Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Magic Tree: Part III

Gonga hurried back home that night, eager to rest and make plans for his adventure. He wanted to time his arrival at the Magic Tree to coincide with darkness, when the lights would be most beautiful. He knew he was a fast walker, and could easily cover ten miles in less than three hours. But it was already past midnight, and he wanted time to plan his route to avoid the highest traffic areas.

He also had a strange desire to walk into the sunset at the beginning of his trek. Somehow, walking into the sunset seemed like it would add just the touch necessary to bring his wishes to fruition. Just maybe something would happen. Just maybe, somehow, he would re-gain contact with his family.

He lay awake for over an hour that night, and when he did sleep, confused images of his family filled his mind.

He spent the morning passing out flyers for work and took off early to pull up maps and plan his route.

The clouds had finally parted, and as he set out, he watched a spectacular red sunset. Gonga smiled to himself. Things had started well. Maybe, just maybe they would end well also. How in the world going to the Magic Tree would help him in his search for his family, he had no idea. But one can always hope. And so he did.

A scant three hours later, he stood in front of the Magic Tree, witnessing its glow for the first time in his life. He watched in awe as the lights faded almost imperceptibly from red to blue, or from blue to green and back again. It was bigger than he had imagined, and more beautiful. He smiled wryly. Few things managed to exceed expectations like that.

Someone tapped him on the shoulder. “You from Congo?” A teenager wearing an Abercrombie and Fitch hoodie regarded him solemnly.

Gonga nodded, wondering how the boy had been able to tell.

“I keep getting these random texts from someone. They think I’m their son or something. Or at least, they did. Till I texted back and told them they had the wrong number. They tried to call too. But I didn’t answer. My phone plan doesn’t cover international calls. No way.”

Gonga felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up.

“Then they started asking me to contact their son. Said that he was from Congo or something. Anyway, you looked different, so I thought I’d ask.”

Gonga stuttered, “My family in Congo…” then his words failed him.

In the hours of conversation that followed, he finally unraveled the mystery. In his family’s haste to escape the approach of a gorilla band, the notebook with his phone number and other contact information had been forgotten. His youngest brother had insisted that he had Gonga’s number memorized, and so when the family reached one of the major cities, they bought their first cell phone and tried contacting their son. But his brother had unwittingly flipped a couple numbers, and the only responses they received were ignored calls and strange text messages.

Until…Gonga visited the Magic Tree.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Magic Tree: Part II

Gonga kicked at a bottle cap and watched it skitter down the road. He hadn’t heard word from his family in over a month, and he was starting to lose hope.

Gonga’s eyes drifted upward and he paused. Something bright was reflecting off the street just around the corner. He hurried down past ColdStone, staring at the tree in front of Shakespear’s pizza. It was so beautiful!

Someone had wrapped brightly colored strands of Christmas lights around the trunk, around every single limb and all the way out to individual twigs. The tree glowed in brilliant detail.

Gonga stood beneath it, staring up into the branches. Blue, green, yellow, pink, red and every shade in between.

Someone laughed. “You think this is great, you should see the real magic tree.”

Gonga’s heart twisted inside. The Magic Tree? It sounded wonderful.

“Where is it?” Gonga asked, looking at the college student sporting a windbreaker and a black and gold baseball cap.

He jerked his thumb, “Oh, somewhere down in the Cherry Hill shopping center.”

Cherry Hill? That sounded even prettier. “How far…to walk?” Gonga jerked the words out.

“Walk?” the man looked surprised. He guffawed. “You couldn’t walk that! It’s probably ten miles at least.”

“I will go walk,” Gonga breathed. “I must see this Magic Tree.” Visions of his family flickered through his mind. Maybe, just maybe something would happen.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Magic Tree: Part I

Most people refuse to believe in magic. Yet occasionally something happens to make you wonder. There are times when things work out so perfectly or in such an unexpected manner that you can’t help believing. Or perhaps it’s something bigger than magic. Maybe there’s actually a Someone who engineered the whole thing, who planned it out beforehand, and who keeps watch to make sure the world continues on its orbit.

Gonga experienced such a moment not long ago.

Back home in Congo, communication was down. Maybe the towers had been stuck by lightning. Maybe a gorilla force had gone through and taken out the radio operators, or knocked out the internet servers. More likely someone had just decided to rip the copper wiring out of the whole country and sell it to a scrap yard.

