I was pleased to see plastic umbrella bags available for patrons at the entrance, and took advantage of one. When wet, the marble floors are definitely slippery.
I returned to my books, and for the next twenty minutes searched and found several examples of what I wanted to show Ricky. Marking pages with scraps of paper, I took them to the copier at the other end of the floor, next to the elevators, and decreased my Red Raider account card by several dollars. After checking on the weather, I returned to her table. It was still pouring, so I decided to look more closely at “The Typographic Book 1450-1935,” published in 1965. The largest book I had pulled from the shelves at almost tabloid size, it contained fold-out copies of type used by Gutenberg himself, looking like well-scripted calligraphy.
Goodness, I’m getting sidetracked. As my son would say, I’m too old for that sort of thing, but gracious, the man is definitely all man. I sighed, and tried to ignore the sudden sensations deep inside. I forced my attention back to the book and resumed exploring each page with the thrill of discovery.
“What?” I said as I, too, looked up. Dark gray smoke was rolling along the ceiling, appearing to come from the center of several stacks that had been moved together. “Fire!” I yelled at the boy, as I became acutely aware of the distinctive smell despite my stuffy nose.
“Mrs. Grant! Were you in there? I was in the basement when the alarm went off. What is it? Did you see anything? Ugh, what’s that smell?” Looking down, he pulled back from me in disgust.
Although the library didn’t have a sprinkler system, it did have several fire-hose wall units on each floor connected to the water main with stout hoses long enough to reach all areas. Campus police knew their locations and how to use them, and their quick actions kept the damage, although considerable, contained to the southwest quarter of the floor. City firefighters did the rest.
“Ma’am,” an officer said, and I turned my attention to him. “The chief would like to talk to you upstairs, if you don’t mind. The elevators are useable and most of the smoke is cleared. Will you come with me, please?”
“No kiddin’? Well, Boyle said ... let me look at my notes ... yeah, he said, ‘a small electrical fire triggered the alarm. No injuries and minor damage on the top floor.’ That’s it.”
“Because not one word of it is true. Buy me a cup of hot tea and I’ll give you an exclusive.”