1636: The Chronicles of Dr. Gribbleflotz – Snippet 59

Phillip winced at the mention of the jingle. He cringed every time he heard it. It was tacky, and it reeked of advertising. Still, according to Frau Mittelhausen, sales of all of their products had jumped since they started sponsoring some program on the radio. “What would I have to do if I agree to them using my name?”

“Nothing, Dr. Gribbleflotz. Although they might want you to record a few advertisements, sort of like you do for the ‘and now a few words from our sponsor‘ segment before each episode of ‘Robin of the Committees of Correspondence‘.”

Phillip realized he was nodding and hastily stopped. He didn’t enjoy recording those messages, but Frau Mittelhausen insisted. No doubt she would insist on him making some sort of speech about the alchemy sets. He sighed. Women were so bossy and managing. “Very well,” he said, “you may tell Frau Kubiak that I’m agreeable.”

“That’s great,” Jonathan said. “Herr Trelli’ll be pleased.”

Phillip tried to fit the name to a face, but he couldn’t imagine the Herr Trelli he knew having anything to do with selling chemistry sets. “Herr Trelli at the Vo-tech?” he asked, just to be sure.

“No, Herr Lasso Trelli of Trelli’s GoodCare Pharmacy. He owns my local pharmacy, and he asked me if I thought you’d license them the use your name to sell chemistry sets.” Jonathan sent Phillip a wry smile. “He’s the guy I asked about iodine and the medical uses of mercury.”

“Ah, yes, that’s right.” Phillip smiled at Jonathan. “You doubted that mercury could be used to treat the great pox because you understood that it was too dangerous. What did your Herr Trelli have to say about that?”

“He said that that right up until a year or so before the Ring of Fire you could buy a mercury based paint-on antiseptic, and that topical use, that means applied to the surface of the skin, might be able to treat the ulcers you see in stage one syphilis.”

“So my great grandfather was right?” Phillip asked.

Jonathan glanced around at the interested faces of the laborants and sighed. “Yes, Dr. Gribbleflotz, your great grandfather was right.”

“Naturally,” Phillip said, trying not to appear too smug. Of course he’d known that his great grandfather, the great Paracelsus, would never have prescribed a treatment that damaged a patient’s health, but it was nice to know up-time medicine agreed with the treatment. “Now, what should we do with these alchemy sets?”

“I think you should let your laborants try them out, Dr. Gribbleflotz, just to see if you think the instructions are adequate.”

Phillip was aware of a sudden change in the room. He glanced along the surrounding laborants. A few of them had practiced begging faces on. Others were merely looking at the alchemy sets like starving children around a table of food. He picked out his three best laborants, Hans, his personal laborant, and Michael Siebenhorn and Kurt Stoltz, the two eldest and best educated of his laborants. “Hans, Kurt, and Michael, I want the three of you to each take one of the alchemy sets and supervise a small group of laborants as they try the experiments provided.”

Phillip would have said more, but the laborants were making too much noise as they quickly formed themselves into three groups. He glanced at Jonathan, who was looking enviously at the laborants. “You can join them if you wish,” he said.

“Thanks, Dr. Gribbleflotz,” Jonathan said before joining the throng.

Monday night, Grantville

Tracy was on edge as she waited for Richelle to get home from dance class. Her adopted daughter had never been out alone this late before, and if Ivan hadn’t offered to pick her up after dance class, she wouldn’t have let her go. She leapt to her feet, disturbing Toby, who’d been sleeping peacefully on the window seat, and started pacing.

“Stop worrying,” Ted said from the safety of the kitchen. “Richelle’ll be okay.

Tracy stopped her pacing to shoot her husband a glare. “She’s never been out this late, and you know how strangers scare her.”

“She’s attending ballet class,” Ted said. “What could possibly go wrong?”

Tracy shuddered as she started to imagine what could go wrong, but her imaginings were interrupted by the sound of a pickup truck coming down Mahan Run. Moments later light from the vehicle’s headlamps passed across the windows, and Tracy rushed out onto the deck.

Richelle climbed out of Ivan’s pickup and with Lenya in her arms, danced across the drive and up the steps onto the deck. “It was wonderful, Mama Tracy.” She stopped dancing long enough to kiss Tracy before dancing to the railing and calling down to Ivan. “Thank you for the ride, Herr Drahuta.”

Tracy watched her adopted daughter dance into the house with her baby in her arms before walking down the steps to her husband’s cousin, who was unloading Lenya’s baby buggy from his truck. “Thanks for picking up Richelle and Lenya,” she called.

“Hey, no trouble,” Ivan said as he passed the collapsed baby buggy to Tracy. “I have to go past the school on the way home from the station.” He shot a look in the direction Richelle had taken. “If that’s what happens to a girl who attends one of Bitty’s ballet classes, I’m glad our girl is only three.”

“Did you talk to Bitty?” Tracy asked as she accepted the baby buggy.

Ivan shook his head. “No, but I wouldn’t worry about Richelle. I had to tear her away from her new friends.”

Tracy read the grin that accompanied Ivan’s comment to indicate that he wasn’t really serious. “Who was she with?”

“Lynette Fortney, Bitty’s Melanie,” Ivan paused for a moment before continuing, “and Cathy McNally.”

Tracy sniggered. “You do realize Cathy took up ballet before she was five?”


Tracy nodded. “Lolly told me that Cathy was so hyper-active that it was a choice of ballet, karate, or medication, and the local karate school didn’t take students that young.” She smiled at the anxious glances Ivan was sending across the road. “Has Caecilia stopped running around everywhere yet?” she asked.

Ivan shook his head. “Do you think we should enroll her in a ballet class?”

“Talk to Lolly,” Tracy said. “Well, thanks again for looking after Richelle. We owe you.”

