November 17, 2008 This chapter 1 needs lots of revising as per the entry in the journal*. The actual story shouldn't change too much. There's just a few things that need to be done (before I continue on to chapter 2) in order to make this a better story. You can still read this as it is. But I would check back here and read this again when this disclaimer is removed.
You might run across some "strange" words in this story. There's a glossary where you can read the definitions. I tried to write this so that you wouldn't need a glossary, but I provide one just in case you want it. As I use a word, I will try and put a picture of the text beside it (if that is warranted) in case your computer won't view the text properly. I've re-written the glossary on January 2, 2007. Monday February 22, 2010 11:14 PM
I am seeking feedback as regards this story. There is now a special feedback page just for this story. If you would, let me know how you like this. Any input will be appreciated! (After you read this present page, please read the "Whyfore?" page before filling out the feedback form. Thanks! The "Whyfore?" page was updated, January 20, 2008.)
January 2, 2008 I've stuck the whole of chapter one on here. It should be a final draft (so far). That doesn't mean it will stay exactly the way it is now. As this is a rather long document now, don't expect any changes to be made to this. (Unless there is something glaring that needs fixing.) I have the main points of the rest of this story mapped out in a sort of outline. That's why you see "chapter two" listed below. Don't expect any more to be added to this present version. I'm going to be finishing this story via the novel writing template I downloaded from the BBC.
January 27, 2008 If you want to read about my progress I am adding a new page to this site, a sort of journal of my writing efforts. It probably won't make much sense to you, but you can read it none the less. "Writing of Conundrum Journal".
If you want to listen to music
while you read this, you can listen to: Sibelius: The Tempest:
Miranda Iceland Symphony Orchestra & Petri Sakari Adagio Chillout (Ste
No.2, Op.109 No.3 'The Tempest': Miranda Iceland So/Petri Sakari Symphonies
Nos.6 And 7/'The Tempest' Suite No.2) I found this version on iTunes. It's also
known as "Miranda from Little Suite from the Tempest". Then there's a
particular favorite, "Quiet Village" by Martin Denny from "The Exotic Sounds of
Martin Denny". I've run across another one November, 26, 2008 I was
looking up a song I heard on CBC Radio 2. I couldn't find that one.
I clicked on this as it has a similar title. I found it was "perfect" for
this story.-- In a Manner of Speaking Guido Arbonelli
Chasalow: Left to His
Own Devices Classical. It's kind of "different" for classical.
iTunes isn't always accurate in it's descriptions of music. According to
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Chasalow this is electronic, sort of.
A longer list of music to go with this story can be found here.
October 29, 2007
The Book-Case Conundrum
In front of the large building on Eslo Street, Osbert stands there like a man waiting on the rain. The fact that the sleeves of his suit are several millimeters too long doesn't help him look any less frumpy. Osbert, of all people should not be buying his suits, off the rack. Some lessons that his mother tried to teach him, went in one ear and... and... umm... they didn't stick. Osbert hopes to get the meeting over with quickly. Napoleon will need to go for a walk soon. Osbert doesn't want there to be any messes when he gets back to the Rumback.
"Ah, the Rumback", he muses. "If there is ever a more eccentric hotel than the Rumback, I should like to find it". It isn't that the hotel is run down or in need of repair. It is just that the decorations forever look as if they are 20 years past being in style. Even when upgrades are made, very ancient, new, old stock gets used as that is always cheaper. All the while, the Rumback is never really out of style. In fact, the Rumback is known as a trendsetter, since styles are always coming around again.
"What could be taking so long?" Osbert almost yells out loud. Poor Napoleon... From an early age, Napoleon had to learn patience. Osbert's meetings sometimes take longer than they both expect. Traffic and other unavoidable excuses prevent people from showing up as they promise...
Finally an unusual car rounds the corner onto Eslo Street. It is one of those long sleek cars from the 1930's. This one is a cream almost yellow color. As the car pulls up in front of Osbert, the driver honks the horn. "You don't hear horns like that anymore." Osbert was thinking, desperately trying to get his internal butterflies to fly in formation. "The sound is enough to cause other drivers to jump out of their skins. Those frightened drivers could cause untold accidents." The passenger motions for Osbert to get into the back of the car. Hopefully the meeting will begin now. It won't be long before Napoleon will loose his patience and his dam will burst.
