My eyes nearly became as wide as Tolstoy’s War and Peace. I wasn’t typically one to blanch over late fees — not since my first week on the job when I’d seen a fine reach the thousands by someone who had done a runner with half the art coffee table books and a sizeable amount of DVDs — but what I was currently seeing on the computer monitor would’ve made even the most stalwart of librarians do a double-take. A chunk of change like this could easily fund a refurbishment project!
“Hey, Constance, have you ever heard of Archibald Harvey?”
“Sure, my Grandpa knew him and used to tell me stories about him. After he retired he sold off all his farmland so he could ‘travel the world.’ Grandpa always said he was a little… quirky, but I think he meant ‘unstable.'”
“Well, I think I’ve just uncovered a major bug in our system on his account…”
“What, Jessie the Technophobe Library Ghost messing with the computers, or just our awful new ILS screwing things up again?”
I shrugged. Either was quite possible, really. “Instead of charging the cost of the books that were never returned onto his account, it’s just kept accruing the overdue fines on them…”
“What?! No way! When were they due?”
“June 27th…” I paused, for dramatic effect, “1952.”
“And… just how many books does he have sixty-four years late?”
“He maxed out his check-out limit of fifty items on travel guides, particularly books on Egypt. One was a special collections title, Ancient Egyptian Relics and Where to Find Them. Who approved even circulating that?” I huffed under my breath.
“Probably Jessie…” Constance smirked.
I swear I felt a cold breeze across the back of my neck and heard a book suddenly fall off a shelf in the corner, further adding to my goosebumps.
“So, thanks to this little system glitch, currently Mr. Harvey’s account has a late fee of $234,660.”
“Is this Mr. Harvey still around?” I asked.
“Oh, Grandpa passed away back in the ’80s, I’m sure Mr. Harvey would have as well… though the last Grandpa had heard was that he’d left for Egypt after selling his land here in Riverview and no one had ever heard from him again.”
“But… but… then whatever happened to all those books, Constance?”
Now it was her turn to shrug.
It didn’t sit well with me. Sure, it had been sixty-four years, but those books where still out there, I had a feeling… and it was time for them to come home. They had been wracking up that late fee long enough! “Ancient Egyptian Relics and Where to Find Them, huh?”
Retracing Archibald Harvey’s steps from sixty-four years ago had turned into quite the research project; thankfully a librarian was on the case! I would tear Egypt apart looking for those lost books if I had to!
“Now, remember, Casanova, this is a sacred site, filled with rich historic and cultural value, so don’t touch anything! …Wooooooooah, would you look at that! I can’t believe I’m really in an Egyptian tomb!”
“Casanova! What did I just say about not touching!” I let out a long sigh. “And to think the Egyptians actually worshipped your furry tail-end…”
No sooner had I walked down the first staircase into the tomb and pulled out a heiroglyphics guide to transcribe the plate by the door, I heard a scraping of sand in the corner.
“Oh dear Isis, no! Casanova! You can’t just use someone’s remains as a litterbox! That’s disrespectful! What if we are cursed by Seshat and I’m never able to write a short story again? Bad kitty! Bad bad kitty!”
Casanova, for his part, didn’t seem to care too much about the very real threat of being cursed by the Egyptian Goddess of Writing, and proceeded to desecrate the deceased, burying his business thoroughly and looking quite pleased with himself. The horrifying thought occured to me that this could be Mr. Archibald Harvey, and that we could not only never find his stash of late library books, but probably look much like that skeleton before ever finding the exit to the tomb.
I should’ve left the cat at home. Casanova destroying everything I own while I was away would’ve been a small price to pay. I sighed again, as I headed to the next corridor.
“Woah, Casanova, careful, I think–”
My cat, completely oblivious despite the fact I read to him aloud Tomb Etiquette 101 on the long flight over, much to the chagrin of every other passenger on Egyptian Air Flight 1081, ran straight over to a discolored floor plate in his quest to swat a locust. We were here for overdue library books, not locusts, and now likely sharp spikes were going to impale us from all angles and we were going to die a terrible, miserable death……
……Or a hidden staircase was going to appear.
“Oh, now that’s a good kitty! Hang on, I think I have some treats in my pocket…”
His ears immediately perked up.
