I dashed down the street as fast as my Jack Skellington legs could carry me. Why had I left it so late? It was almost 11am. Tricky things to get out of, beds.

I was going to the library to borrow a book about mushrooms.

Honestly, Rob, you’re turning into a real Spengler, said a little voice in my head, Nobody else cares about the book about mushrooms. There’s no hurry.

But it’s not just any old book about mushrooms. This one looks really good and it’s brand new. I wanted to beat the rush.

It would be just my luck to reach the library at 11:05, only to be confronted by an even more Spenglerish bloke in the act of borrowing it. He’d be doing it in a smug way, probably. And wearing a hat with “I love mushrooms” sewn across it.

“Oh Sid,” the librarian would be saying with fluttering eyelashes, “You and your fungus.”

“Nice hat,” I’d say, grouchily.

“It’s a cap, actually,” he’d say. “Think about it.”*

(*Mushrooms have caps).

Well, how dare he? I surged at the thought of such a character pipping me to the good-looking mushroom book. And remember that none of this had even happened. There was no such person so far as I knew and I wasn’t even at the library yet. Maybe spending so much of the pandemic indoors was starting to affect me.

I stepped it out, faster, faster, determined to be the first person through the library door, perhaps sliding along the freshly-mopped floor of the tiled entryway for extra speed, beneath the granite gaze of the statue of the patron saint of shushing.

I zoomed around the other pavement hogs, passing each one like a pedestrian Ayrton Senna, wondering if they would have been the one to beat me to the book and, if so, should I flip them the bird? No. That would risk giving the game away.

I scanned each face in an act of wholly uncertified drive-by physiognomy for signs of mycophilia. Could she be one? How about her? That one? No.

Nobody’s interested, Rob, said the little voice again, it’s a book about mushrooms for goodness sake. It’s the moss incident all over again. You didn’t have to stay up so late that night. Nobody else was going to bid on it.

“Shut up!” I said out loud, much to the consternation of an old man walking a greyhound. I zipped around them. Yes, I overtook even a greyhound, the fastest hound in all of science, so intense was my need for speed.

I wondered what I would do if a friend saw me and came over for a chat. There was no time for such fripperies. I had to beat the “I love mushrooms” man, even if he was imaginary. But what would I say to them? Could I say “can’t stop! COVID!” and point to my mask?

But if we’re going that far, why not go all the way? “Can’t stop! AIDS!” People are a bit sensitive these days though, so it’s probably time I retired that particular Get Out of Jail Free card. Goodbye, old friend.

Zoom, zoom, zoom. Stride, stride, stride. Step, step, step. I must have that book. Must, must, must. (That’s what mushrooms like, by the way. The must.).

Soon, the library hove into view. Yes. Hove! Like Brighton but less so.

I dashed up to the gate. Gate? I’d never noticed a gate here before. Or a padlock for that matter. Locked. Closed? Closed.

The library was closed. PLEASE NOTE OUR NEW OPENING HOURS. TUE: 2pm-7pm.

The whole world was laughing at me and not in a good way. Well, maybe not the whole world. But two punters on a stopped bus had seen the less-than-casual way I’d goggled at that padlock. “Ho,” I could tell they were saying, “He probably wants that mushroom book.”

I slouched home, out of breath and vowing to get more exercise so that I wouldn’t feel so knackered next time a new mushroom/moss/spores/mildew book came into the library.

And then it happened. As I gnashed my teeth, there formed the most Spenglerish thought of all:

“Bloody library. Don’t think my blog won’t hear about this.”

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