Through a 13th floor window a cold January wind whispers a story. A story of a top hat made of silk, a pen that scratches on paper and of a man for whom life has taken its turn. But the wind also whispers of other stories as well, it tells the tales of freeloaders that ride on the wind, the unseeables, the histories of all that have whispered before. The whispers have desires unto themselves apart from the top hat made of silk and the man but very much in collusion with the scratch, scratch, scratching of the pen. The unseeables much like the man and the top hat made of silk are in search of the one thing that can translate them from the abstract to the idea, from the idea to the man, from the man to the pen, from the pen to the scratching. Just as the pen desires the paper, the top hat made of silk desires the head of the man for whom life’s turn has been taken, the whispers unseen desire the same thing that they all so desperately need; a receiver.“Howard…”
If, a receiver is merely a vessel intended for the specific purpose of receiving a transmitted message then the medium of transmission isn’t only a vector for the message but is in fact a message within the message and the man for whom life has taken its turn at this particular juncture is nothing more then a transmitter.
Transmitters and receivers.
The man for whom life has taken its turn looks up from the scratchity-scratch of his pen on the paper to the opened 13th floor window and receives the cold January wind upon his face, he pauses, takes a long look at the top hat made of silk then resumes his labors.
The paper receives a message from the man, his vector is the pen and thus his story unfolds.
The Message: defining this message, hell any message is a matter of understanding the very nature of the transmitter, who produced it, where it came from, how it was built and of course, why. Who, what, when, where, how and why…
“No one calls me that.”
“Well at least you answered, if you think I’m going to address my new husband as ‘Major’ like some under paid subordinate, you’ve got another thing coming mister!” Marion said dusting a small grain of dust off his shoulder. “There, you’re perfect. Now let’s go out there and knock ’em dead!”
He bent down to kiss her ruby-red lips and she slightly turned her head at the very last moment saying, “Lip-stick!” and smiling, an incredible radiance that engulfed her entire face.
“You are so beautiful!” He said searching deep into her eyes, tightening his lips and slowly shaking his head from side to side.
“Oh, fancy!” She blushed and hid her face behind her pearly white gloved hands.
The giant door creaked and they both looked up to once. A small head peaked around the massive bulk and said, “Will you two stop playing kissy-face and come out here, we’re about to lose the General!”
“Ok Harry, we’re on our way.” He said looking down at his beautiful (literally) blushing young bride, saying, “Mrs. Armstrong, please, after you.” He then stretched his long arm out towards the door and bowed his slick bald head.
Harry disappeared tisking his tongue and the massive door closed behind him.
“Oh my god, I almost forgot, wait! She said and ran to a small closet next to a giant desk at the other end of the room and pulled out a rather large silky grey box. She turned her back to him, pulled something out of the box and let the box drop to the floor. Turning back around she quickly put the contents of the box behind her back with one hand and with the other she reached out to him as she crossed the room, her footsteps lost in the thick red and black carpet. “One last thing,” She said and from behind her back she pulled out a shiny new top-hat still smelling of mercurous nitrate.
He smiled so wide that the twitch was barley noticeable on his left side. He then bowed enough for her to place the hat on his shiny bold pate, stood up to his full height and placed his left hand into his jacket saying, “My lady.” He then triangled his right arm allowing her to put her arm through his and said, “Shall we Mrs. Armstrong?”
She replied, “Why yes, Mr. Armstrong, we shall.”
Before reaching the door she whispered, “Don’t forget to duck.”
“Well hello there Mr. Armstrong. I guess you should know that you’re a very lucky young man.” Said a voice at the boy’s feet.
The boy’s vision was blurred but he could make out the figure of a large man dressed in a white coat at the end of his bed reading what appeared to be something on a clipboard. All around him smelled like what he always thought a hospital would smell like. There was a glass jar turned upside down with a rubber tube coming out of it hanging on a pole next to his bed. The tube led to a needle that was stuck in his left arm. His arm was tied to a very uncomfortable piece of wood with thick leather straps. He was not in his own bed.
“My name is Dr. Jones and I suppose you’d like to know why it is you’re feeling so bad.”