Whatever the reason, Gonga hadn’t heard anything from his family in over a month, and the worry was beginning to set in hard. He was so accustomed to his evening Skype chats with his family that now he found himself staring at the computer screen for hours each evening; and vaguely hoped that something would change, that somehow his family would manage to get in touch with him.

This evening Gonga couldn’t take it anymore. He was tired of sitting cramped inside, waiting for nothing to happen, feeling the cold grasp of fear tightening on his heart. What if it was a gorilla band that had wreaked destruction? Had his family survived? Were they OK? Did they manage to escape? If only they had come with him to America when they had the chance so many years ago.

Gonga shambled along Hitt Street, headed towards downtown Columbia. The soles on his shoes flapped aimlessly. They had grown thin and ragged as he saved every cent possible to send back to his family in the Congo. He wanted to give them the best Christmas they had ever experienced. But now what was the point?

To be continued…

Saturday, December 3, 2011

An Artist’s Follies

One would think that being an artist himself, Gonga would know the wiles of the artists and be adept at avoiding them, especially the female artists. Unfortunately, this has proved a false assumption. The simple fact that Gonga is artistic has both blinded him and made him more susceptible in a single blow.

The most recent example happened a week ago. Gogna was sitting near Middlebush, playing his accordion with all his might. A few passers tossed spare change and dollar bills into his suitcase. Between classes, students gathered in a knot around him to observe his playing and enjoy the music.

One girl in particular placed herself squarely opposite him on the ground and listened with rapt attention. Her reddish hair gleamed, and her peasant style shirt fluttered slightly in the breeze. He liked having her watch him. He liked it even more when she threw back her head and laughed at his fumbling, and his exaggerated clownish behavior.

This particular girl with the broad face and rapturous smile sat and watched him for two days in a row. On the third day, she came by a bit earlier in the morning. But this time she had a frown on her face.

Her voice was gently accented when she spoke, “I’m horribly sorry. I feel like such an awful person even asking this.” She paused, “I have no money for the parking meter. And I thought…” her voice trailed off and Gonga watched her eyes drift to the coins lying in his suitcase.

“Take,” he grunted in his gorilla voice, reaching down and catching up a handful of quarters.

“Oh thank you!” she cried, her eyes shining.

And so began a very long habit of the peasantly artistic student using Gogna’s accordion money to fill her parking meter day after day. She sat and watched him occasionally after that. But more and more, she looked rushed. At times she would appear covered in clay or pottery. Other times it was paint. And once her hair even looked as though it might have been dyed purple with wash-out dye, but there hadn’t quite been time to thoroughly get the dye washed out.

Of course, the height of it all occurred the day she, stammering, asked to borrow the textbook someone had just dropped in his accordion case. He planned to sell it at the Textbook Game and make some real money for a change. But she looked so forlorn as she explained that she had that very Physics test in less than four hours and desperately needed to study.

Gonga let her borrow the book.

It wasn’t till that evening when he headed back to The Textbook Game that he realized he had been taken in by a fellow artist. She popped out of the store right as he entered, refusing to make eye contact with him, and rushed on her way. Gonga saw the cashier lifting the book he had just purchased from the girl and putting on the trolley behind him. It was the Physics book.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Gorilla Fears

What would cause a gorilla to jump off a bridge? What could be so horrible that anyone would be tempted to jump from the solid security of masonry and brick into the cold, cold waters and face the terrifying sensation of liquid slowly filling your nostrils and lungs, covering your eyes and cutting off all hint of life.

Well, the potential of banana extinction could bring him close to that state. After all, seeing the devastation of the rain forests on TV over Thanksgiving break brought a lump to his throat. No, not a lump of sadness, but a lump of fear. The cold, sheer terror of wondering whether there would be bananas tomorrow, or the next day, or a year from now.

After crashing into a roller-skater while dodging traffic across College during rush-hour, Gonga also fears riding his skateboard. In fact, he now refuses to ride his skateboard anywhere near real traffic areas. And if he sees even one roller-skater, he gets off his skateboard and carries it home.

