Wednesday, August 1, 2018
Welcome everyone. The diesel-punk train has arrived at Jazz Age Wednesdays. It’s great to see all you Sheiks and Shebas!
The diesel-punk train has been stuck in that Egyptian sand dune where it exited the pittura metafisica — both in the story and in my head. Sunday is my writing day, so as I pen this, I was looking for inspiration. I landed on the video composite (below) of Louis Armstrong. It includes some 1920s footage. At the video site, there’s a nice bit of history too.
The second song “I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead, You Rascal,” got me going with this episode. Does that seem like odd inspiration? Read on and you’ll understand.
Previously with Hullaba Lulu
All the angel-bots were excited to see Papá, who turned out to be Nikola Tesla. The inventor brought his violet ray machine and tried, unsuccessfully to heal Valentino.
Lulu felt an odd fluttering sensation inside her head. A strange but beautiful woman blinked into her sight but disappeared.
Valentino’s condition deteriorated and Pearl told us, “He was raving something, but his speech was slurred. It sounded like he kept asking about something, ‘Is it’ whatever. I asked him ‘Is what?’ but he moaned and passed out again.”
Later, Lulu barely overcame the urge to shave Pearl’s head for her superiority complex and the snobbish things she said about Lulu and her family.
What do you think I did with the “things” that spontaneously drove this chapter? Without further ado, let’s get a wiggle on with Chapter 11.3. Do you hear Valentino’s trumpet?
Remote Control, Sarcophagus
Everything seemed to sparkle. Lights reflected in the chrome-and-glass coin-operated machines of the automat. I stared absently at the beautifully ornate mirrors, marble, and marquetry, as my half-eaten fried chicken got cold. A sign identifying Horn & Hardart* was positioned vertically so that the words lay on their sides.
“Everything has been sideways from the minute he showed up,” I muttered, my mind on Valentino. “Including my feelings.”
It was true. From revelations about my absent mother to all the strangeness of the oddly different versions of Atlantic City and the Cotton Club. I felt like my entire life was catawampus, sideways.
One of the clockwork attendants was clearing plates from a nearby table. Placing the dishes on a cart it pushed some buttons and the cart rolled smoothly away to the kitchen. Remote control, I’d never get used to it.
“Pardon, Miss?” Woo asked in a voice subtly accented with Chinese.
I didn’t know it was her until she spoke. Though a few of the clockwork attendants had distinguishing features, most of the were identical. Only their unique voices set them apart.
Reaching to a different cart, Woo placed a bloody mary and a small bowl of horseradish on my table. She asked if anything was wrong with my chicken. I told her that it was fine and thanked her for remembering the horseradish that I had not requested.
The clockwork attendant shifted in a foot-to-foot hesitation. I had come to realize that movement meant they were uncertain about something, or perhaps looking for the correct words.
“Thank you for your insights about the gowns,” Woo finally finished.
“Oh, you mean for Pearl? It was nothing. I’m sorry she was being such a rubber to you,” I told her.
The automaton lives up to the name angel-bot, I thought. Woo had the patience of a saint to deal with Pearl.
She looked at me curiously when I shook my head and stuck my fingers in my ears. That weird fluttering sensation deep inside my ears ― I’d felt it once before. It was back. Fluttering like a bird trapped inside my head, trying to escape.
My head started to buzz. That also happened the other time. Lights blared like a camera flash, although I realized the lamps in the automat hadn’t so much as blinked.
From one of the strobes of light, the strangely beautiful woman in a long white gown appeared for the second time. Her long onyx hair lifted on a current that might have been from air or from electricity. She still wore that funny little hat. It looked like a tiny chair on top of her head.
The woman leaned down and sniffed of me! I drew away. She sneered but it turned into a vulpine grin. Although that didn’t seem any friendlier. With another flash of light, she vanished. I shook my head again.
Repeated clicking caused me to turn toward Woo. Her eyes blinked convulsively.
“I have to go―” I started.
“Miss, we should―” Woo began.
“Check on Valentino,” I added in chorus with the angel-bot.
At the suggestion of Moon, the engineering attendant, I had played music on the theremin several times. Moon had hoped it would repair Valentino’s connection with the train. That was a side effect of when the train’s Tesla coil was sabotaged. However, any positive effect the eerie music had on the enigmatic man didn’t last long.
We had high hopes that Nikola Tesla could cure Valentino using his violet ray machine. However, despite the inventor’s efforts the benefits of the machine did not appear to be what Valentino needed. Tesla was in the middle of another session when Woo and I walked into the room.
Valentino moaned fretfully as Nikola Tesla used the odd-looking contraption he called a violet ray. His speech was slurred as if he was zozzled, although I knew it was from his sickness. It sounded like he asked if something was set. He repeated the word “is.” Then he started saying my name along with his ravings.
