Mr. Reginald Swinebottom Presents...

Mr. Swinebottom Presents: The Author, A Librarian and A Tale of Fright (Humor)

The curtain rustles and Mr. Swinebottom sticks his head out through a parting, appearing quite abruptly. For a moment, he appears to be a floating head, his rounded spectacles flashing against the stage lighting eerily. He gathers himself and walks through the parting, dusting off the invisible lint on his pressed pants and tail coat.

“Ladies and gentleman, I know we’re currently in the middle of “The Tale of the Terrible Traffic”, but for your viewing pleasure tonight, we’ll be adding a special vignette to this evening’s intermission. With us backstage is the saint–or as you know, the author’s spouse. He will be debuting with us tonight. So please, gather your wits, or what you have left of them, sit back and prepare to be…entertained…”

An orchestra underneath the stage erupts into a fanfare of trumpeting and cymbals. Mr. Swinebottom jumps and runs to his stool for safety, startled by the sudden appearance of live music. He glares at the blog writer and flicks on his reading lamp curtly, mumbling about dirty tricks and a lack of respect for artists. He adjusts his spectacles tightly and readies his script.

“Our story begins on one cold, November evening…”

The curtain parts and a spotlight settles on the author and a man, the author’s dashing, ever-so-patient husband. The audience can see rows of bookshelves with patrons milling about, finding treasured books to check out and bring home. The author is hiding behind her spouse, clutching a book against her chest at the library’s entrance. She’s peering about as if half-expecting someone to lunge at them.

“I think you should talk to them,” the man is saying patiently. “You’re the author.”

“Will you do it for me, please?” the woman whispers back, offering a timid smile. “I’m…I’m too scared. They might bite me.”

With a sigh quickly covered by a smile, the saint takes the book and walks to the front desk counter. Quicker than a flash, the author scurries to the horror section of the library, hiding.

“They’ll never find me here!” she says triumphantly. “Oh, I can see what Shirley Jackson novels they have…”

“The author,” Mr. Swinebottom chimes in again, “fails to remember she is a horror author and that, perhaps, this would be the one section a librarian would look for her in. But, I digress…”

The audience chuckles lightheartedly. The saint turns away from the check-out counter to glare at the narrator before turning back to the play.

“Is there a form to fill out?” the saint asks. “To donate the book, officially? She’s a local author.”

The librarian turns to check, disappearing into a back office. The author approaches, eagerly carrying three Shirley Jackson novels, all fears momentarily forgotten in her glee.

“Could you fill this form out for me?” the saint asks as the librarian returns with the paper, catching the author quite off guard. “Then I’ll check these books out for you…”

“The author, it must be said, has no power under the saint’s smile. Instead of running out into the parking lot, past the stop light, and then home to hide under her comforter, she found herself picking up the pen and obediently filling out the tiny lines and boxes. Name, book title, library to be held at…Once, twice, thrice she attempted to write her e-mail address…”

“That’s sloppy isn’t it? I can cross it out…Oh, that’s the wrong one…Give me a second, I’ll draw an arrow and they’ll know where to look…”

“The saint looked on, nodding in encouragement. The author looked up, catching him smiling. Her heart popped out of her chest and thumped away, doing a tap dance right out into the parking lot before circling back inside in a dramatic waltz.”

The narrator and audience stop to watch the heart perform a final dance number routine before popping back up into the author’s body, disappearing. Someone from the audience shouts “Encore!” before being hushed by their mother.

The saint turns in the completed form and walks out with the author, holding her library books. He steers her safely away from approaching cars as a glazed look settles onto her face.

“There, that wasn’t too bad, was it?” the saint asks gently. “We did it!”

The couple get into their car, the saint holding the door open for the shaking author.

“The form is online,” her spouse mentions, buckling up. “So maybe with the next book, we can fill it out ahead of time.”

“Next time we’ll do a drive-by booking,” the author announces briskly, breaking momentarily from her trance. “We’ll drop it in their return bin with the form inside the pages. We’ll drive away, cackling like fiends! They’ll never know it was us, but they’ll have a copy all the same! It’s genius, I say–brilliance, defined!”

The curtain closes on the saint, smiling and shaking his head knowingly. A car engine starts, the noise disappearing into the distance as they return home.

“And so ladies and gentleman, here our vignette ends. The short, yet fanciful tale of our young author, venturing out into the world of having her book on an actual library’s shelves. Will she return and try signing her book, a la Breakfast at Tiffany’s? Or will she have a moral dilemma and run out of the library screaming, clutching her ballpoint pen and shouting lines from Hamlet? This is Reginald Swinebottom Presents and, at this point, we can only guess at what our author will do next. Thank you for joining us.”

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