Thursday, December 09, 2004

Carbonated Deception

Our mentally slow honorary "liberry" employee Lennie was in today. I haven't seen him in a while because by the time I normally arrive at work on Thursdays he's already finished his shift with us and left or has overstayed his shift and is in the process of being convinced to leave.

This week, however, I was in a couple of hours earlier than usual, as I'm working more hours to help fill in for Mrs. B, who's still out recovering from surgery. (Frankly I think she's faking the whole thing to get out of work. Last year she had to take December off because she "broke her ankle" and had to go "recover." Uh huh. This year's flimsy excuse is that she's "had a hysterectomy." Suuuuure she did. Glug glug glug glug.) So today I was around for all of Lennie's Thursday shift.

Lennie was his usual self, which is to say on a fairly narrow track. During any given appearance, he will have a conversational theme for the day and today's Lennie Theme was the fact that he was going to go Christmas caroling at a local retirement home. Whenever there was a lull in employee conversation, Lennie would pipe up with, "MRS. C, I'm going singing toniiiight... It's at THE OLD FOLKS HOME."

Mrs. C told him he needed to be sure to thank Mrs. J for buying him a soft-drink down at the corner market yesterday. Mrs. J had told us that she'd seen him in there and had offered to buy him a hot dog if he wanted one. He seemed interested in the offer at first, but then remembered that he already had money for a hot dog. He said he would like a drink, though, so Mrs. J had bought him a Coke.

"She was going to buy me a hot dog," Lennie said as the tale was repeated.

"Uh huh," Mrs. C said with suspicion. "You weren't going to let her do that, knowing you already had money in your pocket for a hot dog, were you?"

"I had money for a hot dog. Gary gave me chaaange," Lennie said, but he avoided Mrs. C's gaze and quickly tried to change the subject, indicating that he didn't like the avenue of discourse in which he might or might not have been planning to get a free hot dog on top of the money he already had for one. Mrs. C's suspicious nature on this may seem a bit cold, but you really have to watch Lennie when it comes to matters of food and money.

Sometimes Mrs. A sends Lennie on an errand down to the market to pick her up a drink. She gives him the money and he's supposed to buy it and bring her her change. Occasionally, she'll give him enough for him to get a drink too and tells him to do so. Well, a year or so ago, Lennie was about to run such an errand and asked Mrs. A if he could get a drink as well. She said, sure thing, and gave him extra money for it. Then, Lennie slyly went over to Mrs. B and asked to speak to her outside. Away from prying ears, he asked her if she could give him some money so he could get a drink. She did. He then proceeded to pull the same trick with Mrs. C and Mrs. J without any of the ladies catching on. (He might have tried it with me, but I wasn't there that day.) Lennie then took his ill-gotten funds and purchased himself quite the little feast, including a drink, a hot dog, an ice-cream cone and some candy. Of course, he brought all of it back up to the library, along with Mrs. A's original drink and no change, then proceeded to eat it all in front of them. When the ladies saw this, they realized they had been scammed. And by Lennie of all people. They acted very angry with him, but secretly we all thought it was pretty funny, particularly since we had no clue Lennie was capable of such deception.

Lennie doesn't try that sort of thing very often, but he was up to such tricks again today. After helping us lick all the fund-drive envelopes (during which we all got papercuts on our tongues) Mrs. A sent him to the store with more money than necessary for a drink but also with instructions that he was to bring her change. He did bring her change, but it only amounted to a quarter or so because he'd spent the rest of it on a drink for himself, sans permission. Mrs. A laughed this off, but Mrs. C told Lennie he had to pay Mrs. A back when he comes in for his shift on Monday. He frowned and avoided her eyes and kept trying to change the subject back to his caroling tonight.

When Lennie's three hour shift ended, he was, as usual, reluctant to leave. Mrs. C kept hounding him to pick out the books he wanted because it was time to go, but he was very slow about it. And even after he picked them out he took forever to get the rest of his stuff together to leave. And after he'd finally put on his coat and his hat and put his books in his backpack and called his grandma to let her know he was about to start walking home, he still lingered in the door staring out at the rain. He had an umbrella, but still didn't like going out in the weather. He talked to us about having to sing some more.

"We don't have The Village People's Greatest Hits over there, do we?" I asked, pointing to our recording-industry-lawsuit-settlement CD section. As I've written before, singing "YMCA" is the only sure fire way to get Lennie to leave.

"Nope, but we can start up a chorus any time," Mrs. C said.

We didn't have to, though. Lennie decided on his own that he was ready to go. He snugged up his jacket good then reached into its pocket and produced from it a can of soda of the very brand he'd purchased earlier, though this one had been brought from home. Mrs. C saw it and began to protest that he'd had a drink the whole time yet still thought it necessary to misappropriate Mrs. A's funds for another one. She'd hardly begun, though, when Lennie said, "Wish me luck singing" and out the door he went.

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An employee of a small town "liberry" chronicles his quest to remain sane while dealing with patrons who could star in a short-lived David Lynch television series.