Mrs. Henderson

The Library Director, Mrs. Wheeler, escorted the new acquisition librarian through the large stone building. Stopping at each of his colleague’s desk, she introduced Jason. They were friendly, each in his or her own way. One stood and shook hands. Another gave an enthusiastic hello. Still another shared her appreciation for the new hire. “You’re going to love it here. Our patrons are the most wonderful people. Very supportive.”

Then they moved on, the director pointing out different features of the hundred-year-old building. An arch here, some restoration work here, a special collection in this room. Along the walls were pictures of contributors and former directors of the library as well as paintings by local artists.

The two descended to the basement. After meeting several technical service workers, they came to a small office at the end of a hall. Shelves of books and papers lined the walls. Still more books and papers cluttered the small desk. Mrs. Wheeler led him around to the woman whose head was barely seen above the stacks of clutter. With her gray hair pinned into a bun, she wore a gray dress, not as gray as her hair but still gray.

“This is Mrs. Henderson,” the director said. ” She is our Inter Library Librarian. And she has been with the library the longest.” There was a bit of nervousness in her voice as she introduced the woman.

“Nice to meet you,” Jason said.

The woman continued her work, not acknowledging either the director or the new librarian.

Mrs. Wheeler then led him to his office. The shelves and his desk were empty as if they were waiting for his arrival. She introduced him to Sarah, his assistant, hard at work at her desk working her way through her in-box. She stood and shook Jason’s hand.

Over the next few days, Sarah helped him get situated and familiarized him with the different library processes. He came to appreciate her sunny disposition and the bright colors she wore. It seemed that she must have quite a collection of scarves. She never wore the same one twice. In the break room on the second floor, his colleagues were friendly, treating him like he was one of a large family. Even the director joined them from time to time. But he never saw Mrs. Henderson.

One day, he asked about her. “Nobody seems to know,” Case two tables over said. “She’s a loner. Never socializes. Never talks. Guess she likes her solitude.”

“We drop an ILL request in her inbox,” Margaret, a reference librarian, said. “Several days later it magically appears in our inbox.”

“She does her job. If she wants to be left alone, we leave her alone. But it’s sad to be so isolated. I would think.” Case finished peeling his orange.

“Seems nobody sees her come or go,” Margaret again. “She’s like some phantom who has made her home here.”

One Monday morning, Jason stopped at a florist on his way to work on a hunch. He bought a rose with a vase for it. He came to Mrs. Henderson’s office. It appeared that she wasn’t at her desk, then he saw her behind her desk hard at work. “Good morning, Mrs. Henderson.” He sat the vase and the rose on her desk. “I thought you would like a rose.” The older woman did not acknowledge his presence.

For several months, this became his ritual. On his way to work each morning, buy a flower, greet Mrs. Henderson, remove the previous day’s rose from the vase, put in a new one. Then one Monday she wasn’t at her desk. She wasn’t at her desk Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. At the end of the day Friday, there was a staff meeting.

“Mrs. Henderson is no longer with us,” the director announced. “Last night the police found her dead in her apartment.”

Over the weekend Jason searched for an obituary. It was missing from the local paper. On Monday, every was told that the library would closed the following Saturday. There would be a memorial service at St. Anne’s Catholic Church. Mrs. Henderson’s ashes had already been dispersed according to her wishes. But it was the least the staff could do to honor such a loyal employee.

At the service, many of the long-time staff spoke a few words. Mrs. Henderson had gotten a near impossible book to find. A patron wanted a special edition of another book. The woman had gotten it. Again and again, each of her colleagues spoke well of the mysterious woman. Then the service was over.

In the months after the service, the library hired a new Inter Library Loan librarian. The new woman, a recent Library Science graduate from a local university, was pleasant enough. Extremely efficient, as well. The shelves were cleared and her desk nice and neat. Occasionally Jason would stop by her office to say good morning. But it wasn’t the same as saying good morning to the gray-haired woman. He took to missing Mrs. Henderson. It was like having a piece missing from his life. Things just didn’t feel right. From time to time he thought he had seen Mrs. Henderson out of the corner of his eye as he passed her office. He would look, but she wasn’t there. Only the new woman.

