Open a book and you open your mind. Open a library and you have a community that is supportive and supporting. Even among those of us who love libraries, we often forget their value. This collection is meant to spark your own memories of libraries.
Writers explore places real and imagined — libraries of the past and future. Libraries that lift us up and other that haunt us. Just like you can find a full spectrum of stories within a library, so you will read different takes on the theme.
The following stories are based on the March 2, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a library.
Library Therapy by Anne Goodwin
On Monday, she crouched in the corner, snarling at anyone who came too close. On Tuesday, she wandered between the shelves, rubbing a grubby hand along the spines. On Wednesday, she selected a book of poetry and sniffed each page. On Thursday, she plonked herself on a beanbag for story time with the reception kids. On Friday, she sat at a table and read a detective novel from beginning to end. On Saturday, she asked for a library card but we couldn’t supply one without an address. On Monday, she arrived clean and spruced, saying she wanted a job.
Except when the book cart rattled by. Beats me, he thought, how a prison can have such a fine library. The Brothers Karamazov, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Vonnegut. Joseph Conrad. It was the only thing keeping him sane. The only thing reminding him he was, where it counted, a free man.
Its Safe Haven by imagenn793
The air was open, the dark cold.
I shivered and inched forwards.
I could sense the destruction, the wreck that the darkness concealed from my eyes.
There was once a purpose to this place, a meaning.
Not surprising, any place that guarded the amulet would have depth.
I tensed, feeling something near, an object. Picking it up, I realised it was a book. It crumbled away, making me wonder if it had once been something more.
Perhaps this was once a library.
I laughed, it would be only too fitting to have the amulet’s birth place its safe haven.
Clearance Sale by Anthony Amore
Michelle took the five dollar bill from Mrs. Ramirez and handed the change and the books to her 10 year old son Manuel. A Dr. Suess title for his little sister and for him two on pirates and motorcycles. His mother said something to him in Spanish and he nodded.
“She doesn’t get it,” he said half-whispering to Michelle remembering to use his library voice. “She thinks this is a fundraiser.”
Michelle patted his mother’s hand saying, “Gracias.”
The shelves slowly emptied themselves. Budget cuts and closings. “America is books,” a patron once said. Michelle sighed, Not anymore. Not here.
Extreme Transition by Carol Campbell
“I want to hold the book in my hands and turn the pages one by one.”, was the thought that she said aloud as she talked to her computer. Opening up her files and downloading books was a job to which she felt a strong resistance. How could she connect to the experience of reading without her library? The smells, hushed sounds and the services they offered. Would they go away with technology? She prayed not. Her son had urged her to transition to the wealth of space for books in a computer. Reluctantly, she knew he was right.
Mail Order Library by Ann Edall-Robson
Was today the day the parcel would arrive? The one from the library in a city far away. The one that would have six books chosen from the list provided. The one that nourished a young girls’ appetite for written words.
She would have three weeks to read them and choose the next six books. At the end of their stay, they would be lovingly wrapped in brown paper, tied with string and taken back to the post office.
In about ten days the young girl’s anticipation would start to build. Was today the day the parcel would arrive?
Northern Assumptions by Charli Mills
The stranger scuffed his boots when he entered Rock Creek Trading Post.
A lanky freighter, Sarah thought. He favored one leg and his left arm hung limp. “Good day. Supplies are low until spring mud recedes.”
“Well, I don’t think you’d have what I need, anyways.” He touched the brim of his hat.
“What’s that, Sir?”
He grinned. “A proper northern library.”
“I see. Follow me.” Sarah opened the backdoor to reveal shelves of books. She grabbed one, handing it to the stranger. “I hope this isn’t beyond your grand intellect.”
It read, Tom Thumb’s Picture Alphabet.
Books: Part I by Jane Dougherty
She ran her finger along the spines of the books on the shelves.
Read it, read it, readitreaditreaditreadit…
Her finger ran out of books and found a door at the end of the shelf.
She shrugged. This was a public library. She tugged on the handle and opened the door. A man, bald, glasses, seated at a desk, raised his eyes.
“Sit,” he said and pushed a book across the desk. “Read that.”
“It might teach you how to find your way home.”
She turned. The door clicked closed. She tugged on the handle. It was locked.
Books: Part II by Jane Dougherty
With a glare at the man behind the desk, she took out her phone.
“Who are you calling?” he asked, raising his eyebrows. “The Marines?”
She slipped the phone back in her pocket.
“Nobody. No signal.”
