alterations (Back’s story)
“Oh they’ve known about the armless giant who stands in the field quite a long time now. The most dreaded thing of all is when he turns his back on them, forgets who they are. Then he’s gone. That moment will arrive soon enough.”
“He’s the Ant?”
Both stared at Clyde for some reason. Instinct probably. He was hiding something behind those steely blue eyes of his. Perhaps he stole something. Perhaps he blew someone away. Maybe something between these extremes.
Some say he was rolling in dough when he had none before. No one knows where he got the money. Looks like steel it is. More precious than gold in these parts. Lots of bridges, lots of ships. Metal all used up; none to go around for other purposes. Easier to corner it on the marketplace.
Add in a corrupt mayor and you’ve got the makings of a scandal. But someone with a lot of money has to be behind it, at the center of everything, its pumping heart, supplying cash to keep the crinimal machine well oiled. Why do people do this kind of thing? A challenge, perhaps; notoriety that results. Too smart for their britches with no other proper outlet. If only they could take up painting, letters, dance, drama, poetry, reading. Stock marketplace is their only toilet fodder. How much is steel, how much *to* steal?
In the olden days such metal obsessed people might have turned to alchemy for creative release, done their souls some actual good instead of harm.
“Easy as changing a 4 wheel car into a 6 wheel car.”
“Two problems,” returned W. “1st, there’s no such thing as a magnae.”
“Sure: plural of magnate. There was more than one Jay Gold. Says so in the name: Golds.”
“Highly unlikely,” opined W. “Then the extra letter in named, speaking of name.”
“All this is more believable than Goldsboro as a last name. Goldsboro is a *town* name.”
“True enough, I suppose. What will you do with the old sign, the sunny one?”
“Town dump; history successfully altered; 21 years of misery averted.”
“And… this will bring back the alchemy?”
“Better get to the people in the car.”
“Dad-*dy*. How far til Uncle Roy’s? Huh, huh?” Junior held his crotch and did a small jig beside the added 5th or 6th wheel now, indicating he had to wee really bad. Mother Wanda Wannabee took him inside to the Tastee Freeze. “*Junior* gets to go inside,” continued Tommy with the complaining, watching them go through the front door of place. Last of the lunch crowd, as it turns out.
“Now now, Tommy. You know Uncle Roy’s cooked us up a nice meal of mashed potatoes and gravy jam and some other stuff. Steelton’s only 7 more miles. You can hold it in, I mean, hold out til then.”
“Ooohhhhhhh. Just… one… hot… dog.”
“This is not the place for that.”
Someone in the distance shot out one tire, then another and another and another and another… and… another. They were stuck here for a while. Tastee Freeze it is.
(to be continued)
I’ve successfully changed Gouldsboro PA into Goldsboro PA by moving Street View into Stret View — alternate spelling again. Now to go inside and grab a celebatory weiner. Celebratory (dangit).
“Hardware? Live Bait? What’s going on here?”
“There’s Back at the door,” pointed out W., still by my side, still helping, still listening. “Maybe he knows.”
The view entering the downtown area from the west was… dramatic. Mr. Back, sorry, *Dr.* Back directed us to a smok’n bar and grill he claimed he owned, where we could finally get our dogs and rejuvenate. We’d been saved from leftover gravy and jam and whatnot by a mystery shooter.
It’s actually here we encounter Ashley. And Clyde, Big Loop complete. Because Clyde correspondingly brought Steelton back to Goldsboro, saving us a trip. We meet in the middle, which is nowhere. He’d just killed our Uncle Roy, who was ankle deep from the top down in the steel stealing crinimal matrix. He was even eating Roy’s leftovers he stole from his fridge just before we showed up, on a break between dough rolling. “Roller,” he said about his profession, wiping the last bit of gravy jam from his lips. “Rock’n it,” he added, which I assumed meant he was good at his job. He then beat the roller mercilessly against the dough a couple of times, smoothing out some rough spots I supposed. But, gazing into those steely eyes, I could see him doing the same with the inevitable bumps on someone’s head, the ones they use for soothsaying in phrenology. Clyde didn’t believe in any psychic bullshit. He was down to earth, meat and potatoes, what you see is what you get. He could have been a good mechanic if he wasn’t a better killer.
“I have a question,” W. said from the side, playing my wife Wanda Wannabe in the current scenario. Mother of 11 year old Tommy and 6 1/2 year old Junior, the “wee one” they called him because he always seemed to need to. “Junior, we *just* left the bathrooms at the service station,” was a common utterance during trips in the Wannabe car, being repaired with 2 wheels removed to bring it back down to the normal 4. Back saw to that — felt guilty for shooting them in the first place. Or have Bobby Carter the mill boy do it. Cousin of Clyde, I believe. All in the Family. Speaking of which…
“Wait… me now. What’s the connection between Goldsboro PA and Mortons Gap KY?”
