Liberty’s First Blind Date – with a Librarian
(an outtake from Released by Amber Polo)
Liberty pulled on slacks and a cotton blouse appropriate for Sunday brunch in the country, sorry she’d ever agreed to this blind date deal. She’d only agreed because in her heart she knew Bliss D. Light, the library’s New Agey children’s librarian, was right. She had no life. From the day she’d been hired as Dustbunnie’s Assistant she’d focused on becoming director of the Shipsfeather Library. Now with the new director on board, she still did all the work for none of the credit. Or money. On top of that she felt like a failure for being unable to keep the books in order. How dumb was that?
If she began looking for another job, her resume wouldn’t read much better than it had seven years ago. Despite all her work since Elise retired, she had the exact same title. She knew she was emotionally attached to this beautiful library. Not that she didn’t doubt her judgment. Would a sane librarian sit in a dark library talking to a dog?
On Friday, Bliss had deposited a stack of books on her desk; Blind Dating for Fun, Find your Perfect Mate on a Blind Date, and Channel Your Twin Soul and a list of selected blind-dating websites and blogs. Last night Liberty checked a few, then stayed up too late working on the budget.
Determined to enjoy the day, she got into her blue Subaru and set out for brunch with Blind Date Number One. How could she not have a good time on such a beautiful Sunday. Plus, the guy she was to meet had come in tops in the staff “Dates with Liberty” database. Leave it to her helpful staff to turn her personal life into a research assignment.
Liberty had told Bliss she didn’t want details. She’d go on the date and have a good time if it killed her, refusing to listen when Bliss tried to explain that interpersonal relationships weren’t supposed to be painful. Bliss said the top date’s picture was a little out of focus but looked sort of cute and she had good vibes after a great tarot reading, but Liberty suspected this Number One guy was Olivia Grimm’s nephew. If his personality was anything like the glum librarian’s, she held no hope for a fun filled day.
As soon as Liberty found her birth certificate, Bliss promised to tell her about her moon sign rising, or sunshine sign, or the meaning of a full moon in Pluto. Maybe that would help her find romance without resorting to blind dates.
Bliss had told her Rolf Grimm was a librarian and lived in Central City. Many librarians, like her friends in graduate school, had a quirky sense of humor. Liberty often found non-library people narrow and paranoid compared to librarians who were interested in diverse subjects. On second thought, no group was more paranoid than library workers. They just shared a common and diverse paranoia.
Rolf had suggested they meet halfway at a boarded up Sonoco station in the center of the charming small town of Union. Liberty brought a MapQuest printout of directions to a country inn with excellent online reviews for their brunch. Pictures showed a charming dining room filled with quaint antiques. She could already taste just-picked farm produce and roasted chicken from the owner’s coop. After lunch, she and her date could pick apples or whatever was in season in the orchard. She would bring a bag to the staff room on Monday to prove she’d done something besides work all weekend.
Maples and oaks overhung the road as she drove past small Victorian houses lining the charming Main Street. She spotted the faded Sonoco sign and an old, dinged Toyota. A tall, Nordic-blond man in shiny navy slacks stood next to the car. A little pasty and soft, but he didn’t look like a serial killer. Yet mystery novels verified serial killers didn’t look like serial killers.
She slowed and the man walked towards her car and waved. “Hello, Liberty Cutter.”
How did he recognize her? Did Bliss email her picture? This was so embarrassing. She rolled down the window. “Rolf?”
“Nice to meet you. You’re five minutes late.”
A medium-sized spotted dog walked up and sniffed at Rolf’s shoes. He kicked out at the dog and snarled, “I hate dogs, don’t you?” then laughed the most annoying raucous laugh she’d ever heard. “Maybe it’s my name?”
Before she could answer he circled to the Subaru’s passenger door, yanked it open, and got in. After three slams the door shut.
“Mine does the same thing.” He exploded in another loud stupid laugh.
As Liberty pulled away she looked back at the sad-faced dog and gave Rolf the benefit of the doubt for being nervous or having a sudden attack of some dander allergy. “There’s this inn…,” she began.
