Holly Jahangiri (the real one) volunteered to be a character in a short story and ended up taking it over. I’ve now written — oh, many — stories about her and her Living Library, where natives of her planet, Llannonn, live who have memorized English-language Earth books and recite them to patrons in good standing in exchange for two weeks of room and board.
It has become tradition for me to write Holly stories on Sundays of Story A Day May.
Holly and the Danger Noodle
by Marian Allen
It was Assistant Librarian Holly Jahangiri’s first day as Acting Head Librarian. She anticipated no problems. The vacationing Head Librarian, Devra Langsam, ran a tight ship (whatever that meant), and the Living Books the Library housed were all either in or checked out to trusted long-term patrons.
Holly took advantage of the peace to stroll in the Library’s back garden, in which various Books had planted flowers and foliage mentioned in the texts of the Earth English-language books they had memorized.
“The blark’s on the wing,” she thought she quoted, “the check’s in the mail, the snail’s on the thorn – what the crank is a snail?” She glanced around furtively, hoping The Collected Poetry of Robert Browning wasn’t within earshot, because she was fairly certain she had gotten it wrong.
She rounded a corner of the path and stopped, irritated by the garden hose stretched across the path. First, the hose should always be put away after use, for a Library is always tidy. More important, it should never run across the path, in between plants: that was an open invitation to destruction. Oh, hello, anthropomorphous concept of Destruction. Come in and crush some plants and pull some up by the roots, why don’t you?
Then the hose moved. In fact, it drew itself into a coil, showing itself to be the shortest garden hose on the planet Llannonn, and looked at her. It hissed.
Holly was a Librarian (albeit only an Acting Head Librarian at the moment), so she neither screamed nor ran, but stood and regarded the object or creature, whichever it turned out to be. It occurred to her that a garden hose that coiled itself after use would be a very handy little gadget, indeed.
A soft voice from elsewhere in the garden came closer, crooning, “Where are you? Heeeeeere, thingy.”
The voice was accompanied by a bent form, long dark hair obscuring the face.
Bent, softened, or obscured, it was a voice and figure Holly knew.
Holly cleared her throat in the special Librarian way she had been taught at training school.
Young Genesis gasped and stood to attention.
Genesis Selinsky was the oldest of a family of five. She had begun by running with a gang of street urchins, but had discovered the Free Public Living Library and now aspired to become a Living Book. As far as Holly knew, she had not yet decided which book she wanted to memorize; it was an important career choice, one she would live with all her life. Part of the problem was that the Selinskys were too poor to purchase expensive imported books from Earth, so young Genesis was limited to volumes she could … borrow for extended periods of time.
Holly sighed. “What now, Young Genesis?”
The creature or object coiled on the path hissed again.
“Don’t listen to it!” Genesis cautioned. “It is more subtle than any beast of the field.”
“It also has a leak,” said Holly. “What is it, and what is it doing in the garden?”
Genesis opened and closed her mouth several times. Holly could almost see her trying out lies but rejecting them before she could give them breath.
“These nice Earth people gave me a book. Gave me one! A volume with a bunch of books in it! The first one had my name: Genesis. I thought maybe it was a sign that I ought to choose that as my book!”
“I’m with you so far,” said Holly, nodding graciously.
“Well….” The young girl’s eyes dropped to the apparently dangerous animated noodle on the path. In the presence of an unsmiling Librarian, the truth won out. “There’s a ‘serpent’–” she nodded at the noodle – “so I thought I would get one.”
“So you stole a sizable amount of money and bought a serpent.”
The girl was silent.
Holly amended her statement. “So you stole a serpent. Who on Llannonn has – had – one?”
“I did.” A voice that was both exciting and kind spoke from behind Holly, and Genesis Selinsky gasped. “Don’t worry,” the voice said. “He isn’t poisonous.”
“Poisonous?” Genesis squeaked. “Some of them are poisonous? How poisonous?”
Holly could see her mentally listing the people she disliked, and counted herself fortunate that she’d always treated the child with the respect any reader deserved.
“Excuse me.” A hand touched her elbow to gently invite her to step aside, and she turned into the full glare of a dazzling smile. The man behind the smile and voice stepped around her and scooped up the hissy noodle. It wrapped its body around his arm and rested its head on his palm. “He likes being held in the shadows.” The man spoke to the serpent. “Poor Squonk,” he said. “Was he lost? Was he scared? Did the naughty girl kidnap him? Lucky for you, I have all my serpents microchipped, in case they get out of their habitat.”
Young Genesis, despite the stars in her eyes when she looked at the man, with his smile and his shoulder-length, wavy brown hair, began to edge away. Librarian Look #12 froze her in place.
Holly, because she took pity on the child, and totally not because the man smiled at her, explained Genesis’ thinking in … borrowing the serpent.
Genesis finally found her voice. “I’m … I’m very, very, extremely sorry. Please don’t call the constabulary on me. I promise I’ll never do it again.”
Holly wanted specifics. “You’ll never do what again?”
“Steal from him,” said the girl, unable to lie to a Librarian.
“And who is him? I mean he?” Holly turned on a dazzling smile of her own, complete with dimples. She was rather sweet on a certain policeman on the neighborhood beat, but she wasn’t dead already and here this guy was….
He held his hand out to her and they hooked thumbs by way of introduction. “Steev Cahlens,” he said. “Serpent collector. I go to Earth, behind the lines, and collect the precious little carpet crawlers, myself, from the jungles and high weeds. They call me ‘Hack It Steev’.”
The thought of a man who considered danger noodles precious made the constable look a lot more attractive than he already was.
“Look,” Serpent Collector Steev Cahlens said to Young Genesis. “I’ll accept your apology this time. But don’t let it happen again. And you can make restitution by helping my security team adjust their measures to keep out other desperate villains.” His smile took the sting out of his words.
Genesis nodded happily, and trailed him as he left the garden. She could have walked beside him but, for some reason, preferred to walk behind him.
Holly, the morning’s peace shattered, went into the Library and left the garden to the snail. Whatever that was.
MY PROMPT TODAY: Holly Jahangiri (the real one) came upon a snake on one of her walks.