Wednesday, April 24, 2019
It’s finally time! I’ve been promising you a short story with illustrations by Rob Goldstein. Lulu, Gramps, and Valentino are joined by a couple of unexpected characters in this one episode story. I call it “One Million Years B-Lulu.” It’s a little riff on “One Million Years BC,” which featured Raquel Welsh. Don’t ask me why that particular scenario popped into my head. I’ve told you that I’m just not wired right. The three random things Rob gave me to drive the story are velociraptor, stone axe, and capacitors.
Rob is featuring the story as a guest post today at Sue Vincent‘s blog, so I hope you’ll click over and visit them. I’m posting it here as well. Without further ado…
One Million Years B-Lulu
Soft clicking noises took on a familiar rhythm. I looked over at the blue-gold angel-bot as he worked at a control station of Valentino’s amazing train. The bot started humming to match the beat of his clicks and whirrs. The sound reminded me of a music box.
Most of the train’s angel-bots were gold. This clockwork creature was the only blue hued one. Of all the bots, he was the savviest to the workings of the mysterious train. I had named him Moon, after the song “Cuban Moon,” because of the subtle Spanish accent of his deep voice. That’s the tune he hummed.
I loved to dance, so I did a few steps of the Brazilian Samba to his humming. One turn caused me to bump into a table. Exotic, futuristic looking instruments wobbled dangerously. Fortunately, nothing fell ― that time. I admit that I’m known for my clumsiness. They didn’t sing “Don’t Bring Lulu” when they talked about me for nothin’.
“Lulu, how many times have I told you ― don’t touch anything,” Valentino complained as he walked into the control room.
I stopped dancing. Moon gave me a sheepish look, as if he felt partly responsible. Valentino raised one eyebrow suspiciously at the angel-bot’s reaction.
“Don’t mind him, Moon. He’s just grumpy because those pointy-toed dog kennels hurt his feet,” I told my clockwork friend. “Go ahead and hum.”
The enigmatic Valentino looked from me to the bot in surprise.
“You’ve taught him to hum? I wasn’t aware that they could,” Valentino commented.
An odd device I hadn’t noticed sat on one of the train’s control tables. It resembled an hourglass, but rather than sand, it contained a gooey glowing substance. Fascinated, I extended one finger toward the slowly moving molten goo.
“Lulu, don’t touch anything,” Gramps spoke by rote as he strode into the room.
“Especially not the time delineator!” Valentino added.
Startled, I jerked my finger back so hard that the feather in my headband wobbled and the fringe of my short skirt swayed. I wasn’t expecting my grandfather.
“Ah! Sir. Good. I have finished the adjustments to your pocket watch,” Moon called to Gramps from across the room.
The angel-bot extended his mechanical arm to twice its usual length to hand me the pocket watch, since I was closest to my grandfather. I was in a playful mood, so I decided to toss it to Gramps, rather than walk around the control tables and across the room to hand the timepiece to him.
I drew back my arm to make the toss. The watch went into the air, rotating as it flew. When my arm came back down, I knocked over the goo-filled hourglass thingy Valentino called the time delineator.
The glass cracked. In midair, a drop of glowing goo splashed against the engraved pocket-watch my grandfather cherished. It had been a gift from my late grandmother.
Abruptly I felt like a heavy weight sat on my head. My feet tingled like they were asleep. My stomach was up where my throat was supposed to be. Plus, I felt like I had sneezed ― but in reverse.
The pocket-watch slowed until time really did stand still. The glow of the goo grew until it became spherical, surrounding the pocket-watch. Abruptly, both disappeared in a sphere of sparks.
When I opened my eyes after the inverse sneeze, everything around me looked like a Slavador Dali painting. Then the world went black.
I’m not sure how much time passed, but as consciousness returned to my aching head, I realized that I was face down on the ground. And I do mean ground. It wasn’t the floor of the control room against my face.
Warm breath snuffled against my face, sniffing. My nose wrinkled. The sniffer had bad breath. I cracked open one peeper for a discrete look, and found a human eye locked on mine. He grunted and sniffed some more. When his nose headed where it had no business going, I scrambled backward.
“Hey! Watch it!” I exclaimed. “I’m not some easy biscuit. Mind your manners.”
The train sat all catawampus nearby. Amid the enormous leaves of strange plants, it looked as out of place as a wallflower at a speakeasy.
I sprawled on rocky terrain with scraggly bushes and gnarled trees. Behind me was the mouth of a cave. Leaning curiously over me was the smelly, fur clad man who woke me with his sniffing.
I remembered the goo-filled hourglass falling. I gulped. Hard.
