Monday, October 28, 2013

Box in library

I arrived early at the Library today to be told a crate had been delivered for me. I am in charge of supplies at my Library, but things usually arrive in mundane boxes and the supplies tend to get spontaneously sucked into the Library ecosystem rather than directed to me personally. Nevertheless this was a crate, made of wood, and so specifically notable. It was made of rough planks of the sort you might find in palettes, sometimes gapped, sometimes smooth, and sometimes warped and furry. Every join of it was assembled and held together with screws and then reinforced with even more screws. It was festooned with screws. It was addressed not with corporate mass produced stickers, and computer generated labels, but with someone apparently having much fun with a wood burning set, the sort of thing that might be popular in creating a sign of the family name to nail onto the front post of a country home. The wood burning addressing was, unlike the traditional country home plaques, done with a deeply unschooled hand, and though readable, was childishly crude, and thus slightly charming. My name, my Library name, and a roughly accurate address were burned in deep, and deeply uneven, black grooved lettering on two sides of the box. Small sounds seemed to be issuing from the box.

In my experience there is no emergency and no special, unusual task at my Library for which we have at hand the proper tools. However, once you involve three or four of your co workers in a search, or if you merely look long enough yourself, you can usually find, bizarrely hidden, or in a wildly different context, the appropriate tool. Barring that, you will find, in the ramshackle place any large Library becomes, a roughly useable facsimile or substitute for the item you need. We found both. A Phillips head screwdriver was finally tracked down to a station of the book repairers (are many books screwed together these days?). However, the screwdriver proved to be annoyingly tedious with the plethora of screws, which were all small and at least partly stripped. Something vaguely resembling a crowbar, which may have been a slab of metal from some ancient boiler, was located in the garage. Prying the wood apart turned out to be the more expedient solution.

With two planks up I was able to get a look inside. At first sight there seemed to be nothing but straw and shreds of newspaper. But almost simultaneous with the animal smell that rose up, was movement. A small cat, really a kitten still, was inside emerging sloppily from sleep. I scooped it up. I interrupted its nap. It regarded me with irritated interest. It was a he. He wore a black collar with a hammered medal medallion that read "K."

I order supplies from administration. They send things to me in an erratic fashion. Something as simple as pens, or library cards, can, for no particular reason, take months of ordering and multiple requests, but at the same time nothing ever seems to be, in particular, off limits. My three month old request for "Cats (1), gray or black" seemed to have surprisingly paid off.

I got the cat a bowl of milk. My understanding is that you're not supposed to give cats cow's milk, but the cat seemed to like it quite a bit. I pet it. I called it Kafka. Then I had to go to work on the phones. The cat didn't mind. He seemed to have quite a few things to take care of already himself. He went off. I watched him admiringly. He walks like a drunk cat, but teeming with mysterious confidence as he does it. Two people almost tripped over him or around him, but he paid it no mind. Clearly he is not one of those cats who is fast, but rather one who controls the movement around him to express himself. I think he may be the sort of cat who can get done whatever he wants to get done if he ever decides he wants to get anything done. Nevertheless, I think our mice problem may be over. 

Not that we ever had a mice problem.


  1. Really, you finally have a kitty?! This is big news, really big!

    1. As you can see I am responding to this, what, maybe 8 months after the fact? I haven't written about kafka the cat in months and months, though it was my version of a running story line for a while around here.

      I think this was the first comment of many in that stream of cat tales about kafka, on blog and in person, that took the whole incident to be factual. It surprised me very much. The strange, outsized mystery box and the way it came, the nonplussed addition of a kitten to the library that's so dramatically different than how anything actually happens in an institution, I just never imagined anyone would take it as anything other than a fairytale. But most writers know, though we may struggle with it, or find it uncomfortable, we are not the last word on what we write. And though I wrote this piece as a piece of pure, wish fulfillment fiction, I am pleased and surprised to report that...

      yes, we finally have a kitty. More a cat now, frankly. I can see him now. He is playing with a picture book. I think he is learning to turn pages, delicately, though a small amount of ripping may be happening. I better go get him. I have some sardines in the break room for him anyway that he'll be wanting.


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