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FOLIO is a magazine of strange, comic, and strangely comic words and pictures published from 2006 to 2009. For back issues please contact the_folio@hotmail.com.

Issue No. 8, Libraries

Issue No. 8, Libraries - FOLIO in Print

Issue No. 8, Libraries - Maldestiny and the Library

Miraculously the young man woke an hour before work. He sat on the porch and looked at the street. The porch, he thought, is a stage where the actor can watch the audience. Knowing him, I’m probably right in thinking he ran upstairs after having that thought and scribbled it down into an old school notebook. He used to be an actor; that is, he used to act; that is, once upon a time he and his little friends dressed up in strange clothes to amuse adults. Now, he worked in a library.

He had the feeling sometimes of being behind a curtain when he left his house for work. The old, reliable butterflies spread out in his chest and called excitedly to his mind that this was it again. The mind, however, knew all too well where it was dragging the chest. This miraculous morning he arrived early enough to enter through the back as his employers wanted, not “with the public,” who were grouped outside the sliding front doors imagining the porn sites they were about to explore.

Who had the idea to let people into the library? thought the young man. The library itself is a fantastic idea, every town should have one, but the doors to the library…. It’s not as if people should be barred all together. Someone let the books in and the books were written by people and bound by people and given the very best qualities of those people. The books are sifts leaving all snot, shit, and tears outside…on the curb…where they belong.

Unfortunately the sliding doors did slide apart and all flesh and fluid rushed at the young man, none of it interested in books. They needed internet passes and directions to DVDs and had to use the telephone and had to take a piss. Luckily the young man was getting older, had just received a degree of higher education even, and found it easier with each passing day--not to smile--but to at least curt and tart his lips into a pinch when faced with the shitty sacks. His eyes, on the other hand, were not maturing fast enough. He could tell his eyes were betraying his thoughts. “Have a great day,” he would say, and the patrons’ mouths fell in horror at the disrespect.

Funny, to his co-workers, he was all rings and posy. They often told him how pleasant he was, how responsible, what lovely eyes he had, but probably only because he asked them lots of questions, and that they truly adored. “Did you grow up here?” “How are your kids?” “Are you feeling OK?” The attention shone bright in their eyes, like footlights blacking out the audience. They couldn’t ask him questions, they couldn’t see him.

His boss’s name was Happy. She was a middle-aged woman with long, disparate hair, floral stretch pants, and a penchant for trash. Shy and mature most of time, she occasionally let out a lighter, or darker, side. “Did you see the news? I’m letting everyone know. Anna Nicole Smith died today,” she said, mournfully; as well as, “I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Jesse Bradford. He was a shelver here when he was a teenager. He’s in that movie Swimfan. I love that movie.”

The mayor recently awarded Jesse Bradford a READ poster: the actor’s headshot beneath the word “READ” and with the quote, “I read scripts for a living.” His chest hair hangs out of his bathrobe. The young man stood beneath the poster, burning off violent energy by assuring a drooling woman in a wheelchair she owed the library fifty-five dollars. When he got sick of it, he nodded to the security guard, a dim, aggressive man who quickly came over and wheeled the woman out the doors. Her chair came to rest in the middle of the street.

“Could you please announce that this car has its lights on?” Happy was standing behind the young man. How long was she standing behind me? She gave him a scrap of paper with a few neatly written letters and numbers and gestured to the nearly antique PA system in the back. “I’ve never done any announcements,” he said. “It’s easy, just flip the switch,” said Happy. But the young man knew it wasn’t easy. The announcements were always being mangled with nervous stutters and dropped phrases. He watched the higher-ups argue over who would have to do it, each competing to be the shyest librarian.

The young man found the switches necessary, stooped over the microphone, and gave the announcement. He thought for sure he was being punished for his less-than-chipper tone with the invalid and, returning to the circ desk, told himself sarcastically how lucky he was to have a job where he could try so many different things. Frank of Reference swung by the desk. “A tip,” he said. “When I do the closing announcements, I always shush into the mic first, so I can hear myself out there, make sure it’s working,” and then in a whisper, “Shhh. Like that.”