They drove two blocks and stopped in front of, the Elemental Bar-B-Que. The passenger of the long yellow car, tells Osbert that he is sorry, but he doesn't have what Osbert is looking for. Osbert sits visibly disappointed. The passenger hands him a business card. On this card is the name of a book shop. Osbert is told that the proprietor has a large selection of books. Who knows what will be in the shop.
Osbert knows the meeting is finished. He gets out of the car and allows it to drive away. It is time to get back to the Rumback. Walking fast and then running, Osbert hurries up the three blocks to the hotel. He gets to for the elevator button, but realizes it will be faster to take the stairs. It appears that Osbert reaches the room in time. Napoleon has heard his owner's footsteps and is waiting patiently with the leash in his mouth.
October 30, 2007
Napoleon is enjoying his excursion outside the hotel. Inspired by what he saw during his meeting, Osbert decides to pay a visit to the Elemental Bar-B-Que. He grabs Napoleon in one hand and opens the door with the other. As Osbert steps inside, this manager or authoritative waiter person, goes to great lengths to appear in front of them quickly. Having laid eyes on Napoleon, this man who is trying to look, very much in charge, prevents Osbert and Napoleon from entering further. Osbert asks, "Do you allow dogs in here?". "According to health department rules, I can only let dogs in if they help customers get around our waitresses, in some form or fashion.", was the reply. "Well!", Osbert thought, "Thank you." he said, as he walked out.
Napoleon was not trained to help people, get around anyone, let alone waitresses. Osbert didn't qualify for such a dog anyway. Now he is forced to walk all the way up Eslo Street to take Napoleon back to the Rumback. Napoleon won't mind the walk.
ONE FOOT TOWARDS THE ROAD TO NORMALCY
Osbert doesn't mind the walk either. The walk allows him time to think about the days events. He anticipates the rack of ribs he is going to order in the Elemental Bar-B-Que. He was able to get a whiff of them when he was there with Napoleon. So, the man in the yellow car said he doesn't have a copy of "How to Cure the Common Euphonia". Not many people have heard of it. Even fewer people actually have copies. A much smaller number would know that this book is illegal. To own a copy could cost a person up to 20 years in prison. The reason---? This book has ideas inside it. Ideas that every government since Maxwell's has been trying to remove from the public consciousness. The current Parliamentary Presidium, unofficially known as the, Congress of Clowns, has been enacting laws which make people nostalgic for Maxwell's government. If people only knew! Legend has it that this book lays out in detail the what, why, where, and when all the threads came together that got them into the soup that is Mosdubia today.
Osbert goes on and has his ribs. He saunters back to the hotel. He reads some paperwork he has to study in order to keep up with his buying and selling permit. "The war lingers on.", he sighs. He isn't referring to any real physical war. He is thinking of the war against his own people, by the government they duly elected.
October 31, 2007
"It is nice to have real food for a change." Osbert opines. The incessant rationing causes most bar-b-que places to serve re-constituted protein in the shape of ribs. A company has even come out with imitation re-usable ceramic bones. He guesses they figure that with enough sauce people will eat anything. "It may be more expensive, but I prefer real food any day." continued Osbert. Pretty soon though, if things keep on like they are, there won't be any more real food available.
Lots of things are rationed not just food. All the usual things like fuel, and necessities are rationed of course. Ideas are also metered out. It was Maxwell that began the slow strangle hold of thought. In the name of saving paper and trees, it was decreed that people could only publish and buy so many books a year. Later on a law was passed saying how many books could be bought at one time. Of course buying old books is almost un-restricted. The amount of old books a person can purchase is not restricted, so long as the books were printed before the cutoff date. Some old books are restricted because of the subject matter. Others are restricted because of the author. In some cases, if you have a need to own one of these books, you can buy it. For example, you can almost buy any book, if you are an academic with the right credentials, doing research on approved subjects. The books you buy have to be on that subject. There are other old books which are flat out banned. As for modern publications, these are not normally restricted or banned. All written works must be submitted to a Polītiķis () office for publication approval.
