My ideal day would be spent in the office, focusing on the tasks I’d set out for myself, ending the day at precisely 5 pm with a strike-through of the final item on my To Do list. In my twenty-three years as director of the library in Chilson, Michigan, can you imagine how many times I’ve been able to do that?
There’s a knock on my door, loud enough to hear over the rain that’s lashing at my windows. Without waiting for my instruction, the door opens. “Morning, Stephen. We have a little problem.”
Zero. I’ve never been able to have an ideal day. Ever.
I sigh and take off my reading glasses. “Minnie. What’s the problem now?”
My assistant, a short young woman with too much curly black hair and more energy than I’ve had in years, marches up to my desk. “There’s a leak.”
A leak. My library is the result of over a million dollars spent renovating an old school. The project was completed barely three years ago and there is no possible way we should have any problems. Someone is going to pay for this, and pay dearly. “In which bathroom? Or is it the break room?”
But Minnie is shaking her head. “The roof. There’s a leak in the main room.”
“What?” I’m on my feet and out of my office. As I descend the stairs, Minnie dogs my heels, talking all the way down.
“It’s this rain and wind,” she’s saying. “One of the weather guys was talking about those straight line winds. You know, the ones that get up to a hundred miles an hour? Anyway, we must have had something close to that because there’s damage to roofs all over town.”
But I don’t care about the other roofs. The only one that matters is my library’s. I bang through the door at the bottom of the stairway, and stride down the hallway, my hands balled up into fists. If any of my books were damaged, if anything had happened to my shelving, if there had been the smallest amount of damage to my carpet, heads were going to—
At the entrance to the main room, I stop in my tracks. A small army of construction workers is attaching the largest piece of clear plastic I’ve ever seen to the ceiling.
“I was at the reference desk,” Minnie is saying, “when I heard the first drop come down. I got out the ladder and put a bucket on top of the bookshelf.”
Into my mind pops an image of five-foot tall Minnie teetering on the top step of a ladder, frantically trying to push a bucket into the proper place. I cough away a smile and stand there, fists on my hips, surveying the work.
“After I made sure there weren’t any more leaks,” Minnie was saying, “I looked up the name of the original contractor and gave him a call. He sent these guys right over.”
“Hmmph,” I say. “What’s the extent of the damage?”
“Until the rain stops they can’t be sure, but Roger here, he’s the foreman” –she nods at a capable-looking man with graying hair– “went up for a quick look and he thinks a couple of shingles blew off. They’ll do the roof repairs as soon as the weather lets up.”
I scan the ceiling and saw no other signs of leakage. Study the workers on their ladders. “What kind of tape are they using?” I point at the bright blue rolls being used to hold the plastic in place. “If that damages the paint on the ceiling, I am not, I repeat not, going to pay for the repainting costs.”
Minnie is shaking her head. “Roger says it’s special tape, made so it doesn’t hurt paint.”
I stand there for a few moments, looking for other things that could go wrong, but I can’t find anything. “It appears,” I finally say, “that you have things well in hand.”
“All I did was make a phone call.” Minnie half-shrugs. “Roger’s taking care of everything else.”
But what she hadn’t done was come running to me, all panicky and wide-eyed because there was a leak in the roof. She’d taken care of the problem herself, and taken care of it properly. I couldn’t think how I’d have done it differently myself.
I gave her a curt nod. “Let me know if there are any other issues,” I said, and headed back to my office.
Halfway up the stairs, I started whistling. Maybe it wasn’t an ideal day, but with a little luck, maybe I’d be able to have an ideal afternoon.
You can read more about Stephen in Tailing a Tabby, the second book in the “Bookmobile Cat” mystery series, published by Obsidian. The first book in the series is Lending a Paw. Books are available at retail and online booksellers.
Comment on this post by 6 p.m. EST on July 9, and you will be entered for a chance to win a copy of TAILING A TABBY. One winner will be chosen at random. Unless specified, U.S. entries only.
Meet the author
Laurie Cass grew up in Michigan and graduated from Eastern Michigan University in the 80’s with a (mostly unused) Bachelor of Science degree in geology. Currently, Laurie and her husband share their house with two cats, the inestimable Eddie, and the adorably cute Sinii. When Laurie isn’t writing, she’s working at her day job, reading, yanking weeds out of her garden, or doing some variety of skiing.
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