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‘Tis a gift to be useful

The thing about having her aunt in town again was that Junie now had nowhere to be alone. Martin seemed to have changed his position on driving Mumsy around town, presumably because it meant using the steam carriage for the rest of the day, and that meant anywhere Junie went Mumsy would soon appear. She was at the Gangplank. She was at the CocoaJava. She was at the Hearth and the Brunel. The white-haired little troll seemed to appear at all of Junie’s usual haunts, even that one spot up on the wall, in that one place behind that one building, where Junie had always gone to be alone. Mumsy just stood at the bottom shouting until a crowd began to form and she finally came down. She suspected that Mumsy and Martin were conspiring to drive her crazy.

Naturally, she started to visit places where she’d not spent much time recently. Everywhere she went people were so good at their jobs that it inspired her to want to help. She went to the telegraph office until she learned that she wasn’t very good at Morse code and was asked to leave. She went to a construction site and grabbed a shovel, which was very politely—and promptly—removed from her hands. So deep was her desperation to find something to do that she even found herself one evening in the Church of the Builder, listening to the murmured calculations of the clergy as they moved about their routine. It was comforting but she knew it wasn’t the place for her.

More to her liking, against all odds, was City Hall. While the main floor bustled with the comings and goings of all those that had business there, Junie discovered that she was able to slip quite unnoticed up to the mezzanine and beyond. There was much less foot traffic, and when she did see someone she just pretended to be lost. In the end it wasn’t terribly difficult to find a quiet corner where she could curl up with the latest novel, giggling to herself about being more of a social engineer than a structural one.

Reading at city hall

On one such day Junie waltzed into City Hall carrying a very large pretzel and a thermos of “coffee,” feeling confident about her mission to finish the next few chapters of her book. But as she approached her favorite reading nook, she found herself suddenly needing to evade the notice of two gentlemen walking as if they had somewhere to go. She ducked into the first room she came to. After confirming that they had kept walking, she took a bite of her pretzel and turned the valve for the gas lights. 

“Ohhhhhhh….” she said to herself, forgetting about the pretzel in her mouth as she gazed at the room before her.

Floor to ceiling shelves stacked with books, albums, and rolled plans. Piles of framed tin types. Dusty tools and artifacts. A precarious mountain of long filing drawers that had been removed from their cabinets and stacked here. File cabinets and closets, bins and boxes. It appealed immediately to her unchecked sense of curiosity, and she couldn’t resist exploring.

Ambling to the nearest table, she wiped away the layer of dust on the top book in a stack. It was labeled with a range of years, and appeared to contain names, titles, property records, tax levies, transactions and other details. Idly she moved from stack to stack, shifting books around until she found herself restacking them in a different order. She found books with histories of the city, the districts, the residents, municipal projects. She found cultural collections, religious collections, arcane collections. Militia muster rolls and pay vouchers. Maps. Employment records. Birth, marriage, and death certificates. Immigration and census records. Harbormaster diaries and ship manifests. Things she didn’t know existed. Old things.

City Hall archives

At some point she stopped. She poured herself a drink from the thermos and sipped as she scanned the room thoughtfully. At last she made a decision. Contrary to popular belief, Junie wasn’t lazy; she was just terminally bored, and now she was on the run from Mumsy as well. The Mayor was obviously in need of some assistance here, and other than paying taxes*, she hadn’t really made herself very useful in a city full of builders. Besides, Victor Mornington shouldn’t be the only one with access to City Hall. She smirked to herself. Victor had obviously never been in here; he would have left hoof prints in the dust.

For the rest of the day she occupied herself with the business of dusting and organizing. Restacking and reshelving. Tidying and cleaning. It wasn’t going to be done in a day, but at least one area looked much better. And she knew that her filing and shelving system was much better than whatever “throw it into the room and leave it where it lands” system had been used to date.

Finally deciding that her eyes and sinuses couldn’t take much more, she packed up her thermos and her trashy novel, and scribbled a note to leave on the Mayor’s desk on her way out.

Dear Clockwinder Tenk,

I hereby apply for the position of City Archivist. I think you will find I have already gotten a good start on reorganizing, and I bet it will be much easier to find what you need now.

I can start in the morning. See you tomorrow around 11:00.

Juniper Ginsburg

P.S. –  Please don’t tell Mumsy.

* Well, Junie hoped she had been paying taxes anyway; she’d have to ask Martin how that was going.

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  1. Vic Mornington Vic Mornington October 12, 2019

    Mornington sat back, pleased with himself after firing up the old boilers in the cellar to get the radiators ready for the coming winter season, the last time he lit the boilers, one of them almost exploded…

    The tall blonde woman came strolling into the small records office to the side of the restaurant…

    “Vic, that redhead was seen again in city hall”

    “Hmmm? Which one, theres several redheads that go in and out of the hall all the time…”

    “A Ms Ginsburg…”

    “Wait…” Vic turned round to look at the tall blonde… “Thats the 5th day in a row shes been in there…did you track her?

    “Yes, she went up to the mezzanine and into one of the rooms at the back…”

    “…the back of the mezzanine? There’s nothing back there but some dusty old shelves and a couple of unused storage rooms …nah, i doubt its anything to worry about…”

    Vic turned back round to start filing more records, the tall blonde woman had a frown on her face, but decided not to say anything and wandered out….

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