Saturday, October 26, 2019
The steampunk riverboat is here. Hello, my chuckaboos! Thanks for coming back to the The Delta Pearl. Based on my own experiences the past two weeks (and more), I know it might have been difficult for you to get here.
I hope everyone is still onboard, despite the wide-spread difficulties WordPress is causing many of us. Their denial of accountability has gotten as bad as my horrible Internet “provider” TDS Telecom… (Provider is in quotes because I don’t have Internet more often than I actually do.) Now WordPress is making it hugely difficult for me to interact with any of you with comments or simple likes. At this moment in time, I’m so frustrated with WordPress that I don’t know if I can keep blogging. I am sorry that I haven’t been able to visit as many of you as often as I’d like.
Sorry to begin on a negative note. Moving on…
This week’s random reader things
There are more random reader “things” to fuel this voyage of the steampunk riverboat. First we have Ivory Fan from Olga Núñez Miret. If you want to know more about this elegant code, Sotheby’s has a guide.
Thanks to Dan Antion for letting me use some of his photos. Be sure to visit Dan at No Facilities.
“That inventor, Dr. Elam has most of my porters scrambling to get all sorts of things so he can rebuild the tempest prognosticator,” Garnet supplied the answer before I asked the question. “That’s what he calls the leech barometer. It was a meanspirited prank that caused that thing to break with us so close to any sort of boundary. When the Captain catches the ratbag that did it… well, I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes.”
Émeraude decided not to expose Azaela and Alex — or rather Alison. Meanwhile, the Delta Pearl behaved increasingly strangely as she neared a boundary.
If you want to review, click the link for Chapter 11 — Pretend. Let’s get back on the riverboat and see what happened after that.
The Delta Pearl
Chapter 12 — Prognosticate
When I walked into the main gaming lounge, Blue John Boulton was just leaving.
The Dealer looked at me and I winked to let him know I was practicing. Coral, the Chamber Maid had been teaching me the language of fans. Although that subject was also part of Jaspse’s vast knowledge of body language and gestures.
I touched the tip of my ivory fan with one finger. That meant I wish to speak to you.
Jaspe nodded. Good. I smiled. I had gotten it right.
The Mate had not noticed the signal of my fan. He gave me a polite nod, then scurried up the stairs toward his station. The Dealer watched his retreating form and gave a slow, concerned shake of his head.
Even the Mate’s posture spoke to his flustered state. His movements were rigid as he ascended the staircase.
“You could not ask for a better first mate than Blue John,” the Dealer began. “Although, have you not noticed that he has become increasingly high strung? It is not difficult to prognosticate his health taking a bad turn if he fails to make a change,” he remarked, emphasizing the unexpected word.
I nodded, unsure of what to say, or where the Dealer’s conversation was headed. Jaspe managed to make even the snort he gave sound elegant.
“Such an interesting vocabulary your young inventor has. Prognosticator, tempest. Chere, there is no wonder he intrigues you,” he added, surprising me.
“What do you mean my inventor?” I blustered, embarrassed and offended that anyone would presume to know my secret feelings.
Jaspe raised one eyebrow and gave me a longsuffering look. To my relief he dropped that subject and continued to explain his comment about the Mate.
“You see, despite his talent for the job, I begin to think that Blue John and the work are no longer so well suited to one another. Only the Captain has a more stressful job than the Mate. It is boucoup de pressure, and it seems to be taking its toll on our friend,” Jaspe added, his Cajun accent becoming heavy.
Though his manners were exemplary, Jaspe had a rather taciturn way about him. It was difficult to read his facial expressions, mostly because they rarely changed more than minutely. Fortunately, over time I had become familiar with his “tells,” to borrow one of his gambling terms. When the Dealer was concerned about something his New Orleans accent became prominent.
“You are worried about him,” I stated simply. “But what’s to be done?”
“He just confided in me, so you are sworn to secrecy, Émeraude,” he cautioned.
“Jaspe… you know I never spread tales. I’ve never disclosed something that I was told not to share,” I defended, feeling rather hurt.
“Indeed, this is true,” he admitted.
Then he stroked my hair in apology, as if I was six rather than nearly sixteen.
“Blue John just told me that he is going to ask the Captain for a sabbatical,” Jaspe added.
That disclosure was so unexpected that I gasped. No one ever left the Delta Pearl. That was precisely what I told the Dealer.
“But a sabbatical… the word makes it sound like such a long time. Perhaps indefinite,” I complained. “Surely you don’t believe the Captain will permit it?”
Jaspe gave me such a long look and was so quiet I started to wonder if I had somehow been insulting. I nervously adjusted the carved jade hair comb that held my locks in place. Then I hastily put my hand down. I knew that was one of my tells.
Finally, one side of his mouth quirked with the hint of a smile.