The laws regarding the buying and selling of books are so complicated now, that a special buyers' and sellers' permit system was set up. Customers do not need a permit. They must submit their transaction card upon purchase. That way the amount and type of books they purchase in a year can be monitored. If you buy books for retail shops you must have a permit. A buyers' permit is a requirement even if you purchase books in order to sell them again privately. There is also a separate permit for sellers'. For sellers there is a two tiered system. Owners and managers of shops must have the top tier permit. Sales clerks who work in shops must have the lower tier permit. To obtain any of these permits a test must be taken. The laws must be learned. Naturally, the sales clerk's test is much less stringent than the owners' test. As new laws and regulations come onto the books, new paperwork is issued. Schools and courses have cropped up that teach people how to buy and sell books.
What they don't teach you about in those schools are the books on secrete lists. These books are not only banned, but owning them can cause a person to spend a great deal of time in jail. Even to teach people what is inside these books, can be a crime. These books are very rare and little known outside the company of the very bravest of book dealers. The books are greatly known inside the world of the Pret and the Polītiķis (). Depending upon who you ask, the Pret are a very brave or stupid lot. These are the people whom the Polītiķis () claim are intent on overthrowing their beloved government. The Polītiķis () are the Mosdubia State Agency for Public Order. They function as state police and master propagandists. It takes massive public education to keep the public in order.
Many times Osbert has wondered why he got into the book business in the first place. He had to learn everything on his own as he went along. "There weren't any schools teaching this stuff when I was coming up in the business".
THE ESTEEMED EDITION
After a good night of sleep, Osbert thinks of making his way to the shop printed on the business card. Freitag Books isn't that far away really. It will make a nice walk for him and Napoleon. He doesn't want a repeat of what happened in the Elemental Bar-B-Que last night. Osbert telephones the shop to make sure it is ok to bring Napoleon. "If your dog is well behaved, you can bring it. Don't forget to look for the 'Ūdens' () sign! We're right next door. You could miss us if you don't pay attention." the owner told Osbert over the phone.
Osbert finishes breakfast. He gets Napoleon ready for the trip out. They set off for Freitag Books. Along the way, Napoleon is tempted to stop and sniff at every bakery, meat shop and restaurant they pass. Once in a while it takes some gentle prodding for Osbert to keep Napoleon walking. Osbert on the other hand is tempted to stop and ogle at certain items in the fancy shop windows. He knows he is on an important mission and that is what keeps him going.
Eventually Osbert sees the 'Ūdens' () sign. Freitag Books is a very small rough looking building. If you don't know to look for it, you won't know it is there. Osbert and Napoleon walk inside. There is a look of recognition on the owner's face. The man doesn't, know Osbert from Adam. Yet, as his gaze falls upon Napoleon, he recognizes Osbert as the man who telephoned about bringing a dog to the shop. It is good for these men that there are no other customers in there. Still very cautious, Osbert discretely asks the owner if he has a copy of, "How to Cure the Common Euphonia". "What would you want with a book like that?" began the reply. "Plan on reading it and overthrowing the government?" the shop owner laughed. "Oh! I don't plan on reading it". Osbert replied quickly. Inside the back room of Freitag Books, was a lone copy of "How to Cure the Common Euphonia". "You don't see many copies in as good a shape as this one"! the man exclaimed. "Even the map at the back of the book is intact". "The map at the back of the book?" Osbert asked, as if this were the first time he has seen one of these books. Apparently, a nice fold out map is bound into the back of the original copies of the book. Wow! Osbert knows he has found a real treasure. Osbert prepares to pay the exorbitant price the owner of Freitag's asks for. He knows there will be no arguing with this man. The owner reasons, that he could charge twice the going rate for this book; one, because it is in very good intact condition; two, because it has the long forgotten map; and three, because no customer could officially complain about the price without landing himself in lots of trouble. "I won't ask you for your transaction card" he says. "If you forget who sold you this book." "Don't worry about that. I always forget names and faces". Osbert replied. He hopes the gold coins he pays with will not get traced back to where he got them. Osbert leaves the business card on the counter as he exits the shop. The last thing he sees as he leaves is a broad smile on the owner's face. "Glad I could make someone happy". Osbert grumbled faintly as the door shut behind him.
After a brief deliberation, Osbert decides to walk a different way back to the Rumback. He wishes he had not taken the shorter route to get to Freitag's. He moans that he has to take the longer route to get to Eslo Street. Osbert dreads the walk up Eslo Street as he isn't sure how many blocks he will have to walk up it to get back to the Rumback. He hadn't planned well enough in advance. Osbert has no idea on what part of Eslo Street, he will land. It turns out that they didn't take the short way to begin with. Napoleon and Osbert come out better going this way, than if they had taken the other route.