The young man did not wake an hour before work the next morning. Lightning doesn’t strike the same place in the river twice. He jumped into the car, forsaking contacts for glasses. This will let them see another side of me, he thought, my Clark Kent. I’ll look so different, they’ll have to ask me who I am, where I came from, what I did in high school. “Sorry I’m late, Happy. The traffic––” “Could you make the opening announcement?” interrupted Happy.

“Opening announcement? I thought we just make closing announcements.” “New policy,” said Happy. “But we already opened. I accidentally walked in with the public.” “And please announce our summer schedule of programs.” “The whole schedule?” “Read all the dates, times, and locations. Out loud, please.” Happy pointed again to the microphone, then slid past to the secret, back staircase that lead to the book bindery. Sure enough, the young man found, stuck to the PA, an old card-catalogue card bearing the tiny words he was to announce. “Shhh. The library is now open,” he said, a perfect two inches from the stand, clearly and without spit. “If you would like to check out items but need a library card, please go to the circulation desk. If you would like to use the internet but do not have a password, please…” etc.

Surely, surely he was being punished. Reading every storytime, book discussion, and ESL session? The glasses must have failed to disguise the invective in his pupils since his co-workers had not asked him a thing about his past, just banished him to the back where he could be heard but not seen, heard but not see, where his Medusa eyes could not browbeat any patrons into stone. I want to work on Sundays, he misanthought, when the library is closed. I’ll wake up early for that. Put on a suit and tie. Force my way in and stand at the desk, ready for work, as still and upright as the books.

One woman, besieged on all sides by her legions of small children, waited, hands and feet tapping at the desk, for the young man to return. “Can I help you?” he said. “Where is everyone?” The young man looked around. Indeed, all clerks, assistants, and directors were absent. He glanced back to the usual computer multitudes and even they looked a little thin. “Is there something I could do for you?” he faltered. The woman spat. “I don’t owe you a dime!”

Next morning, Happy handed a copy of Poe’s collected to the young man. “You’ll find a story dog-eared,” she said. “We’re trying to get people in the mood.” “In the mood for what?” asked the young man. “Reading, checking out books.” “You’d like me to announce it?” “Of course.” She went to the stairs, leaving the young man alone with the Poe and the microphone.

“Misery is manifold,” he began. It felt a little silly, flicking the switch for a half hour of recitation, but, after all, this is what he trained for. Somewhere in the middle he even got a bit into it, lending occasional scary voices and gracefully magesticulating with his free arm. In the corner of his eye, he saw a huddled family rush out of the library while he was reading. A line of patrons shrank one by one behind the desk. The posse of computer crazies was slithering out of the library and they did not linger by the flagpole. It gave strength to the young man’s voice and he read to the end. The remainder of the day was relatively quiet, as if it were raining.

A Divine Comedy sat on the young man’s keyboard when he next came in for work. A post-it note on the first page read, “Begin here. There’s water by the microphone. Happy.” He looked to the front doors. The unsanitary napkins and soiled fingernails were already seeping through. He took the book and went to the back. Flipping through the pages before flipping the switch, he thought: It’s gonna be a long day. But it wasn’t. Purgatory was finished up after lunch and by paradise it was time to go home.

The young man put the book back on Happy’s desk, realizing he hadn’t seen her but for the second in the morning when she rushed down the stairs. Closing announcements should be made pretty soon, he thought. “Everyone must exit the library immediately,” that sort of thing. But upon reaching the front desk and looking around at the stacks, he saw there was no reason for that announcement. No one was browsing, no one was masturbating. There wasn’t anyone there.

The books looked glad, I remember him thinking, like they were enjoying each other’s company. He wound his way through them as if he were winding his way through an art museum, pace slow, hands respectfully clasped behind him. He spotted a handsome John Donne volume but did not dare pick it up. After all, the books were not meant to be used, just to sit touching side by side in exactly the right order, forever. So this is what Sunday looks like, he said. It should be all days.

* * *

I hung my vestments as usual after a well-attended midsummer service and plugged in a hot pot for tea. I always run up to my office after a service. I do not mean to be anti-social, certainly I have become anything but in these later years. My smile, I’ve heard, is an actual smile and my eyes block any mischievous thoughts, though for the most part they no longer see people as undesirable sacks of desire anyway. I eventually go down to the undercroft for coffee-hour, but the minutes after the service are my minutes and I take them in my dressing room of sorts, taking off my make-up of sorts.

