Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Red in the East - Mars and Dr. Electro, Episode 4

 Letters from Josh

  Mars Burns Bright 10/13/20                                                                           Letter 27

  Heya, folks!  Happy Mars Opposition!  Now, that sounds rather confrontational, but fear not, the Bringer of War isn’t in a political party, rather, opposite the Sun in our sky...a “full Mars”, if you will.  Unlike the moon, this happens about every 26 months, and about every 15 years, it occurs around when it’s closest to us.  Lucky for the Earthlings, this is just one of those times.  Look for it burning brightly in the east, rising around sunset, a lurid red eye blazing down, bloody in appearance from the iron oxide (“rusty”) substances in its soil.  How cool is that - throughout the eons, Mars has summoned stories of war because of...its dirt.  Ah, isn’t that how it usually goes?  I’ve got three telescopes out in the yard getting ready for an evening’s observing session, and some Handel pieces on the turntable for oboe and continuo.  If that isn’t an ideal October evening, I don’t know what is.  How’s everyone been over there?  I was hoping to solicit some “life hacks”, that is, helpful hints for good living today.  Just the other morning, I rose early, and washed my face with a steaming washcloth the very first thing.  Boy was that nice!  A senior buddy told me about this little hint, and as my grateful eyes greeted themselves in the mirror, the thought showed up:  “Hey, ask the crew for more “life tricks” like this in the next letter.”  So, do you have a clever way to fold a fitted sheet?  A snazzy lemonade recipe?  A way to cut a dado joint?  I’d love to hear.  Drop me a line!

And now, here’s this week’s installment of Dr. Electro!  Previously: Mabel appears for the first time, surrounded by smoke and international intrigue in an abandoned warehouse office.  Dr. E and Rutherford set out to stake out the orphanage, deciding to investigate a culvert, where they hear voices.  An ill-fated gust extinguishes their match, thickening the plot with a hearty serving of darkness.  Josh has no idea what’s going to happen, either.  

Dr. Electro - Episode IV - The League of Inquiring Minds 

  The smell of match smoke can be pleasant, and it reminded Dr. Electro of the quiet smile he’d get after striking and lighting a stick of incense, settling in for a cup of tea and a book on physics or botany as the rain fell outside the window.  His thoughts would drift in gratitude that he wasn’t exploring some God-forsaken corner out in the tempest, or at least, where a nasty head cold lurked. 

Unfortunately, tonight, he was on the wrong side of this visual, and as the last wisp of their hope of light curled up towards the dripping ceiling of the culvert, he sighed in resignation, missing his tea and warm chair.  He looked at Rutherford, or rather, where he had seen Rutherford last, as the blackness was inky to the extreme.  “Bugger!”  The sharp exclamation from the Englishman provided a location, and with as little sound as possible in the echo chamber, they crept towards the source of the voices they had heard. 

Glimmers started to appear on the walls, shy gleams, like hesitant guests on a wedding dance floor.  A corner - an ominous thing when one is sneaking -  a torch smoldering - an entrance to a side gallery.  Honoring their treaty with the shadows, the two men kept alliance and peered mightily at the flickering scene before them.  Crates were stacked, piled, and heaped in a vast space off the main channel of the pipe.  Some were cracked open, revealing volumes upon volumes of books.  Others were stamped with familiar and revered names:  DICKENS.  HUGO.  DOSTOEVSKY.  Several stuffed animals of the non-cuddly and decidedly real variety were propped against the wall in a vaguely ominous way, the aggression of the baboon in particular enduring in death, a testament to taxidermy. Just then, ten men with matching safari hats filed in, seating themselves around a massive oak table.  An eleventh joined them, his head bare, transcended of the safari hat, obviously the leader.  In a slight French accent, “Gentlemen, we now convene the League of Inquiring Minds.  Our pupils seem to be progressing rather quickly, I’m delighted to hear.” 

Uptown - At a swanky speakeasy called Club Vignette - Murphy alternated between boredom, and the meta-observation of boredom, with the fascination that provided.  Leaning against the bar, he pretended not to watch the red curtain hung against a discrete brick wall.  Revelers would pause there, thinking themselves unnoticed, and let their guard down for a split second.  They reminded Murphy of Cezanne’s painting The Harlequin, an unobserved clown in a moment of sadness. If the Jazz Age was empty room, the guns of the Great War seemed to echo still.  If this was really it, what was the point?  Ah, how he wished for meaning.

(To be continued…) 

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