Remixed from Daegaer's RH+ Drabble as part of Remix Madness 2011.
This is a "five things" fic in all but name.
Good People Keep You Young (the Sweet
Kato Reiko had never married. To her, that meant a husband, children,
being a housewife, and too many things that were not books. Her parents
were disappointed, to say the least, but they had more concerns than
one slightly-rebellious daughter.
To her, the patrons at the library were her family, to replace the one
she'd never have. In particular, she loved Kiyoi-san, who loved books
and was always a pleasure to talk to. She remembered the first time
she'd met him, when he'd been looking for books about a particular
point in history, and been drawn in by his warmth and his eagerness to
discuss things with a woman, where not everybody held her or the other
female librarians in high regard.
The other librarians told her that he requested a lot of books. This
was the first one she'd had. It was a book on philosophy, newly
translated from English. As he came in, as he did regularly every
Wednesday, she held it up for him. "Kiyoi-san! I have your book for
"Thank you," he said. If she'd had to marry, he would be the kind of
man she'd want to marry. But she was never going to, so she didn't ask.
* * *
Sometimes, the library couldn't afford things as well as it could other
times. It was how the government felt about supporting the library at
any given moment, and Reiko couldn't complain. Sometimes things were
good, and sometimes they were bad.
As long as they had visitors, readers, it wasn't too bad. Enough to
recount to the city and the county and the national government that
they did have readers and it was worth keeping them open and funded
She looked at the incoming books. Now that she had more responsibility,
she didn't get to greet the patrons as much as she used to. But she
smiled to see that Kiyoi-san's book request was there, this time a
novel containing both French and Japanese. She wished she could read
the French parts; maybe it was time for her to learn another language.
Her English could use improvement, and maybe she should learn another
language, as well.
When Kiyoi-san came, she made sure she was the one to bring him his
book. "Kiyoi-san, here's your novel!"
He smiled as warmly as he ever did, and they chatted about it, and what
languages he spoke, and the worth of learning other peoples' tongues.
Reiko, who already loved learning, resolved to learn even more.
* * *
It was a dreary day in fall when she saw that Kiyoi-san had another
book waiting for him. It was such a pleasure to procure books for him;
he had such good taste. And he looked still so young. She asked him
once if learning kept him that way, and he just smiled and said that
knowing good people was the secret to youth.
After that, she'd tried to know good people. And study, so that she'd
know how to find the good people.
Nervously, she wondered if he spoke the language she was studying. But
this was Kiyoi-san, he knew everything; he probably did.
As he waited at the desk, she said, "Saluton, Kiyoi-san! Chu vi
His gentle "Mi komprenas vin" made the hours of studying worthwhile.
She delightedly gave him his book - a book of Korean monster legends.
She had to confess, she'd read that too, when it arrived.
But then again, Kiyoi-san's choices were, if odd, almost always good
for the library.
* * *
She was getting older, she knew. But she didn't mind; her co-workers
were pleasant, the ones that she'd worked with for many years and the
ones that were young and starting their first jobs. And even as things
changed in the world outside, the library was a refuge.
Not that the library didn't change, of course. All libraries did, if
not just the content. She'd done her share of acquiring, weeding, and
inventory. And of course, the outside world couldn't help but intrude
on her cosy world.
But some things never did. Like Kiyoi-san. She swore he never aged or
changed, not at all. He came in every Wednesday, or nearly so, and the
weeks he wasn't made the place seem emptier, somehow.
She had to admit that when he was finished with the books he checked
out, she read them, just to feel like she could keep up with him. And
that had been many books, over many, many years. At least with
interlibrary loan, they could borrow so many more books to Kiyoi-san's
tastes. Like the one that he was borrowing now, something about a
Battle of Culloden, by a John Prebble. The fact that it was in English
and fifteen years old suggested it had been donated as a gift somewhere
where they had a lot of English speakers.
Maybe she could get her library to buy it. Then, when it was time to
weed it out, she'd buy it and take it home. Her English was pretty
good, after years of spending time with Kiyoi-san.
Her musings made her forget that he was coming, and she almost tripped
over her skirt in her desire to give him his book.
* * *
It was almost time to retire, she hesitated to admit. But it was harder
to heft books around the library, and harder to reach the shelves. She
was most certainly too old to be a librarian anymore.
But that didn't bother her as much as she'd admit. She'd still come to
the library every week, like Kiyoi-san did, reading the books there and
finding exotic material like she'd grown to love.
Kiyoi-san was still coming. Still young. She didn't know how he kept
his youth, but it wasn't important. She was polite, the way her parents
had always taught her to be. Maybe sometimes she'd come to the library
on Wednesdays and they'd talk about all the books they'd read and loved.
She smiled at his latest request. A cookbook, full of French recipes.
She herself preferred Japanese food, but she'd noticed that he had a
taste for the exotic in everything. And she had to admit, the recipes
did look wonderful.
He walked in, as he always did, and she held the book up. "I have that
new cookbook, Kiyoi-san!" she called, just well enough for him to hear
without disturbing the other patrons. "The recipes look delicious."
As always, he smiled back, and she wished she'd asked him out so long
ago. But what was past was past, and she'd never really wanted a
husband anyway. "Thank you, Kato-san," he said, even though they
probably knew each other well enough now to call her by her first name.
She appreciated the formality.
"You're welcome," she said, and reluctantly told him the news. "I
wanted to tell you... I think I will be retiring soon."
"Let me know, to come to the celebration." He was smiling, as he always
* * *
There were two celebrations; one with alcohol and memories and laughs
and a good time, and one for the public, because she was well-beloved
and well-respected. Kiyoi-san came to the second, with wonderful cakes
of many styles, so many that they'd all have to take them home, and
some food that had to have come from that cookbook that he'd borrowed.
She felt adventurous, eating the French food, she who had barely left
town, and never left her own country.
"Kato-san," Kiyoi-san said, offering her a present. "This is for you."
"May I open it now?" she asked, not wanting to be rude.
"Certainly," he said.
It was heavy, and big. She unwrapped the cloth bundle, recognizing the
books. They were ones that she'd read and loved, ones she'd discussed
with him, even copies of the ones he'd borrowed and she'd liked.
"Thank you," she said, more emotional than polite, but she minded her
manners even as she wanted to run home with the bundle and read them
all once again. "You remembered...."
"Of course," he said, smiling.
What could she say that wouldn't shock everyone with her impropriety?
Then she remembered a way to say what she wanted to say.
"Vi mankas al min. Vi plachas al mi."
"Mi sciias." He was smiling at her, and she felt her heart speed up.
"Thank you," she whispered, and put the books to the side, to read
They, like him, were the best gifts she'd ever had.
The language Reiko and Kiyoi use in the story is
Esperanto. Even though most browsers can display Esperanto's accented
letters nowadays, I chose to use the very old h-convention (way of
displaying the accented characters) to go along with the very old Reiko.
For those who do not speak the language, here's what
the two are saying:
"Hello, Kiyoi-san! Do you understand me?"
"I understand you."
"I'll miss you. I like you."