Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Fixer

London 1894
Herbert, or ‘Bertie’ as he was known to his friends and numerous mistresses, had just received another rejection letter from a publisher. Well, that really pops my pudding he thought to himself as he sat tapping his fingers on the desk. Having one’s work rejected was one thing, but to be constantly referred to as ‘the poor man’s Jules Verne’ well, that was just the last straw. He looked across the room at the machine which he had sworn never to operate again. He bit his lip, grabbed his coat and pen, and headed off to the French West Indies to settle the Verne matter once and for all.

Haiti 1869
On a break from his writing, Monsieur Verne had decided to take a long walk on the beach and had thus developed a nagging thirst in addition to a slight case of heat stroke. He had nearly made it back to the hotel, when he noticed a small edifice built just inside the trees lining the perimeter of the beach. Upon further scrutiny, he discovered that the structure was in fact a bar, furnished with a few tables and chairs set out on a lovely shaded verandah. Verne stood for a moment and squinted at the building when he noticed a young gentleman sitting at one of the tables. The man looked quite comfortable, despite the heat. In fact upon closer inspection, Verne noticed the man’s hair gently blowing despite no discernible breeze from the ocean. Odd he thought to himself as he approached the bar. He felt the breeze as soon as he mounted the steps, and looking up to find its source, was surprised to discover an object hanging from the ceiling. The machine appeared to have been constructed of paddles and seemed to rotate slowly of their own accord.

Unbeknownst to Monsieur Verne, upon his arrival in the Greater Antilles, not only had Bertie managed to rig up a spot of electricity (courtesy of an earlier, terrifying machine-powered excursion involving a gentleman named Edison) but he had also quickly assembled a ceiling fan (design borrowed from Phillip Diehl during a vacation to New Jersey in 1882). Aware that his opportunity had arrived and eager to knock the fondant from the Frenchman’s cupcake, Bertie introduced himself as an inventor of mechanical things, invited him into his beach side establishment, and offered him a very large Rum Swizzle (Bermuda, 1914 - delightful, but capable of delivering the most potent of hangovers), and the comfort of his cool surroundings.

In a short time Bertie had managed to impress the author considerably, gaining both his trust and admiration, and the two spent a delightful afternoon together on the Tiki bar’s porch – Bertie gaining a good deal of valuable information. After a few hours, Bertie stood up and excused himself, explaining that he had letters to write before dinner that evening. As he stepped off of the porch, he nodded to the young boy manning the levers which made the paddles go round and round.

“More air Monsieur?” the boy asked.

“Oui Marcel” responded Verne as he closed his eyes and enjoyed the breeze blowing down upon his head.

Bertie quickly ran through the trees along the beach and slipped into the hotel. Once inside Verne’s room, he found the manuscript and read through the critical passages absorbing as much as he could. He returned to his own room and began to write at a speedy pace. He smiled as the words poured forth from his pen and onto the paper. Imitating Verne’s handwriting had been a simple matter as Verne had been taught penmanship by the same nun who had instructed Maria Montessori, who had also been Bertie’s father’s cricket coach back in the days he spent at the convent school.

The next afternoon, he slipped the pages into his jacket and headed off to the bar to wait for his chance. Sure enough, the Frenchman sauntered up the beach at 2:00, climbed the steps and sat himself down at a table in the bar. He smiled at the Englishman with whom he had spent such a wonderful afternoon the day before, sitting at one of the small wicker tables.

Marcel, he of the magic levers, was nowhere in sight. This caused Verne a moment of concern, but was quickly remedied by another gentleman who appeared to be in charge of the levers in addition to the libations. The author was about to open his mouth and order a drink, when the gentleman behind the bar placed a large Rum Swizzle before him.

Verne smiled broadly at his new acquaintance and said “Ah Monsieur Wells, do join me for another afternoon discussion.” Bertie smiled, picked up his glass and joined the man at his table. Six more Rum Swizzle’s followed, and a short time later found Monsieur Verne sleeping happily below the cooling breeze of the rotating paddles.

Bertie laughed quietly, and headed off to the hotel where he managed to replace the pages of Verne’s work, with his own. He exited the hotel and after having a quick pee (the machine had operated flawlessly so far, but one just never knew with these things) made his way into the trees where he had stashed the vehicle. As he closed the door and turned the key, he felt a great sense of satisfaction, knowing that his books would never again be compared to any of those written by Monsieur Verne.

London, 2012
The tall man with the wavy hair and gray beard approached the slatted blinds and peered through them. He shook his head as the guide called out to him “Sir please if you will, the museum asks that you not touch the displays.”

The man nodded and stepped off of the podium, passing the sign which said “A replica of Jules Verne’s submarine ‘The Nautilus.’ The author, believed to have been suffering from the effects of rum poisoning during his stay in the Caribbean, ignored the advice of his literary agent and insisted on creating an underwater vessel fashioned in the shape of a shell and made entirely from teak blinds.”


  1. oh hysterical! writer's envy, rum swizzles, Jules Vernes, Maria Montessori, teak blinds, and time travel - marvelous.

  2. What a great idea. I really enjoyed reading this. Bertie's little comments "pops my pudding" and "knock the fondant off the frenchmen's cupcake" made me laugh out loud. And all the explanations of where these anachronistic items in his visit with Verne came from are just wonderful. Jules Verne drinking a Rum Swizzle, ha! So creative. Well done.