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Normally, this was his favourite time of day. No one in the library but him. Just him and the books. Ahhh, the books, his books. Inhaling deeply, he could almost taste the knowledge contained within these tombs, some bound with loving care, others with a splash of glue and little thought. Many people sneezed when they entered the library, the tickle of motes combined with the relative gloom of the lighting affecting olfactory senses in an odd way.
Normally, this was Brayden Look’s favourite time of day. Pushing his well-worn fingers through his dusty hair, adjusting his horn-rimmed glasses, a deep sigh escaped his lips. A sigh he hadn’t even been aware he was holding on to.
What was wrong?
The glasses got pushed up into his hair as he pondered his troubles, checking and analyzing it as though it were merely a complex experiment. The numbers didn’t add up, the formula refused to balance.
Heart rate – acceptable.
Skin temperature – cool, but then then he kept the library a couple degrees cooler than normal to preserve his books. Not enough for it to be damp, but he rarely saw someone visit this shrine twice in shorts.
Skin Temperature – cool, but expected.
Pallor – a quick glance at a slightly grimy mirror later, normal.
Intellect – he ran his gaze over the cover of the new Psychology Psurvey and comprehended all the Pull Up quotes on the cover. Sharp.
Brayden shook his head and glanced at the antique analog clock hanging over his desk, a gift from a wealthy bibliophile upon her passing. Ms. Dolores Goldberg, former councilor of the nearby university and secret devourer of harlequin romances. The clock told him the library should have opened it’s doors to the hoards 3 minutes ago. Scurrying from behind his enclave, he deftly unlocked the main doors with practiced ease.
“Good morning, book lovers.” he said to the world outside his doors.
“Greetings, Mr. Look.” quavered a timid voice to his left.
Brayden gave the smallest of double takes, and then his face creased into a wide smile. The effect was startling, although Brayden had no idea of that whatsoever, he morphed from aloof to gregarious in a moment.
“Mr. McKenzie, I should have known. I hope you weren’t waiting long.”
Mr. McKenzie cackled an querulous tired laugh as he limped past Brayden into the hall of books, pausing to rap him across the shins with his well worn cane. The cane was a cherished gift from his wife, the limp an unwanted souvenir from Juno Beach.
“Boy, all I got is time now. You didn’t fill in the New York Times Crossword didja?”
“Of course not, do you think I have a death wish? And where is your lovely wife?”
“Doctor’s appointment.” he rasped.
“Is everything alright?” questioned Brayden.
“‘course. But I’ll tells ya a secret, boy, come here,” he crooked his finger and beckoned Brayden closer, “we’re getting’ old!” Then he brayed his cantankerous guffaw and plunked himself down in the most comfortable chair in the library, pulled the New York Times in front of him and opened it with well practiced ease to the crossword puzzle. He pulled a well worn stub of a pencil from his jacket pocket, licked the dull lead tip and immersed himself in the puzzle before him. Brayden smiled to himself as he wandered pack to sort through the weekly arrivals. Mr. McKenzie turned his head to watch the young man walk back to his counter, shook his head marginally as he knew instinctively what Brayden, for all his intellect and wisdom, hadn’t the foggiest idea about. ‘Boy needs a roll in the hay,’ he thought, and went back to his crossword 19 Across – Vineyard Kin, scratching his head and mulling over the vineyards of France he visited during World War II.
Brayden thumbed through the books, smelling that new book smell that caused shivers to course along his spine each and every time he smelled a new book. There was something pure and holy to him about the smell of a new book, and the feel of virgin pages as he flipped through the new tomb, and when… oh when he cracked the spine of a book, sending deep creases into the soul of a book. Such an infusion of power. His breath caught in his throat for a moment at the memories of broken spines of well loved books. Soon after his posting to his library he made a realization that felt like going from the ability to weakly crawl to the being given the gift of flight. Book for book, this library could never hope to compete with the university, instead, Brayden made this library a complimentary resource to the massive book shrine at the university, not to mention countless, site specific enclaves of books; in departments, in professor’s offices, in the records. Brayden sighed, ‘no, my little selection of books can’t compete with such a treasure trove of all things academic.’ Instead of feeling jealousy or spite, Brayden worked his social skills to perfection, chatting amiably and eagerly with devotees to the mighty word on bostancı escort bayan campus. Finding out their needs, their wishes, their requests. Book lovers are a unique sort, they may have nothing in common but the joy of the page, but if they find that common ground, well, the most amazing conversations unfold, over coffee, or beer, or a stale muffin or sheaves of paper. In the proper atmosphere, it became near impossible to shut Brayden up, through careful cultivation, this library received author’s copies of many new works published by professors, students and alumni from the university. If the university was the sun of knowledge in this town, then standing prominent amongst it’s planets was Brayden’s library.
