1636: The Chronicles of Dr. Gribbleflotz – Snippet 58

Chapter 11

Dr. Phil’s Friends

May 1632, Grantville

The owners of Grantville’s three pharmacies had gathered together to share out the latest shipment of Dr. Gribbleflotz’ Sal Vin Betula, or as it was known colloquially, Dr. Gribbleflotz’ Blue Pills of Happiness. Tino Nobili, by virtue of his connection with the Kubiaks and HDG Enterprizes, was in charge of sharing out the pills.

Lasso Trelli trusted Tino not to take more than his fair share, so he let his mind wander a bit. His eyes wandered around Tino’s office, and came to a shuddering stop when they fell on the old ceramic chemical jars Tino had lined up on a shelf. A light-bulb moment followed. “You know, guys,” he said as he tried to suppress his excitement.

Tino and John Moss turned to Lasso. “What?” John asked.

“Yeah, what’s got you so excited?” Tino asked.

“I just had a great idea for something we can sell,” Lasso said.

“What?” Tino asked.

“Chemistry sets,” Lasso said. He saw Tino and John’s eyes light up. “Yeah, children’s chemistry sets. Not the silly politically correct things they were making back up-time, but the proper ones, like the ones that got us interested in chemistry in the first place.”

John grinned. “Did you make stink bombs?”

“Of course,” Lasso said. “Didn’t everyone?”

John and Tino nodded. “There’ll be resistance from the mothers,” Tino warned.

“So we offer them in junior, intermediate and senior levels,” Lasso said, “with each level adding more chemicals and experiments.”

“Anyway,” John added, “it’ll only be the American mothers that want to keep their babies in leading strings. The down-timers will see the fortunes Tom Stone and Dr. Gribbleflotz are making and decide they want their children to be just like them.”

Lasso stared at John. “You know,” he said before stumbling to a halt.

“I know what?” John asked.

“If we could get Dr. Gribbleflotz to lend his name to the chemistry sets . . .”

Tino whistled. “That’d be great. We could have a line of Dr. Gribbleflotz chemistry sets, suitable for different agers and levels of ability, why . . .”

“So how do we go about approaching him?” John asked.

“I could ask Tracy, I suppose,” Tino said with an obvious lack of enthusiasm.

“Jonathan Fortney might be a better bet,” Lasso said.

“What makes you say that?” Tino asked. “Tracy has a direct line to Dr. Gribbleflotz.”

“So does Jonathan,” Lasso said. He smiled conspiratorially at John and Tino. “Late last year he asked me about getting some iodine for Dr. Gribbleflotz. I told him I could get it, but that Tracy would probably buy it from you”

Tino nodded. “That’s right. I sold Tracy a couple of pounds, though what he wants to do with it . . .”

Lasso snorted in disbelief. “Can’t you guess?” he asked. Tino looked back at him blankly. “Spirits of Hartshorn,” he said, giving him a clue.

“Triiodide!” Tino’s eyes lit up. “You think Dr. Gribbleflotz is making ammonia triiodide?”

“I know he is,” Lasso said. “Jonathan told me that Dr. Gribbleflotz has included a simple demonstration of triiodide in his regular public seminars.”

“So you think Jonathan might be able to persuade Dr. Gribbleflotz to lend his name to a line of chemistry sets?” Johan asked.

Lasso shrugged. “It won’t hurt to ask.”

“Before we ask him to talk to Dr. Gribbleflotz, it might be a good idea to find out what chemicals we can get, and what sorts of things can be done with them,” John said.

A couple of weeks later, Grantville

Jonathan lined up the stone on the drive and kicked it. It shot away a satisfying distance. He should have known better than to volunteer to do anything. Of course, he wouldn’t have felt half so disgruntled if he hadn’t punctured halfway up Mahan Run and discovered he didn’t have a tire lever. A few minutes later he turned up the drive to Ted and Tracy Kubiaks home. He wheeled his bicycle up to the house and leaned it against the wall.

“Hi, Jonathan. You got a problem?”

