The Observer, who recently began moonlighting as a librarian, likes the job. Really likes the job. Books have a lovely way of not talking back, and the rows upon rows of straight spines inspire us to ponder the amount of information contained within. We don’t say “Shhhhhh ...” over our glasses, although that’s mostly for lack of opportunity. We haven’t yet turned into Alex Trebek, though patrons sometimes ask the queerest questions. “What’s this word mean?” an 8-year-old patron asked recently, pointing to “ichthyology” in a beautifully illustrated volume on native Arkansas fish. “It means the study of fish,” we said, and we were surprised ourselves that we knew that, as well as the correct pronunciation, “ick-thee-ology,” which produced giggles and “ick” jokes from the kid and her little brother. Fun.

Sometimes, though, things happen that aren’t so, well, Norman Rockwell and wholesome. A teen-age boy came in one day and asked if we had any books on cars. Or so we thought. Though we aren’t covered with a layer of dust and our glasses are more for looks than anything else, apparently our hearing has waned a little bit in our 30-something years. Instead of just pointing him in the right direction, we decided a lesson on using the online card catalog was in order. He didn’t look all that interested, but we persisted. Teach a man how to fish, etc.

So we showed him how to type in the subject he wanted to search, and pulled up all the books on automobiles that we had. Antique Automobiles! Used Automobiles! Autos that Run on Vegetable Oil! How nice.

Then the kid gave us that look. The one we were giving adults not too many years ago ourselves — the one that says, “OK, I’m bored, but I’m gonna listen to you until you’re finished ’cause that’s the fastest way to get rid of you.” So after the run-down we left him on his own.

He played around with it a little, and then left the building hurriedly, with a rather smug look on his face. On the card catalog search page, in the subject line, the young man had typed, “Cards. How to Cheat in Cards.” We were a little shocked at first, and then we laughed our ass off. We wanted him to use the power of knowledge for Good, not Evil. But then again, maybe he will, the next time he decides to make a little extra cash among his “friends” by dealing a game of Three-Card Monty.

The Observer’s been thinking about traveling lately, planning a LFBK trip to Europe in the fall. (That’s “Last Fling Before Kids,” for those of you not up on your young(ish)-married-couple slang.) We’ve never been prone to germophobia, so those “Dateline” exposes about everything hotel chamber maids fail to remove from walls and bed linens never really succeeded in making us think much about who’d done what in our hotel room before we got there. But then we came across this poem at thesonnetproject.blogspot.com, the blog of a friend of the Observer’s who has undertaken the admirable, if curious, mission to write a sonnet every day for a year — the theory being, it would be almost impossible to write 365 bad sonnets in a row. (The Observer would humbly beg to differ. We’re pretty sure we could manage it.)

Anyway, what the investigative might of network TV journalism couldn’t do, our friend has, with these 14 lines:

#82: July 14, 2006

Who had this room before? Last night, let’s say —-

young lovers, having told their parents lies

to steal off on a secret getaway,

covered by pseudonyms and alibis

And sheets smelling of bleach? And was the sun

blocked by vinyl-lined curtains thick with dust?

Was that star spanked and spurred and made to run,

racing the fire-fueled engine of their lust?

Or did the soap-streaked bathroom mirror see

a pair of children jumping on the beds,

their folks exasperated, old as we,

gray hairs comically windswept on their heads —

Negotiating quiet for ice cream,

and hoping like all hell the sheets are clean?


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