By Patrick M. Tracy
“This is not acceptable,” Charlene squawked, her fists planted on her bony hips, her head canted to one side like a judgemental stork. Edith did her best not to make eye contact. It only encouraged Charlene to be more of a monster than she was under normal circumstances. The fact that Charlene represented a non-profit that, nominally, worked for the betterment of society seemed like the hand of galactic irony at play.
“These…” Edith began to say her carefully-worded response, but to no avail.
“I don’t care. When we come, I demand that we have a tech support person on standby to help any presenter. It’s the way things are done in the real world, you know.” Charlene looked around the reception area and at the library beyond, dismissive. “Not that any of you would make it in the private sector. This place is a haven for malingerers and mental midgets, I swear.”
Edith breathed and counted to five before answering. “Ms. Brentworth, you changed the reservation time this morning, and nothing in the paperwork indicated you even wanted to use our telecommunication system.”
“Are you whining? Are you justifying the…amateur hour that you run here? One should simply assume that a basic level of service should be…”
Edith was surprised that she’d arisen from her desk, and that her hand boomed with sudden, sharp pain. Charlene was on the ground, a horrified look on her face, blood just now starting to bloom from her nose and upper lip.
“What on earth?” she whispered. “You hit me. You bitch! You punched me!”
Edith suddenly felt free. Her spirit took off from her body like a kite being pulled by a freshening breeze off the ocean. She raised her foot and brought the hard heel of her Doc Marten boot down on Charlene’s face. The imperious non-profit tyrant made a squealing sound, slapping at Edith’s knees to no effect. Every time Edith’s foot descended, a bloom of joy burst in her chest. She didn’t stop until it sounded like she was stepping down on a broken melon.
Edith thought it best that she not look down. Later, it was easy enough to track her progress to the staff elevator, and out to the curb near the street, where she was found, slowly smoking down her clove-flavored cigarette. In the back of the police cruiser, one of the cops looked back at her, wide-eyed.
“Why’d you do it?”
Edith smiled slightly. The full impact of what she’d done was just now settling upon her shoulders. “People have to learn to stop fucking with librarians.”