“…but speaking quite pointedly, madam, we have endeavored for weeks to untangle this predicament unaided, exhausting every avenue but yours. We simply cannot eject the ruffian without your assistance!”
Genevieve Carrington, Library Organization Consultant–for so read the sign on her frosted-glass doorplate, printed in an exaggerated Old English font–thoughtfully chewed her teacake. “Do you like apples, Mr. Edmonds?”, she asked. “The peach-flavored ones secured such a place in my heart that I believed no cake could lift their anchor there. I now believe an adjustment may be in order.” She fiddled with the branches on the poet-tree display she’d been constructing on a nearby shop table, the movement shaking her coiffed copper curls slightly. “I’ve been considering perching Songs of Innocence and of Experience directly above Poems for the Young, Broke and Hangry,” the meticulously-dressed consultant said. “Something about the juxtaposition is–”
“Ms. Carrington, please! My family is not interested in promotional displays or teacakes!”, Edmonds sputtered, squeegeeing his glasses frustratingly. “Our bookshelves are a dreadful sight. Last week, the perpetrator organized all the Science Fiction authors in reverse alphabetical order! Reverse!”
“The perpetrator, Mr. Edmonds, is a dragon. Should it have escaped your attention, I am significantly smaller than the average representative of that particular ethnic group, and I lack scales.” Genevieve gestured lackadaisically at her arms to emphasize that they were, in fact, unplated. “Now, if you were seeking a revolutionary new filing system, I’m your extremely competent, reasonably-priced expert. But dragons–“
Edmonds stared as she trailed off. “Of course, ah, my foundation would fund the purchase of new equipment for your preservation and archival services, in addition to your hourly rate. I want to encourage the spirit of good will. Naturally.”
“Naturally,” Genevieve agreed, scooping up The Da Vinci Code from her Fiction section and somehow managing to blend panache with nonchalance.
“Wh-what are you doing with that?”, Edmonds asked.
“IF I were to undertake this venture, Mr. Edmonds, I shall be appropriately prepared. A scholarly beast such as the one that plagues your stacks will surely be unable to resist pontificating on this title, and the distraction will work to our advantage,” Genevieve smirked. She struck an intimidating pose with the book, evaluated, and then moved her arm down and to the left. It was important to tout her weapon at the correct angle.
” Ms. Carrington, where is your sword? Your crossbow? Your potions? You cannot hope to best such a wily, dangerous creature with a mere paperback!”
“A mass market paperback, in fact, Mr. Edmonds. The dragon would suffer additional umbrage knowing I’m holding the cheapest possible edition. And yes, I can.” The library consultant grinned, warming to the challenge. “Provide me with every detail, regardless of how minute. Hand me another teacake from the table hither, would you? That’s a decent fellow. And I shall require your address. “
The dragon arrived on the second evening of Genevieve’s stakeout. She’d alternated between rereading Lorrie Moore’s oeuvre and playing a United Nations simulation game on her phone. The application routinely assigned her to Belgium, and she was forced to argue boisterously about food subsidies. The person playing Tunisia was being deliberately obtuse. She’d begun plotting a blisteringly polite retort when a low, indignant series of harumpfs emanated from the far end of the shelves.
The creature was not massive, not intimidating. In fact, Genevieve decided as she watched it push volumes back and forth, it would have been innocuous even without the fuchsia headband stretched over its scaly forehead, faded and proclaiming WORK IT! in an electric pink font. The dragon was perhaps seven feet tall, Genevieve estimated, and sported a flipped-out bob, its dirty brown hair billowing out in the back. It wore a mauve dress shirt with stripes, a clip-on bowtie, a sweater vest with an overabundance of pockets, mom jeans, and a petulant scowl. It looked like the type of dragon that would front a pop-folk band with more irony than musical talent.
The dragon growled as its head whirled towards her, and Genevieve realized a second too late that she’d been noticed. She fumbled in her messenger bag for The Da Vinci Code, bracing herself for impact. As the beast snapped its goatee-fringed jaws open and began to build a torrent of fire in its neck, Genevieve held the book in front of her like a crucifix to a vampire. The dragon froze. It attempted to spew its liquid fury at the library consultant, but only managed an undignified snort. Genevieve chortled loudly.
