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This Could be Heaven or This Could be Hell


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Mature Content: Good god, I hope not!

With: Wigfalls
Location: Wigfall Boarding House AKA Hotel California
When: Second Week of July 1876
Time of Day: Mid-Day

 

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Sometimes, Jonah  couldn't help but question the decisions he'd made in his life but it was too late now to go back and do it again, and honestly, he wasn't sure the path would have been so different, except for finding some other no-account town far from any true civilization, and by-passing Kalispell, along with Miss Arabella Mudd and anything Wigfall.  

 

But it was too late for that now, he  was too far invested in the place now, and didn't yet have the means to move along anyway.  Sadly, chickens and berry preserves didn't buy much.

 

So, here he was, mounting the steps on the porch to the Wigfall Boarding House, seeking a Mesmerist...Mesmerizer...Mesmerologist?   No matter, he just needed someone who could make the girl believe that she was hypnotized so she might be cured of her ailment.

 

Straightening his brocade vest, he took a breath, then knocked on the door...

 

@Javia                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jemima opened the door expecting to see some mendicant merchant plying his wears, or another traveller come seeking bed and board, or perhaps the fellow in Room 6 had forgotten his key again. That the portrait framed by the doorway was that of the handsome and debonair Dr. Jonas Danforth, he of the gentle hands and understanding bedside manner, was a shock, but a welcome one to be sure. The sluggish blood in her veins roused itself and her heart throbbed slowly and surely in her breast.

 

She jumped to the obvious conclusion, he must be here to check on how that big cyst on her back was healing up after he’d drained all of that smelly, yellow pus from it, during their last romantic encounter. “Come into the parlour and I’ll take my clothes off.” Were the only words of greeting she uttered in her usual deadpan voice that gave no hint of the intense excitement she was feeling right now. A couple passing on the street hurried past with a cry of “Well, really!”

 

By the time they reached said room, spotlessly clean, of course, but cluttered with all the fussy impedimenta of 19th Century sensibilities, she had been sadly disabused of this misunderstanding. The only other person in the parlour was Hector Wigfall, between shifts at the telegraph office, lounging with one leg sprawled over the arm of an overstuffed chair, reading The Telegrapher journal, or rather reading something else, disguised by being placed inside of said learned publication.

 

He jumped up when Dr. Danforth and his hated sister entered and shoved the journal, along with Memoirs of a Portuguese Nun under the chair. He glanced between the two of them and drew the obvious conclusion.

 

“Oh, er, if she’s going to take off her clothes I hope you’ll excuse me, Doctor. I’ve seen enough horror in my young life!”

 

“He ain’t here about the boil, stupid. He got a question for us!” she spat at him, before turning more loving cow-eyes upon the medical man. “Don’t you, Doctor Danforth?” she simpered, somewhat sickeningly in Hector’s opinion.

 

“Take a seat, Doc” shrugged an intrigued Heck “What can me and Wiggy do for you?”

 

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@Bongo

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Oh, dear, there was Miss Jemima, and ready to peel down for him, so Jonah quickly put a stop to that.  "No, no, I just have a question..."

 

And he was herded into the kitchen before he could explain what he was here for, which could have just as easily been discussed from the safety of the porch!

 

But at least the boy was staying, so for now he was relatively safe.  Remaining on his feet, he made his request.  "I was really hoping to speak to your mother in confidence."  If such a thing was possible in this house!

 

@Javia

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But at least the boy was staying, so for now he was relatively safe.  Remaining on his feet, he made his request.  "I was really hoping to speak to your mother in confidence."  If such a thing was possible in this house!

 

“Our … mother?!” Hector paled and flopped back into the chair “Is she … ill?” he asked, aghast. Jemima, already uncomfortably close to the good doctor and fixing him with that unnerving gaze, leaned in even closer, within touching distance you might say, and intoned a question that seemed more hopeful than otherwise “Is she gonna die?”

 

“Shut up you! Of course, she ain’t gonna die, is she Doc? She’ll be all right won’t she?” Hector yelled as he jumped up. “Don’t you say that!” he shouted at Jemima, giving her shoulder a shake ”You’d like that though, wouldn’t you?!” he continued “You’d like her to die.”

 

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“I’d like you to die!” Jemima countered and, slapping his hand away with ease, grabbed his nose and gave it a twist, forcing him sideways and down.

 

“Arrghhh! Get her off Doc, get her off!” Hector shouted nasally as his sister used her other hand to grip his free arm while his other hand kept him from being completely floored. It was this Laocoön-like sight that greeted Mrs Wigfall as she entered the room behind the doctor to see what all the noise was about.

 

“Oh, hello Doctor Danforth, can I help you at all? I do hope Jemima hasn’t been bothering you again. I’ve told her and told her to keep away from your house and that it’s wrong to stare through people’s windows but she is such a impulsive child, I…” she looked down at the two nineteen-year olds writhing on the carpet. Jemima was fully astride Hector now as he lay trapped on his back, her knees on his shoulders, he crying “Pax, pax!”; she continuing to twist his nose and wondering how best to employ her free other hand to inflict further pain.

