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 Lost in the Overgrowth
As head of the largest Living Library on the planet Llannonn, Holly was much in demand at garden parties throughout Council City during the Hot Times. She was often asked to bring one of the books as her “plus one”, and there was much competition between the books for this treat.
It happened, in a suspicious number of cases, that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (recited by the former street urchin Genesis Selinsky) won, and this time was no different.
Holly climbed into her pedicar, tucking her ruffled skirt and purple feather boa out of the way for her guest. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Huck, for short) took the passenger seat and passenger pedals dressed in attire appropriate to her book. Such attire was not mandated – in fact, it was actively discouraged, there only being so much in the budget for costuming – but many of the books pouted until they were outfitted in what they considered proper clothing. Huck wore a light flannel shirt, torn overalls, a straw hat, and clutched a corncob pipe between her teeth. Holly had balked at the pipe, but Huck had pointed out that she would be going barefoot, and that would be a savings.
Huck talked the whole way, sometimes lapsing into her book’s dialect, while Holly practiced meditation using the mantra, “Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Uh-huh.”
Both Librarian and Book were greeted with the enthusiasm which was their due (although Library Code forbade Huck from reciting more than her first paragraph). Anyone wanting to hear more would just have to patronize the Library, so there.
While Huck was plied with sugary fruit punch and savory prattyburgers in an attempt to tease more quotations from her, Holly mingled with the high-hat crowd, hooking thumbs, kissing babies, and cajoling pledges of donations to the Library’s endowment fund. She processed the transactions through her pocked visiphone on the spot, whenever she caught someone who didn’t run fast enough.
All was going well when a high-pitched chirrup from a nearby branch warned her that trouble was about to leap her way.
She froze in place and strained to see out of the corners of her eyes. Yes, her rural-bred and urban-honed hearing had not betrayed her (indeed, it never did). To her left perched a very angry alley jammer, deep red with fury. Holly didn’t know whether the alley jammer had stowed away in someone’s vehicle and now found itself stranded in unfamiliar territory, or was somebody’s pet and was irritated by the noise and bustle of the party, but this alley jammer was one damned unhappy alley jammer.
Holly slowly inched away, but the small predator vibrated its rat-like tail and chirruped again, a jolly sound to signal a rapidly approaching attack.
There was nothing for it: Holly lifted her ruffled skirt and made a break for it.
Within minutes, she had left the alley jammer behind and was thoroughly lost. All sounds of the party were muffled to silence by the foliage surrounding her.
Fortunately, Holly had never stopped being a Rural girl at heart, and had no doubt she could survive indefinitely by draining dew from leaves and eating roots and berries and the occasional grublin. But that wasn’t the point. The point was: What about her job? Oh, yes, and another point: What about the Books who loved her and depended upon her? What would young Genesis (aka The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn) do when Holly turned up missing? Holly felt a little uncomfortable on this last point, young Genesis having been angling for the post of Assistant Librarian for a couple of years now.
Resolved to return to her waiting charges (not to mention the buffet and open bar of the party), Holly brought her Rural skills into play.
She had not been concerned with passing unnoticed in her flight – er, that is, her strategic retreat. Broken twigs and torn leaves led her along a path of, well, let’s face it, destruction.
Wait! Was that the sound of high-pitched, rich-lady laughter? Was that the distant skirl of scented twirl-pipes, hired for the party? Did she detect–
“Oh!” said Huck. “Found ye!”
Holly affected to have the hiccups so the young Book wouldn’t be traumatized by thinking she had almost given her Director a heart attack.
“Huck! Genesis! I was just on my way back to the party.”
“I thought mebbe it were so, but I reckoned I’d make sartin you got back jes’ fine. I seen you dodge that alley jammer like a steamboat runnin’ from another steamboat.”
“Yes. Poor little alley jammer. So cross about something. I felt I needed to give it some space.”
Huck whimsically switched out of dialect. “I just threw a sack over it and put it inside the house.”
“It belongs to our hostess, then?”
“I have no idea.”
Holly patted her charge on the shoulder. Young Genesis would make a splendid Assistant Librarian some day.
If you want to read THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN, you can read it at Project Gutenberg for free, since it’s in the public domain.
A WRITING PROMPT FROM ME TO YOU: Write about a fish out of water: in other words, someone or something out of place. Doesn’t have to be a fish. Although it could be. Up to you.