1636: The Chronicles of Dr. Gribbleflotz – Snippet 57

Ted stopped so suddenly that John and Leota bumped into each other as they attempted to avoid running into Ted. “You have had a run in with Dr. Gribbleflotz?” Ted’s voice was stilted.

John nodded. “Unfortunately. We were in Jena hoping to find out about affordable ways of making headphones for the new crystal radios. When I saw the flyer, I wondered if the lightning crystal might not be a piezoelectric crystal, because if it was, that might be a solution to our problem. Anyway, as I said. Derrick cut loose a belly laugh and we were all but thrown out before I could ask any questions.”

About then they made their way into the study. Tracy was crouched over a computer, working. She kept working until Ted spoke. “Tracy, a couple of people to see you.”

Tracy jumped. “Huh? What?” She turned away from the computer. “Oh. Hi, Leota, John. Did you want to speak to me?”

“Yes, Tracy. John was wondering if you know anything about a Dr. Gribbleflotz and his Amazing Lightning Crystal?” Leota asked.

Tracy looked at John. “What is it you want to know, John?”

“Well. We were in Jena when we heard about him and his Amazing Lightning Crystal. I was wondering what he was using. We need something like his piezoelectric crystal if we want to spread the radio service. Without a cheap piezoelectric crystal, we won’t be able to make affordable radios for the masses.”

“Why didn’t you ask Dr. Gribbleflotz?” Tracy was a little confused.

“Err.” John paused and turned to look to his wife for support.

“What John is trying to say is; they tried to speak to Dr. Gribbleflotz and screwed up. They were just about thrown out of his house. He’s hoping you, Kubiak Country Industries, might know something about the crystals, and if you could get us some.”

“Oh, Leota. John. I hope you didn’t upset him.” Tracy looked toward John. “John, just how did you ‘screw up?'”

“Derrick Mason was looking over something the doctor called his lightning generator . . .”

“The Wimshurst generator,” Tracy muttered, identifying the offending article.

“The what? Oh, yes, a Wimshurst generator. I remember using one years ago. Anyway, Derrick was looking at it when suddenly he started laughing. Dr. Gribbleflotz took offense and had us shown out.” John held up his hand halting the obvious question, “Derrick says he was laughing at the titles on the records being used as the static generating discs.”

Tracy looked over at Ted. “Do you have anything to say?”

Ted shrugged his shoulders, a guilty grin on his face. “Do you know which one he laughed at? There was ‘That Old Black Magic’ by Spike Jones and his City Slickers, and ‘Stormy Weather’ by Carmen Cavallaro. I’m quite proud of the Spike Jones one. Given how Spike liked to use expedient materials as instruments. Somewhere, we should have a recording where he used a selection of carefully tuned revolvers. And for a static generator, I thought ‘Stormy Weather’ was a good pick. But I wouldn’t think Dr. Gribbleflotz would take offense at a harmless joke like that.”

Leota sighed. “If only that was all. Apparently Derrick made a few innocent comments about how he had done things just like all of Dr. Gribbleflotz’s demonstrations while he was at school. John and Ken took Father Gus with them to help translate. He thinks the guy understands more English than he lets on. Anyway, Dr. Gribbleflotz took offense, and that was that. Which reminds me, why do you call him Doctor? My understanding is that he doesn’t have a doctorate.”

Ted and Tracy grinned at each other. “Oh, he has a doctorate all right. Not from one of the best institutions, of course.” Tracy gave her husband a harmless slap when he started to laugh and turned to give Leota a “what can you do with the man” look.

“But Dr. Rolfinck was absolutely sure that Dr. Gribbleflotz wasn’t entitled to the title,” John said.

A smile lit Ted’s eyes. “If this Dr. Rolfinck is so sure Dr. Gribbleflotz is not entitled to be called Doctor, why doesn’t he do something about it?”

“Because Dr. Gribbleflotz can apparently afford a good lawyer . . . Oh.” Wide eyed, John turn to stare at Ted and Tracy. “‘Not one of the best institutions?’ You don’t mean a diploma mill? An honest to goodness Mail Order Diploma?”

Straight faced, Tracy spoke, “Dr. Gribbleflotz is a prima facie Doctor of Medicine. I’ve seen the diploma. It’s real sheepskin, with a fancy embossed wax seal.”

“Wow.” John shook his head and slumped into a nearby seat. “Are you sure? The scholars at Jena could contest the diploma. Will it stand up in court?”

“Our lawyers have the utmost confidence in the stature of the issuing institution.”

John licked his dry lips. “I’ll take your word for it. But that doesn’t help me. What will help is getting some of the doctor’s lightning crystals. Do you know what it is?”

Ted and Tracy exchanged a glance. Ted gave a slight nod of his head. Tracy turned back to John and Leota. “Rochelle salt.”

“Oh,” A light started to dawn for Leota. “Gribbleflotz Vin Sal Aer Fixus,” she pronounced. Seeing the question in her husband’s eyes, she elaborated. “Dr. Gribbleflotz is making baking powder. Baking soda and cream of tartar are needed for baking powder. You can also make Rochelle salts from the same ingredients.”

John tried to suppress his excitement. “Is this right? Your Dr. Gribbleflotz is making Rochelle salts?”

“Gribbleflotz Amazing Lightning Crystals, please.” Ted held up his hand to silence John. “Just a moment. I have something you should see.” Ted turned to the door and called. “Richelle, could you bring in one of the Gribble Zippos please?”

