Tagged: tune in next time

The Trouble With Spoken Codes

  • by Kentit can be a little intimidating, a little scary
  • fantastically gilded and filagreed
  • he’d chubbed up quite a bit
  • more than a billion dollars
  • she claimed to have met several of them

Tune in next time part 238                           Click Here for Earlier Installments

The trouble with spoken codes is that they have dialects. This made it difficult to be sure I was picking up the intended meanings of all the symbols. I was left hoping I had misconstrued some parts of the conversation. And at no point could I tell which sister was speaking.

“Seeing it for the first time, it can be a little intimidating, a little scary. Most of the others I’ve seen are rather plain, but his is fantastically gilded and filagreed.”

“Yes, it’s a bit overwhelming at first. I for one was pleasantly surprised, having been told that he’d chubbed up quite a bit over the past year.”

“She’s the one you have to thank there, for sparing no expense on his fitness coaches. We know it was more than a billion dollars. Contrarian dollars, sure. But that’s still a lotta chedda.”

“Fitness coaches? Do you really believe that? I mean, she claimed to have met several of them at her father’s private club, and we both know who has membership there.”

“Wait, are you telling me this is a coup?”

“That hadn’t occurred to me. My hunch is it’s something far more ordinary and wearisome.”

“Maybe it could use some filagree!”

This was, seemingly, a very funny thing to say in code. Their eroticized cackling will haunt me to my grave.

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“Are You Getting Out of Here?”

  • by jen“Should I come with you?’
  • “Rap rap-rap rap-rap rap-ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, rap!”
  • you can’t do it in less than six hours
  • had (merely in playfulness) drawn his bayonet
  • I don’t remember what day of the week it was

Tune in next time part 237                           Click Here for Earlier Installments

“Are you getting out of here?” Darlene asked, still rocking her hips. “Should I come with you?” She gazed at the trio on the bed. “Or..?”

“Well I’m certainly not sticking around to watch,” I replied.

From the tangle of nude limbs I heard a female voice repeating, “Rap rap-rap rap-rap rap-ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, rap!” It sounded like someone trying to speak morse code, which is something they teach at the Academy. You can learn it, but you can’t do it in less than six hours, so the course usually takes two days. But I did it in one. While my brain tried to catch all the nuances and decode the message, my eyes had the unenviable task of tracing out all the ways the three lovers were intertwined in order to see which woman’s mouth was free to speak unencumbered.

I tried to tell myself that I wasn’t witnessing sex. That my father, a famous general, had (merely in playfulness) drawn his bayonet. But I wasn’t buying it.

I don’t remember what day of the week it was when I learned spoken morse code, but I was glad my advisor had insisted. What I was hearing today was not merely one Svenborgian sister speaking, but the two of them alternating to pass along a most astounding message about my wife and Viscount Arlo.

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Despite The Total Unclothedness

  • by Kentapproximately one-third of one nipple
  • like in some fairytale
  • removed the latex gloves
  • bearded, hairy face
  • the seductive influence

Tune in next time part 236                           Click Here for Earlier Installments

Despite the total unclothedness of the three people in front of me, which meant there were six nipples exposed, the angle of view afforded me only a glimpse of approximately one-third of one nipple, and it wasn’t one I would have picked. Their choreography of modesty was as impressive as it was uncharacteristic, like in some fairytale, the film version of which received a hard R rating for the scene where the wicked stepmother removed the latex gloves from her hands after wearing them to caress the bearded, hairy face of her prisoner. Darlene whimpered, rocking her hips. I expected a professional like herself to be immune to the seductive influence of a potbellied deposed former first husband and his sibling covert operatives.

Given that the potbelly belonged to my father, I certainly was.

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So Darlene Really was a Prostitute

  • by jenit’s never been dull
  • “Tut, tut, child; tut, tut,”
  • Let’s not forget the legendary Nile Rodgers
  • was a dinner guest once again
  • endless red tape

Tune in next time part 235                           Click Here for Earlier Installments

So Darlene really was a prostitute, making her earlier defense of my father a lie just like everything else I’d been told in recent memory. I was surrounded, as usual, by liars and spies. Say what you will about my life, at least, like my knife, it’s never been dull.

