Confabulations and Covariates
Note: this is one of a series of stories by KJ Hannah Greenberg that uses recurring characters and settings. Find the earlier adventures of Jim Jam O’ Neily here.
If not for Mrs. Atkins’ generosity, Jim-Jam, The One and Only, Ariel O’Neily, that young crusader of intramolecular magnetic exchanges and collector of all manners of poys (as well as of other long hooks used to propel barges), imagined that he would have had to introduce his beasts to the neighborhood daycare’s tiny tots or that he would have had to get involved in the cockamamie schemes, most of which were concerned with world dominance, spun by George, the homeless fellow, who lived in the public library. Per Jim-Jam’s calculations, at least for the next fortnight, his clutch of Komodo hatchlings would be sated.
Rolling his eyeballs counterclockwise, Jim-Jam considered that perhaps he should try to feed fish to his pets. Once, when waiting for table service in a sushi restaurant, he had seen that restaurant’s supplies being delivered. It had taken two employees, plus the driver, to carry a fresh, Northern Bluefin tuna from the seafood truck to the eatery’s kitchen. One such creature could provide a few days’ worth of protein and calories for Jim-Jam’s critters. If only he could figure out how to buy a similar swimmer, at wholesale cost, and if only he could figure out how to bypass the paperwork needed for trafficking in critically endangered species, his growing reptiles could sup well.
Thus, the warden of asymptotic curves, friend of minimal surfaces, and companion of equations, which begin on tangent planes before winding around a bit only to putter out just short of being measurable by the Dupin indicatrix, smiled unselfconsciously as he fiddled with some polyester yardage, doodled a few Stygian scenes, and tore bits off of a slightly moldy ginger poultice. He had read that vessels, originating in select European countries, gathered Bluefins visa via the purse seine fishing method.
Jim-Jam sighed. An IM drew his attention to the fact that feeding his babies was going to be the least of his worries. If he failed to secure the school’s upcoming Harvest Festival Pumpkin Queen crown, for Lynnie Lola, he might as well offer himself up to his young dragons.
Maybe he could grandstand the student government. Sammy Whitespoon, council vice president, remained indebted to J.J. for fixing a flat tire. That repair had taken place on Sammy’s sister’s car, a shiny vehicle of speed and color, to which Sammy, possessed of only a learner’s permit, had “accidentally” palmed the keys in order to drag race in front of Deli Deluxe. Sammy had not considered that a midsummer night’s fun might include road debris such as broken disc drives, hewn bottle caps, or bits of tin cans. Fortunately, Jim-Jam had made such calculations and had arrived at the competition with his patch kit in hand.
Likewise, Jenny Fisch, the president of the tenth grade delegation, owed Jim-Jam for the couture he had fashioned for her, from a Khitty Khlean bag, an entire package of miniature paper umbrellas, a squirrel’s tail, and some bright blue thumbtacks. Her fine head art had been further embellished with strips cut from a tie-dyed, prewashed, set of Jim-Jam’s tighty whities (no one had to know the fabric’s source), a sugar-covered licorice pellet, and a wind-propelled pinwheel. Several of the popular crowd’s Facebook pages had noted that Jenny’s chapeau had been second only to the one worn that week by Lynnie Lola.
As well, Frank Hu, the newest member of the council and former denizen of New York City, had yet to repay young O’Neily for his help with Frank’s most recent PSAT scores. For fifty dollars an hour, Jim-Jam had tutored the erstwhile Sudbury School student in the intricacies of: syntax, word choice, and idioms. Frank’s urban life might have formed him into the sort a youth that was fearless in the face of boys like Ralph and Scooter, but those same urban years, ones spent in a student-determined educational milieu, had left Frank unfamiliar with sentence diagramming, with the meaning of grammatical terms, and with the ways in which reading ought to be coupled with writing. Pulp fiction, especially space opera and cross genre mysteries, constituted most of that kid’s literary lexicon. Trouble was that standardized exams expected teens to be familiar with the works of old, dead, white European men.
Nonetheless, if Lynnie Lola were to become the Pumpkin Queen and not simply a court royal, besides getting councilmen and women to stuff the ballot box, Jim-Jam would also have to suck down Mac Diskin’s beefy knuckle sandwich. Doris, Mac’s twin, too, wanted to be the lead monarch. In addition, that gal had yet to forgive Jim-Jam: his lessons in manners, his role in her and her brother’s boxing apprenticeship, and, correspondingly, their most recent troubles with their parents.