 

“Oh, do excuse me one moment, Doctor” Mrs Wigall smiled sweetly, marching toward the two teenagers. First she grabbed Jemima’s ear under her greasy black locks and gave it a smart twist, forcing her to stand with the pain and marching her in a stooping position toward and out of the door into the hallway. To give her her due, the stoic girl never once uttered a peep at the intense pain this must have caused.

 

Hector scrambled to his feet brushing down his clothes with a look of fury and embarrassment on his face. “She’s a damned ape!” he informed his mother as she strode back into the room. His reward for this observation was a smart slap across the cheek that would have done Moe Howard proud and to have his ear grabbed and himself kicked out of the room in a similar manner to Jemima. “You DARE to use such language in front of your Mother!” she bellowed “You’re not too big to be put across my lap and spanked, the pair of you! Now GET OUT and stay in the dining room until you’re called for!!” she admonished them.

 

She re-entered the room dusting her hands together.

 

“Children!” she sighed, before continuing her conversation with their visitor like nothing had happened. “Oh, please do be seated Doctor. Would you like some tea, or coffee? Do tell me what I can do for you.”

 

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@Bongo

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No children...never...ever...never...no children...ever!

 

"Your mother is not ill," he tired to explain calmly, to tell the pair that he was the one doing the calling, but by then they were locked in mortal combat, and no sense trying to talk sense to them.  Fortunately, he elder Wigfall broke it up and shooed them off.

 

“Oh, please do be seated Doctor. Would you like some tea, or coffee? Do tell me what I can do for you.”

 

Thank you, no, coffee isn't necessary."  Jonah smiled, although he was anxious to get this over and be gone!  "I have work to get back to, but I was wondering if you might help me?  I have a patient who could benefit from hypnosis, and I have heard talk that you have some experience in that field?"

 

@Javia

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Thank you, no, coffee isn't necessary."  Jonah smiled, although he was anxious to get this over and be gone!  "I have work to get back to, but I was wondering if you might help me?  I have a patient who could benefit from hypnosis, and I have heard talk that you have some experience in that field?"

 

“Hypnosis?! I?!” gasped a horrified Mrs Wigfall, holding her hand to her heart “I fear you confound me with my daughter, Doctor. She is the one who goes to that terrible Spiritualist Church with its trances and its … oh! Spirit rapping.” She pulled out a hanky and dabbed at her eyes “Oh Doctor, I do worry so about that girl. Hector has his problems, I know, but they are those of a normal young man… well, relatively normal… but Jemima! If only she could find the … the proper attentions of a nice young man, it would work wonders with her and calm those … urges of hers, but, well doctor, you know what she is… you know of her…. Condition.” she sighed. "There was one young man but, well, his attentions weren't quite normal I fear, he.." she petered out. What she caught Jemima and Jacob Lutz doing together that time wasn't scandalous or anything, just sort of odd.

 

“Well, if anybody knows of such things, it is she.” Without getting up from her chair, Mrs Wigfall bellowed out her daughter’s name at a deafening volume “JEMIIII-MAAHHHHH!”

The door opened and the sullen looking girl entered, followed by Hector who took the opportunity to sneak back in, grab his Journal and hide himself behind it in  a chair in the corner.

 

Jemima stood there, arms folded, looking daggers at her mother.

 

“Now, Jemima, Dr. Danforth requires the services of a hypnotist. Perhaps you know of some person who dabbles in such things?” she explained like she was talking to a five year old. Jemima pulled her basilisk stare away from Mrs Wigfall and looked at Danforth, as if she was weighing him up. Could he be trusted? He was so ruggedly handsome, with those soft, beautiful brown eyes, and his manly bearing… of course he could be trusted!

 

She looked at him coolly and pronounced: “Oberon! OBERON!”

 

From behind The Telegrapher hector quietly added “King of All the Fairies”, but Jemima ignored him.

 

“Oberon sees all and knows all. He is the master of mesmerism and the black arts. I follow the Christian path, but I know of Oberon, and I can take you to him. But Doctor Danforth, be warned…” she chid him, in her same old flat monotone “… you may be led into the path of temptation during your dealings with Oberon, I will take you to him, and be ready to protect you.”

 

“Nutty as a fruitcake” commented The Telegrapher, sotto voce.

 

“COME!” she commanded, holding out a grubby hand to him.

 

Mrs Wigfall stood in semi-alarm, a look of deep concern on her face. “Oh Doctor, you will be all right won’t you?”

 

Hector turned a page. “As. A. Fruitcake!” he repeated.

 

@Bongo

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Great, just his luck that it would be Jemima who knew where to find what he was looking for, and then she started wailing about 'Oberon' and he frowned.  What did a fictional character have to do with anything? 

 

But then she had clamped onto him and was dragging him out the door ranting about being led down dark paths or somesuch thing, Oh, but she would protect him, praise the lord!

 

"Miss Wigfall, I..."  Well, he had little choice in the matter now but to go with the girl and hope for the best.  Besides, he had to admit that his curiosity was piqued!

