When the acknowledgment of a new library came to the Taylorville town council, it was a unanimous decision to bring it in. “We could use the revenue, and the kids would finally have something to do without going to the city.”
As they began to build it, they came to the problem that they lacked someone to be a librarian. Fortunately, within a week of opening day this spot was filled by a middle aged man named Aaron Tao
Aaron Tao (No, he wasn’t named after General Tao’s chicken.) was an American-born man who, as you could tell, came from Asian heritage. He had a very ‘Small’ face that barely ever changed expression from ‘Not Caring’. His skin was fairly pale, not the yellowish tone the stereotypical Chinese man had. He was a skinny person, slightly shorter than the average thirty-four year old, and he walked with a bit of a limp. Needless to say, he was a fairly antisocial man.
On the day of opening, Aaron was there, checking out the library and keeping it into top shape. I learned immediately that, among other unimportant facts, he had an uncanny love for Biology, mainly human Biology; he did not openly study any religion and had an odd loving for Ferrets. I enjoyed the man, primarily because of the cloud of mystery he carried with him, and secondarily because I was an avid reader.
On the day of opening I was one of the first, among other kids who had little better to do, to enter the library. Since the only other ‘library’ I had seen was the small one in the school and the ‘Barnes & Nobel’ store in the city, this was a new experience.
He had the entire place decorated with nice streamers. One thing that I found VERY odd was his collection of human skeletons. They looked very realistic, and I wasn’t sure that they were plastic as I figured. He assured me they were just funny little things he bought from some online store, but he did tell us that we were never to touch one.
I must admit it was interesting to see them, however. I counted about a dozen, each in different places. Some were sitting in waving positions, some were reading books. There was even an old lady in the back with a wooden cane, waving her finger at me. Everyone immediately found this odd little man to be much more interesting.
That day I checked out an old book about Arachnids. Most of the people who went there came back within a week, obviously enjoying the mysterious and fun stature of the library. Things began to turn from ‘Odd’ to ‘Bad’ the day he brought his pet to work.
One day he brought what he said was his ‘favorite European Polecat’ (Which absolutely no one knew about.) named Chicken. Chicken seemed an odd name for a ferret but I immediately figured out the reason for this name; the ferret was the shyest pet I’ve ever seen.
He never bit or nipped, but sometimes he did jump on your back while you were reading. Like most mammals, he was curious to explore the new library, as he stayed here all day while his master was working. One day while I was into an exceedingly nice story about some sort of Gladiator arena, I heard a crash and a yelp in the back. Showing ample worry, I went back to find one of the neighborhood children on the ground with the old lady skeleton on top of him. The ferret was sitting next to the spot the skeleton originally sat, seeming very disappointed.
Aaron came back, still not showing any anger, proving he was a very calm man. He apologized for his pet’s behavior, got a box and set everything inside. The ferret jumped on his shoulder and rode off. I remember it looking back at the boy. In Its eyes I saw what I could only guess was apology.
I helped the boy, Ryan Stone, up. He was only twelve years of age, and he tried to apologize to the librarian, who simply walked off into his office. Ryan told me the ferret did it, but it was obvious he didn’t because the way the skeleton was set up it would have to have been unhooked from the pole.
Discounting the occasional day I played Video Games (I wasn’t a total nerd.)Or had homework, I spend most evenings at the library until it closed down at 9:00 PM. I enjoyed the quiet style of the library. Only a few boys and some of the girls in my class still went there, basically because most of them just bought books on some sort of E-Reader.
Me and Aaron talked quietly some days about his past jobs. He had been a librarian for most of his life after failing to complete nursing school. His heart had always been in reading, he said. He told me I would make a wonderful librarian as I left.
The next day the library was closed. There was a large cardboard sign over the door stating it was “CLOSED FOR RENOVATIONS”. I figured that they were preparing it for the holiday season since Christmas was only a few weeks away, even though Aaron wasn’t a religious person he, like most, still enjoyed the holiday. As I walked back home, I saw multiple squad cars at one of the houses on my street. As I approached, I noticed that the house belonged to the Stones.
