Monday 20 May 2024

Selective Reading by Peter Lingard, a flat white

A booming voice caused me to lift my head and pay attention.

‘The disk was like this when we goddit ’ome.  I even tried to clean it up some.’

‘I’m sorry, Mister Davies, but that’s our policy.’  The librarian was a mouth-watering vision of auburn-haired beauty.  Her eyebrows were auburn.  Even her freckles were auburn.  She wore a single strand of pearls around her throat and pearl clip-on earrings.  The olive-green pullover and sweater accentuated her shining hair.  She was a total babe.

‘It was up to you to examine the CD before you left the library,’ she told the man in a cultured, husky voice.

‘That’s nonsense, lady.  If you inspect every disk that’s returned, why’s it necessary for us to inspect ’em before taking ’em out?’

He had a point, but I had to support the beauty.

‘Well, unfortunately, we’re not infallible.’

I’ll grant you infallibility, luv, I thought, if that’s what it takes.  It was time for me to get a book or two to check out while she was still on duty.

‘Neither am I, miss.  Why don’t we call it a draw?’

I stopped in mid-stride to watch my dream and hear what happened next.  She bit her bottom lip and re-inspected the disk.

A small girl pulled on the man’s jacket.  ‘Daddy, don’t you remember r…’

He brushed her hand away.  ‘Not now, Suzie, there’s a good girl.’ 

The librarian put the disk in its holder and placed it under the counter.  ‘We’ll give you the benefit of the doubt this time, Mister Davies, but please take care of any disks you take out in future.’

‘Daddeeeee,’ the little girl insisted.  ‘Remember…’

‘I said not now, sweetheart.  Daddy’s busy.’


The babe looked at the little girl and then, pointedly, at the father.  Silence reigned.  The librarian knew … I knew … everyone in the library knew the girl was privy to what had happened to the disk.  And the father knew we all knew.

He coughed.  ‘Well, that’s it for now.  I don’t have time to take anythin’ out; the wife’s waitin’ in’t car.’

He started to cross the room to the one-way electronic exit door.  The big man strode and the little girl trotted past the silent, staring people who waited in line to check out books and compact disks.  They passed within three feet of me.

‘What’re you looking at?’ the man truculently demanded of me.

I shrugged my shoulders.  ‘Nothing.’

He moved too quickly for his daughter and she now had to run to keep up with him.  ‘Mummy’s not in the car, daddy.  We left her at home with Mikey.’

The man said nothing.  He increased his pace and the girl almost stumbled.  ‘Not so fast, Daddy.’


The librarian looked at her feet as she recovered from the experience.  It was my moment.  I reached out to the nearest rack and grabbed two books.


‘You okay?’ I asked her as I jumped the queue and reached the counter.

She raised her head and looked at me.  ‘Me?’  She even smiled at me.  ‘Yes, I’m fine.  Thank you.’

I offered her the books and noticed she had no rings on her fingers.  I took my wallet out of my pocket.  ‘You often get situations like that?’ I asked as I explored the dark spaces, looking for my library card.

‘Only once in a blue moon.’  She looked at my books and smiled again.  It had to be me.  It was time to ask her out for a drink.  ‘How’d you …’

But she was already speaking.  ‘Is your wife or girlfriend pregnant then?’


‘Your wife.  Is she pregnant?’

‘No, I … I’m not married.’

‘Your girlfriend then.’  The smile was still on her face, and in her eyes.

‘No.  I don’t have a girlfriend.’  It was weird.  ‘Why do you ask?’

She lowered her chin and raised her eyebrows.  ‘These would seem to be books for an expectant father.’

I looked at what I had picked off the shelf.  ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ and ‘Pregnancy After Thirty’.  After thirty!  I looked back at my delicious keeper of books.

‘I, erm, look, er, when that man …’  What a fool!  I looked at the floor and wished the space between two tiles at my feet would suddenly open wide and swallow me.


About the author 

Peter Lingard, born a Brit, served in the Royal Marines, was an accountant, a barman and a farm worker. He once lived in the US where he owned a freight forwarding business. An Aussie now because the sun frequently shines and the natives communicate in English. 

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