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.
Holly and the Wild Strawberries
It wasn’t often that a Living Book left the library on their own without the agreed-upon two weeks’ notice but, when they did, Head Librarian Holly Jahangiri looked after the defection personally. Books were sometimes stolen, were sometimes kept out overdue, but rarely did they desert, although it did happen.
There was that one time when Jayne Eyre ran off to become a governess, but Holly had met Jane fleeing the foreboding mansion where she had gone to work, Jane begging to come back to the Library because her new employer was a total jerk. Then there was the time Project Hail Mary nearly put himself into a coma because some joker had convinced him that he would wake up in another solar system.
This time, though, the runaway was a particular favorite of Holly’s. Wild Strawberries: An English-Language Novelization of Ingmar Bergman’s Classic Film. They called him WildStraw for short.
WildStraw was a grumpy old man who loved doing voices for his different characters. Holly particularly relished hearing the scene in the car with the main character, the two boys and a girl who were traveling with him, and the bickering couple. It was quite the tour de force.
Where could he be? Where would he have gone? Not on a road trip. The people who checked him out often specifically did so wanting him to recite himself on road trips; he had enough of those as part of his work, and didn’t do them on his own.
Holly turned over the running of the Library to her Assistant Librarian, Genesis Selinsky who, in spite of her name, had begun working at the Library as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Haversack slung across her shoulder, Holly stepped onto the street of Council City, raised her head, and sniffed a sniff that would have made Parlourmaid Tambar Miznalia jealous.
First Growth! Even in the city, the smell of First Growth was in the air. This was the time Holly most missed her Rural home. This was the time….
She knew where WildStraw had gone. WildStraw had been a grumpy old man when he first came to Council City. He had been discarded by the Rural Library where he had first become a Living Book, the Rural Library having few patrons and even fewer who wanted a foreign (that is, non-original-English-language) book. Llannonninn Living Book patrons weren’t very picky about content, but the Rurals could be sticklers for form, and Living Books were English-language, and that meant originally written in English, by cracky!
WildStraw had never stopped talking about how much he had enjoyed and how much he missed the Rural village where he had grown up and had first become interested in being a Living Book.
Holly rented a pedicar and started pumping the pedals. Out of the busy metropolis that was Council City she went, through the outlying district, where Urbanites lived cheek-by-jowl with (and, incidentally, next door to) Rurals with splendid gardens and Wandering Tribespeople in yurts or tiny houses on wheels.
Domiciles grew more sparse, and she found herself in Meadow of Flowers Province proper, the Province where Holly, herself, had grown up, walked barefoot through the pratty pastures, and washed her feet thoroughly before entering the house.
Long before she grew weary (for a Librarian is always in top shape), she entered the village limits of Labergeville, a charming, if slightly eccentric, little cluster of houses and businesses. She parked her pedicar in the lot provided outside the quaint main streets and began walking.
If WildStraw were here, where would he be? After a moment’s thought, Holly headed back out of the village and took the first footpath she saw. She – hurriedly – passed a couple making … let us say “merry” … in the bushes. She passed a house full of people just sitting down to a meal. She passed a boy and a man standing on a dock at the edge of a lake.
Finally, she found WildStraw, in just such a place as she’d expected: sitting in the middle of a patch of mingberries, picking them, eating them, and crying.
She sat beside him and laid a comforting hand on his shoulder. “Dear Book,” she said, “why do you weep?”
“I hate mingberries,” the Book replied, “but I’m so hungry! I came out on a whim, and I didn’t bring lunch or money.”
Holly gave him half the lunch she had brought with her (as I believe I’ve mentioned before, a Librarian is always prepared) and they talked until the sun was low.
“I’m ready to go back, now,” said the Book. “Thank you for coming after me.”
“Next time you want to rusticate,” Holly said, “let me know. I’ll have Mrs. Beeton pack you a picnic.”
“Will you come with me?”
“I might. I just might.”
The Book smiled. “Thank you Father Isak,” he said. “I love you.”
Holly took that as the compliment it was meant to be and led the way to the pedicar. With two people pedaling, they were home in time for supper.
I promised Holly five Holly stories in May, because there are five Sundays in May this year and I started late. I’ve now done four Holly stories, so I suppose I need to do another one tomorrow in order to keep my promise.
A WRITING PROMPT FROM ME TO YOU: Write about someone returning to their roots.
Holly JahangiriMay 30, 2021 at 8:12am
😊 I love this. I have an urge, now, to rusticate. I also have an urge, now, to share with you a story of the “really” Holly, and some wild strawberries!
