Alis seemed to have enjoyed our reading the night before, and I certainly enjoyed the story, for though I have never heard of such a creature as a hobbit, I find the notion of a culture so wholly devoted to the wholesome pleasures of home and hearth appealing. Besides, Alis always prefers having pictures to peruse while she listens to her Daâ€™s voice.
Of course, my ulterior motive for this outing is to question the librarian on duty about the sudden and inexplicable disappearance of The Wizard of Oz from social consciousness. But when I ask, the young woman at the desk protests that sheâ€™d never heard of the book, nor the author, nor of the film or stage play, though I was certain there had been both. There are photographs of Pip dressed as the Wicked Witch of the West in the albums on our bookshelfâ€”I know this for a fact; my questions about her green face paint had been the whole reason she had produced her battered, well-loved copy of The Wizard of Oz storybook in the first place.
Alis has begun to pick up on my distress, and starts fussing in her carrier, arching and wriggling so that the crown of her head bashes against my chin, frustrating us both. The clerk gives me the sort of pitying look that men with young children often receive in this realmâ€” the expression that says, â€œOh, your wife is too busy?â€ Which infuriates me even more. I heartily do not understand this mentality that men are incapable of being supportive co-parents. Why, by the Writer, would I ever want to foist my daughter solely onto my wife and have no involvement in her upbringing? She is my daughter.
â€œThe Wizard of Oz,â€ I repeat, pulling the library clerkâ€™s attention back to my inquiry, instead of my parenting abilities. â€œI am certain that is the correct name.â€
â€œAnd yet the system says no,â€ the clerk replies. She gives me an insolent little smirk. If sheâ€™d been my apprentice, I would never have allowed her such cheek.
I long for a good searching spell, and perhaps the Lost Library, or, failing that, Words of Revelation so I can at least comprehend the full scope of this weirdnessâ€™s weavings. I sigh, rubbing first my brows, and then my abused chin, and then finally the top of my daughterâ€™s head.
â€œVery well,â€ I say. â€œForget about that book. I would like a copy of The Hobbit, if you have one that is illustrated.â€
â€œNo,â€ the clerk says. â€œWe donâ€™t have one.â€
â€œNo illustrated copies at all. . . .â€ I muse.
The clerk thumps her hand on the desk to emphasize her reply: â€œNo. Thereâ€™s no such thing as The Hobbit.â€