Then one morning, a yellow rose in a vase was on his desk. “Where did this come from?” he asked Sarah.

“I don’t know. It was there when I came in. It’s such a lovely rose, isn’t it?”

Jason smelled the rose, then said, “Yes, it is.”

No problem like an internet problem

Just so you know I am not a techie or a geek. Normally I boot my computer up and hope that the steam will take it to full throttle. Oh, you say, computers don’t run on steam. Mine does. Else what is that mist coming out of its sides?

The other day I had a bit of trouble with my internet. My comp wasn’t wifi-ing correctly. The dumaflachie that tells me it’s on had become the Invisible Man. So I called the It-that-shall-not-be-named Internet Provider I pay a small fortune to.

I related the problem to Mr. Low-level who took my call. Let’s just call him LL for short. Over the phone, I heard a smirk coming from this guy on the other side of the world. Some place in Canada, I believe. The smirker tried to cover it up. That is often the game they play. The “why you smirking at me” game. They go into complete denial when you call them on their smirking. Dumb fool that I am, expecting customer service. All I get is a: “Well, sir, it’s against our policy to smirk at a customer. However, if you wish, we can email you our new smirker app. At no cost to you, sir. It will smirk at all your friends.”

I knew he smirked. I just knew it. But, after 3 hours of being put on hold, then spending another three hours getting tossed from Department A to Department Z back to Department B, I didn’t have the energy to argue. I just wanted the internet to work and the steam to go away.

LL directed me to unplug the whatchamacallit from the thingamajig, stick it up my butt for thirty seconds. I followed his directions. You know how cold and sticky that thingamajig is? Well, let’s just say it’s cold and sticky. I plugged it back into the computer. This did not solve the problem. I knew it wouldn’t. It never does.

The steam was pouring out of the computer, and I still couldn’t get on the internet, even if my life depended on it. In addition to that, my butt was hurting something fierce from the whatchamacallit I’d stuck up my rear end only a few minutes ago.

By this time, I was losing any kind of patience I had left. There was enough steam in my house to be able to run a locomotive from D. C. to L. A. and have some left over for a return trip. All I wanted to do was get on the internet and order a new computer. Sure I could’ve gone down to the local Computerama Store and picked one up the easy way. But no, I didn’t want to do that.

Amazon is my best friend. We have spent a lot of time bonding. It always shows me the love. I would have felt that I betrayed it. It might have been hurt and stopped all that free shipping I have received over the years.

LL said to me, “Sir, I am going to put you on hold. I have to consult one of my partners-in-crime here.” He put me on hold but I could hear him talking. About surfing of all things. He wasn’t trying to help me with my problem. He was worried about his big-assed surfboard. It was enough to make me want to fly up to Canada, walk into that call center and shove a surf board up his you-know-what. See how he felt.

Finally, after more waiting and more waiting, he said to me, “I think we have a solution to your problem, sir. What you need to do is—”

“Click,” I heard my cell phone say. “You are out of your monthly allotment of minutes. To add minutes, we will need three credit cards and your first born child.” I tried to explain to the darn thing that I didn’t have a first-born child. It was not listening.

Wasn’t that just fine and dandy? No computer. No internet. No phone.

Anyway to make a long story longer, I went down to Computerama and bought a brand spanking new computer. It has an antenna I placed on the roof so I can receive the internet. The way it works is that it contacts an alien spacecraft hovering over earth and bounces a wave back to me. I can now contact any website on the nine planets of our solar system. (And, yes, Pluto is a planet.) Oh, and my new service includes unlimited phone service.

All it is costing me is a monthly allotment of the plutonium in my head. But that’s okay. I have plenty to spare. So no more steam and no more whatchamacallits up my rump. There is only one problem. I am getting Dear John letters from Amazon. It doesn’t love me anymore. I sent it flowers. That didn’t work.

Any suggestions what I can do to get Amazon to love me again?

Snowy White Fields Forever

Today is the fortieth anniversary of John Lennon’s death.

