Sherlock Holmes learns to make a new mixed drink, courtesy of Angela, the woman he met in the previous Chapter, # 12. Will Angela teach Holmes any other tricks? Find out below the Orange antimacassar.
Sherlock Holmes in Space -- The Knower -- Chapter 13
a story by jabney based on (the now public domain) characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
"So how much bigger is your, "Bike" you call it? than Angela's," I shouted to Otis as we rode back to the flat. He looked back, grinned and started to speak. "Shouldn't you be watching the road!" I said.
"You're right, Doctor, here..." he switched something and the rumbling roar in my helmet was replaced with only the sound of his voice and the faint whoosh of wind. "I like to pipe in the sound of an internal combustion engine. Heightens the illusion but makes conversation a little difficult. And if you are wondering about Angela suggesting a bigger bike for you, two things. She has an interest in Sherlock Holmes, and by the way I don't think she has any inkling of his fame, and tonight was the probably the first time you saw yourself in a video, right?"
"Well the old saying is that the camera adds ten pounds. Viewing oneself, everybody thinks he or she looks fatter."
As we arrived at the flat, a delivery vehicle marked, "Amec Appliance" was pulling to the curb. Angela's bike was parked already and the window flew open. Angela stuck her head out and shouted, "Hurry on up and help us decide where the display should go. S H is fixing us some drinks."
"S H?" I said.
"Angela is a fast worker," said Otis.
"So how long have you known her?"
"Ages. We all work together in Systems. Level fives and above may work from home, and, "Home" just happens to be the Smiley Grill. At least for the people that manage to get anything accomplished."
"But it seems more like a game room. How do you get work done in an atmosphere like that?"
"Because, Dr Watson, our work is more akin to play than anything else. If certain members of the S.I.T. had their way, we'd come to work wearing business dress, punch a time-clock and be isolated one apiece in semi-open cubicles under tubular fluorescent lighting."
Before I had a chance to say that an argument could be made for that sort of regimentation, we reached the the door and Angela handed us each a glass with a slush-like very cold concoction inside. The rim of the glass was entirely encrusted with salt. "I've been showing S H how to make Margueritas. I can't believe he's never tried one before. So Doctor, get started drinking and decide where to put the display."
"I don't need a drink to answer that, put it where that samovar now stands."
"Genius, Watson, the perfect place for it," said the voice of Sherlock Holmes from the kitchen, "What do you think of my cocktail skills?"
"I haven't started yet. What are you supposed to do with salt on the rim, mix it into the beverage?”
"No!" said Angela, "You sip the Marguerita through it. Pace yourself by drinking around the glass. By the time the salt runs out, the drink should too. And then it will be time for another. Drink as many as you like Doctor. You too Otis, S H said we could spend the night, you can have the sofa."
"But where will you...oh." The awkwardness was interrupted by the knock at the door of the delivery team.
When Angela went to fetch Holmes, Otis said, "We've made great strides in limiting the ravages of venereal disease since your day Doctor, despite some notable setbacks along the way. Thanks to the barrier gels, you'd have to be really trying in order to pass a disease to a partner. Or to get one pregnant."
"I wasn't thinking of that," I said, "But it is comforting to know, I suppose."
"You haven't tried your drink yet Watson," said Holmes who entered the room with Angela. "That display screen is no more of an eyesore than the samovar, I suppose. Where shall we put it?"
"The screen? I thought you agreed where the samovar was."
"No, the samovar."
"Why not in the hallway, use it for a coat-rack."
"Good idea, Watson. We'll take it out as soon as these gentlemen have finished installing the display."
"Well take care of that for you," said one of the delivery team, "We're done here, unless you need anything else Otis."
"Thanks a million," said Otis, "That'll do for tonight. See you mañana."
They left, and with them the samovar, which I heard being wrestled into place in the hallway, Holmes said, "I take it, "Amec Appliance" does not depend on the general public for its business."
Otis said, "They don't avoid the business, if that's what you mean. If people are willing to pay list-price, accept a week long wait for shipping and tolerate inefficient service, Amec will take their money. Of course that will prompt a discreet inquiry as to how the prospective customer found Amec Appliance in the first place."
"Perhaps seeing the delivery vehicle late at night arouses their interest," said Holmes.
Otis said, "I've made that argument myself, but the counter argument is that Amec would appear extremely tardy to be out so late."
A voice from the kitchen said, loudly, "S H come here, I want to read your chart."
"Uh oh,” said Otis, “She didn't get around to doing my chart until the third time."
Sherlock Holmes hurried out to the kitchen and Otis started showing me how to operate the display. We were at the menu for aspect ratio, whatever that is, when the unmistakable sound of Angela's voice came through the thick door, "You were born when?!" Then Angela herself burst through the door followed by Holmes. "Why didn't you tell me? This changes everything!"
Holmes seemed to be suppressing a grin as he said, "You said what's a few year's difference, the fact that the few years are actually centuries doesn't alter my effective age."
Angela said, "The fact that you are a true relic doesn't bother me at all. But you're a famous relic. I don't want people thinking I'm a groupie. Had you been, "Joe Shmoe" from the past, it could have been fun. You're cute in a brooding sort of way, but I'm sorry Mr Holmes. I think I should leave now. Perhaps we can discuss ciphers over lunch sometime. Goodnight. See you Otis, my pleasure Dr Watson. Au revoir Mr Holmes."
Angela left and Holmes said, "No S H?"
"Do you want me to introduce you in the future as Mr Shmoe?" I said.
