1635: THE DREESON INCIDENT — snippet 37

 

1635: THE DREESON INCIDENT – snippet 37:

 

 

            They weren’t walking very fast. For one thing, the public library wasn’t far from her house.

            “What do you mean, you’re studying to be a librarian?”

            That really startled Ron. He’d figured that Missy had picked “library” as a place to spend what amounted to their first non-date on the theory that it was safe. Neutral. Noncommittal. A part-time job, since she had said she had to work.

            Not that it was her own personal turf.

            If it was, though, it sort of made sense. She was trying to put herself in charge of whatever was going on. Playing on the home field.

            That kiss this afternoon had been weird.

            “There weren’t that many options when I graduated. Well, when you graduated, too. You knew that it was either the army or pharmaceuticals, though, and everyone knew that even Frank Jackson wanted you to work with your dad, like your brother Frank was doing—not waste the preparation you already had. What was there for me? I didn’t want to join the army. Definitely not nursing or medicine. I didn’t really want to devote my life to manufacturing steel or dealing with methanol or being a radio operator. Dad could use me as an assistant for his office work, but… So Mom stuck me into teacher training, which wasn’t bad. And being an ESOL aide at the same time was fine. I’d had the experience, in a way, with Gertrude living with us. I did that until this spring. You were off in Venice with the embassy by then. That’s when Marietta talked to me.”

            “Marietta?”

            “Ms. Fielder to you.”

            “The Sherman tank of Grantville Public Library.”

            Missy gave him a sour look. “She’s Dad’s first cousin and what you’ve been undressing with your eyes is my version of the ‘Newton body.’ My half-sister Anne Jefferson got Mom’s shape, with her father’s height. Elegant. I got this. Before the Ring of Fire, Dad was headed in an expansive direction, too. Gran doesn’t have it, herself. She’s paper thin, like most of the Williamses were, but she passed it on to Dad and Chip and me. It’s one of my annual New Year’s resolutions—never to let myself blossom to the extent that Marietta and Great-aunt Elizabeth have. It’s what I’ve inherited, but at least I’ll keep it pared down. In order to do that, though, I have to exercise regularly. Which I do, even though it’s boring. I’m actually in very good shape.”

            Ron eyed her again, from head to toe. He repeated the scan focusing on neck to knee. The sweatshirt was not a lot of help. “Way to go.”

            She gave him a shove and started to talk about data and information gathering. How important they were becoming to Grantville; the role of the different libraries and the research center. That her real apprenticeship, if that was what you wanted to call it, was out at the high school under Elaine Bolender, but that she spent time in every library inside the Ring of Fire, from the grade school to the power plant. That was the first year. By third year, she would need to be learning about down-time libraries. The University of Jena, for example. By then, there would be an exchange system set up, Elaine expected, sort of like the one the medical school would have between Leahy Medical Center here in Grantville and Jena. There were down-time librarians coming to Grantville fairly regularly now, especially to study cataloging.

            By the time they got there, she had given him a virtual tour of how the configuration of the town’s various libraries had changed while he was in Italy, with special attention to the way their resources, as they were being developed, would be of use to an enterprise like Tom Stone’s.

            In turn, Ron had taken her on the same kind of procession through what Lothlorien Farbenwerke was turning into under the management of Magda’s father, which no longer bore much resemblance to a decrepit hippie commune. Aside from the manufacturing areas, which dwarfed the greenhouses, the original geodesic dome was now only an annex to a quite respectable house. The Stones hadn’t wanted to get rid of the dome. Sentiment, Ron said.

            Then they spent three hours talking to Marietta Fielder about cross-indexing and information retrieval systems, specifically as they applied to facilitation of pharmaceutical research.

            Missy gave an extra special smile of thanks to the other student assistant on evening shift, who had ended up carrying a very heavy load of circulation and reference questions.

            A monk in full habit? Ron shrugged to himself. Grantville sure wasn’t what it had been when he and Missy were growing up. But if there had to be some guy working one-to-one with Missy on evening shift, Ron thought a monk was a really good choice. He smiled warmly also, trying to project a few thoughts at the guy while he did it. Thoughts about a really enthusiastic embrace of lifelong celibacy.

****

            On the way home, they talked about what had happened in Venice and Rome during the so-called Galileo Affair. The CoC printing press and the Phillips screwdriver. Joe Buckley, murdered by the French Protestant fanatic, Michel Ducos—the same guy who’d almost engineered the Pope’s assassination. Sharon Nichols and Feelthy Sanchez. Father Mazzare. Cardinal Mazzare, now.

            Ron was pleased to discover that Missy had no sympathy for Billy Trumble. He’d been a year ahead of her in school and had once tried out the “lordly senior jock” approach. Ron found her frankly expressed wish that some day Trumble would make an even worse fool of himself satisfying. At some level, Ron was still holding a grudge against him in regard to the escape of Ducos.

            Shortly thereafter, they tested the Stone Hypothesis. By then, on the way back from the library, they had refined the proposed procedural rules. In front of her house, on the sidewalk, in the dark, clasping the opposite hands to the ones they had been holding that afternoon, and, upon Ron’s strong urging, without six inches of air separating them.

            “I don’t think that worked quite the way we intended,” Ron said. “As far as restoring karmic balance and getting things back to the status quo ante, all I can say is that it was a real bummer. Otherwise, it was a great success.”

****

            “This is strange.” Strange didn’t even begin to cover it, Missy thought. Little impish electrons seemed to have taken up residence in both of her kneecaps and both of her hip sockets, from which locations they kept shooting sparks at one another. Diagonally.

            “Yeah. It is, sort of.”

            “I wonder why we never kissed each other earlier? All those years going through middle school or high school together? Almost everyone kisses everyone else, somewhere along the line.”

            “The forces that manage Dad’s beloved cosmic rhythm knew we weren’t old enough to handle it? Maybe I ought to toss them a bit of incense for that.”

            Missy stood there thinking that she sooooo did not want this kind of complication in her life right now. Maybe never. Definitely not right now.

            She hadn’t really given a thought to religion since she got old enough to tell her mother that she wasn’t going to Sunday School at First Methodist any more and made it stick. Her name was still on the rolls, she supposed, if only because she had never had any incentive to have it removed. But if Ron’s cosmic forces existed and they had kept this from happening four or five years ago, she owed them. A lot.

            “Give them an extra handful, while you’re at it. Pat Bonnaro down at the gift shop still carries the stuff. I’ll pay for my share.”

 

About Eric Flint

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