“Well… Back,” I answered with some confidence. “And Place.”
“Place of eating or place of worship?”
It was here I realized the name of the bar and grill we were sitting at was M and J. But it was also described as a place of grace: “M & J’s Place of Grace.” Do they worship food? Anyway, this was 2 places at once we were in. I knew Firesign Theatre was involved again, because we also weren’t anywhere atall, neither here nor there.
Gunslinger Bobby Carter walked into the establishment. We all knew who this was now. He went up to Clyde and kissed him full on the lips, a new and different twist to the old kissing cousins trope.
(to be continued)
“Why do you always pray to your God?” asked Sam Bee, listening in while trying to read. “Why not your ancestors, your Ma, your Pa?”
“Listen, Durexian heathen,” spoke Barren Monroe, mixing the best and worst aspects of soldiering in one. “If I wanted your opinion I’d ask it on the battlefield tomorrow. Where I could smash in your head without any consequences.”
Silence between them for a while, then. Both listened to crickets and the sound of distant cannons, becoming fainter with each passing day now. The battle and also the war along with it was about over. Both knew it.
Barren thought about renewing his prayer but decided not to. What was the use? He’d be going home soon. He’d hear enough about God from his family after that, thanks to the Triangleist church they all belonged to. Praying to his Ma, his Pa, pheh. Ridiculous savage. Instead: “I can’t believe the army came to this. Sharing (*spit*) a tent with the enemy.” Many times he wish he could spray bullets into the thin membrane of a wall separating the two, the green-blues from the red-yellows. But he’d be executed if so. Kill only on the battlefield between 8 and 5, the superiors commanded. When you get back to your tent you can trade all the verbal acidities you want, but no physical interaction. Pretend like that thin membrane separating the two of you is a thick sheet of bulletproof steel several meters high. Impenetrable. We will allow that you can hear each other but not see each other. *No* physical interaction, they doubled down as both sides ran out of money as the war dragged on and on.
Problem was, many tent mates got along, even became friends and promised to pay each other visits — sometimes extended ones — after the war was over. There was even rumors, substantiable no doubt, about tent mates being more than friends, way beyond enemies on the other side of the spectrum. Lying together in one sleeping bag, and not because the cold was closing in from the north as August became October became December, although shared heat could start the whole thing.
Such was certainly not the case with Pvt. Barren Monroe and Cpl. Sam Bee, from vastly different backgrounds and status. Barren belong to dirt poor Triangleists who only had their Father-Son-Fruity One centered religion to cling to in times of desperation, which was often. Sam Bee belong to an elite family from Wampumtown, his father and his mother both raking in the cash from a lucrative Voodoo practice specializing in pincushion dolls. Sam had talent too in that area. He planned to return to the business after the war; already had a number of clients lined up thanks to high connections. True, they were discarded clients of his parents, no doubt, but you have to start somewhere, work your way up the ranks. He’d deal with the troublemakers with a smile on his face, basking in the sunshine of an ever brightening future.
“Tomorrow, heathen,” spoke Barren Monroe again. “Tomorrow it is,” and then rolled over and tried to simmer down his boiling blood enough to sleep. Tomorrow, he thought, imagining a head like a piñata, ripe for bursting. If he waited too long he wouldn’t have the chance. Already he strains to hear the sound of war in the distance. He’ll miss it greatly.
He thought about Back as he lay on his back and she turned her back to him.
“Where are we on The Moon again?” she asked dreamily while studying, lingering effects of the box.
George/Musician sighs. “We’re not *on* The Moon, Shelley. We’re in… Mortons Gap. I think. At least the Ant Castle, old style, is playing on a continual loop on our TV over there.” Ropes, George/Musician thought. Aah the good old days when marriage meant something and everyone knew their place. He sat up.
Back ruined all that, pheh. Better get back to it while I have time. 7:04AM. Soon it will be 5.
Yeah, there it is. Too late. Next! (as Wheeler might say)
He approached cautiously from below.
He’d been saving up presents for some time, preparing for the worst. Flood! they warned. Global warming gone rogue! they cried. Thus the ark.
Or so the story goes.
After a return trip to the box, they ate Christmas dinner up top. “Shelley, you seem depressed,” he spoke. Probably just leftover effects once more, he rationalized.
“Oh. Just thinking about The Moon again. Where are we on it?”
George/Musician didn’t bother to correct this time. “Tranquility, love,” he said instead. “Remember? We landed there, all of us Americans through two specific Americans. All in the Family.”
Shelley Struthers buried her suddenly aching head in her folded arms, trying to forget everything. The nearby lemons and drink bottle were reminding her of something she didn’t want to see.
“Would you like to open a present?” offered George/Musician. Maybe that would help her mood.
He opened all the doors he could and peered inside before entering. Seemed safe. Here he goes!
