Fiction: Culture War


 “What is wrong with people?” I was checking returned books in, flipping through them looking for damage.

“What are you whining about now?” The voice came from the opposite corner of our small library. I couldn’t see her, but I knew it was Jackie. She was a regular, doing research for her next book.

“Ketchup and mustard!” I yelled.

“People are pigs,” she responded. We were the only two in the library. It was a Tuesday evening. We closed in an hour and I didn’t expect a crowd this late, especially with a November snowstorm starting. Jackie and I would hop in our Jeeps and get home just fine, but most people wouldn’t venture to the library in this weather, this late.

To my surprise, the front door opened. I didn’t recognize him. He was a typical northwoodsman. The hiking boots, flannel shirt, canvas coat, and beard would have been perfect for our town’s tourist brochure. He walked straight to me.

“Hi. What can I help you with?” I asked.

“Where is the gay porn section?”

I looked down at the ketchup and mustard stains, silently counting to ten. I got all the way to four.

“Well?” he asked, louder than before.

“Sir, we don’t have a gay porn section. Is there a particular title you have in mind?”

He reached into his shirt pocket and removed a folded sheet of paper. He threw it on my desk. “Gender Queer. The book in this blog post.”

I unfolded the piece of paper and read a post he printed from one of our local bloggers. NorthwoodsPatriot did not think taxpayers should fund public libraries and the LGBTQ books were his latest salvos against our little public library. I turned to my computer and typed; certain I already knew the answer.

“The book is currently checked out. Would you like me to put it on hold for you?” I asked.

“You think you’re funny, pansy? I don’t read that kind of filth. That’s for fags like you. Who ever heard of a male librarian?”

I stared at him, temporarily speechless. To my left, I saw Jackie’s head poking around the stacks, trying to get a look at the unfolding drama.

“Sir, I think you should leave.”

He slowly reached under his jacket and pulled out a gun. It was a nice one, a Glock 17.

“Sir, put the gun back in the holster and leave,” I said, calmly as I could. I moved my right hand under my desk.

“Hands!” he shouted, “I need to see them.” I moved my hand back to the top of my desk.

“I don’t think I will leave. It’s time someone put a stop to you groomers,” he said.

Jackie walked over and stood in front of my desk, between me and the guy with the gun.

“What do you think you’re doing? You going to protect this scumbag?” he asked.

Jackie didn’t say anything. She slapped the man and had his Glock in her hand, pointed at his head. It happened so fast you would have thought she had the gun the whole time. He stumbled but didn’t fall. He looked at her, dumbfounded. I smiled.

“Our librarian must be diplomatic, representing the library and all. I don’t have that restriction. I’d just as soon shoot you, so if you want to make a move feel free,” Jackie said.

“Who the hell are you?” he asked her.

“That’s Jackie. She was in the Army, a Ranger,” I told him.

“I didn’t know they let girls be Rangers,” he responded.

“The world has changed. You need to get with the program,” Jackie said.

The man sat down on the floor. He looked up at her. “I can’t keep up with this world. Why do think I’m here? My job went to Mexico. Gays, trans, colored people in Washington, male librarians… I don’t know what is happening and I’m scared and I’m pissed off. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. I have to stop it somehow”

Jackie lowered the gun. It was pointed at him, but not directly at his head. She would still take a knee out if he did something stupid, but she saw he was not as hostile as just minutes before. All the fight seemed to be out of him.

“This male librarian, the guy you called a pansy, was in the Army too. He used to fly Blackhawk helicopters. Pilots like him gave me a ride to my patrol area and picked me up too, all while being shot at,” she said.

He looked at me. I don’t know if he thought differently about me; he said nothing. Maybe.

“Did you press the button?” Jackie asked me.

“I did. You know it could take the sheriff a half hour or more to get here,” I responded.

“I know. Mister, let’s just sit here and wait for the sheriff. You want some coffee? Water?”

“Thanks, but no,” he said. And so we sat.

*****

This story was featured in the Writers Anonymous anthology Walking the Plank Naked & Other Works, available on Amazon and other retailers.




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