6 9 9 6

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6 9 9 6

Post by MC on Tue Mar 03, 2009 8:23 pm

I used the last four digits of my cell phone number. :) Maybe I'll do a new one, but I already have this one that I did for the same challenge.


A Library Card For Eli

by Michele Carpenter

“I'm sorry, little guy, I have to have a parent's signature before I can give you a library card.”

The kid would just have to come back later with his mom or dad. Rules are rules. But the big eyes that looked up at Glenn were almost too much for him to bear. Such forlorn sadness in a child was a bit unnerving. Sheesh...is he gonna cry?

“Okay...” Eli turned to leave. It doesn't matter, he told himself, I don't have to have a library card. He sighed as that hopeless glaze settled into his eyes again.

He slowly walked around the checkout desk, sliding his hand along the surface as he headed for the exit. With a backward glance, he nonchalantly picked up the brown paper bag sitting at the end and left through the front doors. He walked down the sidewalk, through the campus and found a secluded bench.

His stomach growled as he eagerly opened the bag. He sunk his teeth into the apple, closed his eyes and smiled as the juice dribbled down his chin. It was a good one. The best he'd had in a long time! He loved apples. He finished off the peanut butter sandwich, half the bottle of water, saving the chips and cookie for later. He tucked the bag into his backpack and sat for a minute. He watched the birds pecking and scavenging for food with detached interest.

He glanced up as a flash of red dashed past him. It was that nice lady, Ms. Vivien on her way to work at the college library. She wore red a lot. She talked to him sometimes like she cared about him. It was her that made him decide to apply for a real library card. She caused a stirring in him to want to try harder, be better...do what's right. Too bad something always gets in the way. Like rules. Or a hungry stomach.

***

“Good evening Marion!” Vivien breezed in the door with a smile.

"If you can call it that.” Marion grumbled. She was always grumpy and hard to please. No big surprise that she couldn't give a simple civil “good evening” in reply.

Vivien smiled and asked “What's wrong?”

“10 library books unaccounted for this month! Add that to the 12 from last month and suddenly we have an epidemic!”

“I'm sure they're just miss-shelved”.

“I would assume so too, if it weren't for the fact that the janitor found these in the trash can!”

She held up a handful of flat microchips that record the book ID numbers and sound an alarm if taken from the library without being checked out.

“These belong to four of the missing books. That means someone cut them out so they could steal them.” She gave Vivien an accusatory glare as if she might actually think Vivien herself was the thief. That was ridiculous of course; Vivien knew it was just Marion's way of making others feel like snails in her path.

“And, what do you make of this?” Marion spat with another look of disgust.

Vivien took the bedraggled book from her hands and gingerly examined it: A very dirty, well used copy of the third Harry Potter book. “Children can be very careless, Marion. I suggest calling the child's parents to discuss proper care of library--”

“The chip is missing. This is one of last months missing books. Apparently returned by the thief.” Marion's eyebrows were raised and her lips pursed in a very disapproving manner. Solve this one Miss fancy pants!

“Odd. But, there's nothing we can do about it, Marion. We put precautions into place and when they fail, that's all we can do”.

She turned to go to her desk. Marion's gloomy cloud of pessimism was often more than she wanted to deal with. What does she want me to do? Call the police? Fingerprint the book and every child that enters? The book was back, that was something to be grateful for, even if it was a bit disgusting now.

Eli quietly strode past the check out desk and took a seat next to the magazine aisle where he could see Miss Vivien and not be noticed. He picked up a copy of National Geographic Kids with a Zebra on the cover and began flipping through it.

“Have you seen my lunch?” came Marion's shrill voice, loud enough for several people to stop reading and glance up at the disturbance.

“Nope. Sorry, I haven't” Glenn replied. “Where did you set it down?” he asked politely.

“Right on the end of the desk! I could've sworn...maybe I left it in the car...” Irritation dripped from her as she stomped off.

Glenn went back to his filing. He didn't see the guilty look that passed over Eli's face as he hid behind the big zebra.

Maybe coming back in wasn't such a great idea... Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Little Orphan Annie, The Wizard of Oz, and Anne of Green Gables suddenly seemed to be blaring a siren from inside his back pack. He gulped and buried his face deeper in the magazine. He liked these books. They all told stories about kids who end up with a nice happy family.

