Overdue

Rated Parental Guidance

Well, don't you look a grump, rumbled Jack as he sat down in the food court of his favorite Furriston mall. He was, of course, referring to his friend Gene Catlow, who was back from the public library. Have a seat.

Gene blinked at the size of the meal the lynx was having: the lynx had eaten 2 double cheese burgers and was now munching his way through one of the specials from a Japanese kiosk. A bit hungry? he asked as he sat down.

The lynx nodded. Was practicin' with Parondor for the upcoming Warzone show. Dunno if you and Catswhisker enjoy wrestling, but it's gonna be a blast. He grinned. So what's got your tail poofed?

Oh, I brought back a book late, and I got fined for it.

Mmm. Yeah, I'm never happy when I bring back something late, he rumbled. Makes me feel kinda guilty.

Well, that's not the problem, grumbled Gene.

Well, what is? asked Jack.

A fine for an overdue library book? Man, I thought that madness went out with hula hoops! He snorted. I mean, what's up with this overdue library book fine madness anyway?

Jack looked at Gene with a sigh. The lynx thought his buddy was being ridiculous, really, but wasn't sure how to put it, particularily since Gene was a good few years Jack's senior, and Jack had been raised to respect his elders—in public, anyways. In the ring was another question. He simply munched away at his meal.

Well, what's the worst that could happen if libraries dropped late charges? Gene said.

A student could sign out a book in Grade 9 and not return it until years after he graduated, came the reply. And, yes, that was me.

Gene got up. I'm gonna get something to eat, he said, not liking the turn the conversation had taken.

Jack nodded. Suit yourself.

Before long, Gene was back, with his own meal.

Jack grinned. So you comin' to the show? he asked.

Gene shook his head. Much as I admire your and Parondor's resistance to pain, I think I'll pass.

Aw, come on, old buddy! I'll even put you down as the mystery third wrestler!

...

Jack burst out laughing at the look on Gene's face. Oh, man, I wish I had a camera, he hooted.

Don't do that to me! gasped Gene.

Jack just snickered as he finished his meal. Sorry, I couldn't resist. See you around? he asked, standing up.

Gene nodded. Yeah, maybe visit you in the hospital. he joked.

You're so sweet, laughed the lynx, and left the food court, mulling over what Gene had said. He was going to head home and get some rest, but decided to take a visit to the public library first.

Upon entry, he came over to the head librarian, a lovely owl named Miss Elaine Eos. Upon showing her his library card, he got down to business. Ma'am, he said. What is Mr. Gene Catlow's favorite book?

Where in tarnation is it? an increasingly frustrated Gene growled, looking through the shelves.

Looking for something? asked Jack. He'd been out of town on tour for the past 6 months on tour, and had dropped back in.

Gene nodded. Yes. One of my favorite books has utterly, totally... vanished.

Maybe someone's reading it, suggested Jack. A lot of people come to the library and read books, but never sign them out. Back in my hometown, I did that all the time.

I thought that might be the case, but this book's been missing for half a year, so it can't be that.

Jack nodded. It could also be that a certain lynx you know decided to pretend this library didn't have late fees, and has had the book this whole time.

Gene turned around, his face a mask of shocked anger. Unfortunately, though Jack was only average in height, he was a powerhouse of a lynx, which meant physical reprisal was out of the question.

Jack calmly smiled at Gene. Kinda makes you wish libraries would make people pay for stunts like that, doesn't it? he noted. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to the front desk. I got a book to return.