Chafing

Drahuta Residence, Bamberg, USE

 

Julie always entered her residence with a certain suspicion.

From a husband who enjoyed wearing his cavalry armor to the dinner table to a house that could, sometimes at the same time, hold the world’s greatest mathematician and a worldwide sensation who was currently on medication for that, the Drahuta household was nothing like it would have been had she remained in the year 2000 and not been tossed into the seventeenth century.

The blatant stench of garlic was only a warning—and a vague, confusing one at that.

“Logan made pizza?” Julie asked her ebullient daughter as she bounded into the entranceway which had seen its share of minor drama and arterial blood flow.

“Why does everyone assume that she made the pizza?” Karla demanded, pouting a well-used and experienced lip out before her.

“Because I don’t smell smoke and burning.”

“I got the oven to the right temperature, Ma! If it was a frozen pizza and I had the oven at our real home in Grantville, there would be no fire.”

“There was that time you forgot to take the pizza out of the cardboard box . . .”

“When will people stop reminding me of that?”

“When the last person who remembers it, in this century, dies.”

“I don’t want you to die, Ma.”

“That would not have been the conclusion someone would have jumped to if they had seen the kitchen. What in the name of heaven led you to believe threading a garden hose through the window, while it was on, was a good thing to do. Couldn’t you have opened the window?”

“There was fire, Ma. You don’t think during a fire. You do. I busted a hole for the hose with a cheap garden gnome, and Dad hated them anyway.”

“I know there was a fire. I was there when the insurance adjuster was making notes on her clipboard. The water damage was more expensive than the smoke and fire damage. I didn’t think the fire department put that much water in my kitchen.”

“You and Dad got a new stove out of it.”

“Did you have to spray every electrical outlet?”

“There was smoke coming out of that one and . . .”

“Let’s just focus on the pizza Logan made and leave it at that. I believe the saying is, leave sleeping dogs alone.”

“She’s in her room, crying.”

“Okay, Karla, that was important information. Why is she crying?”

“She’s sitting on her bed staring at her airplane poster.”

That meant her poster of current aircraft, current for the year 2000 from whence Grantville and she had come.

“But I think it’s Blaise . . . apparently he’s got a new girlfriend. She thinks she’s losing him.”

“Oh Lord . . .”

And, true to form, speak or even think of the devil and he appears.

“Greetings all!” Blaise Pascal announced, pushing his way into the entranceway and coming to all the wrong conclusions. “I think I have found the perfect carpet to replace this one. That blood stain causes too many questions. My eyes are unnaturally directed to it and my sister, Gilberte, never fails to remind me if it seems I forget. She says she will not buy carpeting until she is sure I will not routinely bleed all over her house.”

“Blaise . . .”

“It smells like Logan made pizza!” Blaise patted his stomach. “She makes good pizza!”

“Blaise . . .”

“It is hard to find just the right circular rug. I am sorry about the blood stain, Madame Drahuta,” Blaise Pascal stated solemnly.

“Blaise! Forget the blood stain!”

“How do I do that? Everyone is always reminding me. I want to do something to make amends. I am told there is little that can be done about the damage to the wall but I replaced the little table you liked.”

“Blaise, Logan is upstairs, crying . . .”

Blaise flinched and looked very much like a hunted animal.

“I didn’t do anything . . .” he flinched.

“Karla says you have a new girlfriend?”

“Oh, her? She’s just a really smart girl who knows her mathematics. That’s all. Really. I have done nothing inappropriate. We are well chaperoned when we are at the chalkboard. And she is German. German women do not accept ungentlemanly behavior.”

Karla’s snicker was unnerving for the sudden attention Blaise gave it.

“I would like Logan in the dining room to share supper with us, Blaise. Go up and see to it.”

“Alone? She’s crying . . . does she . . . is she . . . armed?”

“Blaise! Now!” Julie pointed in the general direction of the staircase. She remembered Logan falling down that staircase in her overeagerness to get to Blaise who had cut himself and was lying in a growing puddle of his own blood, right there where the stain was.

Blaise, with all the alacrity of a well-trained regiment commanded by its strictest officer, went. Pizza, even theoretical pizza, was involved, after all.

Logan Sebastian’s bedroom, Drahuta Residence

 

Logan Sebastian sat on her bed, her eyes apparently transfixed by the large poster nailed to the wall across from her bed. The tears leaked down her cheeks slowly but with a grim determination. She barely heard the door squeak.

“Go away,” she whispered, not turning her head to look at the reason for the squeak.

“What is wrong?” She recognized his voice and her fingers clenched as if gripping something or wishing they could. She did not see his eyes fastening on one of her hands, the one visible to him.

