Sunday, February 24, 2019

The odalisque and the tech operative

I'm working on a couple of longish blog posts. One is about the necessary adjustments forced on me by increasing age and infirmity, and it may never go up because frankly, the whole subject is just too depressing for words. The other is about Biblical interpretation through the centuries -- or rather, a plea for suggested reading on the topic, because I don't even know where to look for the information I've begun wanting since I started my 2019 project of reading the King James Version from top to bottom.

So, in lieu of serious thought, and just to demonstrate that like Granny Weatherwax I ATN'T DEAD, here's a tiny snippet from A Revolution of Rubies:


I was just apologizing to Sheng for not being able to teleport him home – I’d never been to his apartment – when TheSila showed up and, as was her wont, complicated everything.

“Thalia, dear little pet,” she purred behind me, “aren’t you going to introduce me to your friend?”

“I hadn’t planned to, no,” I said without turning around. Pretending extreme boredom was one of the few ways I’d found to make the djinn go away.

“Oh, but I insist!” She poured herself around me in a flicker of cold flames. At least she’d chosen to manifest herself in almost-normal guise; apart from the little shivers of flame chasing themselves over her form, she looked like any Oriental odalisque you might encounter in Paris – you know: voluptuous figure spilling out of a skimpy gold-filigreed costume, elaborate henna patterns on much of the exposed skin, huge kohl-rimmed dark eyes.

Okay, so you don’t actually see that many scantily dressed Oriental odalisques in Paris. Sheng was stammering, poised awkwardly between the Company’s training in diplomatic manners and the natural human desire to scream and run.

“TheSila, this is Sheng, a colleague of mine from the embassy,” I said tiredly. “Sheng, meet TheSila, an Indian Ocean djinn. Folks, it’s late, and tomorrow I have to…” rescue Aunt Alesia. Damn. I’d actually forgotten about her for a couple of hours. Now the weight of her problem came crashing down on me again. I wondered whether “darling Daryush” would be understanding about his girlfriend’s loss of a national treasure, or whether my next job was going to be springing Aunt Alesia out of a French jail.

Sheng collected himself enough to bow over the hennaed hand that TheSila extended, but his eyes were showing way too much white. Teleportation and unexpected canine encounters had already taken their toll on his self-possession; clearly he wasn’t up to discussing life with a djinn from the Indian Ocean.

“TheSila and I met off the coast of Kenya this summer,” I said, ruthlessly condensing the multi-chapter detailed version, “and she visited me in Texas afterwards.” And she’d been quite enough of a nuisance there without inviting herself along on this assignment. Silly me, I had thought that leaving her blue glass bottle on the mantelpiece of our condo in Austin would guarantee some privacy in Paris.

The trouble was that I hadn’t gone the traditional route of trapping her in the bottle, luring her in with the powerfully stinky perfumes she favored and then slamming a cork into the opening. No, I’d done her the favor of breaking the bottle somebody else had used to trap her. And then, as a free agent, she’d found a lidless bottle in which to transport herself from East Africa to Austin.

At least that was how I’d thought it worked. Now it seemed that she didn’t require the bottle in order to follow me around the world and interfere with my life. Who knew?


  1. Ah, Arabian Nights. Love those stories.

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