Sunday, November 21, 2021
You’ve reached The Armadillo Files. Stand by for absurdity touched with reality. I know this episode is late, so let’s just get right to it.
Random Reader Things
The three things that drive the episode are from Priscilla Bettis. Click over and check out her blog, you’re sure to find interesting posts. Her random reader things are Trumpet, Bateau Neckline, and Thermos.
Previously in The Armadillo Files
Harry Morgan told Fang and Dilly more about the “Calutron Girls” and his belief that they disappeared if they found out about the wrong things. You can find all the past chapters by going to the categories on the right side of the screen. Click on Armadillo Files.
14 — Where did they come from?
“Fang, that doesn’t sound like your usual taste in music,” I remarked when the sonorous trumpet solo began.
“It’s Harry James, Concerto for Trumpet. Just give it a sec,” Tatu Pinkerton, my erstwhile pink fairy armadillo replied.
Abruptly the music took off with tricky tooting that reminded me of Flight of the Bumblebee. Fang jumped up and started dancing around.
“Okay, that’s great,” I said, cringing at the volume. “As long as you help me get some work done around here while you boogie. The Pink Armadillo won’t be much of a cover for your operation if it doesn’t look more like either a bar and grille or a nightclub. Right now, it looks like a trolley car with a cash register.”
It was like dealing with a teenager. Shaking my head in exasperation, I suddenly wondered how old Fang was. By my way of thinking, my “pet armadillo” was about six years old. However, since he was some sort of agent for a presumably space-alien organization that he called Prime… I supposed he had to have been an adult before being transformed into the tiny species of armadillo. Although that also assumed that he was human to begin. My head started to ache from my thoughts as much as the music.
“How old are you anyway?” I shouted to be heard above the rapid-fire notes of the trumpet.
Fang stopped in mid-twirl. Straightening his shoulders, he gave me a disdainful look.
“How rude! A lady never tells her age,” he replied, but then one eyebrow went down as he realized that excuse might not apply. “And neither does an armadillo.”
I would have worried that I had offended him if he hadn’t winked just before he turned away. He went right back to his swing dance. Or at least his version of the 1940s dance craze.
He muttered something to TROLLEY that I didn’t hear, but the music abruptly stopped. Fang tilted his head as if listening.
“We have guests,” he remarked drolly. “They smell funny.”
I was in the middle of selecting the type of lettering for the big sign that would be placed atop the trolley cars. At his comment, I put the task aside. Although I couldn’t imagine how he could have heard anyone approach over the music, I went to the window.
Of course, he was correct. A small group of people headed up the walkway. There was one old man who carried a thermos in the crook of his arm, and a middle-aged man. Behind them, four women of varied ages looked curiously at their surroundings as they walked.
The oldest woman held the hand of a little boy in a tight grip. The kid looked ready to climb any tree to which he might escape, or any other form of mischief he could find. I guessed the woman was his grandmother. She was probably combining whatever her purpose was for being there with a promise of babysitting.
Not even one of the people looked in the least pleasant. Nonetheless, I straightened the bateau neckline of my top and prepared to greet them.
“Temperance,” Fang cautioned as I started to the door.
“I’m the level-headed one, remember? Why would you think I’d lose my temper with those people?” I retorted.
“No. Temperance. They’re teetotalers. Those groups that blame drinkers for everything. That must be why they smell funny,” he mused.
“Isn’t it the wrong decade for the Temperance Movement?” I remarked dismissively.
“Nope. Especially not in the Bible Belt. This should be fun,” Fang replied as I put my hand on the door.
A flash of green light caused me to stop. TROLLEY had installed a chest high partition and cash register near the front door of the part of the spaceship that would be the entrance to the bar. Inside that was a stool and a shelf at a suitable height for writing or sorting receipts. The source of the green light was behind that counter. A chime dinged a pleasant note.
“Dilly Faraday, I strongly recommend you wear this. It should facilitate your acceptance in this time and area,” TROLLEY stated as a domed tray rose up from the shelf.
Removing the cover I found a ring, a narrow white-gold band that I regarded skeptically. I looked around, unsure where to direct my comment to the bodiless voice. I didn’t suppose it really mattered.
“A wedding ring? TROLLEY, I hope you don’t mean for me to pretend to be married to Fang. I don’t think I can carry that off. And I’m sure he can’t,” I told the artificial intelligence.