I pulled my little blade from its hidden sheath, the location of which it’s better not to mention in polite company.

“Tut, tut, child; tut, tut,” I said, laying my hand on Darlene’s shoulder to prevent her escape. “I need some answers.”

Her eyes were fixed on my knife, but she shook her head. “I will tell you nothing.”

Something about her bearing reminded me of the celebrities who made command appearances at the White House when Mother was president: Bootsy Collins, George Clinton, Les Claypool. Let’s not forget the legendary Nile Rodgers and his stoicism when he was a dinner guest once again against his better judgment. It was clear that all of these men had deeply held opinions about Mother and her policies that they worked hard to keep off their faces. To this day I don’t know how she compelled all of them to visit, but I’m sure it involved credible threats and endless red tape. She could make them be there, but she couldn’t make them enjoy it. That’s how Darlene looked now.

I steered her back into the black velvet room where Dad was now sitting on the bed, with Esmerelda and Cleopatra on either side. He had his arms around them, pulling them up tight against him. All of them were nude.

I sighed.

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My First Impulse

  • by KentOne of the backhoes ran over him.
  • The sun became pitiless.
  • felt almost like blasphemy
  • I dare not kiss you
  • a wobbly wire chair

Tune in next time part 234                           Click Here for Earlier Installments

My first impulse was to take command of the room and make everybody sit down and shut up while I asked the questions.

But my second impulse, to pipe down and think things through for a minute, felt smarter.

My father had been lying to me for years. Faking his death entailed lying to the whole world, but he’d made exceptions for other people while letting me go on believing the official version. The video footage of the construction mishap was quite convincing. One of the backhoes ran over him. Obviously that didn’t really happen. Not to Father, at any rate.

A glowing ball of resentful realization climbed in my mind like a desert sunrise. That sun shone hot on the Svenborgian sisters. The sun became pitiless. They had also misled me. Cleopatra withheld her real name and her nationality, and played dumb about her family when we watched the zeppelin tape. Esmerelda lied about the misappropriation of state funds. She knew Father hadn’t paid Darlene, because she knew Darlene.

Darlene was the one person present whom I did not know for a fact had lied to me.

Employing my Academy training (Tactical Upholstery 245, an elective for third-years in the accelerated track), I went straight to the seam in the curtains and passed seamlessly through it into utter blackness. I spun around, and spotted Darlene’s pale keister swaying in the distance. I gave chase.

Soon I was close enough to call out to her. She looked forlornly over her shoulder, still walking naked through the featureless darkness. Her face was lovelier than I had noticed before. So, though it felt almost like blasphemy to say it, I said, “I dare not kiss you, because right now my mind is like five jigsaw puzzles all in the same box, and my heart is like a wobbly wire chair.”

That made her smile, and the sun rose again, casting a gentler warmth within my soul.

“No, you dare not kiss me because you haven’t paid. And you couldn’t afford it.”

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“Don’t Say a Goddamn Word, Darlene”

  • by jenbounced his face on the pavement
  • when he visits Bermuda to golf
  • Jack’s a doughnut
  • couldn’t understand why Darlene
  • refused to return to his bed

Tune in next time part 233                           Click Here for Earlier Installments

“Don’t say a goddamn word, Darlene,” Cleopatra snapped.

The Asian woman squeaked and hid her face behind the curtains, disappearing completely. My father leapt to his feet, slipped, and bounced his face on the pavement. But since the pavement in this room was black velvet, just like everything else, he just wound up with a rug burn. It reminded me of how sunburnt he gets when he visits Bermuda to golf and forgets to apply sunscreen.

“Darlene!” Dad yelled. “C’mon back, baby. We’ll kick these interlopers out and lock the door.”

Esmerelda said disgustedly, “Jack’s a doughnut, and he doesn’t care who’s cup of coffee he gets dunked in.”

“Too true,” Cleopatra said.

“Neither or you minded when it was your coffee I was dunking in,” Dad snarked as he made his way to the wall where Darlene disappeared. He started patting it down, searching for her and calling her name.

I knew this was all a ruse, a show put on to distract me from my pointed questions.

