Sunday, September 11, 2016

Action Men and the Great Zarelda, Part 8

Continued from Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7

“Maybe the darkness will cue them to sleep?”

“I was hoping it would, but it doesn't seem to be working so far. They must have been sedated but woke up sooner than expected. I could slip them some Tylenol PM in a White Castle burger, but I don't like the idea of drugging them.” I had no idea how much sedative it would take for them to sleep or how much would be unsafe for them, and I didn't want to be responsible.

“Neither do I,” said Jack. “Maybe you should sing to them.”

“I've been singing to them. I don't think they're impressed.”

“Or maybe they'll be like human babies. The motion of the car will put them to sleep. Maybe you should sing them to sleep while you're driving.”

“I'm not sure I can sing and drive at the same time,” I said. Maybe that was just an excuse. I'd already serenaded the tigers … twice. Now I was racking my brain, trying to think up soothing-tiger-cubs-to-sleep songs, and was coming up with zilch. Maybe I was also getting nervous about my wild predicament. What was I going to do if I showed up at the theater with two wakened, active, noisy little tigers … act like Zarelda's willing accomplice?

“I have an idea,” said Jack. “I'll serenade the tigers while you drive.”

“You'll serenade them while I drive? How are you going to do that?”

“We'll use the FaceTime app. You can stick your phone in the box with the tigers. It will serve a dual purpose. It will act as a night light. Maybe, they'll be more content.”

It was a weird plan, one in a string of weird plans that Jack came up with and I went along with, but there was a little bit of sense to it. “Put the phone in the box with the tigers, huh? On one condition ...”

“On one condition? What's that?”

“That you'll replace my phone if the tigers decide to use it as a chew toy.”

There was a pause. “I guess that's a risk I'm willing to take. For the sake of the business, you need a phone upgrade anyway. Andy, somewhere in the back of a vehicle, is a box of our Buddy Bears. Take one out and toss one in with the tigers. I also have a polar fleece jacket in the back. Toss that in with the tigers to get them ready for nap time.”

I went hunting in the back of the vehicle and found the box of bears. Using a Swiss Army knife in my pocket to cut through the packing tape, I opened it up and pulled out a bear. These weren't just ordinary stuffed bears. They said friendly phrases like “Let's be friends,” “Do you need a hug?” and thirteen other sayings when squeezed in the middle. I was really hoping the tigers wouldn't be rough with it and pounce on its tummy. That really wouldn't help our case. I tossed the bear into the box, feeling just a little bit like I was tossing a gladiator to the lions.

I found a navy blue polar fleece jacket folded up in the back. “I found a polar fleece,” I said to Jack on the phone. “It's hard to believe it's yours. It looks so ordinary. Where are the cartoon ...” I unfolded it. “Oh, there they are.” The whole troop of seven dwarfs sprawled out over the back. “Are you sure you want to toss this in with the cubs? What if they go number two on it? Or number one, for that matter. Either way, they'll do a number on it.”

“It's old,” said Jack. “I guess that's also a risk I'm willing to take.”

I tossed in the polar fleece. Suddenly, I remembered a roll of duct tape we kept in the rear of the vehicle. Jack wasn't the only one with a little bit of brain. I pulled off a piece of tape, rolled it, and stuck it to the back of the phone. I then taped the phone high up on the wall of the box interior. It didn't precisely tiger-proof the phone, but maybe it, at least, made it slightly less vulnerable.

As I drove off en route to Zarelda's theater, I could hear Jack's glee club voice singing “Danny Boy.” “Oh, Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling, from glen to glen and down the mountainside...” I suppose as a freckled reddish-head with Irish heritage, I should have as much Irish pride as anyone, but leave it to Jack to know old Irish folk songs from memory. I had to admit it was slow and soothing and, after a while, I felt like I needed an espresso to keep myself awake. Somewhere between White Castle and Zarelda's theater, I heard silence in the back, hearing neither tigers or Jack's voice. Singing lullabies to tiger cubs via the FaceTime app might be one of the zanier things Jack had done in his life, but it seemed to be successful.

When I delivered the box to Zarelda, she acted very grateful. “Thank you very much, darling.” She tucked a couple of folded bills into my hand. I didn't even unfold them in her presence to see which president was on them. Now that I knew the secret of the box, I didn't really want to accept them either, except that I was playing Colonel Klink – “I know nothing!” – so I tucked them away, acting like it was a generous tip for going the extra mile. As I expected, Zarelda didn't fuss with the box or open its compartments while I was in the room with her.

