Joe sat in the library, or what used to be the library. He glanced around at the bombed-out shell of the building and cried.
‘Why?’ He asked to no one. ‘A library. What type of savage bombs a library with a missile? Clearly a civilian target.’
Joe navigated around the overturned desks and stared at the empty shelves. No books. No staff. His happy place, his safe place, was gone. Blown up.
Joe looked at his clenched fists and tried to relax his tense shoulders. He closed his eyes and looked toward the heavens. His promise to his mother rang in his ears: ‘No, I promise I won’t take up guns and fight.’
Each room was the same. Furniture strewn about and no books. Joe plodded toward the exit and a spray-painted image caught his eye. It was the image of a book, and from appearances, hastily done. Next to it was 910.202.4.
Joe knew the Dewey Decimal System inside out; 910 was geography and travel. He arrived at 202 4th avenue and was greeted by Abby, his favorite of the library staff.
‘Abby, the library’s blown up and the books are gone.’
‘I know, we moved them.’
‘Yes, to here. We’re underground in this abandoned parking garage.’
Joe looked around at the lines painted on the floor and the scratched-up concrete columns. ‘You could have asked for help; I’d have gladly pitched in.’
Abby shook her head. ‘We decided amongst ourselves that it would be staff only. We couldn’t take any risks.’
‘Risks? On me? When did I become a risk?’
‘It was just easier to keep it in-house,’ Abby said.
‘I was really hoping I’d see you again.’
‘I promised my mom I wouldn’t join the military.’
‘I suppose scoliosis has something to do with her wishes.’
‘I promised I would not pick up a gun. She’s gone and I must keep my promise.’ Joe hung his head.
Abby smiled. ‘I’m glad you’re here now. We’d love some help putting the volumes in order.’
‘Where do I start? I don’t see any books.’
‘Come with me, down two levels. I’d like you to start in the room with the 000 books.’
‘Ah, computer science.’
‘The room has dozens of computers all online. There are other people in the room now.’
‘Cool. I’m pretty good with computers and I’m rather familiar with much of the library’s holdings of this topic.’
Joe hummed to himself while walking behind Abby down the dark stairs. ‘Wow, the stairs look like they’re not used recently with all the litter on the steps.’
‘Yes, Joe; that’s kinda the idea.’
Down two floors, Abby opened a nondescript door and said, ‘Here’s the room.’
Joe took a step in and stopped. ‘They’re no books in here, Abby.’
‘I know, Joe, I know. These are the best and brightest computer people in the area. None of them are in the military but they all want to contribute. Guns aren’t the only weapons, you know; wars are fought on many fronts.’
Joe stared at the tables set up with computers and tangles of wires snaking along the near wall and hanging from the ceiling at each computer station.
Abby walked to the end of the table and put her hand on a monitor. This station’s for you, Joe. What do you say?’
He surveyed the room and computers, then turned toward Abby. ‘In.’
Abby nodded. ‘Introduce yourself around.’ She pointed toward a young man wearing a knit hat. ‘That’s Chad. He’ll help get you started.’
Joe hugged Abby. ‘Thanks.’
Abby backed out of the room and closed the door.
‘Guns aren’t the only weapons,’ Joe whispered to himself.
About the author
NT Franklin writes cozy mystery short stories, nostalgia short stories, and Flash Fiction and has over 140 publications on numerous sites. He writes because he can’t fish or do crossword puzzles all the time.
Did you enjoy the story? Would you like to shout us a coffee? Half of what you pay goes to the writers and half towards supporting the project (web site maintenance, preparing the next Best of book etc.)