1636: The Chronicles of Dr. Gribbleflotz – Snippet 50

“So, describe this cool demonstration!”

“Well, Mr. Morrison had one of those stands,” he pointed to a chemical apparatus ring stand, “with half a dozen of those round beaker supports arranged along its length. He placed filter papers on each of the beaker rings and put a little bit of wet triiodide onto each filter paper. Then he taped a feather to a pole and waited for the triiodide to dry. Then he touched one of the piles of triiodide with the feather.” Jonathan had grown more and more excited as he described the demonstration. “They all seemed to go off at once and there was a big purple cloud.”

“Do you know how to make this triiodide?” Phillip asked.

Jonathan combed his fingers through his hair as he procrastinated. “Not really,” he finally admitted. “But I know where to find instructions.”

“When you find them, please drop by,” Phillip said, “meanwhile, why don’t I show you around my laboratory?”

“Sure,” Jonathan said.

Phillip laid a hand on the sash window of his fume cupboard. “This is my fume cupboard, in German I call it my abzugschrank, it uses . . .”


Tracy walked into Nobili’s Pharmacy and waved to Tino, who was chatting at the till with Katie Jackson. “Could I have a word?” she asked.

“Sure, come on out back,” Tino said.

Tracy followed Tino into the back. “I’ve got Dr. Gribbleflotz’ test run of aspirin, except he calls it Sal Vin Betula.”

“That’s not a problem,” Tino said as he craned his neck trying to look into Tracy’s bag.

“And he insists on dying them blue,” Tracy said as she hauled a large jar out of her bag. “Is that going to be a problem?” she asked as she held up the jar of Dr. Gribbleflotz’ Sal Vin Betula.

Tino opened the jar and picked out a pill into his hand so he could examine it. “That shouldn’t be a problem.” Suddenly Tino sniggered.

“What’s the problem?” Tracy asked.

Tino popped the pill back in with the rest and closed the lid. “I was just thinking that we could advertise them as Dr. Gribbleflotz’ little blue pills of happiness.”

She stared blankly at Tino. “I’m sorry, but I think I’m missing something here.”

Tino grinned. “They’re almost the same color as Viagra.”

Tracy stared at the pills. She vaguely remembered seeing advertisements on TV, but couldn’t remember what the pills had looked like. “I’ll have to take your word for that. Is it going to be a problem?”

Tino shook his head. “We identify different pills and tablets by their size, shape, and color, and although the color is close, the shape is completely different. Now these,” he said as he tapped the jar, “are going to cost ten dollars a pill?”

Tracy nodded. “It’s steep, but that’s the price Dr. Gribbleflotz insisted on charging, and it is half the current black-market price.”

“I know,” Tino said. “But such a high price will just encourage others to get in on the act.” He frowned. “The problem there is, they won’t be able to get fresh supplies of suitable willow bark until next spring. But come once the spring growth arrives, everyone will be jumping on the bandwagon, and if your pet alchemist wants to keep selling his aspirin, he’s going to have to drop his price to remain competitive.” He shook the jar carefully. “How many are in here?” he asked.

“A thousand,” Tracy said.

Tino whistled. “I hope you don’t expect me to pay for it all right now.”

“No, you can take them on consignment.”

Tino nodded. “Thanks. Have you thought about packaging for across the counter sales?”

Tracy had to shake her head. “No. I thought the pharmacies would just fill glass bottles with the pills.”

“At ten dollars a pill?” Tino asked archly. He shook his head. “That’s not going to happen. At that price people are going to be pushing it to buy more than ten at a time, and that’d cost a fortune in glass bottles.”

Tracy wanted to kick herself. Of course glass bottles were going to be expensive. “What do you suggest?’

“You could try a casein-plastic pill box.” Tino smiled. “You could even dye the plastic the same color as the pills.”

“Plastic? How are we going to make that?”

“You’ve never made casein plastic?” Tino shook his head ruefully. “Give me a couple of minutes and I’ll write down some instructions.”

“What’s it going to cost?” Tracy asked, thinking of the royalty they were paying Tino for the cheat sheet to make aspirin.

“This one’s on me,” Tino said with a beaming smile.


“Hey, Jonathan, where are you? The truck’s unloaded and cleaned,” Ted’s call from the courtyard was easily heard in Dr. Gribbleflotz’ private laboratory.

“I’d better be going,” Jonathan said. He held out his hand to Phillip. “Should I call at any particular time when I have the cheat sheet for the triiodide?”

Phillip shook Jonathan’s hand. “No, you can call any time. I’m usually in my laboratory or checking up on the laborants.”

“Lab rats?” Jonathan said, unsure if he’d heard correctly.

“No.” Phillip smiled. “Laborants. It’s a name for laboratory assistants, although lab rat fits some of the current crop of workers better.”

“Jonathan!” Ted called out again.

“I’d better be going.”

Phillip nodded. “And please, don’t tell anyone that I understand English.”

Jonathan drew a finger across his lips. “My lips are sealed,” he declared. Then with a friendly wave to Dr. Gribbleflotz he hurried off.

“Where have you been?” Ted demanded when he got back to the truck.

“Oh, you know, just having a look around,” Jonathan said.

“Just as long as you didn’t do anything to upset Dr. Gribbleflotz,” Ted said. “I’ve got my bike and things, so you can go now.”

Jonathan grinned. “You’re eager to get rid of me.”

“Yeah, well Dr. Gribbleflotz is the sensitive type, and I don’t want you upsetting him.”

“He seemed okay showing me around his laboratory,” Jonathan said.

“What were you doing in his laboratory?” Ted demanded. “No, never mind that.” He looked at Jonathan earnestly. “Dr. Gribbleflotz really showed you around his laboratory? How did you manage that with your German?”

“My German’s not that bad,” Jonathan protested. That got a wry grin from Ted, and Jonathan realized Ted didn’t know that Dr. Gribbleflotz understood English. Dr. Gribbleflotz’ secret was still safe and it was his duty to keep it that way. “As he showed me around he’d point to things and say their names in German, and I told him the English name in return.”

“You and Dr. Gribbleflotz got on well together then?” Ted asked.

Jonathan nodded. “He’s invited me to visit any time I’m in Jena.” He smiled “I’d better be off before someone starts asking where their APC is. See you around,” he said before hurrying back to the APC.

Later that afternoon, Grantville

Tracy placed her mug of chicory coffee on a heat mat and collapsed on the window seat, exhausted from several hours bent over her industrial sewing machine putting the finishing touches to the latest order of tents. Toby, the household cat, ruler of all he surveyed, lifted his head and looked at her.

“You poor thing, did I disturb you?” she asked as she rubbed the base of his ear. Toby answered by purring and nudging his head into her hand. “It’s so nice and peaceful without the kids, isn’t it?” She read Toby’s “mrrroww” as agreement. “Unfortunately,” she continued, “their Auntie Belle will be bringing them back soon.”

“Yip, yip, yip, yip.”

“Ratter!” Tracy called as she shot to her feet, spilling a disgruntled Toby from her lap. She looked out the window and could see Ratter barking at something in the bush just above the garden. This was unusual behavior for the little Jack Russell, so she hurried over to the ammo draw and grabbed a handful of cartridges for the .410 before unlocking the kitchen gun cabinet. The single barreled shotgun loaded, but the action still broken, she relocked the gun cabinet before setting off to see what had Ratter so excited.

As she approached she heard the wailing of a baby, quickly muffled, coming from the bush Ratter was excited about. With Ratter holding the front, she worked her way around the back. Sneaking up on whoever Ratter had found.