Every year on Valentine’s Day, the messenger depot buzzes with every last urchin messenger poised to carry romantic wishes between residents of the city. Last year on that day, Mumsy Abigail arrived on foot at the depot and struggled to convey a short, simple note for a recipient that would be difficult to locate. The messenger repeated the words back to her several times, with each revision falling short of the mark. Mumsy Abigail is a woman not suited for this sort of failing, but in a rare shot of patience she persisted until the memorized message was repeated with only benign inaccuracies. She even left a tip.
She was later told that although her recipient had been located and the message delivered, he was, at the time, quite engrossed in a conversation with the hindquarters of circus elephant.
This year would be different. This year she would have Martin Malus write the message on a slip of paper, then give it to a messenger in written form a day early. There would be more time for her recipient to be found, and less likelihood of being misquoted. Perhaps this year her Valentine would read it when less…engaged.
Martin looked at the old woman as he transcribed her words in his neat, stately handwriting.
“You’ve got to be joking,” he said.
“No one asked you to like it, Slim,” she retorted, waggling a finger at the paper. “Just write!”
He shook his head and continued his work, mumbling something about how getting the steam carriage for a day was almost not worth the abuse.
Finally, leaning against the counter, he thrust the paper toward her without looking. “There,” he said. “Is that what you wanted?”
Scanning the note sharply, she harrumphed. “That’ll do.” She handed it to a waiting messenger, who tried in vain to smother a giggle as she read it.
“I’m givin’ this t’ who?” the messenger asked. Mumsy answered and not even Malus could stifle an eruption of laughter.
“Just pay them,” she told him with a roll of her eyes. Then, with a swift blow of her cane delivered to his ankle, she hobbled out. “Take me to the library!” she shouted from outside the door.
Martin limped out to the steam carriage with a wild look in his eyes. “You just hit me! I’m not taking you anywhere, you old troll!”
“Is that so?” she asked, narrowing her eyes. “I’m sure that my niece and her ruffle-headed peacock, Lighthouse, will be pleased to know I’ll be spending more time at their bar. What else can I do now that my driver has quit?”
Knowing that would spell the end of his liberal use of the carriage, Martin cursed and helped her into the vehicle. He winced as he climbed into the drivers seat, then released the valve so the injection of steam into the engine caused them to roll slowly forward. Mumsy smirked.
“I thought so,” she said smugly.
He kept his eyes on the road before him, and then in a low voice began to recite the digits of pi.