Friday, September 30, 2016

Bad Roberta Visits the Public Library

Bad Roberta Visits the Public Library

One day Bad Roberta came home from school with a homework assignment. (This was one of the brief periods during which she had started attending a new school and had not yet been expelled for bad behavior.) Bad Roberta's homework assignment required her to do some research in the public library. Now normally, Bad Roberta did not bother to do her homework, but, as she was about to make the homework assignment into a paper airplane that she was going to aim at Gerald's head, it suddenly occurred to her that she could have some FUN in the library. The more she thought about it, the more fun it seemed to be.
"Heh, heh, heh," she chuckled, and Gerald hastily crawled into another room and hid under a chair.

Bad Roberta danced down the stairs. "Going to the library!" she called to her mother, as she jumped out the door.

"Going to the LIBRARY?" her mother thought. "Going to the LIBRARY?! Oh my God...!" She ran to the door, but Bad Roberta was already out of sight. "And after all," her mother said to herself, "I deserve a break every now and then." And she went back to work.

Bad Roberta was so excited that the 8-block walk to the library seemed miles long. Finally, she saw in front of her the huge staircase, the stone lions, and the double row of columns. In she went, stifling a giggle as she strolled past the librarians at their high desk. One of them gave her a disapproving look, and Bad Roberta hurried into the next room. Bad Roberta had never been in the library before, so she took time to check out where all the exits were, and which doors were locked and which were unlocked. The library had five floors of stacks. The children's books were on the first floor, other books were on the next three floors, and the top floor contained old magazines and miscellaneous stuff that nobody ever looked at. The bottom level had a tile floor, but the other floors were made of metal grillwork, so from the top floor you could look all the way down. Bad Roberta chuckled to herself again, causing a nearby boy to hurriedly check out his books and leave.

Bad Roberta started on the second floor. She went to a part of the stacks that was empty of people, and she screamed as loudly as she could! The scream echoed through the building, and no one could tell where it came from. She picked a book off the shelf and went to a table where she sat down and pretended to read. Soon the librarians came scurrying by, looking for the source of the scream. When all had started to calm down Bad Roberta screamed again. This time, she heard angry shouts and running feet. As before, she pretended innocence, walking up to the third floor as if she was very busy with important work. She took some pebbles out of her pocket. She moved around the floor, and whenever no one was watching her, she dropped the pebbles through the holes in the floor onto the heads of the people on the floor below.

Bad Roberta saw a white-haired librarian bustling along below her, looking for the trouble-maker who was being so noisy. Bad Roberta dropped a pebble. It landed in the librarian's hair, but she didn't notice. Bad Roberta dropped another pebble. It landed right on the librarian's nose and bounced off to the floor, plock!, where it skittered under one of the huge bookcases and dropped down again to the lower level: plink! The librarian looked up just as Bad Roberta dropped a whole handful of pebbles right on her face. "Aieeee!!!" she screamed and cowered under her upraised hands. Bad Roberta hurried to the stairs and up to the fourth floor.

Soon she saw the same librarian and another, a tall man who was nearly bald, hunting around where she had been on the third floor. Bad Roberta dropped another pebble: it landed right in the middle of the tall man's bald spot.

"Ow!" he said, and looked up, rubbing his head.

Bad Roberta stuck out her tongue. The man gasped in outrage....just as Bad Roberta dropped another pebble right in his mouth!

"Ack! Gasp!" he said, and the two librarians raced for the stairs. Bad Roberta got there first, however, and tipped over a big bookcase right at the head of the stairs. Hundreds of books flew down the stairs. Bad Roberta heard screams and thumps gradually fading away below her. She climbed up to the top floor. No one was there. Bad Roberta went to the back of the building, where old magazines were stored in cardboard boxes. She picked up a box and carried it to the head of the stairs. She listened hard. Stealthy footsteps could be heard coming up from the fourth floor. Bad Roberta hurled the box of magazines down the stairs. It struck a pillar where the stairs turned, and exploded. Brittle yellow pages filled the stairwell like an indoor snowstorm. A long drawn-out scream, followed by an echoing crash, reverberated up the stairwell from the floor below.

Bad Roberta threw a few more boxes of magazines down the stairs, but she heard nobody coming and it started to get boring. Suddenly, a voice growled from behind her:

"Now I've got you!" It was the white-haired librarian. Behind her a warm breeze blew in an open window. She lunged for Bad Roberta, who dodged under her arm and pushed her into a bookcase. Dust billowed up, and rotting old catalogs cascaded down on the librarian's head. Bad Roberta ran towards the back of the building, as the librarian struggled out of the debris and charged after her.

The librarian was fast for her age, but she was no match for Bad Roberta. Bad Roberta ran ahead, and then she pushed over a book case behind her. It fell across the aisle right in front of the librarian, who disappeared in a cloud of dust. Choking and coughing could be heard as Bad Roberta pushed open the door labeled "Emergency Exit." It led to a stairwell that ran both up and down. She heard voices from down below.

"She'll never think we'll come in this way," said one.

"We'll catch her by surprise and trap her like a nut in a nutcracker," said another.

"I can't climb any more," gasped a third. "You go on without me. I'll be alright." There was a muffled thump, followed by a mutter of low voices.

Bad Roberta tiptoed up the stairs and quietly pushed open the trap door to the roof. She gently let it down behind her. From below she heard the door to the fifth floor swing open and bang against the wall. There was a muffled "Aha!" followed by "Where IS she?!"

Bad Roberta ran to the edge of the roof. There was a big magnolia tree at the corner. She could just jump out onto one of the upper branches. The foliage of magnolia trees is so thick that no one saw Bad Roberta climb down the tree. She jumped to the ground and mingled with the crowd, listening to shouts, screams, curses, and occasional crashes from inside the library. After a while she went home, well satisfied with a good day's work.

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