Gogna has the usual workplace fears as well; getting kicked in the shins, running out of flyers, having someone steal the cash tips out of his accordion case or even the occasional pie in the face. Yes, shin-kicking gorillas seems to be a hazing activity of one of the fraternities, hence Gonga’s increasing desire to wear shin-guards while at work. He figures if construction workers get to wear hard hats, he can at least add his own form of protection.

But one fear that truly makes his blood run cold is the fear of textbooks going online. If textbooks go online, then there will no longer be used copies for re-sale; only used log-in credentials. And since those are usually limited to a certain time-period, the resale value drops dramatically.

Even online textbooks wouldn’t quite cause Gonga to rush to find the nearest bridge. However, the thought of student loan companies going bankrupt does. After all, without a steady supply of fodder for the textbook mill, “The Textbook Game” will fail, and Gonga will be begging on the streets again. Even the thought of student loans becoming more difficult to acquire makes Gonga queasy on the inside.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Impotence Of Proper Spelling

I am sure you have had the necessity of proper spelling drummed into your head from a tender age. Teachers say it, parents preach it and your friends all compete at spelling in those ‘honerous’ contests called “spelling bees.”

Gonga has always wondered why they’re called spelling bees anyway. After all, proper spelling of the noun for those little insects which fly around gathering nectar to turn into honey is not all that difficult. No, it’s words a bit longer than that which trip Gonga up.

In response to one worried note from a teacher which attempted to convince Gonga that he should work harder at learning to spell properly, Gonga sent another note asserting that he agreed that proper spelling was impotent. The teacher took this to mean that Gonga thought her teaching style was impotent. From that point on, Gonga was on his own.

He later posted on a girl’s wall, telling her, “You are such a sweaty girl!” Not only did he accuse her of overactive sweat glands, he also happened to forget to insert the comma before “girl,” which is probably why she immediately sentenced him to a life-time of Facebook friendlessness. Less than a year after that he made the mistake of messaging another friend, stating that the deodorant he used was utterly senseless. He meant “scentless” of course, but that friend called him up and started cursing him out in the middle of class. Suffice to say that this time Gonga had the pleasure of de-friending the person and deleting all the vulgar things that had been posted on his wall in the interim.

More embarrassing, and also more damaging, he addressed a thank-you letter to the donor who had funded his scholarship that year to, “The Deer Fiend.” Apparently that individual did not appreciate being likened to some sort of four footed, cloven hoofed demon and promptly revoked any future funding to the school.

In general, Gonga forgets letters and often confuses the proper use of vowels. When he writes his mother that he is going to get ‘beat’, she has finally stopped worrying for his safety and realized that he is simply talking about vegetables. He will also occasionally write home, telling that that he accomplished a spectacular ‘feet’ in finding shoes large enough for his ‘feat’. This inevitably sends his parents into ‘contusions’ of laughter.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Pumpkin Football

Gonga stared at the orange orb on the table in front of him. It glared back with as yet un-carved eyes. Gonga scowled in response. Of course his pumpkin would end up glowering at him. That’s always how things worked.

He raised his knife thoughtfully, considering how to procede.

Should he make a big mouth, or a little one? Bother with a nose at all? Maybe do eyebrows instead?

Eyes first.

Half an hour later Gonga looked at the mangled mass in front of him. He suddenly realized that he never should have worried about the eyes in the first place. They wouldn’t remain intact enough to glare back at him anyway. He speared a chunk of pumpkin on the end of his knife. How did those girls manage to make such realistic faces anyway?

He looked at the next pumpkin and grinned.

He shouted, “Derrick!” and swept the pumpkin off the table.

“What?” Derrick shouted in response from outside the screen door.

“Football!” Gonga barreled out the door at break-neck speed, curling over the pumpkin and shouldering his way past Derrick.

“Hang on there!” Derrick was after him in a flash. “Pass!”

Gonga turned and hurled the pumpkin at him.

Derrick juggled wildly for a second before capturing the orange ball.

Gonga smacked his hands together.

“You want it?” Derrick smiled and lobbed the pumpkin towards him at top speed.

Gonga recognized the glint in his friend’s eye a second before the pumpkin smacked him in the skull. It shattered, spewing pumpkin seeds and pulp all around him.

“You!” he shouted, diving towards Derrick.