Jim-Jam shook his head. He ought not to be faulted that Mac and Doris’ boxing instructor had found nasty pleasure in pitting those siblings against each other. Rather, the twins ought to have lauded the Gatekeeper-of-Portable-Railguns-and-of-All-Other-Handy-Treasures; Mac had won, during a recent sports tournament, the “best beginner” trophy for defending himself against Doris. Jim-Jam was not to blame that Doris had failed to pull her punches.
Making matters more complicated, Doris had recently friended Ralph on LinkedIn. Ralph, too, was in the minority, was one of few Raymond Charles students that was unsatisfied with the services of the computer wizard/social hierarchy iconoclast/ lizard lover. It was unkind of Ralph to continue to hold a grudge against Jim-Jam merely because the adhesive bandage, which the abstemious genius had, a year earlier, sold the jock, had brought just temporary relief for the sporty kid’s pus-filled spot, and because a cockroach that had been loosed in Ralph’s workplace, Deli Deluxe, had been weakly linked to the mathematical workbench wonder. Jim-Jam was kinder, wiser, and more generous than most of Ralph’s associates, Scooter Jax, Ralph’s chief yes man, aside.
In balance, Doris was goading Ralph. She thrilled at the idea of Ralph macerating Jim Jam’s maxilla and zygomatic bones on her behalf. Such chivalry, its barbarism aside, excited her coterie so much that those girls prodded their boyfriends, and their rivals’ boyfriends, to perform acts of roughness. The resulting bloodied noses and related fractures were of less interest to those trendy females than were last year’s hat fashions. Worse, Doris had announced, via her website, and via classified ads in the school’s weekly, print newspaper, that she considered Ralph, Lynnie Lola’s most important real estate investment, cute. Lynnie Lola, purportedly fuming over that issue, did not know that all Jim-Jam had told Mac Diskin’s mildly pox-marked sister was that she ought to focus her resources on something other than egging on Mac on to pulverize the school’s best milliner.
Shrugging, the lone teen in the entire county, who could read Socrates in the original Greek, reached for a freshly emptied bag of Khleen Khitty and set to work gluing sequins. If he could make the singular arbutus plant in the school’s greenhouse sprout orange leaves, he might yet survive, profitably, the upcoming festivities. At least the shoot’s bark had already turned a reddish hue.
Not too many days later, Jim-Jam and a certain international environmental watchdog organization, which couldn’t make use, licitly or not, out of all of the confiscated goods in its possession, negotiated a contract that made Jim-Jam one of their agents. In return for filming boats engaged in the sort of purse sciene fishing that pressured native fish populations and that failed to return non-target species to the sea, Captain J.J. Al Bartholomew Triassic, Capt. Albatross, to his friends, skipper of the trawler, Picot, would receive a metric ton of “secondary gleanings” every month. Prior to forging that contract, the environmental group had had to leave their “extras” for scavenging birds. Henceforth, truckloads of marine waste would get utilized.
A week would elapse before the agency’s next boat would set anchor, but to clinch their partnership, the watchdog group arranged to leave Captain Triassic a ravaged Bluefin tuna carcass, at Dock 36, the next day. That the dock in question was a few hundred miles east of Jim-Jam’s home was of small matter. The master of chthonian planets and delver into dwarf galaxies, i.e. the kid that still owed the local 4H gang compensation for the passels of rabbits and of chickens they had earlier supplied his Komodo hatchlings, had arranged to swap, for roundtrip transport of all incoming seafood, one half of his portion. Whereas country-bred birds and bunnies only ate fish when it was mixed with meal, rural piggies ate everything. Gas was a tiny cost for those would-be agrinomists relative to the tons of free feed they would be receiving. What’s more, they forgave Jim-Jam his debt.
As per obtaining footage of purse-seining gone bad, Jim-Jam bartered with the mates of the work tourism yachts Thar She Blows and Where-Away. In exchange for automatic, underwater camcorders and for a gratis sea vacation (for his mother), those sailors would uploaded JPEG files to one of his email accounts. Their boats, which floated on the Philippine Sea, and the Sea of Japan, took on deckhands, stewards, cooks, and engineers allegedly to supply those persons with team building experiences, rope knowledge, fishing skills, and the like. Yet, because those fiduciary fit visitors, the ones that had signed up for “high sea adventure vacations,” swabbed decks, peeled onions, polished brass and elsewise left the real crews with little more to do than to sooth sunburns, tend to diarrhea and find pretty shells, the mariners welcomed diversions like picture-taking-for-profit.