Derek, Ryan’s dad, had obviously been crying. I was told by the sheriff that I needed to go home, even after I asked what happened. Almost running home, I arrived to my mother talking on the phone. “What the heck happened? Why is…” I didn’t have time to finish me before I learned everything.
Ryan had apparently disappeared sometime last night. Apparently his parents woke up that morning to get him ready and he was gone. He had mentioned that he was very angry at the librarian, and he wasn’t a kid to show much rancor. My mind suddenly wearied to the library.
The next day, there was still no Ryan. The librarian finished with the library, a terrible time to try and bring cheer to the town. I, as before, was the first to see the new things. He actually did pretty well; Artificial snow all over, the skeletons bundled up and reenacting snowball fights and carols, and lots of streamers and happy signs.
Going back to the fiction, I immediately realized something was gone. The old lady skeleton was…gone. The pole, everything. I was surprised by a voice from behind.
“The boy… I feel sorry for his parents, but he was a thief.” Aaron Tao said, calm and collected like he always was. “He was attempting to steal the skeleton. I could tell. There was no one else there to do it.” He remarked. I didn’t respond. I couldn’t really believe that Ryan would steal something, but I couldn’t admit I didn’t want my own (Fake) Skeleton.
“I just hope he is OK.” I said, making sure my tone made sure that I wasn’t taking sides. “I know that he will come back.” Aaron said, flashing a slight smile, something that rarely happened. I returned the smile and promptly left, making sure to return my book. On the way out Chicken stared at me, cocking his head to the side.
As soon as I left I was almost hit by Mrs. Stone’s car as she drove up to the library. She ran out of the car, her high-heel shoes clicking and tears running from her eyes. Aaron walked out slowly. I stepped back so they could talk.
“Where the hell is my boy?!” She screamed, waving her left arm spastically. Mr. Tao didn’t even acknowledge her pain, he just responded, “I do not know.” Which she obviously didn’t want to hear, because she responded by slapping him across the face, giving him a scratch under his left eyes with her red nails.
I had the vague fear that he would lash out and attack, but he simply stared. “Your boy was angry at me because I stopped him from taking what is mine. I cannot control his rage as I cannot control yours.” He said, the same mellow tone. “T…That’s a lie!” She choked out. I hoped she didn't slap him again.
He simply nodded. Without another word, but with indistinguishable sobs, she ran back to her expensive sports car and left. After a few long and quiet minutes, Aaron went back inside without another word.
Nearly a week passed. I still went to the library every day, but Aaron barely talked. His ferret, Chicken, kept me interested, as he seemed to become a bit more social. No sign of Ryan for the entire week led to the police to give up the search completely. The stones moved out of town last Sunday, and I’m not even sure they are still alive.
Aaron apparently was touched by this, because he decided to leave town today. He said he was sick and needed to go see his family , however to me he didn’t seem like he was sick at all. I didn’t say anything, though. I didn’t feel like making the man who was so nice to me feel like a liar.
The day he left he talked to me before he got into the moving truck. “I want you to have the library. You know enough about books. You’re a smart boy..” He told me, smiling. I was shocked. With great enthusiasm I accepted as he gave me the keys to the library and got into the truck. Still shocked, the truck drove out without a word. The last thing I saw of Aaron Tao was his Chicken sticking its head out the window and staring back at me.
It was late and the library would have been closing soon but I unlocked the door and entered anyways. Thoughts that I would, in no way, be able to actually be the librarian since I was just thirteen blew through my head but they were pushed out.
As I checked the library out, I noticed in the fiction section had a new skeleton, one where the lady once stood. It looked like it was reaching up for a book, with a nice parka on. I smiled and inspected it, finding a small note on the hood.
“Finish my collection.” It said in computer-printed handwriting. I stared at the note for a moment, looking around the dark library. A nearby clock ticked down the seconds. It was probably a minute but it felt like hours before I read the note again.
I noted that the Skeleton was the size of a small boy.