The two went down in a heap with a mass of pumpkin rinds in-between.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Guy Fawkes Day

“Remember, remember, the fifth of November,

Gunpowder, treason and plot.

I see no reason why the gunpowder treason,

Should ever be forgot.”

Gonga stared at the flat-screen, watching the scenes of blackness and fire swirl around each other. Indeed it was the fifth of November, and he for one was not forgetting the treason Guy Fawkes had almost perpetrated on the British Parliament over four hundred years ago.

It was a fascinating story to Gonga. How could a person manage to smuggle over a dozen barrels of gunpowder into the cellar underneath Parliament and then not quite detonate them?

Now children all over England burned their own bits of gunpowder every fifth of November in celebration of the British version of the US’s 4th of July. Well, almost their version of the 4th of July. There were some notable differences, but Gonga decided not to parse it out right now.

It was enough to stare into the flickering screen and enjoy the newly Holywoodized version of the story behind Guy Fawkes’ Day, “V for Vendetta”.

Then he paused. It would be awful fun to make an effigy of Guy Fawkes. Find some old clothes and stuff them with paper. Maybe even grab one of those “V for Vendetta” masks that the protesters downtown often wore. Then take him to the middle of campus, on Speaker’s Circle and light him on fire.

Gonga started chuckling. It would probably draw a crowd.

Children in England may get away with burning stuffed “Guys” on this day, but it was hardly accepted cultural practice on the United States. People could get away with flag burning…but Gonga wasn’t so sure about this.

Still, he had to give it a try.

He hit the second speed dial on his phone, “Derrick?”

Monday, October 31, 2011

King Kong

Gonga was starting to think that running around on campus after midnight wasn’t such a bad idea this time of year. Any other time and he’d be the only non-human out and about. But it was only three days till Halloween, and apparently a lot of people felt the need to give their costumes a trial run.

A cat purred past him, walking on her hind legs. Gonga did a double-take. She was hand-in hand with a very large baby…with chest hair. He shuddered. Some people needed to take their costuming a little more seriously.

Why had Derrick dragged him out to go scare his professor tonight of all nights? There were so many other crazies running around campus, there’s no way the professor would look at the window unless he actually threw a rock through it and broke something.

A goulish-half dead figure drifted past on the opposite side of the road. Gonga hated those plastic head masks that made you look like a zombie out of a horror movie. They were just too realistic.

Pouding on the window of Derrick’s professor’s lab was about as disappointing as Gonga expected. The man didn’t turn a hair. He just kept going from one test tube to another, taking notes.

Derrick ribbed him, “Pound harder.”

Gonga pounded again, then Derrick started pounding and Gonga let out a full throated gorilla howl.

At least then the man looked towards them. But he only scowled and went on with his work.

“Well that was lame,” Derrick grunted.

Gonga shrugged and struck off across campus. No sense in hanging out here. And now that he was thoroughly awake, no sense in going back to bed.

He strolled towards Jessie Hall, enjoying the sliver of young moon hanging in the sky.

Wonder what Ann’s up to tonight, he thought. What was her real name again? Oh well. It didn’t matter. She was going to be Ann Darrow, and he was going to be King Kong for Halloween. That’s all that mattered.

He stood, staring up at Jessie hall. Then he got an idea.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Derrick was pounding at Gonga’s door again.

Gonga groaned. When would that kid ever leave him alone?

“Kid” may not have been the best term to apply to the strapping 6’ 4” mountain-climbing hobbyist standing outside his door at the moment. But it encompassed a certain amount of derision that Gonga felt was fitting.

It was as if they guy was still in college or something. Why in the world was he banging on his door at 1 AM this morning?

Gonga stumbled to the door and flung it open. “What do you want?”

“Good grief. What do you want me to do, call the police and file a ‘missing gorilla’ report? No one takes half an hour to answer their door.”

Gonga glowered at him.

Derrick shouldered his way past Gonga into the house. “And why didn’t you answer your phone?”

Gonga’s response stretched taunt as a frayed nerve. “I was sleeping.”

“With you phone off?” Derrick rolled his eyes. “Come on, you have to be accessible! The world needs a good gorilla like you at their beck and call.”

Gonga turned and stumbled towards his bed. “I’m going back to sleep.”

