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So, What the What!

Short story By: Wilbur
Literary fiction

Tough kid with magical powers, open-minded rabble-rouser with odd birthmark, librarian with a knack for finding trouble, a cruel nimble thief under a curse of bad luck. Wait for it - they all come together, more or less. In a long hall and a fruit bowl. Blame MAmberConrad for the foregoing, but blame me for any errors and wrong-doings. I think the rules may be knock-kneed and cross-eyed because I may have more bent than followed them. But I tried. Most of all, regardless, I had FUN. So you have fun, too. Enjoy!

Submitted:Jan 14, 2012    Reads: 18    Comments: 6    Likes: 4   

What the What?

2 Locations:
Long hallway
Inside a Fruit Bowl

4 Characters:
1) Trouble, a refugee now living in Morganza. A tough kid with magical powers
2) Miss Read, a life-long citizen of Morganza. Employed as a librarian who tends to find trouble
3) Red Scent, born in Morganza, gone a long time but now back. Presently a member of Rabble Rousers Anonymous (RRA), Redd is openly open-minded. He has an odd birthmark shaped like a red cockscomb covering his prominent Adam's apple
4) Sir Skellder, a self-transplant, now Morganza citizen, nimble minded cruel hearted thief, with a bad luck curse

A Bit about The Characters:
Trouble, a boy of 8 or 9, arrived in Morganza a few months ago on a large trading vessel that anchored briefly to off-load timber and tobacco. He says he's an orphan but does not know his age or name or where he's from. He lives on the streets, is well-known and well-liked by the City's poor and working classes. He happily cleans chimneys, livestock stalls, pens or sties, kitchen stoves, windows and table silver in exchange for meals and overnight shelter. He is fast, smart and mischievous. A tough scrapper, winning mostly by outwitting, but when unavoidable takes his lumps so good naturedly he is mostly left alone. A kid who rescues stray cats, comforts little children, and helps wherever a hand is needed. Everyone acknowledges that there's something odd about him. Wherever he goes, things become disarranged, food trays left empty, a pair of shoes or a coat or a cap gone missing. But never without a small gold coin turning up somewhere unexpected as if in payment. Troubling, it is agreed. So now he's called Trouble. When asked about this, Trouble simply shrugs and grins.

Miss Read is a librarian. In fact, she is sole and Head Librarian, both, of the Sans Torm Public Library. She took this job over from a Mr. Good Fellow under whose tutelage she learned and trained for 5 years before the day when he fell face first into a beautiful illuminated copy of the King James Bible, saying as he went, "I go now to the Lord," and dying as he lived - gracefully. He was sole and Head Librarian for the Sans Torm Public Library for 85 years, beginning at age 15. He is now entombed in the Library entryway where a candle is kept burning at the head of his coffin in memory of him and his service. Miss Read follows in his footsteps, an orderly, kind and wise Head Librarian. A great lover of books, but only as physical objects. She is not a reader. Uninterested in authored fact or fiction. Her deep affection is for the appearance, heft and smellof books. She admires the art of typography. She enjoys the look and texture of book pages, papers, bindings and covers. An outstanding librarian who oversees the inventory even while maintaining an orderly and congenial ambiance in both Reading Rooms and Visiting Halls. Silence, of course, is strictly imposed. Miss Read's private life is as quiet and orderly as the Library's, a single disquieting feature being her tendency to find trouble -- even when she'd rather not. And Trouble is a regular visitor to the Library.

A Necessary Word (or so) about the Sans Torm Public Library
The Library is named after a peculiarly unskilled pirate, Sans Torm, who only once in his 20 some years of piracy was part of a successful raid. This was on a royal clipper ship, loaded with an emperor's treasure. Damaged and then boarded by the pirates, a fight to the death takes place on the clipper ship in which all are, indeed, killed. Except Sans Torm and a ship's boy, hiding in the galley. Sans Torm and the ship's boy load all the jewels, gold and silver the single remaining rowing boat can carry, after which, the boy left to his fate, Sans Torm makes his way to the city of Morganza. There he unloads and after burying most of his loot, presents himself and a goodly portion of treasure to the City Fathers of Morganza, offering to pay for them to build a quite grand and most fabulous library, naming it the Sans Torm Public Library, and fill it with a superb collection of books from all over the world, using a portion of the funds given them in wise investments so the Library and its collection are maintained in perpetuity and in perfect repair. With that settled, Sans Torm leaves piracy and the world, retiring to a remote desert island, Izviziztia, where he raises pineapples and keeps two cows, one goat, a penguin and a boa constrictor for company, renewing them as they fail up or are swallowed down by the boa, and so it continues until his own death some 20 years later, brought about by the boa who evidently desired a change in diet. The Library has been a showcase for over 50 years, bringing visitors to Morganza from near and far, welcome to sit and read or study any book but with a clear understanding that there is a No Lending policy. Sans Torm did not hold with it, citing Shakespeare's 'neither a borrower nor a lender be.'

