19 #StoryADayMay #SampleSunday Barking Mad

shortstorymonthx240Yep. Looks like a pattern. Another Holly Jahangiri story this Sunday.

Holly appears in the short stories “By the Book” and “The Pratty Who Saved Christmuss.” The planet Llannonn also appears in FORCE OF HABIT.

Barking Mad

by Marian Allen

Assistant Librarian Holly Jahangiri tied a knot in the ends of her purple feather boa to keep them still. The wind was kicking up on the museum’s grounds, and the rows of tents set up on all sides of the building channeled that wind right through the shoppers’ bones.

Although Holly had no interest in the Council City Museum of Water Transport, she needed a present for Head Librarian Devra Langsam’s mother on the anniversary of the head librarian’s birth. She understood that, on the distant and exotic planet Earth, presents were given to the person who had been born, not to the person who had caused that to happen. Aliens were so … alien.

Holly had made the rounds of the vendors once, just to see everything on offer, and found herself drawn back to two tents.

For herself, she bought a small painting of a meadow of flowers, to remind her of Meadow of Flowers Province, her home before she moved to the city.

The second tent was where she would buy Devra Langsam’s mother’s Giving Birth Day present.

The vendor was short and broad, with dark brown hair and muttonchop whiskers and a face set in an apparently permanent snarl. But he had a wonderful collection of necklaces made of semi-precious stones decoratively wrapped in wire, and Devra’s mother could never get enough of those.

She bought half a dozen.

“Do you have a business card, so I can tell other people about you?”


“Do you have a shop, or some other way people can contact you to buy?”

“No.” He bared his teeth. “I’m sleeping in my pedicar. That’s my ‘shop’.”

Holly felt her librarian senses tingle.

“What’s your name?”

“Lad of – Timm Hurrllee.”

It was the old, sad story: Contact with Earth had brought with it a fashion for Earth things, particularly books of that strange planet. Wealthy families hired people to memorize Earth texts and recite them – they were known as Living Books. FAHRENHEIT 451 by Ray Bradbury had been the first, if she recalled her History of Library Science correctly. Even today, wealthy people collected Living Books, paying high salaries to their favorites, dismissing the ones they didn’t care for.

Most of the Books found other employers at lower salaries. Some didn’t. Of those, some went into other work, but some couldn’t imagine a life outside their recitation.

Her policing friend, Constable Pel Darzin, had told her some of the stories: Men who stopped people on the street by force and made them listen to “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” Women who haunted bars, reciting bits of themselves to anyone who would buy them a drink.

“You’re a Book, aren’t you?”

A spark of life came to the vendor’s face.

Holly was careful not to break eye contact. “Lad of … Sunnybank?”

Color drained from the Book’s cheeks and he whispered, “By Albert Payson Terhune.”

Holly held out a hand and said the words this man had probably been longing to hear: “I’m a librarian.”

Slowly, he extended his own hand and they hooked thumbs.

“Council City Living Library,” Holly said, giving the address. “Can you come for a recitation after the event here closes? If you’re in good shape, there’s a bed in the dormitory for you. We don’t have any Terhune, and Head Librarian Devra Langsam was wishing for one just the other day.”

The Book was transformed. Eyes bright, teeth shining in a dazzling grin, he said, “I’ll be there!”

“Don’t let Parlormaid Tambar Miznalia put you off. Tell her Assistant Librarian Holly Jahangiri sent you.”

“I’ll be there! I’ll be there!” The fierce joy of a Book whose recitation has been unheard for too long shone from him.

As Holly walked away from the tent, she could hear his laughing voice saying, “Lad had absurdly tiny white forepaws, of which he was inordinately proud.”

It was very endearing, but Holly was a cat Book person, herself.

~ * ~

Update: Holly (the real one) informs me that she is not more of a cat Book person, and that she loves Lad. Allow me to point out that the real Holly is not a resident of another planet, either, nor is she a librarian. :p Nevertheless, the point is taken.

MY WRITING PROMPT TODAY: An internet friend and a favorite childhood book.



I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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One thought on “19 #StoryADayMay #SampleSunday Barking Mad

  1. Holly Jahangiri

    May 19, 2013 at 9:56am

    ROFL!! And…your point is well taken, too. I forget, sometimes, that I am NOT Assistant Librarian Holly Jahangiri – after all, I DO have the purple feather boa, and love to dream of a meadow of flowers, and it delights me to be transported to Llannonn. BUT, yes. We must cling to our artistic license… and, perhaps, to our sense of reality (in my case).

    I did grow up watching all the Lad movies when I was little, but have never read the books. I thank you for bringing that joy back to mind, and I will be adding those to my library, I think. For realz.

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author

      Marian Allen

      May 19, 2013 at 5:36pm

      The LAD books taught me everything I know about writing fight scenes. And about narrative irony, come to that.

      Permalink  ⋅ Reply
  2. Jane

    May 19, 2013 at 11:00am

    I have lost track of how many times I’ve read Lad, a Dog. I was pretty much equal opportunity animal-story in the old days. Cats, now, of course.
    Great story.

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author

      Marian Allen

      May 19, 2013 at 5:38pm

      I was so glad Sara loved them, too, so I could read them again, aloud, to her. 🙂

      Permalink  ⋅ Reply
  3. Jo Robinson

    May 20, 2013 at 12:20pm

    Another brilliant one! Hi Holly!! I hope I don’t post multiple enthusiasms Marian – having the devil of an internet time so I could be repeating myself. Love this story – and the surprise of finding a “real” Holly at the end. Strength to the end.

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author

      Marian Allen

      May 20, 2013 at 3:31pm

      I’m so glad you like the Holly story! I have so much fun with them! 😀

      Permalink  ⋅ Reply

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