Authors: Love Overdue
Meet Dorothy Jarrow: devotedly unsexy librarian
Buttoned-up book lover D.J. is all sensible shoes, drab skirts
and studious glasses. After an ill-advised spring-break-fueled fling left her
mortified, she’s committed to her prim and proper look. When she’s hired by a
rural library in middle-of-nowhere Kansas, she finally has the lifestyle to
match—and she can’t wait to get her admin on.
But it’s clear from day one that the small-town library is
more interested in circulating rumors than books. D.J. has to organize her unloved
library, win over oddball employees and avoid her flamboyant landlady’s attempts
to set her up with the town pharmacist. Especially that last part—because it
turns out handsome Scott Sanderson is her old vacation fling! She is not sure
whether to be relieved or offended when he doesn’t seem to recognize her. But
with every meeting, D.J. finds herself secretly wondering what it would be like to
take off her glasses, unpin her bun and reveal the inner vixen she’s been hiding
from everyone—including herself.
Also by Pamela Morsi
THE LOVESICK CURE
THE BENTLEYS BUY A BUICK
THE BIKINI CAR WASH
THE SOCIAL CLIMBER OF DAVENPORT HEIGHTS
(Originally published as
RED’S HOT HONKY-TONK BAR
LAST DANCE AT JITTERBUG LOUNGE
BITSY’S BAIT & BBQ
THE COTTON QUEEN
BY SUMMER’S END
For my cousins
Denise and Danny Max
who know a lot about wheat harvest
and even more about living happily-ever-after.
And for public librarians everywhere.
Bravely fighting on in the battle for
equality of information.
021.1 Library Relationships
hrough the windshield of her aging Chevy hatchback, Dorothy gazed across the yellow poppy fields toward the Emerald City. Of course, the poppy fields were more accurately described as “amber waves of grain” and the visible tower on the distant horizon was a grain elevator rather than a wizard’s dwelling, but she couldn’t have felt more caught up in an unlikely fantasy. She was eager, excited, out of her comfort zone.
Dorothy Jarrow, D.J. to her friends, had been waiting for her chance since grad school. Six years is a short time, people assured her. A very short time, in an era of tight budgets and declining community commitment, for a public library administrator to find her own institution to manage. For most of her colleagues, simply maintaining employment was challenge enough. But inexplicably and sight unseen, D.J. had been plucked from her obscure job as collections assistant (aka gofer to the boss from Hell) and offered the position to head a tiny but thriving library system in Verdant, Kansas. It was as unlikely a scenario as a tornado trip to the Land of Oz.
“We’re almost there, Dew,” she told the small black terrier with his pink-and-black nose inching through the wires of the crate. “It’s a clean slate in a brand-new life.”
Three weeks ago, D.J. had never even heard of the place. Verdant, pronounced by the locals with the emphasis on the
had been simply another anonymous, inconspicuous, unremarkable small town. But after today, it would be home. A place D.J. had been searching for her whole life.
As she neared the town, she eased up on the gas pedal, forcing herself to maintain the pace of the speed limit. Not merely because all her worldly possessions were packed into a rental trailer she was towing behind her. But also, eagerness notwithstanding, small-town librarians were expected to be law-abiding, as well as sedate, slightly stuffy and incredibly sexless. D.J. was pretty certain she fit that bill perfectly.
She had dressed for the occasion in regulation gray, including low-heeled practical pumps, wearing her eyeglasses and with her dark brown hair neatly tamed and tied back at the nape of her neck.
“That part of Kansas is one of the most conservative places in the country,” her former roommate, Terri, had pointed out.
“Then I should fit in very well,” she’d answered.
There was a hesitation on the end of the phone line. “D.J., just be yourself,” she advised.
Terri always said things like that. And D.J. always discounted such advice. It was all well and good for other people, like Terri, to follow her inclinations. But D.J. had found circumspection and reticence could be very comforting lifestyle choices.
However, none of the careful restraint she’d professed was in evidence as she reached the tiny town that was to become the center of her universe. She was almost giddy with excitement. Past the roadside gas stations, she immediately recognized the Brazier Grill. She’d seen it on Google Earth, of course. She’d been glued to the internet for days learning all she could about her new locale. And although officially there seemed to be nine commercial eating establishments, the Brazier was the only place in town that had an actual restaurant review (three stars). Beyond it were several metal buildings with business names like Avery Pipe, Gunther Fencing and Vern’s Seed and Tractor.
D.J. slowed as she came to the small incline where the road crossed the collection of railroad tracks of the Burlington Northern & Santa Fe. Off to her left, the giant grain elevator loomed, casting a long afternoon shadow across the entrance to the main part of town.