“Yuh I woo…” He said and was then wracked by a cramp that started in his left side, under his ribs and went all the way up to his left temple. It lasted only a second but blurred his vision almost to the point of blindness. The leather straps creaked with the strength of him.
“Don’t try to talk, just listen for a minute. You’ve had a little bout with the St. Vitus Dance or Neuro-Rheumatic Fever to be more precise. The disease is now in the latter stages and is having its way with you in the form of some pretty painful seizures’ on your left side. The reason why I said you were lucky; I believe you slept through the worst part of it.
“’Mmm dhirsty…” The boy said, his tongue dry sticky and brick-ish inside his mouth.
“I bet you are,” Said the doctor putting the clipboard back on a hook at the end of the bed. “I’ll send the nurse in to give you some water as soon as I’m finished here.” The doctor then walked around the bed thumping, poking and prodding at young man’s legs, his right arm and his torso for several minutes humming a non-song while he did his thing. Finally he said, “Mr. Armstrong, we don’t know a whole lot about this disease outside of the fact that it’s very uncomfortable for the people that it attacks. I’ve done quite a bit of reading on it in the three weeks that you’ve been here and the bottom line is still; I just don’t know what to do with you. I do know that this disease has a history of dramatically affecting the heart of the people that it attacks, so it is very important that you stay as calm and still for as long as you can.” The doctor then came around the bed, put a cool hand around his right wrist, looking at his watch he said, “Look, I know this is hard for a nine year old boy to understand but you’ve been though allot and as far as I can see you still have a long way to go to fully recover from this sickness, you have to get used to that fact. I suggest you read a book, heck, read allot of books.” Doctor Jones then gave a quick tight smile turned on one heel and left the room.
“Hello Edwin” The boy’s mother said as she came into the room. Her hair was done up fancy and she was wearing a brightly flowered dress that just covered her knees, bright red lipstick and she was carrying what looked to be a heavy brown paper bag.
“Ghuy moung” the boy replied with a smile that slanted to the left, he was drooling a bit to that side, he then twitched with a pained expression on his slackened face.
“Don’t talk honey, doctor Jones tells me that you shouldn’t even try to talk for another week or so, so just listen. You’re a very sick young man and we’re going to do everything in our power to get you better.” She said taking a flower crocheted hanky out of her little red leather purse and wiped the boys chin.
A nurse wearing a bleached white, stiffly ironed uniform and a large slickly red painted smile came into the room holding a metal jug and a small cup. She had a dab of lipstick stuck on her front tooth that smeared slightly when she smiled. She poured some water into the cup and handed it to the young man in the bed.
“Ang gu.” He said taking the cup in his shaky hands and putting it to his lips drinking deeply.
“Shush!” The nurse said setting the jug down on a shiny metal trey next to his bed. She then smiled at him again , her bright red lipstick piling up at the corners of her mouth; she turned and left the room in a flurry of shifting, hissing starch.
“Listen to me Edwin,” The boys mother said, “You have to be very quiet now, don’t try to talk, don’t try to move, don’t do anything! We want you to get better as soon as possible and the only way for you to do that is to be as quiet and still as you can. Do you understand?”
He shook his head and smiled the best he could around his swollen tongue trying to hide his disappointment. He still had only a vague idea of how long he’d been in that place and despite the doctors explanation he couldn’t understand what was wrong with him. All he really knew was that he was weak, thirsty and incredibly shaky all over his skinny little body.
His mother then reached into the bag and pulled out a nicely wrapped package the shape and size of a hefty book, she handed it to him, tipped her head to the side and tightly smiled saying, “Your father and I got you a couple of things that we thought you might like.” Continuing, she said, “Go ahead son, open it.”
Edwin took the gift from her hands and held it for a few seconds looking at the loving way his mother had wrapped it. There was a small note written on a tiny folded up piece of the wrapping paper that said, ‘To our lucky young man, maybe now you can re-invent yourself!’
Edwin then tore into the wrapping with his one good hand leaving the paper in shreds at the base of the hospital bed. Inside the package was a fantastically colored leather backed book called, “The Boy’s Book of Inventions-Stories of the Wonders of Modern Science” by a guy named Ray Stannard Baker. Edwin looked up at his mother with eyes that welled and mouthed the words, “Thank you.”
