Just The Facts, Ma’am

librarianOne of the many reasons I enjoy writing this blog is that it gives me the opportunity to do some creative writing.

While I’ve always enjoyed writing, story-telling is quite a challenge for me. I’m quite good at distilling mountains of information and providing a clear, coherent summary. I’m not as good at weaving an interesting story chock full of juicy details. For the most part, I’m OK with being a “Just the facts, Ma’am”-type of writer.

To help me broaden my horizons, I took an online creative writing class a few summers ago. The first assignment was to go some public place, observe the action and then write a vivid description. Below you can see my fledgling effort. Looking at it now, I can’t decide if the detail-rich account is surprisingly good or cringingly bad.

Lately, I’ve had the chance to hear masterful story-tellers share family stories, many of which have been passed down through generations. Once again, I have renewed appreciation for the art, joy and necessity of good story-telling. I think it’s time to sharpen my proverbial pencil and work to build my story-telling skills.

“Next, please.”

The abrupt command causes me to look up from the women’s magazine I’m skimming. The statement, while politely worded, is clearly an order, not a request. Who is this person with an imperious voice amidst the friendly commotion at our local library?

Curious, I turn my chair to view the busy check-out counter. A 50-something librarian is staring intently at the people bunched together under the “Check-out Line” sign. She’s using her laser gaze to command the appearance of the next person ready to be checked out.

The patron finally emerges. A frazzled mom scoops up her wandering toddler and darts around the cluster of people; she’s scurrying like a fourth grader summoned to the office by the school principal. The six-foot librarian stands behind the counter, watching her wayward customer approach.

According to a laminated employee badge, the librarian’s name is Elaine. I smile faintly at the coincidence. My name is Elaine, too. Interested to see if we had anything more in common, I observe my namesake more closely.

Elaine the librarian wears a peasant blouse in light pink with long, puffy sleeves and a tie at the neck. The light-weight material reveals that Elaine is wearing a black bra underneath to keep her DD-sized chest in check. A necklace with chunky brown- and pink-colored wood beads adds to her eclectic look.

Queen Elaine steps into full view when she strides to the stack of reserved books at the end of the counter. On her bottom half, she wears a white, ill-fitting summer skirt. Her pink blouse has a slight flare at the bottom which forms a roof for her ample hips. Through her sheer white tights, I see the bulge of an ace bandage wrapped around her right knee. Her blue leather sling-backs permit her to move quickly as she retrieves the reserved book.

I grimace and chuckle at the same time. Elaine the librarian and I do share another trait: we are both fashion-impaired.

Looking back at the tall librarian, I now see her grinning at the young boy who is balanced on his mom’s hip. She playfully asks him about his Sesame Street book as she reaches across the counter and gently takes the book from his small hands. For the first time, I notice that Elaine has a brace protecting her right wrist, the kind used by people who develop carpal tunnel syndrome after years of repetitive motion.

The whir from the printing receipt signals that the transaction is complete. “The books are due on June 5th. Here you go, sweetie,” Elaine says and hands back the Big Bird book to the eager child.


  • ann Says:
    7-15-2010 08:15:03

    what a great story. the reader is engaged and if (as i am) occasionally all too ready to leap to judgement based on imperious tone, a beyond horrendous outfit and a rather imposing six feet!

    and then the story takes a twist. the writer observes some signs of physical impairment and then…the looming librarian turns into a child-friendly, welcoming representative of one of the most wondeful places to return to–a library.

    i, the reader, am chastened by my all too rapid rush to judgement and it gives me something to think about in many situations, outside or libraries.

    great job, elaine.

  • Stacy Says:
    7-15-2010 11:38:29

    Duh…..you’re good! Why do you think I told you to start writing after you quit your job?! If this isn’t an excerpt from a book you are currently writing….it should be. :-)

  • Anne Says:
    7-20-2010 21:35:12

    yes, Elaine, really good. You’ve Got Talent!

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