The Terrors Of Tess The Librarian
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The Terrors Of Tess The Librarian by Larry Beinhart
Tags: Larry Beinhart The Librarian Wag Dog
Added: 3 years ago
[two federal agents get out of their car and - with guns drawn - approach a lone cabin in the middle of the woods]
AGENT 1: Homeland Security!!! Open up!!!
[he forces the door open, and they start rifling through the bookshelves inside]
AGENT 2: [picks up a copy of "Animal Farm"] Subversive literature!!!
AGENT 1: [picks up a copy of "American Hero"] Commie Pinko Bolshevik!!!
[they continue looking through a desk, when one of the agents stops and looks up]
AGENT 2: Look! There's the perp!!!
[the camera pans over to reveal Tess sleeping in her bed, surrounded by piles of books]
AGENT 1: Wake up!! Osama bin Librarian!
[they kick her bed, and she immediately sits up]
TESS: Who are you??? What are you doing here?
[one of the agents grabs a book in her hand and - when she resists - the other agent slaps her]
AGENT 1: We have the power from the top and we'll use it!!!
[they pull her off the bed, then head towards the bookshelf]
TESS: Didn't your mothers ever read to you???
[she climbs up the ladder near the shelf to look for something, while the agents begin grabbing books and tossing them to the floor]
TESS: [in shock] I am not the Taliban! I'm a librarian!!!
AGENT 1: Show us the files on Beinhart & Fusco!!!
[they grab her and punch her, knocking off her glasses]
TESS: Libraries are sanctuaries for the 1st Amendment!!!
AGENT 2: [forcing her into a chair] Shut up, Doll Face and start talkin'!!!
TESS: People are transformed through knowledge!!!
[one of the agents puts a gun to her head]
TO BE CONTINUED ...
Directed by Gillian Farrell
Shooter/Editor, Justin Martinez
With Gillian Farrell, Ian Pallack & Unknown Actor
In Your Face Prods.
How did nebbish university librarian David Goldberg end up hunted by Homeland Security and on Virginia's Ten Most Wanted list for bestiality?
It begins so innocently, when Goldberg starts moonlighting for an eccentric, aging conservative billionaire whose final wish is to leave behind memorial library about himself. But the most memorable thing about him is a secret that must never be revealed--he is part of a plot to steal the presidential election. It's one of those moments when knowledge is a dangerous thing and a little knowledge is even more dangerous, and the men with the guns want to kill the fellow indexing the archives.
The Terrors Of Tess The Librarian by Larry Beinhart
A short black-and-white silent film to help promote Beinhart's new novel "The Librarian" (Nation Books | August 25, 2004)
Elaina Whisthoven loved books and presumed they would love her back and she wanted to serve humanity, so she became a librarian. She wore large glasses and had large curls that were always clean and always brushed and never styled. She lived like a nun on her meager starting salary in a room she rented from a retired professor and his elderly wife, empty because their own children had grown up and gone west.
When I fired her, her mouth opened but she couldn't speak. I thought she wavered where she stood. She was slender and probably had an attractive body under her dowdy clothes, but to imagine undressing her, even mentally, would have made me feel like I was the Marquis de Sade disrobing Justine as the prelude to sordid and perverse desecrations.
When I fired her I felt like I'd broken some delicate flower, snapped its stalk, and crushed its petals. She had done nothing wrong. Nothing at all. I told her that.
Her mouth moved, I couldn't hear the words, but I knew she'd said, "I must have."
"No, no, your work was very good," I said, trying to repair the damage that I was watching myself do. She stood there and I could see that my words had no effect and the tearing apart was continuing, down from her eyes, through her slender, quivering neck to her chest. I was frantic to explain, and I said, "The national budget, you see, it was designed to destroy government services."
I didn't know if she disagreed with that as an unacceptable allegation or she was just stuck like a fawn who had wandered out on the highway. "And that has had its effect on our state, as with so many others." I thought she shook her head slightly. "I know our president said he was the education president and it's hard to imagine that he's deliberately set out to destroy public education, but he has and it has hit our school along with all the rest. The chancellor of the university has a privately funded study that he received from the Heritage Institute, on libraries, both public libraries and academic libraries, and it says that there are far too many physical volumes. That all of this can be replaced, except for some rare volumes of historic value, perhaps, by a great cyber-library, one library for all, accessed from our home and office PCs. That would cut down on the need for almost all librarians, except for the cyber ones and it would make all this space available." I gestured to the reading rooms and stacks outside my office, both on this floor and down below four levels and one up above. "That would create additional savings by cutting the need for capital construction. This could be turned into classrooms, or dorm rooms, which actually earn money."
"Personally," I said, "I like books," and I thought she might cry and I might, too. She, for her crushed sense of self, and myself, from guilt and love of books, poetry even, "and," I said, emphatically, "I don't like reading anything serious on a screen and I feel, though I don't have the funding to prove it, that my feelings are more than a personal prejudice. I've noticed and I'm sure you have, that when students work at computer stations they tend to multitask. While they're supposedly reading they're downloading music and playing games and having instant messenger conversations and looking at . . ." I stopped myself from saying porn but couldn't quite cut off the train of thought and made it, ". . . erotic materials," and still I felt like I'd made an inappropriate remark. It was too much for her and she began to cry and turned and ran out, even as I was saying, "So you see, it's budget cuts, budget cuts, not you."
