From day one, Beruz bugged the boogers right out of my being. Pardon my language. Before you trash my story let me explain.
I’ve worked in libraries for fifteen years now and I know my way around. For some reason I get stuck with training the newbees. I’m sure it’s because everyone thinks I’m as patient as Joshua waiting for the walls of Jericho to fall down. Most of the newcomers are youngsters looking for their first job because nothing else worked out.
But Beruz was different. I caught him lying on his back in the middle of the history section staring up at the stacks and stacks of volumes all around him. He was hugging himself and making “mmm-mmm-mmm” noises of delight as if he’d just tasted the sweetest treat you could imagine. His crinkled eyes were topped by two giant runaway white caterpillars. Above his lip quivered another hairy snow patch half the size of a dust broom.
I stood directly over him and scowled. He grinned up with a double Cheshire-cat special and held up his hand. I assumed he was reaching out to greet me and he assumed I was trying to help him up. He pulled on me hard and, since I hadn’t braced myself, I tumbled down on top of him.
I rolled off quickly but not before Diane, the head librarian, stepped into the aisle to witness the kalele that erupted from the wild laughter of the crowd and Beruz himself. My cherry tinged complexion didn’t help ease the tension.
Beruz lept to his feet, held out his hand to me and said. “I Beruz. From Iran. Love books. Want job.”
Diane watched me ignore the extended hand and get to my own feet. She then reached out for Beruz and pulled him down the aisle away from the majority of onlookers. I took a coffee break and decided that Beruz was now on the persona non-grata list and someone to tuck away in my worst nightmares column.
Two days later I was half way up a ladder shelving new acquisitions when I felt a hand on my shoe. Beruz was kneeling by the ladder and holding my foot. Firmly.
I tried to pull away but couldn’t. “Safe,” he said. “I help keep you safe.”
Diane appeared again and moved him back to her office. That mustache sure captured the imagination and probably a lot of dinner items as well.
A week later I was back up on the ladder. This time I kept watching to see if my guardian was anywhere close. There weren’t enough books in the Christianity section to fill a shelf and just when I decided I needed a metal bookend Beruz came around the corner.
He seemed to read my mind. “What you need younger lady?”
“Book end. I need a book end.”
He randomly picked a book off the shelf and held the binding end up to me. “Book end. Good book.”
“No!” I said firmly. “Boooook Ennnd.” I formed my hand into a shovel shape and attempted to jam it under the book on the top shelf.”
“Ahhh…” He now opened the book and held up the back page for me to see. “Book End.” His triumphant smile kept me from boiling over.
“No! No! No! Book end!”
“Yes! Yes! Yes! He wins.”
“Isa. Jesus. I read book end. He wins.”
I looked at the volume he held in his hand and only then noticed it was a Bible. I hadn’t picked up a Bible since my mother had thrown my Gideon’s New Testament in the trash. I’d never even got to the beginning, never mind the end.
His smile lit up the room and I descended the ladder. “Yes. I read book end. He wins. I show you.”
And that began my Fridays with Beruz. I taught him English and he taught me about Jesus. He took me to a church and I learned that God loved me and a whole lot of other things. Beruz would sit beside me with his eyebrows twitching up and down and a smile just splitting his face. It was that love of Jesus that captured my heart.
Last week, Beruz surprised me with a birthday gift. 12 blue metal bookends with two words. ‘He wins’.
Yesterday, back to back with a suitcase in between, we read Revelation. We’re the strangest bookends you could ever imagine. But Jesus really does win. He won me.
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