Three Things Serial: 19 – Comfortable Home, Happy Disposition, Vex

Jane Austen's "power" in Hollywood c...While I was browsing around the New York Times, I stumbled upon “The Janeiac Quiz.”  Since I’ve always enjoyed Jane Austen‘s books, I took the quiz — and failed miserably.  I’m sharing it because many of you enjoy those classics.  Emma is probably my favorite of Austen’s works and it is also the source of today’s Three Things.  I’ll take them from the first sentence of the book.

Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.”

As always, you can do catch-up reading where the complete serial lives on the Three Things Serial page.  And now, three Emma things.

Comfortable Home, Happy Disposition, Vex

Ringling-Zalophus-Ca-d-ZanI told myself not to feel vexed with Mona for acting silly with Flavio.  Then I told myself again.  When I told myself the same thing for the third time Frankie chuckled.  There was no telling what kind of expressions had gone across my face.  He raised his eyebrows and made a mock-hopeful puckered face.  I grinned at him and said, “Sorry fella, the bank’s closed.”

“Dr. Banting said to make ourselves at home.  Why don’t we look around?  I don’t know about you, but I doubt I’ll ever be inside a yacht like this again,” he said with a smile.

He was right.  And I needed to get back to business.  Where was that microscope?  We left, Mona and Flavio still giggling.  The next cabin we came to was open, but Frankie knocked on the doorframe just in case and called out cheerily.  The fireman really did have a happy disposition.  I squeezed past, under his arm.  Frankie actually was a very nice height.

Then I spotted it sitting on a table in the corner, all brass and shiny – the microscope.  It was hard not to look at the beautiful estate in the painting that hung above the device.  The place looked like a Venetian palace, and the yacht moored there looked like the one we were on!

Frankie gave a low whistle.  “That looks like a… comfortable home.”

“You’ve really got a gift for understatement,” I agreed.  The house in the picture was huge and in a beautiful setting.  “That place is the berries all right.”

I took the ornate but bent key out of my purse and carefully placed it under the microscope.  However, I couldn’t make out any words – and I was afraid to move any of the settings.  I could only guess how expensive the thing was; scientific things were always pricy.  The engraving looked like it might be just a pretty design, but with the damage it was hard to tell.  I held my breath and barely moved one knob on the microscope.  A word came into focus, but it was hard to make it out amid all the swirls of the engraved pattern.  “Ring… Ringing?  No.  Ring-ling.  Does Ringling make any sense?”

“Ringling?” Frankie repeated in an incredulous tone.  “As in circus?  That Ringling?”

“Applesauce!” I exclaimed in an awed whisper.  “Do you think this key is for the Ca’d’Zan mansion in Sarasota?”

Our speculation was interrupted by the sound of a scuffle.  A man’s voice boomed.  “You’ve got what you wanted, now be off with you!  If you ever think to pull a stunt like that again, it will be your last!”

We hesitantly peeped out the door in time to see two men leaving right after those ominous

John Ringling

John Ringling

words were shouted.  There was a man in the doorway of a cabin, shaking his fist at the departing backs of the men.  Then someone shrouded in an old quilt pushed past the man.  I heard a muffled sob.

The man lowered his head and said, “Don’t worry.  They aren’t going to hurt anyone else.  We’ll see to that.”The quilt covered shape turned toward him.  The tattered covering fell back to reveal an older woman, who was still elegant despite her somewhat disheveled appearance.It was the white-haired woman.

Three Things Serial: 7 – Bent Key, Empty Barrel, Torn Hem

Today’s “Three Things” are from Suki in North Carolina.  Among other things, she writes fan fiction.  Check out her site. I’m sure you’ll be entertained.

As always you can check out the full story (thus far), or catch-up if you’ve missed an episode, on the page dedicated to it, The Three Things Serial Story…And now let’s see where these three things take our characters…

Chapter 2

Bent Key, Empty Barrel, Torn Hem

MargaretYoung1921There was more commotion as the coppers went inside the Nickelodeon Theatre, nightsticks and guns at the ready.  We all stood taller, trying to see what was going on — all of us except Boris, that is.  He slumped down even further into the seat of Andy’s Studebaker.

“So, who got clipped?” Andy asked Frankie.  However, the fireman didn’t know who had been shot, or whether the person was wounded or dead.

Frankie spotted an empty barrel in the alley a few yards away and rolled it all the way to the car.  Then he lifted me up so I could stand on top of it for a better view of the action, though there wasn’t really anything to see.