 

@Javia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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No doubt Dr. Danforth had expected to be taken to meet the great sage Oberon in some soaring wizard’s tower or a mysterious never-before-noticed door in a creepy back alley. He could hardy have expected Jemima Wigfall to lead him, in eerie silence, to the tinkling store front door of Pettigrew & Packham (Deceased) Drapers, Millinery, Haberdashery, Specialist Corsetry Emporium and Ladies Outfitter.

 

As they entered the house of feminine apparel, they were greeted by the nondescript, mousy, but skilled little seamstress that Pettigrew had taken on to do the donkey-work of the dressmaking and repair work and also to hold the fort while he was engaged in more esoteric pursuits.

 

Jemima seemed to know the girl, but before they could talk the more alive member of the Pettigrew & Packham partnership glided through the heavy velvet curtains that divided the front of house portion of the store from the stock room, fitting room and cutting room in back.

 

“You may go sort out that new shipment of buttons, child.” The new arrival ordered the little seamstress away and turned his benign gaze onto the unlikely pairing of Jonah and Jemima.

 

Worchester Pettigrew (those who pronounced his name Wur-Chester, he would correct by saying ‘Wuster, Wuster, it rhymes with Fluster!’)  appraised the pair  with a look of slight surprise. Well, it was hardly for him to criticise another man’s taste in women, to him they were all just mannequins waiting to be dressed and adorned, not any kind of prospective wife or lover. He knew Jemima well, she ‘did’ for him scullery-wise and even took on some of the rougher 'piece work', but really her sausage fingers were good for little more than tacking. In fact, you might describe her as ‘a rough piece of work’ herself. But today she appeared in the guise of a valued customer, and he would be appropriately sycophantic.

 

“Why Dr. Danforth, and your, er, young lady, how wonderful. What might be your pleasure? A new dress perhaps, or we have some wonderful new bonnets in, all the latest styles from back East. Oh, it so much better when a gentleman actually comes in with his sweetheart so we can obtain measurements!” he cooed in his soft Louisiana drawl, coming out from behind the counter with his ever present tape measure around his neck.

 

He started to take Jemima’s vital statistics, although it was difficult to decide where the strangely built girl's bust, waist and hips were actually supposed to be. “You know, buy them something too small, and you will embarrass them, buy them something too big and you will insult them …” he tittered obligingly. 

 

“He seeks OBERON!” boomed Jemima and Pettigrew stopped dead in his tracks becoming suddenly more serious.

 

“Oh… Miss Wigfall, watch the store!” he ordered.

 

To Doctor Danforth, he signalled silently that the medical man should follow him through the velvet curtains, behind which there was a set of stairs to the upper quarters of the house.

 

@Bongo

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It was in this moment that Jonah vowed never again to imagine how any encounter with the Wigfalls was going to be, for no matter how bizarre the circumstances he mentally prepared for, the reality was ten-fold that, in ways that his brain never would/could have never even started to imagine!

 

Finding no point in protesting the assumed relation with Miss Wigfall, Jonah just rolled his eyes and tolerated it, then sighed in relief when the focus went back to the topic...Oberon, whatever the hell that meant!

 

As he ascended the stairs behind the man, he had the impression that he could be in some dime-store novel, going up to nowhere, then being shoved out a door that just led to open space!  The only thing missing was a thunderstorm to add drama and atmosphere!  Of course, that was absurd, no one would ever build stairways to nothing, much the less write about it!

 

@Javia

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Usually it was beautiful, rich young women, or delusional fat and frowsy rich old women, that Worchester Pettigrew led up these stairs, to the exclusive bespoke fitting room on the right at the top of them. The idea of leading a handsome man like Dr Danforth up those same steps to his personal quarters was the stuff of phantasy; and in the realm of phantasy it would remain. Even if the darkly good looking Jonah had been interested in men, it was unlikely that he would be interested in old, fat, balding, ginger haired men. No, those days of love and lust must be kept in the past, locked away in his memories of hot, frenzied, antebellum New Orleans, when he was a gay young blade and finding others of his inclination in that wild cosmopolitan meting pot of cultures and races was as easy as falling off a log.

 

Cold Kalispell was his final resting place now, where the spectre of decrepitude and death alone knocked furtively at his door.

 

The room into which he showed Dr. Danforth was neat and beautifully appointed: reflecting the style and panache of its decorator, the trammels of the zeitgeist (never were so many knick-knacks and curios dwarfed by so large and dominating an aspidistra plant) and the peculiar interests of its inhabitant. For every fashion plate on the wall (those of his most successful creations in his heyday) there was some ornament of the arcane or occult. Here a marble head, with the phrenological regions painted upon it; there a deck of curious cards of the Etteilla variety, which he used to read for the amusement of a bohemian drawing room; on a sideboard, an ephemeris and a copy of William Lilly’s ‘Christian Astrology’.

 

“Please do be seated, Doctor.” Bade Pettigrew, indicating an overstuffed easy chair “May I offer you some light refreshment, perhaps a teensy-weensy glass of sherry?”

 

“Now, please do tell me what I can do to be of service…” he dropped his voice to a whisper “… is it Miss Wigfall? Are you, perhaps, requiring a wedding dress that… well, hides a protrusion that just shouldn’t be there?”

 

@Bongo

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