“Madame Drahuta said you were crying and that I should get you to come down to dinner. She suggested I could not have any of your fine pizza if I did not. Gilberte refuses to leave the tried and true Parisian cuisine that mostly, it would seem, involves chicken. I think father made a vast mistake complimenting her on her chicken. Now that is all she does. I saw sausage on the pizza, did I not?”

“Oh, Blaise, go away . . .”

“What is wrong?” Blaise quickly assessed himself and the room he stood within. Logan could have weapons hidden anywhere and when she was crying and especially looking at the pictures of the aircraft that would no longer roam the skies, she ws in the mood to lash out with those weapons. He had learned to walk carefully and speak even more carefully.

“Everything is wrong . . .” she snapped.

“Karla suggested that you might be angry with me.”

“Why would anyone be angry with you, Blaise Pascal?” Logan moaned. “I am angry with myself. Are you going to stand there or sit down on my bed? I don’t have a chair to offer you.”

“French gentlemen do not ‘sit’ upon a young lady’s bed in her bedroom.”

“Blaise . . .”

“I certainly will not until I see your other hand,” he added.

Logan held up her empty hand, and Blaise collapsed onto the bed, beside her.

“Do you like her?”

“Logan, be reasonable. She knows mathematics. She looks at an equation, and she can see the solution. We do marvelous mathematics together. That is all. I am teaching her calculus. You threatened to do something vulgar with a calculus textbook if I continued to try and teach you calculus.”

“Maybe she is better for you. My mathematics is only okay . . .”

“I do not like or dislike people because of their mathematics . . . Your mathematics is more than okay. Descartes’ is okay. Don’t tell anyone that. My father is angry enough with me. Descartes will not even acknowledge my presence on the planet now.”

“Don’t forget Aristotle and Gleick.”

“I have written a long letter of apology to Descartes. Can people ever drop that? I did not say the things I said about him because of his mathematics. I was . . . annoyed by his failure to understand the applicability of mathematics. He sees mathematics as something holy and untouchable. Aristotle is dead and Gleick might as well be. Chaos . . . what was he thinking? Was he thinking?”

“It was kind of funny to watch you stare at a dripping faucet all day.”

“I am not in the mood to get into a debate about the philosophy of mathematics, Logan. Besides, I solved the mathematics of the dripping faucet, thank you very much.” Blaise snorted. “Your mother banned me from her kitchen. Her faucet was perfect!”

“Took you long enough. Look, can we not talk about mathematics? Math makes me think of aerodynamics and that makes me think of P-51 Mustangs. Now that was an airplane. I had a chance of flying in one before all this crap.”

“Good, let’s talk about eating because your pizza is getting cold or, worse, Karla is going to try and reheat it.”

“You don’t understand . . .” Logan moaned.

“Okay, I accept that. But can you at least try to help me understand?”

“When I was younger . . . I wanted to fly the jumbo jets. I took it for granted that, assuming I wasn’t blinded in some accident, with the proper training—BAM—I would be flying a 747. Then—BAM—the Ring of Fire changed everything. I remember seeing you, sitting there in the library after years of my father talking about the Great Blaise Pascal at the dinner table until Mama threw mashed potatoes at him. You made the whole Ring of Fire thing real to me. There won’t be 747s in my lifetime and the space shuttle is simply a pipe dream . . . completely out of reach as the moon was to that lunatic Jules Verne and his sending astronauts to the moon via cannon.”

“I remember that story. Can you imagine the g-forces involved? They wouldn’t need an airlock. They would need a spout to pour them out when they landed. I mean, did this Verne person know any mathematics at all? He was unaware of any of Newton’s laws, certainly.”

“This is not a math lesson, Blaise! I am distraught, not seeking a mathematical solution!”

“Sorry, Logan . . .” Blaise flinched, drawing his hands to his chest in a defensive posture. Logan almost smiled as she reached out and took one of his hands, ignoring his muttered attempt at telling her to stop. She placed his hand on her shoulder.

She had a strong shoulder, not the soft thing most girls had, Blaise thought very carefully to himself.

“I took you for granted. Just like I took it for granted that there would be 747s when I got old enough. Now you found someone who you can talk math with. Of course you like her more than you like me. She’s blonde, and you’re French.”

“You are being rude, Logan. I know for a fact that women can change the color of their hair. She’s like talking to my echo. You don’t echo, Logan. You’re like a tomato.”

Logan almost couldn’t stop herself from laughing.