“Is what set?” I asked him, but my lack of understanding only seemed to upset him more.
As Tesla worked, the room was suffused in violet light. The air became charged with static electricity. A sizzling noise met my ears.
When I commented on a pleasant smell that seemed to be one of the effects, Tesla told me that it was the odor of ozone. He said we should go ahead and inhale the ozone, that it was good for us. Then he took a deep breath as if to illustrate.
I didn’t understand what was going on, but it seemed to soothe Valentino. He stopped ranting whatever it was he wanted to know about “Is.”
Only then did I notice Pearl sitting behind Tesla. She wore a modest pastel gown in an outdated style. A matching turban hid her fair hair. Her long earrings were notably missing. She looked like the women of the past, whom Tesla was quoted as saying he preferred. She had also hidden the things of which he had phobias ― human hair and women’s earrings.
Pearl moved the stool on which she sat, staying as close to the inventor as she could get without causing him to trip over her.
To my surprise, Tesla gave Pearl a fond glance. Her plan to win Nikola Tesla seemed to be working.
I saw my grandfather’s intense gaze. The man could stare down a locomotive if he put his mind to it. At first, I thought he looked at me, but his eyes were fixed on a spot just over my shoulder.
“Now all she needs is some pigeons,” a voice said from behind me.
Startled, I turned around to see the onyx-haired woman from before. She pushed past me, moving toward Valentino.
“I’ll be glad when you’re dead, you rascal, you,” she said as she moved closer to the semi-conscious Valentino. “Oh, I’ll be tickled to death when you leave this earth, it’s true.”
“Satchmo?” Gramps muttered incredulously, causing to the woman to divert her intense gaze from Valentino to him.
She gave my grandfather that vulpine smile and winked! His eyes bulged.
It scared me half to death.
“But I can’t let you die just yet,” the woman added, turning back to Valentino.
I heard the fluttering again, but that time it was not inside my head. Abruptly the woman had wings!
I remembered the huge multicolored wing I had glimpsed a few times. I wondered if it was her. I couldn’t tell because everything in the room had a purplish cast from the violet ray machine.
Abruptly Valentino sat up on the table where he lay. He shouted a single word.
“Sarcophagus!” he cried.
In an instant the winged woman stepped toward Valentino. Her large wings obscured my view.
“Is… Ist…,” Valentino raved. “Iset,” he finally spoke clearly.
Then I was blinded by intense repeated flashes of light. When the spots cleared from my vision, the woman and Valentino were both gone.
The angel-bots rushed to a window and pulled back the curtains. I could see the black-haired woman spread multicolored wings.
She flew away, carrying Valentino with her.
Is-who? Iset? That might be good… Then again she didn’t exactly seem friendly, so it could be really bad! And now the strange winged woman has noticed Gramps. I’m with Lulu — that would scare me too!
Real World Notes
Satchmo. Louis Armstrong (via OneMediaMusic) Louis Armstrong, nicknamed Satchmo or Pops, was an American jazz trumpeter and singer from New Orleans, Louisiana. Coming to prominence in the 1920s as an “inventive” cornet and trumpet player, Armstrong was a foundational influence in jazz, shifting the focus of the music from collective improvisation to solo performance. With his instantly recognizable deep and distinctive gravelly voice, Armstrong was also an influential singer, demonstrating great dexterity as an improviser, bending the lyrics and melody of a song for expressive purposes.
Horn & Hardart and its cavernous, waiterless establishments represented a combination of fast-food, vending and cafeteria-style eateries. These restaurants, with their chrome-and-glass coin-operated machines, brought high-tech, inexpensive eating to a low-tech era. became an American icon, celebrated in song and humor. With their uniform recipes and centralized commissary system of supplying their restaurants, the automats were America’s first major fast-food chain.
I hope you will be at the station again next week to catch the diesel-punk train.
Thanks for visiting. You’re the oyster’s earrings!
Satchmo’s songs on the video at the top of this post are:
1. Hello, Dolly!
2. I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead You Rascal You
3. Muskrat Ramble
4. On The Sunny Side Of The Street
5. Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen
6. Jeepers Creepers
7. C’est Si Bon
8. Medley: Now You Has Jazz / Tiger Rag
9. The Birth Of The Blues (feat. Frank Sinatra)
10. I Love Jazz
11. South Rampart Street Parade
12. When It’s Sleepy Time Down South
13. Just Because
14. St Louis Blues
15. Some Day You’ll Be Sorry
16. When The Saints Go Marchin’ In
17. The Umbrella Man
Now some shameless self-promotion for my other 1920s books — the original “three things” stories about Paisley Idelle Peabody, aka Pip, and her friends.
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.
Artwork Copyright © 2018 by Rob Goldstein
Copyright © 2018 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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