It is good to be back in the room behind a locked door. Osbert has secured every lock available. He doesn't want to take any chances. Opening the book carefully, Osbert begins to inspect the map at the back of the book. He gently opens up the map. He doesn't understand the language the text is written in. Osbert does recognize the place that the map depicts. It is Mosdubia. Not, as it is known today, but the historic Mosdubia people talk about only in whispers. This map is much older than any Mosdubia map Osbert has ever seen. It doesn't look to be a standard geographical map. He thinks it might be a political map. Without being able to read the text, it is difficult to say for sure. If it is a political map it depicts Mosdubia long before Maxwell and his famous reforms.
Osbert doesn't dare read this book now. The realization of what he has in his hands, gives Osbert a chill. This is an extremely valuable book to many people. To loose possession of this book would cost Osbert dearly. Of course he would be out the money he paid for it. But there's also the physical cost to his life and limb. Not only could the book cost him up to 20 years in prison, it could also cost him his life. The Polītiķis () like to get their hands on these books at all costs. So also do those in the murky underground world of the Pret.
Osbert feeds Napoleon a bit of lunch. He was a very good dog this morning, so he gets an extra treat with his food. Osbert is hungry too, but figures he could use something to steady his nerves before lunch. As he heads downstairs to the bar, Osbert locks the book securely in the room safe.
November 22, 2007
One snort of Harding's is all Osbert feels he can do. A long time ago, he nearly lost his taste for alcohol altogether. "One small drink shouldn't tip the balance of my mental state," Osbert reasons. A table becomes ready in The Calanthe. Osbert sits down to a nice lunch. He knows he will find it difficult to concentrate on the menu. He tells the waiter, "Just bring me the special". Osbert doesn't know what the special is, but knows that like most of the food in The Calanthe, it will be good.
Osbert sits thinking of "The Cure for the Common Euphonia," while he waits on the food to arrive. He tries to keep in mind that the book is in as safe a place as is available. He has a feeling that someone must have seen through the brown paper wrapper tucked neatly in his coat pocket. "If that were the case, surely the viewer would have to have X-ray vision." Osbert reassures himself. He saw no one make note of him entering the hotel with Napoleon. There's no way that anyone could have seen what was in Osbert's pocket. The more he continues with this line of thinking the more his heart begins to race. His palms get sweaty. It almost becomes difficult for Osbert to breathe. He loosens his tie enough to let in more air. He stops before it becomes obvious that his tie is loosened. "Enough!" Osbert thinks. "I will suffer from a bout of dyspepsia at this rate. Maybe I should think of something else". Osbert can see through to the hotel lobby from his table. He spends a few minutes watching people as they mill about to and fro.
SUITE VARIANTS --- THE HOTEL RUMBACK
It's a curious thing the Rumback… People always have smiles on their faces as they enter it. You never know what you will see in the lobby. One minute it's a woman in a long red dress handing out chocolates. Another minute it is a large round man in stripes singing light opera. A grand woman enters with a porter behind her carrying the day's shopping. Coming up behind the porter, is this very downtrodden looking man whose steps become lighter as the procession gets nearer to the bar. As they get further inside the lobby, the grand woman and her porter head for the elevators. The downtrodden man heads for the bar in order to forget about the debts he's just incurred.
Every now and then a fanfare of trumpets is followed by an eloquent voice proclaiming the announcements for the day. "Mock turtle soup will be available from eleven o'clock in The Calanthe. A fashion show can be seen at one o'clock on the upper mezzanine."
There are times when a person can almost feel and hear the hotel breathing. Of course that simply is the heating and cooling system. Or is the phenomenon caused by the winds that can traverse at great speeds up the cavern that is Eslo Street? To some, it is as if the Rumback is alive. Many citizens of Vilinošs believe that if the hotel doesn't like you, you won't get in. Stories abound of people seen getting caught up in the revolving door. They step into it and end up exiting in such a way that it appears that the hotel spit them out. It is natural that a person should try to enter again. Not all such tries are successful. A potential entrant can get so rattled that they don't ever try that again. Now, everyone knows that a building cannot be alive and express emotions. Yet, humans being the humans that they are, can also be superstitious. Logic doesn't stop the superstitious from being wary of the hotel.
