Once upon my former days as an elementary school library media assistant, I apparently had fewer piles of urgent business to tend to than usual, because I took a few minutes to compose and e-mail the following report to my sister, closely based on the entirely true events of that morning. During a recent de-cluttering of my room, I came across a printed copy of the only very slightly embellished account, and realized that – with the barest of line edits and removal of alienating inside jokes – I had myself a bloggable short story! So, for your reading pleasure, I do hereby present…
The Case of the Pirate Pocket (Wednesday, February 24, 2010, 8:49 AM)
Ten minutes after arriving to work, I received my first assignment of the day.
I was engaged in your usual detective work – keeping tabs on the comings and goings of the local characters (or, more accurately, their books) – when… she walked in.
It was the mysterious lady down the hall. Short; bright hair; slow with numbers. (I oughtta know: She had me on a mean case of algebra tutoring, back before the start of this debacle.) She was in a jam, as usual. A real pickle. A cucumber picked in a jam jar.
Fortunately, when it comes to cukes, I am always cool as one.
“Ms. Shipley,” she said breathlessly, ‘cause that’s me – D. Shipley, P.I. (Well, okay, L.M.A.; but that looks too much like “llama”, and an elementary school librarian’s life is a road of tears, so I prefer to go the P.I. route. But I digress…)
I noticed that she kept one hand restlessly patting a certain rear-endish area of her anatomy. It made me wonder what was coming next. I wasn’t kept waiting long.
“Do you have anything I can stick here?” she asked, and I resisted using any of the crudely clever quips that sprang immediately to mind.
“Something to stick, eh?” I said. So this was a sticky situation. They always are. And when you need to stick it to a sticky sitch, sometimes it’s best to stick with the stick you know.
Chomping on my cigar (don’t smoke, kids), I observed, “Sounds to me like you need a note to get you out of trouble, sweetheart.”
“Yeah.” I reached into my desk and pulled out solution number one. “A sticky note.”
But a second look at the problem told me that this wasn’t gonna cut the mustard. Maybe if it had been mayonnaise, but no.
“That won’t fly,” she said.
I asked, “What will?”
Her answer was ominous. Not that she actually said the word “ominous”. That would have made no sense, and I would have been obliged to tell her so. No, what she actually said, in an ominous whisper, was, “The Jolly Roger.”
She removed her hand from her back end, and at last I saw the cause of her distress: Embroidered on the back pocket of her jeans, a skull and crossbones.
“You’re right,” I said. “That won’t fly. …Well, on a brigand ship, it would. But this is an elementary school.”
She nodded tearfully. “I know. Oh, whatever will my employer say if she sees this?”
“ ‘Aargh!’?” I suggested.
She continued the tearful nodding. “Maybe.”
“You got any safety pins?” I asked, thinking on my feet, although I happened to be sitting down. “We might be able to pin some paper over it.”
She didn’t have any pins. I didn’t have any pins. Between us, we were pin-less. And I didn’t trust my stapler as far as I could throw it – although, the way it acted up whenever I tried to staple something, I could see myself throwing it pretty far.
“A sticky problem indeed,” I mused. “But,” I suddenly remembered, “my drawers are full of tape!”
“Sounds like I’m not the only one with pants problems,” she remarked.
“Not those drawers, toots – the drawers in my desk. We’ll use the tape in my drawers to tape paper to your pirate pocket.”
Just to show off, I said that ten times, fast.
Her pants were as black as the heart of the pirate who would dare fly such a flag on their ships and/or pockets. Not everyone would have matching black paper on hand. I personally had nothing on my hands except sanitizer and a stylish mole or two. But I did keep construction paper of many colors in my office, black included, so we gave that a whirl. After that, we got around to trying to tape it to her pants.
But like a sorry excuse for an alibi, the tape just wouldn’t stick.
“What about masking tape?” she asked.
“It’s not the tape we’re trying to disguise,” I reminded her. “It’s the skull and crossbones on your pocket. But using tape to mask the pocket might not be such a bad idea.”
The custodian was just then coming down the hall. Using my expertly subtle interrogation skills, I asked if she had any masking tape. The custodian denied the whole thing, just as I’d know she would. She liked to play hardball. But she wasn’t the only one in a playful mood. While her information played hard-to-get, I played a round or two of distract-the-custodian-while-my-client-rummages-through-said-custodian’s-mailbox-and-uncovers-the-masking-tape.
Once we were rid of the custodian, I masked old Jolly Roger, and the case was solved.
“Thank you, Ms. Shipley,” she said gratefully.
“Just doing my job,” I said, even though we were both aware that neither of my job descriptions – neither my real one as an L.M.A., not my fictional one as a P.I. – made any mention of handling my coworkers’ wardrobe malfunctions.
But hey. I’m easy.