December 28, 2016 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
Written by Rix Scaedu for the cold weather holiday!
Pamdi was making bookmarks for the holiday. They were perhaps not very good bookmarks, but Pamdi had bought the best cardstock, paints and brushes she could afford so the deficits of the finished product were hers and not the materials she was working with. She made a bookmark for everyone in her family because the gifts were for Tienaabaa’s festival and her realm covered books. Besides, Pamdi had time to make bookmarks after she came home from work in the morning after her night shift in the foundry. They calmed her thoughts and carried her through the noise of other people rushing to work outside so that she could sleep better through the day.
The narrow little house was empty these days except for Pamdi and sometimes she cried into her pillow because it was too soon and not fair but she got up every afternoon, dressed and braided her hair for work, ate, and went to the foundry as she had ever since her parents had died. Tonight however was one of the few nights the foundry was closed and so she left the house early, her hair braided for the festival with as much complexity as she could manage on her own.
At the Reading Rooms for the Lord Aadezhryezhdezhrez Collection, which were still open because she was early, she went up the stairs and slipped in quietly, hoping not to attract a librarian’s attention. Pamdi didn’t go to the catalogue desk but went straight to her left, around the back of the dictionaries and thesauruses and in through the brightly illustrated doorway that led to the room of theological works. She flitted along the shelves, pulling out a few random volumes and slipping a bookmark into each. After theology was philosophy, and then, eight bookmarks left behind, she was in natural philosophy. She was just taking down a copy of Weasels of Orgaanya when there was a cough from behind her. She turned, the brown leather covered volume still in her hand. There were two male librarians behind her.
The shorter and older of the two, his greying beard and hair two separate masses of knotted braids said, “May we ask, young lady, what you think you’re doing?”
Pamdi offered weakly, “Leaving bookmarks in the books so that people don’t turn down the corners of pages to mark their place?”
“We appreciate the thought,” replied the senior librarian severely, and now Pamdi could see that the visible edges of his linens were embroidered with little books, “but leaving the bookmarks in the books on the shelves can mark the pages too.” Then he smiled warmly, “But having said that, we’ll happily take any more you have to hand out with books we bring out of the stored collection for researchers – some of them are very thoughtless.” He held out his hand and Pamdi silently handed over the rest of her hard work.
The older man fanned them out in his hand and the taller one, Bitrani tall but with a goat’s nose and a knot of braids behind his head said, “You made these for you family, didn’t you?” Pamdi nodded. “Then why didn’t you give these to them?”
Her chin rose, partly so she look him in the face and partly so she could try to feel brave, “Because through accident, fire, old age and misadventure, I’m the last one left. They are not completely gone while I remember them and at the holidays I like to send bits of my memory out into the world to spread their presence a little further.”
“You could remember them to your children,” offered the older librarian. “That’s what most people do.”
“I don’t have a suffix,” returned Pamdi, “and as I work nightshift at the foundry, so I never meet anyone new when I have time to stop and talk, I’m never likely to.”
“I,” said the older librarian, “am Tadzhoonmryazyzhoonmzer-Besy, and my young, unattached colleague here is Paadremgemsaak.”
“How do you do? I am Pammaakzhaidi,” Pamdi didn’t have room to bow, “and I’m honoured.”
“How do you do, Pammaakzhaidi? It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Paadregemsaak nodded deeply enough to make the knot of braids on the back of his head bounce.
“Likewise,” Pamdi nodded back politely, think that he was quite good looking for certain values of handsome.
“Excellent!” Tadzhoonmryazyzhoonmzer-Besy beamed at both of them. “Pammaakzhaidi, Paadsaak is about to get off work and he would love to take you to look at the snow fortifications and then for some honeyed tea, wouldn’t you Paadsaak?”
Pamdi just managed to stop her mouth dropping open at the senior librarian’s obviously practiced manoeuvre while Paadregemsaak gave him a sharp look and said, “So this is why you have all those grandchildren and no-one else here is single.”
“It’s a hobby,” said Tadzhoonmryazyzhoonmzer-Besy modestly. “You both need to meet people, so why not start with each other? It’s only a little holiday outing, after all.”
Paadregemsaak turned to Pamdi and commented, “He says that now. Would you like to come anyway? It doesn’t have to be anything else.” He smiled.
“I would like that please,” Pamdi smiled back. “I haven’t been to see the snow forts for a few years now.”
“Excellent,” said Tadzhoonmryazyzhoonmzer-Besy to no-one in particular. “I’ll just go and start locking up, shall I?”