Wednesday, May 9, 2018
Hey, Sheiks and Shebas. Welcome back to Jazz Age Wednesdays. The weekly three things and images, from my “partner in crime” Rob Goldstein, spontaneously guide what I’m writing. Last week he did an image of an Art Deco angel as part of my mystical diesel-punk train’s controls. That caused me to see more of the train. I can tell you, Valentino has one luxurious way to travel!
I guess this is a spoiler, but it has nothing to do with the plot… I had already given the train a control room with mystical gizmos for navigation and communications, and then an automat. Now I have deluxe sleeper cars — with attendants. Between Rob and me, Lulu freaked out when she suddenly realized the bath had attendants…
Rob did another video for us (below). I’m happy to be able to feature more of the artwork of Rob Goldstein.
Today we have Chapter 6 of the Roaring Twenties fantasy series, Hullaba Lulu. The “dieselpunk*” train has reached Atlantic City.
Previously with Hullaba Lulu, Chapter 5
From Chapter 5
In the distance ahead, I could make out bits of the boardwalk. I saw the great Ferris wheel and the tallest hills of the old Loop the Loop.
“Hold on a minute!” I exclaimed. “Atlantic City took down the Loop the Loop in 1912. I’ve only seen it in photographs.”
In the midst of the strange flashing lights, the tilt-a-whirl spun wildly.
The Garconne Look, Tarot Cards, Kodak Brownie
The loudspeaker had a calm voice as it spoke, “Nearing destination. Prepare to disembark.”
It was the slightest shift, but I felt the train begin to decelerate. Suddenly excited, I wanted to remember this adventure forever. Plus, that Loop the Loop — I needed a picture of that so people would believe it was there.
I ran down the corridor toward Gramps’ sleeper car, hoping he brought his Kodak Brownie with him. When I came to the spiral staircase that went up to the control room, I paused to look up the stairs. Everything seemed quiet and dark. I figured everyone was getting ready to leave the train.
A moment later I was at my grandfather’s room, but he wasn’t there. I saw his open suitcase on the bed and moved to see if the camera was there. Gramps might not think to take it with him.
A soft click caused me to turn. My eyes bulged at what I beheld.
“May I help you, Miss?”
“You’re an automaton!” I exclaimed after a stunned moment. “A golden angel like the sculpture in the control room… but you’re an automaton.”
With halting movements he bowed. His eyes blinked with another quiet click.
“I’m the sleeper car attendant. May I help you, Miss? Your companions have gone to the amusement park. You will need these,” he said with a slight southern drawl.
He handed me a brown paper sack. The aroma of the contents reached my nose before I opened the bag. It contained several cheeseburgers.
“Oh, thank you, but I just ate,” I told him.
“Yes, I see,” he said and touched the side of my mouth with a white linen napkin embroidered with the letter V. “There was a bit of mustard. The cheeseburgers are currency. You will need them. You’d best hurry. Your companions have already disembarked.”
I followed the golden angel-looking automaton into the corridor. We had to step aside when three more of the clockwork creatures needed to pass. I noticed they held various cleaning implements. I stopped them, and asked a bunch of questions.
Angel-bots! I thought in amazement.
“Hang on just a minute. How many of you clockwork people are on this train? And no offence, but you all look just alike. How do I know one of you from another? Do you have names?”
“There are sufficient numbers of us to assist in keeping the train in good working order and take care of all the passenger needs as well,” the sleeper car valet told me as the other three made soft clicking noises. “We haven’t had a need for names, so we have none.”
When I stood speechless, another of them inquired in a voice touched by the Bronx, “May we assist you, Miss?”
I found it unaccountably disturbing that they all looked so much alike. It reminded me of the time I met triplets when I was very young. I wanted to give them all rhyming names like the triplets, but I wasn’t any kind of poet.
The first one, with the southern accent seemed to understand that something bothered me.
“We all look very much alike, except for the red-gold attendant,” he said.
The three housekeepers made mechanical chuckling noises. He turned his placid face toward them. I had the feeling that he would have blushed if he could. I felt a little sorry for him.
“She’s a hotsy-totsy!” he confessed with a shuffle of his feet. “I tried to learn flapper language when I heard the train was going to Atlantic City,” he added, sounding entirely practical.
“Red-gold?” I asked. “She must be Ginger then, and Hot Ginger because I think she’s your blue serge! So, my friend, that would make you Dynamite.”
Suddenly inspired by the Nagasaki song I turned to the other three and stated, “That makes you three Wiki, Wacky, and Woo, like the song.”
“The song, Miss?” Dynamite asked.
“Hot Ginger and Dynamite! Somethin’ something’ and wicky wacky, woo!” I belted out a bar of the tune, or the part I could remember anyway.
For a moment there was silence. Then I was surrounded by clicking noises. They started chattering to each other. I thought they were excited to have names. I know ― everyone thinks clockwork creatures don’t have emotions, but I was there. I was sure they liked having names.
