It’s become traditional for me to write a Holly Jahangiri story on the Sundays of Story a Day May. I’m collecting the stories into a book of them, though, and I don’t want to add any this year. On the other hand, I’m expanding Llannonn short stories into novels by adding Holly plots. So, this May, I’ll be brainstorming on those.
Llannonn, for those unfamiliar with the Holly stories, is a planet where courtesy is the law. Holly goes from Assistant to Head to Retired Librarian of a Living Library, with a long-time friendship with Chief District Inspector Pel Darzin.
Friend and fellow writer Jen Selinsky, a great fan of the band Genesis, has begun making appearances as a street urchin named Genesis Selinsky (her siblings are Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and young Deuteronomy).
Holly’s Horrible Realization
by Marian Allen
Holly felt as if her trademark purple feather boa were choking her. Books had gone missing from the library before, but not so many at once! Living Books were, after all, people who had memorized texts, not actual objects, and were well able to take care of themselves.
Her fevered imagination returned to that dreadful time Books had disappeared, one at a time, victims of a reading fad. But that had been an aberration, and Books were now taught self-defense as a matter of course.
And what if this were an aberrant fad? What if this were only the first in a series or, worse, the latest in a series that hadn’t yet been identified?
That thought was so horrible that even the footsteps of Parlourmaid Tambar Miznalia approaching the office door, her superior sniff outside it, and her somehow impertinent scratch upon it were welcome.
“Come in!” But the Parlourmaid ushered in a truly welcome sight. Holly rose, nearly dizzy with relief. “Chief District Inspector Pel Darzin! Come in! Come in!” As an afterthought, her native courtesy forced her to acknowledge the Parlormaid’s continued presence. “Did you come to show the Chief District Inspector up, or is there something else?”
Parlourmaid Tambar Miznalia sniffed and said, “You said I was to let him run free around here, so I didn’t need to show him up, did I? And I know you always order tea and fresh cake–” Holly mouthed the word fresh along with her — “so I didn’t need orders for that. I just come up to bring your mail. Anything else?”
“No, thank you.”
Miznalia closed the door and went about her business. Not for the first time, Holly wished Miznalia and her Living Book sweetheart would run away together and live happily ever after, but it hadn’t happened yet, and a Librarian is, after all, a realist.
Holly and Darzin hooked thumbs in the traditional Llannonninn greeting. Although the Chief District Inspector’s face was serious, it wasn’t grim, and the mere presence of a lawman familiar with Library troubles comforted the Librarian.
“We’ve had communication from your borrower,” he said, both of them understanding he meant the one who had taken the Books on his cruise. Darzin pulled a sheet of paper from one of the pockets of his blue tunic and read, “I’m deeply sorry and ashamed that I embezzled funds from the bank. Now that I’m on this beautiful tropical island, I realize the worthlessness of material goods. I’ve returned all the money except the bit I used to pay for my yacht. I’ve sent the yacht back with the Books. They’re good sailors — they should be at Council City Dock tomorrow. As for me, I’m paying for my crime by exiling myself to this beautiful tropical island for the rest of my life. It’s quite a sacrifice, but I deserve it.”
Holly wiped her eyes with the tail of her purple feather boa. “Such a fine citizen,” she said.
“Llannonn could use thousands like him,” Darzin agreed.
But the Books were not at the dock the next day. Nor the next, nor the next.
Holly and Darzin took to meeting at a mintmint shop halfway between the station house and the Library. After all, as Parlourmaid Tambar Miznalia pointed out, there was only so much cake in the world.
After a week of no word, Darzin came with more negative news.
“There have been no storms, no rough weather at all, anywhere between the erstwhile thief’s tropical island and Council City. No hazards to navigation. There are important shipping lanes in that region, so it’s thoroughly policed. Not like the next sea over, which is controlled by Seafaring Wanderers in exchange for their staying out of the commercial area. No one reported seeing the yacht after it left the island.”
Holly tossed back her mintmint and ordered another, wishing it were alcoholic. Very alcoholic.
“Let’s look at this from another angle,” said Darzin. “What Books would be on that yacht? What Books did he take?”
Holly said, mournfully, “It seemed like such a treat for them! Overdues in advance because they would be gone more than two weeks, cruising around a well-patrolled sea, fresh seafood and tropical fruits, five of them to take turns as crew and reciting themselves. If he picked Moby Dick as his first book to hear, the others might not have to recite themselves at all.”
“Moby Dick was one, then. Who else?”
“They were all watery ones.” She ticked them off on her fingers. “Moby Dick. The African Queen. The Life of Pi. Kon-Tiki. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”
“A well-rounded group. They should be able to handle anything that came at them. –What’s wrong? You’ve thought of something. What is it?”
“The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”
“You know her better as Genesis Selinsky.”
Darzin paled. “I wondered why I hadn’t seen that young reprobate on the streets lately. You don’t mean to say she actually followed through and became a Book?”
Holly nodded. “We sent her into the country to train and memorize her chosen text. Get her away from the bad influences she’d cultivated in the city. What I had forgotten — curse my oversight, but how could I know every detail of every book? — is that Tom Sawyer is also in Huckleberry Finn.”
Darzin stirred two lumps of sugar into Holly’s mintmint. “Get that inside you,” he said. “You need it. Then tell me the significance of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. And, of course, Genesis Selinsky.”
Holly groaned and slugged down her mintmint. “I know where the books are. Young Genesis — Huckleberry Finn, I should say — is a natural leader, especially with Tom Sawyer egging her on. She’s commandeered the crew and the yacht.”
“And where are they?”
The answer was obvious, now. “They’ve run away to be pirates.”
MY PROMPTS TODAY: Holly Jahangiri, Jen Selinsky, FORCE OF HABIT (currently out of print)