“What a surprise.” He tapped the cover of the book. “Read it.”
“You can’t keep me here. It’s illegal.”
The man got to his feet. “If you say so.”
She threw herself at the door, beating it with her fists.
“They can’t hear, you know.”
“Open the door!” she screamed.
He shrugged. “I’ll be back later.”
Turning away, he walked through the wall.
An Old Fashioned Story Teller by Ellen Best
I break the drudgery of shopping, by going to sniff books in the book emporium in town.Today it was busy with more people than it was made to hold; as I’d had enough of noise, I moved on.
In the library I took my place on the floor and began to read aloud. Parents and children gravitated towards my space, they sat themselves down with children clutched in arms and listened. Once I finished I popped my coat on smiled, nodded and left. My calling found, I will return there next Tuesday as the old fashioned story teller.
The Call of Telstar by Pat Cummings
James lay cooling in the bedroom as his children argued in the kitchen.
“You can have the tools from his workroom, Leo, I don’t want them!” Laurel’s voice was thick from weeping. “I only want the china.”
After the funeral, she packed fragile dishes between layers of thin technical paper pulled from the shelves in the study, sandwiching plates between Mercury manuals, wrapping cups in drawings of world-breaking electronics, swaddling soup-bowls in maps of coastal dunes and Western Australian desert.
Once unpacked, Laurel donated her impromptu padding to the small local library as a last legacy from her father.
The Dog at the Library by Rowena Newton
“Is that your dog?” the woman gushed. Rufus had worked his magic, drawing the stranger into his swirling vortex of feverish anxiety. He was constantly recruiting strangers as therapists.
“I’m so sorry! I was just dropping off a library book. Can’t leave him alone for five minutes. Separation anxiety.”
Howling and running around in circles, Rufus was wrapped around the pole, almost strangling himself.
Yet, Rufus was a survivor. It’s not often that an Old English Sheepdog ends up at the pound.
Then again, I’d never heard of one called “Loopy” before.
That’s why we called him Rufus.
Library by Etol Bagam
He lives in the streets. No mom. No dad. Steals food to survive, but doesn’t like it. The other boys are bad. He doesn’t want to be bad.
He learns how to read from a homeless sir he befriended.
He would read anything and everything. His dream is to attend school.
He asks the mailman to give him some leftover pamphlets to read, and receives even more.
The mailman talks to the people in the neighborhood who start to donate books to the boy.
He’s still homeless, but now the pushes a cart around with his own personal library.
Gathering Place by Larry LaForge
“Shhh.” Ed raised his index finger to his lips. His granddaughter Ellen nodded and respectfully mimicked the gesture.
“Practically lived here,” Ed whispered as they entered the campus library. “Haven’t been back in ages.”
Ed froze just inside the doorway. He looked around to make sure it was still a library.
“Cool,” Ellen said in her normal voice.
Several students formed a line to order at the Campus Cappuccino Bar. Study groups clustered at various tables engaged in animated conversations. Kids in a far corner rehearsed a class presentation. Work and fellowship seemed intertwined everywhere.
“Very cool,” Ellen repeated.
Speaking Volumes by Bill Engelson
Two hours into our morning promenade, Aggie Runacre and I reached the road to Union City.
“I’m enjoying the company, Aggie. It’s a comfort to leave the lonelys behind for a spell.”
“I’m never lonesome, Mr. Dobbs. Always have my Harriet.”
“Your horse?” I guessed, though her old Morgan looked part mule.
“Hah,” she chuckled, “Old General Grant here keeps me company, but I meant this…”
She hauled out a book from her saddle bag.
“Uncle Tom’s Cabin. A mite tattered, I confess. It and my Bible are my…traveling library. You got a book, you’ve always got a friend.”
Unseen Wealth by Roger Shipp
Are my books overdue? Why do I owe this money?
The usual, sir.
The usual? Usually, I walk into my friendly neighborhood library, politely return my borrowed books, and browse the New Books selections in hopes of discovering a new author. Then, I peruse the mystery shelves for books to check-out on this visit. Nowhere in that scenario does there occur a “$26.29, sir.”
Under-appreciated facilities, sir. A new audit revealed, people usually think that they get with they pay for. Since extending our financial accouterments, we have seen a 37% uptick in patronage.
Books of Value by Kate Spencer
Sally shuddered. She thought of all the arguments she’d had with her Dad in this study. He may have passed, but her memories were real. The books she liked were nonsense, he’d tell her. Only the ancient classics were of value and that’s why they were the only ones permitted on his mammoth bookshelves.
