Fiction Funny

Part 1

She’s driving along, heading to the attractive fishing village of Muros and smiling. It wasn't because she was planning on doing any sightseeing. Not at all. She was making herself scarce. She was in the driver's seat now. (She didn't mean to make a pun, but there it was - her success story, and she was driving it.)

The person who has been referred to as she had more than one name, depending on the persons she was with and the places she was in. She had used the name Mariña this time, because everybody liked that name. It evoked the scent of salt and mossy, wet rocks, although she liked the slippery nature of the granite boulders when the waves of the Atlantic crashed into them. Slippery, as in cagey, tricky, devious. As in her ability to use her skills in order to get her hands on the book.

Still, she did have a real name, and used it half of the time, like with the people in her social group. They called her Irene.

And now Irene had finally removed the book from its proper place. She told herself it was hers now. She could control what happened to it. She needed to control it. She was on a mission.

The book didn't look like anything special unless a person looked closely at it. It looked old, of course, but had been handled so little that it didn't show its age at all. The leather covers, embossed and gilded, were not a frequent feature of books in a library, even if it was the library of the prestigious Univeresity of Santiago de Compostela. Those were more likely to be found in a special archive or a museum, and it was almost necessary to get a Papal dispensation to see them, like with the Codex Calixtinus. That twelfth-century volume was one of the most precious in the world. The Pilgrim's Guide to the Way of Saint James, it was hidden, under lock and key, in the Cathedral of the city. Yet even that book had been stoled in 2011, the found in a garage in 2012.

The book she had taken from the university library should not have been there, but Irene knew about it because she had overheard Pilar the Librarian mention it. Pilar had not looked to see if anybody was lurking around the stacks, and Mariña - the name she had used to gain access to the book area - had been shocked to know the other Pilgrim's Guide had not been under the watchful eye of the Church. It seemed that it had been taken out of the Cathedral because there was some silly fear that there would be another robbery. Irene thought that was likely to be the case.

With this book, she could practically rule the world. That might sound like an exaggeration, but she’d heard about it and the information it contained. Nobody liked to talk openly nor did people tell any details about the monetary value, and perhaps it had no price tag attached to it. Of course there were many codices that had been produced in the Middle Ages, but some stood out more than others. 

Irene's book (she liked to assert her ownership, clearly) was not unlike the miraculously beautiful Cantigas de Santa María composed by King Alphonse the Wise, although it was not as tall or wide. The illuminations were thought to be some of the finest ever produced by scribes in damp monasteries. Surprisingly, the volume had never been converted to digital form and there were few studies on it. This was quite a mystery, but perhaps that was because it supposedly dealt with women and the pilgrimage, and not just the usual information. There were said to be a number of true stories that could rewrite or expand the history of the period.

That information brought power, Irene thought again. She looked forward to sitting down in a quiet little café and pondering how to put that new status to work.

Once in Muros, Irene parked near a small square and walked to a coffee shop only a few steps from the wharf. She thought about looking for a more secluded spot, but then decided she didn't want to look like she was hiding. She wondered if she was getting cold feet. How could that be, after she had located the book, checked to see if it bore an electronic device and found it did not, grabbed it after looking all around the shelves of the stacks, then thrust it under her arm, the one she used to grip her handbag. Simple.

And now, sitting with a double coffee with milk, all she had was a description of female pilgrims’ garments on the Road of Saint James. That's what the pages were revealing to her. There was no savory information about women's secret lives, their intimate habits, the tricks they used to cure or prevent all sorts of issues. No, all Irene could see were drawings of what women wore during those centuries, along with the names for the countless accoutrements that weighed women down as they sought to walk the Road of Saint James. Sought to do penance, or to find something or someone who had gone missing, or to resolve a serious problem. The Road was not an easy one.

Yet here were dresses, headpieces, a whole collection of items Irene would never wear. This was useless, boring information. Well, maybe not useless or boring to peresons doing research on textiles from centuries ago. There was also the part about clothes and class. And how were the elaborate, unwieldy dresses actually transported? So, yes, this might be an acceptable read, for this who liked history, but it wasn't the mysterious, potent information the volume was supposed to contain.

All that hard work for nothing? The risks she had taken to spirit the codex out of the library, looking calm every step of the way, not attracting attention. To look at a medieval comic book of women's attire? She'd been duped. Maybe she should just toss it in the nearest garbage container...

No. Irene, precisely because of the effort and the risks, decided she would keep the book, find a good buyer. If she played her cards right, she could get a few thousand Euros for the darn thing. Some people are bibliophiles, and are mad about books. Well, they could have this one.

Irene hadn't even noticed the title of the book she'd purloined. She'd found it by the overheard reference to its location and because it was so much older, weightier, than the neighboring books. It had been easy to spot, so out of place was it. Now she read O Libro das Mulleres, The Book of Women, and thought it was impossible to come up with a more nondescript title. No wonder nobody talked about it much.

