colette labouff

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part-time at the library (i)


How to copy, for two women my age, a two-sided document; they had with them a small boy who’d found a quarter and wanted it returned to its owner. The one searching for books about Lupus and did those exist in Spanish? The request for a phone number for the headquarters of Walgreen's in order to make a complaint. More Tinker Bell books, please, a Bible for a preacher, direction toward a shelf with green card information, and Julia Child's boeuf bourguignon recipe - to write down and carry on a plane across three states - to make for family. Amtrak tickets for three. The one whose grievance covers his face; his phone’s broken and he’s here to get with the provider and get things working but will need my help to read. Of the computers, most say it won’t work or that’s what I told it to do. A few begin with I don’t know how. The IRS doesn’t make it easy for the one working to print old tax returns. I say: here, click here. And there, let’s go back. As I stand at her side, she’s warm as if she’s leaned on a noon-wall. I read panic as much as summer sun in her temperature. It won’t. I can’t. They want. By end of day. Tomorrow at the latest. The boarding pass, says the one bouncing an infant, is for my mother in Mexico. And the quiet girl with the car-racing game; every time I press play, she complains with her palms up, nothing happens. I used to think of libraries as a place to get out of the sun or cold and hide out, and about desire as much as the need to know. But how heavy -- thick heartbeats -- this read-to-yourself in the presence of others about history and bills and illness and the long complaint. What hard worlds I’ve felt we’re in as I try to avoid the specifics of theirs: job application, overdue, audit, citizenship, indigence, deadline. And the boy with the quarter stretches both arms toward anyone.

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