“You are very welcome honey; now, I’m going to leave so you can get some rest, so’s you can come home to us.” She got up, smoothed her dress over her legs, picked up the bag and said, “Oh, I almost forgot!” She reached back into the bag and pulled out a small wooden box, handed it to him and said, “You’ll need this if you’re going to be the next, Marconi ‘eh.” She leaned over his bed, kissed his swollen cheek and whispered, “Now get some rest honey.”
After his mother left the room Edwin looked down at the little box in his hand. It was beautifully made out of the most exquisite wood he’d ever seen and carved in to the top of the box was a single word, ‘Parker’. He opened the box by jamming the bottom half between his knees and pulling the top off. Once opened he beheld sitting in a silken field of blue a single pen, a Parker “Lucky Curve” ink pen that he would carry with him for the rest of his life.
“Hey,” The young man with the cast said as he entered the room. “My mom told me that I’m supposed to tell you not to talk, so, don’t talk ok.” He then tried to smile, failed, continued, “My names Harold but my friends call me Harry. Edwin lazily lolled his head in Harry’s direction but didn’t seem to respond. “You and me are the only two kids in this place so my mom made come in here, I’m sorry, I’ll go.” Harry got up to leave but Edwin just said; “Please don’t leave, I’m sorry if I’m not very quick today, I’ve been having a rough time lately, what happened to your arm?
Harry held his brand new cast up and said, “I was trying to put up a wire on the side of our house and fell, that stupid doctor told me I was lucky, can you beat that!
Edwin started to laugh and ended up coughing and Harry got up to leave again saying “Look, I’m sorry I’ll get outta your hair.”
No, no please! This just happens to me is all, I start to cough when ever I get cracked up and you crack me up, that stupid doctor told me the same thing, that I was lucky! I mean no body seems to know what or why I all of the sudden started to shake and puke all over the place but for some reason this joker thinks I’m lucky.” Edwin said and started to laugh and cough again.
Harry joined in the laughing part, reached over and picked up Edwin’s new book saying, “Hey, this is my favorite book!”
“Oh yeah, what’s your favorite invention?”
“Marconi’s Wireless of course, why do you think I was climbing the side of my house? I’ve got a crystal set at home and I heard that some guy in Canada was going to try to beat out Marconi for the distance record and I figured if I could get my wire up high enough maybe I could catch a hint of the signal somehow!”
“Wow!” Edwin replied broke off into another short coughing fit but recouped quickly asking, “What’s the guys name?”
“I don’t know, Lee something. Some guy at my dad’s hardware store said that this Lee guy has the tallest, what’s it called?”
“Yeah, antenna in the world and a huge, What’s it called?”
“Yeah, and he’s going after Marconi like it was something personal!” Harry said by then full on sitting all the way on Edwin’s hospital bed bouncing up and down with every word.
“Hey,” Edwin said still reeling with excitement, “Tell me about your crystal set,” and continued to cough in to his hand.
“Well, it’s the exact same one, part-for-part that’s in ‘The Boy’s Book of Inventions’. I just went to my dads store, worked the whole weekend for free and he let me have everything on the list except the crystal detector part, you have to order that special, and I put it together just like the one in the pictures. About a month ago I ordered the galena crystal detector from Pickard’s in Boston and it came in a little over a week, you believe that, anyway, here’s the cool part, My uncle Alf who works for Bell Telephone made me a carbon amplifier head phone out of a telephone receiver and a flashlight battery!”
“Wow!” Edwin said and projectile vomited all over his new friend.
“Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you Mr. and Mrs. Major Edwin Howard Armstrong!” Harry announced, his voice slightly cracking at the end of his call.