“Aw come on man,” Derrick’s hand caught his shoulder before he’d taken three steps. “I have something I need you to help me with.”

“What?” Gonga didn’t turn around.

“Remember my physics prof? The one who gave me a C-? He’s working late tonight. I saw him through the window in his lab. I need you to go bang on that window and howl.” Derrick paused. “Please?”

“You woke me up to go scare someone? Seriously?”

“Aw, come on,” Derrick pleaded. “It’s a Friday night anyway. You’re not supposed to be sleeping right now.”

Gonga closed his eyes. This had nothing to do with the mission he was struck trying to solve. Now even his best friend was coming up with the silliest excuses to get him out and about in the middle of the night. It was bad enough that he couldn’t sleep half the time anyway with all the puzzle pieces dancing through his brain. Now this.

“Fine. But you owe a dozen banana splits for this one.”

Derrick grinned. “No problem, buddy. Come on!”

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Worst Homecoming Ever

It was homecoming.

Gonga growled to himself. Better call it “Leave-taking of your senses.”

This was the last thing he wanted to deal with this weekend. Apparently it was extra worse because it was an extra “special” homecoming since it was number 100. If they would only change things to a binary number system for a week, then it wouldn’t be so special. Then maybe people would leave him alone.

No chance of that.

Of course, he could just try to avoid the football stadium…and anywhere within a five mile radius. The roads were packs, the coffee shops were packed, and the streets and sidewalks were packed. Why oh why did he have to be here today!?!

He glowered behind his mask.

Smoke from the thousands of tail-gate grills drifted into his face and his eyes started to water.

True, the energy was awesome to watch. So many people packed into such a tiny space, and all ready to scream at the top of their lungs if you shouted the right combination of letters.

Gonga twirled the tiger tail attached to his gorilla costume and shouted “M-I-Z.” The result was deafening.

So what if he could predict things? So what if he got exactly the reaction he expected? He still hated being at the game.

But The Textbook Game wanted him there. Why, he couldn’t fathom.

They wouldn’t even let him wear his Textbook Game t-shirt. He had to wear a tiger-themed shirt. Even worse, he was wearing a tiger tail.

Great. All they needed was a darker, furrier version of Truman. With two of them at the game, how would the Iowa State fans know which one to target? The uglier one, right?

Gonga glowered again.

Today was a good day to hire a rain cloud to hang out over his head. Maybe then people would know to give him space.

Three more people jostled him in their mad rush toward the stadium.

No, better yet, make it a lightning bolt. This crowd wouldn’t notice anything less.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Halloween Costume

It took almost two weeks of sitting and enjoying the accordion concerts before the girl said anything to Gonga. And even then it was simply a compliment to his music.

Her research project was going well, though it was a hassle to find anything at all after the disruption of the fire. Library staff had taken the opportunity to completely re-organize the way the Historic Collection was categorized and Susan volunteered to spend part of her library staff hours helping with the process. So, while the research project itself was on hold, she was able to see so many items she would never have dreamed of exploring otherwise.

Gonga’s investigation was also on hold. The higher-ups weren’t telling him anything. Either because they didn’t want to trust him with such weighty secrets, or more likely, they didn’t know anything themselves and didn’t want to admit it.

At any rate, it was time to think about Halloween. Some sorority was raising money in Speaker’s Circle today with a pumpkin carving contest. Gonga ran through a couple renditions of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor to help set the mood. Of course, no one else knew the title of the song. They just heard creepy pipe-organ music. The girls squealed in excitement and thanked him.

King Kong would be a good costume for him, Gonga decided. Now he just had to find a girl small enough to be Ann Darrow. Then things would be perfect.

The girl in the blue backpack plopped down about ten yards away from him and smiled. Susan was having a good day. The sight of pumpkin carving made her happy.

When she finally headed in towards the library Gonga had made up his mind. Once he made her understand his idea, she just started laughing.

“Stand up,” she said.

Gonga stood and suddenly realized that he had a least a foot and half on her. He grinned sheepishly behind his mask. This was going to be better than he thought.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Baby Blue Backpack

Orange leaves drifted down around Gonga and swirled away, seemingly in time with the music of his accordion. It helped that Gonga was practicing keeping tempo with the wind. It was something he liked doing to clear his mind. With thoughts of wind racing through, nothing else could trouble him.

