the research librarian had her head down intent on something, and jerry stood staring at the top of her head for a while.
too long a while. her yellow hair was very thick and he wondered if she was wearing a wig. jerry had never been very good at telling if a person was wearing a wig or not, and it amazed him that other people could be so confident about it.
it wasn't the only thing jerry wasn't very good at. cars were another. except for volkswagen bugs, he couldn't tell one car from another. he just didn't have it in him. and architecture - that completely baffled him. a building was a building - it was either big or small and had a roof on it or it didn't.
the research librarian looked up suddenly. "yes, can i help you?" she asked jerry, as if she had caught him at something. "do you have a question on something?"
"yes," jerry answered. "on - on people being descended from other people."
"genealogy," the librarian said. her expression relaxed. "we get a lot of questions on that - next to taxes and cars, we get the most questions on genealogy."
jerry just nodded.
"do you want to trace your immediate ancestors?" she looked up at him through her thick glasses. "or your descent from some famous person?"
jerry looked her blankly, he started to speak, but she went on.
"jesus christ and mary magdalen, we get people almost every day who think they're descended from one or the other or both of them. cleopatra is another, and mary queen of scots."
"that wasn't what i had in mind," jerry finally said.
"you want to trace your immediate family then. did they go to ellis island?"
"i wasn't thinking along those lines either."
"no?" the librarian looked suspicious. another librarian, who had been sitting with her back to the first one on the other side of a square enclosure, finished talking to another patron and turned around. she was about twenty years older but better looking than the yellow haired one. to jerry she looked like she belonged to some "ethnic" group but he wasn't very perspicacious in that regard either - black and white was the best he could do, and maybe chinese if they were just off the boat.
"maybe you are interested in some sort of racial theories?" she asked jerry a little sharply. "or - " her voice softened - " perhaps debunking racial theories?"
"i'm not sure," jerry answered. he recognized her now. "you helped me before," he told her - "i was researching a special sauce for hot dogs. about a year ago."
"yes of course," she answered, but it was obvious even to jerry that she didn't remember him. "how did that turn out?"
"pretty good for a while. then the economy collapsed. you might have noticed." this was jerry's attempt at humor.
"yes." another patron came up to her side of the square. "well, good luck in whatever you are pursuing now. excuse me."
"so what do you want?" the first librarian asked jerry. "if you can't be more specific we can't help you."
'i want to trace my ancestry. but way back."
"you mean to adam and eve or lucy."
"not that far."
"how about - tiglath pileser iii."
"he was king or emperor of assyria or something like that "
"something like that. you're not even sure who he was but you want to trace your ancestry back to him."
"i was just using him for an example."
"are you sure he wasn't just a character in a book by tolkien or somebody?"
"he's in the outline of history by h g wells."
"this is so bizarre. i can understand people wanting to be descended from cleopatra or mary magdalen but tiglath pileser iii?"
"no, let me explain." she had jerry totally flustered now.
"i never even heard of tiglath pileser iii. i wonder how many people have."
"i'm interested in percentages. in numbers."
"tiglath pileser iii."
"i don't really care about tiglath pileser iii, i want to know how many people - total - i am descended from."
"lots. i can tell you that much."
the older librarian had quickly dispatched her other patron and was tapping at her keyboard. she turned to jerry again.
"i think i have something here that might help you."
"let me write this down. http://www.demographic-research.org/volumes/vol10/7/10-7.pdf. that should do to get you started."
"thank you," jerry said again. "you're the greatest."