Today though, today the usual pleasures were just not that pleasurable. He stocked the shelves with his typical, impeccable skill but he experienced no joy. Even the new additions to his family failed to bring a smile to his face. He slumped behind his desk and sifted through the various piles of paperwork, a quick double glance at the calendar elicited an involuntary groan, mid-terms would now be done and the students would suddenly realize that those term papers that seemed to be so far off just a few days ago loomed larger and more menacing than ever. The time of procrastination was at an end, soon they’d arrive, most nervous and clueless as to Dewey and his fine decimal system, rifling through the books on television and querying him. “why that book by Homer isn’t here.” Damn Simpsons. Great show though. Not that he watched much television, the Simpsons and, yes dammit, reality shows were his two vices. It was a double-edged sword. Most clueless, some very cute, very attractive, very sexy. And he could never muster any semblance of courage to flirt or ask a pretty co-ed out on a date. He dreamed of being wily Odysseus, but ending up resembling the Cowardly Lion.
“Hey Brayden-boy, wakey wakey!” called the firm growl of Mr. McKenzie snapping Brayden from his reverie.
“Wh-what? Oh sorry, have you been waiting long?”
“’bout 10 minutes. Now go git me my coffee. My leg’s a bit gamey today. Here’s a quarter, keep the change!” and he spiraled a quarter, end over end from his table all the way across the open space to bounce off the main check-out counter and onto Brayden’s unkempt desk. Naturally, Brayden missed catching the coin.
“I’m not supposed to leave my desk, sir. That would be a dereliction of duty!”
“Yer gonna feel my cane across your derry-air if ya don’t go n’ fetch me some java.” he shot back, “‘n make sure it’s white cream n’ whiter sugar. Two o’ each.”
Picking up the quarter, Brayden flipped the coin in the air and grabbed it awkwardly as he shucked on his jacket and toque, scarf and gloves as he made the relatively short trek to the Tim Hortons across the street. Being Brayden, he used the crosswalk and the empty stretches of road barely tempted him to jaywalk. Still musing to himself about Mr. McKenzie, his books and the babes who’d shortly be visiting his book repository he made his way to the counter of Tim Hortons. He removed his gloves and laid the quarter down on the clean arborite top. He squinted a bit to try and get the prices to come into focus, eventually he resorted to putting on his glasses.
“Two medium coffees, if you please kind barista.” he said to the young lady behind the counter.
“With just one quarter?” she giggled.
“It appears,” Brayden glanced at her name tag, “Candice, that I’ve been misinformed. Still, two medium coffees and… oh why not… a box of 20 Timbits.”
“Candice is an old woman’s name, everyone calls me Candi” she tittered back.
“Candy is a sugary confection for the palate after a proper meal, not the name of a proper young woman.” he stated, sure that this would end any discussion on the matter.
“Wouldn’t it have been easier to just say I’m a sweet dessert?” Candi replied with a smirk as she placed the order before him and took his money.
Brayden went a Christmas-shade of red and he spluttered and blustered out an apology.
“Don’t be silly. You’ll just have to be extra sweet to me when I come looking for some books this week.”
Brayden wandered back to the library in a state of mild befuddlement, completely forgetting to retrieve his change from Candi, er Candice. Unseeingly he placed the coffee, sugar and cream beside Mr. McKenzie who still worked diligently at his crossword. The nub of a pencil tucked behind his ear as he rubbed his lip and racked his brain for a tough to decipher clue. He muttered something under his breath that Brayden didn’t hear. Brayden turned to head back to his area when he felt Mr. McKenzie’s cane lash across his calf, causing him to jump and nearly spill his coffee. ‘Apropos, if I spilled on the floor the first time I ever allow myself a drink outside of the staff room.’
Mr. McKenzie cleared his throat again, more obviously than before. “Boy, ümraniye escort I said BOY! Give yer head a shake or you’ll taste my stave once more.”