The Hotel Rumback was built during The Opulence. That was long before Maxwell's reforms. Before legislated benevolence. Before people were taxed more than they ought to be.
The Rumback was originally a hotel for the well to do. On the penthouse floor, there was originally a sort of miniature man-made lake with a beach. Water rationing was the catalyst for the draining of the lake. It is hoped that some day, artificial-sun bathers can again enjoy themselves as they watch their children play in the lake.
With the advent of Maxwell's reforms, everything has to be, extreme energy efficient. That causes a lot of things to be abandoned. It must be remembered though, that these austerity measures are not enacted out of love for nature. No, like all of Maxwell's reforms, extreme energy efficient is simply a legal way to prevent people from doing as they wish. Legislated benevolence is a means by which curbs are placed on the activities of rich people. Maxwell believed that the only way to achieve equality of class is by force.
At one time the Rumback had a high speed linear conveyance. It was similar to an elevator yet able to go around corners. The owners of the Rumback eventually took out this conveyance and converted the shafts to room space. Some of the space was added to existing rooms to make large suites. The rest of the space was divided up into small half rooms. Osbert stays in a half room with Napoleon.
At the present time, rich people, old people, young people, poorer people, almost anyone can stay at the Rumback. Even though the lifestyle of The Opulence is basically outlawed, it is as if no one at this hotel knows it. No one there behaves as if the reforms happened. Inside the Rumback the grim goings on of the outer world fade away. Very rarely will anyone be seen to get arrested in there. The Police are never seen to enter the Rumback to inquire into crimes. Only certain offences committed by or against the Rumback clientele are investigated. These are crimes deemed punishable by the general public. Most people do not consider political crimes to be major problems. The propagandists have not yet succeeded in educating the citizenry into believing that crimes of ideas are evil.
The Polītiķis () seem to stay well away from the Rumback for some reason. If they should venture inside the hotel, it is unusual. There have been occasions when certain politicians have invited certain high ranking Polītiķis () officers in for lunch or parties. In the eyes of guests, everything runs very smoothly at the Rumback. No one ever hears of any need of the staff to call the police. One would wonder if this is because of self policing by the clientele, or is it because the Rumback has a good security staff. Perhaps it is a bit of everything. Good security, guests who watch after their belongings and persons, and everyone involved in incidents remaining silent on the matter.
December 27, 2007
Osbert was glad no one ever tried to monstrositize the Rumback. Just before Maxwell's era, at the height of The Opulence, it was the fashion to make existing buildings larger and grander. Critics of this fashion called such structures, gaudy monstrosities. Thus to monstrositize is to make a monstrosity of something.
At the end of his train of thought, there is no lunch left for Osbert to eat. The waiter leaves some sweet confections on the table. After eating one or two of them Osbert decides to leave. Since Osbert is well recognized by the staff of the Rumback, they know on which account to put his lunch bill.
All at once Osbert hears the staff ringing little bells, and blowing whistles. He sees them throwing confetti too. Someone is making a grand entrance. A movie starlet whom Osbert recognizes but cannot name is coming into the hotel. If a celebrity should happen to be staying at the Rumback, they can request a grand entrance. The famous person arrives at a secluded entrance at the back of the hotel. The hotel owns a very expensive antique car from the golden age of automobile manufacture. It is even nicer than the yellow car Osbert sat in yesterday. The celebrity is put into the elegant car and a driver drives them to the front of the hotel. Depending upon how much publicity the celebrity requires, a gaggle of photographers can be ordered ahead of time. All the bells, whistles and f-stops were pulled out for this starlet.
What with the enjoyment of lunch and the excitement of the grand entrance, Osbert almost forgets about Napoleon. The little dog will need to go for a walk. Osbert could always have someone from the hotel walk Napoleon. They do have someone who tends to guest's animals. It would be very strange though to see anyone but Osbert walking Napoleon. It is one of the few pleasurable things Osbert does anymore. The procession and noise have died down enough. Osbert makes his way up to the room to get Napoleon. Again, he is found waiting with the leash in his mouth. Osbert takes a moment and makes sure the room safe is securely locked. "We shall walk down the other end of Eslo Street," says Osbert to Napoleon as if he will understand English.
