|Edmund Amateis, Mail Delivery, 1941|
"Oh, we didn't see you out there!", exclaimed a friendly voice. "Please, come join our storytime while we wait for the lights to turn on." I tiptoed quietly behind the circulation desk and joined the parents and children who were enthusiastically listening to one of my favorite stories, Help! I'm a Prisoner in the Library.
At that moment, we heard two dogs barking; it sounded like they were in the library. Luckily, I remembered that dogs were welcome at story hour. However, I then noticed that the dogs were followed by a hunched man so coated with ice his features were obscured. He was carrying three dim flashlights whose beams slanted over our rapt faces. The dogs had such beautiful coats that I took my eyes off the man. These dogs, as scary as they looked, walked over to our circle and lay down.
"We've been walking through this snowstorm for hours," the man said. "These pups are plum tuckered out." He sat heavily in a chair behind the dogs. The children were drawn to the man, hoping he had a story to tell them. They immediately noticed a large knapsack lying next to his feet. Out of the bag, he pulled a small book with a tattered cover.
"This is a story I wrote years ago after journeying to the North Pole," said the man. "It began when I was a young boy and is still in progress. 'Whenever I hear the sound of bells on a snowy night, the magic begins...'"
The man continued his story long into the night, until we all nodded off to sleep. In the morning, we awoke at the same time, looking around at one another with sleepy eyes. We all remembered fantastic tales about sudden snowstorms, talking dogs with magical powers and curious books that saved the day, but no-one remembered any of the stories the same way. Was it all a dream? As we walked out the library door into the bright sparkling morning, we glanced down and saw, lying on top of a pristine snowdrift, a small book with a tattered cover. On the cover was a golden pawprint.