"Manager Peterson," the Librarian says, embracing him in a gentle hug, "I am so glad to see you. I see you so seldom lately. It's good we can spend some time together." The Librarian looks up at the others in the square. Raising his voice, "Thank you for coming. I am addressing you today about an important change in our library administration."
The Librarian points to Peterson, "You all know Manager Peterson, who manages this branch of the libraries and sits on the Committee. Please, Manager Peterson go to the lobby of the library and bring the book of rules to me. It is time that new leadership is in charge of the regional libraries." A gasp escapes members of the crowd, many of who glance from the Librarian to Peterson. He is not sure how to respond to the attention. He is proud to be the apparent successor at this time of change, but he should not express happiness, yet.
Peterson's mind races as he walks toward the library building. Without intending it, his thoughts go to the changes he will implements once he becomes the Librarian. He thinks everyone now knows he is to be the next Librarian. Once he has the book of rules in his hands, he will be the leader of the libraries in the Southwest. Peterson steps into the lobby of the building. He walks nervously over to the cabinet against the wall. The sun shines through the south window and makes the room brightly lit. He slowly opens the cabinet door and sees the cloth wrapped book that is so important to the survival of humanity. The book of rules prevents new occurrences of the Collapse. After the Collapse, a group of surviving leaders made the rules that would be enforced around the planet to prevent use of petroleum and internal combustion machines, in order, that the Collapse could never happen again. In some regions, including the Southeast, communities adopted a local copy of the book of rules to signify the authority of the Librarian.
The book of rules represents power in the Southwest. Once Peterson legitimately has control of the book, he will be the highest authority in the land. He places his right hand into the cabinet and touches the cloth. Something is wrong. Quickly unwrapping the cloth he sees an adobe brick inside, the book is gone. He looks over at the duty staff person at the front desk, "The book is gone!" The young woman looks back at him with widening eyes,
"No one has been in here all morning," she blurts out.
Peterson does not know how to tell people. He rushes out of the building and speaks loudly, "The book is gone!" His mind races and can not focus. He can't think what to do or how to fix the problem. The rest of the people in the square react to him nervously. People seem to clue off his behavior, nobody seems to know what to do. Those people closest to him appear the most upset. The Librarian had moved to stand under the pine tree. He is in the center of a pond of calm, with the scouts standing close to him. The young men and women are speaking softly to the Librarian, and listening intently to his comments. This inner group is almost oblivious to the other people in the square.
Manager Peterson makes his way over to within feet of the Librarian. Peterson's eyes are wild and his hands are shaking. The Librarian looks up and sees Peterson's panic. "There is a problem, Manager?" Peterson thinks about how he might craft an answer that will present himself in a positive light. It is still important that Yang be stopped and the rules of the libraries continue to be enforced.
Peterson is finally able to focus himself. He remembers where he is and what his top goals are. First become leader of the library. Second stop Yang. "I must give you the bad news." The Librarian looks at him with curiosity, but not fear or concern.
"What is the news?" Peterson thinks about what the news means. Without the book of rules, there will be no normal transfer of authority. There can be no installation of a new Librarian. The appointment of a Librarian will have to wait until the book of rules is found, a replacement is ordered, or an alternative process is decided to pass authority.
"Librarian, the book of rules is gone."
"That will certainly slow things down. I was planning to appoint a new Librarian today. Now you say we have to wait to install a successor." He stops and looks around the square with an expression of loss on his face.
Peterson looks at the Librarian with sadness. "But Librarian, you must appoint your successor!" he insists, "Without the Librarian, there is no library rules. With no library rules, human life on Earth is doomed!"
The Librarian nods sadly, "It does seem to be scary, the consequences of not having the book of rules. But we can't install someone without the book, can we?" Peterson thinks about what the book of rules represents to the people in the Southwest. Everyone will expect the book to be used to pass on the position of the Librarian. There would be difficulty with many of the leaders in accepting any Librarian not sworn in on the book of rules. The most powerful ones, including the cattlemen might dismiss someone appointed in a different way. People might use the lack of the book as a way to replace the Librarian and the libraries as voices of authority in the region. The Librarian looks at Peterson with a softening look of compassion.
The Librarian pulls an old pen out of an inner pocket of his jacket. He holds it and focuses his eyes on it. His face softens as if old memories are flooding back. "This pen wrote a beautiful line when the previous Librarian gave it to me. Antonia Gonzalez wrote with it every day of her adult life. Now the nib is damaged and I have never had time to fix it." He looks at it. "I carry it still, and think of my predecessor every time I touch it. Take it, Peterson hold it. It can be fixed and work can be carried on again with it."
Peterson has a look of shock on his face. He does not reach for the offered old writing instrument. Just a pen, he thinks to himself, and a broken one at that. We face doom, a return to the horrors of the Collapse, order and authority could cease to exist here in the Southwest. Instead of facing the problem, the Librarian is offering me a damaged pen. Peterson closes his eyes. How can he make the leader face the danger that confronts them, how can he reach him and everyone with the seriousness of the problem.
"I can't fix it either!" Peterson says with a soft voice. "I can't repair a pen, but someone needs to fix our bigger problem. Goodbye teacher, I am calling a meeting of my advisers." He turns and walks away.
Peterson's mind is in turmoil as he walks away. He is afraid for the future. He loves the Librarian, but he also loves the people who need to be saved. If he is to bring peace to the land, he needs to accomplish several things, and he needs to do them fast. He needs to take over leadership, and he has to acquire the loyalty of all the people with power, and destroy those who will not obey. As he leaves the square, he tries to make a mental list of the people he needs to meet with right away.
The Librarian slowly lowers the pen. He looks at the pen and the men and women around him. He starts to return the pen to his pocket, then he paused and seems to make a decision. He turns to his right and stares at one young man standing there. "William, what do you think of this old broken pen?"
William looks at the old instrument for a moment. "It can be fixed."
"Perhaps a pen is not just for writing," the Librarian suggests. "Perhaps objects are useful for their physical purposes and for symbolic purposes. If our mind assigns importance to symbols in the world, then those symbols can mean anything. People follow flags and slogans that only mean something in their minds. So objects can represent whatever people need them to represent."
William nods in agreement. "Yes, Librarian, what we hold in our hands, serves the purposes we need in the moment." He reaches out and takes the pen from the Librarian's hand. "This is a pen that cannot write, but it can be a symbol that can stand in for dreams and hopes we have." The Librarian smiles at William.
"It is yours. As you attempt to make it work, think of me and the other Librarians, and remember what we sought to create in this new world." The Librarian looks around at the others, and speaks more loudly, "Friends, I have an announcement to make." After a momentary pause, "I have decided to retire. It is time. I am ready to step down as Librarian for the Southwest Region. I am sure that the staff and leadership in the region will be able to keep the Library running even better than I was ever able."
The crowd is stunned, as murmuring fills the area, the Librarian speaks again. "Now, I am going to buy some apricots at the weekly market."
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