Friday, April 17, 2015

Between the Pages: Chapter 1

"There’s just one researcher, today," Sharon tells me as I enter into the reading room.

"Fantastic," I whisper back, glancing across the room. One lone man sits at a table by the window with a stack of manuscripts. He's hunched over the papers and looking down. I jerk my thumb in his direction. "So serious!"

Sharon laughs as she stands up. "Academics, you know."

Once Sharon leaves, it's just me and Lone Researcher. Working in the reading room is easy, and almost as interesting as watching paint dry. To pass the time I usually play this game with myself where I try to peg what sort of research people are working on. Scientists and journalists are easy to spot: they almost always are working with microfilm. Literature scholars are pretty easy to identify too. Usually, they're the ones going through rare books, flipping the pages reverently and slowly. Then there are historians, which pretty much comprise everyone else. The historians are cranky, demanding, and usually old.

I look at the man across the room in scrutiny. Not much to tell from this far away, but my brain's pegging him as a literature guy. A professor, maybe. Yeah, he looks older and professory. Longish chestnut hair. Something about the oxford shirt combined with tortoise shell glasses and hint of a dark beard just screams "I'm reading Ayn Rand, and I like it!"

Lone Researcher is oblivious to my profiling. Which, might be a good thing. You know, in case he actually hates Ayn Rand would be terribly offended by my hypothesis.

With a sigh, I turn back to the computer. That was fun while it lasted. It's more fun when the reading room is packed, but right now it's the dead of summer so none of the university students are here to clutter the place up. The only visits our archives get in the summer are crotchety genealogists and overly dedicated academics.

Against my better judgement, I glance at the clock. It's only been thirteen minute.

I quickly start making a mental to-do list:

-email Barry about PTO
-pull stuff for remote researchers
-finish accessioning the Millner collection
-write exhibit text

I emailed Barry earlier in the day and got my paid time off for my brother's wedding next month approved. The Millner collection stuff can wait -- will have to wait -- until tomorrow. The text I had to finish was for two different exhibits. It's a maximum of 250 words per wall panel. You think that would be easy! It's not. Being brief is a skill. One which I don't possess.

Procrastination is one that I do though, so I leave the text for later. Pulling materials is easy and mindless. At least on my end. It's probably a pain for the vault staff though, who have to track down that one obscure text about Acadian architecture in Nova Scotia in our 30,000 square foot vault. But then, the vault is pretty organized (it's actually meticulously organized, and I'm scared to touch anything on the rare occasions I venture down there), so maybe it isn't too bad for them after all.

Thirty-five minutes (and a lot of dicking around on the computer) later, all of the materials I'd requested arrive. That's actually a pretty good response time for a large research archives. "Thanks, John."

John, a tiny man with huge glasses that has worked in the vault for almost thirty years, smiles as he handed my books over. "Sure thing, Inez."

After John leaves, I look over at Lone Researcher. Still bent over his books. Ugh, I wish I had his work ethic.

I've got to get a least one wall panel out of eight done. But it's already 4:30. We'll be closing in thirty minutes...do I really have time to start this?

I glance over at the clock again--somehow it's still 4:30 even though feels like it's been five years since John left--and settle in to begin writing.

"'For a pillow I used a stick of wood, softened with an old pair of shoes, and strange to say, slept very comfortably.' These are the words young Wesley Olin Connor penned as he camped outside of Cumberland Gap, TN in the winter of 1862. While Connor is often remembered for his time --"

"Excuse me?"

The voice startles me. It's low, with a distinctively Southern sound, and it rolls over me like a smooth whisky. Looking up, I realize Lone Researcher has vacated his post, and is now waiting in front of my desk. Now that he's closer, I realize that he isn't old after all. Not only that, but underneath the professory, academic facade, he's also attractive. Like, really attractive.

Annnnd...whoa. He’s also using a wheelchair. How in the hell did I miss that earlier? He sits in front of me with a huge Bankers Box on his lap.

I peer sheepishly over the desk, feeling guilty for not having noticed his presence before now. "How long have you been waiting?" I ask in an apologetic tone.

He smiles. Whatever he wants -- and I'm certain he wants something, because that's pretty much the only time people smile at me in the reading room--I'm already planning on giving him simply because of that smile. Seriously! I bet the girls in his classes (I’m still working under the assumption he’s a professor) eat him up--wheelchair or not. Hell, I'm practically salivating.

"Only a short while." Lone Researcher nodded towards the computer. "You seemed very focused. I didn't want to interrupt."

Despite my minor embarrassment, I laugh. "Is that ready to be re-shelved?"

He shakes his head. "Actually, could you hold it for me for tomorrow?"

"Sure!" I respond, a bit too enthusiastically. Still trying to make up for having ignored him at first. "Name?"

"Max Ellis."

I make a note on one of the "Hold" shelves and then reach out for the items in his lap. Then, I watch as Lone Researcher -- Max, I guess -- shuffles the box from his lap onto the circulation desk.

"Thanks." He flashes me another winning smile. "So I'm all set for tomorrow then?" I nod and try to match his smile, but I'm pretty sure I fail miserably. "Well, see you tomorrow then."

With that, Max makes his way towards the door, propelling his wheelchair forward with smooth and practiced strokes. With each pump his broad shoulders pulse and I can tell that he is incredibly built, especially for a stuffy academic. I (rudely) stare as he wheels down the hallway to the circulation desk to check out of the reading room. And suddenly, for the first time in a while, I'm excited about coming back to the reading room tomorrow.

11 comments:

  1. Lovely start!
    Can't wait.
    (Loved Finn by the way)
    Thank you

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  2. Absolutely loved this first chapter! I really enjoyed MC, and I'm happy to read anything of yours again. This seems very interesting

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  3. There's been some really down stories here lately. Glad to see one on a lighter and more romantic note. Looking forward to more.

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  4. A sweet beginning! Also looking forward to "tomorrow"! :)
    Love your descriptive writing style!
    Thanks!

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  5. Great start, looking forward to more.

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  6. Great news, liked the beginning and now I have something to look forward to on Mondays!

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  7. You are an amazing writer EJ, great first chapter

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  8. I love everything you write EJ and will devour whatever you have to offer!

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  9. very promising beginning. Love your writing. Can't wait for more.

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  10. I'm intrigued! I love these characters already. Super setting, too. Keep those chapters coming, EJ!

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  11. Can't wait to read more! What a great beginning! Although I do hope that he is not a fan of Ayn Rand...

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