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Let me tell you a story. It is a somewhat pitiable lament, entwined within a sense of almost Dickensian pathos and torrid Swiftian allegory. Late yesterday, I strolled in to the library feigning an air of calm nonchalance and arrogant indifference. As I ascended the stairs towards the electronic turnstile with its harsh gatekeeper, my step faltered. I became aware of the cloying sweat on my brow and the thundering, jackhammer beat of my heart. I reached a hand into my pocket and gripped the solitary object within; a talisman.

I knew it well. One pound in British Sterling; a single ingot of dull metal, my only connection to the world of commerce and society. 'Nemo me impune lacessit'. The words meant nothing to me, and, yet, the solemn principles they expounded and stern, timeless reality they heralded had brought me to this place. I gave thought to the truth and virtue of my mission, my endeavour. My resolve strengthened, I approached the library warden with a brash confidence born of the desperation of my plight. I dared a furtive glance towards the man; instead of the grim overseer my fear-addled brain had conjured, I saw rather a pathetic figure of a man, a slovenly dullard grown listless and unwary in the endless throes of a shambolic life.

Forgetting my fear, I sneered in disgust at the fool. This oaf would not prevent me from carrying out my intent. I passed through the gate and into the library proper.

I could feel the indolent stares of librarians and their assistants on me, passive glares; annoyed at one entering their domain so late. Questioning they were, but not suspicious, oh never suspicious. Fools. The few remaining students didn't look up as I passed, their bleary-eyed gazes aglow with the eerie luminesence of their computer screens. I walked casually into the bathroom, afire with the righteous neccessity of my mission this night. It was empty. I skulked across the grimy tiled flooring like a graverobber, fully aware of the tenuous morality, the inherently wicked nature of my imminent theft. I tentatively pushed ajar a cubicle door, steeling myself against the rank foulness of such a place. My eyes alighted on a treasure so sacred that I wept like a zealot in the presence of his god. Toilet paper. Yes, reader, low-grade, free-to-all toilet paper had called me here on this fateful eve and I meant to have it all.

I paused, suddenly feeling absurd, ashamed, indecent. What was I doing here in a men's lavatory, fully prepared to fill my bag to the brim with soft paper. Glancing down at the dispenser, my thoughts went to the coin in my pocket; to the look of disdain cast me by the ghastly shop clerk as she recited the hated mantra "The Andrex is one pound twenty, love" in a guttural Glasgow brogue (My blood still burned with the need to hunt her down like a dog and...). I suddenly gripped the dispenser. With the frantic strength of a madman, I wrenched it open, filling my bag. When it was over, I stared down mockingly at the empty dispenser. Composing myself, I walked hastily from the scene of my crime. In a daze, I found myself on the street. The paper in my bag felt like cursed Inca gold... and I felt like a total fucking loser.

Ah, but such is my life and these sordid excursions are sometimes neccessary when in dire straits.

         TK Jennings

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