“Sorry.” Brayden said, snapping out of his musings.
“I said, ya deaf lout, that there’s a comely lass over in that section,” he waved his cane in a circle, encompassing half the library, “who needs yer help. Cute lil number too, good engine, great caboose.” He hooted at his own ribald behaviour and went about adding sugar and cream to his coffee.
Frazzled once more, Brayden deposited his drink at the check-out counter and rushed off in search of the ‘comely lass.’ A quick search of the general area pointed out by Mr. McKenzie found the comely lass in the Abnormal Psychology section, bent at the waist and scanning the bottom shelf. Braden, in turn, scanned her bottom. ‘A great caboose indeed.’ Clad in a pair of worn and frayed blue jeans that were worn for comfort and not style, with the smallest of holes under the left pocket, leaned a near perfect pair of globes. She leaned on one leg as she checked the lowest shelf, her left buttock pressed back to support her weight, her right leg bent slightly and in front of her left. Brayden found himself paralyzed, entranced by the magnificent ‘caboose’ right there in front of him. An involuntary response in the base of his brain sent a message to his groin, causing his primal function to flare suddenly to life, a flare that actually caused his whole body to give a slight jump and ‘the great caboose’ to notice. She looked back at him from under her left arm. For the second time in 30 minutes, Brayden flushed crimson.
“No thanks, I’m watching my figure. Although apparently so are you.” her slow, easy drawl teased him, with just a hint of an accent he couldn’t place.
If possible, he achieved a deeper shade of crimson. She stood and turned slowly to face him, Brayden never caught the determined swivel of her waist as she spun around. Before him stood Aphrodite! No, not a goddess, but Circe the temptress who had so beguiled wily Odysseus. Beyond mere mortal woman, but oh so tangible. Long, sleek, shimmering blonde locks cascaded down across her shoulders, piercing ice blue eyes that penetrated into the depths of his being twinkled mischievously at him. Pouty, cupid’s bow lips curled upwards in look of pleasure; pleasures of the distance past, pleasures of the moment and pleasures of a possible future.
“No, I, uh, he, you, here, these… um…” he trailed off into an awkward silence, clearly out of sorts.
“Take a few deep breaths, clear you head and start again.”
A few deep breaths later and some form of clarity had been achieved. Not easily though, as this vision smelled of rainwater and spices, which clouded his mind and entranced his brain. Steeling his will on the cardboard ridges of the box of doughnut bits in his hand, he focused his mind, using the tricks that earned him numerous scholarships and awards and a perennial spot on the Dean’s List during his own university days.
“The snacks are for Mr. McKenzie, the gentleman I have no doubt you heard, if not saw when you entered the library. You are, of course, more than welcome to partake of some sugary confectionery should you so wish. Allow me to introduce myself, I’m Brayden Look, caretaker of the books you find yourself amongst. Judging by the section your peruse, I’d hazard to guess you’re in a third or forth year psychology course, with a mid-term due within 6 weeks. Furthermore, from the shelf you just scanned, you most likely have a goodly portion of your primary sources selected and are looking to support them, or find a competing theory to flesh out your paper. Finally, your professor is almost assuredly Dr. Iser.”
Now it was the blonde’s turn to blush, although, in her defence, it was more a pinkening of her cheeks, than the full face flush Brayden suffered moments ago, also, she looked a damn site cuter it happened.
“How…?” she began.
“I may not have had the pleasure of your acquaintance, but I am intimately well versed with my books,” he replied. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll withdraw with perhaps a modicum of dignity.”
And he very well might have, if not for the fact he spun the wrong why and promptly found his nose pressed against books on the occult. He paused their, waves of embarassement radiating from his beet-red face once more. His eyes closed as he counted slowly and methodically to ten, then turned on his heel and marched from the row, dropped the Timbits beside Mr. McKenzie and walked as quickly as possible without breaking into a trot behind the counter and the relative security it offered. He strode into the back room, the employee’s room and flung himself onto a hard, plastic chair and sank his face into his hands.
‘Loser. Geek. Nerd.’ The thoughts berated through his head as he tried to regain some semblance of sanity. Every. Single. Time. It was more than a phobia or an allergy, it was escort kartal some social disease. Meet a pretty girl, or even her great caboose, and find new and intriguing ways to make a complete and utter fool of yourself. ‘Keep up the good work Brayden.’ he spat into his own mind. The thing that truly amazed him, as his mind slowly reformed itself from the splintered fractures into which it had dissolved, was that he couldn’t even tell himself what the girl looked like. Blonde hair. Great Caboose. A man who could recite Shakespeare or Keats or Goethe from memory, couldn’t recollect what the colour of the pretty lass’s eyes in the psychology section.