THE EMPIRE OF WASTE
How does one fill a guilty afternoon without looking suspicious? Osbert happens onto a little street which is about the size of an alleyway. Beau Monde Street. This out of the way street holds the most exclusive clothing shops in Mosdubia. Along it the shops have impressive goods in their windows. Most of the goods are women's high fashions. Or rather what passes for high fashion these days. Goods is a relative term. There's bound to be someone who would call these clothes bads. It could be argued that every new-fashioned thing is a cheap imitation of the grandeur of The Opulence. But since the newly-fashioned are blissfully ignorant of The Opulence, the argument falls flat in a hurry. Osbert takes this opportunity to do some serious window shopping. As he travels the short length of the street, he finds that the objects in his view are funnier than any comedy that will be on the radio that evening. Two newly-fashioned young women pass Osbert as he stands in front of one window trying to suppress a loud giggle. They both give him quite a staring down. "If only they could see in that dress, what I see in it," Osbert thought. It is a rather comical piece of clothing. The dress has long sleeves with large flowers pasted up and down them. The skirt is knee length. The color and pattern of the fabric seem to be at odds with the flowers on the sleeves. Napoleon and Osbert continue down Beau Monde Street. Osbert puzzles, "Who in the world would wear that?".
December 28/29, 2007
As Osbert and Napoleon reach the end of the street, they stop at this tiny little place for refreshment. Osbert is already somewhat refreshed by the laughter. The small eatery is bright and cheerful. It contains three tables and the serving counter. Inside it they serve coffee drinks, ice cream and display an incomplete selection of expensive looking sweets. Osbert orders an ice cream coffee drink. He asks the young man behind the counter to fill a dish with water for Napoleon. The man looks at him as if doing that would cause the sun to fall from the sky. Osbert then pulls out a collapsible dog dish. A smile appears on the face of the young man as he reaches for the opened dish. The coffee and water is served with as much flourish and aesthetics as any food served in the Rumback. The ice cream coffee looks beautiful and mouth watering. Napoleon sniffs the water and right away Osbert knows it is synthetic. Napoleon won't drink synthetic water. This is not a good sign. Osbert sits down and tastes his coffee. It is not drinkable. The ice cream is artificial and the coffee is from another factory of some sort. This being a street for young people, it is no wonder they serve artificial food. Young people do not know any difference. In fact, it is very difficult to find anyone born after Maxwell who eats in establishments that serve real food. Not many modern mothers can afford to feed real food to their children.
A small group of young women enter the shop. Osbert looks up to put faces with the voices. He stifles a call of, "Elsa!". He rubs his eyes. No, there isn't anyone he knows, but for a moment there, he thinks he sees her.
Osbert leaves the young man to serve his artificial coffee. He picks up Napoleon's bowl and pours the water in the street. He dries the inside with a synthetic paper napkin from the shop. The dish goes back into his pocket.
"Can you believe it?" Osbert says to Napoleon, "That coffee and water cost almost as much as my whole lunch". There was nothing artificial about Osbert's lunch. Even the water was real. The two walkers head back to the hotel taking a more scenic route. The return leg of the journey takes them behind the Rumback. Osbert gets to see where they keep that fancy car. Napoleon gets to spend a few minutes in a fenced grass dog run. His leash is unhooked, and he promptly runs around and rolls in the grass. He is picking up the odor of every dog that has been in there during the last month. Now Napoleon will need a bath.
THE CAREFUL READER
They get back into the hotel. Osbert checks for any mail. He has one envelope waiting for him. The sender was Annabelle Wagnall of Zephyr Farm. Osbert smells the envelope hard enough that an onlooker thinks he is going to inhale it. It is as if Osbert is hoping to get a lung full of the air from the farm. He misses the warm breezes and the smell of the salt air along the Lush Green Coast. This small package of paper and ink is doing for Osbert what the coffee drink couldn't. Osbert has lighter steps as he goes up to the room. Napoleon has to almost trot to keep up with him. As they enter the room, Osbert looks for any signs that someone unauthorized has entered the room. There is no blue thread on the floor. He usually sticks one in the door to let him know if someone enters the room without his permission. Osbert has an agreement with the hotel staff. They know to only clean the room once a week. Napoleon hears a typical sigh of relief from Osbert. Now comes the job of washing the dog. Napoleon doesn't mind getting a bath, so long as the water is warm enough. Osbert will allow himself the pleasure of reading his letter while he waits for Napoleon to dry off.