As the young couple entered the large room the crowd of people all turned and raised their glasses in unison towards them. A rather short man in a perfect tuxedo came forward and announced above the din, “My friends, I’d like to make a special toast to these two young people. It has been my pleasure to have had intense, to say the least and intimate dealings with both of them over the past few years and it makes me proud and happy to finally introduce them together. First of all, I’ve had the honor to personally know and know of the Major for quite a few years now and there is no one in my life that I would consider to be more a brilliant scientist and radio technician then this man, a genius in every sense of the word, Major, Edwin Howard Armstrong!” The group in unison voiced, “Here, here!” and raise their glasses a little higher. Then the small man with the booming voice continued, saying, “And secondly, to Marion, my beloved assistant. A woman that is not only frighteningly beautiful but has seen fit to make my life actually manageable, a task, I might add, that seemed impossible just two short years ago. “Here, here!” Replied the synchronous crowd. “So now, these two beautiful young people have been joined in holy matrimony after one of the most painfully long courtships I’ve ever been witness to, I might add.” A rumbling chuckle emotes from the mass. “And so I say to you my friends, To never ending love!” “To never ending love!”, Answered the volgus, a moment of gulping silence fallowed and with the release of 40 pounds of tightly cut confetti in the ceiling a roar rose above the room to find the hidden standing wave in the rafters supporting the structure of the building.
Marion immediately fell into a screaming group of similarly dressed young ladies and proceeded to address the rituals of the modern Judaeo-Christian post-marriage festivities.
“Thank you sir, that was eloquent and inspiring to say the least” Edwin said to the tuxedoed orator.
“Nonsense, after that bit of engineering genius you pulled with the Superhet it’s the least I could say and besides when you return from your highly paid, extended vacation I will be expecting that mythical “Black box” you promised me, but least of all you two truly deserve each other!”
“Here, here!” said the voice of Harry walking up to the two men wearing a champaign swagger and the grin to match. “Are you going to give it to her here, tonight?” Clearing his throat and turning a bright red, saying, “I mean, the Superhet that is.” He turned to the other man addressing him with a simple, “General.”
“No, I thought I’d wait till we got to Montauk.” Edwin replied with a laugh shaking Harry’s hand.
“That’s too bad; I would love to see the reaction the smallest radio receiver in the world would have on this crowd, I mean really this room is filled with the only people in the civilized world that could give a crap, parden my French, about the “Worlds Smallest Radio Receiver.”
“I think that’s about to change Harry”, Edwin said with the grin of inside knowledge and took a long slow sip of Champaign.
“What’s all this then?” The General asked.
“I’m giving Marion the prototype as a wedding present.” Edwin stiffly replied.
“Well isn’t she the luckiest girl in the world, I’m sure Mrs. Sarnoff would love to be the owner of not only the smallest but the most expensive Superheterodyne radio receiver on the planet as well!”
With a twitch in his left eye Edwin nervously replied, “Come now General, the whole purpose behind all that research and expense was to create a radio receiver that every home could afford.”
“Yes, but that one in particular cost me a little over $150 thousand dollars!”
Harry made an exaggerated gulping sound and swayed on his feet. The three men laughed.
“I’m just kidding,” The General continued saying, “Harry told me about your idea to give her the thing last week, but you really should have told me about it yourself.”
“My apologies General, with all of the other things happing this past month it must have slipped my mind.” Edwin said taking the top hat made of silk off his head and bowing gracefully to the man.
“Slipped your mind?” The General replied with fained anger, “let us hope that this kind mind slip isn’t a regular part of your brilliant routine.” Then the man leaned in close to Edwin’s ear saying, “I want my black box Major…” He smiled tightly, turned and beautifully blended with the crowd.
Harry said upon the tiny man’s disappearance, “Boy, what a prick.”
“Hear, hear.” Edwin quietly replied with a slight toast of the glass.
“Harry, what’s the definition of stupid?” Edwin asked storming into the radio lab at Columbia University. The snow was melting on his thick brown, fur callard, leather riding coat and he was still wearing his motorcycle goggles. Harry looked up from his labors, he was irritated. He was dressed in a stained and heat scorched white lab coat over a white second day button up short sleeve shirt, a thin black tie, stained grey pleated slacks and a pair of beat up, squeaky brown leather shoes. Harry had a set of brazing goggles on his forehead. “You’re late!” He said putting the goggles over his eyes, he then lit a brazing torch and turned back to his work.
“No, Harry, wait a minute, traffic was murder coming over the bridge, I know I’m late but you gotta listen, I have a point!”