I hopped down from the barrel so Mona could take a turn, but my skirt got caught on it.  I heard a little ripping sound and looked down in dismay at my torn hem.  “Oh applesauce!  This was my favorite outfit.”

Mona stooped down to inspect the damage and said that it didn’t look so bad.  “I bet Tim the Tailor can fix it in nothin’ flat,” she said, meaning another of our neighbors.  “Cheer up doll.  It’ll be okay.”  Then she took a safety pin from her pocketbook and made a passable repair in a jiffy.

When Mona finished I looked up to find all the boys staring at us.  Or rather at my legs, the police and the shooting were all but forgotten.  Even Boris had roused from his slump and got out of the Studebaker.  Honestly!  Men…  I cleared my throat meaningfully.  “What are you mugs lookin’ at?” I demanded and they made a big show of looking the other way.

Just then I heard the crack of “Chicago lightning” — gunfire and a lot of it, from inside the theatre.  A chair crashed through the big plate glass window in front and a man jumped through the shards.  He was dressed all in black and wore a hat, which made it hard to focus on him in the dim light.  He made a beeline toward the group of Russian dignitaries and grabbed that white-haired woman who was so rich looking.  A car from across the street suddenly roared up, and the man in black dragged the old woman into the car before it completely stopped moving.  Then it sped away.

The getaway car careened past us, mere inches away.  Mona jumped back with a shriek and Andy yelled angrily at it.  I heard a metallic ping and the streetlight glinted off something.  I moved to see what it was.  At first I thought Boris was following me, but he continued for several paces, staring in the direction the car went.  He had a pained expression on his face.

“You know her, don’t you?” I said and he turned back to me with eyes that were wide and questioning, but also fearful.  “The white-haired woman in the fox fur stole.  You know her.”

Boris didn’t answer.  He walked back to the Studebaker, and standing behind it stared at the very upset group of people and the police for a long moment.  Then he shook his head and looked down at the ground.

I sighed in frustration at his silence.  There was definitely something going on with him and this whole goofy mess. 1920s  Ben Key I almost forgot what I had been about to do… that metallic sound and the glint of light.  I bent down and spotted the source.  It was some sort of key.  I picked it up and turned it over in my hand.  It was a bent key and it was engraved with something, but it was too dark out for me to read the inscription.

 What mysterious words are engraved on the key?  Who is the white-haired woman?  Stay tuned…

Three Things Serial: 6 – Search, Cocoa, Fox

This episode features not just “three things,” but also a challenge from The Daily Prompt, “Life Line: You’re on a long flight, and a palm reader sitting next to you insists she reads your palm. You hesitate, but agree. What does she tell you?”  (It was posted Monday the 12th, if you’re looking for it.)  I’m twisting it to my own needs, leaving out what I can’t use for the story, but since Pip (aka Paisley) is a palm reader, I couldn’t resist.

Today’s “three things” are from Mary, an author in Michigan.  Be sure to check out her work.   As always you can check out the full story (thus far) on the page dedicated to it, The Three Things Serial Story

Three Things Serial Continued

6.  Search, Cocoa, Fox

Even though Boris said it wasn’t important, I knew that it was.  Whatever or whomever he saw had really shook him up.  His eyes searched the crowd and everything within sight.  His gaze lingered on a rich looking white-haired woman wearing a fox fur stole.  After a moment he seemed to satisfy himself about whatever it was, and he looked away.

1920s Police carWhen a police car rolled up, siren blaring, I realized that the crowd wasn’t just congregating near the theatre door.  Something had happened.  Boris must have picked up on that before the rest of us.  When the police car stopped, one of the coppers waved at Frankie and smiled.

“I know that guy.  I’ll go find out what’s going on,” Frankie said and ran off before anybody could say boo.

Even though Boris said he was fine, he looked pale and twitchy.  The strangeness had not escaped Mona’s notice.  She was always nice to Boris, but I thought she was a little condescending about it.  I knew she didn’t like his accent.  She’d said as much.  Sometimes I wondered if she had a crush on him, but at the same time she thought he wasn’t the “right sort” for her.  What I mean is she felt conflicted.  Before I knew it, Mona hurried over and made Boris sit back down inside the Studebaker.  He slumped down in the seat, and she put her hand to his brow.  Then she sort of looked around to see if anyone was paying any attention.  Yep.  She was conflicted alright.

