“Why don’t you ask the librarian?” she asked me.
“Because you know what that is like,” I complained in a half-whisper. “I don’t feel like listening to a reenactment of his life.”
“C’mon, it’s sweet,” she told me as she scanned the bookshelves. “I know I saw the book here...I just don’t want to waste my whole day looking for it only to find out it has been taken out.”
With one puppy-dog stare I was bought and I held up my hands in surrender before walking over to the front desk. The reception was a large desk in a large area, but despite the space it had a single computer and one old man sitting behind it.
Hunched over his keyboard, Mr William’s tapped frantically. It was only when I got closer that I could see the screen was white and he was writing. I hoped dearly that it was his life-story, because maybe then he would be too tired to recite the first few chapters to me.
“Mr Williams?” I asked him.
The spectacled man turned on his chair, sucking up his bottom lip and focusing his eyes like a hawk.
“Do I know you?” he asked a little more loud than a librarian should.
“Yeah, sir, I’m wondering if you check if you have this book in or if it’s been taken out.”
“What’s your name?”
“Uh...Philips...I was in your lectures back in uni-” I began.
“Philips? Oh, that’s right,” Mr Williams murmured. “So, how far did you get?”
I knelt at the desk and put my hands together.
“I’m begging you…” I murmured. “Please, don’t do this.”
“From the beginning?”
“No, no, no! I was at the car dealership.”
“Ah, yes, now, this was an interesting time in my life because it was the first time that I was really introduced to the concept of money…” Mr Williams began.
I could feel my life slowly drift from my body and wave at me before rising into the void. All those good memories before now disappeared from my mind as the world turned grey and I was stuck here listening to the old man talk.
Just when I thought all hope was lost, she knelt down beside me and wrapped an arm around my waist. With a sweet smile I felt my energy return and we both stood up and sat in the nearby seats. No doubt someone from a previous experience had placed them there.
“Now, I said to my boss, who was a kind, but strong man, that I needed a raise,” Mr Williams reminisced. “Not something people asked for often as it was nearly impossible to get the pay to meet inflation in those days. Nevertheless, I bit the bullet and I said to him…”
I felt her head fall to rest on my shoulder, but she wasn’t asleep, at least not yet. It was moments like these that I will remember, but all the same, I just wanted to know if the book was in or not so we could go home. Hell, at this point I was ready to leave the library and buy it at a bookstore.
“I held my breath, waited and then that beautiful sound of the engine starting roared in the garage,” the old man smiled. “The other mechanics had overlooked the simple problem of something being caught in the keyhole of all things. The car wouldn’t start that way, so doing it manually and cleaning out the keyhole was all it needed to start. However, my boss didn’t know that, and he just about thought of me as a God send. However, it was the client who showed his gratefulness when…”
I felt my eyes slowly lower. The room grew darker and I felt Mr Williams’ words fade in my ears. Music began to replace it, faint trumpets and the clinks of triangles as things began to mellow out.
“It was my chance in a lifetime, but of course, there was always a catch,” Mr Williams grunted. “The man was working for army and was looking for bright mechanics. Of all the people in this world it had to be him, so I humbly refused. I was too young first and foremost, but he didn’t take ‘no’ for answer as I would soon learn.”
I felt an elbow in my side. I turned to see my wife nod towards Mr Williams.
“It’s getting interesting,” she whispered.
I began to listen further, but I felt it almost impossible for Mr Williams to be interesting.
“Late the next night, the officer payed a visit to my home,” Mr Williams continued. “More than that, he wasn’t wearing any uniform, but he brought two soldiers with him. He pushed into my house past my mother and straight to my father who was passed out on the couch. The soldiers kept my mother from leaving, telling her that she should listen as well. When my father was finally roused from his bear induced slumber, the officer explained that he wanted me for special forces. As it turned out, the ‘mechanic’ offer was just a cover. The allied forces needed someone younger, smaller, to be sent into war. Young enough to pass by unnoticed but old enough that if I were to die it wouldn’t be such a crime.”
It was here that Mr Williams paused.
“Did they send you away?” I asked Mr Williams.
“They did indeed,” he replied with a murmur. “It was a strange case of affairs, but certainly a serious one. There was nothing I could do, but my parents could. It was only them that could give permission, but my father was really the one who made the decision. I feel that they might have been watching my father and knew that night would be perfect to ask. Still half-drunk, he signed the document happily, foolishly.”
“Oh my God…” my wife murmured.
“Anyway, that is enough story for now,” Mr Williams murmured. “I’m sure you both are really busy. Is there anything in particular I can help you with?”
“Wait, what-” my wife began.
“Yes, we’re looking for this book here,” I replied showing him a picture of the cover.
“Oh, I’m sorry that one has been taken out, but should be returned tomorrow,” Mr Williams replied. “I’d be happy to see you two again.”
“We’ll be here,” I told him honestly. “Won’t we, honey?”
With an enthusiastic nod from her, we said our goodbyes and discussed Mr Williams all the way home.