Marion came storming in the entrance. She was fuming and obviously not concerned about proper behavior anymore. “Something is going on here and I don't like it! First we have book thieves who steal whatever they want, abuse the books, returning them months later in pitiful condition! Now stealing books isn't enough! They want to take people's lunches too!”

Vivien rushed over, seemingly to console her, but Marion knew it was just to hush her up. I don't care. Let the whole library hear me! It's one thing to steal library books. But stealing my lunch! Now it's personal.

Eli lay his head down on the table, breathed and closed his eyes. He suddenly didn't feel so well. I know I was hungrier than that old goat. She looks like she could do without a few meals. And maybe I should have just dumped Harry Potter in the dumpster... But I figured I'd be nice and return it since I didn't like it. Harry's life is just as miserable as mine, even if he does get to do magic and be a wizard. His family hates him, his friends turn against him and he gets no credit for saving everyone's life over and over. Not my idea of a pleasant escape from the real world...

He felt a soft touch on his shoulder and jumped a mile.

“Eli? Are you feeling okay? Would you like me to call your parent's to come pick you up, sweetie?” Miss Vivien looked genuinely concerned for him.

He smiled, in spite of himself. “No, that's okay. I'm fine! ...They're coming later” he added.

“How are you doing today? Tired?

“Yeah, just tired...”, he lied.

“Did you stay up late playing video games?” she teased.

Eli almost laughed at the absurdity of him owning video games, “Reading”, he replied gleefully. He just loved her attention. He could eat it up. It felt so nice for some reason. Kind of like having a mom. He suddenly felt a desire to tell her everything. I don't have video games, or a home to go to. I don't even have parents. Awkwardly, he turned back to his magazine instead as she returned to shelving books.

(continued below)


Last edited by MC on Tue Mar 03, 2009 8:29 pm; edited 4 times in total
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Re: 6 9 9 6

Post by MC on Tue Mar 03, 2009 8:24 pm

****

Marion was on the war path now. She was prowling the aisles slowly with an unpleasant gleam in her eye. Taking everyone in. As far as she was concerned, these people were all guilty until proven innocent. She was so caught up in her little hunt, that she practically fell down when her foot hit the over-stuffed backpack lying too far out from the table. She pushed the bag aside and threw a disapproving look at the young owner. Too full of books and junk to move easily, the backpack dragged on the carpet as she pushed it out of her way. The boy's eyes got bigger than saucers, she noted smugly. Am I really that intimidating? Maybe. Or maybe he's got a guilty conscience... She smiled then as she headed back to the front desk.

“Glenn” she said softly.

Too softly, not at all characteristic of Marion, Glenn thought, as he set the files down with curiosity. “Yes, Marion?”

“Does that little boy over there check books out often?”

“The one at the table? No, definately not...”

“But he's here a lot, isn't he?” she cut him off eagerly.

“I think so. I don't really pay attention. He applied for a library card today”.

“Today??? Let me see his file, please.”

“I didn't make one--”

She shot him a look.

“--he didn't have a parent's signature.” Glenn quickly explained. Shnykies, this woman could be intimidating!

“Hmmm.” Marion frowned. She wasn't sure what to make of that.

His backpack was full of books..... Kids these days have no respect or values. They don't deserve to have library cards, that's for sure. She turned to look at him more closely but he was already gone. That backpack was very full and much too heavy. She scanned the library and saw him just walking past the checkout desk. She quickly strode over and grabbed a hold of his backpack.

The sudden, unexpected jolt threw Eli off balance and he fell backward.

Vivien glanced up, when she heard his startled exclamation. Marion was still gripping Eli's backpack as he peered up from the floor looking frightened.

She can be so inconsiderate! The poor boy must be scared out of his wits. "What's going on here, Marion?” Vivien demanded.

“That's my backpack”, Eli said weakly in defense; still a bit shook up from being startled like that. I've got to get out of here. He grabbed the straps and pulled to take it back from Marion.

“This bag is much too heavy for such a little boy. I just wanted to help him carry it out.”

Vivien rolled her eyes.

Marion could see the ripe panic in the boy's eyes, but even better, she could see a good sized rip, forming near the bottom of his very worn bag. She was certain she'd found the thief.