A rapid rhythm of clicks and whirrs emanated from Moon, the angel-bot. Valentino’s head was down. He murmured in low worried tones as the angel-bot clicked.
Gramps stooped to pick up his sunglasses. He blew the dust off them and tucked the spectacles into the breast pocket inside his jacket. Reflexively he reached to the watch pocket of his vest. He patted the empty pocket.
His pocket-watch was gone.
“Bushwa!” he muttered, though he looked heartbroken.
I gasped as fire singed my eyebrows. The caveman waved a flaming stick, jabbing it toward my bobbed hair.
“Yes, her hair is the color of fire,” Valentino spoke in placating tones that one might use with a frightened animal.
The smelly sniffer appeared to take Valentino’s word for it that the fiery hue was normal for my hair, however unusual it must have been to him.
“Lulu!” Gramps hissed in a cautionary way, and I knew he thought the caveman was dangerous.
Laying my hand against my chest, I spoke slowly.
“I’m Lulu. Who are you?” I pointed to him as I asked.
“Loana. Fair one,” his gravelly voice pronounced and reached toward my bubs.
“Hey! Watch yourself. I’m a nice girl,” I cautioned him as I jumped backward.
Valentino snorted and I shot him a glare.
“No,” I continued from three feet away. “Lulu. I’m Lu-lu.”
He nodded and clapped his hand against his chest.
“Tumac. Tumac strong! Tumac be Lulu’s daddy,” he added with a leer.
“Where did you learn that language,” Valentino raised an eyebrow and asked suspiciously.
“Nupondi,” Tumac replied. “Nupondi look like you,” he added with a sweeping motion that indicated Valentino head to toe.
“Someone dressed like me?” Valentino asked, though Tumac clearly didn’t understand the words.
Gramps had a worried expression on his face.
“Nupondi come back when he smells grub.”
Tumac motioned toward a fire-pit where a large carcass of something roasted on a spit. I didn’t know what it was, but the aroma made my stomach growl. The cave man chortled at the sound. He gave me a companionable shove toward the fire and I stumbled. Tumac really was strong, that was no boast.
Soon I held the biggest crispy drumstick I had ever seen. Juice ran down my arm as I hungrily sunk my teeth into it.
“Where does she get her appetite?” Valentino asked my grandfather in a tone that combined revulsion and stunned admiration.
My grand father shrugged. He had been more interested in poking around in the bushes, looking for his pocket-watch than eating. However, when Tumac acted offended that he wouldn’t eat, Gramps finally sat down at the fire.
“It really isn’t bad,” Gramps commented and pointedly made a yummy sound to gratify Tumac. “I wonder what it is.”
“V’locy. Mama v’locy,” Tumac mumbled around a mouthful. “Find eggs too. Big breakfast at sunup.”
Near the entrance of a cave I spotted the clutch of eggs. Each one was about the size of a pigskin football. I couldn’t imagine what kind of chicken could lay eggs so big.
“V’locy?” Valentino repeated and his face blanched. “Velociraptor?” he exclaimed. “Lulu, leave those eggs alone. Even a hatchling could be deadly.”
“Oh, don’t give me that phonus balonus!” I told him and inspected the eggs.
The bushes rustled. Tumac sniffed the air. Gramps quickly grabbed the burning stick the caveman had waved around earlier. He held it defensively.
The caveman didn’t seem concerned. He grunted and muttered “Nupondi.”
Gramps jabbed the flaming stick toward the bushes.
“Horsefeathers! Have a care or you’ll set the whole place on fire!” an unexpectedly familiar voice protested.
“Tom?” I exclaimed as he nonchalantly tucked something into his pocket. “Tom Driberg! You were on the lamb from those hooligans. So, this is where you wound up?”
Tom had betrayed us all, particularly my pal Rose. We weren’t the only ones he quatched. It turned out he had been a spy for both the Americans and the Russians.
That small motion of his hand to his pocket didn’t escape my notice. Gramps squinted. He had seen it too. Tom was being a little too smooth, even for Tom. He gave a guilty glance at Gramps. Tom looked like a man who knew he had been caught.
“Well, Lulu. Aren’t you just the cat’s particulars,” Tom said, stepping toward me.
Suddenly, Tom grabbed me and a surprisingly sharp stone axe was pressed against my throat.
“Give me that pocket-watch, Driberg,” Gramps demanded. “It’s meaningless to you.”
“Quite the contrary old man,” Tom replied with a smirk. “There aren’t any capacitors here. Your beloved watch isn’t special just because it came from your wife, you know. It can be modified to work as a time delineator, and I can finally go home!”
