Sunday, January 29, 2012


The alchemist raised an eyebrow, afraid what new question he would have to face next. Obtaining a motor had been far more difficult than he had anticipated. "What is it monsieur?"

Delon looked him up and down before he asked with a grim expression, "You swear you are not an anarchist?"

Maggiormente clapped his hands together. He did not mind the question, although it seemed his countrymen were unfairly maligned with this charge. "Monsieur, I swear on the life of my mother and all the she holds holy that I am not an anarchist."

Delon looked at Fabien, who nodded. "You cannot be too careful, monsieur. There are many strange ideas in the world at present."

"Indeed," the alchemist agreed, though he had no idea to what the mechanic might be referring. When it came to politics, the alchemist was a bit like a child. His opinions tended toward fairness, respect and all freedom for alchemical experimentation.

"As long as you are not an anarchist planning to create chaos with your explosions, I am willing to sell this motor to you," Delon said. He clapped the alchemist on the shoulder. "I would not want to have such a thing on my conscience."

"Nor I."

Fabien nodded agreement. "I have known M. Maggiormente for some weeks now and I can say he and Eduardo are most agreeable and only dangerous by accident."

Eduardo snorted. "I am dangerous on purpose."

The alchemist frowned at his familiar. "Yes, on purpose, but not often."

"And not to most people," Fabien agreed.

Eduardo raised his head a little higher. "I am selective."

"Indeed." Maggiormente was eager to change the subject before Eduardo began boasting of his exploits. "This motor will offer a great chance to develop—"

"I once killed a duke," Eduardo began.

"Not a duke," the alchemist corrected.

"What is it he was then? Something like a duke."

"He was an alderman."

Eduardo sniffed.

"And he didn't die. He was rather frightened though." Brigitte crowed from the lion's back and bounced up and down as if delighted with the thought of startling a minor official.

"The pigeons did not survive."

"That is true. So, monsieur, the price?" Maggiormente and Delon haggled amiably for a bit and at last agreed on a mutually satisfying amount and exchanged francs for the motor.

"Well, what will you attach it to?" Delon asked as the alchemist tucked the motor under his arm.

Maggiormente stared. "Attach it to?"

"Yes, to test it you'll need to attach it to something."

"But I do not need to propel anything, just to see how the motor works."

"And what? Hold it in your hand while you fire it up?" Delon and Fabien both laughed, as much at Maggiormente's puzzled expression as at his failure to see the issues at hand. "Monsieur, the motor will get very hot as it works."

"Ah," the alchemist said, enlightened.

"You could attach it to Mme. Gabor," Eduardo suggested. This provoked even more laughter, but Maggiormente did not join in.

"You are only making things worse, Eduardo." He frowned.

Delon disappeared into the depths of the garage once more and returned with a short wooden plank. "Let's see if we can attach the motor to this. It will offer some stability."

The mechanic and the alchemist bent over the plank and in a few minutes the motor had been secured to the wood.

"Eccellente! Now we shall go try it out."

Delon shook his hand. "Now, no explosions, monsieur."

"I shall endeavour," Maggiormente said with grave solemnity. "I think we are nearly there. To perfection!"

Sunday, January 22, 2012


"What sort of motor, monsieur?" Delon asked, hands open as if to suggest the wide world of possibilities that the word 'motor' conjured.

"A small one," Fabien and Eduardo said in unison. The baker slapped the lion on his back in a matey sort of way, which surprised the alchemist's familiar enough that he jumped a little. The child on his back shrieked with delight.

"More, more!" Brigitte cried.

Eduardo ignored this plea. "A motor resistant to explosion would be a plus."

Delon raised an eyebrow and looked from the alchemist to his lion. "May one ask what the motor will be used for?"

"Experimentation," Maggiormente said with evident enthusiasm.

Delon looked at Fabien. "Experimentation? He's not an anarchist, is he?"

The alchemist looked confused. "Anarchist? No, no, monsieur. I am an alchemist."

Delon frowned. "Is that some kind of a political struggle?"

"Magical," Fabien said.

