Wednesday, May 16, 2018
Welcome back to Jazz Age Wednesdays. Today’s episode of Hullaba Lulu brings us to Chapter 7 of the series. I hope you are enjoying my diesel-punk change of pace from the “Pip-verse.”
Once again I have more of the pos-i-lutely fabulous artwork from Rob Goldstein. We’re also having inspiring discussions and he’s sending me “three things” to spontaneously drive each chapter of this pantser story.
Update: Rob just finished another video.
I’m offering a little challenge. Where would you take this story with pocket watch, Ferris wheel, and bubblegum? Read on to see where those three things took my imagination.
If you need to catch up with past chapters, look to the right of the screen. Scroll down to Categories, and click Hullaba Lulu*. That will take you to all the past episodes. Or click over to this post from Rob, which has links to chapters 1 through 5.2 and a video.
Previously with Hullaba Lulu
Bright lights flashed. Metal gears shrieked. Green smoke poured from the machinery and the cars. The tilt-a-whirl slowed to a stop. Lauren had vanished.
My eyes were drawn back to the clown sign. His grin was vulpine, downright scary. The gears of the ride groaned to a stop. listening.
Do you hear the Valentino’s trumpet call?
Pocket Watch, Ferris Wheel, Bubblegum
It seemed like the force of a bull elephant ran past me. He barely brushed my shoulder, but it was so strong I stumbled to one knee. My grandfather practically flew to the tilt-a-whirl car where Lauren had been.
Of course, it was empty. Gramps bolted to the ride’s controls. He hesitated briefly. He wouldn’t know what my mother had done to make the tilt-a-whirl behave so violently strange. However, there were only a few levers ― a lucky guess was easily possible.
What if Gramps got on that ride and vanished the way Lauren did? I always knew my mother had abandoned me when I was small. Gramps never tried to sugarcoat the facts. It was just as well with me if Lauren disappeared. But not Gramps. I couldn’t bear the thought of losing him. The idea of him leaving me like that way… it was even worse.
His eyes held wild determination. It frightened me to see his face transformed to an expression of such desperation. I wanted to throw him to the ground to keep him away from the tilt-a-whirl, but few men would be capable of that. I certainly wasn’t big enough. Gramps wasn’t just the owner of a speakeasy, he was also the bouncer. He was a physically powerful man.
I couldn’t let that stop me. With a gulp of air, I moved toward my grandfather. I heard the clip of the heel taps on those pointy toed patent leather shoes just before Valentino barreled past me. I spun around, but at least I remained standing.
Valentino grabbed Gramps from behind in a bearhug. To me, it seemed like a foolish thing to try. I didn’t know anybody stronger than Gramps. The two men struggled furiously. At one point, Valentino leaned back, lifting Gramps’ feet off the floor. My grandfather wasn’t able to break his hold. I couldn’t believe anyone would be able to restrain Gramps like that.
His gold chain came loose in the struggle and an engraved pocket watch fell from my grandfather’s jacket. The watch slid to a stop near my feet. Gramps opened the watch every day, but he wasn’t checking the time. He opened it to read the inscription. “I’ll love you throughout time. Priscilla.” The watch was a present from my grandmother on their wedding day.
Once I had thought Gramps would make a match with the seamstress on the next block. He chuckled and told me that Priscilla was his one true love and he would never try to replace her with anyone. He lost Lauren too. That was as bad because she wanted to leave, and her indifference to Gramps and me, made it even harder for him.
The men were yelling at each other. Gramps refused to hear what Valentino was saying, so the enigmatic man kept saying it louder.
“You can’t reach her! The tilt-a-whirl never goes to the same destination twice!” Valentino repeated. “What if that wasn’t even Lauren?”
He wasn’t speaking to me, but the question left me cold. What if it wasn’t Lauren? I wasn’t sure I would recognize my mother if she walked up to me. I just remembered she liked the tomboy styles and the more polished Garconne look. It didn’t occur to me that the woman I glimpsed could be someone else. Yet, why would someone else run away? I guess I also wondered why Laruen would run, then or when she left us for that matter. I pushed the thought away.
