daniella would start going to church.
To be continued in… The Literary Girlfriend: Finding Religion .
If you want to read “The Literary Girlfriend” from the beginning (it’s getting kind of long), start here.