Sunday, March 25, 2012

7.0 Suspicions of Piracy


"Surely not." Helen frowned. "Why on earth do you connect airships with pirates?"

The publican put down the glass he was cleaning and pointed an accusing finger at her. "There were that one not six months gone by. Landed here, ran up a lot of bills, stole a gentleman's daughter and, I heard, a wealth of jewels as well."

Helen attempted to hide her skepticism.

"What sort of 'jewels' did he supposedly steal?"

It was the publican's turn to look doubtful. "Why do you want to know?"

"If you're worried that I will be trying to steal the jewels," Helen said with more than a touch of venom, "I would point out that these valuable have supposedly already been stolen."

He looked as if he were mulling this proposition over. At last the publican decided it would be safe enough to relate more of the story to this potential pirate.

"I suppose that's true enough, but I don't want to think you're some kind of buttoner after me wealth."

"I'm an airship captain," Helen said drawing herself up to full height with more than a pinch of her father's temper. "I am not here to 'hoist' anything but my airship."

"You'd be nibbed in a trice if you were to try," the publican said, laying a finger aside his nose and nodding.

"Would I? It doesn't seem to have been the case with that pirate."

His face fell with dismay. "We learned from that misfortune."

Helen closed her eyes and sighed. "I am not a pirate. I do not intend to steal anything. My father and I are on our way to France with my pilot, Signor Romano."

"Over the ocean?" Another gentleman entered the conversation. From his attire Helen guessed him to be a coach driver. There had been three outside the inn when they arrived, walking from where the airship had been tethered.

"Yes, over the ocean."

"I knew a father and daughter pair of toolers, some said they were gypsies. Preyed upon folks all the way from Canterbury to London." The publican nodded sagely. "They were finally caught and topped proper. My brother saw them swing."

"I am not a gypsy or a 'tooler' whatever that may be." Helen felt exasperation taking hold of her.

"But the ocean's a very long way," the driver said, tutting at her. "Surely your little balloon cannot make it so far."

"Yes, of course it can. And it's not a balloon, it's an airship."

"I'm not saying you are a tooler, but you have to leave me the right to be suspicious. I have a family and a business to protect."

I understand that," Helen said, feeling her nostrils flare as she exhaled too forcefully, "But why suspect me?"

"I'd bet fair money it wouldn't make it," the coachman said with an irritating air of smugness.

"You will lose that bet," Helen said with a savage pleasure. "We have flown down from Yorkshire today."

"Yorkshire?" the publican said, shaking his head. "I think that's where that gypsy pair came from. Somewhere up north it were."

Helen closed her eyes. Why bother with this? Her father would be getting impatient and joining the argument. And that would be something worth avoiding. "If you want to bring the food over to our table when you have a chance, we'll gladly pay you in advance if that will set your mind at ease, sir."

"Oh, I didn't mean to cast aspersions, miss," the publican said waving his tea towel in his hand. "It just doesn't pay to be too gullible hereabouts."

"I'd lay some money on that," the driver said.

"How much?" Helen asked.

"A guinea."

"Done." She shook the man's hand and returned to the table where her father sat. He appeared amused by her stormy expression but wisely waited to allow her to speak first.

"Southerners!" she exclaimed at last.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

6.9 Nails & Sparks

 The alchemist lifted his glass and drained it. "And now I must return to my work." He set the glass down on the table then rubbed his hands together. "Eduardo, are you ready?"

"I have finished my cake," Eduardo said, flapping his wings lightly as he stretched his front legs out at a seemingly impossible length. Brigitte cooed and tousled his mane. The lion ignored her.

"Mon ami!" Fabien cried. "We were just getting into a very good discussion here."

Adèle kissed the top of her husband's head. "Your work is done for the day, mon amour, but Monsieur Maggiormente has his duties ahead yet."

"Such a pity!"

Maggiormente clapped his friend on the shoulder. "Tomorrow is another day. We shall renew our argument."

"Discussion! A much better word, my friend." The two embraced and then the alchemist and his lion headed back out into the late afternoon light, the motor tucked under Maggiormente's arm.

"I hope Mme. Gabor is not around," the alchemist said. "I don't want her asking questions just now."

Eduardo coughed. "I don't think she will bother you at present."

Maggiormente looked down at his familiar. "What did you do?"

"I?" The lion looked at him with exaggerated innocence. "I did nothing."

Maggiormente frowned, but did not press the matter. They returned to their maison and heard not a peep from the concierge as they climbed the stair to their flat on the top floor. Eduardo sneezed as they entered the workroom.