He sat in the corner of the couch that was missing a bit of one of its other corners (GH), waiting to enter the story again. It will come to him, he knows.
Meanwhile, there’s always stuff to read.
The portrait of grown up Marsha “Pink” Krakow from novel 34 appears in a most unexpected place. Just noting to remember.
the goats know
“It’s a trance club, sir. Are you sure you want to go in there?” She looked him over, noted the dated clothes, the glassiness of his aging eyes. Might not make it out. Like a lot of them; like *most* of them. There’s a queue of carcasses out back still. Ready to be buried alive as if antiquated VHS tapes.
He knew he had to. For Shelley. Yet another door was opened that he possibly couldn’t walk back out of.
He stopped his simple walk in the midst of it all. Cold breath came out of his mouth. Must be 20 degrees below what it was in the foyer. Maybe 30, or even more. Moon indeed. And it could be getting colder ta boot. Yes: people, susceptible ones, could die in here, he thought. And he had some kind of lingering chest congestion he couldn’t get rid of.
He stared over at her, prepared to start her yoga routine on the green bamboo mat, turning green herself in the process. True center. He recalls the 108/108/108 spot in Perch-Mistletoe where he also stared at bamboo, a whole wall of it there, across the canal that evenly divides that most central of Nautilus’ sims in two. This is 108 as well, he realized. Moon itself.
She begins the motions.
Soon after our Wolvie, born oh so shortly before, was no more: absorbed.
What would Roger Pine Ridge do?
Charlie Banana saw it all from his DJ booth, the setting up of the ironically named Happy Rezday decorations, the lowering of the temperature, and then the entrance of the man himself, who was only part so, the other half being… he thinks it is mink. Should have made himself into a coat before venturing in here, but I guess that’s the point anyway. Sacrifice. Vulnerable sort. Chest congestion. 108 did him in finally, a triple threat in this case, a deadly threat, then. He should have seen it coming when Amazon was purposely changed with Amagon to bring Hucka Bee into the picture, not human atall now although still a man. Bee-man. Where are we on that?
He wasn’t surprised when he was intercepted after his gig was over at 10. Money was thrown at him, a lot of cash. Replace Wolvie, the mystery figure said, back turned. As always. Just a sort of shadow figure he was.
“When do you leave?”
“Day after tomorrow (pause). It was a lot of money.”
“I assumed so. Coming from Back.”
“Just a shadow figure,” Charlie Banana reinforced to his best mate Hatti, currently without one, blue hair which can sometimes be mistaken for black fully exposed. Both mate and girlfriend. But not wife. Perhaps they never will be now. “No face.”
“I know the feeling (another pause). You know Shelley and I go back a long ways. In some ways we’re closer than sisters. I understand her and she understands me. We discussed it on a beach far away from here once. Far away in time now as well. Hard to recall what we spoke of. She already knew about Liz there. And, of course, I had…” She tried to remember but couldn’t. Then she did. The eternal lover now. If he assumed a certain shape. Charlie Banana could be the same.
“Are you going to the Ant Castle first?” she began again. “Or just Mortons Gap in general?”
“All I know is that it has something to do with dogs.” His voice was pleasant, melodic even. Hers: a little more shrill but not unpleasant. They could both pose as ordinaries to others, which they weren’t. You have to be at least 108 years old to join the club they’re in, which includes the Silvers of course, the founders and owners. Brought all the way here from Neptune by the powers that be, some say. But we happen to know it’s Mars.
We could have guessed hot dogs, we could have guessed feet. But it was actually dogs.
“Simmer down out here,” spoke Banana from the balcony, tired of the constant yelping and baying. Moon indeed.
A mysterious stranger arrives from the sea to the west, ready to rock his world.
(to be continued)
She figured if she didn’t find paradise in Mortons Gap, where would she? Bartender Keanoob was cute, and also a good talker. Not that she’s looking any more — she has Arthur after all. They’re married now, at least last time I checked.
Yes, married. This is most likely their honeymoon destination. There were some Durexian-Trojan war memorials here, plus the Ant Castle, whose history also fascinated Arthur. Shelley was pliable — she could go anywhere as long as there’s beach, sun, drink and decent internet access. It was okay here, not the best but doable. She could log onto 3rd Life relatively easy, although for best results she had to reduce her graphics by getting rid of all the shaders. And also minimizing the screen at times. But it was manageable. She’ll play on it a little later, after Arthur has gone to bed. But first: a drink.
“Lemons’ freshly squeezed, Shelley,” spoke Keanoob in his pleasant Japanese accent. He didn’t look like he was from that country but he claimed to be a native. He points to the lemon tree that we look between the split trunk of in that photo above.
“Oh dear,” she said, looking at the time on her watch. “Better get back to the hotel, Keanoob. I’ll have to save that drink for later.”
“Oh okay. You know where to find me!” he called as she dashed off.
