Once upon a time there was a little old lady. She wasn’t always a little old lady. She remembered very vividly what it was like to be a young lady, and while she enjoyed being a young lady with great gusto and flourish, with many suitors and their attention, she was much happier now as an old lady. She enjoyed the solidity of her earned wisdom, and the liberation that came from her neutrality. Like Switzerland, she had pretty much seen it all and now opted to stay out of it, and to focus her remaining energies on chocolate and cuckoo clocks. Which wasn’t to say that she wanted to hide away from debate and controversy; she rather liked a feisty dialogue. She just liked to walk away at the end of the discussion with no hard feelings. Then again, she felt this way her whole life so maybe that feeling had nothing to do with her age and wisdom.
So Ruby put on her sexiest orthopedic-style sneakers and went out to the library to meet her best friend. It was a sunny day but not too hot so took one of her public radio fund-raising thank-you tote bags, threw in a Gatorade and walked the half-mile to the little community library. The walk itself was uneventful except for the fine looking shirtless gentleman jack-hammering at some roadway construction. My, she may be old, but she certainly wasn’t blind.
When she reached the cool, dusty corridor of the library entrance she stopped to take a long slug of her Gatorade. A toddler gazed up at her in drool and awe from his stroller. His mother, also slack-jawed, was preoccupied with her smart-phone. Ruby replaced the cap on her Gatorade, uttered a soft, thirst-quenched “Ahh!,” and pulled opened the inner vestibule door while the toddler watched wide-eyed.
The audible “WHOOSH” of air conditioning made the little boy blink and his mother look up from her little glowing screen. It made Ruby feel as if she were passing through a portal to another, rarefied world. And in a way, she was. Libraries were a space out of time. Quiet, contemplative places, musty oasis with places to hide and be hidden (as we shall see shortly). Like a little steam punk submarine, she sailed into the library and headed with great purpose to a broad readers’ table in front of the periodicals. Sitting at the table was another old lady, her best friend Viv.
Like a curious teen, Viv was engrossed in Cosmopolitan Magazine, but like a furtive teen, she had it propped within the folio of The Economist. To any passer-by (who remotely cared), it would appear that she was just an erudite senior citizen catching up on world events, rather than lamenting the poor quality of what passes for sex tips these days. Viv was eating contraband beef jerky out of her ancient Kurt Vonnegut canvas tote bag that carried her library fodder.
“Did you even eat a decent breakfast, Viv?,” Ruby asked as she sat down across from her friend, resting her bag on the table top with a gently thud.
“I’ve lived a rich and full life in spite of your judgment, old woman, “ Viv returned with affection. She wouldn’t think of offering her friend the offending jerky. She knew better.
“So, what’s the plan, my friend,” Ruby inquired.
Ruby and Viv picked today to meet in the library as the kick-off of an experiment. For the next few weeks they were going to press a crisp one-hundred dollar bill in the center of a book in the hope that Fate would shine her beacon on this book to help a needy and deserving soul at the end of her (or his) rope. A pair of micro-lending, grey-haired knights in bi-focal armor, they were hoping to create a little excitement in their own lives, and as students of the human condition they were just a little curious to see what drama (if any) would unfold. Today’s goal was to place their first offering.
It was possible that the money would not be discovered for a long time or never found at all. They debated leaving a hint as to who left the money, or a note stating the money was intentionally hidden with the purpose of discovery, and ultimately, to help the finder. But the more they discussed it they came back to the same scenario: just leave the cash in the pages and trust that the milk of human kindness had not soured yet.
“What books do you think are the most appealing to the desperate?” Ruby whispered to Viv. “Or would they would be looking for an escape from the everyday?”
“Let’s try not to over analyze the thing, and just make a decision. We can always change it up next time. Forget Oprah’s stinkin’ book club and let’s just pick a classic that stands the test of time.”
And that was how they decided the first miracle of St. Benjamin would occur in fiction, in Jacqueline Suzann’s Valley of the Dolls.
…. to be continued