"Remnants of the failure," the alchemist said with regret.

"Mistakes are necessary; how can you find success if you do not eliminate the alternate avenues?" The lion sneezed again. "In the future I hope we can avoid this particular mistake, however."

"That matrix has been discarded," Maggiormente said as he set the motor on the work table. "How to affix this motor so it will not slide around awkwardly?"

"Lash it down," Eduardo suggested, walking over to the window and looking for pigeons.

"I think perhaps nails," Maggiormente said with a frown. He rooted around for some nails amongst the rubbish on the sideboard while Eduardo made himself comfortable on the rug near the window.

In a few minutes the motor board had been made fast to the table. A master carpenter would likely have exclaimed at the expeditious but hardly careful application of nails, but for the alchemist's purpose, the attachment would do well enough.

He stared at the little motor. After some careful scrutiny, Maggiormente affixed a funnel to the input of the wee engine. Then he stood back to examine it carefully.

"How many funnels do you have?" Eduardo asked sleepily.

The alchemist looked at him. "Three."

The Venetian lion put his head down on his paws. "That should be enough."

Maggiormente raised an eyebrow but Eduardo appeared to have fallen asleep. He stepped over to the other end of the work table to consult his notes. After a moment, he decided upon the formula to try and set to work. From the smoking coals in the fireplace, he lit the oil lamp under a mixture of pale green liquid.

By the time the liquid boiled, Maggiormente had an array of substances lined up to add to the base. He measured carefully and introduced each one in turn. The beaker roiled and bubbled. Sparks rose from the surface and dissipated in the air.

When the liquid had changed from green to gold, the alchemist lifted the concoction off the heat with tongs. He allowed it to cool for a few minutes. The gold colour grew richer. With infinite care, he poured the mixture into the funnel.

Nothing happened.

"You need a spark," Eduardo reminded him, his voice sleepy.

Maggiormente clapped his palm to his forehead. "Of course!" He went back to the fire where the coals still glowed and grabbed one with the tongs. Grabbing a spatula, the alchemist used the implement to knock some sparks from the glowing ember. After a few taps, sparks flew and all at once ignition began.

The golden liquid coursed through the motor and it began to turn as the sparks ignited the fluid. The pistons turned. The whirr of the engine filled the room. Even Eduardo lifted his head to watch the mechanical piece rotate as it shook the table beneath it.

All at once there was an explosion. Flames shot upward as the funnel flew up to the ceiling and shattered. As the pistons slowed, Maggiormente said, "An excellent start."

Sunday, March 11, 2012


Maggiormente laughed. "These dreamy thoughts as you have called them are precisely the location from which my fuel source has come."

Fabien shook his head. "Dreams!"

"Indeed – everything that exists now was once imagined, as the master wrote."

Adèle asked, "Who is this master you speak of? Your teacher?"

The alchemist held his wine glass aloft. "Mr William Blake of England. A poet, an artist, a visionary."

The baker poured out more wine for them all. "I have not heard of him."

Maggiormente struck his chest with an open hand. "That is the true tragedy!" He sighed with regret while Eduardo lay down on the bakery floor. The lion knew this could take a while so he rested his head on his paws and folded his wings neatly across his back.

"It's a sad and painful story. Genius seldom finds its reward in its own time."

"This is true," Fabien admitted.

"Especially if one is a woman," Adèle added.

Her husband grabbed her hand and kissed it. "You are magnificent. I know your genius. You make every day a wonder."

"Je t'aime, mon cher."

The alchemist looked at the two of them with bemusement. "The master, Mr William Blake, conceived of entire worlds and wrote and drew them. He saw angels in his garden and created pictures of exquisite beauty that also explained his vision."

"He is your role model."

"Yes, in so many ways."

"An alchemist," Adèle suggested.

"Only with thought," Maggiormente said, "and words. Not in the classical sense of alchemy, but the magic he wrote with just letters and spaces – ah! Such magic."

"A poet, that is a good thing." Fabien nodded as he sipped his wine.

"A poet and so much more," Maggiormente held his wine aloft and squinted into the distance he could only see. "'To see the world in a grain of sand, and to see heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hands, and eternity in an hour.' That is the gift he gives us: to know the magic of vision of what has not yet been."

"But such imaginings can fall into idleness, too."

The alchemist waved away his friend's words. "Blake spoke not in idleness and fancy, but in deadly seriousness about our gifts." He gestured around the bakery.

