“Come on, Emmett, let’s go home.” New Orleans, bright and colorful and smelling of beignets and stale booze and coffee, now seemed soured and sinister.
“You don’t want to explore the city while we’re here? It’s strange how much – and how little – has changed.” Emmett’s gaze traveled 360 degrees to take in all the hustle and bustle that surrounded us in the square. The old buildings still stood, carefully preserved, with their wrought-iron-enclosed balconies and green planters and shuttered windows thrown wide. Artists sketched tranquil street scenes, quick caricatures, and whimsical drawings based on children’s names. One snipped detailed silhouettes from black paper, to the amazement of onlookers. A palm reader dressed as anachronistically as we told fortunes just out of earshot.
“Normally, I’d love to, but…” I glanced back towards the winding streets that led to Madame’s courtyard, and felt like putting some distance between us. I didn’t like my role in her game of cat and mouse.Would distance make a difference? Not bloody likely, but it would make me feel better. “Where’s our chariot?” I asked, looking around the square.
“You’re standing on me.” The voice in my head sounded a bit put out.
“How’s that even possible?” I hissed. As if in answer, the ground rumbled slightly as a royal blue call box emerged from the sod. I stepped off quickly, looking around in a panic to see if anyone was watching. “What, they’re just oblivious to all this?” I thought loudly.
“Humans are an oblivious lot.”
I wondered how much I failed to notice and observe on a daily basis. It reminded me of that video they showed at work a few weeks ago:
“How do you think the jinn have survived in peace all these years? You never see us unless we want you to.” Emmett smiled and led the way through the portal. “It’s not that we’re invisible. We just fade into the environment.”
“You just run around in purple satin Hammer pants and gold brocade and dare us not to notice, so we don’t?” I laughed.
“Beats wearing a gorilla suit here on the Gulf Coast. You know how hot those things get?”
I did, actually. I’d worked a couple of summers at a theme park, where I had to dress up like a giant hamster. Every thirty minutes, that infernal “Hampster Dance” song would start blaring from a little loudspeaker in the hamster suit, and I was expected to teach park attendees all the rockin’ rodent moves. Even though the costume had a little electric fan to keep me from overheating and passing out, it was still sweaty, stinky, and uncomfortable. The loudspeaker, located just above the tail, vibrated. It also shorted on occasion, sending a little electric shock up my spine and singing my ponytail. There was no Theme Park Hamster Union to complain to, but it’s a miracle I survived. I had to share the costume with a guy who farted Pepsi farts and had a habit of eating smoked oysters for lunch. It reeked. But it paid one and a half times minimum wage, plus overtime and shift differential, and wasn’t too bad on cool evenings in June, provided sweat didn’t drip on the speaker wires. A human-sized hamster was strangely easy to overlook, and I was never quite sure if that was because it was so expected there as to be a part of the set and scenery, or because it was so far removed from normalcy that the brain simply refused to process it at all. I suspected different answers, depending on which side of twelve you were on.
Apathy, too, played its part. People pretended to be weirdly obsessed with things that were none of their business, but would they actually question something like two pirates in poet shirts stepping into an interdimensional portal in the middle of Jackson Square? Naaaah. In college, I joined Student Government. We devised a clever plan to eradicate apathy – we made buttons that said, “Stamp It Out!” The idea was to pique students’ curiosity and get them to initiate a conversation. “Stamp what out?” they were supposed to say. We would answer: “Apathy!” Unfortunately, they were too apathetic to express curiosity, and the campaign failed.
“She’s catching on,” snarked the Bonny Anapest.
There once was a human so daft,
She imagined her spaceship a raft –
It would come when she called,
(or not come at all)
But the time to arrival was halved!
And with that cringe-worthy limerick, the Bonny Anapest gleefully landed in my living room with a swoosh and a clatter. I wished I’d named it the High-Seas Sonnet, or something.
“You’re going to love me when it really is NaPoPoMo.”
“NaPoPoMo?” I asked. Wasn’t that the title of a song by the Beach Boys?
“Whatever you people call that poem posting month you thought this was.”
“You’ll have to excuse her. She was, once, a proud pirate ship.” Emmett stepped out of the call box with me and patted it gently. “There, there, old girl – there wasn’t enough left of your original hull to make a decent dinghy, but this’ll do, aye?” Turning to me, he explained, “We took some nasty cannon fire when McWilliams’ men spotted us off the coast. They were working for Mayette.”
“You could turn her into a Tard–er, um–pirate call box–but not a full-sized sailing ship?”
“I thought she’d like her original parts, not deck and plank implants from Home Depot.”
“That’s Lowe’s,” I quipped.
“I’m right here,” said the Bonny Anapest. “I can hear every word you’re saying.”
If it wasn’t clear, I’m attempting to tame two birds with one blog – NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo – simultaneously. Throughout the month, posts tagged NaNoBloWriPoMo will be works of fiction adding up, I hope, to a ridiculously silly “novel” of at least 50,000 words. I say “I hope” because I’m blogging this one day at a time – as a committed “Pantser,” I’m learning how the story unfolds just minutes (hours, at the most) before you do.
Did you miss one? Here are the chapters, all in order (more will appear as they are posted):
- The Challenge
- Getting to Know You, Getting to Know All About You
- It’s…Different on the Inside
- Madame and the Warranty
- Like Fireflies in a Pickle Jar
- Like Sand Through the Motherboard
- There’s No Place Like 127.0.0.1
- Drunk on Freedom, Dancing with the Jinn
- Why Me?
- The Power of Imagination and Words
- Rebellion and Revenge