A Note For Joe

A story of coworkers and courtesy, and a librarian in a pickle.

This story is my first round entry in the NYC Midnight 2016 Flash Fiction Challenge. You get prompts for genre (Fairy Tale), location (library) and object (coffee pot) and have 48 hours to turn it into a 1,000 word max story. I had a major block until 4 hours before deadline but it snapped together just in time. This is as submitted with only rough editing.

Hope you enjoy!

Valoree was in a pickle. A very large, very sour pickle. Now you may think of this in a figurative sense, as in “Valoree is in trouble now, but is not literally inside of a pickle.” If you thought that you would be exactly half right. Valoree was indeed in trouble now, but that trouble was precisely due to being literally stuck inside of a very large and increasingly claustrophobia inducing pickle.

“But wait”, you might say. And after saying that you might continue with “How did an intelligent and diligent young librarian such as Valoree find herself actually inside a pickle? To my knowledge the library does not feature pickles of any sort much less one large enough to enclose a librarian.” In response I would congratulate you on both your familiarity with the library facilities and your astuteness regarding Valoree’s character. She truly is a dear and quite dedicated to her profession.

Yet despite these wonderful qualities of diligence, intelligence and dedication she was this day inside what she was now realizing was a gigantic Kosher dill, like the ones swimming in a barrel of brine at the corner market. Of course the market never had a pickle this big. Just imagine how large the barrel would have to be! Just like the market wouldn’t normally have a pickle of such breadth and girth neither would the library. This particular pickle had not been sourced from a market at all. It, and Valoree’s position inside of it, were the responsibility of a particularly cranky bookworm named Joe.

“And how”, you might inquire, “could a bookworm engineer the stuffing of a pickle with a librarian?” An excellent hypothetical question good reader! Of course he could do no such thing, worms being rather limited in the arts of both stuffing things and engineering gigantic vegetables. He had Finelope the pulp fairy do it, she being as capable as any fairy of encasing a relatively small human into a relatively larger pickle and also owing Joe a substantial favor.

Finelope had resisted, of course. She was quite fond of Valoree, the two having worked together for some time. Joe had been adamant though and called in his favor quite sternly and nearly at a volume that would require shushing. By the laws of the fey she’d had no choice but to pickle her coworker. Finelope was now growing increasingly worried for Valoree’s continued health. Unlike pulp fairies, bookworms and wordifiers, humans had rather strict requirements regarding breathing. Specifically, they needed to do it rather more often that Valoree’s current situation allowed.

“Joe” said Finelope, “can I please let her out? I fear she may expire.”

“It would serve her right” Joe snapped. “After what she did to me it’s just what she deserves.”

“But Joe” Finelope pleaded, “without a librarian our lives will be meaningless. You can still chew up all the old books, and I can still press the pulp into new blank ones, and Jacques can still wordify new stories into them, but Valoree is the only one who can put them back on the shelves in the right places!”

“She has a point, Joe” said Jacques. The wordifying troll looked up from behind his big pen. “The books would simply pile up all about in an unhappy manner with nobody being able to find what they want to read. The lass is quite essential to the library’s basic function. I believe that’s why ‘library’ is right there in her title.”

“That’s as may be” replied Joe sullenly “but how can I allow a travesty such as THAT to continue?” So saying he pointed fiercely at the orange handled coffee carafe sitting forlornly on its heating element. The cause of the carafe’s forlornosity (a word just recently invented by Jacques) was quite instantly apparent as instead of coffee its sole content was a burnt cracked black circle, the scorched dregs of the last cup poured from it. A cup, it should be noted, that was poured by Valoree herself.

It should also be noted that despite her dedication, intelligence and diligence for matters of the library Valoree was quite deficient in one area. She always took the last cup of coffee and never made the new pot. This had been a growing frustration for Joe for some time. He had cajoled, begged and harangued Valoree about this discourtesy but nothing had sunk in. Finally he had threatened “If you leave an empty pot one more time you’ll be in a serious pickle!”

Valoree had apologized, as she always did. She had sworn it wouldn’t happen again, as she always did. Then she’d thought nothing more about it until she did it again and found out the hard way that a bookworm’s threats are not to be taken lightly.

“I believe I have a solution to the issue” Jacques offered. He took a loose page that Finelope had not yet pressed into a book. Then he took his very large pen and he wrote a very short note. He stuck the note to the coffee maker and stood back to admire his handiwork. “Yes, I believe that will do it.”

Joe examined the note critically, looking at it from every angle he could. Most of these were looking up of course. Joe being a worm he was somewhat vertically challenged. “It’ll do” he replied with a grump.

With a whoop of relief that almost but not quite required a hushing, Finelope flew to the top of the pickle and gave it a mighty (for a fairy) punch. It fell to pieces and Valoree collapsed into the briny mess breathing gustily.

The tale may seem incredible but the evidence is there today to prove it. Most libraries don’t generally employ bookworms, fairies or wordifiers any longer they do still employ librarians. And at every library you will see a sign next to the coffee maker that says “If you empty the pot make a fresh one”.

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