"To have the ability to make such glorious pastries and breads and to deny the world your work, that the master would scorn. To avoid the work one was born to carry out – to make, to create! – this too he would disparage. As he wrote so long ago, 'I must create a system or be enslaved by another man's; I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.' And his business it was, too, to share the voices of the angels beyond comprehension."

"Angels, bah!" Fabien said. "More irrationality."

"I think angels are pretty," Brigitte said. "They have wings like Eduardo."

Her father laughed. "Eduardo, to be sure, is no angel!"

Maggiorments leaned forward. "Where does genius come from? When it comes, it does not seem to come from within. To call this source god or angels, does it matter? Angels to some, demons to others, we might say, for genius does not always fit itself to human values."

"What is wrong with saying it comes from our own little heads?" Fabien tapped the table with his forefinger. "We conjure with our brains, not angels."

"Our brains are filled by the wisdom of the ages, by those who came before, by those who know so much more. When an idea comes, it comes as a gift from the whole of your life."

"But from my own brain."

Maggiormente threw his hands up. "There are those who believe they owe no one. And those who know they owe everyone."

"But I give you credit for your discoveries," Fabien said, raising his glass to the alchemist.

"You are kind, my friend," Magggiormente said, "but I give credit to the masters who have taught me so much and lighted my path and even you my friend, who force me to articulate the truths I know."

Kit Marlowe also has a six sentence blurb up over at Wombat's World today. 

Sunday, March 04, 2012


 "Eduardo's help," the alchemist continued, "comes from the ineffable."

"Where is that?" Fabien asked. "Near Napoli?"

"No, no," Maggiormente laughed. "From beyond our ken."

"Ken? I don't know him," the baker said, frowning as his wife chuckled.

"Mon cher, he means that Eduardo connects him to the ether, to the great beyond." She smiled down at Eduardo. "Is that not true, mon petit?"

The lion drew himself up to his full height and flapped his wings lightly. "Precisely. I am a mystic connection."

Both he and the alchemist seemed taken aback when Fabien laughed at this. "Ah, monsieur, you do not believe in these fairy stories, do you? I am a rationalist."

Maggiormente raised his hands in a helpless gesture. "What is irrational about the ineffable?"

Fabien chortled. "My friend, the very concept is irrational. Give me what I can taste, touch and see."

"That's a very limited outlook," the alchemist said, tutting.


"D'accord. The master has shown the way once again. He says this vegetable world is but a mere shadow of the real and eternal one."

"Ah, but monsieur, there is no world beyond this one." The baker held aloft his glass of wine. "This is real." He took a sip. "The taste on my tongue, the kiss of the grape—that is tangible."

Maggiormente warmed to his topic. "That, mon ami, is certainly true, but only part of the story. You taste the sun and the hillsides, too. The rain of spring and the winds of the summer bring their flavours to the grape."

"Indeed, monsieur," Adèle said, elbowing her spouse. "It cannot be denied."

The alchemist held his wine glass up to the light. "All that is here and so much more. The seedling that became the vine. The earth that caressed its roots. The men and women who tended the rows. The air that they all breathed in and out, night and day."

Fabien waved his hand as if to dismiss the words. "But these are every bit as real as the wine in my glass." He swirled the red liquid before him.

Adèle shook her head. "You are so limited in these opinions my dear."

"I was not raised to see fairies at the bottom of the garden like you," the baker said, laying a hand on top of his wife's.

"More's the pity," she said, laughing as this was an old topic between them.

"I believe in fairies," Brigitte said as she bounced up and down in her chair.

Her father laughed. "You are allowed your fancies, my little treasure. For now anyway."

"And when she is older…?"

The baker sighed. "We all have to face reality."

It was Maggiormente's turn to tut. "Reality! Over-rated. Incomplete."

"But our only certainty." Fabien took a sip as if to punctuate his point.

The alchemist pointed at his Venetian lion. "And before we came to Paris, what might you have said about the 'reality' of a Venetian lion?"

Eduardo ruffled his wings. "I am very real."

"That is not my point," Maggiormente soothed.

"And having seen a Venetian lion," Fabien said a little tartly, "I know him to be genuine. Unusual, perhaps, but genuine."

"But would you have imagined such a thing?"

Fabien shrugged. "Does it matter? I believe in what I see."

"You do now, but would you have before?"

"Perhaps not."

"So what you believe now, you might have doubted before." Maggiormente shook his finger at his friend. "This is what it means to trust in the ineffable."

"Ah, monsieur," Fabien said, shaking his head with amusement. "You have twisted me around to your dreamy point of view. But how do such musings result in a fuel source for your motor? I must admit to having my doubts."