It was fall. And it was beautiful.

That’s all that Gonga cared about at the moment.

The sun brushed his black fur with sparkles and gently warmed through to his skin.

It felt so good to just sit in the sun and play his accordion. It was good to be nothing more than an advertiser for “The Textbook Game” once again. The anonymity of the mask suited him; as well as the predictability of the job.

Whenever things started going rough, he could always slip back into that role.

It was fantastic.

A girl with a baby-blue backpack paused on the opposite side of Speaker’s Circle and turned towards Gonga’s music. A dreamy smile flitted across her face and she drifted back to the edge of the circle. Slowly, she perched on the stone bench.

She was still there almost four hours later when Gonga finally reached down to lay his accordion in its case. He stretched, working the kinks out of his back and gazing off towards the sunset.

It had been a good day. He had kept track of the tips as they fluttered into his music case from passing students, and the tally was good. Almost $75.00 on top of his usual hourly rate. He smiled again. It was a wonderful day.

The girl in the blue backpack thought so too. Her library science classes that morning had been a little slow, but nothing too boring. Her projects were coming along nicely for being less than halfway through the semester, and she had just witnessed the best accordion concert in her life.

Now it was time to hurry up and meet her study buddy in the library and figure out where to go next on their research project. She frowned. The closing of the Missouri Historical Society would certainly put a damper on things. Who knew when the documents would get dried out? And worse yet, when would they be back in order so they could locate the items they needed?

Gonga watched her stroll past, wondering why she had sat listening all afternoon, wondering where she was headed now. If only he knew she was researching documents in the Historical Society. If only he knew…

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Gonga trudged past the controlled chaos surrounding the circulation area in the library. Yellow caution tape was everywhere. Downstairs he knew it was worse. The water from the sprinkler system had drained towards the administrative offices and dripped down through the ceiling. Some offices had up to a foot and a half of water.

He still couldn’t figure out why the break in had occurred. After searching through the agency databases, he had figured out the identity of the grey hoodied individual he had followed into the library almost two weeks ago. Students had also reported him, and he turned himself into the MUPD not long after. But they didn’t really know who he was.

The profile had described him as a loner. An explosives technician who liked to pull off unusual jobs. He was an artist of sorts, someone who saw a certain aesthetic in a perfectly timed break-in. Of course, the students didn’t know this. Neither did the police. Thanks to several cleverly executed stunts in the course of his bombing run, he could now plead insantity, and probably get away with it.

The fact that he was typically a hired agent made it even more confusing. Now Gonga just wanted to know the name tied to the bank account financing this moron. The real name. Not the fake identity of some Swiss bank account.

What in the world did anyone want with documents in the Missouri Historical Society? Or was that just a red herring?

The more Gonga replayed the scene in front of the door to the Historical Society, the more he realized that the explosive he had seen was something very small, something designed to blow out a lock on a door, and nothing else. He had hoped to find the pieces later on for analysis, but the “artist” had cleaned up everything.

Oh forget it. It was too much to think about.

Gonga paused in Bookmark cafĂ© to grab a tall late, then headed out towards speaker’s circle.

It was time to play his accordion and forget about everything.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Library Fire: What Really Happened

Gonga gritted his teeth and moaned internally. His knees were killing him. He had sat crouched behind shelf of books up in third floor stacks for almost four hours now. The library was slowly shutting down, but his gray hoodied person was still sitting in the open desk at the end of the row of carrols, bent over a stack of books.

But Gonga could tell he wasn’t reading a thing. Oh sure. He turned a page occasionally. Especially when a security officer walked through. And then he scribbled something on his pad of paper. But Gonga was pretty sure it had more to do with timing the officer than the 1875 Journal of Metaphysics lying open on the desk.

It was almost midnight, and Gonga began blinking rapidly, then crunching his toes up in his shoes to make sure he stayed alert. Sitting so still in such a dark nook of the library was almost as bad as sitting in a boring lecture.

The door at the end of the stack opened and Gonga heard the security guard clacking across the cement floor. The beeper sounded as the guard checked into the station and headed out the other side of the stack.

