Vigilance and Library Days
by KJ Hannah
Vigilance and Library Days
The librarian calling Mom wondered aloud about the books Zandy was borrowing. “Medical tomes,” the matron clucked, “contain chapters about sexual organs.” Predictably, Mom instructed that Zandy ought not to be able to read such volumes.
A decade later, when Dad was very sick, Zandy flew back into town. At the library, Zandy read not only health care volumes, but also books on death and dying. Zandy urged the wardress to allow Zandy to remove those works from the public rooms. She offered up anecdotes from her local childhood, her faculty photo identification, and her credit card as proof of integrity.
The librarian cackled. Having inferred Zandy’s identity, she demanded gossip, instead. How ill was Dad? Where was Mom? How was Little Belle?
Needing the books, Zandy paid in full.
A week later, William came along, having neither offered to fly with Zandy nor to otherwise position himself as support. With William present, Zandy felt stymied, unable to grieve. Only once, during a span from 4 a.m. to 4:15, in the hospital’s chapel, had Zandy cried. Mom, who made a point of following Zandy through corridors and into bathrooms, and who hounded Zandy for telephone quarters, pillows, and company, had fallen asleep in the waiting area.
As for William, Zandy’s counselor had suggested that he visit morgues to view corpses. William was horrified. Illness was chaos. According to his wisdoms, death, which was yet more disorderly, could not be embraced through desensitization.
Back home, in New Hampshire, Zandy let the cats sleep on the bed. She stroked the black one as he nudged between her and her husband.
Their local, New England library had few books. Months passed before Zandy discovered that Brattleboro, a nearby town, had a sizable collection.
William protested the twenty dollar fee, but Zandy joined anyway. She soothed him by bringing home narratives on cassettes. He popped a few each morning as he drove his hour and a half to work.
For herself, Zandy borrowed works by Alice Walker, by James Thurber, and by Gloria Steinem. She researched lesbians and looked into delayed motherhood.
Mental illness, one writer suggested, was sexual. More women than men were being diagnosed as “psychotic” since more women than men have to live in careful paradoxes. The expert pointed out the scarcity of support for social change.
Zandy, needing more than the ethereal, offered to teach Feminist Sociology. Later, Zandy postponed suing the college. She adjusted her selections to books about writing or painting.
Zandy continued to read, though, about hippy-style lovemaking and about New England campgrounds. When Belle visited, the sisters drove to Woodstock to craft necklaces and to eat tofu.
William, meanwhile, read mysteries and science fiction. In space operas, women pilots and engineers circumvented lovers and held fast to responsibilities. Pulp fiction heroines had sex by choice and with variety. In real life, William insisted that Zandy come to bed naked, and that she make do with stale kisses.
Zandy complained. William countered; Zandy fell asleep before he got home, which was often after midnight.
Zandy again found fitting responses in the library. She took out cookbooks with recipes for chocolate and borrowed Sabina Shalom's Marriage Sabbatical. Soon, thereafter, Zandy packed a ticket and a rucksack.
Infrequently abetted by her hibernaculum of imaginary hedgehogs, KJ Hannah Greenberg, a mother of adolescent sons and daughters, nonetheless, matchmakes words. One of her cutest couples is “balderdash” and “xylophone.” To wit, Pushcart Prize nominee H annah has placed her work with dozens of publications, including: Antipodean SF, Bards and Sages, Bewildering Stories, Language and Culture Magazine, Parenting Express, Poetry Super Highway, The Externalist, and The New Vilna Review.
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