Jonathan looked up and saw Ted leaning against the deck’s railing. “A puncture. I don’t suppose you have a tire lever? I’ve got a repair kit, but I seem to have left the tire lever at home.”

“There’re a couple of forks I use in the kitchen,” Ted said as he pushed himself off from the railing. He glanced back to Jonathan and waved for him to take the stairs onto the deck. “Truth be told, I was actually wondering what brings you out this way. We’re a bit off your beaten track.”

“Mr. Trelli and the other pharmacy owners have an idea they wanted to put to Dr. Gribbleflotz.”

“That doesn’t explain why you’re here?” Ted said.

Jonathan grinned. “I’m here because, although I think it’s a great idea, I’m pretty sure Dr. Gribbleflotz won’t be interested,” he said as he collected the promotional material Mr. Trelli had given him and started up the stairs.

Ted stood aside to let Jonathan past. “Interested in what?”

“In lending his name to a line of chemistry sets.” Jonathan pulled out a roughed out sketch of a possible box cover and handed it to Ted. “Mr. Trelli and the other pharmacy owners want to launch a range of chemistry sets, and they’d like to use Dr. Gribbleflotz’ name.”

Ted held the paper up and looked at it. “A ‘Dr. Gribbleflotz Junior Chemist’?” He grinned at Jonathan. “What makes you think Dr. Gribbleflotz won’t be interested?

“It’s not that I think he’d object,” Jonathan hastened to say, “but I don’t think he cares about anything other than his research.” He shrugged. “If it was presented to him in the right way, and he didn’t have to do anything, then I’m pretty sure he’d agree to let his name be used.”

“What’s in it for you?” Ted asked.

“For me?” Jonathan stared at Ted. He hadn’t thought of asking for anything. “I’m just doing Mr. Trelli a favor.”

“You’ll never make a businessman,” Ted said as he guided Jonathan into the house. “Tracy, Jonathan’s here,” he called out as he led Jonathan through the house. “What else is in the box?” he asked.

Jonathan readjusted his hold on the box. “Mr. Trelli and the other owners collected what equipment they could and made up some sample chemistry sets.”

“Well,” Ted said as he guided Jonathan into the lounge, “I’m sure Dr. Gribbleflotz will appreciate the extra chemicals.”

Jonathan had time to see that Mrs. Kubiak was comforting a tearful Richelle before her adopted teenage daughter looked up, saw him, and bolted. “Was that because of me?’ He asked, hurt that anyone would run away from him like that.

“Sort of,” Tracy said. “Some boys at school are giving her a hard time.”

“So I got tarred with the same brush,” Jonathan muttered.

A heavy hand landed on his shoulder. “Don’t take it too much to heart, Jonathan.” Ted turned to Tracy. “Tell me who they are and I’ll sort them out.”

“I’d rather it didn’t come to that,” Tracy said, “but they’re pestering her while she waits for the bus to Mahan Run.” She signed heavily before turning to Jonathan. “What brings you here?”

Jonathan licked his lips. Now was probably not a good time to make his sales pitch. He glanced at Ted, who nodded. Taking that as an indication to go on, Jonathan laid the wooden box he’d been carrying on the floor and grabbed the various promotional sketches the pharmacy owners had put together and offered them to Tracy. “Mr. Trelli and the other pharmacy owners would like to start selling a range of children’s chemistry sets.”

Tracy shot a glance towards the door Richelle had bolted, sighed, and then turned back to Jonathan. “What’s that got to do with us?” she asked as she accepted the papers.

“Look at the advertising Jonathan handed you, Tracy,” Ted said. “They want to use Dr. Gribbleflotz’ name on their chemistry sets.”

Tracy looked at the various proposed box covers and other advertising she’d been handed for a while, then handed it back, shaking her head. “I can’t see Dr. Phil being interested.”

“Dr. Phil?” Jonathan asked.

Tracy blushed.

“It’s a pet name for Dr. Gribbleflotz,” Ted said. “We’d prefer that you don’t use it, especially not around him.”