“I know a place.” He pointed back the way she’d come. “I’ll give you directions.”
As she drove away from the charming town, past red barns and corn fields. Rolf adjusted the seat and leaned back. “Let me tell you about myself,” he began. “I’m the Head Special Languages Cataloger at Central Ohio University.”
“That sounds interesting. What languages?” Liberty offered a good get-to-know-you question.
“Finnish, Croatian, ancient Basque, and obscure Russian dialects, mostly. Though an occasional Urdu title comes across my desk. Or should I say booktruck.” Another annoying laugh burst from his mouth. “Hey, hey, my job is so exciting.”
“It must be interesting reading all those languages.” He had to be putting her on.
“I don’t read the languages.” He chuckled as if her statement was especially stupid. “I catalog and classify all the languages that no one else reads. It’s challenging.”
“I’m sure it is. Are there scholars in all those languages at Central?”
“Of course not. We are a small university, but collect titles in over two hundred languages.”
Liberty sighed and looked out the window at cows munching peacefully. She’d heard Central Ohio’s only graduate degree was agriculture. She tried a safer subject. “Who do you know at the Shipsfeather Library?”
“My Aunt Olivia works there.”
“Olivia Grimm.” Olivia had been their only children’s librarian until a bad accident with a boy and a toy truck. Bliss had been hired and Olivia now didn’t do much of anything. Except complain.
“I’m from the Scandinavian branch of the family. Olivia’s choice of library specialty was disappointing. No real scholarly benefit in reading fairy tales to unwashed munchkins.”
“Ah… but children’s librarians are important in public libraries. Her work with teachers and …”
“Well yes, public libraries. Olivia tells me you’re the Assistant Director and the director is quite young. A career move would be difficult, but if you act now—you’re almost forty, right?—you might be able to make a change. Our Assistant Extension Librarian is planning to retire. I’ll let you know when the position will be advertised. Turn here,” he ordered abruptly.
The turn brought them into Mount Pleasant, an ugly mill town with drab houses built too close together. Muddy debris coated the streets, as if a flood had washed through town and no one bothered to clean up. Yards had no gardens or grass and Beware of the Dog signs the most popular yard ornaments. A deflated blow-up Easter bunny sagged, strapped hostage-style to a dead tree next to a three-legged Rudolf.
Seeing no restaurants, Liberty tried a light note. “Hope it’s close, I’m getting hungry,”
“Just keep driving. It’s on the other end of town. You’ll love the local cuisine.”
On the far end of town Liberty pulled into the crowded parking lot of a gas station/laundromat/café called Jimmie-Jeb’s. As they walked to the end of a line snaking out the front door, she asked, “Do you come here often?”
“Every Sunday. It’s a drive, but their all-you-can-eat brunch is the cheapest food in Ohio. Usually I find someone else to drive. Academics know how to stretch a buck.”
Liberty’s stomach grumbled throughout the half hour wait behind a noisy family in grease-spotted “I Oink for Jimmie-Jeb’s” t-shirts.
When finally seated, Rolf ordered the Special for them both. Immediately a waitress dumped sausage biscuits onto their brown plates, then poured mauve gravy from a pitcher to cover the greasy sausage with gelatinous glop. Rolf ate hungrily. The over-sweetened iced tea that came with the Special tasted nothing like the delicious concoctions Lily brewed. Liberty asked for water. The waitress mouthed, “Troublemaker.”
Rolf stopped eating long enough to tell her, “They charge extra for water.”
In any other restaurant she would have been embarrassed if her date stuffed his pockets with toothpicks and sugar and creamer packets “for the staff room.” Here, she didn’t care. When she offered to pay her half of the bill, Rolf accepted, because, he explained, her water was more expensive than his free iced tea.
Keys in her hand, she ran to her car. As Liberty broke the speed limit on the drive back to Union, Rolf dozed.
When she screeched to a halt, he roused himself. “We should do this again. You can pick me up next Sunday at my place.”
Not able to tell him she’d enjoyed her date, she called a cheery, “No thanks,” reached over, and slammed the door. Her tires squealed back onto the road for the drive home to her quiet apartment and her beautiful library.