“Snooky Bear hasn’t been acting herself,” said Sissy Struthers at the library desk. Sissy had wild hair and judged books by their covers. New, shiny, sultry–a well-conceived cover graphic trumped the story every time.
“In this one,” she said, displaying a cover of a surly cat staring down a middle-aged woman, “a cat-whisperer falls in love with a client’s owner. It doesn’t seem like much of a love story, but I’m hoping it’ll give me insight into Snooky Bear’s recent behavior.”
There were a dozen books on the counter for checkout, and a dozen more in the return pile. Sissy came in two times a week—sometimes three—each book she brought back smelling of cat dander and cigarettes. The librarians took turns fanning them over charcoal in the smoke box.
“She won’t even chase the red dot,” said Sissy, scooping her checkouts into an old blue backpack. From the bag’s front pocket she pulled two wrinkled photographs. “This is my last cat, Winifred, at the vet before she was put down. And here she is with her favorite yarn ball. The way Winifred acted then is how Snooky Bear’s acting now. I don’t know if I can go through that again.” She sighed and shook her head.
“Estuse me,” said a girl walking up to the counter. “Do you have the Jussin Bieber movie?” One hand palmed her left hip while the other stretched her Dora the Explorer necklace like a slingshot. Her name was Myra. She was four years old and came in every weekend with her mom and brother. She knew all three High School Musical soundtracks by heart, and her literary tastes were of the princess variety.
“Who’s Justin Bieber?” Sissy asked, looking down.
“What? You don’ know Jussin Bieber?” She released her necklace and suppressed a wince from the backlash. “He’s only the bestest, cutest singer ever!” She looked as though she might start dancing any moment.
“Is that your cat?” Myra poked at the vet photo.
“Yes, that’s Winifred. Right before she was put down.”
“Put down where?”
Sissy frowned, choosing her words. “Put to sleep.”
Myra squinted and said, “Ohhhh.” Her head tipped back as though weighted by the word. “My cat puts to sleep all the time. It’s so boring.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“If your cat’s being boring, you should watch High School Musical with her. The songs will cheer her up and she’ll be fun again. Here, I’ll show you.”
Myra led Sissy to the Family Movies shelf and pointed just out of reach.
“Ooh, nice cover,” said Sissy. “Thank you.”
Sissy checked out the movie and then left with a renewed energy, her backpack bouncing behind her.