“It looked like her. And that man’s suit. She wore those clothes just to thumb her nose at everybody. It must have been her,” Gramps growled between grunts as he tried to break Valentino’s hold.
“This is no ordinary place. If you get in that machine, you could be lost forever! And the one thing that is certain is that you would not land in the place where she went!” Valentino shouted.
Finally, Gramps stopped struggling. He looked into Valentino’s eyes and must have seen honesty. His eyes turned to me and the tension left his body. I heard him murmur my name.
“Lulu, I’m sorry,” Gramps began with a tear at the corner of one eye. “I thought I could bring her back to you.”
His words surprised me. I came to terms with my situation a long time before that day. Apparently, Gramps had not. He hung his head.
“Gramps, after everything I’ve heard about my mother… After the things I read in the ‘return to sender’ letters you mailed to her― Of course I read them!” I blurted out when he tried to interrupt me. “I never wanted Lauren back in our lives! You’re all I need, Gramps.”
He lifted his head. Gramps looked at me like he’d never seen me before. I took his big rough hand in mine. Valentino cleared his throat.
“Not to intrude, but have you seen your friends, Lulu? That journalist who was nosing around the speakeasy seems overly interested in Rose. I saw him a moment ago. I don’t like the cut of his jib,” Valentino said, bringing me back to the present. “We should look for them. Have you any idea where they would go?”
I shook my head. My mind was still working with what had just happened. It didn’t have enough thoughts left over to work my mouth.
“There’s a big map of the park right over there. Maybe you’ll see something that would interest Pearl and Rose. Somewhere they may have gone,” he offered.
Valentino took my elbow to point me in the right direction. I must have looked pretty distracted. He kept his other hand firmly around my grandfather’s bicep as if he thought Gramps might bolt back to the tilt-a-whirl.
“That’s one huge map,” I stated. “Okay, lemme see. Pearl and Rose both like the water, so they might look for the bathhouse. But they didn’t bring a figleaf,” I commented, but noted the two confused looking faces. “You know, a one-piece bathing suit.”
“There might be a boutique for that kind of thing. Perhaps they went looking for a shop,” Valentino suggested and he and Gramps turned back to the map.
Men always seemed to want to take over when it came to map reading. My stomach rumbled. I wished I hadn’t exchanged that bag of cheeseburgers for tokens when I entered the park. I saw a vending machine a few feet away and went to investigate, hoping it would have an apple, or even a cup of soda. Unfortunately, it only dispensed stockings, stamps, and bubblegum. With a sigh, I put a token in the machine and got some Wrigley’s Near Miss gum.
With a mouthful of bubblegum, I tried to chew away my appetite. I thought I could probably make a pretty swell bubble. Carefully, steadily expelling air into the chewy pink, I blew the biggest bubble of my life. It was nearly as big as my head!
My eyes darted around, but I didn’t see anyone to share my achievement. Suddenly the bubble popped. Sticky pink bits of various sizes plastered my face. Instantly I switched from wanting someone to see me to hoping no one would get a look at me. I jumped and tried to hide my face when I heard a voice behind me.
“May I help you, Miss?” came a familiar drawl.
“Dynamite!” I exclaimed. “Oh, yes. Can you help me get this gum off my face?”
The angel-bot delicately touched my face with cool metal fingers, picking away the gum. I hadn’t noticed that he wasn’t alone. The other angel-bot waited quietly, eyes downcast.
“There you are, Miss. May I assist you with anything else?”
“I don’t suppose you know where my pals Rose and Pearl are?” I asked but received the expected negative reply. “Who’s your friend?”
“This one works behind the automat,” Dynamite introduced his companion. “Wicky, Wacky, and Woo told him that you had given us names. He begs your indulgence.”
“Yes, Giver of Names, would you be so kind?” he asked in a British accent.
I heard clicks and whirrs as the angel-bot bowed. Standing upright he glanced at my eyes but seemed too contrite to hold my gaze.
“Giver of Names?” I asked in astonishment.
