“J, K, L, M…. yes, elephants go under ‘Mammals,’ then ‘Pachyderms,’ and…”
Junie stood in the City Hall archive room, tapping her lower lip with a pencil as she thought.
“Were they African elephants or an Asian elephants?” she asked herself, scanning the slip of paper before her. And more importantly, how fast could they travel if unladen? It seemed that a year and a half ago, three elephants were sighted within the city and complaints were made. As far as she could tell, two of the elephants were recovered but one remained at large. To this very day, she decided, there could be an elephant wandering the streets of the city.
Having decided how to proceed, she nodded her head with resolve.
“N, O, P, Q, R… ‘Residents,’ then ‘Mammals,’ then ‘Pachyderms,’ and…”
She heard the door creak and it broke her concentration. She looked up to see a rather portly cleric entering the room with what appeared to be a box of pastries. She smiled.
“Hello!” she said. “I see you’ve brought some treats for me to keep my energy up. Thank you so much. Oh!” As if remembering her manners she made the Sign of the Hammer.
He stopped suddenly and dropped the box, scattering some of the baked goods across the floor. Clutching his chest he staggered backward until his back was against the door, which slammed shut. He grasped at the wall to regain his balance.
Junie looked at the pastries on the floor.
“That’s a damned shame, but don’t worry. I think not all of them are lost.”
“Who! What!” His voice came in a high-pitched panic. “What is going on here?!”
Crouching to pick up a Danish that had only fallen halfway from the box, Junie scrunched up her face and squinted one eye at him.
“A bit of an over-reaction, don’t you think, Brother? They’re only pastries.”
He glared at her, hand still on his chest.
“Who are you?” he hissed.
“Oh, I thought you knew since you came bearing goodies,” she answered as she stood up. “I’m Junie, the new City Archivist.” She took a bite of the Danish, then covered her mouth as she chewed and asked, “what’s your name, Brother? Come in and have a seat. You look like you need to take a load off.”
“I’m…” he relaxed against the wall, closed his eyes tightly and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “I’m.. I’m sorry, did you say that you’re the City Archivist?”
Brow furrowed, he held up a finger. “Because you see, I am the City Archivist.”
Junie stopped chewing, and swallowed hard.
“Well,” she said slowly, “this is awkward.”
He put his hands on his hips. “Yes, I would agree. And perplexing. Wh-who gave you this position?”
“Oh, I did.”
He raised his eyebrows and chuckled. “You did.”
“Yep,” she said with a note of pride. “You see, I found myself in this room quite by accident and saw that it was covered by a layer of dust. A layer of dust, Brother! And I thought to myself, ‘Self, no one has been in this room for at least as long as the new City Hall has been here.’”
He sighed, and she continued.
“And when I looked around I noticed that everything was obviously in a state of disarray, so I took it upon myself to organize all of our records. I left the Clockwinder a note and then set to it. I assume he saw it because I haven’t heard anything back to say that I can’t be City Archivist.”
He shook his head. “That doesn’t even make any sense.”
“Hmm, I know,” she said in agreement. “I thought he would at least send a note to say ‘Hey, thanks Miss G! I’ll give you a break on your rent!’ But I want to do it regardless, I don’t need any thanks. I consider it my civic duty.”
“You said you are… organizing the records?” Alarm registered on his face again and he rushed into the room, lifting books from stacks and leafing through papers. “Oh, dear. No, no, no, no, no… Oh, great Builder!”
She took another bite from the Danish and poured herself a drink.
“Brother, I’m not sure I understand your concern. I have it all in hand.”
He pulled a chair away from the nearest reading table and sank into it. She slid down to the floor with her back against a bookshelf.
“Junie,” he said carefully. “Your name is Junie?”
She nodded. “You still haven’t told me your name, Brother.”
“I am named Rafael Sevas,” he said. “And I… I know you believe you are helping, but when everything was moved to this room when the new City Hall was built, I knew where every single document and book was placed. And now I know where nothing is.”
Junie burst out laughing.
“Oh, Brother Sevas, that is the best thing I’ve heard in days. You’re a gas!”
He looked at her somberly. “I assure you I am quite serious.”
“But… how is that even possible?” she asked.
He sat back in his chair.
“As I said, I am city archivist and mnemonist,” he said. “City Archive Number Four, to be precise.”
She laughed out loud again. “You’re just full of them aren’t you? What a joker. I like you, Brother Sevas, we should work together since we’re both city archivists. You aren’t my nemesis! We just met!”
He mouthed the word “nemesis” in an attempt to comprehend her mistake, then leaned forward, elbow on the table, pinching the bridge of his nose again.
“Not nemesis. Mnemonist. NEH-MO-NIST.” He said it slowly, emphasizing each syllable and hitting the “t” at the end with extra clarity.
“Hmm,” she said. “I’m not sure what that means. Is it one of those mathy church things?”
“Yes,” he answered with a degree of exasperation. “One of those mathy church things. It means that I have a method for remembering everything. For example, where every document and book was the last time I was here.”
The light bulb of recognition went on for Junie.
“Oh, so you…” she pointed around the room. “And you…”
Sevas nodded encouragingly. Finally.
“And now,” she said, “oh dear.”
“Yes, YES!” he said. “And now I know where nothing is because you have… reorganized.”
“To be fair, Brother Sevas,” she said, “it was not organized to begin with. Just because you knew where everything was doesn’t mean it was orderly. Whatever system you had going on in here was, well, I’m sure you tried.”
Her chiding grated on Brother Sevas, who was normally a good-natured and jovial fellow. Today had definitely not started in the way he had anticipated. And now insults.
“I-I-I TRIED? You…” he wagged a finger at her. “You look here! This is my domain, it always has been, and it…”
Junie took a deep breath and changed tactics. “Well, my friend, I see we have some work to do, and it seems we must work together. I will be happy to show you how I have been putting things together, and then you can memorize all of it, and everyone will be happy. And while we’re working I can have someone from the bar bring us refreshments.”
He narrowed his eyes at her. What was she up to?
“Oh yes,” she said brightly. “I co-own The Gangplank Public House.”
A smile crept across his face. Truthfully, Sevas feared that she was right. As much as he hated to admit it, he knew that it would be nice to have someone he could get to know in charge of the physical façade, so it stood to reason that understanding Junie’s taxonomy could be beneficial. How bad could it possibly be? And on top of it, she owned a bar. He anticipated a very comfortable working relationship.
“Well, why didn’t you say so, my dear? The Gangplank has been quite popular with the Brothers over the years. Its… reputation is well known.” He stood and walked over to the box of pastries still lying on the floor, picking an eclair out of the mashed-up pile still safe from the dusty floorboards.
“Alright, Junie, I will work with you,” he continued, “at least until I know where everything is. But understand I will be the City Archivist and you will be my assistant.”
“Oh, Brother Sevas,” she said, laughing and shaking her head. “You really are a gas.”