I stood with my arms crossed over my chest, watching Dad pretend that he couldn’t understand why Darlene refused to return to his bed, thinking about Esmerelda and Cleopatra. It was true that Cleopatra had lost her accent, but they were sisters, so that meant they were both Svenborgian. And since Esmerelda was an Underduchess, Cleopatra probably was, too. Maybe an Underduchess-once-removed. It was hard to remember all the rules for Svenborgian royal lineage. No matter her title, though, she had to know Viscount Arlo. They both did. They were most likely related to him somehow. And Dad didn’t care.

It was imperative that I figure out what was going on. Without raising their suspicions.

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At My Father’s Statement

  • by Kentto peep between the curtains
  • exposed him
  • just a mess inside that car
  • although she didn’t even own a car
  • seemed to me, judging from his fingers,

Tune in next time part 232                           Click Here for Earlier Installments

At my father’s statement, questions took flight in my mind like a flock of startled birds. But now was not the time to seek those answers.

“You know, the world thinks you’re dead,” I said. “Supposing it turned out they were right after all?” He sat down heavily on the mattress. “Glad to see I have your attention. Sit there and behave for a minute and we’ll get this over with. You have to stop,” I glanced at the naked woman, “renting affection.”

The Asian woman scampered through a gap in the velvet along the wall. She turned back to peep between the curtains, just a face levitating in the blackness of the room. “That is not what it is!” she cried. “I’m not a prostitute. We’re good friends. Last night, I complained that he never exposed himself to me. So, he did.”

Father’s wheezing laughter grated on my eardrums. “In a New York minute, I did! Man, things were just a mess inside that car.” Father’s eyes drifted closed.

I snapped my fingers. “Stay with us, you pervert.”

“We were in a car together,” he went on in a dreamy voice, “although she didn’t even own a car according to my security team.”

“It was stolen,” the face in the curtains giggled. Father giggled back.

I turned to Cleopatra and Esmerelda. “Sounds like you’re mistaken about the abuse of treasury funds. Now I need to talk to my father about some family business.”

The sisters stood with their arms folded. Unconvinced.

I turned back to Father and snapped my fingers at him some more. I wanted to make him explain about Mom and the one-eyed Svenborgian, but suddenly I was unconvinced, too. Which meant I was pretty convinced I couldn’t believe anything he told me, so there was no reason to bother asking. Because I noticed a clue I had overlooked before, a clue that told me there was more to this story. Because it seemed to me, judging from his fingers, that my father had recently been handling a lot of currency.

I looked at the Asian woman and narrowed my eyes. “You,” I said, “tell me the truth about what’s going on here.”

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At the End of a Long, Dank Hallway

  • by jenWe have a ghost, you know.
  • for a few ostentatious minutes
  • “A kidnapper?”
  • though it was badly damaged
  • my bunkmate has malaria

Tune in next time part 231                           Click Here for Earlier Installments

At the end of a long, dank hallway, Esmerelda pressed her eyeball against a retinal scanner and a thick metal panel slid open. The room beyond had black velvet covering every surface, including the floor. Our footsteps were silent as we entered.

The room was lit only by a spotlight that was focused on a raised platform — an island of black velvet in a sea of the same. Upon that platform, which was most likely a bed, lay the nude forms of my father and an Asian woman. Her black hair blended with the velvet, giving her head the unsettling appearance of being incomplete. She coughed.

My father sat up and grumbled, “I think my bunkmate has malaria. Get me a different girl.”

Esmerelda shoved me forward, hissing, “Tell him no more whores!”

When I was a child I had a good relationship with my father, though it was badly damaged through the years by his reckless behavior. Would he listen to me now?

“What’s this?” my father demanded when he caught sight of me. “A kidnapper?”

“No such luck, old man,” I said. And then I stood there while, for a few ostentatious minutes, he stomped around on the bed, bellowing about respect, neglecting to cover his nudity, waving his arms all around. The Asian girl rolled herself onto the floor and stood up. I was relieved to see she did in fact possess an entire head.

I gave Dad some time to tire himself out and work through the familiar first act of his usual tirade. When he finally paused for breath, I said, “We have a ghost, you know. A ghost of a chance of getting you out of here alive. Viscount Arlo is in league with the Contrarians.”