Jim-Jam’s pal from The Maharishi University of Management’s Department of Sustainable Living had “introduced” Mr. Make-or-Break-That-Will-be-Fifty-Dollars-an-Hour-to-You-Mister to those crews when those sailors had been confounded as to how to explain to their human pots of gold why their ships needed motors during flat sea states, but had been advertised as “environmentally friendly.” The seadogs had contacted the transcendental master. All parties had common International Mediation Society associates. In turn, the young educator had connected the seamen to Jim-Jam Ariel O’Neily; the academic, busy with a tenure appeal, had no time to share mantras or cost-benefit analyses. Without hesitation, the teenage “expert” had offered the jack-tars rhetorical prestidigitation, in the form of facts about auxiliary engines preventing localized pollution, and in the form of facts about auxiliary engines allowing sea going vessels to haul perishable cargo. Those reiterated words, in turn, had been sufficiently persuasive as to cause the boats’ volunteer crews to sign on for subsequent voyages.
Jim-Jam stitched a few guinea fowl feathers to the back of his handiwork. He still hadn’t published his paper on quantum tunneling during magnetization, found a method to speed up the school’s lone arbutus tree’s growth, or figured out how to insure that Lynnie Lola and Doris, simultaneously, could become Pumpkin Queens.
The next morning, though, the Keeper of Komodos skipped almost all of the way to Raymond Charles. Overnight, he had invented a fascinator out of toilet paper tubes, had evaluated the relative protein content of Bluefin roe and milt, and had found a way to cause two royals to ascend to the harvest throne. All that was missing in his universe was for his paper on topological quantum phase interference in magnetic molecule clusters to be accepted by a respectable journal. So elated was young O’Neily, that he even smiled during Mr. Weaver’s class despite the fact that he was otherwise occupied writing a belated thank-you note, via the local police chief’s email address, to Billy Lou Diskin.
Mr. Weaver was the fellow hired to take the place of the recently incarcerated Mr. Aitkin. Mr. Aitkin was in jail for trying to filch poultry. Billy Lou Diskin was the farmer who had apprehended Lower Buckwheat County’s mad turkey thief.
Late, when the landlubbing, equation twirling, kingmaker visited the campus greenhouse, he regarded the nearly dead arbutus tree. There was too little sunlight for such a species, even when abetted by grow lights, to survive at his school’s latitude. It was likely that that specimen would not be sitting next to the bromides and the roses next time he visited. Jim-Jam pocketed the plant’s fruit, carefully placing its astringent berries in the recycled contact lens cases that he had carried with him for that purpose. At best, he could use those orbs, coupled with acorns, to create tannin powerful enough to dye freshly molted Komodo skins. At worst, he could make a small amount of brandymel from their juice and pass that treat on to the Harvest Festival’s royal court. Either way, those jujubes would help him make peace, concurrently, with Lynnie Lola and with Doris.
Elsewhere, Lynnie Lola stopped cooing. Marina, Ralph’s sister, had informed L.L. that Doris, too, was paying Jim-Jim Ariel O’Neily for aid in becoming the Harvest Festival’s Pumpkin Queen. Lynnie Lola, fortified by her beau Ralph and by Scooter, Marina’s main squeeze, made a move to reify her standing with her patron. She and her retinue paid a visit to the O’Neily’s Shack of Wonders.
Unfortunately, those kids were ill-prepared for the hungry beasts guarding Jim-Jam’s space. Two juvenile male dragons roamed freely in that chamber. It would have been unseemly for the commander of complex equations to have left his visual evidence of fish aggregating devices unguarded. It would have been that much more foolhardy for him to have trusted a lock to keep out any would-be intruders given that his foes were mostly of the brutish sort. Accordingly, the trespassing teens failed to notice that the documents sent to their most popular hat maker, by an ecological organization, were fantastically capable of marshaling litigation against the organization’s enemies. They did not realize, either, that the pictorial testimony was issued by two sailing ships’ crews or that tapes of tourists scrubbing toilets onboard motorized skips were alphabetized on Jim-Jam’s shelf. All that Lynnie Lola’s followers saw was a four foot lizard that painfully fastened itself to Scooter’s leg and a similarly-sized reptile that made quick work out of Ralph’s heel.
KJ Hannah Greenberg and her hibernaculum of sometimes rabid imaginary hedgehogs roam the verbal hinterlands. Some of the homes for their writing have included: AlienSkin Magazine, AntipodeanSF, Bards and Sages, Big Pulp, Morpheus Tales, Strange, Weird and Wonderful, Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction, and The New Absurdist. When not disciplining her imaginary friends, Hannah serves as an associate editor for Bewildering Stories. She has also worked for Tangent Online as a literary critic.
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