Chris Perez schlepped into the public library dripping wet, looking more like a drowned rat than a 6th grade boy. He slid out of his jacket, laid it across the stair rail, and then took off his splattered glasses.
“Chris, please hang your wet jacket up on the rack in the foyer. “ Mrs. Whitmeyer looked at the soggy specimen over her glasses. She knew that if anyone braved this storm to come to the library, it would be Chris, as he’d done every Saturday since he was six years old, rain or shine. She felt she’d lost him, though. He only ever sat at the computer, homework first, then online games.
The boy stomped his shoes on the mat in the foyer, hung up his jacket, shook his hair like a wet dog, and then presented himself to Mrs. Whitmeyer. He grinned his metal mouth at her as he picked up a pencil from her circulation desk to sign in on the public access computers.
“Bad news, Chris. The computers are down because of the storm. I’m sorry. Could I interest you in a book? Have you read Redwall by Brian Jacques or the Left Behind Series for youth?” She stood to lead him to the shelves. He did not follow.
“How…how am I going to do my homework? I waited until the last minute. The project is due Monday and its 60% of my grade. I don’t have a computer at home.” He sat down at the computer anyway, gripped the mouse and stared at the blank, black screen. He turned to Mrs. Whitmeyer with stricken, pleading eyes. “What do I do now?”
“Look around you, young man.” She extended her arms in the direction of the book shelves surrounding them.
“Right, the library, but the computers are down. What’s your point?” He crossed his arms and slouched in the chair.
“Chris, come with me.” She motioned him to follow her to the children’s section. He let out an exasperated sigh, but stood and followed.
“Remember that bean bag? It was your perch for a long time. I must have read The Very Hungry Caterpillar to you hundreds of times.” Mrs. Whitmeyer took the book off the shelf and handed it to Chris.
“Oh, yeah, those story times were the best. Winnie the Pooh, Curious George, yeah, I remember.” He sat in the bean bag and looked around at his old hang out spot.
“So, what’s your homework subject? You can still do your assignment with…drum roll…books.” She pushed her glasses up from the end of her nose, grinning.
“I get it, it’s just so much easier to use the internet. The Constitution.” Chris rolled to his knees to get up.
“Stay put, I’ll be right back.” The librarian returned a minute later with an encyclopedia, a Time magazine featuring the signers of the Constitution, and another book about U.S. historical documents. She sat them on the floor at Chris’s feet. “I may not ‘load’ as fast as your search engine, but here are three ‘links’."
“Guess I don’t have a choice, this storm isn’t going to let up before closing time. Thanks.” He rubbed his face with both hands and sighed as though he were about to shovel a mountain of dirt from one place to another.
Mrs. Whitmeyer watched Chris from her desk. He searched for the information he needed for his homework in the books that she had provided. He sprawled out on the floor, books open, scribbling notes, turning pages. Later he browsed the juvenile section. He plopped back down in the bean bag chair reading Redwall. The curve of a smile pulled at his lips, showing his braces below shining eyes. He didn’t see that his librarian smiled at him over her glasses.
An hour passed before he approached her desk again; reference books under one arm, Redwall under the other.
“Homework done, Mrs. Whitmeyer, thanks for your help. I guess I’ll have to turn it in handwritten.”
“Here, let me check out that book for you, and then I’ll introduce you to another ancient artifact. It’s called a ‘typewriter.’
Mrs. Whitmeyer wrote in her journal that evening: A search engine is good in its place, but looking for a sense of wonder takes time, a storm, and a bean bag chair.
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