Redd Scent is a middle-aged man who returned to Morganza, the city of his birth, after a lifetime of traveling the world as a professional rabble-rouser. He is now in recovery, attending Rabble-Rouser's Anonymous (RRA) meetings at least once a week, or, if the urge is strong upon him, once a day. When not in meetings or out trying to convert other rabble-rousers to see the light, he is at the Sans Torm Public Library where he reads both Sanskrit and the Russian poets. As a retiree from the Brotherhood of Rabble-Rousers, Redd receives a modest pension, affording him a modest living. Having foresworn rabble-rousing, Red also has forsworn anger and his natural open-mindedness has blossomed. He is now a non judgmental, sweet and mild-tempered man. He is also a man who is secretly in love with Miss Read, but would rather die than admit it -- to her or anyone else. Redd has an odd birthmark, a large red cockscomb, that covers the entirety of his very prominent Adam's apple -- a thing Miss Read secretly admires and sometimes longs to finger.

Sir Skellder is a thief -- cruel, clever and cautious. And very very successful. His success is attested to by his present position as one of the wealthiest men of Morganza. He has also become an autocrat with delusions of grandeur. Fifteen years ago he ran from the village of his family, fleeing an intended and well-deserved tar and feathering. Arriving some months later in Morganza, he publicly proclaimed himself to have been sold into the military as a very young child where he had been terribly mistreated. To the poor of Morganza he forever lied and from them he forever stole, always securing his own hide by sowing discontent and casting suspicion on others -- in general mis-using people and abusing their trust. In the presence of Morganza's wealthy and influential, he became mealy-mouthed, humble and willing -- a wily toady. After managing in short order to cajole employment, he swiftly and surely moved to climb first the business and then the social ladders. Twelve years of shifty deals and dishonest practices, buttressed by secret embezzlement and thievery, has put him at the top of Morganza society. Now, with great wealth and position firmly established, he lives in one of Morganza's largest and most imposing estates and has no interest in sharing with others. Not his home, not his wealth, not his life. Most certainly not his secrets. He wants only complimentary mirror-reflections from those surrounding him.

Finally a Story ~ Such as it Is
Sir Skellder, Miss Read and Redd Scent are squashed together, seated in a bowl of slightly over-ripe peaches and slowly rotting avocados. The bowl is seated on a kitchen table, which is in a beach house located on a high dune on the island of Izviziztia. Both as a group and as individuals the three are speechless. One of them in fact is speechless. Has been struck dumb, but doesn't yet know it. Miss Read is dressed in her visitors-coming Head Librarian men's suit and tie and wearing her walking shoes. For a minute it is easier to wonder why than to try to deal with the rest of her present surreal situation. She recalls that she had been hosting a group of visitors from Cuba, conducting them on a tour through the halls of the library, where the rarest volumes are exhibited under glass in lighted cases. Which explained her clothing. Because today it includes her best tie and her sturdy tie shoes.