Ivan shook his head. “Nah. Richelle’s already got that covered.” He shot Tracy a grin. “She’s agreed to babysit the horde this weekend.”

Tracy shook her head ruefully. “You’re taking unfair advantage of the poor girl. There’s no way picking Richelle up on the way home from the fire station is worth taking on your mob for a weekend.”

“But you will let her stay at our place all weekend?”

Tracy hesitated to answer. There were lots of good reasons why she should object, but. . . .

“The boys like her,” Ivan offered, “and you are just across the road.”

That was true, but . . . Tracy was still hesitant.

“And there are plenty of guns in the house.”

That was probably meant to reassure Tracy, but it failed. “She doesn’t know how to shoot.”

“What?” Ivan protested. “Why not? If you don’t have something suitable, I’m sure I can dig something up.”

“It’s not that,” Tracy said. She sighed. “Richelle’s got issues . . .”

“Something to do with Lenya’s father?”

Tracy nodded. “And now some boys at school are giving her a hard time over being an unwed teenage mother.”

“You think she might pull a gun on them if she knew how to use one?” Ivan grinned. “It’d probably scare some manners into them.”

“I’m not worried about her pulling the gun. I’m worried about her using it on them.”

Ivan whistled. “That might be going a bit too far. What about running her through one of your Ladies Self-defense courses?”

“I’ll think about it,” Tracy said, “but I’ll need a couple of male training dummies, are you volunteering?”

“Jeez, Tracy, you could at least pretend that the guys aren’t there to get beaten to a pulp.” He shook his head. “Sorry, you’re going to have to find some other poor sucker. Meanwhile, you should teach Richelle to shoot.” He held up his hands. “She’s too young to have a carry piece, but with so many guns in the house, she needs to know how to handle them safely.’

Tracy signed. “You’re right. I’ll get on to it.”

“Right. See you same time tomorrow.”

Tracy waited for Ivan to start down the drive before going back into the house, where the first person she saw was Ted.

“Richelle seems to have enjoyed her dance class,” he said.

Tracy nodded. “She enjoyed it so much that she volunteered look after Ivan and Belle’s mob this weekend as payment for bringing her home.”

Ted whistled and shook his head. “Still, it’ll do her confidence a world of good to be given the responsibility.”

Saturday morning, a couple of weeks later.

Richelle noticed Jonathan Fortney the moment she stepped into the Middle School gymnasium. She couldn’t really miss him, because he and another young man were sparing on some mats in the middle of the floor with most of the women and girls enrolled in the self-defense class standing around watching. “What’s he doing here?” Richelle muttered. She winced at just how petulant she sounded. A glance to the woman beside her told her that Mama Tracy had heard, and was amused.

“Tommy Karickhoff is probably the highest ranked martial artist in Grantville. He used to be an instructor at a dojo in Fairmont, and he’s helped me with the self-defense courses before,” Tracy Kubiak said.

Richelle rolled her eyes. “I mean Herr Fortney.”

Tracy’s lips twitched. “I told Tommy I needed an extra warm body and he said he knew someone who might be suitable.” She smiled innocently at Richelle. “It seems Jonathan was that someone.”

Richelle turned her attention back to Jonathan and Herr Karickhoff just in time to see Jonathan lunge forward with a knife. What followed happened so quickly that Richelle wasn’t sure what she’d seen. But it looked like Herr Karickhoff grabbed Jonathan’s knife hand in both of his hands, ducked under the arm, and somehow stabbed Jonathan with the knife Jonathan was holding. It was only when both of them stood up and Jonathan handed the knife to Herr Karickhoff that she realized he hadn’t been hurt. She turned to Mama Tracy. “Isn’t that dangerous?” she asked.

Tracy shook her head and waved the combatants over. “Hi, Tommy, Jonathan. Richelle wants to know if the knife counter you were doing is dangerous.”

Tommy tossed the knife he was carrying to Richelle, who had a panicky moment before she caught it and realized it wasn’t a real knife.

“Even a real knife it takes a real effort to actually stick it into someone with that move,” Tommy said.

Richelle handed back the rubber knife. “Will you be teaching us moves like you were doing, Herr Karickhoff?”

He shook his head. “The best thing to do when someone starts waving a knife around is be somewhere else.”

Richelle’s brow screwed up as she considered what she’d just heard.

“Tommy means you should run,” Tracy said. “I’ll cover what else you should do later in the program.”

Richelle nodded her acceptance of Mama Tracy’s dictate, but something still bothered her. “If your best advice is to run, why practice fighting someone with a knife?”

“Because sometimes running away isn’t an option,” Tracy said. “Enough of this. Are you two ready to get started?” she asked Tommy and Jonathan.

“Any time you are,” Tommy said. Jonathan nodded in agreement.

Richelle gave the two men one last glance before hurrying off with Mama Tracy to join the other women assembled for the Ladies Self Defense class.


Four hours later Richelle stumbled out of the gymnasium with Tracy for the lunch break. “He’s horrible,” she said.

“Who?” Tracy asked.

“Jonathan. He was always grabbing me.”

Tracy grinned. “He’s only supposed to be trying to grab you. It’s not his fault you haven’t been able to avoid his attempts.”

Richelle glared at Tracy. “He hurt me.” He hadn’t really hurt her, but she hadn’t liked being grabbed.

“And you hurt him back.”

A smile flittered across Richelle’s face as she remembered some of the things she’d done to Jonathan. There had been the kicking and punching, which hadn’t been quite as satisfying as she would have liked because of the protective padding he was wearing. Although she had managed to drop him with one knee attack to the groin even with the protection he was wearing. Then there had been the grappling. She’d had him writhing on the floor with one particular finger hold.

“Don’t get too cocky, Richelle. Jonathan could have countered any of your attacks.”

Richelle snorted her disbelief.