Ted grinned at John. “This you have to see.”

A teenage schoolgirl with a baby in her arms walked into the study and passed a small object over to Ted. She passed curious eyes over the guests. Then, she gave a gentle wave before leaving. “That was Richelle, our adopted daughter,” Ted said. “Anyway, John, have a look at this lighter.”

John took the lighter in his hands. It was shaped like an oversized up-time Zippo. He opened it and looked at the mechanism. Instead of a flick wheel, there was a simple lever. John pushed the lever. There was a spark and the wick lit.

John looked from the lit lighter to Ted and Tracy, then back at the lighter. He gave it a closer examination. “A piezoelectric lighter? You’re making piezoelectric lighters?” At Ted’s nod, John smiled. “Do you have a supply of Rochelle . . .” Seeing Ted’s reaction, John hastily changed what he was saying, “a supply of Gribbleflotz Amazing Lightning Crystal?”

Ted nodded. John let out a long sigh of relief. “I don’t suppose you could sell me a pound or so?”

“Sure. Not all at once, though. But if you can afford to wait, I have a few ounces to spare, and I can ask Dr. Gribbleflotz to make some more. There’ll be a price though.”

“Hell, at the moment I’m prepared to pay just about anything. How much?”

“I wasn’t thinking about money, John. Dr. Gribbleflotz is doing quite well as it is. The few dollars for a few ounces of his Amazing Lightning Crystal is neither here nor there. What he will really want is something money can’t buy.”

Jena, an Inn

Dr. Werner Rolfinck was quietly seething. Beside him, Doctors Conrad “Kunz” Herbers and Wilhelm “Willi” Hofacker were keeping their mouths shut and a careful eye on their boss, because there, in pride of place in one of the best inns in Jena, the man Werner insisted was a charlatan was describing his philosophies to an enthralled audience.

“This up-time ‘chemic,'” Dr. Gribbleflotz was saying, “is fine for technicians, cooks, and industrial processes. It certainly allows unlettered peasants to tend my caldrons and alembics and produce their powders and potions, but it completely ignores the spiritual component of alchemy.” Phillip looked over his attentive audience. “Did you know that the up-timers produced Sal Vin Betula pills which were white?” At his audience’s collective shaking of heads, Phillip nodded. “Yes, it is true. White. For a pill that is supposed to reduce pain and reduce fever. When every competent alchemist knows it should be blue, because blue is a soothing and cooling color that reduces pain and fever. They are such children in the Great Art. As my Great Grandfather Paracelsus — whose namesake I am — said: it isn’t enough to treat the body, one must treat the spirit. Which is why my amazing headache pills are superior to what the up-timers have, for my Sal Vin Betula pills are pale blue. Yes, Dr. Gribbleflotz’s Little Blue Pill is your friend.”

Phillip paused for breath. He looked up, made eye contact with Doctors Rolfinck, Herbers, and Hofacker. He raised a hand in silent greeting before continuing his discourse.

“The nerve of the man. Did you see that? He waved to us as if we were his colleagues,” muttered Werner. “We are going to have to do something about the man. His conceit is beyond words. We have to do something about him.”

Willi shook his head. “Our hands are tied, Werner. The radio people passed on the news that Dr. Gribbleflotz holds a doctorate from an institution of some stature. It’s best we ignore him.”

While Werner drank to drown his sorrows, and Willi and Kunz drank to keep him company, on the other side of the common room Phillip continued to talk to his audience. He was getting into his stride talking about the topic dearest to him. Dr. Phillip Theophrastus Gribbleflotz.

“Of course there are some up-timers that have a clue. I have been pursuing references in their library’s collection about pyramids, and crystal power. While much of it is obviously in conflict with well-established systems, some of their points are most amazing.” Phillip removed his spectacles and drew a special up-time cleaning cloth from a pocket in his up-time style jacket. He exhaled onto the lenses and wiped them. After he slid the spectacles on, he smiled at his audience. “I am particularly interested in the combination of gems with the new metal, aluminum. My careful calculations, corroborated by a most interesting tome in the Grantville Public Library, suggests that a pyramid composed of aluminum members with the appropriate colors and cuts of gems at the strategic points, especially these new faceted gems Herr Roth is producing, could result in the invigoration of the Quinta Essentia of the Human Humors. I am most anxious to pursue it. But as always, funding is problematic. Perhaps the new Aeolian Crystals will assist in it.”

Phillip looked over his audience again. He had them in the palm of his hand. Tonight’s crowd would be happy to go home and spread the words of Dr. Phillip Theophrastus Gribbleflotz, the World’s Greatest Alchemist.

“You have heard of the Gribbleflotz Aeolian Crystals I am supplying the up-time radio technicians?” It was a rhetorical question. Aeolian Crystals were too new for any of the audience to have heard of them yet. “They allow the conversion of the Essences of Lightning the technicians have captured in their singing wires to be converted into sensible sounds. The crystals themselves sing. The up-timers insist on referring to them as “Rochelle salts,” but I can assure you that they have no parallel in Rochelle, or any other part of France. No, the singing Aeolian Crystals are a purely German product of German alchemy and up-time technology.” Dr. Gribbleflotz paused dramatically. “We are calling the ‘earphones’ Gribbleflotz’ Aeolian Transformers. They are much better than those simplistic mechanical earphones produced by the jewelers’ guild. Wire and bits of Iron! Ha! Cold Iron can never compete for the spirits of Sound with Salts of Sound Itself!!”