"No, no, no," Maggiormente corrected. "Experimentation, science—I am working on a new fuel compound from alchemical reactions that will provide motors with greater propulsion than coal."

Delon looked impressed. "Such a thing would be welcomed by many."

"You would think," Maggiormente said. "Nevertheless, people seem reluctant to experiment with alchemical combinations."

"It must be the explosions," Fabien said, elbowing the alchemist, who did not appear to be amused.

"Explosions are rare," he said, frowning with disapproval.

"Only one this week," Eduardo agreed.

"Only one," Delon said. He exchanged a glance with Fabien.

"It was a very small explosion," Eduardo admitted.

"With a motor, we will be able to refine the process to avoid any further explosions," Maggiormente said. "The process has been theoretical up to this point. I desire to have this fuel perfected in time for the Exposition."

"It comes upon us," Delon said, looking thoughtful.

"Indeed. Thus my haste."

"What do you hope to power? Trains?"

Maggioremente smiled seraphically. "Ah, no—even better: airships! That is the secret you see."

"Secret?" Delon and Fabien exchanged another look. "Is it secret?"

"Oh, pardon my French," Maggiormente said, slapping his forehead. "I am not expressing myself quite right. The genius—is that what I mean?—the genius is to distill a fuel powerful enough and yet also very light, so it can fuel airships for long journeys."

Delon nodded his head, considering the idea. "That would change the machines for sure. Genius, yes, perhaps that is the word."

"Flying, bah!" Fabien laughed. "You couldn't get me up in one of those things. We were not mean to be like birds—your Leonardo not withstanding." The bake clapped the alchemist's back companionably. "What is it you always say, Eduardo? Flying, it's for the birds!"

Eduardo growled. "I have never said that."

"But it is true, ne c'est pas?"

"I have only said that it is undignified." Eduardo lifted his chin high, the picture of dignity—apart from the braids in his mane and the small child bouncing up and down on his back.

"So do you have a motor that might suit this?" Maggiormente asked.

Delon nodded. "I have a small motor that once ran a water pump at the linen factory near here. It wore out from constant use, but I have been restoring it."

Maggiormente rubbed his hands together. "That sounds ideal. How much?"

Delon sighed. "That is a very good question. There is the work I have put into it and the new parts it required, but there is also a very important question to ask you."

Sunday, January 15, 2012


 The day sparkled. Some days in Paris had that special quality. It brought the painters out into the streets and park and coaxed writers from their garrets. As the friends walked along the boulevard, the alchemist blinked at the unaccustomed light.

"It's a lovely day today," he said with some surprise to his friend Fabien.

The Parisian had known the Italian long enough to realise the significance of this utterance. He laughed. "How many days has it been since you set foot outside?"

Maggiormente shrugged. "Not so long, I don't think."

Eduardo snorted. "Three days."

The alchemist pondered this. "Are you certain? Surely it has not been that long."

"It has." Eduardo shook his head. Brigitte had begun plaiting his mane again. "I tried to get you to come out with me yesterday, but you wouldn't."

"I don't remember that."

Fabien laughed again. "I wonder that you remember to eat."

"Oh, I don't forget to eat. I am Italian after all." Maggiormente slapped his belly. "As my dear friend the poet Alessandra says, while you eat, you do not age."

"Very wise."

"Of course when he does decide to eat," Eduardo added with an air of smugness, "It's usually the middle of the night."

"That's when pasta tastes the best," Maggiormente said, but joined in his friend's laughter. "When I'm working on a new process, I cannot pay attention to anything else."

"That is the danger of alchemy." Fabien nodded as if to confirm the sagacity of this observation. Anything that interfered with regular meals surely had to be dangerous.

"The danger of alchemy," Eduardo said as Brigitte bounced up and down on his back, "is that sooner or later something will explode."

"Sciocco! You will make Alain think alchemy is something dangerous."

Eduardo looked up at the alchemist. "Are you trying to say it's not?"

Maggiormente waved his words away. "Every employment has some kind of risk."

"I've never heard of accountants exploding their desks."