“There’s always something new with you. You think you know a tomato then you come along and make it into a sauce and—BAM—pizza! Maria is conventional. She is as predictable as a linear equation. You . . . you are not a linear equation. You are a tomato. You can be salsa or tomato sauce or sauce on spaghetti or . . . why are you laughing?”

Blaise made the attempt to remove his hand from her shoulder but she lashed out and pinned it there with her hand.

“That’s the most romantic thing you’ve ever said to me. I am your tomato. I am going to remember that. I should make a poster of that. I could put it right next to that one. I am a tomato.”

“I am not romantic, Logan Sebastian! What would your father say about such a comment? No, I do not want to know.”

“I don’t want to lose you like I lost the 747.”

“And that is the most romantic thing you have said to me . . . even more romantic than when you called me a big-nosed French boy. I am proud of my nose.”

“Do you have to keep reminding me of that? That was mean.”

“My nose reminds me of the jumbo jet.”

“What’s your father going to want for a dowry?”

“Shall I ask him?”

“No! God no. Things are happening with the dirigibles. There is no time for thinking about dowries. The company is planning on more than mere courier service, and he sees beyond hot air balloons. Everything is going hydrogen, all the way. They got you figuring out free energy reactions, and he has Antonio making me look for maintenance issues and other problems concerning wear and tear. Makes sense. Ship captains of oceangoing vessels spend a lot of time worrying about ropes and sails wearing out. Kick the tires and light the fires. Balloon pilots need to know what needs to be watched, or you will fall out of the sky like anyone else up there. Look at Icarus and Daedalus. Wax? Sounds like something you would do.”

“Humans are not meant to fly. Anyone with a basic understanding of mathematics knows that. We don’t have the breast bone to support the muscles to produce the downward force to stay airborne. There, you made me say breast, twice, in your presence. What will your father say?”

“Nothing. He would be laughing right now. I know him. He thinks this is all some sort of cosmic amusement.”

Blaise flexed his fingers slightly on her shoulder. What bothered him was that she was letting him do so.

“I dislike you up in balloons because of falling. I like it even less with the idea of burning, too.”

“Don’t forget explosions.”

“You are so . . . nonchalant about this. What do you do at a few thousand feet in a burning blimp?”

“Jump?” Logan shrugged. “Antonio Sorrento is very interested in the concept of parachutes. My idea is, prevent the need to jump and save the weight. He agrees with me.”

“I would be very upset if you died,” Blaise stated carefully. Talking about death around Logan was not always predictable.

“So would I. Eventually you will get tired of me and then what?”

Blaise, with his other hand, obviously, withdrew the metal ruler from its place of honor next to his chest under his clothing.

“Mathematics is very interesting . . . as you are and will always be. See? I still have it.”

“You being upset about the possibility of me dying led to you slicing open your femoral and destroying the entranceway. I can assure you that there would be far more damage if you died and left me alive.”

“I can take care of myself . . . What?”

“There is an entranceway not far from here that says you can’t. Maybe if I were a piece of cheap furniture or a rug, I might be just a bit afraid of you but everyone else just laughs.”

“I was wounded! I am a much better swordsman than that. Why can’t people forget the entranceway? It was very embarrassing. I thought Monsieur Drahuta was a burglar . . . trying to escape through the front of the house.”

“And if he had been . . . he might have died laughing or given himself a splinter trying to clean up after you but that was all.”

Blaise made to pull his arm off her shoulder but Logan kept it there.

“I was kidding . . .” Logan frowned.

“You never take me seriously.”

“Of course I do!”

“When was the last time?”

“Now.”

“Then let’s go have some pizza. This time, I want to cut it. I have an interesting theory of chords and how you could divide a circle into three equal parts with diagonal, parallel lines . . .”

“Blaise, only you can turn a pizza into a math problem. Let’s go before you start a war with Italy over dissecting circles.”

“Actually, Italy doesn’t exist. Italy is a collection of independent states and pizza was from the city of Naples, not Italy as a whole.”

“I’ve noticed something about you. You only lecture people you care about.”

“The history of pizza only makes it taste better. Food for the stomach and the mind. Let’s go. Do you need to dry your eyes?”

“I’ll be fine . . .”

Blaise put away his kerchief. “Father wants you to make some lace for your trousseau. When he mentions that he usually smiles in a way that means he is being . . . mischievous.”

“He thinks I will smack you a good one if you ask.”

“He said you didn’t like my French cuffs. Something about a prince.”

“Prince was a famous singer, up time. He thought he was being . . . I don’t know the word . . . popular by wearing enough lace to make Liberace jealous.”

“I have looked up this man, Liberace. Some say my taste for colors reminds them of him. I do not think I am quite happy with the comparison but it makes you smile, that is well worth any minor annoyance.”