A familiar excited giggle drew me to a brightly painted booth. Pearl had found a fortuneteller automaton. It was much less sophisticated than the angel-bots on the train. Its voice had no infliction as it prompted us.
“The gypsy knows all, sees all. What would you divine?” it asked repeatedly as it spread tarot cards on the small table inside its booth.
“Go ahead, Lulu! Ask it a question. It gave me ‘the lovers’ card,” Pearl told me.
“You always ask about love, and they always tell you that you’ll find it. I never know what to ask,” I complained. “Oh, okay. How is the Loop the Loop still here when it was taken down in 1912? Did we go back in time?” I added in a softer voice.
The automaton stopped and looked right at me. Something about the sudden change in clockwork movement gave me the heebie-jeebies. The gypsy gathered the tarot cards and spread them again. It drew out a card with a drawing of a man hanging by his foot. The fortuneteller moved the card so that the man was laying down.
“Sideways,” was all the automaton said.
“We didn’t move east or west, or forward or backward…” I began.
“Sideways,” it repeated.
I gave a frustrated sigh. Why couldn’t the blasted thing be useful? I turned to Pearl and asked her where Rose was. My fair-haired friend shrugged, then she giggled and asked the fortuneteller.
“Where is our friend, Rose?”
The gypsy automaton gathered the tarot cards, spread them, and turned over the Three of Swords. The design on the card was like the leaflet I found in the automat. There was an image of a heart pierced by three swords. I shuddered.
“Betrayal,” the fortuneteller said.
The air was split by a loud scream. The sound echoed around the amusement park.
“Rose?” I exclaimed.
I turned around, looking everywhere. At first, I saw no one. Then I saw a shadow that somehow made me think of the Ford with a bunch of G-men – or that’s what they looked like. That was the night we met Tom Driberg. I muttered his name.
Abruptly I realized that Pearl was gone. She must have gone to look for Rose. I took a breath to call for Pearl, when I the sound of feet pounding the pavement made me turn.
“Speak of the devil,” I snorted. “I should have known you were here when I glimpsed those G-men just now,” I told Tom Driberg. “But how did you manage to get here”
“I heard Rose scream. Where is she?” he asked.
He sounded suspiciously calm and I commented on the fact.
“Tomato, didn’t anybody notice the handcar that hooked onto the end of the train? I thought my stowaway jig was up when one of those clockwork angel things found me. Anyhow, those weren’t G-men,” he told me in a voice tinged with contempt. “Those are Russian agents. They must have gotten to Margosha before I could. I mean your friend Rose. Margosha is her first name. Rose is her middle name. Didn’t you know? Her monogram, MRM didn’t tell you anything?” he added with a condescending chuckle that grated my patience.
I looked around wildly for my friends. Half panicked, I didn’t know what to do.
“Calm down. They won’t hurt her. They mean to use her to get to me. You see, I quit them and they think dragging Margosha back into the spy business will force me to join them again.”
“What do you mean dragging her back?” I demanded.
The noise of screeching metal caused me to look away. It sounded like something huge moving in a way that it had no business moving. When I turned back to Tom, he was gone. Twisting around in a circle I searched for any familiar face. The scream could have come from any direction. Tom could have run anywhere, so could Pearl.
Not knowing what to do, or where to do it, I started walking forward, farther into the park. In the distance I saw a woman wearing the menswear inspired Garconne look. Her face reminded me of one that I mostly knew from pictures.
I brought up the Kodack and aimed. Abruptly she turned toward me. I took the photo.
The woman who looked like my mother ran. I followed.
Panting, I paused, hands on knees as I tried to catch my breath. A brightly painted clown face marked the entrance to the tilt-a-whirl. The clown had curved line for an innocent smile, and his eyes were little plus marks. I looked beyond the sign to the ride.
I spotted her.
With a glance over her shoulder, Lauren did something, moving the levers on the ride’s controls. She climbed onto one of the tilt-a-whirl cars. It spun and turned, faster and faster. Soon it looked like a blur.
Bright lights flashed. Metal gears shrieked. Green smoke poured from the machinery and the cars. The tilt-a-whirl slowed to a stop. No one was aboard the ride. I ran to the car where Lauren had been. It was as empty as all the others.
My eyes were drawn back to the clown sign. The face had changed. His eyes openly leered and his grin grin was vulpine, downright scary. The gears of the ride groaned to a stop.
Well, I’m not sure what to say about that… Except maybe that I will think twice before I get on a tilt-a-whirl again. And where the Sam Hill did everybody go?
Next time, Chapter 7 — Pocket Watch, Pittura Metafisica, Bubblegum.
I hope you’ll click over and check out Rob’s blog. You’ll find more fabulous images and videos there.
Thanks for visiting. You’re the oyster’s earrings!
PS: Remember my other 1920s books — the original “three things” stories about Paisley Idelle Peabody, aka Pip, and her friends.
This is a work of fiction. Characters, names, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.
Artwork Copyright © 2018 by Rob Goldstein
Copyright © 2018 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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