“Arlo?”

“You know, the bald Svenborgian with the eye patch.”

All the hair on my father’s body stood up. I know because he was still naked. “That guy is such a dick,” he said. “I don’t know what your mother ever saw in him.”

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My Next Move

  • by Kentthe Universe of the Upside-Down Toilet
  • “Stop playing games with me, David.”
  • stand back and let me check
  • with the slavish tenacity of a lapdog
  • won’t be built with nuts and bolts

Tune in next time part 230                           Click Here for Earlier Installments

My next move depended on knowing where Cleopatra really stood regarding my father. I tried another coded message.

“I think my father knows that time is money, even in the Universe of the Upside-Down Toilet, and that’s how those workers set their rates.”

“Stop playing games with me, David.” Esmerelda’s use of the proper countersign startled me. I’d thought I knew her allegiances, but this threw everything out the window. Now I was baffled about both sisters’ true intentions.

“I thought your name was–”

“He knows what I mean,” Esmerelda snapped.

I mulled for a few seconds. Then, “I’ll go talk to him, but I need Cleopatra to come with me.” If they both agreed to that, I’d know enough about their loyalties.

“Is my butt on straight?”

“Good question — stand back and let me check. Yes, you look great.”

“You could just take it off,” Esmerelda growled. “He’ll panic if he discovers a Svenborgian affectation like that.” To me, she said, “I know what you’re up to.”

“Good, can you tell me?”

“Don’t be cute. You’re far too old for cuteness. The coup will happen, though its opponents will act with the slavish tenacity of a lapdog. They will be unable to stop the machine. It’s a machine that won’t be built with nuts and bolts. It will be made of pride and sweat and spider silk. Do you hear me? Do you understand what I am telling you?”

“Sheesh, Ezz,” Cleopatra said. “You take all the fun out of revolution, you know that?”

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Geography was Never My Strong Suit

  • by jendidn’t want to say more over the phone
  • the deadly secrets she’d been hiding for three years
  • “What the heck is this?”
  • many generations of fine breeding
  • a very unrealistic assessment of what sex workers charge

Tune in next time part 229                           Click Here for Earlier Installments

Geography was never my strong suit, but even I knew there was a limited number of countries one could reach from Harmonia by water, and our current location resembled none of them. And then it hit me: hovercrafts can travel over land as well as sea. We could be nearly anywhere. And Cleopatra worked so hard to keep me distracted belowdecks, as it were. My distrust of her flared anew.

A zeppelin floated by overhead.

Cleopatra led me into a twisting alley. Where it dead-ended, there was a rusty steel door where she unleashed a flurry of knocks in a complicated rhythm. The door swung inward after a moment and I was compelled to enter the dim room.

From the shadows, a tall woman said, “You should have told us you were bringing him along.” Her voice was familiar.

“Time was short and there were enemies everywhere,” Cleopatra said. “I didn’t want to say more over the phone than the bare basics.”

Shadow-voice stepped out of the shadows and stood behind me, hands on my shoulders. She leaned forward and spoke quietly into my ear. “Did she tell you of the deadly secrets she’d been hiding for three years?” Her odd accent and stilted phrasing identified her as Esmerelda, my brother Jim’s wife. If she was here, did that mean my father was, too?

Esmerelda moved from behind me and embraced Cleopatra, giving her bottom a squeeze. “What the heck is this?” she demanded. “I’m disappointed in you, sister. We are the end result of many generations of fine breeding, and yet you cover up your genetically perfect ass with this relic of old Svenborgia?”

They were sisters? That was news to me. Cold dread clutched my gut.

“I am a traditionalist,” Cleopatra replied.

Esmerelda stood beside her sister and regarded me icily. “Your father has a very unrealistic assessment of what sex workers charge. He’s draining the treasury of his new empire, and he’s not even been publicly acknowledged as leader. We need you to talk to him.”

She was standing side-by-side with her sister, but they were on opposite sides of the conflict over my father. Or were they? Had Cleopatra been playing me all along in order to get me here?

Wherever here was.

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