Kneading You

A Lancaster Story

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Emporium Press

March 16, 2020

Cover art: Reese Dante

Genre: Contemporary romance

I rushed up the slippery steps of Lancaster’s old library to greet the portly man awaiting me. “I’m sorry I’m late.” I held a hand out. “Christopher Hughes. It’s a pleasure.”

“Logan Fields,” the man said, shaking with an unnecessarily firm grip. “I’m on the town’s Board of Selectmen. I’m in charge of overseeing our library crisis. Come on inside.” He turned around, used an old skeleton key to unlock the front door, and led the way into the dim interior.

I had recently moved to the charming town of Lancaster, New Hampshire. No more than ten years ago, they’d outgrown the title of village—everyone was very proud, I was told. I’d spent most of my life in suburbs in the more populated, southern portion of the state. And while it was nice and convenient, I’d always dreamed of living in a small community where folks all knew one another and there was a real sense of closeness.

I’d certainly found it here.

But not a job.

That was a rather elusive beast.

But such was the way of life in these tiny blips on the map. There were not a lot of job openings on a consistent basis, and so far my options were part-time clerk at the gas station, part-time bagger at the grocery store, or nada. Although I had a college degree, studies in nineteenth-century literature didn’t get you far in a town that required more practical services. I’d been ready to become a bagger too, if it meant paying the rent on time. But then I heard about this.

The library.

Lancaster was in a panic after their librarian—a nice old lady who I swear must have been older than the building itself—passed away, and they needed someone to take over.

Ding, ding, ding! Christopher Hughes, come on down. You’ve won a cozy little position in an antique library. How do you feel?

I can afford dinner now—I feel great!

Logan Fields flicked on an old light switch as I shut out the winter day behind us. “Here she is. Pretty old place, isn’t it?”

It was indeed. The library was small, nothing like I was used to. It was maybe the size of the downstairs of a large house. The woodwork was dark and rich, there were high ceilings, and gorgeous old moldings. I turned, whistling quietly as I took it all in. There was a desk for checkout closer to the wall—with no computer, I noted. An alcove stood just beyond that, completely stuffed with books. To the right of the main area was a closed door, and to the left was the study room—a long table with chairs situated in the middle. Bank lamps with green shades sat positioned on the tabletop, and some old leather-bound books and maps made the space look especially cozy.

“This is wonderful,” I said.

Logan nodded. “Our public library has been open for over a hundred and fifty years. It’s been here through thick and thin, and provided for people when they otherwise couldn’t afford to learn.” He turned to look down at me. “You must understand, a lot of folks up here—they don’t have big-paying jobs like in the cities. They live paycheck to paycheck. My kids all came here, growing up.” He looked pained. “This place means a lot to us all.”

My hands were sweaty in my coat pockets. It felt like I needed to say something, assure him I was capable of the job, if he wanted to hire me, but I kept quiet.

Logan cleared his throat and patted his belly absently. “Anyway. Our old librarian passed on, as you know, and we need help. The state is looking to pull the funding from this facility.”

“What?” I blurted. “Why?”

“Money. It’s always about money. Why give a dinky little town like ours resources when they can better pump it into cities where they get more bang for their buck?” Logan huffed. “We need this place spruced up. Show them how vital this library is to the community. If we can show them how much use this place gets….”

“Do you not have that sort of information on file?”

© 2015-2020 C.S. Poe