Part 2

The truth was, Irene hadn't actually done her homework. She was so bent on filching the codex that she had overlooked what it really contained, what people who did know about it didn't mention. Irene hadn’t known how to read the book’s descriptions nor had she been able to assess the illustrations. Illuminations, rather. The sort done with bright inks and artfully gilded. Those were pretty, it was true, but a book on women's clothing didn't normally merit being illumination. After all, fancy drawings were reserved for religious doctrines and prayers.

Irene should have thought more about that. The book she'd stolen had to be important. Anyway, she was going to drop the book off in her car and go for a stroll in Muros, pretty little place that it was, while thinking about her next step.

Pilar the Librarian knew the value of the wardrobe descriptions and that it in fact had encoded information of unmeasurable value. She had spoken on the codex, but she had been aware that she and the other librariian were not alone on that floor of the stacks. For a while now, she'd head talk, or murmuring, about the interest in the volume and thought it was only a matter of time before word got out that her library was guarding it by keeping it out in the open.

This was why Pilar actually watched the theft, and immediately alerted Pilar, Lavinia’s friend. They were concerned, of course, but soon a monitoring system had been put in place. Several sets of eyes were following Irene (who had been Mariña inside the library). When she stopped at a gas station, a car approached, but did nothing to attract her attention. Irene had no idea she was being followed when she reached Muros, not even after she went back to her car to toss the bothersome book on the passenger's seat.

Once the car's owner had moved down the small street, a figure opened the door on the passenger's side, removed the book, then left. In less than twenty seconds, the book had been purloined yet again, but this time for a very different reason. Fortunately, the persons handling it from then on were very cautious as it moved from hand to hand, and they all wore gloves.

Lavinia was waiting in her friend Pilar's car while the book was being surreptitiously removed from the seat of Irene's vehicle. She'd understood immediately that something was occurring and both women with the same name (Pilar) were taking urgent action. What could possibily be so important about the volume O Libro das Mulleres? She knew she had to know more. As a librarian, of course, and as a specialist in gender studies, she was justified in being curious. She’d been with Pilar in Santiago de Compostela when the call came from the other Pilar, the Librarian. She wanted to go along. No, demanded to go along.

For her part, Irene came back to where she'd parkerd her Seat, but she didn’t notice the document was gone. This was logical, because it had been beneath her jacket on the passenger’s seat until she arrived in Muros. She'd put it back there before going for a walk. 

When Irene decided to look at the book again, she could not find it where she'd left it, beneath her jacket. She knew right away that somebody had taken it. Somebody who was probably misinformed about the value of the book, like she had been. Worst of all, she had no way oof tracing the book. She certainly couldn't report a stolen item that she had stolen first... 

Irene was angry. She was really bad at this theft thing. Did she have a back-up plan for another book of comparable worth and interest? Or should she look for another way to make a living?

Part 3

Pilar and Lavinia returned to Pilar the Librarian’s office. They were extremely pleased with what they've stolen, even though neither one had committed theft ever. This was a whole other situation.

Pilar brought out a wrapped package, book-like but well-swaddled. The three women spent the next four hours poring over it, using a special conservation illumination the library owns. The four hours could have been forty, but it had gotten late, and they wanted to work with clearer heads than they had right then.

They met at eight the next morning. Lunch time surprised them, so deep in the text (and its illuminations) were they. Why?

Part 4 (Editor's Note)

O Libro das Mulleres (The Book of Women) contains information as to the exact location of the secret codex for female pilgrims. It is deferred information, used to protect it at every step of the way. The Book of Women is not as valuable in itself (although it is certainly valued by bibliophiles) as is the way it passes on information that will lead to the discovery of the secret code. The information is concealed in O Libro das Mulleres by clothing: skirts, bodices, blousons. These garments have a secret language, like the language of flowers. 

That is not all. There is clear evidence that The Book of Women information on other themes, events, or person. For example, as desterradas, the exiled. And a much more complete history of Exeria the Pilgrim, and María Balteira. Everybody knows Balteira got the short end of thee stick as far as reputations. The new information could change the image of this woman. Rewrite history with history, the realstory.

Pilar points out that as desterradas are Benedictine nuns, and Pilar the Librarian mentions that the Convent of San Paio’s residents are also Benedictines. The question is whether this coincidence matters. Pilar the Librarian points out that the convent has an immense amount of documents in its archives. Desterradas, exiled, landless... why do women become nuns and what do nuns actually do?

The analysis of O Libro das Mulleres is still in progress. The aim is to remove the clothing that serves to conceal the true body of information, knowledge, and wisdom women have.

Please check back soon for an update. It will be titled Our Library, Part 2.

September 11, 2021 03:36

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