“It's not safe for a young boy like you to be leaving the library alone, anyway.” She tugged at the bag, “Are you aware there's a thief wondering around this library?” She tugged again. “Who knows what other dangerous people are just waiting outside these doors.”

Eli pulled back. He was beginning to tremble. Maybe I should just run and forget my bag. But they'll see what's in it and never let me come back. They might even call the police.

Vivien frowned in uncertainty. What is Marion thinking? “Give him back his bag Marion!” She tried to pry Marion's hands off. This is absurd!

“Vivien, let go. He's the thief! I know it!” she seethed through her teeth, tugging again fiercely.

Hearing the accusation, Eli yanked desperately in the other direction. A rip could be heard as the contents of his bag dropped out onto the floor.

“Oh, Marion!", Vivien Exclaimed, "Look what you've done! Oh! We'll buy you a new one Eli.” She assured him as she bent to help him scoop up the contents. Marion's hand darted past her.

“Ahha! I knew it! This is my lunch! What's left of it. What were you doing with my lunch? What books are those there?!?”

Vivien was shocked. Eli was silent. Tears slid down his cheeks as he crumpled to the floor and grasped at 'his' books. He clutched them to his chest and didn't look up as quiet sobs shook him. Vivien was speechless. She reached out to touch his shoulder.

“Did you take these books Eli?”

“He stole them!” Marion said loudly. “I've found our book theif!”

Vivien glared at her, then gathered up the contents of his bag.

“Eli, come with me. We're going to go have a talk in my office.” Eli followed somberly. He felt as if he were walking to his death sentence.

“I'm going to have to call your parents”, she said quietly as he took a seat across from her.

He was silent for a moment.

“You can have the books back”, he tried weakly.

“Thank you Eli, but I still need to speak to your parents about this” she said calmly. “Why did you take them?” She was so confused.

He could see that she cared. It made him want to tell her, again. But what would she do? How would she react? He took a breath, his shoulders slumped.

“I don't have a library card. I don't have parents. I don't have a home. Those are my favorite books.” That was it. That was everything. “I'm really sorry”, he added softly; as if it would help.

Vivien didn't speak. This was the biggest shock she'd ever had. What is he saying? He's homeless?!? Horror seeped across her face. Then she relaxed and understanding dawned. She smiled encouragingly and nodded at him. She picked up the books and read the titles of the filthy lot.

"I see... Dorothy, Charlie Bucket, Orphan Annie and Anne of Green Gables...they all find loving families and true friendship in the end. That's what you long for too?” Her heart couldn't bear this, but she remained composed and calm, for his sake.

Eli nodded almost imperceptibly; silent tears slid down his cheeks. His eyes were glazed with such a sadness as she'd never seen before.

“I do” he said simply. “Someone who'll...” He didn't finish.

Vivien picked up the phone and made a few phone calls, then she turned to him.

“We need to talk. You'll have to tell me everything. Did you run away from somewhere?

He thought about the unloving foster family he'd left behind. He may be young, but he'd become jaded in his nine years. They were selfish. I was just a pay check to them...and an annoyance. They hurt me in so many ways, but there was never anyone to hear my cry and even if they had, there was no guarantee that the next foster family would be any better. None of the others had been.

“I don't want to go back there”. His eyes locked onto hers and she knew she was his only hope.


***Epilogue***

A miracle happened. Eli found someone who really did care. Opening up for the first time, he was able to tell Vivien everything. She spoke to his social worker, who was just thrilled he'd been found safe and sound. It had been weeks since he'd run away.

Things were arranged and Eli returned to foster care services. The family he stayed with was tolerable. They weren't so bad actually, so he didn't mind; it was temporary anyway. Soon the papers would all be in order and Vivien would be his mom. His real mom. Life was going to be good: She came to visit him often and took him on outings. She'd bought him so many clothes and all the books he could ever want. He didn't have to wish for anything anymore, especially not food. She made sure he was getting fed well—packing on a few pounds just for good measure.

Maybe I'll go check out the forth Harry Potter book with my new library card, he thought cheerfully to himself.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~

Character: A homeless child
Setting: A college library
Time Period: First week of the school year
Situation: Someone has accused someone else of doing something wrong.
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