Tag Archives: library

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


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.


Return to the Library

More short fiction about Karl, who makes a shady deal to have his ban from Cline lifted.


October 16, 2011

          I have a lot of crap to talk about. It’s been kind of a weird week for me.
First, I got through midterms without jumping off the roof of Cline. So that’s good. I turned in all the papers and took all the tests and did most of the studying. Or enough of the studying. I don’t know how I did. That German test was brutal, but I think I at least got a B on it. Hopefully. If I did worse, I’ll just study harder or longer or longer and harder.
Secondly, my roommate Tom, or maybe his name is Tim (I’m still not sure, because he never really told me his name, and he never really speaks until recently) is still upset that his nine girlfriends broke up with him. He claims he thought they were all in an open relationship with him, but apparently they each wanted a long-term and committed relationship that involved weddings and honesty and things that Tim-Tom probably hasn’t even heard of. But anyway, Tim is upset about losing his nine girlfriends. I told him that he should stop whining, but he was too busy watching The Sopranos, and I’m hoping that doesn’t give him bad ideas. Or maybe it was Breaking Bad that he was watching. I get those two confused. All his exes apparently live in Cowden, so he has to be careful when going in and out of the building.
Third, I finally had my meeting with the Cline student employee librarian technician assistant worker that Eddie set up for me. I still had those two joints, and I met with this student who’s part of the lost-and-found people. She was this redhead with a walkie-talkie at her belt and a really big pocket knife in her hand when I met her. I had to wait outside the library to get in, but she let me in and showed these thug-like janitors who were glaring at me her ID. We went into one of the little closet study rooms in Cline that has a key and is soundproof and doesn’t have recording devices in it so far as I know. Just out of curiosity, I asked her about Maxwell, and she said she’d never heard of anybody named Maxwell.
I guess she was one of the lower-ranking lost-and-found persons. I told her the story of how I was locked out, but skipped the part about the obvious drug deal. She told me she understood, but that she didn’t have the authority to end my ban from the library without payment to a higher authority, so I pulled out one of the joints.
“All I have for payment is this,” I said. She took it and looked at it.
“Where’d you get this?”
“A friend gave it to me for my birthday. I think he traded some whiskey for it or something. Do you want to know who?”
“No, that would violate customer-gangster confidentiality. I think this will work. Besides, it’s not like you’re trying to cover up for a murder or anything. That would take way more joints.”
“So I can get back into the library?”
“Starting tomorrow at noon, the ban will be lifted. Or maybe around noon-thirty. It really depends on how slow things are going around here.” She wrote some information on a library card and handed it to me after she put the joint in her pocket. “And if you ever want to barter with the lost-and-found people again, you should really come to me. Don’t dig too deep looking for a new business partner. That’s my name and secret phone and the hours I work for lost-and-found and Cline. You get a first-timer’s discount, if you trade anything more than a beer.”
“Cool. Thanks,” I said. She left, taking the key to the room, which you have to check out from the front desk. I was supposed to leave a few seconds after she was gone. After she left, I checked the other joint in my backpack, then looked at the information on the library card. The name written down was Autumn Bartlett.
I couldn’t believe it for a second. Later, I checked the handwriting with the name in the book, and they looked pretty much the same. Can you believe it? Autumn works for the library and the lost-and-found people! She’s dangerous! She’s a criminal, and probably an English Major, too. What the hell am I supposed to do now?
To make it all worse, Maxwell is still missing. I don’t want to make any assumptions about Autumn or just assume that Maxwell is dead, but what if Autumn is the one who killed him? Everybody warned me not to mess with the lost-and-found people. I stole some random pot in the library, and now Maxwell is gone. He missed the Psychology midterm, and the herd of cynics hasn’t seen him at all. He must have “disappeared” in the construction.
I only just got back to my dorm to write this. Tim is sitting at his computer stalking his exes, one at a time I think, and I’m here panicking about going too far with the lost-and-found people. I think I might have to talk to somebody about this, but I’m too scared. So that’s what college is like for me. It’s the real world, where the librarians are criminals and people go missing and your roommate cheats all over the place. This is real-deal stuff. You can’t make this stuff up. How am I supposed to cope with all this? Just write about it? That’s only getting me so far, and that’s not nearly far enough.
Maybe the next step is figuring out what to do with Autumn’s book. Give it back to her? I have her hours at the library, but if I go to her, will she pop a cap in me for having her book? Am I gonna find out what happened to Maxwell by having what happened to Maxwell happen to me? This is college, I guess. It’s risky. Good luck with your own lives, but you probably don’t have to deal with the lost-and-found mafia and some Italian chemistry teacher who pops a cap in everybody’s face to pay for his psycho-therapy. Or however that show goes.

A Very Bad Night to Be Out

Karl has an unusual Wednesday when he first is invited to a cheesy dinner, then gets caught in a blizzard, and finally finds himself facing his archenemies, a person in a gorilla suit and the lost-and-found people.


October 6, 2011

It’s weird how things spiral out of control and then before you know it you’re locked in a building with drug dealing librarians. Maybe I should start from the beginning.