Everyone was getting a little nervous.  So I decided to put my skills to use and distract them.  Well, you remember that I read palms, don’t you?  I’d never done a reading for Boris, so I offered to read his palm.  He smiled politely and agreed, though he seemed more interested in covertly peeping up over the car window at whatever was going on in front of the theatre.

I took his hand and placed it face up in my own.  Boris had a pretty interesting palm.  “Your Saturn line begins very late,” I said in puzzlement, because I knew Boris had been very successful in ballet.  Then of course he was injured, ending his career.  “I always assumed you must miss the ballet terribly… but do you?”

To my astonishment he gave me a sad little smile.  “It is not the dance I miss.”

“Your Saturn line tells me that you have not yet found your true vocation.  Your lifeline is strong.”  As I continued looking at has hand, I was more and more intrigued.  Boris was not at all what I expected, leastwise not based on his palm.  “And you tend to accept your lover totally, despite any eccentricities or imperfections.”

My interpretation brought teasing oohs and aahs from the rest of the group.  Mona looked particularly interested, and then she turned beet red.

Just then Frankie trotted up behind me.  “Hey, you promised to read mine,” Frankie protested, and nudged me playfully with his elbow.  “I’ll buy you some cocoa if you do.”  I whispered to the fireman that Boris seemed really upset and I thought he could use a distraction.

“Did you find out anything?” Andy wanted to know.  So did the rest of us.

“Sure did.  There was a group of Russian big wigs here in town for some business or other.  Then they came here after a fancy dinner.  And then one of ‘em got shot!”

“Oh how awful!” Mona exclaimed.  “Boris, is there any chance you know any of these people?  After all, you were a celebrity with the Ballets Russes.”

“No.  No, it would not be anyone I know,” Boris sad flatly in a tone that brooked no argument.  Then he turned away and looked off into space.

Three Things Serial: 4 – Gelato, Aerobic, Thunderstorm; and 5 – Slate, Waterfall, Devious

Our “interactive” story continues with two sets of “things” from amazing friend, Provincial Lady.  But that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook — be sure to send me your three things!

I’m trying to control my editor-brain with this story, partly because the intention is to quickly write whatever comes to me the moment I get your “three things.” That said… I promise not to back-track to change things ever again, after this… Pip’s (aka Paisley) line of work is no longer private eye — palmistry adds a lot more elasticity to this exercise, which has to be very flexible. Also, “Mindy the Movie Star” is now Mona.  That name suits her much better, don’t you think?

As always, the full serial (to date) lives on the Three Things Serial page.

Three Things Serial, Continued

4:  Gelato, Aerobic, Thunderstorm

1920s Girl Hat 2

A teenaged Lucille Ball — Surprised?

Clouds gathered ominously, so twilight came early.  I worried that Frankie might be early too – and I wasn’t ready yet.  However, the face in the mirror winked at me, or I winked at it, whichever.  I smiled and applied some rose colored rouge to my cheeks, and “helped” my lips into a Cupid’s Bow with careful use of some plum colored lipstick.

I had run into Boris a few minutes earlier as he was finishing what he called his aerobic exercise.  He was limping some as he came up the stairs.  A bad knee injury caused him to give up his career with the Ballets Russes.  Before the sky had even clouded, Boris insisted that I take an umbrella with me to the movies.  He was sure there would be a thunderstorm.  “The knee,” he said, “it never lies.”

Just as I put my lipstick away I heard a man’s shoes pounding up the stairs.  Then came three quick knocks to my door, tap tap-tap.  I practically skipped across the room, and when I opened my “office” door I saw Frankie’s smiling mug.  He looked at the frosted glass inset on the door for a minute, at the new sign I was so proud of, “P.I. Peabody, Palmistry.”  The only other time he’d seen my door he was there as a fireman, because of a small fire in Mona’s kitchen down the hall.

“Hey, maybe you can read my palm some time.  My grandma reads tea leaves,” he said by way of a greeting.

“Hello to you too,” I said dryly.

Frankie looked abashed enough that I let him off the hook for his lack of manners.  Then he held out a brown paper bag that was damp with condensation, finally looking at me.  “Wow!” he said with quite a gratifying drop of his jaw.  “You look swell, Pip.”

“Why, you’re dudding up pretty well yourself, Frankie.  Come on in for a sec.”

