For those who don’t know, years and years ago, I wrote a novel (currently out of print) set on Llannonn, a planet where courtesy is literally the law. When I went on a blog book tour for the novel, I ran a contest for naming a character in a short story set in the same world. Fellow writer Holly Jahangiri (the real one) was such a determined contestant, I named a character after her, too. That character commandeered the story, and I’ve been writing about her ever since.
I write a Holly story on the Sundays of Story A Day May.
Holly Jahangiri (the fictional one) becomes, is, and retires as a Librarian at a library for living books. It seems that somebody on Llannonn read Fahrenheit 451 and decided a library of people who recite books they’ve memorized was a great idea. Typically for Llannonn, they officialized it. Becoming a living book is now a respectable career, provided you can get a gig in a library.
And now I give you:
Holly Takes a Hike
A child was missing, back home in Meadow of Flowers Province, and Head Librarian Holly Jahangiri could do no less than respond to the call for help. She couldn’t actually go there — she had a Living Library to run — but she could attend virtually.
Her third cousin twice removed, Crockett Boone, had volunteered his Professional Backwoodsman expertise to help the search, and now he volunteered his shiny new Record-O-Phone, an import from Earth.
“We’ll start with the path,” he said. “This is the path through the woods little Uyou takes between his family’s domicile and mine.” As if justifying his inadequacy in the present situation to his glamourous cousin (who was, after all, a librarian), he said, “It’s been dry for a fortnight. Nothing’s leaving any tracks.”
Slowly, Woodsman Boone walked along the path, first from the boy’s home to the Boone cabin, then the other way.
When he had finished, Holly said, “Go back to that little clearing with the stones and the altar.”
Boone complied, beaming to Holly’s office a view of a rustic altar, now empty of the offerings traditional to the seasons: blighted blossoms for the first growth of Damn the Weather, ripe mashaberries for Hot Time, crispy dead leaves for Cooling, and, for Anti-Hot, chestnuts roasting on an open fire.
At this time of year, the mashaberries were gone, eaten by woodland creatures, and the leaves had not yet completely carpeted the ground.
No, the altar was all but empty. But the kneeling stone before the altar — that was nearly covered with small, rounded rocks.
“There,” said Holly. “Point your Record-O-Phone at the kneeling stone. What are those?”
“They look like they came out of a river or stream,” said Boone. “Rounded by the water, you see?”
“I seem to recall a small stream not far from your cabin. You took us there to tease ticklefish when us kids visited you in Hot Time.”
The ‘Phone’s view swooped up, giving Holly an attack of vertigo, and moved, as Boone threaded his way through trees and underbrush.
A glint of light off water through the veil of trees, and ….
There was the child, sitting on the bank of the stream, sorting through a pile of rounded stones. He looked up with a delighted smile.
“It worked! You got my message! Hooray for books!”
Later, when Boone told Holly the child’s story, Holly blamed herself. She had begun a Library Outreach Program, taking Living Books into the provinces to recite themselves to rural children over long weekends.
This child had been fascinated with non-fiction, particularly the Boy Scout’s Guidebook. It seems that he had been practicing woodcraft, as he remembered it from the Book’s recital (“A real woodsman wasn’t fancy enough for him,” Boone growled), when he twisted his ankle. He remembered that Scouts left one another messages with stones so, fashioning a crutch from a fallen branch, he had hobbled to the stream to find some stones, had taken them to the altar, left them there, and hobbled back to the stream, because it’s best to make a camp near clean water. Every so often, when no one came to find him, he had hobbled back to the altar and left more stones.
“…Why didn’t he just hobble home, or to your place? Or stay on the trail, so somebody could find him?”
But she knew, and she answered her own question just as Woodsman Boone answered it: “That wasn’t in the Book.”
Maybe, she cautioned herself, it would be better to restrict the outreach program to fiction. As one of her Books was fond of quoting himself: A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
A WRITING PROMPT FROM ME TO YOU: Write about leaves.