Wednesday, June 6, 2018
Welcome back to Jazz Age Wednesdays. You know this story is spontaneously written. Saturday I followed the impulse to do a recap… before Wednesday. I added the rewind to one of the next set of things from Rob Goldstein who creates the gorgeous images and videos for this series. (Click here for the entire collection of videos.) So, that made the recap Chapter 9.1. Today’s episode of Hullaba Lulu brings us to Chapter 9.2 of the series.
My Writing Process
Sometimes it takes me a bit of storytelling to make my way to a “thing.” That is what happened here. So, I’ve divided this chapter yet again. I hope you enjoy the ride.
Previously with Hullaba Lulu
It looked like the angel-bots were up to some matchmaking for Dynamite and his blue surge, Ginger. They were excited that the Ouija board pointed to the Cotton Club as the train’s next destination. Lulu didn’t seem so thrilled.
The automat provided money. Even though it looked wrong, Boom-boom assured Lulu that nothing was amiss, including Bolshies or Russian spies. However, based on the strange currency, the she thinks that just as Atlantic City wasn’t the same place she knew, the Cotton Club might be similarly strange.
It’s time for Chapter 9.2. Do you hear Valentino’s trumpet?
“Lulu! Horsefeathers! Where did you go? C’mon. Everybody is ready to go to the Cotton Club,” Rose called.
The corridors of the train rang with Rose and Pearl separately, calling my name. They had split up to look for me. I didn’t mean to be coy. I wasn’t hiding, not exactly. I just wanted to be alone. When I should have been in my sleeper car, changing into my glad rags, I went to the darkened control room of the train instead.
Solemnly I poked around all the glosy glowy gismos. I touched the golden control angel statue with the tip of one finger – just because I wasn’t supposed to touch anything. I knew it was some sort of machine, but it couldn’t move around like the angel-bots.
My peripheral vision caused me to whirl back to face it. I could have sworn the angel’s eyes opened. Although they were closed. I walked away, then jumped around, intending to take it by surprise if its eyes were open. The eyes were closed.
I moved to a device with a sphere and lightning blots that ran steadily to another machine.
“Hello, Miss. Your friends are looking for you,” an angel-bot commented as he entered the control room. “Do be careful. All the instruments are precisely set and require delicate handling,” he added in the typically matter-of-fact way of the clockwork creatures.
There was a subtle Spanish sound to his voice. Rather than regular gold like most of the bots, his finish had a bluish cast. He used the same manner of speaking as the others when he answered my question about his accent. He said his voice was from Cuba.
“What’s this thing?” I asked of the lightning bolt device.
“Ah! The Tesla coil. It was made by Nikola Tesla himself and gifted to Valentino,” the angel-bot explained with a tone of awe.
I had heard of Nikola Tesla. He sounded like a real grouch. No wonder Valentino knew him. Grouches of a feather… Maybe Tesla wore those pointy toed shoes too. Those dog kennels would make anybody grumpy.
“Something seems rather off about the devise,” the angel-bot said with an inquisitive tilt to his bluish gold head. “I should—” he stopped talking and blinked at me as if I were suddenly the object of his curiosity. “Oh! Giver of Names, I didn’t realize it was you. Could I impose? I mean, if it is not too much trouble… Would you be so kind as to bestow a name upon this humble bot?”
I couldn’t help grinning. The angel-bots were downright zozzled with delight about the prospect of getting named. Again my mind went to songs in choosing a name. When the idea came to me I smiled. The clockwork man bounced on his toes in anticipation.
“Hmm, your voice is from Cuba, and there’s a bluish cast to your gold. It kind of makes me think of the— That’s it! How about, Moon? That’s from the song Cuban Moon,” I suggested.
My grin got bigger when the Orthophonic Victrola, which was part of the control room started playing the song. (Chapter 4)
Apparently Moon liked his name. In a flurry of clicks, flutters, and bounces he hurried away to tell his friends. I had no idea what he had been about to say he “should” do a moment before, but it had to do with that dangerous looking Tesla coil.
With one finger extended toward the lightning, I tried to work up the courage to touch it. Then Rose called my name from the doorway. It startled me so badly that I yelped. I jerked around, bumping into the Tesla machine as I turned. It wobbled dangerously, the lightning shot out a wild arc. I caught the machine before it could fall and hurriedly straightened it.
I wasn’t sure if the Tesla machine was facing the same way it was before. I thought maybe I placed it backwards. However, I didn’t want anyone to see that I nearly caused another hullaba calamity, as Pearl called my clumsiness. So I rushed toward the door.
“There you are! Pearl, she’s over here,” Rose called to our other friend. “Lulu, why aren’t you ready?”
“You to go ahead,” I said as Pearl hurried up to join us. “I’ll change and catch up with you in a jiffy.”
I ushered my pals off the train and moped back to my sleeper car. It had cheered me up to give Moon the angel-bot his name, but that joy faded quickly. As I walked past the jukebox in my sitting room, “Cuban Moon” started to play. It was almost as if the machine meant to remind me of that cheerfulness, but it didn’t make me smile.
