The Adventures of Podunk Jo – Adventure 3: Jo rides again!

Back in Nine Rivers, Jo was having just a little bit of trouble adapting to her new living situation.  While she appreciated the company and uses of her new friends, Retardo and Sam, living with both of them was a bit of a struggle.  It wasn’t that she minded getting cozy with new friends, despite their peculiar quirks.  It was more to do with the size of her apartment.  With just her and Tigger, it had been very cozy – with all four of them, a more apt description would be cramped.   Still, Podunk Jo was determined to get planning on the next terms’ lessons, despite inconveniences.  Despite her best attempts however, just a few short days before the start of the term, there was a knock on the door that could not be ignored.

When the tapping started, Jo was prepared to let Tigger or one of the others answer – she was in the groove of planning and not about to stop.  When it continued insistently, however, she wandered out towards the front door to see what was the problem.

Out in the hall was a tableau of worried looks.  Tigger, Retardo, and Sam were all watching the door, half in fear and half in curiosity.   Podunk, confused as to the situation, nevertheless moved to open the door.  Sam silently ran to stop her, shaking her hands and head in quiet irritation.

Retardo tiptoed over to Jo.  ‘Whoever’s knocking is VERY DANGEROUS.  Sam doesn’t want them to know anyone is home.’ She placed a gentle hand on Podunk Jo’s arm, whispering, ‘Let’s just all go back into the living room and wait till they go away.’

‘This is ridiculous,’ said Jo loudly.  ‘I will not be made to cower in my own home.  Especially by buffoonery.’  She strode quickly around Sam, whose head was low to her chest.  Sam did not appreciate being called ridiculous, and went of to mope in solitude in the living room.  Tigger pattered after her thoughtfully.

Jo unlocked the door cautiously, nervously looking over her shoulder at Retardo before doing so.  It could be a criminal, or a proselytizer, or a spy.  There, on the doorstep, was Crest Colgate.

“Would you like to go to Mongolia?” he asked.

****

Over a nice cup of tea inside, the two of them chatted.

“Sorry I so rudely abandoned you in Beijing,” Crest apologized.  “I really did need to leave.  My HR skills were urgently needed, you see.  One of our tour managers was quite ill, and the Alaskans were finding it difficult to hire a replacement. ”

“Of course.  You had an obligation.  Thank you for the note.  Though I am a bit surprised at how you were able to find me here in Nine Rivers.”

‘It wasn’t really that hard.  Very few foreigners have such lush hair, or such a memorable companion.’  Crest smiled down at Tigger, who was shyly hiding behind a biscuit tin at the other end of the coffee table.

“Ah.  And what’s all this about Mongolia?”

‘I need a companion for a new business trip.  I am putting together an educational package on Mongolia to include various skills training – horseback riding, sheep shearing, hatha weaving.  Naturally I thought of the most beautiful teacher in the Middle Kingdom to assist me in my research.’  He flashed her a dazzlingly brilliant smile.

“Well, I appreciate the offer, but unfortunately my teaching obligations begin in just a few short days.  I couldn’t possibly come with you.”

‘Oh no, it’s all been taken care of.  I spoke to your waiban – one of the Chinese teachers can cover your classes for the first few weeks.’  Jo could just barely make out Tigger doing a mini-jig on the thought of riding a horse.

“Still, these students are expecting a foreign teacher.  It’s not fair to pawn them off on someone else.”

Crest patted her hand gently.  “I admire your commitment.  Never mind this week – we’ll just have to put off our trip until the holiday.”

****

Later, both Sam and Retardo came down hard on Jo.

‘You actually agreed to go?  After Sam’s warning and without even checking with us?!?’ Retardo ranted.

“Well, it was my decision, after all…”

‘And I suppose we’re supposed to just sit here and worry about your return?’

“I don’t trust that man,” Sam added quietly.  “You shouldn’t be alone with him.  He’s obviously too charismatic for you.”

Jo remembered his brilliant whites.  ‘He does have a nice smile.  But really, I made the decision on my own.  Also, Tigger wants very badly to go horseback riding.’

Sam sighed and Retardo threw up her hands.  ‘So take him riding, already!  There’s no need to go to Mongolia.’