Forty Decembers, forty agos are gone
since an assassin’s senseless gunshot blast.
Aghast and gasping, grasping for breath, clasping his chest,
the working class hero dropped to the dirt and died,
his body stilled, his blood (from the kill)
redly spilled upon the snowy white fields forever.
Years before that deathly eve of a deadly winter’s night
when his widow grieved, his fans mourned, five mates formed
a band, took off abroad for Hamburg to play
in Germany eight days a week seven nights a day.
These sons of Elvis—John was one, Paul another,
George the third with Stu their friend and Pete on drums—
these lads from Liverpool learned their Rock ‘n’ Roll trade
as they played a mach schau raucous roar in the caverns and clubs of the Reeperbahn,
their northern song sound a revolution such a revelation that
when they returned to the hard streets of home, though they returned without
Stu, the dreamer who did not return, they returned
a name soon to be written deep into the snowy white fields forever.
But Pete was out. His beat was not what the band was about.
With a Ringo from the Dingle for a drummer,
these Scousers made the Nashpool city walls shake.
The four young Merseyside friends ferried merrily cross the Mersey
and set out on a long and winding road across the universe
to become the Beatles they were born to become.
1964, it was only months since Oswald blew the President’s mind out in Dallas,
a blue funk of a time when the Blue Meanies in their pinstriped suits
and their pop singer wannabees ruled the whole of Pepperland,
for Rock ‘n’ Roll was dead,
Chuck Berry in jail, Elvis making his millions making movies, Buddy Holly gone,
his chartered Beechcraft crashing into an Iowa farm field five Februaries before,
and those blue suede shoes, semi-retired, covered with dust.
“Yet, in Pepperland,” John was heard to sing, “anything is possible.”
Even Rock ‘n’ Roll. “So, let’s brush off those shoes and give the world a bit of a rush.”
“The British are coming! The British are coming!”
read the headlines everywhere on the planet
as the Four touched down and landed in New York City, a British invasion
ready to conquer America from Boston, Mass to ’Frisco, C A,
from Ed Sullivan’s Really Big Sunday night CBS Show to Shea
Stadium’s screaming crowds screaming their screams of delight
for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
and the footprints they left in the snowy white fields forever.
But the music was lost, couldn’t be heard,
crushed by the sound of the fame and the fanysteria,
the helter-skelter of that Fellini Satyricon the press dubbed
Beatlemania. Seeking a little sanity inside the inanity,
George turned east to Krishna, the sitar and Monty Python,
Paul went walking barefoot, wearing no shoes,
and Billy Shears? He remained an unchanged Ringoesque—
with a little help from his friends, of course.
On a Day in the Life of a Beatles Man, John,
restless, struggling with his struggle within and the loss of his Julia twice,
once as a boy, again when his mum was struck down by a car,
motherless, fatherless John, entered the Indica
and encountered Yoko’s inscrutable oriental smile.
“A Yes on the ceiling,” he said, dropping his Elvis Beatle to reveal the real John Lennon,
“is a no where, man, on the floor, goo goo g’joob.”
The Rumours announced: “Paul is dead.
Perhaps John is in bed or in France, and Yoko his spouse.”
From Mendips to Yellow Submarine ships,
from Strawberry Fields to the Walrus Watching the Wheels,
the man who became John Lennon after the booze, the drugs and the women
–and the lost weekends too and whatever got him through—
flew west for Toronto and peace. But, Christ, you know it ain’t easy;
Nixon was out to crucify him.
Then, on April 10, 1970, the sixties ended.
The Beatles were to Beatle no more
nor come together on the snowy white fields again.
But it was not in the nature of Lennon not to Lennon,
and Lennon John did, kicking the world in its pretty
with Two Virgins, acorns for peace and his brand of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Jumping from therapy to therapy until his therapy was done,
he bid his monsters a rest-in-peace fare-thee-well.
In New York City at the Dakota, a Double Fantasy
of a husband, and the dad of a beautiful Sean, and Yoko his wife
one moment, the next a bullet slammed him into forever.
Now John goes walking on the snowy white fields again.

When I was young

Memories  of my green years
Return with a smile
Now that the rush of the day is done:

Fireflies dancing on an early June night
to a chorus of cricket song,
a hot summer afternoon skinny dipping
and the water running ‘tween my toes,
picking blueberries for a pie,
crushing autumn leaves
and watching fragments fall,
rain pattering the roof,
the smell of tobacco curing in a barn,
snow ball fights and snow ice cream,
a sleigh ride on a New Year’s Eve,
biking countryside on a spring morning,
lying on a field of Kentucky bluegrass

in those Tom Sawyer days
of white picket fences
and Huck Finn following the river.