I didn't think she heard that.
After all that, I didn't think she would ever speak to me again, but some six months later, on a fine day in early autumn, at the beginning of the new semester, she showed up at the library and asked to see me. She looked stressed but determined and I remember that she wore a blue dress with a floral design on it. And sensible shoes. "I have a job," she said.
Rarely have I felt such relief. "That's wonderful," I said.
"I work, I have a job," she said, sort of a stutter, "in a private library sort of situation."
"That's good," I said.
"You've heard of Alan Carston Stowe," she said. It was not a question. But I nodded yes, I'd heard of him. I didn't know his age offhand, but he was quite old. He lived on a great estate not too far away. He had inherited significant tracts of land in Virginia and realized that he could subdivide, build, and sell, and make a profit. Not a startling revelation perhaps, but he took to it with rare will and enthusiasm and went into the business of buying more land, subdividing, building, and selling. Then he added malls and industrial parks and was one of our national leaders in the creation of sprawl. He probably wasn't the first or the only one, but he got a lot of credit for introducing McMansions, the SUVs of the new home market.
"It's only part-time," she said. "Two or three hours, in the evening."
"Well, still," I said.
"I, I lied . . . no, no, I didn't lie, Mr. Hauser . . ." that was the retired professor she rented a room from, ". . . it was when I still, during the severance period, when I was still receiving my severance that I applied for the job, Mr. Hauser made me say that I was still working because that would give me a better chance at the job and then he said if I weren't making any money at all he would have to kick me out and I would be homeless and I would not be very good at being a homeless person."
"It's OK," I said. "Technically it wasn't a lie, it was OK. You're a good person, Elaina."
"I need your help," she said.
"What can I do?" I asked her.
"I need . . . I have some stress," she said. "I need to not go to work for a few days."
"What?" I mumbled, asking what it had to do with me.
"I'm very afraid of losing the job, so I thought perhaps if I could get someone to cover for me, it would be all right and I wouldn't get fired for not coming in."
"Why not just call in sick?"
She shook her head, full of terror. She was such a nervous mouse. I pulled out my staff list, wondering who would appreciate a few extra hours a week. Or I should say, who would appreciate it most, as we all needed it? I mentioned a few names and realized she was moving her head in a way that meant no, nothing so emphatic as a shake, but it was clear that I had gotten the wrong message.
"What is it, Elaina?"
"Would you do it?" she blurted.
"I don't know," I said. "There are several . . ."
"I'm really afraid of losing this job. I asked Mr. Stowe and he asked who there was and I mentioned Inga, Ms. Lokisborg, and he said that would be all right, after all she's the head librarian, but . . . but . . ."
"What is it?"
"She refused. She got angry with me."
"So I thought, perhaps, you're head of library services, actually . . ." rather than say that I was higher than Inga, she made a gesture, ". . . and I know you would do the best job and so if you went, they wouldn't be disappointed. Please," she said.
In the ordinary course of things, I'm sure I would have said no, but when the petals that you've crushed drag themselves up from their crumpled place in the mud, and ask you to rescue them, what can you say?
That evening, promptly at 6:30, I arrived at Stowe Stud Farm, which was where old man Stowe lived. It had not been subdivided. It was 230 acres of prime real estate. If you've ever gone to England and done a tour of the stately homes with ponds dug out and hills raised up to create the bucolic fantasies of landscape architects like Capability Brown, sheep-cropped lawns and fences stacked from flinty native stone and ancient trees standing noble and alone with nothing but wellgroomed grass at their feet, then you've some idea of the place.
I had made Elaina call ahead, so at least I was expected.
It was a working horse farm. I only saw the horses from the window of my fourteen-year-old Saab, but from what I did see, they looked to be as groomed, glossy, and costly as the land itself.
A man in a sort of uniform answered the door and it came to my mind that he must be the butler, but I'd never been to a home with a butler before, so I didn't know and I didn't ask, in case he was the son and just dressed in a peculiar way. When I introduced myself he led me into the house. What filet mignon is to a Big Mac, this house was to Stowe's McMansions. It was the dream that they were the ticky-tacky imitation of and a blow-by-blow and detail-by-detail description of the wood and the paintings and the polish and the carpets and the furniture will not alter that simple essence in any useful way.
The library was wonderful, the literary portion of the dream that was the house. While we were closing earlier and earlier and cutting Sundays and holidays and our walls were blank and barren and the steel shelves were unadorned and it all flickered under that shuttering light that fluorescents put out, this had mahogany shelves and tungsten lighting and fine comfortable furniture.
Stowe was old and had the look of a crank about him. "Where's Miss Lokisborg?" he said.
"She wasn't available," I said. "Actually I'm head of library services and Ms. Whisthoven hoped you would find my qualifications satisfactory."
"Well, well, you tell Miss Lokisborg what she's missing. You'll do, I suppose. You know the assignment, do you?"