I headed then to my dressing room to transform myself into Andy the magician's assistant or Andy the glitterized '70s variety show wannabe, however you wanted to look at it. As I was fastening on my cummerbund, a sickening realization came to me. My iPhone was still in the box. If Zarelda found it, she'd realize I was in the know, and she might be able to access some other information as well. The bear and the coat were in the box still too, and any of those things could be traced to me, but I was especially worried by the phone.

We had a half hour still to show time, so I headed down to the prop room. Maybe I could retrieve it before the show without disturbing the tigers and without Zarelda knowing anything of it. When I came across the box, Zarelda was right there by it and so, interestingly enough, was Kumar from the Houdini's Magic Shop.


“Hi, yeah, I sometimes come and help out with the lighting and special effects during the shows. She didn't tell you?”

We had special lighting and effects? We hadn't rehearsed any while I was involved. I shook my head and then just stood there stupidly, not knowing what my next step should be.

“What are you doing down here, darling?”

“Oh,” I said, “Just some pre-show nerves. I just thought I'd walk around and, you know, get into character.”

Kumar's eyebrows raised up. “You have to get into character?”

I looked down at my pearlized and glitterized costume. I certainly didn't feel like myself. “I have a character. Yeah, I have a character.” Unsure what more to say, I just walked away and began pacing, wandering around the room, not sure how it helped me “get into character.” Zarelda and Kumar remained at their station and yet didn't seem to be doing anything more productive than I was doing. I had a feeling we were all three watching one another on the sly.

To be continued ... 

© Susan Joy Clark 2016

Friday, September 9, 2016

"Action Men with Silly Putty": The Soundtrack, Part 1

For some reason, this book ended up having a kind of soundtrack. In most of the fiction I have done, music has served some sort of inspirational purpose, but it was sometimes "behind the scenes," not something that came out in the actual writing. There might be songs that I would play over and over again during some stage of the creative process, because it inspired me to write about a particular character or scene, but the song itself was not part of the story. With "Action Men with Silly Putty," I found that quite a few song titles actually got mentioned within the context of the story and that this trend continued throughout. Thus, my book ended up with a soundtrack.

I want to share that with you. In some places, I can share some lines of context and some places not in case it should prove to be a spoiler.

It's also a fairly eclectic soundtrack with songs from jazz, rock, country, Broadway, even opera and classical.

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds

In the beginning, we meet a suspect with two differently colored eyes, heterochromia iridum.

"I started to whistle 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.' It wasn’t my favorite song in the world as I’m not too fond of getting looped up and seeing pink elephants or walruses with egg men or whatever it is you’re supposed to see while under the influence, but it was that line 'the girl with the kaleidoscope eyes.' It seemed fitting." From this point on, this suspect comes to be known as Kaleidoscope Eyes.

"Rubber Ball"

Jack Donegal is a toy inventer and the owner of his own toy business, Out of the Box Toys. His buddy Andy Westin is his marketing manager. The "Rubber Ball" song comes out in the context of a musical ball in their toy line.

"Are You Going To San Francisco?"

Although my sleuths, Jack Donegal and Andy Westin, are New Jersey natives, the opening scenes take place in California and San Francisco.

At some point, Jack persuades Andy to don a disguise in the chapter "We Become Spies At the Expense of My Dignity." Jack picks out a loud rainbow tie-dye T-shirt -- a beaded one -- for Andy at a Salvation Army thrift store.

"'Are you sure this is men’s wear?' I asked. 

I actually took the hanger from him and sniffed at the shirt cautiously, expecting to detect traces of a five-leafed plant. I inspected the tag, but there was nothing to indicate how gender neutral it was … or not. “Don’t worry,” said Jack. “You’ll fit right in with the culture.” I’d fit right in with the culture, all right, providing it was a subculture of hippie Indian chiefs. I remembered that ‘60s song about the gentle people you’d meet in San Francisco, you know, the ones with flowers in their hair. I would have to draw a line at flowers in the hair. I eyed Jack with caution, almost as if he could read my mind. I ran a hand through my summer crew cut, relieved that my hair would not hold a flower even if I tried it."  

"Mission Impossible Theme"

The next few songs are mentioned in the context of a chapter titled "Music as Psychological Warfare and the Most Esoteric Security Code Imaginable"

"Soul Bossa Nova"

"I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General"

"Bad Boys"

These two songs "Hit Me with Your Best Shot" and "One Way or Another" were actually listed separately but close together in this chapter. While I was writing though, I did a lot of listening to this Glee medley of both songs.

"Hit Me with Your Best Shot/One Way or Another"

There's actually quite a few more, and it makes a long list, so I think I will leave some for a new installment.