It's Flash Fiction Friday, and time for another bit from Skunk Corners. Today we hear from two of the more colorful residents about their view of the day the Librarian came to town.
Kicked in the Dust: Crazy Jake and Wild Harry's Story.
T’other day, me and Crazy Jake Jenkins was complainin bout how everyone talks about the Ninja Librarian and the way he took care of us when he came to town. We don’t think it’s just fair. I s’pose Teacher got tire dof hearing us, cause she said if we didn’t like her version, we had ought to tell how we saw it, so here we are. I wanted her to write it so’s it would sound smart, but she says we gotta do it our ownselves.
I’m Wild Harry Colson, and me an Jake been hanging around together since we was little, dodging school masters and keeping them librarians in their place. Nowadays, we’re both havin a little trouble recommembering how come we hated librarians so much. Miss Tess says it was on account a bein ashamed we didn’t know nuthin. I dunno. We thought book learnin’ was fer sissies, but I reckon we’ve learned better since. Though Big Al read this and says it don’t look like we’ve learned much, but that’s just her way.
Anyway, our Librarian ain’t no sissy. We learned that, sure enough.
Way it happened is this. We was out squirrel huntin when the train come in, so me n Jake didn’t see the feller. We heared when we come in to Two Timin’ Tess’s Tavern that first evening, an everyone was talkin about the poor old white-haired fellow, and laughing a bit about how he’d never last a day. And they was lookin at us, cause we always take care of the librarians.
So we figured when the book-place opened next day, if he had nerve enough to open it, we’d just go in and beat the guy up a bit and stick him on the next train outta town. Just like always. The kids and the ladies, they come up with fancy plans, and new ones every time, but me and Jake, we stick with what works.
‘Cept it didn't.
It should have. Maybe we weren’t too early in town next morning, an the library was already open when we rode in, but that didn’t matter. Lots of folk was outside watching, and them ladies was carrying in their nasty little hot dishes, and maybe haulin off a book or two just to get his goat, account of they sure wasn’t reading em. Cept maybe one or two had a sneaky look, like they was maybe planning to do jest that, but didn’t want nobody to know.
Them kids were all over, some in, some out, and all watching out for someone. Turned out it was Tommy, my no account little brother. They wouldn’t none of em tell what he was up to, but it made for a lot of giggles. Only that little freckle-nosed Peggy Rossiter, she watched a bit, but when she saw Tommy and Hank comin, she sloped off somewhere. That’s one smart girl. Too smart for Skunk Corners, I reckon.
We went on in, and slouched around the room some, tryin to catch that there librarian’s eye and get him to talk to us. He just plumb didn’t seem interested, which was making me mad. We had to have some excuse, you see. Even us, even then, we wouldn’t just jump him without words. You had to have words with someone before you did something like that. I ain’t sure why, but them’s the rules and we stick to em.
Finally, I jest let fly with a gob of tobacco spit right in front of his desk. That got his attention, you bet. He said something to me that I couldn’t make out nohow—I keep forgetting to ask what he said, too, so I still don’t know. A bunch of ten-dollar words. I figgered that for an insult, one way or another, and told him as how he couldn’t talk to me that way. Fer some reason, that made him smile, which made me meaner.
I’m not right sure what happened after that. Big Al says the boys let loose a skunk, and the librarian kicked it out, and knocked me and Jake out, just one punch fer each of us, and pitched me out the window. That part must’ve been right, because I came to in the dust, with a head like you wouldn’t believe, and when I crawled around front I found Jake laid out neat and pretty at the bottom of the steps. And the whole place smelled of skunk. So’d most of the townsfolk, turned out.
Now, since you can see that I can read and write now, and Jake too even though he made me write this, you might think we must’ve been converted by that kick into the dust. I dunno. Maybe we were. Jake says it sure made him stop and think, that a fellow could be a librarian and still pack a punch that could put both of us out at once. Like maybe just because we learned a few things we wouldn’t have to stop fighting.
It wasn’t that simple, though. Some of it was Big Al, and some was Tommy, making fun of us for not being able to read, once that librarian had made him admit he could. And some was Ma kicking me out and saying I had to find a job or my own place or somethin, cause she was finished with me.
Felt like one long series of kicks, until I started stealing primers and learnin’ to string letters together. Now Tess says I’m makin’ somethin’ of myself, and Tom—that there Ninja Librarian—he just smiles. And Al says to shut up and get to work.
And that story about us killin librarians, what Big Al tells right at the front of her book? We never. I made all that up to get a rise out of Al, account of her wantin to teach folks to read. But it was a lie, and worst we ever gave anyone was a broken snoot. I swear.