The Old Library

Look up the town. There's little in Sulligent now: a grocery store once called this, now called that. Factories which did hemming and piecing and stitching have been long gone. Restaurants all shuttered but a few.

It jolts to see that the school still stands almost the same. But there's no celebratory line around the block for hours and hours after a football win. Or after a loss, too. The block would be so packed with cars cruising speeds barely called miles per hour that you'd be better off to jump out of the truck's door, run up to the car full of girls, and see if you could join the slow ride with them. Or even walk beside the car door and chat. Worse case scenario after their negation of your flirtation is that your buddies were mere feet behind you in their ride, highly likely revving the engine for boisterous attention which did little but annoy. At least they had whisky.

The Den would be packed, so stop there for some burgers and fries, were they still serving at that hour. Play some pool, too. Lose a few dollars. Walk across the street where the gravel side of the parking lot made a perfect spot to sit on the hoods of cars and see who was driving in either direction. Holler at 'em. They may stop. Some did.

At some point years and years before, we all ended up in the old library not even one-hundred yards from Front Street. We were there for one thing or another. A book. A field trip a short walk away from both the elementary and high school. It looked haunted, always did. And it likely was. Rumors of ghosts, and slaves, and pain, and money.

When I was a kid around eight years old, my Mamma would drop me off there to peruse books while she went to the Piggly Wiggly -- or I.G.A. if it had better deals. She'd come back. I wasn't afraid. There were good books there to scrounge. It was quiet and it was damned creepy. I used a library catalog with index cards. But it was a library in an old, old building built in the antebellum fashion. That ancient history to an eight-year-old boy.

One summer I'd screwed up my courage to join the book club at the library and keep up with how many I'd read on a card you'd deposit in a drop box near the check-out counter, nothing more than the librarian lady's old, wooden desk. Surely no one read like me. It's the hubris that gets you. Because weeks later, Pawpaw took me to the summer reading party for the kids who'd read. There I was, awkward, with the others and hoping and praying for cake and a long day of celebration.

Instead, a summer thunderstorm as we began some activity designed for fun outside. We were ushered quickly indoors, no ceremony, no pomp, where a back-up plan must've not existed. It was around this point, soaked and just about drowned by the rain, handed a pack of Nabs and a canned Coke, that I realized not only did I not win the book challenge for the summer but that there was to be no fun activity now. Nor was there cake. I'd read so many books, though. But, no. As quickly as it started, I was back in the passenger side of the hunting truck and headed home again.

And now that old, haunted, beautiful mess of a library is being torn down. It's gone. Completely.

I know its smell, though.

I have my summer reading memory and many, many more.

Blaine Duncan
Blaine Duncan
Editor-In-Chief, Host of Taking It Down