Finals Week at the Library

The last short story of the year about Karl, who finishes his first semester of college facing a handful of final exams, papers, and a pack of ravenous Business students.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

papers

This week, I have so many assignments and tests! It’s crazy! I have a paper for my rhetoric class, a paper for literature with Dr. Corddry, a paper and a test for German (all of it’s in German! I can’t handle that much Deutsch!), a paper for my Honors class, and a giant test for psychology.
So Eddie, Vince, Abigail, Maxwell, Sam, the herd of cynics, and this person from Honors named Jill all went to Cline to study and finish our papers. It was packed! Everybody does last-minute studying in the library, and practically the entire undergraduate college was there. The library is open 24/7 during reading week, and I guess everybody at NAU takes advantage of that. We couldn’t get any of the private study rooms, so we found this table in a big room already filled with students. It was the last table available, and a bunch of Math students frowned and walked away slowly when we got to it first. The librarians started handing out snacks and water to keep us calm. Maxwell called it the opiate of the masses or something, but then he saw they had gummy bears, and he loves his gummy bear opiates.
We set up our laptops, notes, books, and everything else we needed for a study night and got to work. First Sam and Vince and I practiced some German words, then Abigail and Eddie worked on Honors papers, and Maxwell and the herd of cynics studied for Psychology. That was going to be the worst test, because the instructor told us that she actually made a bet with the other faculty about how many students would fail the test, and she bet that seventy percent of us would fail! Who does that?
A little while after we were into our study session, a pack of Business students in suits came to our table and asked us to vacate the premises. These Business students all looked the same. They talked like California surfer bros and had tans the color of cheddar cheese and had short military hair cuts, and they all had Starbucks food in crumbly paper bags. They all folded their arms trying to intimidate us into giving them the table.
Maxwell made some big speech about how we needed to stand up and oppose the man, and Abigail took out this flashlight/pen/screwdriver thing and threatened to remove their fingers. But these were Business students, and we’re in the Humanities. They have us outnumbered, they have suits, they have the Franke building (the Liberal Arts building isn’t named after some rich dead guy, I guess), and they have more job potential than us. The herd of cynics started shouting everything Maxwell said after he said it, and Vince pulled out a pocket knife and said he knew how to use it. Meanwhile, I just tried to write one more sentence in German.
Pretty soon, three librarians came up to our table. One of them had a cart of really huge legal books, one of them was armed with one of the legal books, and the third, who seemed to be leading them, was Autumn Bartlett. The other two were these tall, long-haired, bearded, gangly hipsters in plaid shirts and fuzzy beanies. I guess they would’ve been lumberjacks, but they had headphones in their ears and set their vente double espresso chocolate pumpkin cinnamon spice cappulattes on the library cart, and I don’t think most lumberjacks drink espresso.
The pack of ravenous Business students said the table was theirs.
“We got here first,” they said.
“We have our notes all set up,” Abigail said.
“But we saw it first.”
“We’ve been here for two hours.”
“We have important assignments due tomorrow! The teacher didn’t tell us what was due, and we had to look all the way in the syllabus to find it, and none of us have any syllabuses, so we had to ask our parents to call the teacher and send us a syllabus.”
Autumn didn’t pay attention to either of the arguments. Instead, she spent the whole time texting somebody else while the lumberjack hipsters stared down at us. The Business students started saying weird things like they were entitled to the table, they contributed to society, God was on their side, they weren’t hippies. I guess that part of their argument was kinda right. Vince wasn’t wearing shoes, Maxwell wore a shirt with a grumpy wizard melting people’s faces with an electric guitar, Abigail wore this red beanie and pajamas, and one of the cynics had a shirt with Karl Marx in sunglasses on it.
“Our Apple Mac iDevices are about to run out of battery power,” one said, “and we need the outlets. No other table in this room is close enough to the outlets.”
Autumn looked over to us. I stopped misspelling German words on my computer and looked up. The cynics were all shrugging and Maxwell was digging around in his backpack for proof that human existence had no meaning, and then I remembered that I still had Autumn’s book in my backpack.
“Hey, you’re name is Autumn Bartlett, right?” I said, reaching into my backpack.
“Huh? Hey, I remember you.” She stopped texting and started paying attention to us. “And Maxwell, you too.”
“I think I found a book you own.” I pulled out The Book Thief which still smelled like weird apple cinnamon pumpkin perfume, even after I had it in there for a few months. When I handed it to her, her eyes got really big. But when she opened the first page and saw her name and ENG 254 scribbled there, she almost dropped it.
“Hey! Holy crap, where’d you find this? I need it for my English class. I thought I lost this.”
“I just found it in the library. I thought about giving it to the lost-and-found people, but I guess I didn’t know if you would actually end up getting it back from them.”
At that point, one of the Business students started moving our stuff off the table, and Vince and Sam started putting it back on. Then all the Business students joined the first, then Maxwell and the cynics joined Sam and Vince. The librarians armed themselves with more legal books and the Business students put their Starbucks bags down and spilled crumbs all over the place. Autumn kept talking to me and flipped through the book as she did.
“So you haven’t sold this or anything? Were you just, like, waiting for me or something?”
“Well, I figured if it was for a class, you probably needed it more than some book store.”
“I actually do need this for my final paper. I was afraid I would have to borrow somebody’s copy or rent a new one or something. But this is really gonna help.”
“Oh, that’s good, then.”
She looked at the book, then looked at the librarians on either side of her.
“And you’re with these hippies?” Autumn asked me after a minute. I looked over at Maxwell and the herd of cynics, Sam from German, and Vince, Eddie, Abigail, and Jill from Honors. Vince smelled like hemp like all the time, Eddie was good at stealing things, Abigail went around in her pajamas, and Jill, who actually was a hippie, had this jacket made from recycled coffee cups or something. Vince had tried juggling his knife and dropped it, and Eddie handed Maxwell a hammer. Who just carries hammers with them all the time? But they were all willing to study with me, and they all weren’t completely doomed to fail all these classes, so what the heck?
“Yeah, I’m with these people.”
“Well, if you’re the kind of person who gives lost items to people, I’d say you deserve a study table.” She nodded to the lumberjack hipster librarians, and they used the legal books to remove the Business students, who complained that their dads owned the school and that Reagan was their uncle or something. We started cleaning up their food, until Vince got the idea of eating it ourselves.
“Maxwell,” Autumn said, “that extra joint you owe us is now paid for. Consider your debt balanced.”
“Really? Sounds like a trick, but really?”
“Thank him. . . whoever that one is.” She nodded at me, put The Book Thief on the cart, and rolled it away. Maxwell looked at me and shook his head. The cynics all shook their heads too. I went back to my German essay and we ended up studying the entire night. We finished writing all our papers, getting ready for the giant Psychology exam, and editing each other’s Honors papers. We also ate all the food the Business students left, so nobody had to brave the huge line to the library’s coffee shop. Anyway, that’s how I finally got Autumn her book back.
And tomorrow is the start of Finals Week, and then I’m done with my first semester of college. I think if I can survive the drug-dealing librarians, a Psychology teacher who actively roots against us, a pack of ravenous Business students, and everything else I had to deal with this wacky semester, then maybe I can survive next semester. Anyway, I’ve got a test tomorrow. Good luck with your own final exams. Have a happy New Year, I guess.

-Karl

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