Saturday, July 27, 2019
A New Serial Begins!
Welcome, my chuckaboos! If you are new around here, “chuckaboo” is what the Victorians called a dear friend.
Changes abound! Those of you who visited my midweek post already know I’ve changed things. If not, then you see that I’ve redecorated my sanctuary. After many years of the same blog-look, I decided to use the steampunk banner to reflect the new serial.
Another change. In the race between Cornelis Drebbel’s submarine and the Delta Pearl, the riverboat won the voting poll. The new serial starts today!
Some things didn’t change. Wait, there’s more good news. Dan Antion, who illustrated Brother Love, is letting me use his photographs for The Delta Pearl! Although because it is a steampunk story, I will have to use other illustrations as well, but I’m using as many of Dan’t photos as I can. Thank you so much, Dan.
Another similarity. This serial is also driven by random “things” left by readers. Everyone is welcome to leave a Victorian-ish or non-modern thing in the comments. If knowing the background on The Delta Pearl helps you pick a random thing, then click to the previous post.
The story begins with our heroine (and narrator) as a young girl. The rest of the story will be told from her adulthood. Nuances are difficult to remember with weekly serials, so I’m pointing out that the circumstances of the prologue play into the story later.
Now, let’s skedaddle to the riverbank. There was one thing that I missed while posting the Brother Love serial. Now I can say it again… All aboard!
The Delta Pearl
The first time I saw the Delta Pearl, I was eight years old. I wondered if the legends were true, because my grandfather died three days before.
I asked Moma if Peepaw had seen the riverboat. Maybe seeing it had “marked him” like folks said. I didn’t see what was wrong with the question, but apparently something was. It made her so angry she threatened to give me an anointing.
Even though I knew it was unlikely that Moma would bother to follow through on the promised beating, I skedaddled out of the room.
I carried my stool to the back yard so I could reach the clothesline without letting anything drag on the ground. Hurriedly, I took the laundry down from the line and folded it.
Soon relatives descended upon our house bearing all manner of food. There was some hugging and handshaking, but eyes were dry of tears. They didn’t cry much, my family.
Moma and Meemaw used every flat surface available as they tried to sort all the food into some kind of edible order. They got creative about how to make room for every cousin’s best cooking.
For the most part, the women gathered in the kitchen. Menfolk came in and out to get food, if it wasn’t carried to them.
The aroma of peaches made my mouth water. I reached toward a dish with a golden-brown cobbler crust, but I wasn’t allowed to have any yet. So, I moved toward the back, and the refuge of solitude that waited beyond the screen door.
“She’s got no emotions,” Moma told a scowling aunt I didn’t remember ever meeting before.
I supposed hunger had no place with grief. Moma frowned disappointment at me. Her comment didn’t seem to get the desired amount of attention. She kept talking.
“She’s a goop, not all there you know,” she added with a self-sacrificing shake of her head, as if I wasn’t standing right there. “It makes so much more work for me.”
Moma sank into a wooden chair that a cousin-in-law hastily vacated and offered to her. She lowered her eyelids. With a sidelong look she smiled brightly at the young man in his late teens.
Everyone else turned expressionless faces toward me. An adult cousin that I half-remembered commented fondly. She said something about how children would always eat sweets and play and the world kept turning. I guess she meant to be reassuring to everyone. However, I wondered if anyone agreed with her. She was the only one who smiled.
In that moment the realization finally sank into my young mind. Not only was Peepaw gone, so was the only buffer between me and Moma and Meemaw, and the things they said and did.
They had told me that Peepaw didn’t love me, and they were surprised that he had anything to do with me. I had to admit that he wasn’t affectionate, although I refused to believe it. I loved him anyway.
I kept walking toward the door. I wasn’t mature enough or sophisticated enough to process the conflicted thoughts that came when my mother told people something was wrong with me.
The door opened with a light push. I stepped onto the little porch. When the screen door banged shut behind me, I cringed. Moma always yelled at me about that. However, when she called out, she didn’t mention the door.
“Em! Emerald Perlezenn! You stay away from that river,” she hollered.
Naturally, I went to the river.
The gentle sounds of the water always helped me come to terms with things I didn’t understand. The river comforted me. At that moment, I really needed the river.
Besides, I thought, I might finally see the riverboat.
I trotted down narrow paths Meemaw called pig trails. Rounding curves, dodging brambles and tree roots, I eventually got to the river.
The riverboat, the Delta Pearl, was a legend along that part of the river. Few people had seen her. As for the ones who claimed they had seen it, everybody seemed pretty sure they were lying.
Some said it was haunted. Others claimed it was the river’s version of the Lost Dutchman, cruising the waterway for eternity. Most had it that if you saw the Delta Pearl you were marked for death.
Moma always complained when I asked about things. Questions about the legendary boat were the ones that annoyed her the most.
“The Delta Pearl is not real, Em. I don’t want to hear your foolishness! It’s just a story,” she impatiently told me every time. “There’s too many places around here where a huge boat like that cain’t go. There’s too many shallow spots. Now I’ve heard enough of that silliness, and I’d better not hear another word about it from you.”
I walked along the riverbank. Now and then my foot slipped, because I was so close to the edge. Finally, I backed away, and then sat down to clean the mud from my shoe.
An odd clicking caused me to look up into the trees. The fluttering sound of a bird taking flight came to my ears. I covered my eyes when pine needles showered down on me. However, I spotted something brass colored as it streaked across the blue sky.
That seemed like a strange color for a bird, yet what else could it have been? It looked almost like metal, but that was too impossible, even for my active imagination. My eyes followed as it flew downstream along the river.
As I sat there, I listened to the music of the water lapping against the shore. It gave me a dreamy feeling. I gazed vaguely down the watery path the river had carved eons before.
Sunlight glittered the surface of the water. I imagined the tiny reflections were diamonds and tried to count them.
Squinting at the brilliance, I imagined what it would be like to be a grand lady with strands of diamonds at my throat and in my hair. I thought of her suitors asking for a dance.
I stood and turned and turned, dreaming of the dance, while I spun around and around. Then I staggered to a stop, enjoying the sensation of the dizzy world seeming to sway around me. Stumbling, I held my arms out for balance as I faced the river.
That’s when I saw the Delta Pearl.
If you haven’t already done so — or even if you have, I invite you to leave a random non-modern thing, to help drive the story. Please limit your description of the “thing” to two words. Remember any technology-thing you offer needs to be appropriate to the Steam Era.
Next weekend we’ll board the riverboat. I’ll meet you at the dock, my chuckaboos!
Now for the obligatory shameless self-promotion…
Universal link to my Amazon Author Page
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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
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