And oh, the childhood friends:
Cinderella off to a ball,
Jack and a beanstalk climb,
Snow White with her seven friends,
Dorothy on the Yellow Brick Road,
Peter Pan and the Lost Boys
making Captain Hook cry,
Robin Hood facing down the Sheriff,
Poe at the midnight hour,
Roy Rogers astride Trigger,
Long John Silver finding treasure,
Tarzan swinging branch to branch
swimming across a jungle sky,

And Sherwood Forest,
Neverland and Oz
as swell as swell can be.

How much fun were the Middle Ages?

Depends on who you ask. The lords and knights had to walk around in all that metal. One wonders what happened when the knight had to go toilet. Couldn’t toilet on the armor. That would cause rust. Think of all the blisters on their assets, and the metal poisoning too. Then there’s the draft. In those days it wasn’t the serfs who went off to war. It was the knights. And there’s the castle upkeep. It was hard to get a decent moat. What is a castle without a decent moat?

Of course, these knights would fight over anything. My castle is bigger than your castle.You have a moat and I don’t.  I killed more infidels in the Crusade than you did.. You name it and they would fight over it. They spent thirty years fighting over whose rose was prettier in England.

If there had been an SPCA in those days, the knights would have been fined for mistreatment of the horses they rode. The horses had to carry around the weight. No wonder they had bent backs.

If you were a lady, you were required to wear el chastity belt. Man, that thing is heavy. Besides what do you do if you have to go take a pee and your hubby is off at the crusades. Who is going to have the key? Lady Godiva really wasn’t in her all-togethers. She still had on her c.b. But she’d always wanted to go into showbiz. Riding through the town in her purt-nears was as close to Vegas as a girl got in merry old England.

The serfs were a little better off. They only worked two seasons of the year, Spring and The Rest of the Year. They didn’t get drafted because they had to stay home and keep the old homestead going. The crops went to the lord and lady of the manor, who were living high off the hog. All the serfs ate was gruel, except at Harvest Time. Harvest Time was a regular party after they brought in the crops. There was real food and booze too. The nice thing about serfing was they didn’t have to wear underwear, so during the summers they’d go skinny-dipping.

Often the castle was downwind of the serf. From time to time on a particularly windy day in winter time, the lord and lady of the manor complained about the smell. The serfs only took baths in the summer. The rest of the year it was the old pee yew.

In fact, nobody worried about taking a bath. That’s why they had pilgrimages and why England had a town named Bath. Once a year everybody took off and went on a pilgrimage to a town that had baths.

Then there was the Plague, or should I say Plagues. The Black Death. The Blue Death. The Red Death. Here a death, there a death, everywhere a death death death. That’s what they get for living with all those rats. A few cats could have gotten rid of all that disease. Why my Buster Buzztail can take down as many rats as he sees in one day. You think we have rats here at our house. No way, José.

Now, if you were Pope, you could really party hardy. All the booze and women you wanted. You could come up with an indulgence to keep you out of hell. If you were bored you could start a Crusade. As you can see, being Pope was the bees knees and more.

The people who had the most fun were the Bards. They got the best booze and the women loved them. You see, in those days, there was no such thing as You Tube or CNN or Fox. So the Bards were the news anchors of their times. If you wanted to know what Uncle Waldo did at the Battle of Agincourt, just ask the Bard. If you wanted to know why the king down the road turned chickenshit and ran away from Saluddin, ask your Bard. If you wanted to know what great granddaddy Groucho was during the First Crusade, ask the Bard. He’d tell you and he’d make it rhyme too.

To paraphrase one of the great bards of our age, Mel Brooks, “It’s good to be the bard.” Bards didn’t have to wear armor or a chastity belt. Bards didn’t need a moat. Bards got to take baths. And the clothes, man. If you wanted to know what the latest men’s fashions were, check in with a bard. He’d be wearing them, and he’d have photos of the latest fashion show in Paris. As you can see, it was a pretty good life. For a Bard.