The light snapped off. Gonga listened, quieting his own breathing so he could hear the gray hoodie’s movements. He sat perfectly still for almost two minutes. Then, just as Gonga’s eyes adjusted to the dark, he heard movement. Gonga plastered himself to the floor along the stack. The gray hoodie slipped along the line of carols, stepping inches from Gonga’s head. He paused and fumbled in his pocket. Then Gonga heard the distinct sound of metal slicing through metal. The gray hoodie eased the carol door open and slipped inside.

Gonga lay still.

So did the gray hoodie.

The PA system sounded through the library, announcing that it was closing and that all patrons should exit in the next five minutes.

They sat perfectly still.

Fifteen minutes later the security guard walked through again, flipping on lights and hurriedly striding across the floor to beep in and continue. Gonga hoped she wouldn’t happen to glance down his aisle of books. She didn’t.

Five minutes later and things began to happen very rapidly.

A bright light glared on inside the carrol, the door stood open and the gray hoodie emerged, a specter with a blinding headlamp for an eye. He strode down the aisle just the other side of Gonga and crashed through the door.

Gonga followed as quietly as possible, at first trying to keep his distance, then realizing that he would lose the guy unless he hurried up.

First blazing up to the special collections section of the library. A couple books purposefully selected went into his backpack. Then a quick about face and a pause to examine the piece of paper he clutched in his hand. He darted through to the third floor and carefully deposited a bag on a table. He guffawed.

Gonga thought to check the bag for explosives, but the gray hoodie was already spiraling away downstairs.

Gonga followed on a hurried scuffle down to the ground floor and charging towards the State Historical Society’s domain. The door was locked. The gray hoodie growled something under his breath and reached into his backpack.

It took Gonga a couple seconds to recognize the object that emerged, but as soon as he saw it, he knew he had to act. With a flying tackle he landed half on the hoodie and half on the explosive, striking it so hard that the detonator shattered and flew across the room. He felt a sickening blow at the base of his skull and slumped, his mind reeling away into darkness.

He woke to water trickling down the back of his neck. He groaned and tried to roll over. Who was pouring water on his back?

Murkily he realized that water was pooling on the floor all around him. It was coming from the ceiling. Gonga blinked water out of his eyes as he gazed upwards. The sprinklers?

Sprinklers. Suddenly he realized. There must a fire. Somewhere, and the sprinklers had started.

Great, just great. Think of all the water damage. Ceiling and floor tiles, cushions, desks and books. Books. Historical documents. The State Historical Collection!

But why?

Gonga still couldn’t move, but his mind was racing.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Gonga sighed. This day was just dragging along. It was worse than sitting through the most boring philosophy lecture ever. At least then you could count the number of times the professor got off topic. And at least then the professor had to end; if only because the next class was pressing against the doors for entrance and the following professor was giving him the death stare from the side-lines.

Oh, the weather was nice enough. The sun was shining and all. But Gonga just didn’t feel like playing his accordion. He sat slumped at Speaker’s Circle, watching the crowds mill past.

Ok, enough of this. He picked up his accordion, then paused.

There was something strangely familiar about the guy in the gray zip-up hoodie shuffling towards him. The hair on the back of Gonga’s neck stood up. But he couldn’t pin-point why. What was so familiar about this person? And why did his heart start pounding in his ears?

A non-descript backpack sagged off his shoulder and bumped against his back as he walked. Gonga fiddled with his accordion, following the guy with the corner of his eye as he shuffled past towards the library.

The guy didn’t even look at him.

He didn’t know why, but he had to follow him. Carefully, so as not to appear rushed, Gonga slid his accordion back into its case. Then he too wandered into the library.

At first the guy strolled over to the computers and slung his bag to the ground. Gonga settled down in a comfy chair across the room from him and pulled out a book from his accordion case.

He wasn’t sure why. But he needed to watch this guy. At any rate, his day was going slow enough that this couldn’t possibly slow it down anyway.

Three hours later he was just turning the last page of his book when he noticed the gray hoodie stand up and stretch. He slung his backpack on his shoulder and picked up a piece of paper, then head towards the stacks.

Gonga left his accordion case underneath the chair and tucked his book under his arm. Then he too headed toward the stacks.

Were his instincts misleading him? Was this just a false alarm? The white piece of paper was probably just call numbers the guy had written down for a research project.

Gonga tried to calm himself down. But his guts still churned. Why did that guy seem so familiar?