Harry sighed, shut the torch off with a fwip and turned back around on his squeaky stool. “Okay Howard, what’s your point?” He said putting his goggles back on his forehead.
“My point is,” Edwin said with a big twitchy grin shucking off his thick, wet, riding gear. “If you spend months in a lab with one particular invention in mind and your end result is that invention then you’re a genius right?
“Ok Howard I’ll play,” Harry answered with a sneer. “Yes, you’re a genius.”
“Right,” Edwin said pulling up a stool next to Harry. “That is, if you actually know what it is that your invention does?”
“Howard, I’ve been in this lab for the last 18 hours working on a diagram that you drew out and I have absolutely no idea what it is that I’m doing, are you calling me stupid?”
“You? Harry, heavens no! What I’m saying is, not only do I think that Lee de Forest didn’t know what he was doing when he invented the triode, I’m saying, I think he flat out lied about everything and stole the idea from some poor bastard that did! You can’t spend a large chunk of your life inventing something and not know what the hell it does.”
Edwin jumped up, put on his lab coat and pulled out the keys to his locker saying, “Harry, I don’t know who de Forest stole those plans from but whom ever it was must have known this,” Edwin spun around and opened his locker saying, “If you don’t feed the primary signal back through the wire grid in the audion, the triode is practically useless! But, if you do!” Edwin then wheeled a large table out of the locker; on the table was some kind of large mechanism covered with a stainless white sheet. He spun around and walked over to his wide eyed friend. Pointing his left finger in the air he said, “If you do, you increase the regenerated signal by several orders of magnitude!” With that Edwin spun back around and tore the sheet off of the table. On the table were three large wooden boxes. The one in the middle was a square with the light bulb looking audion triode tube sticking out of the top and a large black circular dial with tiny numbers around the circle in the middle of the box, the two other boxes to the right and left of it were vertical rectangles with curly wires attaching them to the center box.
“Harry, the triode was either invented by that stupid mother fucker or it was flat out stolen! That thing that you’ve been so diligently working on over the past few days is the circuit that resends the modulated signal back to the triode to boost the signal. Not only that but it boost the signal enough to send it directly to a transducer; no more painful crappy headphones Harry, I’ve done it! I’ve invented a radio that everyone can hear. It’s just like what Marconi said when he sent that weak little signal over the English Channel; ‘Are you ready?’”
Harry jumped up off of his little stool and grabbed his friend by the shoulders and said, “You son of a bitch, Howard you really are a genius!” And they both howled with laughter.
Two weeks later Harry awoke in the middle of the night to the sound of his old spark-gap receiver tapping out this message;
…. .- .-. .-. ..–.. .-. . –. . -. . .-. .- – .. — -. .– — .-. -.- … -… — – … .– .- -.– …
(HARRY, REGENERATION WORKS BOTH WAYS!)
.. ..-. -.– — ..- ..-. . . -.. – …. . – … .- -. … — .. – .. — -. … .. –. -. .- .-.. -… .- -.-. -.- – …. .-. — ..- –. …. – …. . – ..- -… . .. – -… — — … – … – …. . – .-. .- -. … — .. – .. — -. -… -.– .—- —– —– —– .-. .. -. … -
(IF YOU FEED THE TRANSMISSION SIGNAL BACK THROUGH THE AUDION IT BOOSTS THE TRANSMISSION BY 1000 TIMES RIGHT)
.-. .. -. … -
- … . .- ..- -.. .. — -. -.-. .-. . .- – . … .- … .. –. -. .- .-.. — ..-. .. – .-. — .– -. – …. .- – -.-. .- -. -… . .-. . -… .-. . -… .-. — .- -.. -.-. .- … – .- -. -.. — – .. … .— ..- … – .- … … – .-. — -. –. .- … – …. . .-. . -.-. . .. …- . -.. … .. –. -. .- .-..
(THE AUDION CREATES A SIGNAL OF ITS OWN THAT CAN BE REBROADCASTS AND IT IS JUST AS STRONG AS THE RECEIVED SIGNAL!)
.– — .– –. — – — … .-.. . . .–. .-.-.-
(WOW! GO TO SLEEP! END.)