I sent Steve a text this morning that said I took the librarian job, and that I won’t be showing up to my shift at the tanning salon today or ever.
Armed with my pepper spray, I took a Lyft up the winding road to the rich guy’s mansion tucked away in the hills. It’s a gorgeous Victorian—angular with triangle roofs, an archway for the entrance, and a rectangular tower jutting out of the top that has windows and balconies on each side. The entire house is freshly painted gray without an accent color on the trim. Victorians are unusual in this city, in this Palm treed ocean of concrete and stucco.
The rich guy greeted me at the door—let’s call him Eli. Eli is tall and handsome with olive skin and distinct black eyebrows. He was casually but smartly dressed. I think he’s middle eastern, but I’m not sure. He exudes an unassuming self-assurance. It’s strangely calming and puts you at ease the moment you meet him.
He must have knocked down some of the walls inside because the entranceway was very open for a Victorian. He gave me the abbreviated tour. “The house is too big to tour in one sitting, and many of the rooms are still a work in progress.”
First, we toured the giant kitchen, the family room, and the living room. The rooms were all tastefully decorated with a modern interior design sense, and a variety of folk and contemporary art hung on the walls.
Next, we climbed the large spiral staircase to the second floor to see the master bedroom and a small room lined with full bookshelves. Was this little room the library? Eli laughed. “No, it’s not. This is my study. The library is downstairs, we’ll head there soon, but first I want to show you one of my favorite features of the house. ”
Eli took me up the staircase until we reached the tower with the balconies. He told me it’s called a Widow’s walk. The spouses of mariners would watch the ocean from here for their husband’s hopeless return. You could almost see the ocean and smell the salt in the air.
I asked him why all the weird questions in the interview, and he said that he wanted to make sure I wasn’t boring or squeamish. And why would being squeamish matter? “Well… Why don’t we crack open that library of ours?”
When he opened the double-doors to the library an overwhelming musty smell shot up my nostrils. It was dark except for some rays of sunlight, thick with dust, beaming out of a row of windows. He turned on the lights and… books! Tens of thousands of books! And they’re all… disgusting! Rotting, covered in dust and cobwebs!
The library was two stories tall with wall to wall, floor to ceiling bookshelves. A flimsy metal catwalk lined the perimeter so that you could access the shelves on the second story. There were piles of books everywhere—all over the floor, all over the stairs and all over the catwalk. The books that were actually on the shelves weren’t organized in any meaningful way and were sometimes stacked instead of in rows. “As you can see Kendra, I haven’t spent much time in here.” Yeah, no shit.
It turns out one of the reasons he bought this house was because it came with the library. He loves books and thinks there might be some rare ones in here. The house was sold as-is and the library was neglected for decades. It’s an absolute disaster. And guess who gets to clean it up? Me.
Remember when I told you I was worried the rich guy would want me to dust his crusty old books topless? Turns out a hazmat suit would be more appropriate than a topless maid costume. I have to go through every book and decide if it’s worth keeping and salvageable. If it is, I clean it. Every. Single. Book. You’d think he could have just hired a cleaning crew before I got here but noooo—“The job is too important and nuanced for a cleaning crew.”
I thought this would be a quiet gig where I could sit pretty in a plush mansion surrounded by books and work on my novel!