24 June, 2012 by katelaity
“Watch where you’re going, imbécile!”
Signor Maggiormente jumped aside as the men threw down several large timbers. The clatter of the boards echoed loudly despite the noise all around. Eduardo drew himself up to his full stature, huffing audibly. His wings waved majestically in the hot afternoon air.
The fearsome effect, however, suffered some reduction due to the bright red fez the Venetian lion wore at a jaunty angle.
“What are they building?” he asked the alchemist.
“This is the Exposition, Eduardo,” Maggiormente tutted to his familiar. “The reason we came to Paris.”
“It’s a house?” The lion raised an eyebrow and took another look at the wooden frame erected before them. He sneezed. A lot of dust had been stirred up by the workers.
“It’s not a house,” the alchemist said, raising his hands to the sky. “It’s an enormous undertaking!”
The lion remained unconvinced. “Many houses?”
Maggiormente sighed. “Come, look at this.
They walked over to another building that was more fully built. There was a kind of wooden archway before the building proper, which had a couple of levels and both had roofs that looked like funny hats with up-turned brims.
“What is that?” Eduardo said, curling his tail around his feet as he gazed up at the sight. His expression suggested that he was not in favour of such structures.
“There will be the Chinese and Japanese exhibits. They have come from half way around the world to be here.”
“It looks like the house is wearing a hat.” Eduardo twitched his whiskers and wondered when they were going to eat something.
“That is the style of houses in the Orient,” the alchemist said, admiring the novelty of the shape and humming without realizing he had started to do so.
Maggiormente, lost in admiration while stroking his beard, didn’t seem to hear the question at first. He had already begun to think about the Exposition and perhaps he might meet the Emperor of Japan – why not! The crowds were sure to be enormous – and he could say, “I am Maggiormente, the alchemist. This is my new compound that fuels airships and perhaps trains and who knows, any kind of engine. Would you like to commission one for yourself?” Perhaps, perhaps. “Eh? What did you say?”
“Why?” Eduardo repeated. His stomach growled. He had begun to get cranky. It always happened when he got hungry. This wasn’t even cake hungry. This was meat hungry. Perhaps a pigeon might land within reach.
“Why is that the style there in the ornament?”
The alchemist laughed heartily. “You mishear, my friend.”
“Mishear what?” The lion found his temper fraying.
“Not ornament, Orient.” Maggiormente tried to stifle his urge to laugh. The lion hated to be laughed at and could show his temper in various ways.
“What is Orient?”
The lion frowned and narrowed his eyes at the alchemist. “I thought the east was Slovenia.”
I am a long way from home, contemplating what I would say to a Japanese emperor, but here I am explaining geography to a Venetian lion. Maggiormente took a deep breath. “Slovenia is the land to the east of Italy. Japan and China lie much much further to the east than Slovenia.”
“How much further?”
Maggiormente sighed. His musings had evaporated. “I don’t know precisely.”
“Further than Milan to Paris?”
“Much further,” the alchemist assured him.
“We could not get there in a day?”
“It would take many many days to get there even if we took a train. Or airship,” he added as an afterthought.
“Do they have good food?” Eduardo asked hopefully.