“Dear Émeraude, the Captain will do whatever is necessary for the health and wellbeing of the crew. It has always been so,” Jaspe told me.
I suddenly realized that I was being less than charitable about the situation. I was only thinking of “should” and “allowed,” rather than about the fact that Blue John was not doing well. I felt terrible.
The Dealer looked at me again. That time he gave a knowing nod in acknowledgment of my quiet contrition.
“Yes, yes of course,” I murmured.
“We shall have our bon ami Blue John’s company a while longer. The Captain would want to make sure a replacement is secured — even though temporarily,” he assured me. “Even if the Captain should permit the Mate to leave abruptly, Blue John would not go without knowing the Delta Pearl was properly staffed.”
I stared at the place on the staircase where I had last seen the Mate. The Delta Pearl was my home. Mobile and ever cruising the rivers though she was, regardless of how many guests came and went, to me it was a stable home. I was unaccustomed to the idea of anyone other than passengers departing. The probability of Blue John Boulton leaving the Delta Pearl was very unsettling to me.
Blue was like an older brother to me. What if he tried to stay longer than he was able? Worse, what if he suffered a complete breakdown? How did a person heal from that kind of thing? With another twinge of guilt, I also wondered how the Delta Pearl could get along without her First Mate.
A tiny top hat fell to the floor near my feet. Onyx, the clockwork owl fluttered down to alight on Jaspe’s shoulder. Captain Cecil Perlog walked up and stooped to retrieve the little owl’s hat.
“We can’t have the little fella going around without his favorite hat now, can we?” the Captain said as he firmly put the top hat back onto Onyx’s head.
The owl was inordinately fond of decorating himself. I guess I should say accessorizing. Most of the things Onyx chose got in the way of his flying. He prized his pocket watch, but it was too heavy for him to fly very far with it. A pretty scarf turned out to be a disaster. However, he could usually manage with a hat.
“Captain, I’m concerned about Blue John,” I blurted out my worry.
The Captain cleared his throat as he often did when he didn’t want to talk about something.
“The Mate’s fine,” he told me a trifle awkwardly. “At least for the moment. If I said more that’d be gossip, and we don’t gossip aboard the Delta Pearl.”
If a clockwork creature could blush then Onyx would have. Instead his head sunk lower into his shoulders. The owl was a terrible little gossip. His metal wings fluffed out before settling back into place.
A faint harmonic sound drifted from the guts of the riverboat. It set my teeth on edge. That wasn’t a normal sound. I gulped with a different worry. The Captain and the Dealer reacted to it subtly. They pretended not to notice, but I knew it was pretense.
“Well Onyx, lead the way,” Captain Cecil Perlog told the clockwork owl. “If that rough stretch of river knocked Émeraude to her backside, then I’d best do a general inspection while we’re at it.”
“Ahem,” I inserted. “And how did you know that I had taken a tumble? I don’t suppose a little bird told you? We don’t gossip aboard the Delta Pearl, do we? Oh, and I’m fine, by the way.”
The little brass owl fluttered ahead. Onyx tended to be a lazy bird. Usually he would rather ride on someone’s shoulder than fly. However, he did seem to try to impress the Captain. It was almost as if the clockwork creature wanted to earn Cecil Perlog’s approval.
“Really Captain,” I objected. “You make it sound so ignominious.”
His chuckle rumbled deeply.
“I know. It was just a little stretch of unfriendly water. It didn’t even begin to compare with the night the Delta Pearl reacted to a passing comet,” he said and I shuddered at the thought of how a comet would affect the riverboat.
“Which reminds me… I should check Victor T. Elam’s progress on the leech barometer,” the Captain said.
I found it rather odd that the Captain leaned into the inventor’s middle initial when he said his name. Then he looked over his shoulder at me and lifted his bushy platinum eyebrows.
“I know you have an aversion to leeches, Émeraude. However, young Dr. Elam promised to teach those who helped him rebuild the barometer about how it works. I don’t suppose you’d care to join me?” he suggested.
The Captain shared a knowing glance with the Dealer. Cecil Perlog scarcely hid his smirk. Jaspe’s complete lack of expression was just as telling. No one gossiped on the Delta Pearl, my foot! I wanted to throttle both of them.
Instead, I picked up my skirt and hurried to catch up with the Captain.
End Chapter 12
Real World Notes
Thanks for reading, my chuckaboos. I hope you’ll leave a comment — and if you want, include an appropriate random thing to go in a future chapter. Feel free to comment or ask about National Novel Writing Month (November) as well.
I’ll be waiting for you at the steampunk riverboat next time!
Now for the obligatory shameless self-promotion…
Universal link to my Amazon Author Page
Universal link Kindle/e-book A Ghost in the Kitchen
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(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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