“No problem,” Jonathan said with a cheeky grin. “I don’t fancy trying to explain Oprah to Dr. Gribbleflotz.” He turned back to Tracy. “I agree that he probably won’t be interested, Mrs. Kubiak, but I don’t think he’ll mind if you were to approve the licensing agreement. It’s not as if Mr. Trelli and the others expect him to actually make and market the chemistry sets.”

Tracy nodded absently. Jonathan could see that most of her attention was still on the door Richelle had run through. He shot the door a quick glance, and thought he caught a glimpse of the girl before she drew her head back. He didn’t like to think that she was being victimized by some kids at school and offered a possible solution to the problem. “My sister’s attending some dance classes Miz Bitty is giving to her old students after school. I could ask Lynette to keep an eye on Richelle while she’s waiting for the bus.”

“Dance class?” Richelle appeared in the doorway. “I could dance?”

The life in Richelle’s face was a revelation to Jonathan. She looked like a completely different girl. “It’s ballet,” he warned.

“Dancing,” Richelle said with a distracted look on her face. “I loved to dance.”

“Then that’s settled,” Tracy said. “I’ll call Bitty and arrange for you to join her after school classes.”

Richelle ran across the room and hugged Tracy. She shot Jonathan a wary look before dashing out of the room.

Jonathan had been watching the girl all the time, and now, with her out of the room, his eyes drifted back to Ted and Tracy Kubiak, whom he discovered were both looking at him.

“Thank you,” Tracy said.

It was a simple statement, but Jonathan knew it came from the heart. “I didn’t do anything,” he protested. Still, seeing the tension leaving Tracy’s body, he resolved to ask his sister to keep an eye on Richelle anyway.

“You did more than you can imagine,” Ted said. “That’s the most animated I’ve seen Richelle since we took her in.”

A couple of days later, Jena

Phillip was busy writing up his latest experiment in his journal when Hans called from over by the window. “Herr Dr. Gribbleflotz, Herr Fortney has just arrived on his bicycle, and he’s got a big box tied to the carrier.”

Phillip thrust his dip pen into the holder and rushed over to the window, just managing to catch a glimpse of Jonathan before he passed through the door into the main office. He was carrying a large wooden box in his arms. Phillip turned to look at Hans, who’d turned to look at him. Both then looked over at the fume cupboard, which Hans had only recently cleaned after their last experiment. Their eyes then checked the work benches. Everything was tidy. Their eyes met again, and as one they started for the door. Hans, being the subordinate, paused long enough for Phillip to go first. Within minutes they were in the kitchen, which tended to double as the place where everyone congregated when they weren’t working, or as in this case, when someone interesting turned up.

“Hello, Jonathan,” Phillip said as he gently pushed his way through the laborants who were eagerly looking at the smaller boxes Jonathan was removing from the larger box. Phillip got close enough to identify the boxes. “Chemistry sets? I already have chemistry sets.”

“Not like these, Dr. Gribbleflotz,” Jonathan said as he laid some sheets of paper out on the kitchen table.

Intrigued, Phillip wiped the new spectacles Dr. Shipley, the Grantville optometrist, had made for him clean before having a good look at the papers. They looked like the covers of some of the up-time chemistry sets the Kubiaks had given him a few months ago, except these were slightly different. “The Dr. Gribbleflotz Junior Alchemist Set?” he asked after looking at the first one.

Jonathan nodded. “The Grantville pharmacies want to sell a range of chemistry sets, and Frau Kubiak is agreeable to licensing the use of your name, if you’re willing.

Phillip caught the “range of chemistry sets” and checked out the other papers. In addition to the junior set there were also intermediate and advanced versions. “Why do they want to use my name?” he asked.

Jonathan smiled. “Brand awareness. To most people in and around Grantville your name’s synonymous with alchemy. Anyone who hasn’t heard of your blue pills of happiness must have been asleep the last six months, and then there’s the Gribbleflotz jingle.”