The SEAL's Rebel Librarian

By: Anne Calhoun


Thanks to Jennifer Porter, who answered lots of questions about the life of a college librarian. Any mistakes are mine.

Chapter One

“You said you were going to do this. So do it.”

The words were firm, bracing, even bold, but muttered in a low whisper as Erin Kent surveyed the main reading room of Lancaster College’s Clarke Library. Sparsely populated, as per norm; a few studious girls working in clumps at the tables running the length of the long room, boys more likely working alone. One of the comfy chairs by the decommissioned fireplace held an undergrad in a baseball cap pulled low over his forehead, a sheepskin-lined leather jacket draped over his torso, and jeans. His cheek was braced on his fist, his full lips slightly parted as he catnapped. Heads were bent over books lit by reading lamps, their soft light overshadowed by the intense glow of laptop screens. Rain coursed down the large windows opposite the circulation desk. Thursday night was the big party night for the students; most of them were off campus, at fraternity or sorority houses, or friends’ apartments, or local bars, partying. Erin remembered the scenes from her days as a student. She’d had fun, lots of it, used to be a pretty good pool player and dart thrower.

So what? You’re going to go out and party with the undergrads? Could you be any more of a clichéd divorcee?

Somewhere between years five and eight of her marriage, her ex-husband’s seemingly rational voice had somehow become the voice of her inner critic, the voice she couldn’t get out of her head. It was easier to do when the library buzzed like a hive with nervous energy. Finals week. Midterms. The first couple of weeks of school, when in addition to her regular duties she taught classes on how to use the academic databases and cite sources.

On a slow, rainy Thursday night after midterms but before papers were due and finals week, Jason’s voice would run on a near constant loop in her head. As if movement would leave it behind, she stepped out from behind the desk. Her soft-soled shoes made no noise against the granite floors as she followed her usual circuit through the reading room. Slumped Sleeping Boy was now Slumped Sleeping Snoring Boy, but as yet the noises were soft and not disturbing anyone. She then peered in the various study rooms. Only one was in use, a group of students working on a project together. As she went, she gathered trash left behind and turned off the lights students had left on.

When she returned to the circulation desk, she signed back into the library’s computer and pulled up a search engine. Google would do; this wasn’t academic work. Just borderline ridiculous.

“You said you were going to do this,” she repeated, remembering the mocking way Jason threw this back in her face, and how, six months after her divorce became final, she still hadn’t bought a motorcycle. She’d made a list of things she’d do when she was out of her marriage: buy a motorcycle, go skydiving. Her friend and fellow librarian, Carol, added another item to the list: dating, but for the moment she was ignoring that; motorcycles and skydiving were less frightening. “So do it. You can’t buy until you know what to buy.”

Good first motorcycle …

Google autofilled for girl. She kept typing, adding for a woman. “Definitely not a girl,” she muttered under her breath.

Less than a second later Google gave her results. The top one was a recent page on a site for female riders. She clicked, then scanned the introductory paragraph. The bikes were organized by style: cruiser, standard, sport bike, etc. Good. She liked well-organized material.

They started with the standard, the Honda Rebel 250. The bike had its advantages, namely that it was reasonably priced and frequently available on the used market, having been around for a couple of decades. The same could be said for the Suzuki GZ250, which had the added benefit of being the bike she rode in her beginning rider course back in October, before winter settled over Lancaster and made riding a motorcycle a moot point.

Which was one of Jason’s many arguments against owning a motorcycle. Situated smack in the middle of the humid subcontinental climate zone, Lancaster sweltered under a layer of humidity three months a year, and froze under a layer of snow and ice another four. That left five months for riding comfortably, assuming it wasn’t freezing cold, or raining. Why go through the expense of ownership—gas, maintenance, insurance, plus the initial outlay—for something she’d ride maybe thirty days a year, and alone? Couldn’t they put their money to better use doing something together?

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