Tom’s sentence ended with an oof! Tumac snuck up behind him and grabbed both of us, lifting us off the ground. I heard Tom make a strangled noise and he dropped the axe. With a hefty toss, Tumac sent Tom and me tumbling.
I saw the pocket-watch fall. In the same instant I heard a shrill cry from above.
“Your sheba has found you,” Tumac chortled at Tom.
Huge wings darkened the sky. Dust and ashes from the fire-pit clouded the air as gusts buffeted us. Gramps put on his sunglasses as if they were goggles.
Blinking, I gaped speechlessly. A pterodactyl settled to the ground.
Sunlight glinted off the pocket-watch. The dinosaur’s eyes darted to the watch.
“Sheba like shiny,” Tumac muttered to Tom. “Maybe she take it, not you.”
“What?” I couldn’t help asking, even it that circumstance.
“The damn dyno. I was there when she hatched. She imprinted on me. Thinks I’m her chick or something,” Tom said as he cowered behind Valentino.
“You realize it’s not a bird, don’t you?” Valentino told him, as if that mattered at such a time.
Abruptly, Gramps darted and grabbed his watch. The pterodactyl screeched. Her sharp beak jutted dangerously toward him.
The sun flashed off his spectacles. The dinosaur tilted her head as Gramps spoke.
“There, there now. You don’t want this. It’s not good to eat,” my grandfather cajoled.
The pterodactyl took another huge step toward him. Surprised, I realized she saw her reflection in his sunglasses. I whispered the fact to Gramps. He slowly removed the shades and held them toward her.
“Careful,” Valentino cautioned. “She could take your entire arm if she grabs the spectacles.”
Then a fierce look glinted in Valentino’s eyes. I had always thought he had a ruthless streak, hidden under all that smoldering brooding.
Valentino reached behind himself, where Tom cowered. He grabbed the spy’s arm and shoved him into the open.
“This is what you really want, isn’t it,” Valentino called to the pterodactyl.
The dinosaur made a pained noise, followed by a series of croaks that sounded like a mother chastising her offspring. Tom ran as fast as he could.
With a blast of air that knocked me to the ground, the pterodactyl flapped her wings and took flight. In a moment she had Tom in her clutches. She flew with him toward a rocky outcropping.
Tumac laughed so hard that he rolled on the ground.
I stood gobsmacked.
“She take Nupondi to nest. She love Nupondi,” Tumac explained between chortles. Nupondi not go hungry. His sheba vomit breakfast for him. Haha! All over his head.”
In no time Moon had modified the pocket-watch to work as a time delineator for Valentino’s train. Through a hand-held telescope, I saw Tom gingerly climbing down from the pterodactyl’s nest. He was drenched in something, presumably regurgitated dinner, but seemed unharmed. We bade a fond farewell to Tumac, our host.
When I walked past Tumac, he laughed, because he saw that I was hiding something behind my back. I winked and hoped he knew to keep quiet.
The big Orthophonic Victrola in the train’s control room blared out “Toot, Toot, Tootsie! Good-bye,” and I knew we would be leaving in a moment.
“Are you alright, Lulu?” Gramps asked me. “You look like something isn’t sitting well on your stomach.”
“Maybe some under-cooked dinosaur,” I replied weakly and mustered up a belch.
Delicately I put one hand to my lips, while the other was firmly behind my back.
“If not for that decidedly unladylike burp, I would go back and count all those velociraptor eggs,” Valentino told me with narrowed eyes as he climbed aboard the train.
“Well, I never…” I protested even though he hit the nail on the head.
Then I felt the egg move. I twitched at the surprise, and nearly dropped it. Valentino turned back at my abrupt movement. I put my free hand to my stomach and groaned dramatically. Clara Bow couldn’t have given a better performance.
A shining gold angel-bot leaned from the train. It was Dynamite.
“All aboard!” Dynamite called.
I made sure Gramps and Valentino were both all the way inside the train before I let Dynamite help me aboard. By then, the egg was practically dancing the Charleston.
The train’s Orthophonic Victrola always seemed to know more than it should be able to understand. Not to mention that it had a mean disposition. As the dinosaur egg lurched, the device started playing “Don’t Bring Lulu.”
Update: Rob has just finished a fabulous video of this story. Do check it out and pay him a visit as well. http://robertmgoldstein.com/
You’re the cat’s pajamas!
And don’t forget!
Coming in Spring
Another Roaring Twenties Pantser Tale
Continuing the adventures of Pip and Granny, it’s…
Three Ingredients 2
A Ghost in the Kitchen!
Stay tuned, shieks and shebas!
You’re the cat’s pajamas!
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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.
Copyright © 2019 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
Images Copyright © 2019 by Rob Goldstein
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