Napoleon has been washed and given a good rub with a towel. Osbert curls up in the flopinit to read his letter. A flopinit is an incredibly comfortable, inexpensive, sturdy chair that is popular with young people. You don't sit in this chair. You just flop into it, hence the name.
Annabelle has really made Osbert's day. "Monday AM—— Dear Sunny," the letter begins. "Hope things are well with you. Haven't heard from you in a while. Guess you are still staying at that hotel you wrote from. Herbert is about to get the lower 40 planted. He thinks he will put it in wheat this year. You remember that old mule you kept? We had to have it put down. It got to where it wouldn't eat its feed. The kids are about out of school. Your nephew is going to be graduating this year. Don't think we can send him off to the city for more school. He says he wants to farm like his daddy. Don't know if that will happen without the schooling. Takes a lot of study to get the certificate"...
Napoleon senses Osbert's mood and leaps into his lap. The dog finishes drying his ears against Osbert's sleeves. Annabelle and Herbert seem to be doing well. They are making a living off the farm. Their children are nearly grown now and are fine. Osbert is glad to know that someone in this world is concerned about him. Annabelle hasn't heard from him in so long, she wonders if he is alive. Osbert gives Napoleon another good rubbing with the towel. The letter ends with, "Remember, sometimes blessings come in pairs".
Annabelle and Osbert are a couple of years apart. She always calls him Sunny. Annabelle being younger, would hear their grandfather call Osbert, sonny. Not understanding that there is sun and son she thought Grandfather was saying Sunny. In his younger days, Osbert had such a sunny disposition, the name stuck. He thinks about writing her a letter when he gets back from dinner.
A nice dinner of bar-b-qued brisket is ordered in the Elemental Bar-B-Que. Osbert will take a small bite of this delicacy to Napoleon. Water is brought to the table. It is a glass of synthetic with plastic ice. Synthetic water has the characteristic pale blue tinge to it. It also has a distinctive odor. Not all places that serve real food, also serve real water. In the Elemental Bar-B-Que you have to ask for it, and it costs extra. The Calanthe automatically serves real water. Some real water comes in bottles and must be purchased with a prescription from a doctor.
Osbert is not in the mood to quibble about the water. He ignores it. "What a surprise it is to get a letter from my sister!" Osbert mulls over the contents. "Why did Annabelle write her letter on heavy paper?" he remembers. "Blessings come in pairs? I wonder if..." he is thinking as he summons the waitress in order to pay the bill. Osbert pays her and then hurries back to the Rumback. He'll have to take Napoleon out before he goes to bed. But for now Osbert wants to relax.
He tunes the radio to a favorite station. The first program is the half hour, "Jokes to Laugh For". It isn't very funny. It is worth keeping the radio on this station because the next program is one of Osbert's favorites. As he listens to the terrible jokes, he feeds Napoleon that piece of brisket.
Osbert sits in the flopinit and relaxes. "Let me reexamine that letter". "Hmm... Is this heavy paper or two pages stuck into one?..." "Ah! As I crease a corner I can peel the pages apart". Osbert has discovered a concealed letter inside the envelope. "Sunny— I'm glad you found this. It has come to my attention that you are looking for a 'difficult' book. If you find it, you'll want to read it with the utmost care. It is a book which will teach you many things if you are willing to learn. Once you learn how to read the text, it may not make much sense to you right away. The more you read this book the more you will understand its message. Remember, to understand this book is to begin a journey. First, you must be able to read the book in order to learn from it. When you are finished with that book, let me know, and I will show you more. I can't be more specific in this letter. My prayer is that you will come to learn from, and understand the book that you seek. I was very excited to hear about your search. Maybe some day I will tell you how I learned about it. I should go now the kids are home from school. I have probably said too much already. I'm sure you know that it would be best to destroy this letter after you read it. It would be good to hear from you and learn how you fair trying to find heirloom watermelon seeds for the garden. Love, Annabelle."
