Wednesday, January 4, 2012

From An Obituary In The Forest Lake Times: Perpetuating One More Old, Cruel Stereotype

...You will be like a man compelled to spend his life on a desert island and there toiling to erect a memorial so that future seafarers shall know he once existed.
      --Schopenhauer,  “On Ethics.”
This was the life of the small town spinster librarian: a clock that clanged on the half hour every day for over 50 years. The city's siren swelling in the streets each afternoon at exactly 12 o'clock, and again to signal the ten p.m. curfew --as if people couldn't tell time or didn't have clocks to do it for them. A dysfunctional milkman, desperate, facing extinction, and the butt of a thousand old jokes, sweating his hard sell door-to-door. A moldering Main Street full of nothing but empty storefronts and dreams that began to fade the moment they took bloom. A few dreary taverns she had never visited, but whose clientele and climate she could well imagine, given her unfortunate familiarity with the squalid habits of so many of her fellow townspeople. A dozen rusty grain elevators and a scar of ragged railroad tracks that passed for industry, and a rusty water tower that served as a local landmark and should have had some sort of pointed apology painted across its facade.

The librarian had always felt as if the whole town was beneath her, almost literally so. She would never make house with a bumbling local; this determination had been hardwired in her heart back in her schoolgirl days. She would look with nothing but scorn upon the flock of poor bachelors who gathered each afternoon and evening in the library's front parlor, making stammering conversation and rustling through the collection of inferior magazines and newspapers.

The local weekly wasn't worth the nearly transparent paper it was printed on, and was produced by end-of-the-road or entry-level journalists playing at the saddest sort of dead-end reportage: school board meetings, piddling zoning controversies, wedding and anniversary announcements, school lunch menus, senior citizen center craft sales, high school football, and obituaries. There had always been plenty of obituaries--the local funeral home was the newest building in town, and was illuminated like a casino all through the night-- but anymore even the number of dead people was diminishing by the day.

Every night the spinster librarian carried home thick novels, read herself to sleep, and regretted everything other than the fact that she had been taught to read.

One day late in her life she would have the realization that her father was to be the only true gentleman she would ever meet, and the only man who would ever hold her in his arms.

Before she’d even reached fifty she had made arrangements to be buried in Boston, a place she had never so much as visited. This was the only wish she ever publicly expressed, as well as the only wish she was ever granted.


  1. I especially like this sentence: "Every night the spinster librarian carried home thick novels, read herself to sleep, and regretted everything other than the fact that she had been taught to read."

  2. The last three little paragraphs are all gems; as good as anything Fitzgerald ever wrote.

  3. Moral of the story: don't wait until death to plan a big move?

  4. Moral of the story (if there is a moral to the story): Don't wait until --or for-- death.