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.