I didn’t use today’s Story A Day prompt, but that’s okay. Julie says it’s OUR Story A Day May, and we can do whatever helps us write. I love that!
So, it being Sunday of May, I have a Holly Jahangiri story. The imaginary one, not the real one.
A Librarian At the Circus
Assistant Head Librarian Holly Jahangiri wished for her official office desk, or even the Living Library’s scarred and well-worn (because second-hand) check-out desk. She had neither, as she wasn’t even in the Library, but out on the open sidewalk.
Young Juvenile Genesis Selinsky stood before her, hands raised in supplication, eyes wide and brimming with tears.
Holly would have been moved by the child’s pleas if the child hadn’t been so well-known to her. Her super-sharp Librarian senses also tingled at the glitter of eyes from a nearby alley. Some of the eyes, no doubt, belonged to alley-jammers, verminous scourge of her planet, Llannonn. Others, though, equally without doubt, belonged to Genesis’ younger brothers, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, young Deuteronomy still being too young to run the streets with his older siblings. Some might have belonged to The Irregulars, a street gang the urchins had joined, which often helped police with their inquiries, and sometimes “helped the police with their inquiries.”
On Llannonn, everyone is legally entitled to respect and courtesy, even sketchy children, so Holly forbore to say, “Scram, kid, ya bodder me.” Instead, she put on her most aggressive Librarian smile, the one she had practiced for hours in front of a selfie screen before taking her Librarian Certification Examination, and said, “I’m so sorry. I have another engagement at that time.”
Lying wasn’t against the law. Rudeness was, but not lying.
“I haven’t told you when the show is,” Genesis crowed in triumph.
Trapped! This is what happens when one becomes familiar with Library patrons.
Juvenile Genesis Selinsky slipped her hand into Holly’s, as if they were a trusting child and a doting adult. “It’s invitation only,” she confided, answering Holly’s unspoken question: Why don’t you just sneak in, as you do the theater/cinema/fill-in-the-blank? “And they only give invitations to people who ask for them, and only if the people can prove they’re used to Earth people and Earth customs.”
Holly shuddered. Earth. Where the literature memorized by her Living Books originated–literature characterized by violence, deceit, unbridled passions, and overflowing-cartsful of discourtesy. She loved her Books, but the culture was so alien, most of them didn’t understand half of what they recited. She hoped.
She said, “What is this entertainment called again?”
The invitation arrived later that afternoon by special courier, who insisted on reading the accompanying warning.
“The CIRCUS, hereafter referred to as THE ALIEN PRODUCTION, is an entertainment originating from the culture of the planet EARTH, hereafter referred to as AN ALIEN CULTURE. Do you understand?”
“THE ALIEN PRODUCTION may contain events, actions, words, attitudes, or other elements not sanctioned by the culture, people, or governments of the planet LLANNONN. Do you understand?”
Holly affirmed and initialed.
“I, ASSISTANT HEAD LIBRARIAN HOLLY JAHANGIRI OF COUNCIL CITY LIVING LIBRARY (MAIN BRANCH), hereafter referred to as THE UNDERSIGNED, hold the the culture, people, and government of the planet LLANNONN in general and the issuing body of this document in particular free of all liability for any and all emotional distress caused by witnessing THE ALIEN PRODUCTION or any damages pertaining thereto. Do you understand?”
This was sounding serious, but Holly initialed the paragraph.
“I, THE UNDERSIGNED, in the event I bring a companion, indicated on the invitation as PLUS ONE, take all responsibility for the well-being and behavior of said PLUS ONE during the course of THE ALIEN PRODUCTION. Do you understand?”
“I understand,” Holly equivocated.
The courier grinned. “I get that a lot. You notice it doesn’t hold you responsible for subsequent behavior. So, you know, it could be worse.”
Holly agreed, initialed the paragraph, and signed the document.
Juvenile Genesis Selinsky was making Holly nervous. Contrary to Holly’s fears, the child had been the opposite of obstreperous. In fact–and it was this which was giving Holly a nervous tic in the corner of her eye–the young hooligan seemed mesmerized.
She had begun ordinarily enough, protesting when Holly insisted they split the cost and the refreshments with their neighbors, so they could all taste the exotic peanuts, popcorn, Cracker-Jacks, hot dogs, and ice-cold soda pop offered by the wandering vendors. By the time she had systematically worked her way through those strange delicacies, she was content with the merest pinch of the bizarrely colored cotton candy.
Perhaps the Earthlings put sedatives in the food, Holly posited, although she had eaten the food, and she felt far from sedate.
First had come the clowns, about whom the ringmaster had warned them, cautioning those delicate nerves to close their eyes and to let their neighbors tell them when it was safe to look. The clowns had said nothing, but they had honked, pointed, and behaved with the utmost discourtesy to one another and to the highly dignified ringmaster.
The clowns had left, followed by men and women in spangled clothes who had done acrobatics on the backs of galloping pratties. The ringmaster had said that it was against Llannonn wisely forbade the import, even temporarily, of alien species, but that pratties were even larger and more erratic that the equivalent Earth beast, a horse.
Holly passed her hand up and down before Juvenile Genesis Selinsky’s eyes and was relieved to see her blink.
When spotlights had picked out two men and a woman is very spangly clothes, indeed, standing on platforms high above the ring with a wire strung between those platforms, young Genesis had gasped with the rest of the crowd, but Holly suspected it had more to do with the realization that walking across a wire was a dangerous but plausible way of entering forbidden territory.
After a lengthy interval, during which vendors passed among the spectators, offering to sell them lavishly illustrated and highly priced program books as a memento of the day, the ringmaster announced a “parade of the sideshow,” inviting the patrons to explore that additional entertainment.
Brightly dressed people circled the exhibition ring. An unusually small woman. An unusually tall man. A woman who appeared to be sticking a sword down her own throat. A man who appeared to be doing the same thing with a flaming stick. A woman with a long black beard. A man with extremely well-developed musculature.
The man and woman entered side by side, their arms raised. They wore the smallest of all possible costumes, yet they were covered, from their shaven heads to their bare feet, in color. Pictures. Pictures!
Holly felt her jaw drop and her eyes widen (for a Librarian is, as part of her rigorous training, always aware of her facial expression).
“Picture books,” Holly whispered. Then, at the top of her voice, the voice one must never use in a library but which the country girl she had been in her youth had never lost, she shouted, “PICTURE BOOKS!”
Before she could be stopped, she plunged along the bleacher and all but flew down the steps and into the ring. She dodged all hands which tried to stop her, dove between the legs of the unusually tall man, rolled to avoid the grasp of the muscular one, and popped to her feet before the illustrated couple.
“Picture books!” she repeated, circling each colorful Earthling.
In the end, they had to call the constabulary to escort her (and the deeply embarrassed Juvenile Genesis Selinsky) back to the library. Fortunately for Holly’s later peace of mind, her friend Pel Darzin wasn’t one of the attending squad.
Naturally, Holly wrote notes of apology, on her best personal stationary, to the couple she had accosted, to the alien production’s sponsors and proprietors, and to each of her fellow invitees (these were allowed to be mass-produced, and the printing bill served as a salubrious caution to her to curb her enthusiasm.
But picture books and illustrated books became additions to the Living Library. In fact, the production of press-on tattoos became quite a profitable little industry on Llannonn, with libraries being the largest patron.
Even Holly had one: a red heart with a library card in the middle. Where she had it, nobody knew and nobody dared to speculate.
MY PROMPT TODAY: Funniest way to get banned from a business establishment