Before I forget, since this is the first of the month, I have a new Hot Flash up on my Hot Flashes page.
NOW! I’m trying for StoryADayMay again this year. I’ll be writing stories set in the worlds of previous books and stories I’ve written. Sundays, by tradition, are Holly Jahangiri stories, set on or involving natives of the planet Llannonn, where courtesy isn’t just a good idea; it’s the law. My book set (mostly) Llannonn, FORCE OF HABIT, is currently out of print, undergoing some slight rewrites, but it’ll be available again this year, I hope. Holly, alas, isn’t in that book, but the rewrites might give her a cameo. I have plans for future books. Oh, yes, I have plans….
This year, I’m pulling my prompts from my bits o’ paper box, cleaning it out and getting inspiration at the same time.
by Marian Allen
Assistant Librarian Holly Jahangiri didn’t consider herself the most sophisticated person on the planet Llannonn, but she had been in Council City long enough to know better than to go into a dark alley. They didn’t have dark alleys out in the country, where she came from, so she had her fellow Rurals’ natural fascination with them, but she’d been warned, and “A word to the wise is sufficient,” as one of her Earth books liked to say.
Holly was assistant librarian at the main branch of Council City’s Living Library of Books of Old Earth, where professional Books – Llannonninn who had memorized texts – lived when they weren’t checked out and living with library patrons, reciting themselves on request.
Now she hesitated at the mouth of a particularly dark alley, a classic approach/avoidance experiment, her desire to go in exactly equal to her desire to stay out.
She knew what kept her out: strong admonitions from her dear old mother back home, warnings from new Urban friends and colleagues here in the city, cautions from her newest friend, Pel Darzin of the Council City constabulary, and her own sense of smell. But what was luring her in?
She heard it again: the faint sound, just above the threshold of hearing. A moan.
It could be a trap. It could be real.
“Ah-ah-ah, what have I told you about not going into alleys, Assistant Librarian Holly Jahangiri?” A familiar voice, welcome at any time, was especially so now.
“Constable Pel Darzin! No, I remembered your kind warnings, but someone’s in distress in there!”
Darzin became all professional. “Someone called for help?”
“No, they moaned.”
“Could be a trick. With all these aliens from outer space doing business here, we do get some bad pomegranates.”
“Apples,” Holly said absently. “Bad apples.”
“Some kind of bad alien fruit,” Darzin conceded. “But it could be a real need. I’d better go in. You wait here, if you please.”
A moment later, Darzin called to her from the recesses behind the trash bins.
She joined him, with a shiver of delight at entering forbidden territory. Now she knew what an alley was like: narrow, overshadowed by the freeform silhouettes of Llannonn Urban architecture (no doubt even more shadowy in the tourist sector, where big box buildings were the norm). Alley jammers – small, brightly colored scavengers with large eyes and prehensile tails – darted up the walls or into deeper shadow.
Darzin squatted next to a woman, who huddled on her side, her moans and mutters now clearly audible.
The woman wore the mismatched clothing of an Urban Wanderer, which was consistent with her presence in an alley, surrounded by shabby cloth bags of belongings. But she was thin – gaunt – where most Urban Wanderers were as well-fed and healthy as most other Llannonn.
“She isn’t responding to my questions,” Darzin said. “She seems to be speaking one of those Earth languages you’ve told me about. Will you see if you can understand enough of it to help?”
“Of course.” Holly found a piece of relatively clean cardboard and knelt on the other side of the woman, listening closely to the unconscious ramblings. “Yes, how clever of you,” she said, nodding to Darzin. “It’s the Earth language of the French. I’ll tell her we don’t speak it.” To the woman, she said, “Gee nee parl pah leh frenchy. Jeh swiss leh Llannonninn.”
The woman moaned again. Her eyelids fluttered, and she drew a deep breath. Her gaze roamed, then fixed on Holly. When she spoke, it was in good, clear Council City Llannonninn.
“Where am I?”
Holly and Darzin exchanged relieved glances.
Darzin answered, “You’re in an alley in Council City. What happened to you?”
“I was top chef at Jok’rel’s Travelers’ Rest Inn,” she said, “until I took a frying pan to the knee. After that, I couldn’t stand for any length of time. It jangled all my nerves. I couldn’t cook, and I can’t do anything else.”