But Jo had given her word, and she stood firm in that.   Just a couple months after term start, she and Tigger started packing up for their trip.  Sam and Retardo kept up loud protestations of the wrongness of the trip, to no avail.  Truly, their last protests were more of a half-hearted act.  They had already come to terms with the situation, and were preparing to take more drastic action.

Next Chapter: Stowaways.

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The Adventures of Podunk Jo – Adventure 2: Vacationing?

After various awards ceremonies and and endless stream of banquets, Jo was finally able to return to Nine Rivers for the last little bit of her vacation time. True, what with all the lesson planning she needed to get done before the start of term, it wouldn’t be much of a vacation. Still, it was home. She looked forward to spending some quality time with Tigger again, away from the crowds, from the fame. The only thing she was worried about was how to delicately say goodbye to Retardo.

She had tried, on several occasions, to indicate that perhaps the girl would be happier with her own space, her own life. Or perhaps back wherever she’d come from-back learning more Chinese medicine, maybe.  But Retardo always claimed that she was happiest with Tigger. Podunk didn’t want to share her reservations about Retardo with him either — he seemed so genuinely fond of her.

At last, it was time for Jo to go. She packed up her bags, but delayed speaking to Retardo until she was about to head for the train. Finally, she could avoid it no longer.

“Retardo,” Podunk Jo began, “it’s time for us to go. We need to return to Nine Rivers to get ready for the start of the school term.”

“Nine Rivers? Really? What are we waiting for? I can’t wait to see your hometown!” She and Tigger proceeded to link arms and do a little jig.

“Er…it’s not really our hometown…” How could Jo say she didn’t want Retardo to come now, after all the excitement?

“Yeah right. Next you’ll be telling me you’re from London and he’s from the Hundred Acre Woods.”

***

On the way to the train station, Podunk Jo and Retardo happened to pass a very strange street performer. This person (obviously a foreigner, despite her dark hair) was doing around a strange burning bush. At some points, she seemed to fan the flame, or at least gesture towards it: at others, she sidestepped or scurried away, as if in fear. Jo gave her a double take, and then a wide berth. Retardo, of course, was enthralled. She mimicked a few of the dance moves, and then had a glimmer of recognition. She began frantically digging in her bag. Tigger and Jo looked at Retardo with wide eyes, then at each other. They shook thier heads resignedly almost in unison.

Don’t worry, I’ll save you!” Retardo finally cried, holding her water bottle aloft. She rushed over and splashed out all the water on the wildly waving figure.

The girl stopped, wiped off her dripping face, and sighed. Tigger, ever-resourceful, provided a hankie.

“Why did you soak that poor girl?” Jo finally asked. “It wasn’t a very nice thing to do!”

Retardo looked at Jo with amazement. “Didn’t you see her gesturing? She was giving the International Gesture for ‘urgent – add water’.”

Jo was amazed that there was such a thing as an international gesture for urgent or add water, but she kept the thought to herself. “Do you think maybe she wanted you to add water to the burning plant over there?”

“The plant? Don’t be silly. She was probably overheated from repeated gesturing.”

The odd girl had been examining them closely. “So you both speak English? I should’ve known. ” She held out a hand. “My name is Samantha Anti-Danger Smith, but you can call me Sam.”

Jo nodded shook her hand briskly, and introduced everyone all around. “Anti-Danger is an odd sort of middle name. Any story behind it?”

“I’d better show you.” She put out a finger, and stretched it out to touch one leaf of the still-burning plant. Instantly, all the flames were extinguished. Podunk wondered why she hadn’t just done that in the first place.

“Right, well, we must be off to the train station…”

“Why don’t you come with us!” Retardo exclaimed. “We’re off to Nine Rivers for vacation. We could take you around and show you all the sights.”

Sam’s eyebrows raised. “That sounds nice. I’d be happy to.”

Inwardly, Jo groaned. This supposed vacation was turning into a bleeding circus.

