Legs in the Library

Clack of keys, clunk of a space bar on computer number 6. Cell phone ring tone. The Library is no longer a quiet place to curl up with a book to study. It is the lifeblood of a community buzzing with activity for many people.

A boy and his father ask me to help them find something about Thales.

“We tried searching the catalog, but we didn’t get any hits,” the father said.

“I’ve never heard of him, tell me about him,” I ask the boy, who is probably in junior high.

“He was a Greek mathematician and philosopher,” he says.

“Well we might not have a book just about him, but I know we’ll find something.”  I take him to the Concise Rutledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. It’s only a paragraph and the kid frowns.

“That’s what I got from the encyclopedia at my school library.”

“Is it too late to pick someone else?” The father asks his son.

“I’m not giving up that easy. Let’s go over to math and science,” I say.

We walk around the Atlases, pass the model of the Heroine bay boat and I snag the Biographical Dictionary of Mathematicians.

I skim Volume 4 for Thales and read the entry out loud. “Thales is considered by Aristotle to be the “founder” of Ionian natural philosophy,” or metaphysics. I hand the book over, “There are four pages on Thales. You can make copies up front.”

My dorky excitement is contagious and spreading like a wildfire as I see the same smile on both faces. “Thanks,” the son says without any prompting from his dad.

A Patron gives me a Frank and Ernest comic. Three pirates talk on board a ship. One pirate says to another about the third, who stands on a peg leg and has a contraption on his left arm, “He’s the most obsessively neat captain I’ve ever worked for – he has a Dust buster instead of a hook.” I did a book review for Treasure Island a few years ago, and many people knows about my obsession with anything one-legged. In fact, lots of the staff knows about my bonfire of desire to read anything about lost legs. A  coworker in circulation emailed a story about Molly the Pony, a Louisiana pony who lost her leg after a dog bite and was fitted with a prosthesis.

“We’ve already got the book,” I tell her, thanking her and reminding her to stay on the lookout for stories about humans and animals missing a leg. A picture of Molly, her caretaker, My wife Susan, and I rests on my desk at home from when Molly came to Page and Palette, our local bookstore.


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