Wednesday, September 6, 2017
Each weekend I give you a new serial episode. I’ve been giving that throughout most of the past four years. However, Teagan’s Books is about more than serial episodes. It’s about my books too. So I’m creating this midweek feature.
I added a poll to the last post. Not a majority, but some people wanted me to keep it to one post a week. No one is obligated to visit every post. Although I have to say I find that discouraging.
Since my current release is Murder at the Bijou — Three Ingredients I, I’ll be having Jazz Age Wednesdays. That means short stories from the “Pip-verse.” (At least for a while. When Atonement in Bloom is published, the midweek feature will be from that universe.)
We like to joke about Wednesday being “hump day” and camels. Did you know that in the 1920s there was a dance called the Camel Walk? Although this example from 1935 is probably a little more complicated than what the average couple did…
Here’s my first Jazz Age Wednesday feature. It takes place right after the novella, The Three Things Serial Story. I was honored to have a great review of the novella from author and translator Olga Núñez Miret.
It’s a short story, so it was driven by only one “thing/ingredient,” macaroni and cheese. It came from Suzanne DeBrango’s souffléd macaroni and cheese when we did a joint post in January. (Yes, I’m re-sharing this story.)
Pip Arrives in Savannah
The breeze that rustled through the fronds of tall palm trees was tinged with salt. I inhaled deeply as I walked out of the tall arched door at Savannah’s Union Station. I heard the bell of a streetcar, which had gone past a moment before. I stretched to see the trolley, but barely got a glimpse of its back-end.
With a loud Bronx cheer I dropped my suitcase to the curb of West Broad Street. I thought the Jazz Age slang for the rude noise I made was appropriate, since my Pops was continuing on the train to New York City.
Pops said I needed to be reigned-in, and Granny insisted that I needed to learn to cook. Neither of them would admit that I was a modern woman. No self-respecting Flapper needed to cook! Anyhow, Pops had unceremoniously dumped me off the train, saying he’d visit with Granny and me on his way back. I blew another raspberry at the streetcar that I had just missed — and at my wretched situation.
The ringing of the streetcar’s bell faded into the distance. The first time I ever saw a trolley was during a visit to my grandmother, there in Savannah, when I was a very little girl. I slipped away from her and Pops, and scampered onto a streetcar. I didn’t get far, but Granny Phanny was mad enough to spit.
This time, I had done the opposite. Instead of getting on a trolley when I shouldn’t have, I had missed the one I was supposed to ride to get to her. Now Granny would be waiting to meet me at some Chinese restaurant downtown, but I wouldn’t be on the trolley. Horsefeathers! She would be in a lather.
A nearby news vendor walked away from his stall, probably headed for a bite of lunch. I called out and waved as I hurried toward him, my suitcase bumping along at my side.
“Hey Mac! Was that the trolley that goes to Pearl Street?” I called out, but he didn’t hear me over the blast of a train whistle. “Enjoy your lunch,” I grumbled and my empty stomach answered in kind. “I sure could do with some of Granny’s macaroni and cheese.”
“Did you miss the trolley, sweet cheeks?” a clear tenor voice asked.
I didn’t see him until he moved forward. He had been leaning against the opposite side of the newsstand. He wore a suit and hat, but they had flair. He cast a furtive glance over his shoulder, but then tilted his head back and blew a smoke ring into the air.
Applesauce! He looked pos-i-lute-ly like the kind of character I had always been told to avoid, but he was as sexy as the Sheik of Araby. Then his cigarette smoke drifted to me and I sneezed. So much for me being a sophisticated Sheba. I had to agree with Pops that smoking was a nasty habit.
“You’re new in town, huh? I’m Floyd. I can take you where the giggle water flows aplenty. It’ll be a real blow,” he said with a smile and a wink that made him even handsomer.
“Says you,” I countered coyly, thinking he was joking around.
“At least let me drive you over to Pearl Street. Stick around until my pal gets back. He’s picking up something for me,” he added gazing up and then down the street, as if looking for his friend. Stay right here and I’ll get my machine. It’s a sweet ride. You’ll love it,” he called over his shoulder as he rushed away. “Don’t move. Promise. I’ll be right back.”