A chick from my German class, Sam, invited me to go hang out with a campus church group thing. I don’t remember what they’re called. Presbythodists or Luthiscopalians or something like that. Anyway, they hide out in this blue house type building behind a big parking lot behind the library. I’m not much of a church guy. I don’t have anything against them, and definitely not the way Maxwell and his herd of cynics do, or the goths I used to hang out with in high school who used to smoke in the parking lot of the Mormon Church. I’m not like those guys anymore, very much, really. It’s just that I’m not really like the church people, either. But Sam seemed nice about it, and she told me there’s free food and that I don’t have to get baptized first, so I decided to go.

                So I went with Sam and some other friends of hers who all wear plaid shirts to get dinner with the Luthodists or Methiscapalians or whateverites. They made these casseroles that must’ve been like eighty percent cheese, and these chocolate chip cookies that were only twenty percent cheese. The Chrisbytarians were nice enough people, but I gotta be honest, I’d never heard so many dirty jokes in my entire life. And not just profanity, either. I mean the really kinky stuff. Maybe they’re all just that comfortable or that liberal, but it was a little freaky to hear so much innuendo when there’s this big cross in the middle of the room. I was confused, but I was filled with cheese, so I was happy.

                Here’s where the story goes downhill. We got done like around 8:30 at night, and I was hoping to get back to Cowden before Todd (unless his name is Tom, and I’m starting to think it is) got there. If I get there first, he takes whichever girlfriend is with him somewhere else, which means I get to sleep in my actual bed and not in the hallway like all the other nights I get there too late. So I wanted to get there early. When I walked out the doors of the Methutherans or Methbrytarians or Methheads, I saw like two feet of snow! It snowed while I was eating casseroles. Can you believe it? And it was still snowing, like a thick blanket of snow that some jerk in the sky kept waving back and forth in front of me. I had an entire parking lot to get through to get back to Cowden, in the middle of a blizzard, in early October, in the “Dark Sky City” darkness. I couldn’t see in front of me, and I didn’t have a coat on or anything. How the hell does Flagstaff get away with crap like this? Flagstaff should be indicted for this sort of thing.

                Anyway, I started my trek back to the dorm, but because I couldn’t see anything except for snow, I bumped into a car in front of me, and the stupid alarm went off. So I did the first thing that popped into my head and ran away. At the end of the parking lot, I slipped on the snow when I was running and hurt my hip. The car alarm kept blaring at me until I reached the sidewalk where Cowden is to the right and the library is to the left. That’s when I saw the goddamned person in the gorilla costume walking toward me from the right, only the costume was covered in snow, so it looked like a zebra yeti, just sort of lumbering through the two feet of snow toward me.

 Maybe the car alarm angered the gorilla. Maybe it felt threatened when I walked into its natural habitat, in the middle of a university road at night during a blizzard. The person in the gorilla suit costume lumbered silently at me like some stealthy predator. I turned around and got out of the snow into this little pathway at the front of the library that’s protected by columns or pillars or collars or something like that.

                I ran, and my hip was throbbing from when I slipped, but I made it to the entrance of the library. When I looked back, the person in the gorilla suit costume was still lumbering toward me through the columned path. I went inside the library, got snow everywhere, and hid for a while in the little coffee shop restaurant thing they have on the first floor and started working on a paper for my rhetoric class, since I had taken my backpack with me to the church thing because I got out of rhetoric late. After a while I tried to get back to Cowden, but the snow outside was like four feet high. Plus, I saw the gorilla pacing around this statue of a dude on a stack of books they have outside the library. It was like the gorilla was waiting for me to come out to attack me.

                How the hell does NAU get away with four feet of snow and zebra yetis? It’s terrible. I went back into the library, which closes at two in the morning, I think, and did more homework and goofed around on the internet. Then things got weird. I was up on the third floor in the farthest corner of a room, when I looked up and saw Maxwell walk behind a shelf, stop for a minute, and keep going. After that, a librarian went behind the shelf, stopped where Maxwell had stopped, and kept going again. I was curious about what happened, and I know they all say that curiosity kills cats, but I wasn’t a cat, I thought, so I prowled my way to the other side of the shelves.

                On an empty shelf close to the ground were two very nicely rolled joints, or roaches. They were so nicely rolled, you’d think a professional had rolled them. I guessed the lost-and-found people worked with the librarians, and I guess Maxwell needs to supply his herd of cynics with joints. What I thought was strange was that they would miss two whole joints. It seemed weird for a business that was so organized to forget two whole joints. I figured they wouldn’t miss them, and I could maybe use them to bargain for something I might need, so I stuffed them in my pocket and went downstairs.

                When I walked to the second floor, I passed a janitor. I was going to check outside to see if the gorilla was still there, but when I was on the second floor, going toward a window, the same janitor came rushing by me, shouting on his cellphone. I think he didn’t see me. Anyway, the snow hadn’t stopped, and it was up to maybe twelve feet. It looked like twelve feet, at least. So I stayed in the library on the second floor, in the furthest corner I could find, hoping the janitor wouldn’t catch me. That’s where I am now. That’s where I’m writing this.

                Oh, and by the way, they shut the power off. It’s 2:30 in the morning, and they locked me inside. I can’t get out. I tried and the doors are all locked. I wonder if the gorilla had something to do with this. It’s dark. I’m cold. I want to go back to my dorm room where I don’t have to run away from gorillas and drug-dealing librarians. So that’s where I’m at right now. I hope you’re having a better night than I am.