Welcome back!  Here’s the next installment of The Timely Adventures of Rachel Evans, the serial novel that Mid-Continent Public Library is hosting on their Grandview Branch Blog!  We’re delighted to co-host the story each week as library page Sally S. writes each installment, and are excited to see what happens next!

Not sure how you missed the first four episodes? Check out Parts 1 & 2 and Parts 3 & 4 before you dive into the latest installment.  For those of you who have been reading along with us:  What has been your favorite part so far?  What do you think will happen next?

And, how many of you have checked out the links to books and images embedded in the story?  We think that feature of the story is a great way to make a library-incubated serial fiction project even more interactive (and show off the library’s collection, to boot). Tell us what you think in the comments!

The Timely Adventures of Rachel Evans, Part Five: Bus-boys & Broadway!

Originally published by Sally S. on the Mid-Continent Public Library Grandview Branch Blog, December 22, 2011

“I really am very sorry,” Leigh started, but Harve cut her off.

“It’s all right.”

“Really?” Rachel asked skeptically.

“Really.” He grinned widely. “It just so happens our dishwasher ran off to get married last week to some yokel out west. So you’re in luck.”

“That’s just…peachy.” Leigh murmured.

"Fun with dishes" by Flickr user cursedthing via Flickr's Creative Commons

**********Five minutes later**********

“It could be worse.” Rachel said optimistically, bringing another stack of filthy plates over to the sink where Leigh was washing a full basin.

“Do tell.” Leigh brushed her hair out of her face and glared at her. They were in the back room of the diner, surrounded by stacks of dishes in varying degrees of grime.

“They could have had us bumped off by the mob. I bet Harve has connections.” She leaned in to mutter shiftily. “He looks like the type.”

“Rachel, I am up to my elbows in the disgusting leftovers of the past. Please. Do not make jokes about the mob.”

“Okay, okay.” Rachel started scraping at the plates. “I’m sorry, but I did warn you.”

“So I forgot to bring my time-currency changer with me,” Leigh snapped. “It wasn’t like this little jaunt was planned.”

“Next time.” Rachel began.

Leigh just looked at her, until they both started laughing. And Rachel knew that however much Leigh loathed doing dishes, she was no longer mad.

“You have to admit, this is an…”

“If you say adventure, I will throw a plate at you.” Leigh said, but she was smiling. Slightly, very slightly, but it was definitely a smile.

“Not an adventure exactly,” Rachel conceded, “Not this part anyway, but…it is something.”

“Oh, it’s something all right. Just look at all this ambience.”

Rachel laughed.

“Good afternoon,” A voice broke into their deliberations. A gangly guy with a shock of black hair walked into the back with another load of dishes.

“Just what we wanted.” Leigh muttered sotto voce. “So,” He turned and leaned back against the table, watching them. “You two are the counterfeiters, eh?”

“That would be us.” Rachel said airily.

“Allegedly.” Leigh added.

“Joe.” He stuck out his hand. “Bus-boy. At the moment.”

“Not a life goal?” Rachel shook his hand.

“Hell, no!” Joe shook Leigh’s hand too. “Definitely not. I’m an actor.”

“What a surprise.” Leigh rinsed another plate and added it to the clean stack.

“That must be fascinating.” Rachel flicked soap at Leigh. “So are you working at the moment?”

“Surprisingly, yes.” He grinned. “Believe you me, my pops is also surprised. He thinks this,” Joe spread his arms, gesturing at the back room. “Is a real job.” He sighed dramatically.

“So what’re you appearing in?” Leigh inquired.

“It’s new. We open this weekend. My Fair Lady.” Joe shrugged a tad self-consciously. “Maybe you’ve seen the posters? It’s a little sappy, but I think it could go all right. Enough for me to quit this job anyway.”

Rachel raised an eyebrow. “Ah, yes…I think it will do very well.” The Broadway opening of My Fair Lady? Now that was worth going to. She wondered if they could sneak backstage or if that would just end up with them getting arrested.

“So you two…” The bus boy looked them over. “Are you looking for something else to do or do you intend to continue your life of crime?”

Welllllllll…” Rachel drawled, and then stopped when Leigh gave her a look.

“That would depend entirely on what you’re suggesting.” Leigh said, drying her hands.