I stood baffled, gaping at Floyd’s retreating form. I was also feeling flattered by his interest. There was an intensity about him that I found exciting. Not to mention the fact that I was relieved that I might avoid Granny’s wrath over me missing the streetcar and leaving her waiting.
“Signorina, do not be going with that man. It would be a bad thing for you. Trouble comes,” a voice, heavily accented with Italian, said from behind me. “There will be other transportation.”
Turning, I saw a portly man in odd looking chef’s clothes. He lifted his brimless toque and bowed. A jalopy backfired so suddenly and so loudly that I jerked around to face the noise. When I turned back, the chef was gone. I didn’t see him anywhere. It was as if he disappeared into thin air.
I quickly forgot about the odd occurrence when a wooden crate fell off a passing truck. The driver pulled to the curb beside me. Without thinking I went to help. He had not been traveling fast, so little damage was done. A few oranges rolled from a broken crate. I started picking up the wayward fruit.
An Asian looking guy with a quasi-British accent jumped out of the driver’s door, apologizing even before his feet hit the street. He gingerly hopped over the tailgate and began re-positioning the crates. A couple of them looked ready to fall.
I noticed lettering on the truck proclaiming Wong’s Chinese. Was that the name of the restaurant where I was supposed to meet Granny? I was so resentful about being sent to Savannah that I hadn’t even paid attention to what she said. I knew there wouldn’t be more than one Chinese restaurant on the street.
“Your place isn’t on Pearl Street by any chance, is it?”
“Yep, that’s Wong’s,” he replied with a grin, stopping his work. “Hey, are you Pip? Miss Phanny will be looking for you. I’m Alastair Wong,” he bent from the truck bed and shook my hand.
I sighed with relief.
Then a brand new Ford stopped and gave a long blare of the auto’s horn. “Hey! Move it,” my Sheik of Araby from moments before shouted angrily, and followed that with a racial slur.
Floyd got out of the automobile, moving toward us in a menacing posture. I stood up, a smashed and dripping orange still in my hand.
“This cake eater’s bad news, Pip. You don’t want to have anything to do with him,” Alastair Wong whispered as he stepped in front of me protectively.
In the distance a police whistle trilled. The guy’s eyes widened and he looked over his shoulder. Before I knew what was happening, he had hit Alastair in the head with the butt of a pistol. I shrieked as he dragged me into the open Ford, my arms and legs flailing.
I could hear the coppers coming toward us, shouting and blowing whistles. Suddenly the Ford was blocked between the delivery truck and police vehicles. Alastair lay unconscious on the street. The busted orange dripped juice all over my skirt. The guy waved his gun around excitedly. A maniacal gleam came to his eyes when he looked at me.
An over eager copper fired his gun. I heard the whiz of the bullet pass by my head. Startled, Floyd jerked toward the policemen. Movement from the delivery truck caught my eye. A catawampus crate started to wobble. Suddenly that crate and another one tumbled down to land on the windshield of the Ford. Floyd started screaming and cursing, waving his pistol even more.
When he turned back to me, on sudden impulse I stuck the busted orange in his face and smeared it into his eyes. By then the coppers had reached us. They grabbed him before he could do any damage with the gun.
A copper helped me out of the Ford. I ran to Alastair as another cop helped him stand. Across the street I saw Floyd’s pal, the news vendor being held by a policeman.
“What just happened here?” I demanded.
A paddy wagon rolled up and the policemen pushed Floyd into it, along with his pal.
“Bootleggers,” a copper told me. “As if we didn’t already have enough of those around here.”
“So Pip,” Alastair said while he held a handkerchief to his bloodied forehead. “How do you like Savannah so far?”
I chuckled despite everything. At least he had a sense of humor.
“Well, I was afraid I would be bored to tears here,” I told him with a dramatic sigh. “But I suppose it will be interesting enough. So far I’ve learned three things. Don’t take any wooden nickels. Don’t get into Fords with handsome men. And Wong’s Chinese is the right place to go.”
Alastair laughed. “That’s a good slogan, doll face. Mind if I use it? How about we get you to the restaurant. Miss Phanny will be getting impatient.”
And so began my adventures in Savannah.
You’ll find more of Pip and her friends and her adventures in Savannah in Murder at the Bijou — Three Ingredients I . Thanks for visiting. You’re the cat’s pajamas!
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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