This was where she was going to live. This was the community where she would plant her life. And she secretly vowed that the people who gave her this chance would never have cause to regret it.
Along the street she passed neat rows of houses, all vintage, well kept, many with porch swings, flowers in the yard, evidence of love and care.
“Plenty of places to run around here, Dew,” she announced. “No more cramped apartment and crowded dog park for you.”
The elegant arches of St. Luke’s Methodist with its gothic spire reaching toward heaven seemed to divide the residential community from the commercial one. With angled parking and a spattering of traffic lights, D.J. thought downtown Verdant was adorably picturesque. The two-story brick and masonry buildings lined each side, some fancifully ornate and others stodgily square. On the second corner a triangular sign extended out over the sidewalk rather gaudily declaring itself the Ritz Theatre.
The marquee read Movie Nights: Friday and Saturday.
D.J. spotted two banks, a hardware store, a bakery, appliance sales and a pharmacy. There was something called Flea Heaven in a building that still proudly proclaimed its earlier incarnation as Kress Five & Dime. She was glancing into the bright windows of the florist shop and nearly missed her turn. The library was on Government Street, just past the corner fire station, the 1960s turquoise city hall and the former territorial jail, still in use.
She pulled both car and tow into an empty parking spot right in front of the building and gazed at the gorgeous classical red brick with oversize concrete columns and a triangular pediment that drew the eye to the modest dome. D.J. sighed aloud. It was a Carnegie, of course. Andrew Carnegie, the billionaire philanthropist of the Gilded Age, had been a great believer in the power of the public library. He’d erected them everywhere, in every corner of the country. And this one, this one, D.J. was sure, had been built just for her.
“Perfect,” she said aloud. “Perfect library, perfect town, perfect future. Way to go, Dorothy!”
She gathered up her self-congratulation and her purse and got out of the car. Though she wasn’t actually starting her new job until tomorrow, D.J. just couldn’t wait to see the place. She opened the back door and released Dew from his captivity. The little dog immediately raced to the patch of green lawn beneath a nearby tree and did a quick spritz before dutifully hurrying back for his leash. D.J. clipped the hook on his collar.
“Dogs do not belong in libraries,” she reminded him. “I won’t be long and I expect you to be good.”
D.J. twisted the leash handle around the lowest limb of the tree. Dew had already spread out on the ground, happily decapitating a stick that he’d found.
D.J. climbed the steps, her heart pounding in anticipation. The opportunity had truly been out of the blue. She’d been checking her email at lunch break and there it was, an inquiry from her posted resume. The first inquiry in the two years since it had been up. D.J. had almost forgotten that it was there. And the email was so incredible, so unexpected, she’d almost deleted it as spam.
She’d committed the text to memory.
After examining your credentials, the members of the board would like to offer you the position of Librarian for Verdant Independent Regional Library. We have a 70,000 volume collection inclusive of the Main library and two bookmobiles. You will be supervising four full-time staff. Competitive salary, benefits. Housing provided. Please contact us immediately.
D.J. had read over it a dozen times before the words sank in. She was being
No interview, no consideration of other candidates, no nothing.
She had called to say “yes” before she even finished lunch. She’d given her notice less than an hour later. And now she was here. Finally, finally here, D.J. thought to herself. She had her own library in her own town.
It took some strength to open the building’s heavy oversize door. That immediately had her wondering about handicap access. Once inside the stuffy, airless foyer, access became the least of her worries. The building was dark and worn, with the distinctive odor of cellulose decay. The smell of old books could be wonderful, but the acids that eat up paper are as devastating to a library as a fire, and this place smelled rife with them.
D.J. took a couple of steps inside, allowing her eyes to become accustomed to the dim light. In the shelves to her left she caught a glimpse of a man in the shadows, who immediately disappeared into the stacks.
The place was eerie, spooky, unwelcoming. Outside it had been all Andrew Carnegie. Inside it was all Tim Burton.
The main desk was a curved dais fronting a two-level, limited-access book collection behind wrought iron bars. The woman seated at the desk was a bit pudgy and probably fiftysomething, D.J. surmised. She was wearing a garish orange sweater that was easily the brightest thing in the room. And she was looking directly at D.J. Or, more accurately, she was glaring at her.
D.J. made a mental note to stress friendliness at her very first staff meeting. Leading by example, she put on a gracious smile as she stepped forward.
“Hello,” she said quietly. “I’m Dorothy Jarrow, the new librarian.”
Somewhere behind her a book slammed loudly closed. The unexpected sound in the hushed library made her jump. D.J. recovered herself quickly and offered another smile to the woman behind the desk.
who you are,” the woman replied. Her tone was almost openly rude. She continued her task, which seemed to consist of putting address labels on postcards.