Marian AllenMay 30, 2021 at 8:54am
I just read it again and I repeat my comment from when I first read it: I LOVE your MIL! The movie Wild Strawberries was Charlie’s #1 favorite movie. The scenes Holly passed were from the film, and Isak was the main character.
Holly JahangiriMay 30, 2021 at 11:01am
I’ll have to look for that.
My MIL died at the end of 2020. We learned of it in New Years Day. 😥 But memories, like this, keep the smiles coming. I’m slowly coming to accept that we aren’t meant to hold onto anyone or anything forever – and that’s something I want those who love ME to know, before my day to leave comes. I like to think we’ll be reunited one day – “remixed” perhaps, assigned similar or different roles, but that maybe that’s what those “instant friendships” we experience are, after all – a flash of recognition from a different timeline.
Marian AllenMay 30, 2021 at 2:10pm
I’ve had those instant connections happen so often, I’d hate to say it isn’t true. And then there was the time I was carrying baby Sara up the road and she said, “I used to carry YOU this way when YOU were little.”
Holly JahangiriMay 31, 2021 at 5:37pm
I believe it. When I was 4, I told my grandmother I wanted her to come back as my grandchild so I could spoil her like she did me! She was stunned. I’d never heard of reincarnation or rebirth.
Marian AllenJune 1, 2021 at 11:46am
Dan AntionMay 30, 2021 at 8:22am
And a good author always keeps her promise 🙂
This was a wonderful story, Marian. You’re starting my day with a little sniff, but for a good reason.
Holly JahangiriMay 30, 2021 at 8:36am
Oh, she kept her promise many times over, Dan. I know it wasn’t part of her plan this year, and I understood 1000%, but it’s been a year, hasn’t it? And my dear friend didn’t miss a beat when I said this was something the real Holly had come to look forward to in May. A reason to get up and moving on Sunday mornings. I was about to pull the blanket up over my head and refuse to come out (kind of like the groundhog in February) and Marian wouldn’t let that happen. ❤️ Marian kept me happily entertained and distracted, 10 years ago, with her books while I was recovering from cancer surgery. Her stories are always so imaginative and fun.
Marian AllenMay 30, 2021 at 8:57am
Thank you so much, my dear friend! There’s one final Holly story tomorrow, since I didn’t start on time and owe you one more. 🙂 Thanks for helping Dan light a fire under me to get back to writing. <3
Holly JahangiriMay 30, 2021 at 10:54am
I’m glad that I could do that, Marian. And now that the flames are dancing again, let’s make s’mores. 😉🤗
Dan AntionMay 30, 2021 at 11:17am
And she added Steffie stories for me. She’s pretty good to her fan base.
Holly JahangiriMay 30, 2021 at 11:22am
“Pretty good”? Aren’t you just the master of understatement this morning? 🤣
Dan AntionMay 30, 2021 at 11:28am
Haha – yes I am. I told her she’s the best 🙂
Marian AllenMay 30, 2021 at 8:56am
The real movie is poinient, so the story needed to be. There’ll be another Holly story tomorrow to round out what I owe her for starting late.
Dan AntionMay 30, 2021 at 11:22am
You’re the best.
Marian AllenMay 30, 2021 at 2:10pm
Holly JahangiriMay 30, 2021 at 11:33am
Oh, Marian, you owe me nothing. Your stories are, and always have been, a precious gift. 🤗 Thank you for for being my friend.
Marian AllenMay 30, 2021 at 2:11pm
HUGS! My heart is certainly singing this morning. 🙂 <3
pmlabergeMay 30, 2021 at 2:03pm
Holly must go out with some books and pick mingberrues. They make great mingberry wine. Nice and light. Low alcohol. A great drink with ming wine, cranberry juice, and crushed ice. As you know cranberries are one of several Earth imports that grow well. As you know they are an export from the Shallow Ponds District.
Labergeville. Right next to Grandville. Two small towns similar to Petticoat Junction and Hootersville, but more sophisticated.
I shall have to do with red Earth wine in mine. Ming wine is a little fluorescent, and usually reddish. Of course, the housekeeper will complain about the fermentation gasses again. Sigh.
Marian AllenMay 30, 2021 at 2:13pm
… Pete, sometimes, I think you actually live on Llannonn. Except you can’t, because you’re also really Steffie’s handler. It’s a puzzlement. sits back and waits for Pete’s sure-to-be-mind-blowing reply
Marian AllenMay 30, 2021 at 3:08pm
pmlabergeMay 30, 2021 at 5:04pm
But how do you know if I have not been there??? As for Steffie well…. Good girls go to heaven, and bad girls go everywhere else. And Stefie has been good. AND bad!!!
I DO have a powerful imagination, you know. Even if it is warped….
Marian AllenJune 1, 2021 at 11:42am