Holmes said, "No thank you Watson." He looked toward the door through which Angela had just made her exit, and sighed, but only a little, before he continued. "It is for the best, I suppose. But I must confess I was flattered. In addition, I learned how to make a "Wicked" cocktail, had a motorcycle ride that probably took a year off my life and now have something in common with Jerome, and you too Otis, if I'm not mistaken. Is that vaporizer in the doggy bag? I could use a hit."
We were home, at least as home as one could be said to be aboard a vast spaceship hurtling who knows where, so I did not decline when the vaporizer came my way this time. There was no effect and I asked Otis if I was operating it correctly. Otis said, "It may take two or three hits, but the effect does kind of sneak-up on you.
After the third attempt, I was ready to tell my companions that I was probably one of those people that didn't, "Get high," I think that was the term. Then Holmes said, "Watson, feel free to use, "Cute in a brooding sort of way," in a description of me sometime."
Otis said, "Good, but could be more pithy. Perhaps, "Broodingly cute" would convey Angela's expressed sentiment." The prospect of my publisher encountering any way I might use for expressing the concepts of, "Brooding" and, "Cuteness" struck me as very funny. I began to laugh. I continued to laugh. And to laugh. Otis said, "As I said, it has a way of sneaking up on you."
Holmes said, "I hope that is the reason for Watson's paroxysm of laughter, rather then him thinking the concept of a young lady acknowledging my brooding cuteness is all that absurd."
I started weeping tears of laughter, and between sobs and howls managed to say, "Not absurd... at all... but imaging... my bewildered... publisher's... face."
Otis, at least, seemed to find the thought amusing, and he laughed as well. Not Holmes, though.
I had the chance to observe the Holmsian sense of humor as the night wore on. "What shall we start with?" said Otis, presumably thinking out loud. This was his presentation, after all.
Holmes said, "I'd be interested in the origin of the, "Rochester" reference."
"Good call," said Otis. "What you need to know is that Jack Benny the actor, his original name was Ben Siegel, no wait, that was somebody else. Anyhow, Jack Benny, his legal name, played the role of Jack Benny the character, but with some major differences. The real Jack Benny was a generous giver to charities, played the violin with symphonies as a fund raiser, whereas the character Jack Benny was a notorious tightwad. That sort of thing. Oh, and the character Jack Benny is quite vain about his age and so forth. What you might call, "Blind to his shortcomings."
"Does this, "Jello," still exist?" said Holmes, after the episode.
Otis said, "Yes, but only for the purpose of re-creating the recipe after the beef and dairy herds are re-constituted in large enough numbers."
"So we are aboard sort of a Noah's ark?" I said.
"For some animals, yes, we keep a representational number. Though more than two in most cases." said Otis. "Chicken has been the exception all along, plenty of chicken. And the current outer ring, it's nearing completion, will be partly populated with sheep. I am looking forward to rack of lamb."
"Mutton," said Holmes. "Don't be in such a hurry that you neglect letting some of the lambs mature into mutton. A stronger flavor, though off-putting to some palates. My humor palate was especially tickled in the first show by the Spanish language skit, "Si and Sy, and so forth. I'm not sure what the audience seemed to find so funny during the violin solo, though."
I looked at Otis and noticed he was biting his lip. Presumably to stifle any laughter. I said, "Oh you know Holmes, probably reacting to the stereotype of that old canard about amateur musicians."
Otis deftly changed the conversation and said, "The actor opposite Jack Benny in "Si, Sy" sketch is actually more famous for his voice, we'll see some Warner cartoons later on. But I want you see some Percy Dovetonsils and then one of the Nairobi Trio sketches first. The video quality is primitive, so be warned."
After watching the Percy Dovetonsils episode Holmes said, "An example of an acceptable target, I presume. This Ernie Kovaks fellow seemed rather dismissive of effete-poets."
Otis said, "More a matter of being dismissive of really bad poems written by someone who thought the poems were really good. The effeminate manner of the Percy Dovetonsils character reflected the popular view of poets at the time. At least among the masses."
"They never met some of the poets at the Plutarch Club," I said.
"Be that as it may," said Otis, "The depiction is not mean-spirited. That comes later. But now, the Nairobi Trio."
Not only did Holmes and I laugh out loud during the trio's performance, Holmes even asked that it be replayed.
I finally announced I was ready for bed after viewing The Mary Tyler Moore show. "I am not certain I will trust myself to maintain a straight face at a funeral ever again. Death as an acceptable target for laughter. Who would have thought it?"
"Makes rather a worthy target, Watson. Or so I would think. I have a suspicion that Otis here may be getting us prepared to learn of targets even more worthy of scorn. Sleep well in your innocence my friend."
Otis said, "I'm glad you are hitting the sack, Dr Watson. I need to fill Mr Holmes in on some background leading up to the era we've just viewed, and since you will be the one keeping the memories of what you learn here on the SSO, it's best you don't delve in the details. Even when the numbers make a mockery of the term, "Details." But rest knowing this, like acceptable targets on screen change over time, so do the relations among nations. Enemies become friends, friends become enemies, and soldiers, and bystanders, manage to die either way. So tonight I bid you goodnight with a toast, "To one life, well lived.""
On that somewhat cryptic note, I retired for the evening. Perhaps it was the effect of the cannabis, but I spent no time pondering the affairs of the rather long day, rather I slipped into the welcome comfort of sleep. The next morning the only dream I could recall involved me breaking a granite counter-top trying to install it in the kitchen, and the woman with me saying, "It's just as well John, I think the soapstone is a better choice. If you can find a way to bring it back."