There’s a Word for That #StoryADayMay @HollyJahangiri

Holly Jahangiri (the real one) tells me that her husband doesn’t understand why I don’t get the fictional Holly together with Chief Detective Inspector Pel Darzin, since they’re obviously stuck on each other. So I’m working on it.

There’s a Word for That

by Marian Allen

The peace of the Council City Earth English Living Library on the planet Llannonn had been blissful and unbroken for two weeks. Roget’s College Thesaurus in Dictionary Form was a fine fellow, but he all too frequently injected his text into the conversation.

As Anne of Green Gables put it, “You can’t say hope without his saying desire, trust, presumption, and castles in the air.”

It was always a bit of a holiday when Roget was checked out. He was generally offered as indispensable to patrons who thought Mervyn Peake’s GORMENGHAST trilogy would be fun to hear, although not many patrons could afford to feed and house four Living Books at once.

But the Gormenghast triplets had been skulking around the library all month, muttering and tossing stuffed cats at each other, and Roget was absent.

Head Librarian Holly Jahangiri wasn’t worried at first, since Roget had been checked out by Maklar Brinlip, the first female reporter on the Council City Loudmouth’s Discourtesy desk. Not many women were tough enough to spend their days gathering stories of outstanding rudeness, haunting policing stations for leads, interviewing victims of crushing snubs and slights, sometimes even of unkind words. Crime Reporter Maklar Brinlip had shown herself up to the task, even facing down outright insolence on one sensational occasion.

The Head Librarian knew that Crime Reporter Brinlip sometimes was late in returning books, given the brutal nature of her job, so she always gave the Reporter an extra week of grace.

When the week passed and Roget had still not been returned, his sister, Merriam Webster, came to Holly in tears.

“He always visicalls or FAXes me if he isn’t back by his due date,” she said, “or snags a street urchin to carry a message.”

Holly well knew that memorizing and reciting these messages was often the gateway to a child aspiring to become a Living Book, and had led to many broken hearts for every one child who actually grew up to make it into a library.

“I’ve heard nothing,” said Merriam Webster. “I’m worried.”

Holly was reluctant to send the Overdue Squad after a woman who dealt with unpleasantness every day, so she wrapped her signature purple feather boa around her shoulders and pedaled her car to Brinlip’s apartment, herself.

There was no answer when she scratched at the door.

“Crime Reporter Maklar Brinlip?” she called. “I’m sorry to disturb you, but your book is overdue.” When there was no answer, she called, “Roget? Roget’s College Thesaurus in Dictionary Form, open this door!”

A direct order from a Librarian using a book’s full title usually commanded immediate obediance, yet the door remained firmly closed, the apartment behind it remained silent.

The door behind Holly opened. She turned to see a small woman in a red and purple flowered kimono.

“If you’re looking for that reporter,” she said, “you’ve missed her. She packed her bags and left two weeks ago. Said she’d quit her job and cleaned out her desk. Stopped long enough to get her deposit back and off she went. I know, because I’m the landlady.”

“Was she alone?”

“Nah, she had a man with her.”

Holly could tell that only the fear of giving offense kept a leer off the woman’s face.

“Do you know if they left on foot or by conveyance?”


Holly didn’t feel grateful for the news and for the lack of news, but she forced a smile and said, “Thank you for your assistance.”


Chief Detective Inspector Pel Darzin of the Council City Policing Force (Meadow of Flowers Division) made goo-goo eyes at Head Librarian Holly Jahangiri, a signal to anyone who might be interested that the two of them were keeping company. Holly returned the expression, albeit somewhat perfunctorily, for which, of course, she apologized.

When the Inspector heard her problem, he understood completely.

“I’ll tell you what we’ll do,” he said. “We’ve been training alley jammers to track fleeing or lost persons. The first batch has just graduated training school. We’ll give them a try.”

“But how do they know who to track? There a million smells in Council City. And Former Crime Reporter Maklar Brinlip left nothing behind to give the alley jammers her scent.”

“Ah,” said Chief Detective Inspector Pel Darzin, demonstrating why he had risen through the ranks to his current exalted position, “but your book did, didn’t he?”


