Saturday, September 3, 2022
Chris Graham, the Story Reading Ape, sent me the coolest steampunk image. I’m not sure why, but it immediately brought Hullaba Lulu to mind. I re-created the image Chris sent adding Lulu. However, that’s at the end of the story, so it won’t spoil anything. This little story takes place at an non-specific point after the timeline of the book. Lulu is one of my favorite heroines. She’s one of a kind. If you haven’t met Lulu, I’ll put the information about that diesel punk adventure at the end of this post.
Once I had everything in my head, I dashed this off quickly… so I apologize for any mistakes.
Lulu and the New Bot
My kitten heels echoed in the empty speakeasy. Even though I had been a sad sack lately, I made myself dance a few steps of the Camel Walk while I recounted the bottles of that smooth 42-proof whiskey the rumrunner from Canada brought. It wasn’t as strong as the usual hooch, but it sure was smooth.
I wanted to reopen Gramp’s secret nightclub while he was off galivanting, but some strongarm types showed up as soon as I started trying to lay in a stock of hooch. Not only did they demand I buy all the booze from them — they also thought they should have a big cut of the profits.
They tried the same thing on Gramps once. Just once, mind you. Nobody messed with Gramps.
“But Gramps isn’t here,” I muttered. “I’m no scaredy cat, but those goons have me severely outnumbered.”
“Yes, Giver of Names? Did ya say somethin?” asked Wacky, the angel-bot who had a Bronx accent.
“Will you please just call me Lulu? I’m really happy that all of you like your names, but it feels weird you calling me ‘Giver of Names.’ My name is Lulu, and I like having a name too.”
“Not for nothin’ but I don’t think you understand how much our names mean to us,” Wacky replied, and I gave up.
Wicky, Wacky, and Woo, the housekeeping bots from Valentino’s amazing train came with me. They had bounced on their toes enthusiastically at the prospect of helping run the speakeasy. The hard part was making them understand that they had to pretend to be wearing costumes.
“Oh, them thugs. Wicky and me can handle ’em,” he added.
I liked the angel-bot’s confidence, but I wasn’t so sure. Those goons had guns. We didn’t. The fingers of the bots didn’t fit a trigger, and I… Oh, face it. I’m way too klutzy to be trusted with a gun.
The Orthophonic Victrola blared out Vernon Dalhart singing “Birds of a Feather,” interrupting us. The music came from what looked like a large brass compact. It was about the size of a dinner plate.
Moon, the blue-gold engineering-bot had stayed just long enough to hookup the Orthophonic Victrola and video phone. That way I could be in contact with the train and a few other people who had the connected video phones.
The train and all its parts seemed to have some kind of intelligence. The victrola usually gave a clue about who was calling, or whatever announcement it was about to make in the song it played.
“Something about a bird…” I muttered as I placed my hand on the big compact-looking thing to open it.
Abruptly all three angel-bots rushed into the room. They bounced excitedly.
“It’s Papá!” Wicky, Wacky, and Woo cried in chorus, having figured out the hint in the song.
“Oh, of course. Why didn’t I think of that? I guess I was thinking about ordinary birds,” I muttered. “Tesla and his fixation on pigeons!”
Nickola Tesla had invented the angel-bots, and they called him Papá. He also invented a lot of other things that were on Valentino’s train. I let the bots open the video phone while I stepped out of view. I needed to remove my dangle earrings. Tesla had so many phobias that I couldn’t keep track of them, and a fear of long dangling earrings was one of the things that scared him.
After the bots chatted with their Papá for a few minutes, Tesla asked for me.
“Lulu, my dear,” he began. “I’ve heard of your difficulties. I’m sending help. The train delivering it should arrive any minute now. I have no time for conversation at the moment. I must return to my invention. Farewell, Lulu,” he said and abruptly disconnected.
“A man of few words,” I muttered sardonically. “Is there any more of that pizza, Woo?”
“It is as you left it, giver of names. We do not eat,” the smallest of the three angel-bots said in a voice with a Shanghai accent.
