Sunday, so another Holly Jahangiri story. There’s a real Holly Jahangiri, you know, whom I’ve never met IRL, but who I really really really must.
I’ve come up with a schedule for this year’s Story A Day May, following the pattern I’ve established this week:
Sunday — a Holly story
Monday — a SIDESHOW story
Tuesday — a Lonnie story
Wednesday — an EEL’S REVERENCE story with mermayds?
Thursday — a SAGE story
Friday — a DEAD GUY story — maybe younger Mitch?
Saturday — a Mr. Sugar story
So it’s Sunday, so here’s another Holly adventure! Feel free to point out any inconsistencies between Holly stories; part of getting Story A Day done is not stopping to check anything.
Holly’s First Book
by Marian Allen
Juvenile Holly Jahangiri spent a week every summer on her grandmother’s pratty ranch deep in Meadow of Flowers Province. It wasn’t the largest pratty ranch on the planet Llannonn, but Holly was certain it was the best. She knew for a fact that her grandmother’s pratties produced fine wool that brought top prices, because she’d seen the framed certificates on the walls and had laboriously sounded out the words until she could repeat them – with dramatic flair – on laughing request.
But now, her six-year-old world was about to fly apart, like a pratty herd attacked by a rabid lagomorph.
She had overheard the adults the night before, after Gran had tucked her into the sleeping pod that was always hers when she visited.
“The taxes are killing me this year,” Gran said. “I don’t know how we’re going to come up with the credits, I really don’t.”
“We always manage,” Mother’s Brother Charolay said, not sounding as worried as Holly thought he should.
“We always have a second shearing,” Gran replied. “Wool’s too thin this year; the pratties need it to help them through the cold season.”
There was a click as one of the grown-ups activated the old green-and-beige visibox, and any further conversation was lost in the wash of fiction.
Holly asked Gran about the taxes the next day, but Gran just patted her shoulder and told her not to worry about it, that money could be borrowed and repaid, that there would be plenty of time for the little girls to learn about business, but that vacations were for playing.
She didn’t feel like playing, though, she felt like worrying. She didn’t know what taxes were, or how they killed people, or what they had to do with how thick pratty wool was, but she didn’t want to lose her Gran. She wandered the beloved meadows, reaching up to stroke the dear faces of the giant, curly-haired animals Gran raised.
A voice from beyond the border fence startled her.
“Beautiful animals. Are they yours?”
A man stood, one booted foot on the lowest bar of the fence. He was dressed for hiking, and rested a walking stick on the top bar. His tunic was Rural, but he wore a sash that proclaimed him an Urban.
He removed his soft hat and tapped it to his breast before replacing it.
“Please forgive me for speaking before spoken to, Juvenile Native, but there’s no one to introduce us. Pratties don’t speak, do they? Those are pratties, aren’t they?”
Holly had to laugh. “Yes, Unknown Hiker, these are pratties. They belong to my Gran, and I’ve never heard them talk.”
“May I know your name? I’m speaking to you, not the pratty.”
She laughed again.”Holly Jahangiri. And may I know yours?”
“Well, now, Juvenile Holly Jahangiri, you may find this interesting. I no longer go by the name I was given at birth. I’m what’s known as a Living Book. I live in Council City, where we have places called Living Libraries. People like me – people who have each memorized a book – live in dormitories there unless we’re borrowed by patrons.” He removed his hat again, this time waving it around him, as he said, “Or unless we’re on vacation.”
Holly loved books. Her mother or her father read to her every day, and her Gran or Mother’s Brother Charolay read to her from the almanac or from a storybook, so old its cover was fuzzy with use. She had heard Rural storytellers often, here and at home, but she had never heard of a Living Book. The notion enchanted her.
“What book are you?”
“You wouldn’t have heard of me. I’m a book from another planet. Well, I’m not, but my book is. I’m a book for young Earthlings called Freddy the Pig.”
“I’d love to hear you some time.”
“I’m doing a reading this very evening in Province City, as a matter of fact!”
Holly’s pleasure was immediately quashed.
“We can’t come.”
“Other plans, I suppose.”
“No.” An older child would have kept Gran’s business private, but Holly was still of an age to feel that anyone she had exchanged more than five words with was a close personal friend. “Gran says the taxes are killing her. She needs all her credits for the doctor.” In spite of her courage, a few tears betrayed her fear.
“Oh. I see.” The Book reached into his tunic pocket and pulled out a coin of base metal. “Well, here’s a pass for you and two of your friends to the reading tonight. Why don’t you come and take your mind off your troubles?”
Holly accepted the token with pleasure. “Thank you, Living Book Freddy the Pig! Thank you!”
Gran and Mother’s Brother Charolay were as fascinated as Holly to hear about Living Books. The adults had both been to Council City on pratty-raisers’ conferences, but neither one had heard about Living Libraries. They resolved to visit one, the next time they were in the big city. Meanwhile, they’d put on their second-best tunics and take Holly to hear this Earth book about a pig – whatever a pig was.
The show was both like and unlike listening to a local storyteller recite legends, history, and folk tales. The Living Book, too long to be recited in one evening, chose several chapters, with someone in the projection booth generating holograms of the strange Earth animals in the story: a pig, a cat, a rooster, and more. Like the animals in the popular Peedee the Pratty series, these animals couldn’t talk in real life, but could in their books. It was highly amusing.
But the best part came at the end.
Tax Collector Essen Danshun walked onto the stage to stand next to Living Book Freddy the Pig, raising her arms for silence.
When hush blanketed the hall, she said, “It’s been a bad year for wool production. We’ve had bad years before, and we’ve always squeaked by, borrowing against next season’s shearing and tightening our belts. This year, though, at the request of my cousin, here – Let’s give him another hand!” She led the audience in another round of applause and approving shouts. When the tumult had subsided, she continued: “At the request of my cousin, I’ve requested a one-season slight reduction in our tax rate. And this has been granted!”
The tumult returned, greater than before.
Freddy the Pig, cousin to the tax collector! What a lucky meeting!
As Holly hugged her Gran, miraculously saved for the mysterious death by taxes, Freddy the Pig sketched her a bow of deep courtesy.
Some day, Holly told herself, she’d live in Council City. And, when she did, she knew with all the certainty in her young heart that Living Books would be a part of her life.
And so it happened.
MY PROMPTS TODAY: grandmothers, check register, taxes