Official Policing Tracker Bitsy was small enough for the CDI to tuck her into a pocket of his tunic, from which she observed the world with bright, beady eyes. Her base color was a soft blue, but, as Holly watched, the alley jammer’s skin darkened to match the fabric of the tunic. It reminded Holly of her own alley jammer, Jammykins, a gift from this same Chief Detective Inspector not long after they had met.

Happily (in this case) Roget’s College Thesaurus in Dictionary Form hadn’t changed his sheets in a while, so Bitsy got a good whiff.

Darzin (with Holly along to represent the Library) took Bitsy to Brinlip’s apartment landing, where the alley jammer easily picked up the scent. Darzin fastened Bitsy’s harness, with it’s tiny copper badge, around her, snapped on the leash, and set her loose.

With a loud sniff that put Holly strongly in mind of the Library’s Parlourmaid Tambar Miznalia, Bitsy followed the trail down the steps to the ground floor, down the street, around the corner, and into a hovercar rental agency.

There, the Inspector and the Librarian found that Brinlip (who was well known in Council
City) had rented a hovercar for a week for herself and a gentleman companion. The car had arrived on auto-return later that day, and was currently out with another customer.

The Inspector called up a map of Council City and environs on his portable holodesk. He asked for the time of the rental and the time of the return and used the mapping program’s built-in calculating component to figure the maximum distance the car could have been taken.

Within those bounds, Holly spotted an isolated cabin.

“Here,” she said. “I think we should start here. Several of my books have been taken there on patrons’ vacation. Walden, Or Life in the Woods has been there three times this year. The cabin is tucked away in the Meadow of Flowers Forest, but it’s close enough to town to have running water and electricity.”

Darzin trusted Holly’s instinct, for she was, after all, a Librarian. He tucked Bitsy into his pocket and called for an official pedicar.


An hour of team pedaling later, they pulled into the woods a few hundred orlocks from where Darzin’s map said the cabin was located.

He released Bitsy on her leash. She snuffled along the drive and straight to the door of the cabin.

Darzin gave Holly a highly approving look, tucked Bitsy safely away, and scratched authoritatively at the door.

“I regret to inform you that you are required to open the door in the name of the law,” he said.

Only a moment passed before the cabin door whooshed open. A haggard man croaked, “Thank Ghu!” When he saw Holly, he threw himself into her arms. “I knew you’d save me! It’s the only thing that kept me going!” He sobbed softly.

A woman, not seeming to see the officials, snapped her fingers at Roget (for it was he). “I’m stuck again. What’s another word for red?”

His face a picture of misery, Roget whispered, “Scarlet, cinnabar, lake, cochineal, vermillion, red lead, madder, rouge.”

The woman shook her head. “Maybe I’ll make her dress green.”

Holly put herself between her Book and the demanding woman.

“Former Crime Reporter Maklar Brinlip?” Holly said, with the stern courtesy that is the hallmark of a good librarian. When the woman nodded, Holly said – and she meant it to sting – “This book is overdue.”


Maklar Brinlip wrote out a confession, which Roget read and signed in approval. Brinlip, unable to bear the blackguardism she wrote about every day, had snapped. She had decided to hole up in a cabin and write an Earth English style mystery book, but years of factuality had made it difficult for her to invent interesting language. To that purpose, she had carried Roget’s College Thesaurus in Dictionary Form off with her, and had been exploiting him thoughtlessly ever since.

She made formal written apologies to Council City, to Roget, to the Library, to Roget’s sister, and to the rental agent for getting him involved. Her punishment to work in the Council City jail library (where the books were on paper) until she had finished her book, and her restitution was ten percent of her royalties payable to Roget. Since it was in his best interest to make the book as salable as possible, he volunteered most of his free time to willingly assisting her.

“That’s the end of this case,” said Darzin.

“The close,” said Holly, “termination, conclusion, finis, finish, finale.”

“Period,” said Darzin.

MY PROMPT TODAY: Roget’s College Thesaurus in Dictionary Form



I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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