“A general practice of Prime is to never offer information. Perhaps the people outside won’t request an explanation. However, bio readings indicate they will rush to moral judgements. Even in your day, an unmarried woman cohabitating with a man is not accepted,” the machine that I was told to never call a robot replied.
The way TROLLEY phrased that answer made me wonder what might be acceptable in “other eras,” and how far into the future Fang and the spaceship had been. I put the ring on my finger, surprised at the perfect fit.
I opened the door just as the middle-aged man reached the top of the walkway. His eyes were alight with a zeal that made me afraid he was deranged.
They invited us to their church, but it quickly became clear that their main interest was in learning whether or not the establishment would serve alcohol.
“What sort of decent place would be named The Pink Armadillo?” the man demanded.
“Is it a child care place?” the oldest woman asked, as the boy tugged at her hand. “That’s what I said it would be.”
Fang was unusually reserved. Now and then his nose twitched and his lips twisted as if at an unpleasant odor. He had said they smelled funny. I started to realize that he didn’t mean any sort of body odor or perfume. As a child I was always told that animals could smell fear and other things. Maybe Fang’s leftover armadillo attributes were picking up on some other trait in those people.
When I looked at the wild light in the man’s eyes, I thought the trait Fang smelled might be something psychotic. I took a step backward.
As I moved my hand to tuck a strand of hair behind one ear, I saw that TROLLEY was right. At least three of the people eyed the narrow band on my left hand. While their faces didn’t exactly show approval, I saw a satisfied nod on one, and most of the others looked somewhat less ready to do battle.
“What an excellent idea!” I exclaimed to the older woman’s question, trying to make myself pleasant. “I expected that they had already covered childcare needs, but maybe that’s something we could expand to do,” I waved in the general direction of the Secret City, uncertain what name the locals would give it.
“It looks like some old trolley cars. They have some electric streetcars over in Knoxville. I rode one once,” one of the other women remarked.
“That’s what they are alright, ma’am. We’re only just getting things put together. What kind of place we open up will depend on the needs of the community,” Fang replied.
I breathed a sigh of relief that he was acting like an ordinary person. He even looked like a regular guy, in blue jeans and a plaid shirt. My relief froze when I could see a fringe of pink hair at the back of his cap.
The little boy was getting harder for his grandma to control. He disrupted whatever they had practiced. I could have hugged the kid for it.
I took the opening to ask if there was any news about the two missing women, Harry’s friend Marie Browning, and the girl Hellene de Bursac.
“Godfearing women wouldn’t do a man’s work. Women have to know their place. And not in a place that has to hide behind fences and gates. Their secrets must be the devil’s work. They get no more than they deserve,” the wild-eyed man sneered.
My eyes narrowed. Even in the 1950s I heard more than enough of that sermon.
“And establishments that sell liquor and condone dancing, they do the devil’s work too,” he added, stepping closer to loom over me.
A loud clang rang from inside TROLLEY. It was the warning claxon. It startled me as much as it did our unwanted visitors.
“Oh goodness me,” Fang began unperturbed. “I bet the gas line still isn’t connected right. I hope it doesn’t explode this one. We’ve already lost three trolley cars,” he added and got a horrified response.
Fang chuckled as the group ran down the drive as fast as their legs would carry them. Up on the highway I heard their car peel away.
I knew what Fang said was a ruse, but with him it was hard to be sure. He grinned when he saw the look on my face.
“TROLLEY didn’t like those people. The claxon was a compromise. She really wanted to set their pants on fire with lightning bolts,” he said.
Unable to contain himself any longer, Fang burst out in gales of laughter.
♦ ♦ ♦
Okay, that was kind of ominous. I wonder if that group will be back. It also seems like TROLLEY might have a bit more freewill than expected. Like I say, only the things know for sure.
The history, particularly military aspects of this story probably make it difficult… However, please remember that this is my sanctuary — a place for all of us to be safe and away from political and religious commentary. Kindly keep that in mind with your comments.
Hugs on the wing!
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Dead of Winter — All the Journeys
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Journey 11, the Sumelazon Escarpment
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Journey 7, Revenant Pass
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Journey 5, Llyn Pistyll Falls
Journey 4, The Old Road
Journey 3, the Fever Field
Journey 2, Penllyn
Journey 1, Forlorn Peak
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 © 2021 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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