When I looked at the bag he exclaimed, “Gosh, I almost forgot!  I brought you some of my grandmother’s gelato, but you’ll have to eat it now.  I mean if you want.  Uh, I mean…”

It was good to know that I could make him stutter.  I stepped into my little kitchenette and got two spoons.  “Only if you help me,” I said, digging my spoon into the softly frozen treat.  “Oh, holy Hannah, this stuff is delicious!”

5:  Slate, Waterfall, Devious

Everybody piled into Andy’s jalopy.  He deviously made a big deal of helping Boris, whose limp had become more pronounced, into the backseat.  Then he made over Frankie, being as he was our newcomer, seating him as well.  Naturally I’d be expected to sit with the fireman, since I’d brought him into the group.  So that left Mona to share the front seat with the little Astronaute-man, as he obviously intended.

Poor Andy, he was so transparent.  Mona the Movie Star rolled her eyes at me in an exaggerated way, but she was a good sport about it as he handed her up to the Studebaker’s running board and then the seat.  Andy tucked a slate-blue plaid blanket carefully around Mona’s lap.  She protested that the night was too warm for the blanket, but she didn’t remove it.  Then he carelessly tossed a matching blanket back to the rest of us, and nearly knocked off my hat.Studebaker

As the Studebaker puttered up in front of the Nickelodeon Theatre the bright lights reflected off the waterfall in the fountain.  The star billing for Fatty Arbunckle was mirrored in squiggly letters in the water.  Boris the Ballerina looked at the theatre entrance with a sharp intake of breath.

“You okay, Buddy?” Frankie the Fireman asked, having been told about the Russian’s bad knee.

Boris muttered that he was fine.  But that little gasp didn’t sound like pain to me.  It sounded more like shock laced with fear.  Boris looked intently at the people going inside and murmured in his accent,  “I thought I saw someone.  But is not important.”

Three Things Serial: 3 – Popcorn, Painting, Movies

Surprise — a mid-week post! Here’s another short installment of the Three Things Serial.  This time the “things” are courtesy of Sharon in Virginia.  You can view the entire story (so far) as it develops on the Three Things Serial Story page.

Next time, the three things will be from reader and friend Provincial Lady.  Remember — to keep the story going, send me three random “things.”  Just whatever pops into your mind.  You can put your three things in a comment.

Popcorn, Painting, Movies

A sheet of Andy’s carefully typed screenplay drifted to my feet.  I picked it up, thinking how he must love his work.  He had gathered up all his writing when he thought the building was on fire.  Andy really was a sweet guy, but he was head over heels for Mindy.  I looked at the sheet of paper.  His typewriter had a broken “M” so the letter had a blank streak across it.  However, it was easy enough to read the title, “A Princess of Mars, A Reimagining.”

250px-Princess_of_Mars_large“Hey Andy!” I called after him.  “Everybody’s going to see the new Fatty Arbuckle down at the Nickelodeon.  You wanna go?”

Andy looked pensively back at me.  “I really don’t have time for movies.  I need to repaint my apartment — I mean my office.”  He walked over to where I stood with Frankie, muttering to himself.  “I think I got ‘em all…”

I grinned and handed him the piece of paper that had floated to me.  He gave me a sheepish thank you and straightened his glasses.

“So’d you write this?” Frankie asked him, looking over my shoulder at the page.

“Yes and no.  Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote the story awhile back.  I’ve turned it into a screenplay.  I know there would be all sorts of legal issues, but Mona would just make such a perfect Dejah Thoris, I just had to write it.”

Frankie seemed to be familiar with that stuff, so I let the two guys talk for a minute.  “Andy, there’s no point in painting your place ‘til all that smoke settles.  No more lame excuses.  Come on to the Nickelodeon with the rest of us.  Mona’s going too,” I added the deal maker.  “So you want to go, Astronaute-man?”

He brightened considerably.  “And how!  Okay, Flapper.  It’s a date.”  Then he blushed and stammered, all serious like, “My deadline is self-imposed, so I can change my schedule.”

“You know; if there’s room for one more…  Well… that would be a way for me to check out my potential new neighbors,” said Frankie the Fireman as if in sudden inspiration.  “I’d buy your popcorn.”

I gave him a quizzical look, just to mess with him.  “OK Fireman.  Put on your glad rags and come back around dark-30.”