The Adventures of Podunk Jo: Adventure 2 – The End of the Beginning

At last she found Long’s private office. She walked in to find…

 

… Winnie, stabbed to death with a toothbrush. The floor around the desk was littered with pooh fluffies. Podunk rushed to his side, sobbing and vainly attempting to revive the bear. Tigger, upon peeking out of her purse, fell into a state of catatonic shock.

When Podunk had recovered herself, she examined Winnie more closely. The instrument of death was of the common variety, readily available at any hotel. In fact, this toothbrush was labeled “Zhongguo Hotel” with an address in Chinese.

‘Hm,’ thought Podunk to herself, ‘A clue’. But it remained to be seen if this clue would lead her on a wild toothpaste chase.

Upon exiting the building, she noticed a foreigner on the corner attempting to cross the street. The poor woman was like a duck being chased by a lion. After nearly being hit by a bus, she managed to clobber her way through the bikers back to the curb she started from. Back and forth, back and forth she went, never making any real progress.

Podunk finally just grabbed the woman by the arm and manhandled her across the street.

“Oh thank you,” gasped the woman. “I thought I’d never get my cheese.”

“Cheese?” Podunk looked into the pharmacy on the corner for any signs of stray cheese.

“Oh yes. The supermarket on this corner has the best cheese in Beijing.”

“You mean the one on that corner?” Podunk pointed across the intersection to the OPPOSITE corner.

“Oooohh!! What a lovely little friend you have!” The woman had found Tigger, still in a comatose state. “He looks a little down though. Let me…”

Podunk snatched Tigger away from the mad woman. “Just who are you anyway?!?”

“Oh. Yeah. My name is Rita Elaine Ting Ava Rexamita Dolores Ondrashek. But people just call me Retardo for short.”

‘No wonder the Chinese have trouble with foreign names…’

“I’m an expert in Chinese traditional medicine. It’s my hobby.”

“Quite. I’m Jo. And this is Tigger.”

He mindlessly extended a paw, which Retardo began “practicing” on.

“Ah. Ah hah. Hm. Yes. Hm. Alright. You need a picture.”

“A what?” Podunk remained skeptical. But Tigger immediately brightened and began to pose. A few minutes and about 12 pictures later, he was his usual bouncy self again.

“Well, I’m not sure about your methods, but thanks for reviving Tigger.”

“Any time.”

“We really must be off though.”

“Can I come with?”

Podunk was not ready for more distracting company on her adventure, but this Retardo had saved Tigger… “We’re on a bit of a case, actually…”

“Well, I can help!”

“Um. I suppose…”

“Great. Fill me in on the way to the scene of the crime!”

 

 

After an arduous cab ride, they arrived at the hotel. Unfortunately, no one was at the front desk.

“Let’s ring the bell again.” Retardo began dinging the bell incessantly. Her attempts did result in a few mumbles and thumps seemingly from somewhere behind the counter. “Oh no! The ship is sinking! Avast, me hearties! Lower the gangplank! Save the pirates!” With that, she leapt over the counter.

Podunk sighed, opened the counter door, and walked back to pick Retardo up off the floor. In addition she found a bound and gagged man.

“Mmm. Mm-hmmm mm,” he said.

“What?” said Retardo. Podunk ungagged him.

“Thanks goodness you came, Podunk. I’m Long Yagao. Please, the ropes…”

Retardo entertained herself while Podunk got busy with the ropes and some questions.

“How did you get here?”

“After I called you, I was assaulted in my own office. The attackers brought me here. I never saw them, but I might be able to ID a voice. I heard one talking on the phone here several times. Evidently the hotel has been closed for renovation—the perfect place to stash all of China’s toothpaste.”

“Did the attackers have any other identifying characteristics?”

“They smelt of jungle berry Aquafresh.”

“Jungle berry? Are you sure?”

“I know my toothpaste.”

Both of them were startled by a scream and several thuds.

“It’s Retardo!” Podunk leapt up. “She must have wandered off…”

They run upstairs to find Retardo attempting to dig herself out of a mound of toothpaste tubes spilling squishily from one door.

“Hey Podunk. I found the toothpaste.” Retardo beamed, flinging away a tube accidentally with her wild gesturing. “Oh no! Not again—I’ve dropped my toothpaste,” she said crestfallenly.

Podunk could only shake her head.

