Tuesday, 22 September 2009

The Librarian

It was a hot summer day when she decided to check on her mail at the post office. Sweat itched her back, wet her underarms and her freshly washed hair had begun to feel dry already as she crossed the busy street. Joyce pulled out three envelopes and a blue parcel pick-up card; which she kept in her hand as she locked up the miniature black door again.
Standing in line, the redhead wondered what the item may be. She ran through the list of things she expected from others on the net, from friends and, seeing what time of year it was, from others she knew; and a few things popped into her head, but nothing that was going to arrive now. Jenny served her at the counter and the little box they gave her and got her to sign didn’t look like anything either of them had ever seen before.

“Well, I wonder what it is.” She muttered, “I guess some country has updated its envelope system.” She put the parcel into her brown bag and zipped it up before leaving the post office to go back into the oppressive heat of the day.

Once home, Joyce opened the house up, made herself an ice coffee and sat at the table to sort through the mail. She paid the bills that came out of the bag over the phone, read a letter from a pen pal and then pulled out of it the strange box that didn’t seem to have a return address. She knew she had enemies in the world from her past and so thought it would to open this little number outside would be a safer option in case it contained something a little more exciting than a book or a gift. In Joyce’s eyes, a parcel that looked this strange wasn’t welcomed at her house, no matter how interesting it looked.

Once outside, she closed the glass door and then the screen and set it on the grass and pulled the red tab on the side. The end of it popped open neatly and precisely. Looking inside with her torch that she had brought with her, Joyce gingerly jiggled out the contents onto the lawn. There was a hand-typed letter and an oval electronic device; about the size of a fifty-cent piece. She picked them both up with the box and sat on the yellow seat outside the back door and unfolded the letter as she placed the device on top of the parcel. She began to read.

‘15th, February, 2028.

Dear Joyce,
If I’ve got the year right, you’re living in Woodridge, have a PO Box at Slacks Creek and own a budgie called Stevie that was bought a male but turned into a female once it fought another bird; and she’s as blue as the Summer sky.If I have the wrong person, this envelope is to be destroyed now.
I assume you’re sitting outside your back door on your yellow chair that you painted with interior paint wondering what the hell this is all about.I’ll tell you.
You are Joyce Lindonson.
You’re a struggling writer who is still in her 30’s and wonder if you’ll ever get your career off the ground. I’ll tell you now, the answer is yes.
You’re wondering how I know this. Well, not one to want to freak people out or step on toes, I’ll tell you. First, though, I’d like you go inside with all the items of the weird envelope, lock the house up and press the hand-held device. It’ll bring you to me. Make sure you close your eyes and have your back to your bird or you’ll both be blinded; you temporarily and her permanently.

See you soon.

Joyce Lindonson.

She put everything back into the envelope and went back inside not really sure what to do. Joyce locked up the whole house and covered the bird wit h the lightest cover she dared to and turned her back on her as she held the hand-held device. Joyce re-read the letter, folded it up and shoved it into her back pocket of her mini-skirt. Slipping the device onto her left hand, she closed her eyes and, holding it close, pressed it. From behind her eyelids everything turned bright for a few seconds… then


…under her feet, she felt grass. On opening her eyes, Joyce found herself in front of a house; not an overly large one; just a beautiful one. It had wide verandahs surrounding it, a few massive Jacarandas sprawling around the property in full bloom and a circular dirt driveway curved from behind her to the side of the house; where it vanished around the back. Joyce walked to the two-story building that looked very much like an American house. It was painted muted heritage colours and as she walked up the front steps, she found a woman sitting in slider sipping a glass of what looked like ice tea.

“So, you made it.” The woman stood, gathering her skirt and walking toward her, “I’m Joyce Lindonson… and I’m you in twenty years.” She smiled and her eyes glimmered as the redhead recognized herself, “You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t just that little bit curious about what made you in this world.”

“What happens to me in my life.” She asked.

“Why did you survive all those things – all those horrible things – and not die or kill yourself?” the older woman asked. She gave the younger Joyce a knowing look, “You figure it out in about six months and you won’t be too late in what you need to do either.”

“Where is my unit… why did you move from it?”

“Why don’t you come inside and find out?” she opened the screen door and walked in before the young woman could say anything, “The real reason why you moved is in here.”

Joyce walked inside where it was cooler and looked around the beautiful, open-plan house. This was exactly the kind of house she’d love to have once she wanted to retire; but not in the country.

“I’m afraid,” came the older Joyce’s voice, “Brunswick Heads is all underwater now.” she paused as she came in from the kitchen, “It appears very much like Venice.”