She was about to leave when her eyes caught sight of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s ‘Little House on the Prairie’. She stepped closer. There they were – ALL her childhood treasures – the books she had bought in defiance of her Dad. Her eyes brimmed with tears.
The Book Lady by Norah Colvin
She pulled the trailer from the shed, cleaned off the grime, gave it a lick of paint and hitched it to its once permanent position behind her bicycle. A trial ride around the yard confirmed all, including her knees, were still in working order. She propped the bike against the stairs and trundled back to her library where books lay scattered, spewed from shelves no longer able to hold them. She bundled them lovingly, tied them with memories, and wished them new hands to hold and hearts to love. It was time to share, and she knew just where.
Research by Irene Waters
Jemima and I tiptoed into the library. Mrs Hinkshell, stared at us. “Good morning girls.What do you want today? Another Green Gables book?”
“Thanks. We’re just looking today.” We escaped to nonfiction. Jemima kept lookout whilst I went to the shelf Jack had told us about. Finding the book, I pulled it from the shelf and put it on one of the many tables strewn around the stacks.
“C’mon.” We poured over the naked bodies and stumbled over unfamiliar words.
“Girls!” Mrs Hinkshell snapped the book shut. “Go home and ask your parents about the birds and the bees.”
Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning
On my lunch break I shuffle past girls with baby carriages, teenagers against a brick wall. I keep my head down. Classical music tumbles from speakers above, at odds with the cigarette butts and litter.
The usual noise inside. People on computers or browsing the DVD’s. An argument near the bathrooms. I plunge into the aisles of LEH —NAE.
There’s a boy crouching. The man behind him, Dad I assume, hovers. Points.
Something about his effort—concern—lifts my head. Makes me smile. I check out into the sun. Hopeful.
If I hurry I can get a chapter in.
Bonus library story by Pete Fanning!
a good yesterday
(haiku series / reverse haibun) by Jules Paige
so much more in store
recordings, programs, art, books
at the library
‘Sing and Sign’ we hear
familiar songs and two
different farm books
a lost chick helps us
counting; another, a goose
finds a place to nest
Grama gets a new
library card, barrows books;
and then buys some too
full morn uses up
the Little girl’s energy;
Our local library is fairly new. On a good day –
I could walk to it. I am now in their system.
I didn’t know they’d be taking my photo. Most
Fridays I take Little Miss for free programs.
The Library by Hugh Roberts
“And this is the library.”
The students stood open-mouthed at what they saw.
“So these are books?”
“Yes, these are books, Trudie.”
“How many are there, Mrs. Millar?” inquired Tommy.
“Nobody has ever counted, but we think several million” replied the teacher as she nodded slowly.
“So this is the reason why all the trees disappeared from Planet Earth?” asked Trudie.
Mrs. Millar continued to nod her head while admiring the books.
“Yes, and each and every one of the authors that were alive when they disappeared were put to death for the crime they committed.” smiled the teacher.
Blue Haven (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee
Jane finishes browsing and checks out, new books tucked in her backpack. She avoids the area where the obvious homeless gather, near the restrooms, out of the weather. Their familiar faces accuse her: You belong here with us.
No. I refuse.
She stops at the third floor, splurges a few dollars for hot chocolate, then back on the escalator, clear to the top. Even ten floors up she can see the trees bending in the gusts.
The world can’t touch her here. She’s insulated. She curls into a chair, warm cup in one hand, book open on her lap.
Good Friends by Kerry E.B. Black
Sarah shifted in the chair, making herself as comfortable as tight muscles allowed, and reached for the first stack of books. She struggled against rebelling arm and hand muscles to place colored price stickers on books donated to the library. She smiled remembering loved stories and favorite authors. When Sarah’s volunteering time ended, the librarian retrieved the stickered books. “Thank you, Sarah. These books will bring in some needed cash to keep this place running. Sorry no one else showed up to keep you company.” Sarah took in the surrounding titles. “Actually, I wasn’t alone. Good friends were here.”
Fifty Shades of Embarrassment by Stephanie Slater
“I have that book – Fifty Shades of Grey? I’ll give it to you when I’ve read it!”
My mother is talking about her latest find from her condo’s book exchange table.
We’re surrounded by family – including my squeamish sons – so how do I tell her that:
a) This series has an “eyebrow-raising erotic storyline” – and;
b) I’ve already read them.
Yes, not to be ignorant of a cultural juggernaut, I borrowed Fifty Shades from our community library. You can, too – or from my mother. You can be the one to tell her I’ve already read it!
