Short Story Friday: The Library

I’m continuing the pattern of posting an original short story on Friday. Today, another that I wrote for The Mighty Pen Project.

Here’s The Library.

Sam struggled to ascend the concrete steps to the library door refusing to use the ramp installed by library volunteers. Barely compliant with the ADA, and one of the last remaining original libraries, this branch had yet to be replaced by the sterilized industrial complexes plaguing the county.

He loved the brick exterior with the white columns. He even loved the concrete steps in all their difficulty to maneuver. At the top of the stairs, he stood to allow his breathing to return to a normal pace.

Inside he breathed in the musty, stale smell of old books, usually the smell of research or the smell of adventure. Not today, and not for the past two months.

At the circulation desk, he signed the log to use the internet. Mrs. Grayson, the librarian for more than forty years, gave a knowing nod. She understood that his time on the computer would exceed the standard limits and he understood that she would not force him to leave. She returned to her duties, a lioness patiently waiting for the weakest gazelle to speak too loudly.

Sam logged into his account. He ignored the spam emails and went instead to Google where he searched the news for articles about the murder. Certain that he had read them all, yet checking just in case to see if more had been written.

He found the Times-Dispatch article. He found the Pilot article. He found the Channel 6 report.

He blamed himself for what happened to Sharon. A silly argument at his apartment sent her walking home alone. Sure she’d done that before without any problem.

His sponsor told him that everyone grieves in different ways. Sam grieved by rereading the stories of Sharon’s murder. The stories gave every gruesome detail but missed the point of assigning the blame to Sam. He didn’t even remember what started the stupid argument. But Sharon insisted that with his foot in a cast, she would be fine walking home alone.

Over and over he read different news accounts of the story. Accosted. Robbed. Murdered. They caught the bastard that did it and he hoped they fried him. He read the articles that he had read countless times before. It didn’t matter. He still couldn’t believe it.

Emotional grief became physical aches. He didn’t know how to go on without her, but he would make certain this never happened to anyone else he loved. To make sure of that in the two months since the funeral Sam completed his concealed carry class.

Knowing Sam’s love for writing, his sponsor encouraged him to blog, or journal, or just write out his feelings about what happened to Sharon. He’d been doing that for weeks now, saving the stories to a flash drive he carried on a lanyard around his neck. His sponsor didn’t know about the concealed carry class.

He found no more news articles and, just as he did every evening, he began to write. For weeks he told the story of the argument, Sharon walking out the door, and the call from the police. This night he told a different story.

I came home from work late and found Sharon in the kitchen cooking her delicious vegetable soup. She served it up with fresh bread. After dinner as we washed the dishes. We were almost done and she asked about the new woman in my office.

“Is she cute?”

“Yeah, kinda.”

He deleted the last two lines and tried them again.

“Is she cuter than I am?

“No one is as cute as you.”

She smiled and planted a soft kiss on my lips.

Sam’s fingers furiously pounded the keys as he rewrote scenario after scenario of that evening. Each of them leaving Sharon alive and unharmed, usually because he walked with her carrying his handgun.

Sweat beaded down his forehead. His arms ached. Still he continued. Page after page. Story after story.

Sweat mixed with tears. Shallow breaths between the sobs.

He wrote up until closing time when Mrs. Grayson put a soft hand on his shoulder signaling time to leave. He saved the files and bid her goodnight.

“Get some rest, Sam.”

A familiar smell pervaded the hallway of the apartment building. Sharon’s homemade vegetable soup. The bastard cooking that had no heart.

The key turned in the lock and the smell became stronger as he opened the door. Tomatoes. Onions. Garlic.

Through the kitchen doorway Sharon turned and smiled.

“Back from the library so soon?”

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Cover Photo by Sebas Ribas on Unsplash

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