As I explained last week, Holly Jahangiri (the fictional one) is head of the largest Living Library on the planet Llannonn. The Living Library is a boarding house of Living Books: natives of Llannonn who are so obsessed with English-language Earth literature they’ve memorized books and recite them to patrons who check them out of the Library.
Holly Weeds the Garden
Holly grumbled as she tugged on gardening gloves and picked up tools of vegetable destruction. Her signature purple feather boa hung on a peg in the mud room. This was no job for a purple feather boa.
That was the trouble with being Head Librarian: You had to take up any slack. And there was always some slack. The Living Books liked to explore their texts by doing appropriate tasks around the building and grounds, but that meant that she had to take over those tasks if that book got checked out.
One would think that they would take turn-about, so somebody was always on duty, but one would be wrong. Living Books were highly territorial about their contexts, and if Cinderella did the laundry, she would pitch a fit if she came back to find Mrs. Tiggywinkle had done it in her absence. Happily – or unhappily, depending on how one cared to look at it – nobody minded if Holly filled in.
Usually, the gardening was done by Lady Chatterly’s Lover (and nobody was happier than Holly that gardening was the task he had chosen), but he had been out for more than a month, having been checked out by a book club who had checked him out for as long as it took each of them to have him read himself to them. Why they couldn’t have him read himself to them as a group, Holly didn’t like to think.
At any rate, the consequence was that the garden was becoming overgrown, and somebody had to weed it. As usual, “somebody” meant Holly.
The vegetables and herbs went smoothly. She took a break – Parlourmaid Tambar Miznalia made her have her tea and cake on the mossy brick terrace, so as not to track “nasty dirty dirt” onto her nice, clean floor. Holly retaliated by filling her empty teacup with the dirtiest dirt she could find. She reflected that it was Miznalia who served her food, and washed the cup out with the garden hose.
The flowerbeds were also relatively easy: Lady Chatterly’s Lover kept the soil turned and rooted out any unwanted growth that encroached, so the cheeky weeds that had wandered in by accident were quickly disposed of.
She was about to go in when it finally burrowed out into her consciousness that the soft whispering she had been enjoying was not the wind in the leaves, but actual whispering.
But where was it coming from? Or, to put it another way, from whence was it coming?
She waded through the higher-than-her-ankles grass, listening. Something would have to be done about that grass, but Lady Chatterly’s Lover cut it with a dangerous-looking bladed implement on a long stick, and the library would be ill-served if she had to go to the hospital to have various bits of herself sewn back on. It would just have to wait.
Something grabbed her ankle, and she fell head-first onto a carpet of grass. Well, not a carpet so much as a thick pile of moving paper edges.
“Ow! Ow! Ow!” A single paper cut is paralyzingly painful. A face-full of them pisses one off.
“What the Lady Chatterly’s Lover!” Holly exclaimed, coming as close to profanity as a Librarian ever comes.
The grass whispered in response. No, not the grass, the roots!
She smoothed the razor-sharp blades – Oh, so that’s why they’re called blades of grass! – with her gardening gloves and put her ear to the ground.
“Help us!” she heard. “It’s killing us!”
“Killing who? Who are you?”
“We’re Kingledeens. We live all over Llannonn, you know.”
“No, I didn’t know. Why didn’t I know? I grew up Rural.”
“Do you know every life form on the planet? Do you?” It was amazing, how much sarcasm can be communicated in a group whisper.
Holly ignored the snottiness. A librarian rises above such things. Unless she can think of a really snappy retort, of course.
“I don’t,” she confessed. “Tell me what’s wrong and what I can do.”
“We live in the roots of this grass. When the blades grow too long, it smothers us. That’s why you never see grass unless it’s groomed: It smothers us, and then the grass dies because it needs us to live.”
“Pretty stupid symbiosis,” Holly said. “Of course, I hear the Earthlings nearly killed their entire host planet, so there’s that.”
“Cut the grass,” the Kingledeens pleaded. “Cut the grass!”
Holly wanted to say, “I can’t,” but a Librarian is never defeated. Instead, she said, “Hang on! Help is on the way!”
She stood and hurried back to the safety of the terrace.
Think, Holly, think!
She had grown up Rural. Her Auntie had raised pratties for wool. Pratties ate grass – That was it!”
Stopping only to remove her gardening gloves, put away the tools (for a Librarian is always neat), and retrieve her purple feather boa, Holly hurried to her office.
A quick perusal of the business section of the visiphone directory and a price negotiation later, and rescue was arranged.
Less than an hour later, a livestock truck from Big Cronkflower’s Rent-To-Own Pratties pulled up at the Library’s rear entrance.
Holly signed for the delivery and led an elderly pratty down the loading ramp and into the garden.
“His name’s Broose,” the driver yelled, as he pulled away.
“Come on, Broose,” Holly crooned, stroking the woolly neck. (Earthlings had told her that pratties look like sheep the size of llamas, whatever sheep and llamas were.) “You just retired.”
Broose tucked into the stupid grass. Holly heard the Kingledeens breathe a cooperative sigh of relief.
Holly dusted one palm against the other in the universal gesture of “a job well done”. Lady Chatterly’s Lover might get his nose out of joint because of this, but he’d get over it. He shared a mutual crush with Far From the Madding Crowd, who was the most logical candidate to wrangle a pratty, so maybe it would be all right.
Parlourmaid Tambar Miznalia stuck her head out the back door. “We just got a call from the patron who has The Martian checked out. They want him for another two weeks. That puts you on potato duty. Cook says she needs five pounds for the Library commissary.”
Holly sighed and went back in to trade her purple feather boa for gardening gloves. A Librarian’s work was never done.
A WRITING PROMPT FROM ME TO YOU: Write about gardening and/or grass.