“I’m so terribly sorry. Didn’t see you standing there. Say you’re sorry, Midget.”
Midget scowled and held on to Mrs. Tribodice’s arm.
“That’s quite alright,” said the Rare Books Store. “Not your fault. Part and parcel of being rarefied. Were you two looking for something?”
“Actually, yes. The Lemmiad by Trurl and Klapaucius. Midget here is quite the fan of the classics.”
“The Lemmeiad, Ma!” muttered Midget.
“Um… Well. I’m afraid we only stock things a little more rarefied. How about some Ottoman poetry? The circular ghazal of Octal Girsay perhaps? Quite a marvel, I’m told. Haven’t read it myself. Gives me headache, it does, reading in circles.”
Midget began to pull at his mother’s hand.
“Won’t do.” Mrs. Tribodice was quite apologetic. “Midget has his heart set on The Lemmiad.”
“It’s The Lemmeiad !” corrected Midget, fed up. “There’s a silent ‘e’, but it ain’t dumb! The Lemmiad is an arithmetic manual.”
“See what I mean?” said Mrs. Tribodice, with a little helpless laugh.
The Rare Books Store didn’t but managed to look as if it cared. “Yes. Let me see. Maybe I do have something that could work.” It began to rummage around in its vast pockets. Shelves, books, silverfish and manuscripts began to get shoved around here and there. The Humido Delectron’s 25th century collection of Mannerist erotica — 1st edition, color plates and all — spread out in flagrante delicto.
“Oh dear me,” murmured Mrs. Tribodice, “your gears are showing.”
The Rare Books Store hurriedly adjusted its shelves. A book fell out. Midget caught it with his widget before it hit the ground (which was fortunate because the notoriously short-tempered ground would probably have thrown a fit and the fit would probably have landed on something else and before you knew it there probably would’ve been a dead bald man in a bathtub somewhere. Life isn’t all ha-ha hee-hee when you run the world on probabilty).
“What’s this?” asked Midget, suspiciously thumbing through the pages.
“It’s The Lemmeiad,” said the Rare Books Store, with a wink.
“Then why doesn’t it say so?” Midget sniffed the book and even tentatively licked a page.
“Because it’s written in English, not Polish notation. Here, run the Kandel translator.”
“Oh dear,” bleated Mrs. Tribodice. “English? That simply won’t do. No meat languages–”
But Midget had already run the Kandel and was snarfing the pages down, tearing them into nice chewable byte-sizes chunks.
“Awesome!” exclaimed Midget. “Aesop’s Fables by Stanislaw and Lem. So that’s what the meat called The Lemmeiad. Which one is Trurl? Stanislaw? I bet it is. He’s my favorite. Can I have the book as a gift?”
The Rare Books Store didn’t bother to answer the Midget. It’d found the cash register deregistering under a pile of vulgar fractions, and proceeded to pull it out by its randy buttons. “Something to spice up the old femfatalatron, Madam? That Humido Delectron perhaps? Or is that all for today?”
In memoriam: Stanislaw Lem (1921-2006).
Image credits: Mrs. Tribodice — Mrs. Trojanka in Polish — is due to Stanislaw Lem. The original may be viewed here. The Rare Books Store was mistakenly called The Librarian by Giuseppe Arcimboldo (c. 1527-1593). The interlocked, um, machines was found in Giovanni Braccelli’s Bizarrie di varie figure (1624).