The Burden of Guilt
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I have a library book sitting on my dresser and it’s seriously overdue, yet I’m hesitant to return it because my dog chewed the book. I don’t mean he chewed a little corner. He chewed three corners, some pages and tore the dust jacket. See, I irresponsibly left the book on the floor beside the bed, never thinking the dog would chew on it because he’s never bothered chewing on any of my other books before—the ones I actually own. And you know, when I checked out the book, I admired its almost brand-new condition and noted the care with which the dust jacket was applied.

Oh, the shame! The guilt! How can I ever show my face at the town library again? This is a small town library. The librarians don’t ask for my library card, even though I have one, because they know all the people who use the library. It’s not like I can dump the books in the book returns box outside the library and walk away guilt-free; oh, no. They’re going to know who I am. They’re going to be able to relate my face to my name. They’ll look up my name on their computer and say, “Oh, her. She’s the coward who returned the damaged book by dumping it in the book return box, thinking we won’t know who she is.” And the other library people will gather around the computer, nod their heads gravely and say, “Oh, yeah. We know her.”

What do I do? Do I pull a dump-and-run and take the risk? Do I take the book to the front desk clutching an offering of cash, eyes teary, and beg for forgiveness? Maybe this isn’t the biggest problem a person could have, but this weighs on my conscience. I don’t deserve my library card. I should surrender it and save myself the embarrassment of having it revoked. They’ll probably have my picture in the little post office next door, amongst the other felons. They’ll hang a note up on the library wall by the front desk for all to see, like the notes they hang at cash registers in retail stores: “Do not accept checks from…” only their note will say “Do not lend books to…”

I know I should just bite the bullet, return the book to the library, own up to my irresponsibility as a borrower and accept my punishment. Okay, that’s what I’ll do. Right now, while I have the guts. Be right back.

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