Three Things Serial: 2 – Ballerina, Fireman, Astronaut

Come on now everyone — don’t let me down about sending “three things.”  Words, phrases, that’s all it is; whatever pops into your head.  As an example, I’m taking “things” from The Daily Prompt Today’s was a thought provoking post. They asked what you wanted to grow up to be when you were ten years old, and how it compares to what you’re doing now.  At ten I wanted to be a psychologist.  Can you imagine how well off I’d be by now if I’d had any encouragement?  Ha! But you can’t change the past, so you move forward.

I’ve added a page to my blog where you will find the Three Things Serial combined as it develops (as well as the individual blog postings). Having a few more “things” helped me see how the story might grow, so I’ve revised yesterday’s post telling it in first person.

Now continuing our serial with “things” from The Daily Prompt.  (Even though these things are related, all being careers, I encourage you to send unrelated things if you can.)

Ballerina, Fireman, Astronaut, Movie Star

Burned toast.  That’s what the scent was.  I sniffed the air and stood up behind my desk as the odor was suddenly much stronger.  My new pink cloche hat fell to the floor and I quickly scooped it up and dusted off the nonexistent dirt.  “Oh, applesauce!” The hat was brand new.

I wrinkled my nose at the growing odor.  Really burned toast.  A heavy knock at the door made the newly painted glass shake.  I cringed thinking about how much it had cost to get the frosted glass with my name stenciled on it put in that door.  It was nearly as much as I’d spend on food for a week, but the expensive glass inset proudly bore the sign, P. I. Peabody, Private Eye.

Right behind the knock was a fireman.  Right behind the fireman was a lot of smoke.  He didn’t have say a word.  I swept papers from my desk into a satchel and followed him down the stairs.

“Don’t tell me,” I said over my shoulder in a dry tone.  “The ‘movie star’ in 2-C burned her toast again.”1920s Fire truck

“That and half her kitchenette too,” the fireman said with a lopsided smile.  “But don’t worry.  It wasn’t too bad.  We just want to check and make sure everything is okay before we let folks back into the building.  Procedures the chief always says.  It’s a decent building,” he added with a thoughtful expression.  “You think there’s a vacancy?  I’m Frankie Fabro, by the way.”  He took off a heavy glove and offered his hand.

“Paisley Peabody,” I introduced myself and shook his hand.  “Call me Pip.”

Nope, with a moniker like that I didn’t have any business giggling about anybody else’s name, but I couldn’t help smiling at the thought of Frankie Fabro, Fireman.  Besides, Frankie really was the cat’s pajamas, a real cutie.  I explained that the building was meant to be for offices, but times were tough, so as long as occupants at least put up the pretense of having a business and paid the rent on time, the management let them live there.  Because of the pseudo businesses, I had come to think of my fellow tenants as if they were children playing the roles of what they wanted to be when they grew up.  There was the toast-burning Mindy the Movie Star, so a fireman might be good to balance that.  There was also the Boris the Ballerina, a graceful but aloof man with a Slavic accent who gave dance lessons about twice a week.  Then there was Andy the Astronaut, or rather Astronaute, as he would correct me.  He was really a writer, but he wrote stuff like Edgar Rice Burroughs – wild imaginative stuff.

As if on cue, Andy came running out of the building.  His glasses were askew and he clutched his screenplay to his chest and chased a few loose sheets of paper down the street when they escaped.

Three Things Serial: 1 – Oscillating Fan, Scent, Cowboy

????????Here begins the “Three Things Serial Story.” Mary kicked things off with Oscillating Fan, but to keep things consistent right from the start, I needed to use three things.  So I took two more “things” from Mary’s last two blog posts: Scent and Cowboy.

The Three Things Serial Story

With “things” sent from readers everywhere

Chapter 1

Oscillating Fan, Scent, Cowboy

Tic, tic, tic, grunt.  Tic, tic, tic, grunt.  The noise chipped away at her preoccupied mind while she absently gazed at the quiet street below.  It was Sunday, so hardly anyone was out.  A little boy in a cowboy costume came around the corner.  He pushed himself against the brick wall of the building across the street and peeped back around its edge at his unseen playmate.  Then he jumped out with arms spread like a bear to startle his friend, and quickly disappeared out of sight.

Tic, tic, tic, grunt.  Tic, tic, tic, grunt.  The sound of the fan drew her attention away from the window.  Some would find the low repetitive noise hypnotic, perhaps even relaxing.  To her, however, the sound was becoming downright annoying.  A dust bunny skittered out from a corner, propelled by the breeze of the oscillating fan.  The stirring air brought a familiar scent to her nostrils and she looked toward the door.