April 9, 2015 – Last night was the first meeting I attended as the new Library Trustee. It was supposed to have been held the week before, but was canceled due to a leak in the water main that runs in front of the library. Sawyer came with me, as it is not wise for a hen to travel alone once the sun goes down, even if it’s only down the street and the destination is well-lit. She didn’t come into the meeting room with me, deferring instead to peruse the new line of cookbooks that Lola the nice librarian put out on the shelves earlier in the week. I was a little nervous, so I was glad that Sawyer was nearby waiting for me.
I was greeted in the large conference room by two other trustees, who until that very moment, I did not know existed. A tall, thin man with a kind face rose out from the leather swivel chair he had been sitting in and stretched out his hand to greet me.
“Glad to know ya, Happy!” he said with a lopsided grin. “I’m Harry Heffernan… of Heffernan Home Heating and Cooling? Anyway, welcome to the library… officially, that is. So sorry I missed the election and your swearing-in ceremony. I was in Fort Lauderdale with my wife at the time. The navel oranges down there are super, aren’t they?! I drove nothing but a golf cart all month. Even to the market! Fourteen MPH Straight down the sidewalk without a lick of gasoline. Imagine that! C’mon in and have a seat. Pick anyone you want!”
There were twelve chairs and only two were occupied. I stuttered for a moment, not prepared to make a decision so early in my tenure. I quickly climbed into the one directly across from Harry and tried to settle my breathing.
“Happy, I’d like to introduce you to Marilyn Tightklutcher. She’s lived in town her entire life and has been a library trustee for the past 27 years.”
“Tightklutcher?” I gasped. I slowly swiveled my chair until I was facing the woman seated at the end of the table. “Are you related by chance, to Eunice Tightklutcher?” I could feel my comb and wattle rush with heat.
“She’s a cousin of mine,” Marilyn answered with a pained expression. “I am well aware of the difficult situation she presented for you,” she said. “I want you to know that I do not share the same views as Eunice. In fact, we’ve been estranged for many years due to her… odd behavior. It’s been difficult being on the library board with Eunice as head librarian. Harry has been the one to deal with her directly. I hope you understand why I stayed in the background during the election. As much as I did not want Eunice to win, she is family, and it wouldn’t have looked right for me to campaign against her. In any event, I am thrilled to meet you and have you on our team.”
“Marilyn was planning on retiring if you didn’t win,” Harry piped up. Marilyn looked down as if she were ashamed by the admission. “Thank goodness that’s not going to happen now!” he added cheerfully. “So… we’ve been on this board for eons, Hap. Do you mind if I call you Hap?”
I shook my head, no.
“Great. Anyways… it’s awfully difficult getting new talent. Everyone seems to love the library, but nobody wants to put in the time to deal with the administration. We’re thrilled to have you onboard. I’ll bring you up to speed. Here’s a copy of the budget, here’s a line item description of what needs to get repaired over the next couple of years, and here’s a flyer about the book sale they’re having here next Saturday. My wife is making cupcakes. If we ever have a chili sale, I’m your guy, but I’m not much of a baker.”
“My campaign manager and best friend, Sawyer is a terrific baker,” I heard myself say. “She makes the tastiest raspberry scones in the world!”
“Super!” Harry gushed. “Let’s put her down for 3 dozen. Does that sound about right, Marilyn?”
“Three dozen would be wonderful!” said Eunice’s cousin and she quickly jotted down my pledge of baked goods in a little blue notebook covered in a print of pink and white peonies. I hoped Sawyer wouldn’t be too upset with me. It was a nervous blurt.
“Happy, what ideas do you have for the library?” asked Marilyn. It was so difficult to trust this woman simply because of her lineage. But her eyes were warm and gentle and her dimpled smile washed away any reservations.
“Well,” I began, leaning my elbows on the table. “I have a short list that I composed during my campaign. Shall I read it?”
“By all means,” urged Marilyn.
“Please do,” invited Harry.
I took a steady breath and began to read off the items that I had deemed of critical importance.
1. Update the rules and regulations to reflect equal access to the library for all citizens of this town regardless of species.
2. Lower a section of the circulation desk so chickens can converse with a librarian without having to shove their heads into the book return slot.
3. Let the public vote on which title should be the Book of the Month. Not everyone likes “17th Century Poems of Love”. Though I speak Swan and thoroughly enjoyed “Ode to a Trumpeter Heart”.
4. There should be better lighting in the stairwell, as well as a pet door.
5. Books for children and small animals should be on the lower shelves where they are easy to reach. Books for taller animals and adults should be higher up.
6. I didn’t put anything for number six. Peaches told me that six is the devil’s number and after that, I didn’t sleep for three days. Every time I see that number now, it reminds me of an egg with a tail. (I shivered for emphasis.)
7. Order more cookbooks. (This last one was a campaign promise I made to Sawyer.)
When I was finished reading, I looked up at Harry and Marilyn. For a few seconds, no one spoke. My eyes grew large thinking that perhaps I had taken their hospitality too far. Then Harry stood and after him, Marilyn stood, and they both began to clap enthusiastically.
“Well whad’ya know?!” Harry laughed. “We haven’t had a fresh idea to split between the two of us for years. Then in walks a beautiful hen and suddenly we’re reenergized!”
“Happy, your ideas are invigorating!” gushed Marilyn. “Finally, something significant to work towards! I think I might actually like coming to these meetings again! No offense, Harry.”
“None taken, Marilyn! I wholeheartedly agree!”
After that, Marilyn made a motion to adjourn and Harry seconded. The team would take my suggestion list and break it into action items at the May meeting. Harry and Marilyn bid their adieus and left through the back stairwell. A few minutes later, Sawyer poked her head through the door.
“Finished already?” she asked.
“Yup!” I replied hopping down from the chair with a bounce.
“Well… how’d it go?”
“I got a standing ovation.”
“No kidding?” she laughed. “That’s wonderful! What about the cookbooks?”
“They loved the idea!”
“And access for everyone?”
“Behind it 100%!”
“Whoo Hoo!!” Sawyer clucked pumping her wing. “Could this day get any better?!”
“How do you feel about whipping up a few batches of raspberry scones for the book sale next weekend?”
“Will there be cookbooks to purchase?”
“I image so,” I replied.
“Then I suppose I should get myself to the market and stock up on supplies.”
“Let’s go tomorrow,” I said as we walked down the stairs to the parking lot. “On the way back we can stop at the coin and stamp collectors store. We definitely earned ourselves a treat.”
“Definitely,” Sawyer agreed.
I still haven’t told Sawyer about Marilyn’s connection to Eunice. I may never.