“Tell me who they are, and I’ll hit them with my mother’s lacrosse stick.”

“No, that is for me only. If you start randomly assaulting people then you might assault me. As long as you only threaten me then I can imagine it is merely a threat, and you won’t actually hit me. Gilberte already calls you a hoyden. I don’t want to have to call you a felon, too.”

“She does?”

“Mostly in her ongoing attempt to annoy me. I actually like you as a hoyden. If you hadn’t been a hoyden you wouldn’t have pushed me into the pool, and I wouldn’t have learned how to swim. And stop thinking what I see you thinking. Hoyden has nothing to do with low morals or prostitution.”

“You almost called me a loose woman because of my one-piece bathing suit.”

“I was shocked . . . I cannot be held accountable for what I say when I am shocked.”

“And I pushed you into the shallow end.”

“I was most shocked when, after all that paddling, all I had to do was stand up. I felt embarrassed after all that bellowing.”

“It was cute. I still laugh when I remember the expression on your face when you stood up.”

“It was relief that I was not going to drown.”

“So, you don’t like this Maria more than me?”

“She is very good at mathematics. Almost as good as I am but she would never push me into a pool or, I am guessing, hold pressure on a serious laceration. Like I said, she is far too linear for me.”

“Call me ‘your tomato’ again.”

“Logan,” Blaise sniffed, “I do not trust that smile. Not one bit. Shall I hug you or will that seem too . . . forward.”

“You may hug me if you wish.”

Logan tried very hard and was largely successful at not giggling as she watched Blaise try to calculate the trajectories and angles of his arms to perform the act of non-forward hugging.

Her mother was going to bust a gasket when she told her; she was Blaise Pascal’s tomato.

All of a sudden, the poster of unattainable flight did not seem so sad with Blaise Pascal, ‘the’ Blaise Pascal, trying to figure out how to properly hug her.

“Blaise! It’s a hug, not a mathematical equation.”

“Everything is a mathematical equation!” Blaise bellowed. “See? You were going to hit me, weren’t . . .” the rest was muffled as Logan showed the world’s greatest mathematician how to hug.

“Let’s go get pizza. And, yes, those were sausages but they are kosher. Shabby might be here for dinner. Never know with him.”

“Shall I be jealous of the Jew?”

“He would never call me his tomato.” Logan laughed.

“He wouldn’t dare!”

“Watch where you wave that ruler. It’s metal, and it’s sharp!”

“It’s not sharp enough to cut me.”

“Let’s see.”

“Logan! You go too far!”

“You are in a young lady’s bedroom. How much farther shall I go?”

“Was that your grandmother’s pistol I felt?”

“You rake! Feeling me up to see if I was armed.”

“Self-defense is permissible no matter where a gentleman finds himself.”

“Yes, it is!”

“Logan, put that away!”

“I have a reputation to hold onto. I work with men all day. Some of them have seen me practice with the pistol. They are impressed.”

“They are probably terrified.” Blaise muttered. Blaise leapt off her bed and stood defiantly before the door.

“Holster your pistol and let us go and find out if there is pizza left.”

“Karla knows better than to eat all the pizza.”

“If we are to be married, I do not want that poster in our bedroom, and you will not come to bed armed. Is that clear?”

Logan smiled. “Call me your tomato again.”

“Tomatoes do not have arms.”

“Like hell they don’t,” he muttered in self-defense.

“Blaise . . .”

Blaise closed his eyes and turned around. Then, with small, determined steps he imagined a condemned man making while going to his death, headed for the stairway. That he survived leaving Logan’s bedroom was proof enough of divine intervention.

“Do I really scare you that much?”

“None of the common rules apply to you, Logan Sebastian. I don’t know the boundary conditions of you. Yes, you scare me but I want to learn how not to be afraid of you, my tomato. Let us go have some pizza.”

“Right behind you.”

“No! Beside me! Nowhere else!” Blaise demanded, bending his elbow and waiting at the top of the stairs. Logan would either come and push him down the stairs or she would come and properly take his arm the way a lady should. Either way, he hoped he survived.

“The Germans have this thing called ‘bundling.’ Do the French believe in that?”

Blaise Pascal almost fell down the stairs as the word made sense to him. Logan grasped him firmly by his collar and prevented him from falling.

“My sister is correct. You are a hoyden!”

“I am a tomato!” Logan laughed as she guided him down the stairs toward pizza.

Blaise now had two things to ask his sister about; bundling and the use of the term tomato—where and when it is applied to a girl or a woman, whichever Logan was.

****

 

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