Last year during Story A Day May, it became my usage to write a Holly Jahangiri story every Sunday. Holly Jahangiri is a real person who won herself the right to be a character in a story not once but twice. Since then, she’s become one of my favorite characters. She’s lobbying for her own novel, but that hasn’t happened yet. Not. Quite. Yet.
I’m sorry today’s story is so long. Holly inspires me. Blame her.
Llannonn is the planet where my currently out-of-print comic cop sf novel, FORCE OF HABIT, takes place. And now:
Holly Jahangiri and The Dragon
by Marian Allen
The prisoner in the dock would have been a pimply faced youth, if the courtroom had been on Earth, but it wasn’t. This was the planet Llannonn, and adolescents didn’t get acne. Instead, they got a double order of sullen, hold the courtesy, and a side order of impertinence. It was during these years that criminals were formed. Fortunately, adolescence only lasted a year or so, but a lot of disrespect can be accomplished in a year, if one really rolls up one’s sleeves and buckles down to it. A wise Llannonninn once said, “There’s no cure for adolescence except growing out of it.” An induced coma would also work, but there are only so many hospital beds.
Holly Jahangiri, Assistant Head Librarian of Council City’s main branch living library, was attending the trial at the invitation of the boy’s arresting officer, her new friend Constable Pel Darzin. She watched Darzin take the stand, flip open his notebook, and read.
“Three evenings ago, pursuant to a call that smoke was issuing from a domicile on Wossname Street, I arrived at said domicile to find smoke issuing therefrom. According to new practices from headquarters –” Darzin paused meaningfully, allowing the court and spectators to fill in their own derisive “new practices from headquarters” comment – “I stopped, dropped, and rolled, but smoke continued to issue from the domicile. Checking the windows and doors, I found a window open and, in the room on the other side of said window, the prisoner was lighting matches and holding them against flammable objects, with the result that said objects were burning.”
The judge, a robust gentleman with a florid countenance and silver hair that stuck out like dandelion fluff, poured Darzin a mug of tea and asked, “Would you indicate the person you saw employing matches against flammable material?”
Darzin, of course, couldn’t point, which would be impolite, but he nodded toward the prisoner and said, “That youngster, there. The prisoner.”
“What happened then?”
“I entered through the window and said, as regulations require, ‘Ho, what’s all this then?’ To which the youth replied, ‘It’s a fair cop. Let all the world beware my flame, for I am The Dragon!’ At this point in the proceedings, I arrested him and brought him in to the station.”
Holly froze in place, her attention riveted by the prisoner’s reported words, with the consequence that she missed the tea trolley and someone else got the last cucumber sandwich.
“And what,” the judge asked the courtroom in general, “is a dragon?”
“I believe,” said Darzin, making eye contact with Holly, “I’ve brought a guest who can answer that question.”
Holly stood, nodded to Darzin and judge, and shifted her kind but piercing gaze to the young man who was sitting up straight for the first time in seven months.
“A dragon,” she said, “is a mythical creature in Earth literature. Some of them were said to breathe fire.”
The judge eyed Darzin with suspicion. “I thought you said he used matches.”
“Yes, your honor.”
“But she said they breathe fire. Why would he use matches, if he can breathe fire? That doesn’t make sense.”
“In my considered opinion,” said Darzin, carefully, “with all due respect, if it please the court, the young man used matches because he was speaking of himself metaphorically, not literally.”
“So he can’t actually breathe fire.”
“No, your honor.”
“Well, then.” The judge tapped the side of his teacup with his sugar spoon. “Case dismissed.”
The erstwhile prisoner’s parents embraced him with tears and trepidation, not being certain, at his age, whether he would hug them back or spit in their eyes. He permitted their relief and joy, but only became animated when Assistant Librarian Holly Jahangiri approached the family group.
She introduced herself and said, “Do I have reason to believe that Earth literature is not unknown in your home?”
The firebug’s mother said, “We have one Earth story I inherited from my grandfather. It’s a slim manuscript about dragons. I thought we had sold it in a rummage sale, but it seems our son hid it and read it without our knowledge.”
“It so happens,” Holly said, “the Council City Living Library is putting together a book of dragon stories and we’re one story short of an anthology. If your son is willing, we’d like to offer him an internship reciting your grandfather’s story.”
The young man’s face lit up and his naturally sweet smile broke through. In tones his parents hadn’t heard for far too long, he said, “Please say yes!”
The parents exchanged the sort of look parents exchange in such cases, and the father said, “Yes.”
“Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
Holly made arrangements for the young man and his parents to meet with Head Librarian Devra Langsam to discuss details and legalities. Then she and Constable Pel Darzin repaired to a nearby pub for prattyburgers and ale to celebrate another successful collaboration in the causes of law and literacy.
~ * ~
By a happy coincidence, I have a story in an anthology about dragons. The book is called Dragonthology, and my story is called “The Dragon of Sullivan Hall.
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Please feel free to use my photo prompts.