A duet of “Yes, Miss” was the reply. I was taken aback. I wouldn’t just dish out a name willy nilly. They took my pause the wrong way.
“We’ve been too forward, Miss. Please accept our apologies,” Dynamite said and both angel-bots took a step backward.
“No, no. I’d be tickled to give your friend a name,” I assured them. “I just want it to be a good one.”
My eyes fell on the bright golden surface of the angel-bot. It reflected like a mirror. I could see Gramps and Valentino coming toward us. The bots noticed them and shifted as if the presence of the men made them nervous. I thought they might leave, but they settled and turned their attention back to me.
“If you’re pals with Dynamite,” I began as inspiration struck. “Then you must be Boom-boom!”
With a soft click the angel-bot blinked his eyes. The two clockwork creatures turned to one another. I was afraid he didn’t like the name. Then he lifted up onto his tiptoes a couple of times, almost like bouncing. Both the angel-bots nodded.
“Boom-boom, yes. Thank you, Miss. I am grateful,” he said.
By then Gramps and Valentino were there. My grandfather didn’t seem to think anything about the odd little scene. The sheik was another matter. He looked astonished.
“I’ve never seen an angel-bot leave the train before. Yet these two disembarked to seek you. And for a name? It’s the most remarkable thing I’ve ever seen,” Valentino commented wonderingly.
I jumped and screamed at a sudden cold shock.
As ice slid down my back I whirled around to find Rose and Pearl, each holding a snow cone. I demanded to know where they’d been.
“I ducked into a house of mirrors and I couldn’t find my way out,” Rose began.
“She was hiding from that nosey Tom. He’s trying too hard to get her back if you ask me. He gives me the creeps. Anyhow, I saw Rose in one of the mirrors and went in to help,” Pearl finished.
“But I heard you scream,” I complained.
“That first distorted reflection scared the bejesus out of me,” Rose defended.
An annoying feeling, which I pushed aside, made me wonder if that was all there was to it.
“Oh look!” Pearl cried. “There’s the gypsy fortuneteller. Rose, you have to get Sipsing to read your cards.”
We were near the brightly painted Ask Sipsing booth again. The automaton inside wasn’t as “human” as the angel-bots. Its voice had no infliction as it mechanically called out to us.
“Sipsing the gypsy king knows all, sees all. What would you divine?” it asked as it spread tarot cards on the small table inside its booth.
“What’s in my friend’s future? Sipsing, will Rose find true love?” Pearl asked the machine when Rose wouldn’t ask it a question.
I rolled my eyes. All Pearl could think about was romance.
The gypsy automaton turned over the Wheel of Fortune card. Behind me Valentino drew a sharp breath.
The two angel-bots turned back toward the rides, watching intently. Valentino went pale. He whirled around seeming to look everywhere at once. The ground trembled. I heard a loud bang! Behind us the giant Ferris wheel lurched. The A-frame structures holding the wheel collapsed.
The great wheel rolled inexorably toward us.
Real World Notes
Bubblegum: In 1928, an accountant invented bubblegum. Walter Diemer, was experimenting with new gum recipes. One recipe was less sticky than regular chewing gum, and stretched more easily. The original bubble gum was pink in color because that was the dye that Diemer had most on hand at the time.
Ferris Wheel: The original, sometimes also referred to as the Chicago Wheel, was designed and constructed by George Washington Gale Ferris Jr.. With a height of 80.4 metres (264 ft) it was the tallest attraction at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois, where it opened to the public on June 21, 1893.
Sipsing: I named the gypsy fortuneteller automaton for a real life gypsy king in England. Spising is reputed to have ruled 11 years before being hanged for a murder in Wombourn, Staffordshire, having escaped the same fate earlier by seeking sanctuary in Westminster Abbey. (Wikipedia)
Stay tuned for more spontaneously written fun. The things driving Chapter 8 are Chanel No. 5, Pittura Metafisica, Videophone, and Route 66! That’s right — four things. I’ll have an extra challenge with a fourth thing. Be sure to come back next week to see where those take our diesel-punk train.
Thanks for visiting. You’re the oyster’s earrings!
PS: I can’t forget 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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