Thursday, May 14, 2020

It Was a Dark & Stormy Night - Uh, Afternoon

It was a dark and stormy night.
It was a dark and stormy afternoon.
It was a rainy and overcast afternoon.

2:45 on the car's clock. 15 minutes until "go" time. The anticipation had brought me to the rendezvous site a bit prematurely.

Each minute we tarried seemed like five.
2:50:  Would this wait never end?
2:57: My heart was beating faster. The windows were fogging over as my breath quickened in anticipation.

At 3:01, I placed the phone call. It's a number I know by heart.
"I'm here," I said.
"Where are you?" the voice asked.
"I'm in slot number 2."
"I'll be right out."
A door slowly opened.
A man approached the car. He was carrying something heavy.
He raised his hands, like a slow-motion sequence in an action movie.
A mask covered half his face. Only his eyes were visible.
A mask? Was there danger afoot?
But wait! What was that symbol on his mask?
 Yes, yes - It was the Hutchinson Public Library logo!
Like the mark of Zorro, he was one of the good guys! Hallelujah!
But wait - 14 books?!
The plot thickens.
How will I ever read 14 books by the due date? I do have other things to do.
My trusty companion will do his part. These dark and stormy nights afternoons will give him some time to read, too.

On Monday, the Hutchinson Public Library began setting up appointments for patrons to pick up books on hold. My pickup time was between 3 and 4. The library has designated four parking spaces for pickups on the west side of their building. Once you arrive and call the number, a library staff member brings the books to the car. They've already run the library card, so there is no contact, other than handing the books through the window.

I can never remember a time when I wasn't a library patron. From the time we could toddle in on our own steam, my mom took us to the library in the Pratt County Courthouse.
My sister, Lisa, and I share some reading time
Pratt opened a new library when I was in grade school. The children's room was like a reader's Disneyland. I still remember that shelf of Happy Hollisters books and all the Encyclopedia Brown mysteries where he needed me to help decipher the clues.

The last time I was inside the Hutchinson Public Library was March 14. On that day, I picked up books I had on hold and spent some time canvassing the new book section.

While no one could have imagined it at the time, the "dark and stormy" clouds of a pandemic were beginning to ripple through the land. The Big 12 had just canceled the rest of its tournament. The NCAA called a halt to the Big Dance. I decided that some extra books in the pile were warranted.
Little by little - between cattle feeding and cattle moving and KFRM reports and blog posts - that "to be read" stack of books dwindled and became the "already read" pile, and I returned them on our infrequent trips to Hutchinson to pick up medicine or get parts at Case.
I still looked forward each Wednesday to the Wowbray email from the Hutchinson Public Library, summarizing the new books available.

And, then, tragedy! My "hold" list reached the maximum number allowed. I was unable to put additional books "on hold." In desperation, I started a paper list to keep track of the new arrivals.
By the time I picked up the books on May 11, I had returned all the books I'd checked out in March. And I'd read 6 of the books in my "stash." Some of those paperback books shoved into the cabinet under the television were from our church's Oktoberfest book sale. Others were picked up for a few dollars when Hasting's book store in Hutchinson went out of business several years ago.

"See?" I told Randy. "I knew my packrat tendencies and my hoarding of books would pay off someday!"

Oh ... where to begin?

Once upon a time, there was a pandemic.
It was a dark and stormy night.
But she escaped reality in the pages of a book ...
Found while Googling, "It was a dark and stormy night."
Reading is such a personalized activity. A book I love may fall flat with the next reader. I read for enjoyment and diversion, so if you're looking for a list of literary classics, this isn't for you.

But if you're looking for a few books to add to your list, both Randy & I have liked our first dive into the 14-book pile from the library. These initial books are mysteries. (I guess I am still trying to be Encyclopedia Brown, Nancy Drew or the Happy Hollisters.)

I have enjoyed Jason Pinter books before, so when Hide Away came up on Wowbray, I signed up for it. It didn't disappoint. It appears that Rachel Marin will be the heroine in future novels, too. I'm in!

From Amazon: On the surface, Rachel Marin is an ordinary single mother; on the inside, she’s a fierce, brilliant vigilante. After an unspeakable crime shatters her life, she changes her identity and moves to a small town in Illinois, hoping to spare her children from further trauma. But crime follows her everywhere ...

Same goes for Peter Swanson's Eight Perfect Murders. I have read Swanson's other books. Randy read this one in a day. (It's been rainy all week, and 2.30" of rain have curtailed his outside activities.) He kept saying, "You'll like this book!" I started it last night. 

From Amazon:  Years ago, bookseller and mystery aficionado Malcolm Kershaw compiled a list of the genre’s most unsolvable murders. An FBI agent comes calling, looking for information about a series of unsolved murders that look eerily similar to the killings on Mal’s old list ... 

Randy actually finished his second of the books last night, A Reasonable Doubt. It's another mystery. And, again, it's an author I usually enjoy, Phillip Margolin. I knew Randy would like it when I realized it had a magician at the center of the mystery. (Randy got interested in magic during a 10th-aniversary trip to Las Vegas and has since used it for church children's sermons, family birthday parties, etc. He's more into golf now, but I didn't get any golf-themed mysteries.) This is the third Robin Lockwood book in a series.

From Amazon: A magician linked to three murders and suspicious deaths years ago disappears in the middle of his new act. Criminal defense attorney Robin Lockwood must unravel the tangled skein of murder and bloody mischief. ...

Yes, he's finished two books and I've only finished one. But, in my defense, I've done KFRM radio reports, worked on editing photos and writing three blog posts. Yesterday, I made three recipes of drop cookies and put them in the freezer for a Core meal for 43 I have to deliver next week. And, of course, there have been the customary meals and laundry and "stuff." With the sun shining today, Randy's reading time will drop significantly.

Happy reading to you bookworms out there!


  1. Love your writing! Suspense! Intrigue! Mystery! You had me in the edge of my seat 🤣

  2. Oh wow, you are so lucky to have curbside book delivery. I wish my library would do that. I devour paperbacks at the rate of a couple per week. I’ve spent a fortune on Amazon and just received an order of a dozen paper books. I especially like the “cozy” mystery genre.

    1. Have you ever ordered from Thriftbooks? I have gotten some good bargains on books not available at the library through that website. I even ordered some books for our granddaughter through them.

  3. Ditto Jan. The view through the murky windscreen added to the suspense. Loved it. Our library shut down at about the same time. We were able to visit and collect an unlimited number of books. I came home with about 20, but unlike you, haven't made my way through them. I just don't have time! I can hear you laughing! 'Huh! Retired city gal!" I'm enjoying the slower pace of the this new life we have to lead and as a result everything seems to take that much longer to do. So many projects on the go. Once upon a time I could read in bed for hours on end but alas the eyes close far too quickly now. So glad you can find /make time to read in your busy days.

    1. For me, reading provides solace and escape. If I am feeling anxious, it's a way to escape reality for awhile. I don't read anything very deep. If I'm honest, I need to increase my cleaning and sorting and decrease my reading. I am starting to weed out some things. I've lived in the same house too long! I'm sure glad I didn't "weed out" my paperback book collection prior to this, though.