The Morning Crew (short story)

The engine cut out with a chug and a whine as Patrick twisted the key – tricky to keep a firm grip as he pulled it from the ignition. He did not like the way his hands had cracked.
Slipping the key into the red pack clipped around his waist, he looked up across the parking lot and saw a familiar crowd. Just a few other cars dotted the asphalt as the sun slowly started to peak up over the Kepcke Public Library.
It was 8:56 AM.

8:57 AM.

Patrick creaked the car door open and started to step out unsuccessfully, his big leather jacket catching on the seat belt buckle, nearly tearing a button from his cuff. Rattling out a sigh, he looked at the dangling thing, held on pitifully by two thin strings. He did not know how to sew. He did not do the sewing.
He would have to ask a friend to help him with it, he thought, standing as straight as he could and swinging his door shut. The breeze was starting to find its bite as the air crisped quickly into late October. Patrick liked the air chilly, but mostly for the feeling of sitting inside away from it. Shielded in the warmth of books and shelves and people.

Opening the back door of the squat white sedan, he grabbed his Tosa Grocers tote bag and metal cane, glancing around at the half dozen other folks in their cars or standing near the revolving glass front doors. He saw Stewart and Dawn standing at the front, Stew gazing fondly at the reddening trees. Mrs. Darlington sat in her large SUV, her nose barely peaking out above the steering well, evidently asleep in the growing sunlight. Two young college students Patrick had seen a few times stood by the bike rack, their helmets off, their eyes locked downwards on their phones.

9:00 AM.

Jenna, one of the librarians on staff at Kepcke, walked down the hallway inside towards the glass doors, and opened them up. Giving Stew and Dawn a familiar smile, saying something Patrick could not hear. He shook himself, reaching up to dial up his hearing aid, the slight crackle whispering in his ear as it sparked to life. He had kept forgetting to turn it on these last couple months. The habit of putting it in every morning had been ingrained solidly for years, but the second crucial step of switching it on had refused to stick with him. There were a lot of things he kept forgetting these days. Where the coffee filters were kept, which days the garbage came, which side of the bed he belonged on.

The Toyota let out a high honk as he shut the door and jabbed the lock button. He walked across the lot patiently, spying Mrs. Darlington start and open her eyes in the big SUV. Throwing open her door, she stepped down, barely clearing the tops of her tires, her large frizzy hair adding several inches to her height. Patrick waved as he saw another fellow patron stepping towards the door – his friend Donny was walking towards him, waving back. Sometimes they played chess together at the big tables near the back windows. He liked those windows, they looked over a little pond with geese. Sometimes they talked about what they were reading, and Donny would share a poem he’d written that week. Often though they would just sit in silence, engrossed in their own thoughts and pages, nestled into the two leather arm chairs that had become their steadfast companions through the years.
Patrick walked through the front doors, smiling softly and nodding at Jenna behind the front desk. Heading to the right, Patrick and Donny walked together to their chairs by the nonfiction shelves and sat down without a word.

9:05 AM.

Patrick liked his library friends.
Patrick missed his home friend.