"Oh, it must happen sometimes—"

"Here we are," Fabien interrupted. They stood before a garage with a small sign that said only Mécanicien Delon in a small precise script. "Maurice! Es-tu lá?"

A shout of oui resounded from within but the speaker could not be seen. The small group approached closer but could not see the man. "Where are you, Maurice?"

"Up here!" In the rafters of the garage Maurice worked on a pulley. "This infernal pulley seems to have developed a most irritating squeak and it annoyed me so much I had to fix it while I should have been working on something else."

"No hurry," Maggiormente said. Now that he had come out into the sunshine he found himself in no hurry to return to the smoky workshop that was his flat.

"I'll just be a moment, monsieur," Maurice said, wiggling the wheel of the pulley. "I think this bacon fat has done the trick.

"Mmmmm, bacon," said Eduardo, lashing his tail. Brigitte squealed with delight as the tip of the tail brushed her leg, tickling her delightfully.

"Bacon fat," the alchemist scolded. "Don't beg for treats."

"I never beg," Eduardo said with a sniff.

"No, you wheedle."

"What is wheedle?" Brigitte asked.

"Begging under another name," Fabien said with a laugh.

Eduardo narrowed his eyes and showed his teeth. "Wheedling is a dignified way of acquiring what one wishes to have."

"Sounds like begging to me." Fabien chortled.

"So what have you come to wheedle from me?" Maurice said, swinging down from the rafters. "I assume you need something, eh?" He stuck out his hand to the alchemist.

"Buon giorno, I am Maggiormente."

"Delon. What can I do for you?"

"I need a motor, monsieur."

Monday, January 09, 2012


 "Charmant!" Brigitte hugged the lion even more tightly. Eduardo's tongue hung out now as he panted.

"Ma cherie," a stern voice called. "Let him go, you are squeezing him too tightly."

"Alain!" Maggiormente clapped his friend on the back as the two embraced. Eduardo shook his mane and used a paw to rub at the location of his tender assault while Brigitte cooed nearby.

"A glorious day in the city of lights, eh, Alessandro? Where are you two bound?"

"Ah, now that is a good question. You can assist us, I am certain, my friend." The alchemist clapped his hands together in anticipation. "Is there a motor market nearby?"

Alain Fabien raised his eyebrows. "Mon dieu! A what?"

"We are in need of a motor. Where does one buy a motor?" Maggiormente frowned. "I have not had to buy a motor before."

"What sort of motor?" The Frenchman rubbed his chin. "A big one, a little one?"

The alchemist considered this. "Any kind of motor would do, I suppose."

"Perhaps a small one," Eduardo intervened.

Fabien pondered. "Perhaps we can borrow one?"

"From where?"

"Can we return it safely?" Eduardo growled, chafing a bit at Brigitte's attempts to plait his mane into little pigtails.

"We just need to test our fuel," Maggiormente said with a shrug.

Fabien nodded. "Surely that won't be a problem."

"The hole in the ceiling says otherwise," Eduardo said quietly.

Fabien regarded him with one eyebrow raised. "That is another matter. Perhaps we should find somewhere for you to purchase a motor."

"Do you have an idea of where?"

"Yes, come. Brigitte, leave Eduardo's mane alone."
"Papa! May I ride on Eduardo's back?"

Fabien and Maggiormente looked at the lion, who flapped his wings gently. "It will be all right, I suppose," Eduardo said at last. Brigitte shrieked and grabbed handfuls of his mane and struggled aboard his broad back between the wings.

"Can we fly?"

"Flying is undignified," the Venetian lion growled.

"I know a man who has repaired motors for the glass factory near here," Fabien explained. "If he does not have a motor to sell you, perhaps he will know where you can get one."

"That would be ideal. I need to test my new elixir." The alchemist stroked his beard with pleasure. Things seemed to be going well.

"Elixir? I thought you were working on a fuel." His friend frowned, puzzled.

"Oh yes, but it is so much more than that!" The alchemist swelled with pride. "This could be an incredible advance in the world, an explosive concoction—"

"Emphasis on the word 'explosive'," Eduardo interjected.

