“I just got the axe.”
“Oh, no,” said Marie Tobin, her hand lifting to cover her mouth.
“Yep,” he said, exhaling a long breath. “And I’m not alone, either. Jenny in the
children’s room and Abbie in reference. It’s not like we need librarians around here, with the public
flooding in like a damn burst every day and us fielding about a thousand questions each. This is a
great time to let people go, but we have to keep those DVDs on the shelves and extra copies of
best sellers that we’ll toss in a year.” He sat there quietly a moment, staring at nothing,
shaking his head. “What the hell am I going to do now?”
“I’m so sorry, Howard,” Tobin whispered. She didn’t know what to say.
“Thanks, Marie. I’m sorry for you, too, since now you’ll just be expected to do my job as
“No denying that,” she said.
“I’d better go find a box to put my stuff in,” Alt said. Tobin watched him walk away.
At the weekly staff meeting, Director Mary Lawless cleared her throat before speaking. “I
know this has been a hellish week. We lost three more people. I understand that this is hard for all
of you; these people were not just colleagues but friends. I feel the same way you do, but I know
that the rest of you will pick up the pace so that patrons have a positive experience and service
“Why should we?” a voice interrupted Lawless, and the room went dead quiet.
“Excuse me?” the director said.
“I said, ‘Why should we?’“ It was children’s librarian Alice Mosca. “Seriously, why
should we care anymore? We’re being squeezed to death and are expected to work harder and do
the jobs of all those people who were fired until maybe we get fired ourselves in the next round of
layoffs. There’s no money for raises, and there are even rumors of nonpaid furloughs, which is the
same as a pay cut. Everyone feels degraded and scared to death. Have you noticed how quiet it’s
been here all week? It’s like everyone is afraid to make a sound because they’ll be the next head
on the chopping block. It’s horrible.”
The anger in Mosca’s voice grew as she went on. “How are we expected to function in this
type of atmosphere? Someone you worked with for 20 years gets canned, and you’re expected to
act like it was nothing and put on a big smile and go out there and win one for the Gipper. That’s
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