Anyone who loves the narrative tension between episodes of a favorite TV series or issues of a comic book will understand the appeal of serialized novels– there’s something about waiting to see what happens next that makes the story even better. In serial fiction’s heyday, Charles Dickens was the master of the form. He penned some of his most famous works piecemeal and published them in papers, and his stories garnered a wide and passionate fan base.
The folks at the Grandview Brach of the Mid-Continent Public Library thought it was time to resurrect serial fiction in the digital age by publishing weekly installments of a story on their blog; thus, we come to the fabulous, library-inspired romp through New York that is “The Timely Adventures of Rachel Evans.”
The Timely Adventures of Rachel Evans, Part 12: Questions, Questions, Questions…
Originally published by Sally S. on the Mid-Continent Public Library Grandview Branch Blog, February 15, 2012.
“We need to get to the theater and start working on how to lure George Bernard Shaw out of hiding or whatever ghosts do when they’re not haunting people,” Rachel paused on the library steps, trying to decide which route was quickest.
“We need food.” Leigh said wanly. “Soon. Now. Please.”
“And how do you propose we get it? Steal it?” Rachel considered that possibility with an open mind. Maybe there was a hot dog stand they could knock over.
“We’d probably get caught.” Leigh told her when Rachel voiced this option.
“You don’t know until you try.” Rachel pointed out. “But I suppose we could always go back to the diner and see if we could wash dishes for some sandwiches or something.”
“Horribly realistic and logical.” Leigh sighed. “Let’s go.”
After a brief bout of negotiation with Harve, they settled down to work. There was a new dishwasher, a quiet young woman named Joan who nodded at them and kept on scrubbing, but there were still stacks and stacks of dishes. Rachel despaired. They would probably expire long before they earned their meal.
Joe came in with a load of dirty dishes. “Say, you two haven’t gone and quit the show have you?”
“Have no fear.” Leigh sighed “You couldn’t drag this one away from the production.” She flicked soap suds at Rachel.
“We’ll be there tonight.” Rachel assured him. “Rehearsing. Trying to contact a ghost. The usual.”
“Good. We need every able body we can get out on that stage.” He went back out through the swinging door.
“We shouldn’t tell him, should we?” Rachel whispered to Leigh.
“What would be the point?” Leigh whispered back.
“True.” Rachel agreed. For a moment she’d just thought it would be sensible, in case everything went horribly wrong. She didn’t particularly want Joe to die at the ghostly hands of George Bernard Shaw.
The next time Joe came in, he paused. “So last night…”
“Yes?” Rachel paused, glad to take a break for a moment. Scrubbing greasy dishes really wasn’t an ideal job, but she was so hungry.
“Did Amanda say anything about me?” He looked at them hopefully.
Rachel looked at Leigh who glanced at her, before looking levelly at Joe. “She mentioned something about doing three productions with you.”
“I suppose that’s something.”
“Look,” Leigh said pointedly. “Here’s some friendly advice. Drop the pushy romantic approach. Let her do her acting, singing, whatever she wants to do with her whole life. Chances are, you’ll keep running into each other. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t.” Leigh shrugged and went back to drying the pot she was working on. “You’ll meet someone else and the world will go on.”
Joe just stared at her. “Are you always this, this…” He floundered helplessly.
“Helpful? Yes.” Leigh nodded.
“All the time.” Rachel murmured. This time she got soap suds in her eye.
“Okay, okay,” Joe surrendered with an air of resignation. “I’ll do it.”
“Good.” Leigh said firmly.
When they were finally done with the load of dishes, Joe brought them a plate loaded with ham sandwiches, steaming cups of coffee and a plate of pickles.
“Delicious.” Rachel sank her teeth into a ham sandwich. Next time they’d have to figure out some way to take money or acquire it somehow. There wouldn’t always be dishes to wash. They’d been lucky this time. Next time they’d have to plan ahead. Make friends with a coin collector perhaps? There was no way they could afford to get spare cash for time traveling jaunts though. She decided to worry about that another day and simply enjoy the ham sandwich of the moment.
“So how do we lure a ghost?” Rachel was all business once the last sandwich had been consumed.
“Stand on the stage and sing ‘Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?” Leigh took a long contented sip of coffee. “Threaten to make Eliza run off with Colonel Pickering at the end?”
Rachel twisted her napkin into a small napkin monster and made it peek over the rim of her coffee cup. “I should have researched how to do a summoning spell.”
“Most likely we’ll just have to wait for him to show up during rehearsal.”
“What if he doesn’t? What if he waits for opening night? That’s tomorrow night.” For a second, that thought was enough to distract her. A Broadway opening night. It would be amazing.
“He’ll show up beforehand.” Leigh said reassuringly.
“He better.” Surely he would, Rachel reasoned to herself. But what if he didn’t? If she were a ghost haunting a production, the opening night would be the perfect time to ruin the show. Maybe ghosts didn’t think like that though. Maybe they just appeared whenever they felt like it and haunted whoever was closest and the most annoying.
After finishing their coffee and bidding farewell to Joe, they headed off toward the theater.
“Have you considered the possibility that time may not be standing still at home?” Leigh mentioned offhandedly.
“What?” Rachel looked at her, still distracted by thoughts of opening night. She’d have to remember to snitch a program.
“I was just wondering…What if we’ve really been gone two days?”
“I assumed the PD would be like the TARDIS, able to return us to the exact moment when we left.”
Leigh raised an eyebrow. “Completely forgotten all the times when the TARDIS gets the time wrong and they end up some other time entirely, haven’t you?”
“Yes, but it’s always somewhere the Doctor needs to go, even if he doesn’t know it.” Rachel didn’t want to think about the possibility if they had been gone for two days. The temp agency wouldn’t have cared. They’d simply have fired her. Her parents wouldn’t noticed even if they called. She often didn’t call them back immediately. Her roommate was here with her. The only one would who miss her was her dog, Kat. Kat who was probably starving if they had been gone for two whole days.
“Oh my god, Kat!” Rachel exclaimed. “I’ve killed Kat!”
“It’s okay. We’ll probably go back and not a second will have passed.”
“She’s probably lying on the floor, starving to death.” Rachel’s eyes widened. “All I’ve got to go home to is a dead dog. I don’t need that on my conscience, Leigh!”
“She’s probably eating that pizza you left out on the counter.” Leigh said reasonably.
“Oh.” That made Rachel feel slightly better. “You really think she’s all right?”
“Terriers are tough. And feisty. She’ll probably bite her way through the door and terrorize the entire building. She’ll be fine.” Leigh rubbed her shoulder. “Come on. Ghost hunting. Job at hand. Let’s go.”
“I hope she eats that kid that’s always screaming in 3B.” Rachel muttered under her breath.
To be continued…
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