My eyebrows went up when the jukebox came on by itself. Everything on that train seemed to be fluky.
I’m no stupid tomato. From the beginning I realized the train was no ordinary engine. Although everyone else seemed to ignore that fact. Abruptly I wondered if it had anything to do with the reassuring pulse of the engine.
Could some kind of mesmerism be involved?
One thing was bothering me, making me sad. I was pretty sure that train could go anywhere. It was the only chance I would ever have to travel to faraway, exciting, glamorous places. Yet instead of going to any of the hundreds of dreamy places I could imagine, it took us to Atlantic City, where I had previously been dozens of times. Worse, it had already returned to New York, if not to my home borough. I was bitterly disappointed.
A screen concealed a changing area with a tall mirror, a cushioned ottoman, and a clothes tree. I was startled when an angel-bot stepped out from behind the screen.
“Were you unhappy with the gown, Miss? When I saw that you hadn’t changed into the black gown you wore when you boarded, I brought another,” the angel-bot told me.
The metal of that angel-bot was unique. She was rose-gold. I knew Dynamite was stuck on her.
“You must be Ginger!” I exclaimed and the angel-bot nodded. “I thought all the bots were eager to go to the Cotton Club. Why are you still here?”
“Yes, Miss. Thank you, Giver of Names,” she replied. “Yes, everyone loves the club. But I heard you were sad, so I will stay behind with you.”
How could Ginger have heard that I was sad? That as creepy as the jukebox or the Orthophonic Victrola playing the song I mentioned.
I remember how excited Wicky, Wacky, and Woo had been because they had arranged for Dynamite to sing to Ginger onstage at the Cotton Club. I couldn’t ruin that surprise for any of them.
So, I pretended enthusiasm that I didn’t feel. I admit that I actually did perk up when I saw the gorgeous gown Ginger brought. It was royal purple silk and looked like an Erté original. The rose-gold bot also brought a black boa to accessorize the gown.
“There’s a bit of a walk to the club,” Ginger began. “Will your kitten heels be suitable? Ah! But there is another way. We could take the Rolls-Royce!”
I remembered Valentino had that automobile parked on the street above my grandfather’s speakeasy. (Chapter 2) You had to admit, the guy knew how to put on the Ritz!
Ginger made sure I had the gown fastened properly and that the feather boa hung just so. Then she turned with a little dance step-kick and led me down the corridor.
We entered a dark car. The rose-gold angel-bot didn’t seem to notice the dim light. Ginger moved across the room and pulled a leaver. With a series of whirring gears, a wide door opened and a ramp lowered to the ground. Sunlight flooded the train car. The green Rolls-Royce shimmered in the light.
Ginger hopped into the passenger seat. I stood still.
“Miss, is anything the matter?” she asked.
“Well… I don’t know how to drive,” I confessed.
The angel-bot shrugged with head tilted and hands spread.
“Just press that button under the dash,” she instructed.
I sat down on the supple leather seat. The burled wood dash was polished to a soft glow. I wished I had a jorum of skee for courage. All I had was bubble gum, so I took some from my beaded evening bag (Chapter 1) and in short order, blew a big bubble. This seemed to delight Ginger. Her metal hands clapped together with a sound like little cymbals.
I pressed the starter button and hit the gas. The green Rolls-Royce shot out of the train and barreled toward the Cotton Club. A man on a bicycle and a guy selling hot pretzels for a nickel scattered out of our way. We were nearly at the front door of the club.
Suddenly I realized that I didn’t know how to stop!
Real World Notes
Electric Starter: The first electric starter was installed on an Arnold, an adaptation of the Benz Velo, built in 1896 in East Peckham, England, by electrical engineer H. J. Dowsing. In 1903, Clyde J. Coleman invented and patented the first electric starter in America U.S. Patent 0,745,157.
Tesla Coil (Lightning Machine): A Tesla coil is an electrical resonant transformer circuit designed by inventor Nikola Tesla in 1891. Tesla used these circuits to conduct innovative experiments in electrical lighting, phosphorescence, X-ray generation, high frequency alternating current phenomena, electrotherapy, and the transmission of electrical energy without wires. Tesla coil circuits were used commercially in sparkgap radio transmitters for wireless telegraphy until the 1920s, and in medical equipment such as electrotherapy and violet ray devices.
Erté: His real name was Romain de Tirtoff, (born November 23, 1892, St. Petersburg, Russia—died April 21, 1990, Paris, France), a fashion illustrator of the 1920s and creator of visual spectacle for French music-hall revues. His designs included dresses and accessories for women; costumes and sets for opera, ballet, and dramatic productions; and posters and prints. (His byname was derived from the French pronunciation of his initials, R.T.) Britannica
I hope you’ll click over and check out Rob’s blog. You’ll find more fabulous images there. He also writes wonderful blog posts.
Stay tuned for more spontaneously written fun. Next time I’ll conclude Chapter 9 with Star of David. Be sure to listen next week when the call of Valentino’s trumpet summons the diesel-punk train.
Thanks for visiting. You’re the cat’s pajamas!
Now some shameless self-promotion for 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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