This piece has been published in print and online in the fortieth edition of Hair Trigger. To read this story in its entirety, click the link above or pick up a copy of Hair Trigger 40 at Columbia College Chicago’s Creative Writing department or bookstore!
Sam Showers entered the library with a big smile on his freckled face and a spring in his step. Today was not just another average Monday at this second home of his. Today was the day he would receive the prestigious “Outstanding Community Member” award, given annually to the cheeriest, hardest-working, most-dedicated-to-their-town individual in all of Townville. He had combed his curly red hair into perfect submission, worn his favorite green-plaid flannel and khakis, and even gone through his teeth cleaning routine three times to ensure he looked his best when he was handed the gold-plated replica of City Hall. The ceremony was scheduled for eleven sharp, and everybody who was anybody would be there: the mayor, the fire chief, the crossing guard, everyone. It was a really big deal.
When he arrived that morning, Sam plopped into his swirly chair and powered up the computer on the Post-it Note covered front desk. He was the face of the Townville library. From this spot, framed by the rows of bookshelves behind him, he filed returns, checked out books to eager readers, and scoured book review blogs in his free time to see which new arrivals were worth adding to their collection—all done, of course, with a smile. As he leaned back in his chair, getting comfy while the monitor warmed up, he heard a rustling coming from the staff break room. The library wasn’t set to open for another few minutes, so he popped back up and went to take a look.
Sam strolled in and saw Albert, a forty-year library volunteer, who was hunched over a sink against the wall, filling his cup with hot water. “Oh, hey, Albert,” Sam said. The man raised his balding head like a tortoise craning out of its shell and nodded, flipping off the faucet.
“Hello, Sam,” Albert replied, his voice monotonous and his tired eyes glinting underneath the room’s fluorescent lights. He reached into an overhead cabinet and plucked out a tea bag. “Congratulations on your big accomplishment today.”
Sam blushed. Albert gently bobbed the bag of tea back and forth in the cup, its contents giving the water inside a nice amber color. The old man glanced again at Sam, his line of sight trailing up and up until he stopped at something above Sam’s head. Setting his cup on a nearby book-covered table, he pointed and huffed, “And what might that be?”
Sam followed his gaze. Two feet above his head was a white fluff, floating in the air. It twisted and swirled and reminded him of something that typically would be much higher up in the sky. Much, much higher in the sky.
“A cloud?” Sam replied, confused, obviously. “Maybe it’s a product of the steam coming from your cup?”
Albert looked at the cloud and then to his cup, and then back to the cloud and back at his cup again. He bobbed his head back and forth a few more times before saying, “I don’t think so.” The cloud began to swirl more violently, its white turning to gray. “Might want to be careful with that, Sam.”
“Careful with what?” asked the Library Director, Michelle, as she marched into the break room, her eminence larger than her tiny frame. With a stern face and her signature business-blue suit, she certainly knew how to make an entrance. Sam gulped, hoping his boss wouldn’t see the new personal cloud. He forced a grin—a grin that said, “I am definitely not trying to hide anything”—but then he felt a drop of water on his nose and the smile faded. Michelle looked up.
It rained. The cloud rumbled and sheets of water rushed down, drenching Sam in an icy downpour. He clenched his eyes closed with shock and frantically wiped the water away from his face, but it kept coming. With confused looks plastered on their faces, Michelle and Albert both took cautious steps back to dodge the deluge as it splattered against Sam. Hoping to also escape the storm, Sam stepped to the right, but the cloud followed. He stepped to the left, and it followed again. He stepped left, stepped right, stepped up, down, left, right, up, down, over and over and over and over. It followed each time.
“I don’t think that’s going to work,” Albert muttered. Sam stopped moving, feeling the raindrops beat against his shoulders.
It was his own personal raincloud.
The rain splashed against the tiled floor and bounced up against the books on the table. Albert and Michelle immediately jumped into action ripping the books away from the water, trying to save what they could from any potential damage. Watching them work, Sam realized he’d never be able to do his job with this cloud. Books and rain did not mix.
When they finished, Albert stood hunched over, breathing heavy, and Michelle simply glared at Sam. “My office,” she said. “Now.”