“All right! Now that looks like a great place to keep your reference materials safe while looting a tomb, right, Casanova?” I asked my cat as I stuck my head into the chest, giddy at the thought of getting that pay-off of dusty old library books.
My only answer was the clink-clink-clink of the cat swatting around his new favorite plaything, a bunch of old coins he found on the floor. I let out a sigh.
“No books.” It was obvious from my tone how crestfallen I felt, not that my cat cared in the slightest, he was on cloud nine watching coins fly across the stone floor and then chasing after them. Before he could manage to lodge too many in strange places, I decided to take them; if nothing else, maybe the whole tomb experience would pay off the late fee in ancient Egyptian coinage. It still wouldn’t be the same as actually recovering the books, though.
We traveled further into the tomb. I was starting to get sweaty, thirsty, and exceedingly more impatient with my tomb-raiding companion.
“Casanova, I’ve already told you several times now that skeletal remains are not cat toys! Stop attacking that skull!”
“Meeeeeeeeeow maaaow, maaow, meeeeeeeeow!”
“Oh, honestly, stop your incessant whining! I’m the one doing all the work here, you aren’t even helping push! What makes you think you deserve a treat now? …It was a mistake to even let you know I brought your treats in with my rations, you know that?”
“Holy Sekhmet, Casanova, how in the world did you get over there! Ohmygod ohmygod, don’t panic baby, Mommy’s coming to get you!”
As my world turned black, I heard the faint sound of the cat bell jingling on Casanova’s collar whenever he scratched behind an ear.
Needless to say, I was not particularly amused by my cat’s penchant for setting off traps while managing to flawlessly avoid them himself.
The only positive to the whole trap debacle is that I felt like something good must be nearby. Why rig a trap for no pay-off? It got me curious enough to start checking the walls for any that sounded hollow on the other side, and sure enough, I found one that gave way.
“Casanova, look!” I knew the smell wafting from that room in a second. Old book smell. Jackpot! “Archibald Harvey’s late book stash… and from the amount in here, I wouldn’t be surprised if he has some late returns from a few other libraries in here, too!”
The cat, naturally, plopped himself onto the highest tower of books he could reach and gave a smug sort of look, as if he were the one that did all the work.
“So guess who found Archibald Harvey’s late library books? This librarian, that’s who!” Okay, I was gloating a little bit, but they were sixty-four years late, and had been retrieved out of an Egyptian tomb just to be returned! I think I was due a few bragging rights. “So, Employee of the Month…?”
“Oh, well, we decided to give Employee of the Month to Cody while you were gone. He makes really amazing cookies, after all.”
“Oh. Fair enough.”
“Also, I have found a copy of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War which has been overdue since 1968, and apparently that patron took it on a trip to the Temple of Heaven in Shang Simla. Feel up to retrieving it?”
My amazing mood immediately rushed out of my lungs. I could feel my lower lip quiver a bit. What had I gotten myself into?
“If I did… would you house-sit my cat?”
She glanced over at Casanova, who paused in grooming his genitals just long enough to give her that look.
“Not a chance.”
This was written for the September Monthly Short Story Challenge from the Sims forums, which tasked folks to write a story in 500-1500 words using 1-12 screencaps using the theme “Late.” I used 1,497 words and 12 screencaps. It is a completely stand-alone story, and features my Simself. If anyone is crazy enough to want her in their game, she is available for download from SilverDaybreak’s Simself Scroll in both Sims 3 and Sims 4 flavors. Casanova is also available with the Sims 3 version!
All month I was trying to come up with what angle I wanted to take on “late,” when finally I decided on “late library book” and once I knew that, I knew I wanted to do something really ridiculous and silly. I was tossing around ideas with my friend and coworker Cody (yes, the cookie master himself) when he mentioned a “ninja librarian breaking through a trap-filled mansion to retrieve a late book” which made me realize… TS3 already has something like that in the form of the World Adventures tombs, and I have never once played with that expansion pack even though I’ve owned it now for a year! So that was a lot of fun. And yes, the title is totally supposed to be a parody of a certain famous adventure movie franchise, and made me snerk like a prepubescent.
The librarian tales are a mix of fact and fiction… but it is a lot more fun to keep you guessing on that. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go remove sand from my shoes. ^_~