Her Name Is Kay, Part 2
Part 1 can be found here, or you can just scroll on down.
Kay's come back again and again, writing notes for more books, retrieving her held books as she can, the money always washed clean. What she doesn't spend on books she spends on cleansers. One day, she brought O lunch from McDonald's.
What's in her stack? I ask O. I always ask which books people buy.
Mathematics, mostly. Some science.
Her notes ask for more. And they're funny.
She's scary-smart, O says. Brilliant.
Kay notices the volunteer sign-up sheet for the move. She writes, asking what time O plans on getting to the store that day. He answers that he'll get in around nine. She hesitates. She comes just shy of volunteering. She asks him the same, slightly re-worded question the next day.
What will I do if she does volunteer? O asks me.
Let her, I answer. Do you think she can though? With her hands wrapped up?
I don't know. And I don't know how she'd do packing up a bunch of dusty books.
We've speculated on why Kay doesn't talk. O's guess was the worst. Perhaps she's drunk some of her bleach.
A week later, we have to update the theory.
It's the weirdest thing, says O. Kay got a ride to the store today. A guy and his kid were in the car. When she got out I swear I heard someone say, 'Thanks for the ride.' I don't think it was the kid.
The day before the move, Kay finally volunteers. She offers to bring a friend along as well. Now O really isn't sure what to do. Kay's odd, but she's a quantifiable odd. This friend, however...
He doesn't have to worry. Kay shows up alone and goes right to work, moving rows of hardcover lit onto the rolling bookcases and then swaddling the bookcases in industrial-strength cellophane wrap. O has decided that if any of his other volunteers give her a hard time, he'll take them aside and kindly ask them to cut it out or leave.
Not that he has to worry about that happening either. His volunteers are a mixed flock of odd birds – a couple of long-time regulars – Aar, a friend from high school who never shuts his mouth – Aar's dad, Tom who is an ex-bomb-squad-cop turned Buddhist beekeeper – Ger, also a talker who's literally known me since before I was born and has been working for O since May – and good Mr. Clowncar who wisely refuses to give into the drug of blogging or would probably be writing this himself.
When Tom goes into the back of the store he doesn't see Kay but he smells the bleach. Most of the smell is actually coming from a bucket of Kay-cleansed coins soaking in water to remove the excess cleaning fluid.
When Tom sees it he shouts, Hey, O! What're you doing, laundering money?
O cringes. He hasn't had the time to debrief anyone.
Kay steps out from behind a bookshelf. She's smiling. She shrugs, hunches her shoulders a little, and waves one finger back and forth in the air. My fault – the gesture says – but hey, what can I do?
Tom used to patrol Colfax. He takes Kay in stride, reads her notes and talks to her like he's back on the beat. Everybody else is polite and quiet and busy around her.
The work goes on, occasionally interrupted by pedestrians wandering in past the 'Store Closing!' and the 'We're Closed' signs to ask if the bookstore is open. One couple looks at the thirty or so packed and wrapped carts in the parking lot and comes in asking if they can browse the store in the middle of all the chaos. Kay is right there, handing them a bookmark with the new address printed on it.
After they leave, O asks aloud, What is it with people?
Kay hands him a note:
Your school tax $ at work.
O buys everyone lunch from the Philly cheesesteak place next door. They all stop work and eat together, except Kay. She goes outside to drink her bottle of root beer (the Philly place doesn't have the orange juice she requested) and eat her vegetarian wrap. She does not allow her mouth to touch the mouth of the bottle; instead she tips her head far back and lets the liquid pour in. Some falls onto her chin and drips down to her collar, which explains the mess there. After lunch, Kay writes O a note, telling him that she needs to go to the grocery store and will be back in fifteen minutes. He knows exactly what she's going to buy. She comes back and her cart is full of cleaning supplies along with a sack of fresh produce bags to cover her hands.
Later, O stretches out his arm, wiggling his fingers to ease some of the pain in his hand. Kay watches him and comes over. She motions for him to give her his hand. Kay takes O's hand in hers and moves her thumb over the back of it. Somehow she feels through the layers of rubber and plastic to the tension points and rubs them for a minute. The pain in O's hand disappears. It hasn't felt that good in days, he tells me that night.