For those new to the Holly universe, I named the character after Holly Jahangiri (the real one). The fictional Holly is a native resident of the planet Llannonn, whose natives are obsessed with English-language Earth literature. Some of them memorize texts of books they particularly love and, to keep them off the streets, the government houses them in libraries, which are actually dormitories. Other people can check them out and house them so the books can recite themselves.
Holly Does the M*A*S*H
by Marian Allen
Parlourmaid Tambar Miznalia, head parlourmaid at the Council City Earth English Living Library Main Branch, had been more disgruntled than usual for over a week. After the third time she served patrons cold tea and stale cake, Head Librarian Holly Jahangiri asked her what was wrong, although she was sure she would regret the question.
Miznalia gave her usual contemptuous sniff and said, “If you must know, it’s Three Men.”
Holly knew that, by “Three Men”, the parlourmaid meant Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog), the Living Book Miznalia had been happily engaged to for ten years.
“Three Men says,” the parlourmaid continued, “he’s feeling seedy, nervous, giddy, and liverish.”
“Oh, dear,” said Holly, and Parlourmaid Tambar Miznalia, although she accompanied it with a contemptuous sniff, nodded in agreement.
These were the symptoms the characters in Three Men’s text began their adventures. Three Men came down with the same symptoms, if he hadn’t been checked out of the library within six months.
The parlourmaid said the words both she and Holly dreaded: “He thinks a trip on the river would freshen him right up.”
“By,” Holly said, “no,” she closed her eyes, “means.” When she opened her eyes, Parlourmaid Tambar Miznalia’s usually dour expression had shifted to one of deep relief.
Three Men had been let go on a river trip three times, and the Head Librarian didn’t fancy another day of pedaling her pedicar all the way up the river to rescue him and whatever companions he had chosen. They were always too exhausted to help her pedal back.
There was a scratching at Holly’s office door.
Holly shook her head to clear it, for a librarian always gives her full attention to anyone seeking help.
Two Books entered, one wearing a pith helmet and one with a stethoscope around his neck. Holly recognized them as King Kong and M*A*S*H, two recent acquisitions.
She motioned them to comfortable seats.
The Books nodded to Parlourmaid Tambar Miznalia and looked from her to Head Librarian Holly Jahangiri and back as they took turns outlining their problem.
It seems that Three Men, finding no takers among the Books familiar with his jaunts, had invited them to accompany him on a rowing trip up the river. The other Books had got wind of it and had warned them off. It seemed discourteous to turn down Three Men’s invitation, and yet they very much wanted to.
“So we put our heads together with Parlourmaid Tambar Miznalia and came up with an idea,” said M*A*S*H, “but it’ll take library space and coordination. We’ll need a room, a tin bath, two tennis rackets, food, beer, more beer, paraffin, a dead fish, an uncomfortable bed, and a crushed tin of pineapple.”
Holly was writing all of this down, repeating the items as she did so. “…and a tin of crushed pineapple.”
“No, no,” said Parlourmaid Tambar Miznalia. “A crushed tin of pineapple.”
“Should there be a banjo?” asked King Kong.
The other three shouted a resounding NO!
“Very well,” said Holly. “I’ll gather the supplies and clear a room in the basement, and let you know when all is ready.”
The day came.
King Kong crept up behind Three Men and injected him with a subcutaneous placator. Other Books helped carry Three Men to the basement and prop him up in the tin bath with the tennis rackets in his hands in place of oars. The Great Gatsby, who had provided the tennis rackets and sourced the beer, wanted to be more involved, but someone had the presence of mind to shine a blue light in the hall to draw him out of the room.
“Now,” Holly said, when the dead fish had been placed and the paraffin uncorked, “recite yourself.”
Out came the text of Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog). Three Men did an excellent job of it, with different voices for each of the men. Holly supplied the growls and barks of Montmorency the terrier as he got into the hamper, pretended the lemons were rats, and killed three of them. Once the river trip part of the book was underway, Holly returned to her duties, leaving Parlourmaid Tambar Miznalia, King Kong, and M*A*S*H to supply food, beer, and supplementary voices and sound effects.
Whenever Three Men came to a part during which the men in the book slept, he was helped out of the bath and into the uncomfortable bed and let sleep.
Ten days later, they carried Three Men upstairs and put him in his own bed. When he woke, they told him he had stumbled in late at night and fallen into his bed in his dreadful, smelly holiday clothes.
After a bath and a change into a quite natty outfit of flannel trousers, white shirt, red jacket, and straw boater hat, Three Men found King Kong and M*A*S*H, shook their hands, and thanked them for their companionship. He said he had never felt more fit and rested in his life. He said he looked forward to another such holiday, and King Kong, M*A*S*H, Parlourmaid Tambar Miznalia, and Head Librarian Holly Jahangiri assured him that, if he ever took a river holiday again, they would make sure it was just such another.
MY PROMPT TODAY: Holly Jahangiri (always on Sundays in May)