Joyce’s face fell as she spotted some photographs of her favourite holiday place on the wall. Every photo showed the seaside town submerged by about four feet of water. The place did look very much like Venice; it also looked so very surreal and strange to see it that way, almost as though it couldn’t be real, “How?”

“Things change in twenty years.” The older version of herself sighed, “You do become very famous; but it’s not just from your writing that people love you.”

“What do I do?”

“Follow me.”

The two walk through a massive kitchen that had French doors leading out to a deck filled with potted herbs of all kinds. A huge fireplace took up the main wall where the French doors lined up with it. The floor was slate, huge, wide kitchen benches dominated the scene and the two sinks were white and deep and they gleamed. Copper pots and pans hung from a large rack from the ceiling. The older golden-haired Joyce ignored the kitchen whereas the younger one was amazed at it and she jogged to keep up with the older person who had gone through an old-looking door way. This door way looked like an afterthought; as though it really didn’t belong, yet it did. Young Joyce followed, but stopped just inside as her mouth dropped at the sight that beheld her. Inside this room was a massive – huge – amount of books all shelved looking like a library. The redhead gazed around the room and up to find that in each corner of this room are spiral staircases that led up to another floor of … more books!

The older Joyce’s voice broke into the redhead’s thoughts: “You begin a personal library. You have one already; it’s small and you’re updating it on a regular basis – you do with libraries. But it gets bigger – it must. This is one of the few collections of books left in the world.”

She looked over at the golden-haired woman: “Why?”

“Well, everything goes onto the internet now… it’s invisible.” the older Joyce shook her head waving her hand, “The pains you take to keep your books will be huge. There are other Bookcrossers who have libraries like you; but yours is so extensive it takes up three other rooms in this house… and this place is very much sought after by a lot of people. You have such a great passion for books Joyce; greater than you think. Never let it go. You moved from your humble unit because it became too small for your collection. The idea of me sending for you is to tell you to start now on preserving the printed word.” As she spoke, the bell at the front of the house rang and she turned toward it and smiled: “It’s story time for the children of the surrounding townships. As they don’t’ have their own books, they pay a monthly fee to read my books… any of them they wish.” The older woman left Joyce along in the room and a group of children of all ages filed into the library. They were all dressed well, polite and some cast a wary look in her direction. She walked to a bookcase and looked at some of the titles and found that a few were out of print when she was living at Woodridge. Then, Joyce spotted a very familiar title: a book with her title and her name running down the spine of it. She reached out to touch it, then stopped wondering if it would be to tempt fate. And just when she thought she saw one book, she saw another one. And another. She began to count them… her name lined half a shelf! How did she get so many published? Should she…?

“I wouldn’t .” the older woman whispered in her ear, “You’re wondering how to get your name in print?”

“On a pension.”

“You began a Christmas Account?”

Joyce looked at her older counterpart, “Yeah.”

“You only spend a little bit of that money; then end up rolling a lot of it over and the next thing you know, you’re paying for the printing of a book.” The blond-haired lady smiled, “Not this one though.”

“My poetry book.”


“Time travel one?”

“Let’s not worry about which one made you famous. You get published… that’s a good thing. You remember what Doc said in ‘Back to the Future’? It’s never good to know too much about your own destiny.” The older Joyce smiled as the movie reference as the younger one did, “And you know, it’s even better is that you’re on schedule.” She looked around at the children sitting and reading.


“It’s time you went home.”

“So, I save children by saving the printed word through getting published.” Joyce shook her head, “Amazing.”

“Not exactly in that order; but close enough. It’s hard work and you’re no stranger to that.” They walked to the front door and out to where Joyce showed up in the first place, “And don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you can’t do what’s here.”

“I’ll get this thing off the ground and I’ll see what I can do about Brunswick Heads.”

“We’ve always been like that… determined. Now press that button.”

Joyce closed her eyes and pressed the button again.

The feeling of the fan pushing warm air on her; and the old carpet under her feet.

Stevie’s twitters filled the air as sweat popped out on her.

Joyce opened her eyes and found she was back in her unit. Stevie was still covered and so she took the cover off and found her blue little bird was hanging upside down with the tail feathers pushed through the top of the cage screeching her head off. Joyce looked in her left hand and found the little device she used had stopped humming and clicking; its light flickered and went out. It then fell apart in her hands; crumbling into more than a dozen pieces. She was disappointed that she couldn’t fix the device, but relieved to be home. Leaving the contraption in pieces on the table, she turned to her bird and saw that Stevie had seen her and turned herself back up the right way.

Joyce had to start on her library soon.
First thing’s first. Get right into having enough space for a reasonable one, then save like crazy to get published.
She knew her use now.
Joyce Lindonson was the Librarian.