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The Library - A Place to Revisit - One
One - A Dream of Note
I like reading, I also like to take time for walks and collecting odds and ends, but there’s still something missing in my life - Jerry thinks to himself stepping outside on his way to the library.
He lives alone in a small town in South Africa near a mountain range - the farmers here grow citrus products – oranges, lemons and grapefruit. He has lived here all his life having worked for the local municipality for a number of years and taken early retirement at fifty-five. Married for many years; his wife Mara passed away in her late forties, suffering a brain tumour. Mara was unable to conceive children; the couple lived in a government house all their married life.
Jerry stays on in the house after Mara passed away; two bedrooms and a small garden - not much to look at, quite dull really. On retirement he'd started a vegetable garden in the back yard, growing lettuces, carrots, marrows and tomatoes, reading up on how to prepare the soil for vegetable propagation. He needs hobbies like this - other passions are reading and collecting objects of interest. Jerry’s social life consists mostly of visiting friends - sometimes they chat over the fence. With no intention of getting married again, he does consider finding a woman as a companion, as age creeps in.
The Road to Town
The town he lives in has two faces - small, quaint and pretty; parts of it are run down and dishevelled. The people have character - a portion of them know how to let go on a Friday night. The local pubs and haunts come alive with music - the festive atmosphere runs well into the early hours of the morning. This isn’t really Jerry’s scene, he goes for a few pints occasionally making sure he gets home before some people get a bit crazy. Most of the residents live quiet lives; they have social gatherings which don’t involve any big partying.
Jerry loves reading; he reads all kinds of books, mostly novels; his main supply of books is from the local library which he walks to once or twice a month. DVD’s are on hire here too, most of them are outdated; books are his principal source of inspiration and interest. The library is a long, narrow building that has been standing for ninety years, the main structure has only had minor alterations and upkeep done to it. The roof is metal, the walls thick and painted white, the windows old fashioned, a few steps lead up to the big wooden doors.
Four people work there, two female librarians and two guys who sort and pack the books away. It is Jerry’s day to take out new books, he leaves home; a dog runs past with something in its mouth, another dog chases after it. The day is overcast and cool as he walks the few avenues from home to the main road of the town which is busy with many cars and pedestrians going about their business. Rain has been predicted; Jerry greets a few of the passers-by he knows.
Miriam, the librarian, although on the quiet side is a friendly sort; Jerry hands his books in, noticing how attractive she is. He thinks he should ask her out sometime but is too nervous to do so right now. He spends some time browsing through the different categories of books available, choosing a couple of novels and one non-fiction book. Then he sits and reads magazines for a while – he likes the ones on nature especially. Rain begins to fall outside, slowly then rapidly - he will have to read until the rain stops or lightens before returning home.
When the rain abates Jerry waves goodbye to Miriam and leaves the old library. He stops somewhere for coffee and watches the people going by. The street is colourful, filled with locals, farmers and a smattering of visitors. There are some fine lodges in the rural area where tourists stop over for a few nights. He gets home, grabs some lunch then sits for a while reading a library book. The weather report says the rain will clear the next day and it will be sunny and warm. He thinks he might hook up with a friend and go for a walk out of town tomorrow. Jerry phones Alan and they arrange a walk.
They set off at 7 the next morning, walking into the rural area and turning down a country lane that meanders through the citrus farms. There are tall trees on either side of the gravel road in places which keeps them cool from the suns heat. The heat can be intense, overwhelming in these parts. They walk at a leisurely pace for quite some time then turn into a road that leads to a farmers’ house. They know the farmer who lives with his family in a big rambling house.
Arriving at the farmhouse they find the door open but no one at home. Jerry and Alan sit on a bench outside and drink some water wondering where Randall Winston their farmer friend, can be. Soon a burly man in shorts, tee shirt, boots and a khaki hat on his head appears from the orange trees which grow nearby. Two lively dogs accompany him.
“Hey guys, how you doing?” he bellows as he approaches and shakes their hands vigorously.
“I’m good thanks” replies Jerry, “we could have walked into your house and cleared you out; that front door of yours is wide open!”
“We’ve been leaving the doors open for the past ten years, never had a problem” Randall says. “Let’s go inside and have some orange juice” he adds.
“Thanks, that will be much appreciated” Alan says.
“Come along inside then.”
They sit in the lounge while Randall brings them some farm-fresh orange juice as they catch up on the latest news of one another’s lives. Farming always had its ups and downs - Winston keeps their attention as he speaks of these matters. They converse at length then go outside and walk to the citrus trees to pick some grapefruit and oranges for Jerry and Alan to take home. Winston’s wife has gone into town and their children are at school; only he and a few farm labourers are on the farm at the time. They bade one another goodbye and the two walkers leave for town now laden with a bag of grapefruit and oranges each. Jerry gets home in the afternoon, has a lengthy bath and goes to bed early.
That night he has all kinds of dreams but the one that is most vivid is about the library. He dreams that he was on his way there when he saw smoke rising in the distance. He hurried along; as he got closer a fire engine sped past him with its siren wailing. As Jerry turned the corner into the street where the library was he saw Miriam and Lena, the other librarian running down the street. They ran straight past him. He came to the library which had smoke billowing out of it, it was on fire and firemen were getting the fire-hose into position to spray the building. In the last part of the dream he ran into the burning building and disappeared. He wakes up thinking the dream is real but soon realises it was just a dream.
The following morning when Jerry gets up after going back to sleep for some time he can smell smoke in the air – last night’s dream jolts his brain; he dresses quickly, neglecting to have breakfast and makes his way hastily on foot to the library. The library is still standing but the house next door has been ravaged by fire and is still smoking. This is real, not a dream – a house has burnt; only parts of the walls are still standing. There are many onlookers, Jerry soon finds out that nobody has been injured in the fire; a family who lived there had managed to get out, escaping being burnt. The library hasn't opened yet, after speaking to other onlookers he decides to return home.
Later when the library has opened for the day he goes there and speaks to Miriam.
“Hi Miriam, how are you? I’m glad to see the library is still standing and you and the others are alive and well – I dreamt last night that it had burnt down.”
“I’m fine thanks, yes well fortunately the library didn’t burn but it’s not so fortunate for the people whose house was raised to the ground” she says.
“Phew, well, all I can say is I’m glad to see you here. I was wondering if you would like to go somewhere for dinner tonight.”
“That would be lovely, thanks, what time would you like to go?”
“I’ll collect you in my car around seven this evening.”
“Okay, see you then” she says.
The tragedy gives him the courage to finally ask her out. Jerry feels light as he walks home; he looks forward to seeing Miriam that evening.
Life has its good moments, he thinks while still acknowledging to himself that the fire was an unfortunate incident - the library is still standing though.
This story is entirely fictitious; some of the photographs are of an area that I visited that inspired me to write this story but are included to add value and illustrate the kind of place where the story takes place, that being a rural one with a small town.
Also to be noted is that I use the British (UK) Spelling Format.
The ideas, views or beliefs expressed in the advertising on this page are not necessarily those of the author.
© 2014 David Edward Lynch