Darzin said, “We’ll get you to a hospital. They can fix your knee.”
The woman shook her head, dislodging a baby alley jammer who had snuggled next to her scalp for warmth. She clutched Darzin’s sleeve. “My people don’t do hospitals.”
“No. Hospitals are full of sick people. It doesn’t seem safe.”
“I have an idea,” said Holly. She hoped Head Librarian Devra Langsam would approve. She knew for a fact that Parlormaid Tambar Miznalia wouldn’t, but she didn’t approve of much of anything. “Do you remember your recipes?”
“Have you ever thought of being a cookbook?”
Constable Pel Darzin smiled. “Brilliant!”
“I’m Assistant Librarian of a Living Library,” she explained to the woman. “If you can recite your recipes, we’ll help you think up a name for yourself. You aren’t, strictly speaking, an Earth book, but you aren’t, strictly speaking, a Llannonninn book, either…. Ah, well, that’s above my pay grade; the head librarian will know what to do. What do you say?”
The woman didn’t hesitate. “Let’s book.”
MY WRITING PROMPT TODAY: a recipe, an envelope from a foreign correspondent, a restaurant frequent-diner card, a self-publishing instruction page, a flyer for a play on homelessness.
LoriMay 1, 2016 at 8:49am
oh wow, what a clever tale! The ending was a great twist. I so love Science Fiction 🙂
Marian AllenMay 1, 2016 at 12:34pm
Thanks, Lori! Thanks for visiting and commenting. 🙂
JaneMay 1, 2016 at 10:00am
Charming. Completely charming.
Great beginning for the month.
I must meet this ‘Holly” person someday. I’m sure it would be fascinating.
Nice mention of Devra, too.
Marian AllenMay 1, 2016 at 12:33pm
Devra is Head Librarian in several of the Holly stories, Jane. And I’d love to meet the real Holly, too. It’s so hard to remember we’ve never met in real life!
JaneMay 3, 2016 at 8:35am
Heh, I’ve met the real Devra! Back at the Baycon in ’68. A swell, regal gal!
Marian AllenMay 3, 2016 at 12:27pm
Jealous! She’s another one I’d love to meet in person.
Holly JahangiriMay 1, 2016 at 1:17pm
@Jane – Hi, Jane! 🙂 I’d love to meet you both!
JaneMay 2, 2016 at 10:17am
Wouldn’t that be grand? We could hit the craft-brew circuit and leave some boa-floats wherever we went!
Holly JahangiriMay 1, 2016 at 1:19pm
This is such a DELIGHTFUL tradition, Marian! I love it. I kind of live for Sundays in May. Thank you so much!
And what a delightful tale! (For some reason, I really liked the little alley jammer curled up with her for warmth, too. Very vivid descriptions.) I KNOW this feeling of the 50/50 push/pull! So in character for by my alter ego and me.
Marian AllenMay 1, 2016 at 3:32pm
I love the Holly stories, too, and I’m constantly amazed at how often something about her turns out to mirror something about the real you. 🙂 Jane will have to tell you about Gus and the approach/avoidance experiment. ~grin~
JaneMay 2, 2016 at 10:15am
Oh, my, what a flashback!
Dear Gus was a wirehaired fox terrier and such a large specimen that we were often questioned whether or not he might be an airedale. (Seems that some of these huge dogs are actually about Gus’ size!)
Gus, in our family of five kids, was like having two more kids in the house. What a dynamo! Naturally, we conducted a few science experiments on him:
Gus understood that when we shuffled our feet while coming toward him meant a static build-up was happening and a nose-spark was going to be involved. And: Gus loved chocolate. Shamelessly, we would hold out chocolate to Gus while shuffling our feet. The classic approach-avoidance scenario. Well, not so much for Gus. He would hesitate and then go for the chocolate every time.
Holly JahangiriMay 4, 2016 at 9:15am
@Jane – Oh, that brings back memories. One of my parents’ neighbors had an invisible electric fence and matching collar on their dog. My daughter, when she was just two or three, couldn’t leave THEIR yard, but she would smile and entice the poor pup till he couldn’t stand it anymore. It would jump the fence, get shocked, come over to play for a while, and my parents would keep the dog safe till the owners returned – because going home was never enticement enough to get shocked a SECOND time.