“Look, I fail to see anything remotely amusing about our current predicament,” the dragon said, supremely annoyed. “You’ve interrupted my magnum opus, and I have a historically inaccurate paperback inches from my snout. I’d like to suggest that we call it a draw and you settle into bed with a nice cheese.”
“I can assure you, sir, your proposal is most tempting,” Genevieve said, smoothing out her scarf. “Unfortunately for us both, YOU have taken it upon yourself to sneak into my client’s personal library and reorganize his collection all willy-nilly, and this tomfoolery shall not stand. Also, you’re wearing a sweater vest.”
“FIRSTLY, Miss–“, the dragon paused. “We haven’t been introduced. I’m Phillip, Scourge of Laminating Machines, Devourer of Chips, Lord of–“
“Oh mudpies, you dragons with your Dragon Names! I have other appointments this week, Phil. Genevieve Carrington, Library Organization Consultant. Now, if you–“
“FIRSTLY, Miss Carrington,” Phillip said heavily, running a claw through his buttons. “This is a fierce sweater vest, and it’s an article of clothing that has, in my opinion, been much maligned by popular fashion for centuries! SECONDLY, I’m a dragon, and I doubt you can appreciate the pressure to ACHIEVE in my society. I’m neither scholarly, nor athletic. That distinction relegates me to mischief-maker, which is a recognized class under the Hodgman Accords.” He frowned and waggled a forest green finger at Genevieve, whose expression indicated she was not impressed. “And FURTHERMORE, madam, my current project is NOT ‘all willy-nilly.’ You simply failed to detect my genius in this low light. Look closer!” He flipped the nearest light switch.
Genevieve gasped as her eyes focused. “You…you dreadful whackadoodle! What have you DONE?”
Phillip sniggered gleefully. “Isn’t it glorious? This entire library shall soon by arranged by COLOR! Locating the second book of a series might swallow fifteen whole minutes now–maybe even thirty! Edmonds will be SO peeved!” He pushed his glasses up over his nose and snorted victoriously.
Shuddering, the consultant grasped for any mental leverage she could snag–and then attacked. “Your Dewey must be REALLY intriguing, Phil.”
“Huh?” The scowl returned, this time a tad uncertain.
“Well, you classified by color AND subject using the Dewey Decimal System, didn’t you? A criminal of your caliber would surely have sought to create a system as complicated as possible!”
“I…I didn’t…By the great fiddlesticks of Fiddlestickington! I forget the Dewey!”, Phillip roared, visibly agitated. Vestigial wing popped through his vest as he dashed towards the dragon-shaped hole from which he’d entered. He was some distance from the Edmonds estate when Genevieve heard a faint bellowing across the night sky. “I shall return! Don’t touch anything!”
She slept, fatigued from her trials, but triumphant knowing that if she’d not actually stopped the dragon, she’d at least deterred him for a few days. The next morning, Genevieve ordered a smorgasbord of breakfast foodstuffs and set the Edmonds library to rights; she was, after all, being paid by the hour.
By sundown, she had converted roughly one-third of the library to its former organization system, and she deemed this acceptable for a day’s work. She hailed an Uber and politely listened as two NPR hosts discussed sriracha mayo’s role in the national political discourse. She wondered briefly if Sriracha Mayo was a person.
A touch persnickety from working 14 hours in the same outfit she wore the previous day, Genevieve turned the key and entered her office–and immediately sensed something was wrong. She skittered towards her bookshelves and her skin ran cold.
Her books had been rearranged by size. Threads from Phillip’s mauve dress shirt lay scattered across the floor.
She had been hoodwinked! Bamboozled! Snookered! Genevieve Carrington, Library Organization Consultant, grimaced and cracked her gloved knuckles, pausing for a moment to reflect on how intimidating she must look. The War of Fastidiousness had begun.