He never knew how long he sat there. Any eternity of self-accusation. Five minutes of work time?
At the table, Mr. McKenzie slurped loudly upon his coffee and bit his tongue in concentration as he continued his battle with the crossword.
Over in the psychology section, a pretty blonde lass, Melody (although everyone called her Mel) struggled to attain her composure. Poised, confident, self-assured she’d never had an introduction quite like that. From his adorable embarrassment to his surgeon-sharp analyzation of her academic needs to his memorable departure, she just didn’t have the slightest idea of how to take him. Was he just a dorky-cute librarian or keen and perceptive chronicler of life? Or both? While Brayden worked through his mis-steps and misconceptions hidden away in the staff room, Mel tucked the encounter away for later and returned to the task at hand. Her gaze took in the 2 rows of books the librarian had pointed out and went about snatching various books and journals that seemed to hold some promise on the topic her term paper examined. With a decent selection of tomes, both modern and aged, she settled herself at a table, her papers and books quickly filling most of the space and immersed herself in her paper.
Meanwhile at the crossword table, Mr. McKenzie munched happily upon a chocolate Timbit as his task reached the half-way point. Now, it’s very true the Mr. McKenzie could finish the New York Times Crossword in under 10 minutes, but that was when he was a much younger man. When he rushed from task to task. And if he managed to know a few of the keywords. Kinda like Jeopardy! really, if he knew a category, he could run it, otherwise, it was an educated guess. Mr. McKenzie licked his fingers and pondered some more on 9 Down – New Canadian Territory (Caps).
Like a turtle checking for danger after a close encounter of a predatory kind, Brayden poked his head from the staff room. A few timid steps led him back the mound of books and the relative safety behind the checkout counter. ‘Let it be a slow day,’ he prayed. He sipped at his coffee, barely tasting the caffeine as forced his razor-sharp mind to focus on his duties. It wasn’t easy. Thoughts of the blonde lass kept invading his thought processes. The curve of her caboose beneath the well-worn denim. The lavender scent of her sunlight-bright blonde locks. Twinkling ice-blue eyes, a mix of glacier floes and far-flung stars. Luckily, despite these distractions, Brayden was an elite librarian, he sifted and sorted and salvaged the books deposited overnight. Deftly weaving care and a critical eye over the books that passed by his gaze. The coffee started to take on the flavour of coffee. Sure, the thoughts and images of the pretty psychology blonde continued to percolate in his subconscious now and then, but the images were fewer are farther between. Although each and every one acted like a lightning rod to his own rod. He ruefully smiled at his own poor play on words. ‘Lightning rod to rod. Good thing my name isn’t Rod.’
“Excuse me,” a voice cut through his reminiscences. ‘Not Mr. McKenzie,’ his mind registered.
He made a bit of a show of finishing up with the book in hand. It gave him a few precious moments to gather his wits about him. When he turned to face the pretty blonde at the counter, he stood poised and proper.
“How may I be of service, m’lady?” he asked in his professional voice.
Psychology blonde giggled. “First off, don’t call me, m’lady. Makes me feel old. Mel will do just fine, thank you very much. And I’ve got to pop out for a bit, is it alright if I leave my stuff on that table over there?” and she waved her hand behind her in a general direction.
“Of course. If you like, you can store them behind here.”
“No, it’s cool where they are. Thanks,” with that she pulled her jacket on and swept out of the library like the West wind.
Brayden immediately sunk into his nearby chair. ‘Good Gawd Almighty!’ To call that creature Aphrodite was an insult. She epitomized sexuality and sensuality. A great caboose indeed, but an even better package. Flashing blue eyes. Smirking, smiling Cupid’s bow lips. Long legs, the type he knew instinctively were toned and fit. And her chest. Those breasts defied gravity. Trapped securely behind a thick, red woolen sweater, but still, nothing short of an underground bunker could hope to hide those impressive creations. Looking back, he never deciphered how he managed to chat with Mel without her hearing his knees knocking together, or how he remained upright for the whole 30 second chat.
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