Libraries aren’t just for books, or even e-books, anymore. They are for checking out cake pans (North Haven, Conn.), snowshoes (Biddeford, Me.), telescopes and microscopes (Ann Arbor, Mich.), American Girl dolls (Lewiston, Me.), fishing rods (Grand Rapids, Minn.), Frisbees and Wiffle balls (Mesa, Ariz.) and mobile hot spot devices (New York and Chicago).
Here in Sacramento, where people can check out sewing machines, ukuleles, GoPro cameras and board games, the new service is called the Library of Things.
“The move toward electronic content has given us an opportunity to re-evaluate our physical spaces and enhance our role as a community hub,” said Larry Neal, the president of the Public Library Association, a division of the American Library Association, which represents 9,000 public libraries. “The web is swell,” he added, “but it can feel impersonal.
I am quite frankly unsure what this is—a fairy tale? A fable? Something slightly less than that? Let’s just say that this is a weekend, and I thought the word “timekeeper,” and this is what happened. Practice for other things, maybe. We’ll see.
Once, in an eddy of a history that might be yours or mine, there lived a timekeeper. As timekeepers do, she made and sold pieces of time, such pieces as might be fixed with a chain, nestled in a vest pocket, or set upon a mantel such as yours or mine; and, as timekeepers do, she kept time itself for herself.
The timekeeper was beautiful. She had always been the most beautiful girl in the seaside village, the most desired of creatures, with eyes and hair of darkest black. Her hair was still as black as night itself, although of course a timekeeper’s nights are not like yours or mine: night is the time she keeps, the time she saves.
The timekeeper lived alone, as timekeepers do; she seemed to share regularly the company of no other creatures, save a turtle she called Clepsydra, whom she visited by the sea every day, rain or shine, or perhaps it was Clepsydra who visited her, for a sea turtle is no housepet such as your dog or my cat.
She lived long, the timekeeper, as timekeepers do. She lived long, and she waited for the one who would become her apprentice. And in time, a shorter time than she had expected, a mother and a father brought their daughter to her. “She wishes to apprentice herself to you,” said the mother, gesturing to her very young daughter.
“I’ve never cared much for New Years,” she says, heels clicking in the hospital parking lot.
“Yeah?” He can’t think of anything more intelligent at the moment, still remembering the way her lips moulded to his. Her upper lip had been softer than he’d thought possible, and her lower lip had slid against his so gently it took his breath away.
“I’ve always been more of an Arbor Day girl,” she says. Her voice is light in a way he doesn’t know he’s heard before.
“Veteran’s Day for me,” Mulder says, finally thinking of something to say.
“A federal holiday. Always trying to get out of the office, huh?”
He spreads his arms out wide, the bottom of his coat flapping in the wind. “This is where all the good stuff happens.”
She smiles, and the harsh light in the parking lot shines off one of her teeth. It is oddly intimate.
“Listen,” she says, speaking in that slow, luxurious way she does after midnight. He wonders if she means to or not. “My cabinets at home are practically empty and no grocery store will be open now–”
Before he can stop himself he blurts out, “If you want to come over, Scully, all you have to do is ask.”
She laughs, that rare short bark of disbelief that always takes him by surprise. Her next words are even more extraordinary. “I was going to ask if you wanted to get dinner somewhere, but if you’re offering your home, I’d much rather get tipsy in a familiar place.”
He’d always hoped it would be like this; that if they ever kissed it would be as if nothing had changed. That if they knew each other in that way, they would always still have this playful, easy banter that left him feeling like a stuttering undergraduate.
“I wonder how humans rang in the last new millennium,” he says. They’re at her car now, leaning against it, despite the thick layer of salt that cakes all cars this time of year. Hers is no exception, though he finds everything about her exceptional.
“Probably asleep, if they had any sense,” Scully answers, her lips twisting in a smile.
“Despite your best efforts to prove me wrong, I’ve never thought of myself as a sensible guy,” he says boldly.
“That’s funny,” she says, leaning down to unlock her car. “Neither have I.” She tosses her bag in the passenger seat and then says breezily, “So I’ll follow you?”