Wednesday, December 6, 2017
Hey Sheiks and Shebas, I’m pos-i-lutely happy to see you at Jazz Age Wednesdays again!
Young Lucille Ball
I started this short story back when I did a collaborative post with author John W. Howell*. The three things driving that story were “Counterfeiting, Time, and Hollywood.” The ultimate result was In the Pip of Time, which you saw here.
Like I was saying, that was when this story started, but not when I finished it. I was having one of moments when the many characters I’ve written cross the boundaries of their stories. Cornelis Drebbel (of Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers) popped into the short story I was trying to write… I couldn’t make the story go where the “things” needed to take it — at least not at that time. (Applesauce! If that sounds like a lot of bushwa to ya’ll, then all I can say is that’s part of how my brain is just wired wrong.)
I’ll stop beating my gums and say that for this post, I went back to that derailed beginning to finish the story.
Pip and the River Monster
Isle of Hope, Savannah GA circa 1930
Sunlight glittered on the calm Savannah River. My friend Alastair helped me down from his truck. The vehicle had a sign proclaiming “You’re always right with Wongs! Wong’s Chinese Restaurant.” I had been joking when I gave him that as a slogan for his family business. I shook my head.
Arabella Wong’s birthday was coming up and Alastair planned a party for her. I remembered the riverside park from childhood when Pops brought me to visit Granny Phanny. I wanted to see if Alastair liked it as a venue for his mom’s party.
A gust of wind nearly took my pink cloche hat. I shoved it firmly onto my head. Maybe it was a blustery day, but it was still beautiful. We both jumped at a bright flash of light and a crack of thunder. A fisherman still carrying his rod and reel pushed past us.
Alastair caught the man’s arm, asking him what was wrong.
“River monster!” the fisherman gasped. “No time to explain. You kids will beat it, if you know what’s good for you!” the man cried as he pulled free of Alastair’s grip.
Jean-Marc Côté circa 1900
My buddy Alastair was more excited than afraid. His eyes twinkled as he looked expectantly at the Savannah River. I however, took a step backward. Alastair gave me an encouraging pat on the shoulder.
“Don’t worry, flapper. It’s probably a dolphin. You know this end of the river is close to the ocean. Hey! This has been a warm year, and Florida is not that far away. It might even be a manatee!” Alastair exclaimed.
Alastair looked at the back of the departing fisherman and chuckled. I looked at him and hoped he wasn’t a whole heap smarter than us!
We turned back to the river. A faint purplish glow bathed the area at the shore. I saw something rise from the water that looked like the head of a huge snake. I slapped my hand over my mouth to hold back a scream.
Something huge slowly rose from the river. Alastair stopped smiling.
“Horsefeathers! That’s no manatee,” he muttered. “What the Sam Hill is it?”
I tilted my head to one side, suddenly more curious than fearful.
“Alastair… I’ve seen pictures,” I began hesitantly because I was stunned. “That looks like an old submarine,” I finished as the thing rose higher out of the water.
It moved right up to the pier. Water poured down as a hatch opened. A man with unkempt blonde hair and bushy eyebrows stuck his head out from the hatch. He waved to Alastair and me. That’s when things really got strange.
Cornelis Drebble, “Pioneers of Sea Transport” stamp, 2008
“Ah-ha! Mr. Wong! I wondered why I was drawn to this place. It’s good to see you, old boy!” the strange man called.
Then he levitated up from the submarine’s hatch and over to the pier. Honest! That’s really what happened.
I heard a squeak and a gasp. I wasn’t sure which sound came from Alastair and which came from me. I grabbed his arm, although I wasn’t sure whether it was to keep him from running, or to anchor myself.
“Wong,” the stranger began as he walked up to us.
He stopped abruptly. He looked at the shores of the river. He sniffed the air.
“This is not Hong Kong,” he stated and then looked closely at Alastair. “And you sir, are not the right Wong.”
With a perplexed expression he turned his gaze to me. He took in my bobbed hair. Then he looked at my fashionably short, but still perfectly proper skirt. In fact, his peepers paused a little too long at my gams.
“And based on your attire, this is far from the correct era,” he added.
However, another look at Alastair seemed to settle his mind.
“I apologize for my lack of manners,” the odd man went on. “Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Cornelis Drebbel, alchemist. Young man, your grandfather’s grandfather once was the holder of my skull.”
There was another louder squeak, and that time I’m pretty sure it came from me.
“Sk-k-k skull?” Alastair queried.
The man, Cornelis Drebbel looked at each of us, and then smirked.
“Well now, you didn’t think I was ordinary, did you? If my arrival in a submarine was not enough, after I levitated out of the vessel, you must have realized something. Maybe you didn’t,” he finished drolly.
I can’t begin to describe how the conversation progressed from that point. However, we found ourselves sitting on a blanket and drinking coffee from the thermos I had brought. Cornelis tried to explain the alchemy that connected him to Alastair’s ancestor, and how it brought him to Savannah, Georgia. I admit most of that went right over my head, but apparently that family tree drew him to Alastair.
After a while he wanted to know more about us. I told him how we happened to be at the pier, to see if it would be a good place for a birthday party for Alastair’s mom.
The alchemist’s eyes lit up. He clapped his hands together and grinned.
“I have the perfect place!” he exclaimed. “How about a river cruise?”
“A riverboat party would be the cat’s meow, but it would cost more mazuma than I see in a year,” Alastair said regretfully.
“Oh, dear boy, tsk-tsk. I don’t mean a riverboat. I meant my submarine!” he chortled. “I’d love to meet your immediate family and give you a tour. It’s not often I get to meet the descendants of one of the keepers of my skull.”
Unfortunately, Alastair and I couldn’t talk much about it later. We had to pass it off to Alastair’s family as Hollywood type special effects. Yet it was pos-i-lutely the most memorable birthday party I ever attended.
After the amazingly talented Adele Marie Park asked to know more about my Cornelis Drebbel character, I decided to share a link to the old serial where he was “born” so to speak. Here is episode one of that “three things” style steampunk series: https://teagansbooks.com/2015/01/17/new-interactive-serial-episode-1/
Thanks for visiting. You really are the cat’s pajamas!
PS: Of course, I have to show you the links to the books about Pip and her friends.
Murder at the Bijou — Three Ingredients I
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 © 2017 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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