I jotted a few notes for myself in an old school notebook––“Visit Mrs. Palmer,” “Speech to the board”––and sat back. A knock came at the door.

“Come in,” I called, half-expecting a tipped-over coffee pot that needed attention.

The door crept open and Happy stood in the frame, hair more disparate, pants more tasteless.

“Good morning, Happy,” I said, “Come in.”

“Reverend, I slept late,” she said flatly, remaining at the door. “A boy put fireworks in the drop box and it took all night to clean it up. I apologize.”

“That’s all right, come in, come in.”

Happy sat in the chair in front of my desk. Her jittering knee rattled the pills in her purse. “I missed your sermon,” she said.

“Well, you can expect hell for that.”

She did not laugh. She had no patience for the kind of humor that goes over so well with everyone else. “Could you read me your sermon?” she asked.

“Read it? I can give you a copy if you like.”

“Read it out loud.”

I checked my watch. “Well...” Having handed my hard copy to the editor of the newsletter just a few minutes prior, I had to find the file on my computer. “Tell me again, you just…want me to…read it?”

She nodded. I cleared my throat. Her knee slowly came to rest. “What patience He had for his followers is a miracle worth awe, but what patience those young men had for Him should also give pause. Though suffering graciously was mostly His job, they at least could suffer a fool and there were so many times He must have looked”–– etc.

I glanced up at Happy once or twice in the beginning, then with increasing frequency towards the end. She had me feeling immensely flattered, and not because she asked me to read––she had done that many times a long time ago––but because she sat there while I read and allowed me to glance up at her.

“Thank you,” she said, after I had finished, and got up.

“Wait,” I said, rising with her. The flattery made me ask. “Can I ask you—”


“Can I ask you where you went all those times you asked me to announce things?”

“I went downstairs.”

“Yes, I saw that, but why did—”

“The better to hear you.”

“To hear me?”

“There’s a speaker downstairs. I put a sofa in front of it.”


“I had to put lots of sofas in front of it actually. We all went downstairs to listen to you. You have a very natural speaking voice. It lulled us to sleep, no offense. We spent all day sleeping down there. Resting on each others’ tummies.”

I laughed.

“You make a better minister than a circulation clerk,” she said. “Your eyes were never quite as insulting as ours.”

Happy left; she had taped all of that week’s local news shows and had plans to curl up with a bowl of popcorn and a police chase. I decided to stay in the office, the coffee-hourglass being on its last few grains anyway. There were parts of the sermon that came off as quite foul when I read them to Happy––I wanted to make a few adjustments and get a new copy to the newsletter. I refilled the hot pot and called the family. I rolled up my sleeves for another day of rest.

Issue No. 8, Libraries - From the Comic Book "Wake"

Issue No. 8, Libraries - Vanity and the Photograph

A child comes of age in the public library when the top of his head is flush with the top of the librarian’s desk; that is to say, flush with the tips of her miserable nipples. The sign on the desk doesn’t put it that way, but words are things closely watched in the library while shapes are generally ignored.

One child not yet of age approached the desk of his public library and removed from his inner coat pocket a folded leaf of eight-by-ten Ilford. He placed it on the desk. “Yes?” the librarian said, keeping her hands crossed next to the paper and her eyes stooped towards the child. But he only looked up at her, without expression. She pried the paper apart, whereupon she saw a young girl, a nude, her back to the camera and bent over an older man. He, also nude, knelt below the young girl, each of his fingers encased in a stick of unsalted butter. The librarian opened her mouth and shut up her throat, pushing one small, pitiable breath. She looked back to the child. He was wiggling into his mittens and halfway out the door.

Later that day, the librarian recognized the child as a boy she had eavesdropped on not a week earlier, a boy she then scolded for using the Lord’s name in vain.

Issue No. 8, Libraries - Pleasure Reading


Cover Star: Eunice Marx
Photography: Alexa Garvoille
Fiction: Jonathan Tuttle
Drawings, from "Wake": Ben Tuttle
Funded by: Melanie Samson