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.”

Big Don

This here is my theme song and it is to be sung to the tune of Jimmy Dean’s “Big John”

1.He was a heck of a man

With a slight slight tan

Six foot none

And his hair was gone.

He was Don, Big Don,

Big Tall Don.

 

2.He wore a hat

To the right it tipped

And dark glasses too

So he wouldn’t catch flu.

He was Don, Big Don,

Big Tall Don.

 

3.He was a library clerk

And he loved to work

He came in at noon

Sometimes a little too soon.

He was Don, Big Don,

Big Tall Don.

 

4.He arrived at work one Monday day

Everything was thrown every which-a-way

He looked from side to side and all around

There wasn’t a clerk anywhere to be found

He heard a noise from away far-off

A still small voice with an obvious cough

He went to the cabinet sitting in front

He pulled out a drawer and began his hunt.

He was Don, Big Don, Big Tall Don.

 

5.The voice he’d heard it was down in there

Where it was he couldn’t be sure

He reached on in and pulled himself through

The hole in the drawer fit like an old shoe

He followed what he’d heard deep deep down

Through the caverns and caves he followed that sound

When after a heck of a whole lotta feet

He found himself just about to retreat.

He was Don, Big Don, Big Tall Don.

 

6.The hole got smaller but the sound grew louder

So on he plunged and the tunnel was a bit tighter

While up above the librarians stood

And listened all the best that they could

For the Yodeling Don and the lost clerks

Trapped deep down in the depths of the earth

He kept on moving and moving on he went

Creeping and crawling through every little vent.

He was Don, Big Don, Big Tall Don.

 

7.Until upon a group he finally came

All stuck under a pile of books and magazines

Well he digged and he dugged and he digged real fast

The air in that tunnel surely wouldn’t last

He pushed and he pulled and he got a clerk out

Sent her above as the librarians gave a happy shout

There were ten, twenty, thirty clerks or more

And pulling them out was like mining for ore.

He was Don, Big Don, Big Tall Don.

 

8.But out they did come one by one

And the books they fell ton by ton

Barely missing clerk by clerk until

There was only one clerk left to kill

Then Don had saved them all

He’d come to the rescue and didn’t stall

But now he was caught in the head

Banged by a ten pound book about lead.

He was Don, Big Don, Big Tall Don.

 

9.First he was stunned and then knocked out

As he fell to the floor turning around and about

They came crashing down upon him they fell

As the last rescued clerk crawled through the shell

Of an underground that was all blocked off

By all those books that had fallen rough

Upon the man they’d known as

Don, Big Don, Big Tall Don.