Saturday, August 10, 2019
Welcome, my chuckaboos! I warn you in advance that I’m flying by the seat of my pantser pants even more than usual today. My week has been so full of insomnia and interruptions, it’s no wonder Émeraude is looking like a worry wart.
This week’s random reader things:
Thanks to Dan Antion for letting me use his photos as I am able for this serial.
Last time, in Chapter 1 — Dance we met Jaspe and Amethyst (a purple clockwork spider). Jaspe seemed to see something troubling in the distance, but he wouldn’t admit it. This time you will meet Agate and Blue John.
Without further ado, lets skedaddle to the #Steampunk riverboat… All aboard!
The Delta Pearl
Chapter 2 — Fret
The familiar sounds of shuffling cards and clattering roulette balls drew my ear. In the Delta Pearl’s gaming area, the crew busily readied the tools of their trade. Playing cards were carefully inspected for signs of wear. Liberty Bell machines were checked. Their symbols whirled ― horseshoes, hearts, spades, and diamonds, and then coins spewed from the machines.
Brass bells chimed, as each station signaled that everything was ready and all was in good working order.
The Dealer checked deck after deck of playing cards. Jaspe was nothing short of magical in shuffling the cards. In his hands, they to seem to defy the laws of gravity and physics as they all but danced for him. Now and then one of the crew paused to watch in admiration.
The sound of a loud crash pulled me quickly toward the kitchen. Such noises were rare when no passengers were aboard the riverboat. I hurried toward the commotion.
It wasn’t like me to fret. Even so, I was still uneasy from the Dealer’s unusual reaction on the deck earlier. For him to see something I couldn’t spot was not unusual. Comparing the acuity of my vision to his was like putting the eyesight of a mole against an eagle’s.
No, what unsettled me was the idea that he stared at something yet pretended he did not. That sort of misrepresentation wasn’t in his nature.
In a corridor leading to the galley, I saw what caused the din. A cart full of dishes was broken. No mayhem. I breathed a sigh of relief.
The Cook, also called Agate, was already there and decidedly in charge. That was her domain ― and mind you, not a hair was out of place in her tidy chignon.
“Emmie dear, you look a fright. Although, I suppose the noise was fit for a banshee’s howl. Now, dinna fash yirsel. You aren’t becoming a worrier, are you? Well, don’t fret. All this will be put to rights in no time,” the Cook assured me in her Scottish brogue.
I beheld quite a mess of broken dishes. It was no wonder there had been such a racket. A presentation tray had landed with enough force that when it broke, it put a deep three-inch-long scratch in the flooring.
I stooped, helping pick up the shattered pieces. Under the direction of Agate, the rest of the mess was tidied in a moment. As the larger shards were taken away, I turned back to the ugly gouge. However, the damage to the floor had vanished.
Normal activities quickly resumed. A mystery aroma wafted to my noise. I couldn’t help going to investigate, even though I knew I should get to my post at the registration desk.
Just as the gemstone agate was said to be a protective stone, the Cook was protective of her culinary kingdom and everything in it. That kind of nurturing and shielding extended to the entire crew.
When first I set foot upon the Delta Pearl, Agate took me under her sheltering wing right away. She grinned as I curiously peered over her shoulder.
“Emmie, dear! I might have known this lovely aroma would be getting your attention,” she said in a heavy accent. “Let me dish up a bowl for you. A girl your age needs plenty of hearty food,” the Cook began.
“It’s my ma’s cock-a-leekie soup. Aggie, she’d tell me, this is the best soup you’ll ever make, so you pay attention to what I say,” the Cook tempted me.
Agate could be merciless in offering me food, knowing full well I had to hurry to my station.
The Cook was the only one who could call me Emmie without incurring my wrath. I hated diminutive names, particularly when they were used on me. Yet Agate was such a kind soul, and she had always been so good to me that I couldn’t bring myself to tell her how offensive I found the affectionate name.
“It smells heavenly,” I told her. “But do I detect something unusual? Although I can’t figure out what it is.”
“Well, there’s leeks and peppered chicken stock, thickened with rice. What you’ve picked up on would be the prunes I just added. You have to add them while the soup is cooking, not at the beginning. When it’s served, I’ll garnish it with a julienne of prunes too!”
“Prunes in soup…” I marveled. “Only you, Agate, could do something like that and still make it so delicious. I hope you’ll please save me a serving,” I requested to her immense pleasure.
“Of course, I will. You’ll soon be a lovely young woman, with your sixteenth birthday. Sweet sixteen, one of the passengers was calling it for his daughter,” she reminded me.
“Oh, that fancy shindig about a few months ago? I thought it was a coming-out party for a debutante,” I muttered.
The subject of my birthday was enough to make me abandon ideas of the offered snack. Birthdays reminded me of my past. I excused myself quickly and headed to my station.
Moments later, at the registration desk, I held up the quill pen to check its sharpness. The plume moved playfully as I turned it this way and that. The aspidistra plant beside me moved.
Amid the long leaves and bell-shaped flowers, a tiny purple leg reach toward the plume of my pen.
“Amethyst! I told you to stay out of sight. The passengers will be boarding any minute,” I chided the clockwork spider.
Amethyst blinked all four of her eyes at the jaunty feather. She reluctantly retreated into the foliage.
I was surprised the clockwork creature gave up so easily. Then I realized the Delta Pearl’s First Mate probably startled her. Just as I opened the large registry book, the Mate hurried up to me.
Immediately I noticed that Blue John Boulton looked frazzled. His jacket was completely open, and his shirt was haphazardly buttoned, revealing the striped undershirt beneath.
The Captain always insisted that all the crew and staff keep a neat appearance. So, I wasn’t surprised when the Mate indicated something was amiss. However, his bluer than blue eyes were playfully alight.
“Captain has his hands full with things on the bridge,” Blue John informed me. “He wants you to take his place on deck as the first face the passengers see,” he informed me with a grin.
The Mate smiled because the duty was considered an honor. Meeting the passengers when they first stepped from the gangway and onto the Delta Pearl was something the Captain almost always insisted on doing himself.
The feeling of unease that had not quite left me reared its head again.
Something must be wrong.
End Chapter 2
Real World Notes
Liberty Bell Slot Machine. Yes my chuckaboos, that’s from the real world. The Liberty Bell was the first variation of the modern mechanical slot machine used today. It was created in the late 1800s by Charles Fey, a car mechanic from San Francisco. The Liberty Bell’s popularity set the standard for the modern slot machine. Its three-reel model is still used today, despite great advances in slot technology.
Cock-a-leekie soup is a real dish too. The soup was known in 16th century Scotland. However, the name “cock-a-leekie” did not come into use until the 18th century.
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.
I love hearing from you, so please leave a comment. Although I may be slow to answer them. After last night’s storms, I’m worried about sightseeing in on narrow mountain roads, but still have some plans for the day.
I’ll catch up with you soon, my chuckaboos!
Now for the obligatory shameless self-promotion…
Universal link to my Amazon Author Page
USA: Atonement in Bloom
USA: Atonement, Tennessee
(E-book still on sale at 99¢ )
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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