Toddler Time by Sarah Brentyn
Every Saturday, Lucy walked past groups of high school kids smoking in the arched library entrance.
“Hey, Lucy! Headed in for Toddler Time?”
“Mother Goose?” they mocked.
She grinned. “Dr. Seuss today, boys. Care to join?”
“Do we get a juice box?”
Lucy climbed the brick stairs and closed the door on their laughter.
The librarians busied themselves when they saw her.
“No worries, ladies. My kind of crazy isn’t contagious.”
Some of them had the decency to blush.
She reached the children’s section, charred from last year’s tragic fire, and smiled at the little ones waiting for her.
Friends of the Library by Sherri Matthews
Standing across from the school room, Jessie waited alone for the rush of children. The other moms huddled nearby in two’s and three’s, chatting, nodding, laughing. Jessie wondered how long they had all been friends…
“The teacher told me to give you this…” Her son flapped a piece of paper at her as soon as he escaped through the open door.
‘Weekly Storytime at the Library’ read the flyer. ‘Volunteers needed.’
The following week, Jessie read to the pre-schoolers and smiled at the woman who thanked her afterwards asking, “New here?”
Twenty years later, they were still best friends.
Lending a Hand by Geoff Le Pard
‘Shh.’ Mary stilled the grizzling baby. ‘She’s teething. You don’t mind?’
‘Libraries can’t afford to these days. Do you need a hand?’
‘A map of Ireland?’
‘You can use the computers.’
‘I prefer a map. To see the bigger picture.’
As the librarian found the map, he asked, ‘Holiday?’
‘I’m trying to trace my twin sister.’
‘Are you from there?’
‘No. I’ve just heard she may have lived in Galway.’
‘Good luck. Can you sign the petition? Against closure.’
‘Of course. We mustn’t lose the library. It’s too important.’
‘Ah well, if only people would see the bigger picture.’
You’ll find the back story for Mary here.
Abnormal Phone Call by Paula Moyer
Every time her sister hung on her, Jean fought the urge to diagnose.
What was her illness? Bipolar disorder? If so, which mood phase? Or was it paranoid schizophrenia? Early dementia? Borderline personality? Whatever it was, wasn’t right.
There. The phone rang. Yep –Meg’s number. With a rock in her stomach, Jean answered, as always.
As always, the conversation started out normal – Meg’s voice was calm, even, actually pleasant.
Then it started. The yelling. The swearing. The inevitable hang-up.
Jean wanted a whole library of psychiatry textbooks to identify what had happened on the other end of the phone.
The Last Word by Lisa Reiter
Climbing the ladder, he took them down one by one.
..Dickins, Fielding, Austin
Mother had amassed her own library of classics.
..Spark, Wolf, Browning
The pages of old books stirred such passions. And now generated such warmth. He took the box outside remembering how he read to her every day.
Her choice not his. He would have liked to play with the other boys but she wanted him ‘educated’. She taunted his slow reading, his inability to recite Keats.
But not anymore. He threw another couple onto the pile.
His neighbour laughed: “Great bonfire you’ve got there!”
Loved the stories about how books and libraries fit into lives. As always, a great gathering of flash fiction.
No matter the angle, books and libraries fit on our shelves!
Quite a collection for the archives!
This is a great collection on a wonderful topic!
Seems like we all resonated with the topic!
I enjoyed these very much!
Open a book and you open your mind. Open a library and you open a thousand minds. 🙂
Oh, that’s even better! Yes!
[…] grouped into a single flash fiction piece and renamed, The Man with the Golden Pen. Thanks to Charli Mills for the prompt. Follow the link for the round up of stories she […]
A super collection, thank you for including my 99 words. 😇
Happy to have you at the ranch! Thanks for sharing your story!
Most welcome and enjoyable.
Great collection, Charli. You seem to be roping in more writers with each roundup. 🙂 It must be anniversary time! Congratulations on two years of flash fiction.
We are having a nice influx of writers aren’t we? 🙂 And yes, stay tuned for the next prompt! Cake is coming…but you’ll have to imagine eating it! Thanks for being in the saddle for two years even when fiction is not your primary ride! 🙂
Thanks, Charli. I love being a part of the posse (almost said herd!) Fiction was probably my first love, but I’m on a different drive at the moment. Have to round up these teaching resources first. 🙂
I’m glad you can still love fiction! Let me know when you are getting ready to launch because that’s when I’ll feature you in the RoundUp.