"Learn how to read the text?" Osbert wonders. He remembers, "The Cure for the Common Euphonia". He pulls it out of the safe. He flops back into the flopinit. He forgets the radio is on. "I know the map is in a foreign language. Is the text in a foreign language too?" Osbert sits staring at the cover a moment. The title on the front cover and spine are in a familiar alphabet, yet the words are strange to him. "What in the world?!" Osbert exclaims a little too loudly and puts his hand over his mouth far too late. He opens up the book. He tries to read the first page. It is unintelligible. "I have no idea what this says". Osbert flips through the book some. Once in a while he can make out a word here or there. Most examples are familiar words with numbers beside them. "What does that mean?" Osbert asks as if someone might be listening and able to answer the question. Very little of the book makes sense to him.
|Osbert nearly jumps out of his
skin as someone knocks on the door to his room. "Yes?" he asks the person
who is knocking. A young boy's voice replies, "I have a bottle of champagne
for Mr. Pickle". Osbert hurriedly puts the letter and book under the bed.
He shuts the safe, opens the room door, takes the champagne and gives the
boy a tip in a quick series of motions. The boy is gone before he has a
chance of spying anything suspicious. There's a nice yellow card with the
It has a realistic drawing of a fish and the name, "Anthropos Fisheries" engraved on it. The mystery deepens as Osbert reads the hand written note. "Congratulations! I see you have found that for which you have searched. May you enjoy the adventure your discovery will lead you to." The message was signed, "In Your Service, Anthropos Fisheries".
"What is Anthropos Fisheries? How did they know I found that book?... A free bottle of champagne! Wow! It's an expensive one." Osbert tells Napoleon as he reads the label. "I won't open it now. I'll wait until I find the key to reading, 'The Cure for the Common Euphonia'". As usual Napoleon has a look about him as if he understands every word Osbert speaks. Osbert pulls the book and letter out from under the bed. He puts his treasure back in the safe. He tears the letter into tiny pieces. Some pieces Osbert puts into his pocket and some go into the toilet. He finds that the paper disintegrates in the water. The water turns black from the ink leaving the paper. "Good ol' Annabelle!" Osbert is exclaiming again. He turns out his pocket and puts the rest of the letter in the toilet. "I don't have to try and find discrete places to dispose of the rest of the pieces". The envelope has an interesting stamp on it, so Osbert keeps the envelope to use as a book mark.
On his own personal stationary, Osbert writes Annabelle a quick letter. He uses a post office box as a return address. "Dear Sis—— It was a nice surprise to find your letter waiting for me. I received it safe and sound. Napoleon and I had taken a nice walk out. We are both doing well. I found the heirloom watermelon seeds for the garden. I now must find the proper instructions for optimum planting. Should difficulties arise after I get the instructions, I may send the seeds to you so you can take care of them on the farm. Your letter was doubly appreciated. Love from your Sunny and Napoleon." Osbert tried to be just as cryptic as Annabelle was. She will understand that he read and savored both letters in the envelope.
Osbert puts the leash on Napoleon. He grabs his letter, and turns off the radio. He'll mail the letter at the front desk as he heads off with Napoleon for a final walk before bedtime. Dog and owner get back to the room and Osbert readies himself for bed.
Mysteries abound for Osbert. Who does he know, from Anthropos Fisheries? In what language is "The Cure for the Common Euphonia" written? Who might have the key to reading the language? Will he ever be able to read this book? Annabelle writes that "to understand this book is to begin a journey". The yellow card says that the book would lead Osbert on an "adventure". What did they mean by that? How did they both know to say basically the same thing? How will he ever be able to decipher this language?... It isn't long before Osbert is asleep.
He isn't asleep long. At 2:00 AM Osbert wakes suddenly. His heart is racing. "What was that name?!", Snatches of memory come flooding back to Osbert. "I sold him some old language textbooks about two years ago... He was doing linguistics research and needed some hard to get foreign language books... Right, he's a linguist... I just need his name... Professor Bondar! That's it. He should know the language in 'The Cure for the Common Euphonia'. I'll go to the University tomorrow. On the way there, I want to pick up a packet of watermelon seeds." Osbert falls asleep again. It is a very deep and restful sleep.
The Ghost Edition
To learn more about this story please see the "Whyfore?" page. Reading the "Whyfore?" page, will explain a lot of things and might make the feedback form easier to fill out. Should I continue on with this story? I am seeking feedback as regards this story. There is now a special feedback page just for this story. If you would, let me know how you like this. Any input will be appreciated!