I poured myself an extra tall glass of giggle water. Adding plenty of extra garlic, I picked up a slice of cold pizza. Wacky asked if he should call for my friend Tony at the Brick Oven Pizza to send down another pie. I shook my head… and burped loudly.
The sultry notes of a trumpet preceded the rumble of a train. The part of the subway beside the underground speakeasy had caved-in ages ago. Trains couldn’t reach that tunnel. At least, not ordinary trains.
I turned toward the back of the club, looking at the emergency exit. Red and blue lights blazed from around the edges of the door. I heard the screech of the subway train stopping. The emergency door burst open.
Loud metallic thuds moved rhythmically from the tunnel toward the exit door. In another blaze of light, I heard the train depart. The thuds moved steadily closer. Something darkened the doorway. Then the wooden frame creaked and split. Splinters showered into the speakeasy.
It was as wide as it was tall. A hulk of gleaming black metal squeezed through what was left of the door.
I gave my glass of jag juice a skeptical glance. Was something wrong with it? I figured maybe I should sample it again to make sure. After another swig, I looked at the big metal monstrosity again. I blinked. Hard. It was still there.
“You’re…” I started.
“Greetings, Miss Lulu,” it began in a deep but sonorous baritone. “I understand a group of unsavory types have been attempting to take advantage of you. Papá, and your family agreed, sent me to see to make sure those men will no longer be a problem. Oh, and don’t worry. I’ll repair… and enlarge the door.”
“You’re… an ape-bot!” I exclaimed. “I thought there were only angle-bots.”
“I am unique,” he replied in a modest tone.
His mechanical eyes clicked as they blinked. He seemed to hesitate. There was a heavy thud as his feet shifted and he slouched to rest his knuckles on the floor. That appeared to be his natural posture.
“I wondered… That is, if it wouldn’t be a bother…” the ape-bot said.
“Give him a name, oh Giver of Names!” shouted Wicky, Wacky, and Woo.
I hiccupped in surprise. Although the naming came easier when I was zozzled, so I figured that was swell enough.
“Hmmm,” I pondered as I looked all around the black metal creature. Can you dance?”
I gave most of the angel-bots names that related to songs, but the overwhelming appearance of the ape-bot didn’t inspire anything musical.
“Not very well. Furniture tends to get broken unless the room is quite large,” he replied.
The angel-bots bounced on their toes, clearly eager to hear my choice. The black metal head tilted as it watched me.
“Well, you’re about as big and powerful as a train. What if I call you Diesel?” I asked.
His head tilted this way and that. Metallic clicks and whirrs came as he rested his chin on his fist. All the clockwork creatures made clicking noises as they chattered excitedly.
The ape-bot straightened and then bowed.
“It suits quite will. Thank you, Giver of Names,” he said.
There was a commotion outside the remains of the door to the subway tunnel. As fate would have it, those “protection” goons chose that moment to come back.
Diesel turned toward them, his hulking form easily blocking the entrance.
“What do you want?” his voice boomed, echoing into the tunnel.
The thugs were dumbstruck. Two of them pointed guns. Diesel took each in a crushing grip. A third tried to fire a Tommy gun, but he was so frightened that Diesel had time to grab the machine gun. He broke the weapon into pieces and curled its barrel around the goon’s neck.
They never came back.
“Here’s to you, Diesel,” I raised my glass to the ape-bot.
♦ ♦ ♦
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Hullaba Lulu, a Dieselpunk Adventure is a wild and wooly 1920s fantasy story. Lulu, the heroine is inspired by the song, “Don’t Bring Lulu,” from 1925 ― so are her pals, Pearl and Rose. Lulu loves to dance, and freely indulges in giggle water. She snores and burps and says whatever she wants. Lulu is a snarky but good-hearted flapper. The song’s inspiration stops there, but the story is just beginning.
Tune in for another short story and another photographer or artist next weekend. Hugs on the wing!
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 © 2022 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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