For a moment, disregarding the semi-rotten fruit on which she is seated and the third companion in the fruit bowl, too strange even in these circumstances to be considered, she chooses to wonder why Redd is seated beside her. And then remembers that just as the visitors were due and she was on her way to greet them, she found Trouble (of course she did - she always did -- it's a knack of hers) right in the entryway. And, since he was right there, she asked that he go find Redd in the Russian Poetry Section and bring him to her in the Music Hall, first stop for the visiting Cubans. During his active rabble-rousing days, Redd had spent some time in Cuban jails and she thought his presence could prevent her from making grievous errors as well as the mere fact of him, a man, might help the Cubans feel more at ease. He had been waiting there when she reached the Hall with her visitors. She remembers they were paused next to the magnificent display of Italian opera libretti. She'd brought them there first because the men, though all owners of sugar cane plantations, also were all Salsa musicians. She'd thought music might help to break the ice. But it hadn't done the trick. It seemed Salsa was no help when it came to Italian opera libretti, and things were getting stickier and stickier. Redd it seemed only knew Cuban jail slang. They were in trouble. Suddenly there was Trouble. Barreling down the hall. With Sir Skellder in tow, gripped hard by the elbow, Trouble hurrying him along towards her.

That, she thought, was why Sir Skellder also was sitting here beside her, in this frightening if totally ridiculous and unexplainable situation. She looked toward Redd, who appeared dazed. Then they both had to cover their ears against the pain in their heads from a sudden roaring surrounding them. Loud and louder. And then cut off.

Then she and Redd were both standing, full sized, squishy in seat and shoes, but themselves, even if in some unknown place. Before she and Redd could do more than grasp hands and gasp air, they saw that Trouble (of course!) was standing across the table from them and pointing at Sir Skellder. Who instantly enlarged to a kind of barbie-and-a-half size, whereupon Trouble plucked him up and carried him across the room to where a huge edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), sat open upon a desk. Holding Sir Skellder between forefinger and thumb, Trouble peered down, scanning the revealed pages until, nodding briskly, he plopped Sir Skellder in and slapped the cover closed on him. All one could see was a head and a pair of feet. Sir Skellder's face alternated between beet-red and ghastly grey, his mouth opening and closing but he was making no sound. Redd and Miss Read stood frozen. Trouble had put a finger to his lips, making shushing sounds and shaking his head at Sir Skellder. Finally he spoke.

"You, sir, belong right where you are, trapped on a page that defines you. ~ Thief ~ That's where you'll be from now on. This is your curse of bad luck, come due. Sans Storm was a miserable pirate but he created a glorious thing, the Sans Torm Public Library, a wonder in this world. You were a glorious thief and all you have ever created is misery, stealing trust and worth in cruelty and without remorse. This is the Island of Izviziztia, where Sans Torm died. His ghost is your only company. Forever. You are under a Bad Luck Curse. Your people have waited for you to climb very high before punishing you. Each bit of your bad luck has been banked and has been earning interest. Me? I am Trouble. I am of your people who sent me. I have magical powers. Time now for payback and pay up and pay off and payment come due. So. Adieu, Skell. All you ever have been or ever will be."

And with that, it seemed Miss Read was back at the entryway of the Sans Torm Public Library, waiting to greet the just now arriving Cuban delegation. And Redd, to whom she never paid any actual attention, was stepping forward, speaking beautiful and fluent Cuban Spanish, directing the men into the Library and towards the Hall of Music. Just as Miss Read was noticing Redd's usual scruffy clothing was now dampened in the seat, wet all down the backs of his pants legs, and smelling of rotted fruit, Redd was noting, with an inaudible sigh, that Miss Read's usual men's suit and flat walking shoes, both, were now squishy and bad smelling.

But Trouble whistled sharply, so they both turned around to look. And, as he shot them a smile and a salute, Redd felt a snugging of fine textured well-tailored clothing, expensive dress socks and handmade shoes slide into place. Felt his hair rise, then settle neatly back, clean and freshly barbered while his cheeks and chin stung with aftershave and felt as smooth as a baby's. While, for the first time in her life, Miss Read felt the soft and pleasing silky weightlessness of a finely made and sweetly fitted dress on her body, the pleasure of silken hose slide up her legs, and the ease of well-fitted heels on her feet. Felt her hair loosen and resettle in a swirl about her face and smelled sweet fresh peaches. Found her hand neatly tucked into the crook of Redd's elbow, as together they led the way into the Hall of Music. First stop on a tour of Library halls, where the valuable volumes are exhibited under glass in lighted cases.

It's magic. Of course it is. So is Sir Skellder's estate remaining deserted. So too the new couple, Mr. and Mrs. Redd Scent, (she, nee Read), and their brand new Penny -- a baby daughter.

And Trouble? Well, if necessary, Mrs. Scent can always find Trouble.


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