Italian on Duty


by Jennifer Keogh Armstrong








xcuse me,” I said, walking up to the tasteful wooden desk. “I think that your sign is supposed to say, Librarian on Duty.”

The dark-haired young man looked up from his magazine and smiled pleasantly. “No. The sign is correct. I am the Italian on duty.”

“But this is a library,” I said, glancing around. The subdued lighting, wooden tables and chairs and wall-to-wall books supported my statement.

“This may be a library,” said the man, examining me with his dark eyes. “But I am still the Italian.”

Biting my lip, I looked around again, this time at the people. There were men and women scanning the bookshelves or seated hunched over notepads with books open and scattered in front of them. Some were concentrating on laptops. A couple of older men were comfortably reclining with a newspaper or a magazine in a little lounge area in the corner where the current periodicals were displayed. No one seemed to be unsettled because there was an Italian on duty instead of a librarian.

“Well,” I said. “Can you help me find a book?”

The man sighed. Clearly he hadn’t gotten through to me.

“If I were a librarian,” he said with emphasis on the last word. “I could help you find a book. But I am an Italian.” He settled back in his chair, clasped his hands on his desk and looked up at me. One his desk was a computer, a phone, an atlas of Italy and an open magazine.

“OK,” I said slowly. “What can you do for me?”

He shrugged.

“I can tell you where Naples is. I can help you find a recipe for homemade tortellini. I can translate any word you want to know into Italian.”

“OK, how do you say . . .” I paused to think, “rhinoceros in Italian.”

Rinoceronte,” he replied in a voice that said, that was too easy, give me a hard one.

“How about tiger lily?”

He didn’t have to think.

Giglio tigrino.”

“What’s the Pope’s middle name?”

“Our Holy Father’s full name is Jorge Mario Bergoglio.”

He was not to be stumped.

“So why are you here?” I asked.

“To provide people with accurate, up-to-date information about Italy,” he replied smoothly.

“Who needs accurate, up-to-date information about Italy?”

He looked offended.

“Obviously people like you,” said the man whose country had invented the Renaissance. I could tell he wanted to be outright cold to me, but I was still the patron and it was still his job to treat me with respect.

“But Italy is halfway around the world!”

“Exactly. So where else are you going to get information?”

“Well,” I said carefully. “If there were a librarian, I could ask him or her to direct me to a book about Italy . . .”

“But would you?” he asked.

“Well, no. Actually, I wanted a book on nutrition. But I could ask.”

“But you wouldn’t,” said the Italian, concluding the argument.

“Look, are you the only one on duty?”

He glanced around.

“I seem to be.”

“Is there a librarian on duty anywhere?”

He sighed.

“Haven’t we been through this? There is no librarian. There is only me, the Italian.”

“How do you say good-bye in Italian?” I asked.

“Formally or informally?”



Ciao,” I said.

Ciao,” he replied, returning to his magazine. “Come again.”




The End




Novels (free to read at by Jennifer Keogh Armstrong


The society for the betterment of mankind

Revolution in C Minor

Pink gin

Somewhere between Longview and Miami

Last king of Damascus

The Unlikely Association of Meg and Harry

Death Among the Dinosaurs


A Good Man

Among the Sons of Seth

Sami’s Special Blend

Three Peaks

Spying on Gran

Storm & Stress



The Kent family adventures


The Treasure of Tadmor

The Strange sketch of Sutton

The Hunt for the cave of Moravia

The Search for the sword of Goliath

The Buried gold of Shechem

The Cache of Baghdad

The Walls of Jerusalem

The Missionary’s Diary




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First Edition Web V1.0 2014