"Well, somewhat," I said, "but you can tell me if you like."
"Shouldn't have to tell you. Workers should know their job. All my people know their jobs, or they're out on their cans. You will be, too, if you get it wrong."
Libraries are free places. They are clean, dry places in a stormy world. They are full of ideas and information. With all of that together, they tend to collect kooks and wackos and people who bring shopping carts with them, filled with conspiracy theories. Even a university library with restrictions on access and with campus security. There are, after all, quite a few members of the faculty and student body who have wandered off the deep end of the pier. Over the years I've grown accustomed to them and learned to think of them as harmless and I'm never offended by them and I've learned that the best way to handle them, if there's no incidence of a physical violation, is on their own terms. Stowe seemed like one of them, so I treated him like one of them and nodded along, neither offended nor patronizing.
"There are secrets here," he said, "great secrets."
"I'm sure," I said.
"Sign," he said, and slid a set of papers toward me across the reading table at which he sat. I looked down and the wood on which the black-and-white page rested was so deeply polished that the ceiling and the lights and old man Stowe and my hand and arm were all reflected in it and we looked like the distorted dwarves who live in the mud world at the bottom of the river.
The pages themselves were a confidentiality agreement. It was boilerplate, the basic statement that a corporation or a rich man makes to a poor man, that if you tell my business, I am entitled to ruin you, strip the shirt from your back, remove the shelter from over your head, take the wheels from your ride as well as whatever monies you have put aside as comfort in your old age. Of course, I signed, assuming that he would not have anything that I would have any need, or desire, to disclose. After all, I was only going to be there two days while Elaina rested or went to the doctor or whatever she was doing.
The work itself seemed uncomplicated and easy enough. Most of his papers and memories seemed to be about land he had despoiled and turned into money. My egalitarian instincts notwithstanding, once I accepted that the staff was there to be used, I mostly found the business of having a staff to be quite pleasant. Rita, the maid, was the person to ask for coffee, or any other refreshments. I was to tell Bill, the butler, when I was ready to leave and he would have my car brought round. They both called me sir. I said I was an employee like themselves and sir didn't seem appropriate and Bill said, "Yes, sir." And Rita said, "Of course, sir."
I was at home the third day and Bill called and asked where I was. I said, "I'm just substituting, I was just substituting for Elaina. For two days, she said. I thought she'd be back."
"Oh, dear," Bill said. "She's not here and Mr. Stowe is upset. He was looking forward to the work, you see."
"I don't know," I said. "It's been a long day."
"If it would help," Bill said, "I could send the car for you. I know driving is stressful for so many of us."
I had never had "the car" sent for me, in my whole life. So I said yes.
It was a large BMW, very large. The driver was named Raymond. He was polite but had a fearsome mien.
The next day, Bill called me at the college. He had not been able to reach Elaina and rather than have her not show up and then have to scramble, could he ask that I come once again? If I liked, Raymond would pick me up directly from the school and the cook would prepare a light repast for me, too, if that would help, the old man liked his project, you see. When Elaina continued not to show up, I continued to take her place and became Mr. Stowe's librarian.
I saw, in his account books, that cutting the fields and forests and hills into half-acre plots had been profitable. He had turned a mere few millions into one point eight billion. "I do want to make it two before I die," he said. Then one day he said, "They would have stopped me, you know."
"Oh, really," I said.
"That prick Roosevelt," he said. "Wanted to make this a socialist country."
I made one of those mumbling assents that you make to the ramblings of a loon.
"Well, well, we're rolling him back. That's why," he said, his voice and volume rising with enthusiasm, "this is the goddamn Second American Century. That's why we didn't stop with just one." Then, in a softer voice, almost an aside, he said, "Took a lot of money. I myself delivered cash to three different presidents. The notes are in there somewhere."
AVALON PUBLISHING GROUP is sponsoring a trivia contest for THE LIBRARIAN!
A new thriller about stealing the Presidential election, from the author of "American Hero" (filmed as "Wag the Dog")
A. Eligibility: For Librarians in the United States only.
Entries must be received by Tuesday, September 28th 2004.
B. How To Play: To be entered into a random drawing please answer the following questions:
1.When David had to disguise himself in drag where did he buy his dress?
2.There were two terrorist attacks. Where did they take place?
3.Why was Tommy called Poor Tommy?
Librarians who answer all three questions correctly will be entered into a random drawing to be held on October 1, 2004.
Winners will be notified by email or mail.
All answers can be found in The Librarian by Larry Beinhart.
Limit one entry per library.
Entries or requests that are incomplete, illegible, lost or corrupted are void and will not be accepted. Sponsors are not responsible for telecommunications, network, electronic, technical, or computer failures of any kind, or for stolen, misdirected, garbled delayed by computer transmissions, lost, late, damaged or postage due entries. All entries become the property of the sponsor and will not be acknowledged or returned.
C. Grand Prize:
Win a chance to have Larry Beinhart appear at your Library and 5 copies of
Two Runners-up will have the chance for Larry Beinhart to do a call-in spot for their book groups.