The Pole Dancer Does Her Research by Tavia Allan

Yes, how can I help?’ The librarian keeps a steady gaze on the woman’s face, trying not to see the spangled silver halter, the tiny glittery hot pants, and the bronzed curves these items fail to conceal.

‘I’m looking for a book about Zeus,’ says the woman.

‘Zeus, the Greek god?’

‘I guess.’ The woman frowns and looks into her shoulder bag. It’s a crocheted bag decorated with tiny shells. She speaks to the interior: ‘You Greek, honey?’ Then she nods to the librarian. ‘Yeah, that’s him.’

‘We have an encyclopaedia of Greek mythology in the reference section,’ says the librarian. He thinks about the readers in that part of the library, many of them elderly, possibly with heart conditions. ‘If you take a seat, I’ll bring it to you.’

‘That’s sweet, thank you.’ The woman sits on a nearby bench, placing her bag carefully beside her, and tucking her long, muscular legs underneath.

The librarian brings her a large hardback book. He watches as she turns to the back, looking for the entry on Zeus. She runs a long silver nail slowly down the side of the page as she reads. Occasionally she glances at the bag. When she has finished reading, she closes the book and brings it to the desk where the librarian is standing.

‘Was that what you were looking for?’ he asks.

‘I’m not sure,’ says the woman. ‘Seems like he made a habit of transforming himself into things so as to get with women.’

‘Yes,’ agrees the librarian.

‘There’s nothing about him getting stuck, though. Like, he transforms, he gets busy, then he goes back to his old form.’

The librarian agrees that this about sums Zeus up.

‘Do you reckon that if he didn’t get his way, he’d get stuck?’ she asks. ‘Like, say, if he turned himself into a gecko so he could sneak into a dancer’s dressing room, and she wasn’t having any of it?’

‘I don’t know,’ says the librarian. ‘It sounds… plausible.’

The woman looks at the clock behind his desk. ‘I better get back to work,’ she says. ‘Thanks for your help.’

She zips up her crocheted bag, slips it over her shoulder, and leaves.

Tavia Allan is a writer and teacher who lives in London.