Tuesday, April 8, 2014


It has been at least ten years since I've seen him, probably more. I imagine him dead for reasons that may soon seem apparent to you. He was a library regular for awhile. I had no great rapport with him, but I can picture him vividly and still remember his name.

For a stretch of a few years he came in three or four times a week to the library, always with his adorable, uncertain, round little daughter in tow. He was gruff and a little bit distant, perhaps preoccupied with cares and illness. He liked to sit in one of the chairs in front of what was then our young DVD collection. His daughter would come back and forth to him, maybe from ventures to the children's room. He read. I don't remember what. It was a library. He had a lot to choose from. And he napped.

He was also notably fat. Hugely fat. His corpulence seemed to swell up all around his face, the only part of him that was unable to get bigger. He was not the absolute fattest person I have ever seen in my library, and generally enough I take people's weights as they come, but there was a certain alarming decrepitness to his obesity. Somehow all his great flesh wasn't staying on the frame of his body so well. He would wrap himself in rolls of elastic bandages, yards and yards of bandages, like some enormous swollen mummy, all to hold himself together, to hold his fat and flesh to his frame.

One day his little girl came up to me at what then would have been the registration desk. She was scared, scared at the situation, scared at being alone, scared at having to seek help from strangers. Her fear itself was heartbreaking.

"I can't wake my dad up." She said.

We went together to the man. He made a small mountain of his chair. His eyes were closed and not a single thing about him moved. There was no sign of consciousness, presence, heartbeat, or breath. 

"Sir!" I called close to his ear. Nothing. I inspected him. A librarian I still work with now joined me. We circled the situation. We made noise. We shook his chair and started imagining that he was dead. It was my colleague, I believe, who grasped his meaty shoulder and shook. He breathed in, a loud sucking of air like in the movies when some hero victim has his chest pounded on by some other hero yelling "Live, dammit, live!" and nothing happens and nothing happens and then


And he stirred, and roused, and said "I must have dozed off." Like it was nothing. And maybe it was. But it was hard not to think he was not long for our world. Anyone who could just take a nap in a library and accidentally almost slip into death is walking a fine line. I felt it. I swear that little kid felt it too.

Death had come to the library, but it decided, in the end, not to check anything out.


  1. Wow! What a gripping story. I'm glad he didn't die as that would have been difficult I bet.

  2. Oh yeah, very difficult indeed. I got the librarian involved to read this to see if she remembered. She did, but was surprised she touched a patron! She didn't remember that.


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