"You are too pedantic," Maggiormente huffed.

"Mme. Gabor will not be so pedantic when she sees the hole in her ceiling."

The alchemist waved his hand at this trivial detail. "Nothing revolutionary has ever been accomplished without a little collateral damage. It is infinitesimal in the grand scheme of things."

"You're not going to start a fire?" Alain Fabien looked rather nonplussed at the emerging details of the experiment to date.

"No, no, nothing like that," Maggiormente reassured him.

"Only the occasional explosion," Eduardo agreed while Brigitte cried, "Wheee!" on his back.

"Well, if it's only the occasional explosion—" Fabien grimaced.

"Oh, it's hardly to be noticed!" Maggiormente explained. "In a motor, such an explosion will be contained. It will only be part of the thrust of the engine. I am nearly certain."


Sunday, January 01, 2012


 Alessandro Maggiormente examined the hole in the ceiling with some surprise.

"Did you expect that to happen?" Eduardo said, shaking plaster dust out of his mane. He gave a good flap of his wings, too. A little white cloud surrounded him.

"I did not. This is a very good sign." The alchemist rubbed his beard with satisfaction. There was somewhat less of his beard than there had been a few moments before and the remainder had a singed edge to it, but he did not appear to notice.

"I am not sure Mme. Gabor will agree." Eduardo curled his tail around his feet.

Maggiormente frowned. They both turned toward the door expecting to hear the sound of their concierge's feet tapping their way up the stair, but there was only silence.

"She must be away," Maggiormente said, waving away any concern with her opinion. "We need to test this in a proper way before the Exposition."

Eduardo raised one eyebrow. "How much more of a test is required?"

The alchemist laughed. "I know it has great power, but can it be contained? I shall have to see if it will make a useful fuel."

"Perhaps you should try that outside."

Maggiormente nodded. "I suspect so. I need some kind of engine as well."

"What sort of engine?" Eduardo stretched. He hoped it meant a trip outside away from the unpleasant smells of alchemy.

"Oh, any sort will do," the alchemist said. "Where do you suppose one obtains an engine?"


"Is there an engine market?"

"Perhaps there is an engine area of the local market."

Maggiormente considered this. "Perhaps there are shops that sell them. They must come from somewhere."

Eduardo got his fez. "Let's go looking."

"Ah, yes. We are sure to find some shop or market." The alchemist patted his pockets, frowning again.

"What are you looking for?" Eduardo's tail lashed around him, his usual sign of impatience.

"Money. I am always mislaying this abominable French money."

"Let's go. I'm sure we can make some sort of arrangement with a shopkeeper." Eduardo headed toward the door.

"There'll be no cakes if I do not find some money."

Eduardo paused. "Have you checked the wardrobe?"

"Oh, here is my wallet!" Maggiormente retrieved the leather case from the depths of his coat.

"Cakes!" Eduardo bounced. It was an unusual sight.

The two of them bounded down the stair and into the street. It was another lovely day in Paris, a fact that had eluded the alchemist until now. He blinked in the sunlight. "This sun almost reminds me of home."

Eduardo sniffed the air. "But it doesn't smell like home."

A passer by stared at the Venetian lion and at the alchemist, too, then crossed hastily to the other side of the street. Most of the people in the neighbourhood had become accustomed to the sight of the large winged lion and no longer shrieked in alarm or ran away.

There were few, however, who welcomed the two of them. Most left a wide berth around Eduardo. Perhaps it was his very large teeth or his rather long claws. Doubtless the growls he emitted when irritated did little to calm nerves.

Not everyone was unnerved by the large creature, however, and the piercing scream that filled the air now did not indicate alarm.

"Eddie! Mon cher!"

A small girl shot out of a doorway and wrapped her arms tightly around the lion's neck while vociferously cooing at him. Eduardo took this acclaim with surprisingly dignity and did not bite the head off the child.

"Bon jour, Brigitte." Eduardo had to gasp the words as the child continued to squeeze his neck a little too tightly. "Where's your papa?"