 

Later, back at her hotel, Podunk received a note from Crest:

 

Jo—

I’ve been called to Alaska on urgent business. Sorry I won’t be able to run into you again.

Ciao for now,

Crest

 

‘So,” she thought, ‘perhaps he’s fleeing the scene. But he did have such a lovely smile…’

The Adventures of Podunk Jo: Adventure 1 – The Beginning

Podunk was just spending her Sunday afternoon at a local teashop in Nine Rivers.  It was after church and she was enjoying a nice cup of Tetley while marking some papers.  Grades were due the following Wednesday.

She noticed another foreigner had entered the teahouse.  He came over to introduce his charming self.

“Hello.  My name is Colgate.  Crest Colgate.”

Podunk privately wondered what kind of person would punish their child with a name like that.

“Hello, I’m Jo.  Lovely to meet you.”

“So, What are you doing in Nine Rivers?”

“I’m a teacher here.”  She holds up her marked papers. “You?”

“I’m touring China.  Trying to catch local culture as well as the landmarks.”

“Ah.  Lovely.”

Someone shouts from the doorway. “Oh, there are my friends.  Nice meeting you.”

“Certainly.  Ta.”

*** 

The next morning, upon reading her China Daily, Podunk discovered a horrendous crime had occurred during the might.  All of the toothpaste in China had mysteriously disappeared.  Podunk’s thoughts immediately turned to the odd foreigner she had met the previous day. 

 ***

As she was washing dishes later that day, the phone rang. 

“Hello?”

Silence.  “Podunk Jo?”

“Yes, this is Jo.  Hello?”

Silence.  Then more silence.

“Hello?” tried Podunk again.

“Yes.  This is Long Yagao.  I need your help.”

“How can I help you?”

More silence.  Must be a bad connection.  “Uhh…You know all of the toothpaste in China is missing?”

“Yes, I’d read that with my morning tea.”

“I want you to take the case, Podunk.  With your help, we’ll nab this crazy thief pronto.”

“Well, right now I need to finish my marks for the term.  Teaching is a very serious business, you know.”

“I understand.  When can you arrive in Beijing?”

“Well, marks are due this week…”

“So you can arrive tomorrow?”

“No I couldn’t possibly be their before Wednesday…”

“Good.  I’ll expect you Wednesday afternoon.  Goodbye.”

Podunk was left holding the phone.  And the bag.

*** 

Lucky for her, SUPAwaiban was available for her last-minute train ticket needs.  She arrived in Beijing Wednesday at 3:30 pm.  Strangely, no one was at the train station to meet her.  Odd.  She had at least expected one of Long’s henchman.

No matter.  She turned to her well-worn Amity Survival Guide under the section labeled “How to reserve a hotel room in Beijing at short notice when there is no toothpaste and officials have left you stranded at the train station.”  With book in hand she confidently hailed a cab and made her way to check in at a hotel.

*** 

After quickly getting settled in her room, she went to ask directions to Long’s office.  However, a male foreign surprise greeted her at the reception desk.

He flashed his minty whites.  “Hello Jo.”

Just the person I was looking for… “Crest.  What a surprise.  What are you doing in Beijing?”

“Well, it’s the capital.  What tour would be complete without it?  It’s my last stop though.”

“Ah.”

“What about you?  What brings you so far from Nine Rivers?”

“As you say, what’s China without Beijing?  The term is over, so I’m on holiday as well.”

“Excellent.  I’m sure I’ll be seeing you around then.”

“Quite.”

*** 

After an episode at the reception desk, Podunk finally made her way to Long’s office.  The front desk was empty, so she wandered around for a bit.  No one seemed to be working that day.  In fact, the entire building seemed unnaturally quiet.  At last she found Long’s private office.  She walked in to find…

(Continued next episode)

The Return of Podunk.

There was a time when the wilds of China called out for a guide. When the annals of English grammar and usage needed unearthing and distribution to modern man by one talented individual. When tea could no longer stand its improper preparation in uncultured hands and cried out for a hero. That time is now. That guide/individual/hero, is Podunk Jo.

Panama hat cocked slightly aside, she is coming to a blog near you (namely, this one) .