“Well, it’s just the theater company I’m working for? We need extras.”

“Seriously?” Rachel stared at him. “For My Fair Lady? On Broadway?” She shot a not-too subtle sidelong glance at Leigh.

“Yeah. See,” Joe looked around before leaning on the table in a conspiratorial manner. “It’s just…We’ve had several of the cast quit over the last couple weeks. Nobody major, main you, just enough of the ensemble that they’ll pretty much cast anyone at this point. No offense.”

“None taken.” Leigh said flatly. “Why’re they quitting?”

“Oh, you know, the usual things.” Joe said vaguely. “Anyway, if you’re interested, I can take you over to the theater after my shift’s over.”

“That would be fantastic.” Rachel said quickly before Leigh could get a word in.

“Terrific.” Joe beamed. “I get off at five. So if you want to meet me back here around then. Rehearsal’s at six. I’ll take you over and introduce you to the gang.”

“Joe!” Harve bellowed from the front. “Get your scrawny-”

“See you at 5!” Joe grabbed his tub hurriedly and headed back out.

“Broadway.” Rachel turned around and looked at Leigh with wide, delighted eyes. “Broadway. Leigh. BROADWAY.”

“Rachel.” Leigh said warningly.

“We could be extras in My Fair Lady. Come on! That’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, Leigh. On Broadway!”

“I refuse to sing.” Leigh stated. “On Broadway or elsewhere.”

“Then just stand in the back and look fashionable.”

“It’s a musical, Rachel! They expect people to sing.”

Leigh rubbed at her eyes tiredly. “I. Do. Not. Sing.”

“Leigh,” Rachel took her friend by the shoulders and stared her directly in the eyes. “It’ll be okay. I promise you, you won’t have to sing.”

“Thank you.” Leigh took a deep breath, then narrowed her eyes. “You’re totally crossing your fingers behind my back, aren’t you?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Rachel said blandly. “Come on. Let’s get this party finished so we can have our date with show business.”

She ducked the wet rag Leigh threw at her just in time.

To be continued…

 

The Timely Adventures of Rachel Evans, Part Six: Of Doctors & Deloreans

Originally published by Sally S. on the Mid-Continent Public Library Grandview Branch Blog, December 29, 2011

When they were finally finished with the dishes, they were escorted to the door by Harve with instructions not to return as customers, but that he was more than willing to hire them as dishwashers should they ever need the “cashola.”

"DeLorean" by Flickr user Luke Hayfield via Flickr's Creative Commons.

Leigh grabbed Rachel by the arm and hustled her out of the door. “The man just used the word cashola. Let us begone.”

“Heh,” Rachel snickered. “You said begone.”

“Shut up.”

“So, where to?” Rachel looked around. In mid-March, the winter afternoon was still gray enough to cast a dull pall over the day. Still, it was New York. Rachel could feel her spirits rising just looking around the streets.

“Well,” Leigh glanced at her watch. “We have three hours to kill before we meet with Theater Guy. Shall we wander?”

“We shall.”

Linking arms, they strolled through the winter streets of New York, walking down Broadway, leisurely heading to Times Square. They walked and walked, simply enjoying the afternoon. It was gloriously easy to get lost in the giddy sensation of being surrounded by hundreds of strangers in the past.

Leigh checked her phone. “We still have some time, but we should probably head back in that general direction. Seeing no bars is the weirdest thing. It’s like being cut off from reality. How did people live like this?”

Rachel took out her own phone. Leigh was right. No bars. No messages. Nothing. For a moment, she felt an odd sense of disconnect from the normal world she was so accustomed to. Then, the rush of freedom that came with that same disconnect nearly bowled her over.

“I have no text messages.” Rachel crowed. It was a delight. No one could reach her. No one could tell her she was late for something, that’d she’d forgotten to be somewhere or to get together with someone. No one could reach her. At some point, that was probably going to freak her out, but for now it was a pleasure.

Rachel hit the camera button and aimed at the glowing matinee board advertising the soft drink that supposedly put you at your sparkling best.

“You’re going to get us noticed.” Leigh hissed, glancing around worriedly.

