Some Rules Are Made To Be Broken, Sooner or Later
Our small Nebraska town was endowed with a public library, captained by Miss Anne Madison, a squat steely-eyed, overpoweringly rigid woman. Her rules were unbreakable; no speech above a whisper allowed, no gum chewing, no eating, and only one trip to the drinking fountain allowed. Heaven help the person whose books were overdue. It wasn’t the two cents a day fine that was imposed unbendingly; it was the lecture that came along with the fine, which Miss Madison delivered to all cringing wrongdoers.
Such was her power that even the toughest characters in our grade school always thoroughly washed their hands and face before entering the portals of the town library. The building was divided into two sections, one for the adult readers and one for the children’s books. Miss Madison reigned supreme in both sections – that is until the day a new family moved into town.
Kids overheard their parents talking. And, so spread the news that a girl actually yelled at Miss Madison and she and her mother had been kicked out of the library. Every time the story was told the punishment and the crime got worse. Finally, our Sunday school teacher told us the truth of the matter, so as to put an end to all the gossip.
“You all know that children borrow books from their own section in the library,” she explained. “A little girl made a mistake and went into the adult section and tried to take out a book. Miss Madison could not allow that, so she refused to stamp the book.”
“We heard she hollered at Miss Madison,” Scoot offered.
“Yeah, and her mother yelled too and got put out,” added Mig.
“My cousin says they’re from New York and kids there read everything,” said Alice Fields. “Even if it’s a nasty story.”
Our Sunday school teacher stiffened and calmly asked us to remember that new people don’t know our library rules. She said, “Sometimes grownups get excited and raise their voices. And, Miss Madison had a duty to protect children from bad things. You should forget the incident and stop talking about such things.”
Of course we didn’t. We tried to imagine what horrible things could be in THAT book and how we could get our parents to tell us its name, so some day we could sneak a peek into its lurid pages. However, Miss Madison’s reputation and procedures were so strongly in place we never did find out the name of that wicked volume. That is until our 50th high school reunion.
Frank Fields, Alice’s brother, who had stayed in our hometown all these years and had served on the town’s library board, knew the name of the book. So, we cornered him with a challenge.
“Hey, Frank, we are old enough now,” we stated. “Tell us the name of the filthy book Miss Madison was protecting children from up to the age of twenty-one.”
“That’s easy,” Frank drawled. “It was ‘Tarzan of the Apes,’ by Edgar Rice Burroughs.”
Mary Elizabeth Mruzik