When the woman didn’t volunteer her own name, D.J. requested it.
“I am Amelia Grundler,” she declared with such adamancy that she obviously expected D.J. to know it. When she did not, the woman added, “I am the librarian.”
D.J. managed not to drop her jaw on the floor, but her smile did waver. “I...I understood that the librarian had...died.”
“Miss Popplewell died six years ago,” Miss Grundler said. “But the old woman hadn’t darkened the door to this place in more than a decade. All that time I’ve been here, the acting librarian. Now they go and hire some...some...” The woman was looking D.J. up and down. “Someone else,” she finished.
D.J. was mentally gathering up a strategy. New on the job was like being the new kid in school. It always took time to fit in, and more so when your presence was going to displace someone else. She could go with blaming the board, but she wasn’t sure, as an outsider, if risking more dissention wasn’t worse. Or she could beg for help, pointing out how much the woman’s experience and expertise was needed. But at first glance, Amelia Grundler didn’t seem to be the type to be won over by teamwork.
D.J. had just begun to consider option three, authoritarian threat, when the main door swung open letting in a broad shaft of light and a white-haired, middle-aged woman dressed in elegant purple pinstripes and a fluffy scarf of violet hues.
you, it is you,” the entrant said excitedly. “When I saw that moving trailer with the Texas license tag, I said, that’s got to be our girl.” She rushed forward and grabbed D.J. by the hand, as if they were dear friends. “But you shouldn’t have come here first. I was expecting you at the house.”
“I wanted to see the library.”
“Not before you get settled in,” the purple person corrected her. “Believe me, you’ll get all the time you can bear in this dreary old place. I’m sure I do.”
The woman waved away her surroundings with denunciation.
“But where are my manners! I haven’t even introduced myself. I am, of course, Vivian Sanderson.”
D.J. had spoken to the head of the library board on the phone. “It’s nice to meet you in person.”
“We are going to be such friends,” the small woman predicted. “I’m also your landlady. Come, come. Let me get you out of this drab, dusty old place.” The small powerhouse began herding D.J. toward the door.
D.J. made some effort to resist. After all, this so-called “drab, dusty old place” was her dream job, her future.
“I really wanted to tour the building,” she argued.
Mrs. Sanderson tutted and shook her head. “Tomorrow is soon enough for that,” she said. “This place has been here since dirt was the new thing and it will be exactly the same when hell freezes over. Besides, I’m sure your staff is not ready for you. They’ll want to make their best first impression.”
D.J. was already fairly certain that if Miss Grundler was any indication, her employees weren’t going to be all that happy to see her at all.
The feisty woman had managed to steer her all the way to the door. She huffed a little as she tried to push it open. D.J. had no alternative but to assist.
“Goodbye, Amelia,” Mrs. Sanderson said with a little wave toward the front desk. More loudly she directed a call toward the stacks. “Goodbye, James!”
Once outside in the sunlight, the woman paused to look D.J. over from head to toe. “Oh, yes, aren’t you lovely,” she said. “Taller than I expected, but rather prettier than your LinkedIn photo. Though gray is not your color, dear. Pink, I’m thinking, but not pastel, more a deep rose.”
D.J. never wore pink, neither rose nor pastel, and she didn’t intend to start.
“Mrs. Sanderson, I...”
“Oh, please, call me Viv, everybody does. And what should I call you? Dorothy? Dot? Dottie?”
D.J. would have expected the members of the library board to call her Ms. Jarrow.
“My friends call me D.J.,” she heard herself saying.
“D.J.” Viv tried it out on her tongue. “I like that. Very cheerful and peppy. Yes, let’s definitely go with that.”
Flashing a broad smile she began hurrying toward the street.
As they walked toward the car, Dew spotted them and began making excited circles in anticipation of being on the go once more.
“Is this your dog?”
Viv nodded. “He’s not too large. I’m sure he’ll be fine.”
Fine for what, D.J. wasn’t sure. She’d made it very clear to Mrs. Sanderson that she had a pet. She hoped that her “provided housing” would definitely accommodate that.
Viv’s car, parked directly in front of D.J., was a Mini Cooper convertible in the exact same shade of purple as her suit.
D.J. gathered up Dew’s leash and put him back inside his crate. She tossed the leash on the passenger seat beside her and she hurried to follow the older woman.
With the top of her convertible down, Mrs. Sanderson’s scarf flapping in the breeze a la Isadora Duncan was hard to miss. And though the distance had several turns, which led to the edge of town and left streets for blacktop, her speedometer never got above twenty miles per hour.