“Oh, tosh.” Rachel snapped a few quick shots around Times Square, the Camel ads, the Coca-Cola posters, ladies in fur coats, men in hats. She wanted to remember this.

“Do you think they’ll actually show up on your phone once we get home?”

“I guess I’ll have to wait and see.” Rachel stuffed her phone back in her pocket. “It’s worth a shot at any rate.”

They cut through Central Park on their way back to the diner. Rachel considered the hot dog vendors hungrily. The French fries and coffee felt like a very long time ago. People hurried along the paths as the afternoon grew darker: dog walkers, taking Fluffy and Fido out for a final jaunt before the night set in. The city was half alive, half dead. Leigh had gone quiet, just looking around the park. Something about the silence between the two of them made Rachel uneasy.

She hesitated before finally blurting, “You know it’s okay.”

Leigh examined a park bench studiously. “I’m not entirely sure we can say it’s okay since we haven’t gone back yet.”

“You know what I mean.” It wasn’t like Rachel really wanted to talk about it even now, but there was something about being here. Something about the whole aspect of time travel that made her want to try to broach the subject, even though in all likelihood it would lead her straight back to where she had been before. A flat brick wall blocking her from Leigh’s life.

Leigh finally turned away from the park bench. “You don’t have to say that.”

“But I mean it.” Rachel protested.

“No, you don’t. Okay,” Leigh conceded, “You mean it, but you’re still frustrated and you’re still hurt.”

“Thank you for pointing out the obvious.” Rachel stared at her shoes. She should buy new ones, since she’d obviously have to save these ones forever now that they had time-traveled. How much would it cost to bronze a pair of Converse anyway?

“You’re the one who brought it up.” Leigh said quietly.

“You’re the one who brought it up before.” Rachel retorted.

Leigh nodded. “I know.” For a moment she looked as though she were about to say something else, and then all she said was, “It’s almost five. We should head back to the diner.” They started walking in mutual silence.

This was not exactly how Rachel had planned her first adventure in time-traveling would go. When she was little, she’d worried every night before falling asleep that’d she’d wake up and years would have passed like in Rip Van Winkle. Nevermind that she’d never encountered little green men. It wasn’t the years passing that had scared her; it was the idea of everything growing old. Actually, it was the idea of waking up with a foot-long beard that had scared her the most. Apart from that recurring nightmare, which wasn’t really time traveling exactly, Rachel had always enjoyed the concept. After she’d seen the Back to the Future movies, she’d begged her parents for a DeLorean. (They refused.) But, it was her grandmother who had introduced her to Doctor Who when she was seven.

“There’s a man,” She’d told Rachel as she made them cocoa and stirred in cinnamon before adding whipped cream. “Who’s very special.”

“Does he have a hat?” Rachel stuck her finger in the whipped cream, licking it thoughtfully.

“Sometimes.” Her grandmother handed her the mug and they carried it into the living room where the TV was all ready for their viewing pleasure. “He has a variety of clothing because he’s always changing. You see, he’s not really a man. He’s a timelord, and timelords don’t die.”

“Not ever?” Rachel rested her chin on her hands, listening avidly. This was a topic that at the age of seven she was already fascinated by. Over time she’d seen the appeal of Rip Van Winkle’s predicament, rather than the terror. Everyone else had aged, but he’d remained the same. After that realization, Rachel had spent a lot of time looking for little green men in her backyard. So far she hadn’t managed to find any.

“A timelord, or lady, because there are timeladies too, regenerates instead of dying. And this man, he’s called the Doctor.”

It was the beginning of a beautiful companionship, one that lasted many afternoons. Rachel and her grandmother had made it halfway through the adventures of the sixth Doctor, when her grandmother was diagnosed with leukemia. Rachel slogged on through the later episodes, but watching alone simply wasn’t the same. Then new Who happened and Rachel cried because she was happy and sad, and knew what her grandmother would have said about each new regeneration.

“Oh, look at those ears.”

“My, he thinks he’s cheeky, that one.”

“Oh, look at him. He’s got a marvelous grin.”

Rachel looked up at the darkening night sky of New York, lit up by thousands and thousands of lights. I wonder what you would say, Grandma, if you could see me here and now.

Somehow, she was certain that her grandmother would have encouraged her onward on this adventure.

To be continued…

 

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