He put away the lemons, cussing at his lack of action. Shelley had that effect on men, though. Made them want to follow her to the ends of the Earth, Second Lyfe style. Funny how 1st and 3rd Life are spelled with an “i”, while Second isn’t. Must be a middle problem.
Limes. Only stuck with limes now. “Tequila, Lucy?”
we’re painting a picture of a place
He stared over at it while she stared at him. “Remember that day when we opened the box and came here?”
“Best day of my life,” said Lucy to this. Limes. Box full of limes. Unlimited tequila.
“I mean, we were *there* — Real Life — and then we were here — Second Lyfe.”
“And we had 3rd Life on our computers instead, yeah. Cool. Really neat. I instantly turned myself into Leia from Star Trek.”
“I mean,” he continued on this track. “You remember smells. Don’t you?”
“And touch. Feeling and touching. Not just seeing, not just hearing. There use to be 5 senses, Lucy.”
“It’s beautiful here,” she deflected. “I can feel the spray of the ocean if I close my eyes. I can hear the porpoises. I *feel* like I have a purpose here — that’s the only ‘feel’ I need.”
“Okay, how about smell?” he tried again. Did *he* remember smell? He couldn’t quite recall it now. Maybe all a dream. He tried to trace it back. And why this fascination with Shelley when he already has Lucy? They’ve been married 6 years, been buried longer than that, but that was just a past life. Someone allowed them to open the box, someone raised them from the dead. Here. Small box for a coffin, but there you have it. More symbolic than anything, he reckoned.
“It’s been there for
6 7 years. Have we even tried to move it? Even once?”
“2019,” said Lucy to this. “Hurricane coming in. Wouldn’t budge. We came back and everything was okay. The only lingering effect was this pool of water that partially submerged our back yard. Water never left. But we always wanted a pool.”
“Not this kind,” shot back Keanoob. He didn’t *feel* like sitting down beside it today, partially submerging himself in this pool or whatever the heck it really was. A curse, he gathered, quite a long time ago, actually. Probably 2019 again.
He’s going into the mountains instead.
“Ant Castle?” Lucy replied to this, use to his wandering off by now.
“I think I’ll go visit Barry instead at his studio.”
“Better call. You remember what happened last time.” Barry really gets involved in his art, as Keanoob found out that day.
Ah heck, he’ll stay local and go check out the Durexian-Trojan War Memorial again. In a park across the road; only 200 meters from here. Sometimes he can still hear the distance cannons if he lays real quiet in the re-created Durexian-Trojan shared tent over there. You lose a sense or 3 you gain a sense or 3. Or so they say.
Bach: The Golderg Variations is the debut album of Canadian classical pianist Glenn Gold. An interpretation of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Golderg Variations (BWV 988), the 1956 record launched Gold’s career as a renowned international pianist, and became one of the most well-known piano recordings. Sales were “astonishing” for a classical album: it was reported to have sold 40,000 copies by 1960, and had sold more than 100,000 by the time of Gold’s death in 1982.
In 1981, a year before his death, Gold made a new recording of the Golderg Variations, sales of which exceeded two million by the year 2000.
“Over here, Arthur. Behind the bushes!”
“Black against white. As it should be.”
“You’re not ashamed of us still?”
“How do you mean?”
“I mean, well. The bushes.”
She sighs. “It’s just so we could get more romantic. Towel has a better view of the rocks over there I like so much.”
“Ropes, yeah.” Arthur stared out, thinking of George/Musician. “Have you heard from him lately?”
“You know. Him.”
“Strange dreams, yeah.” Continuing, he thinks to himself.
“Moon is bright tonight. Better get you back to the hotel.”
“The guy’s been there forever,” whispered Shelley.
“I really want to play Pac Man,” replies Arthur in a not as hushed voice.
“How… (she glanced over) how about Space Invaders? Right next to him — you haven’t played that as I recall.”
“Really?” is all Arthur could say to this, giving her a look. Pac Man is classic. Space Invaders is a game for *kids* in his opinion, a shoot-em-up. Not even on the level of archaic Pong.
They went next door to sip on saki for a while but the bleeps and blips from the now lone player at the arcade persisted. “Might as well go back to the hotel, dearest. Prepare for Liz again. I’m kind of eager to try out that broken telephone booth outside — see what kind of action that can produce.”
But Arthur wouldn’t relent, not for that and apparently not for anything. He’d stay here at the upper end of Mortons Gap until the ends of the Earth.
Does this also spell the end of Arthur in our story? Shelley has many suitors available to her, it seems. But there’s Liz. Yes, Liz. Arthur also recalls that and finally relents and goes back to the hotel, eventually ending up at the booth like she desired.
“Hello?” she starts the roleplay. “Is this the Moon?” She slams the receiver back into its carriage. “Damn thing’s broke — no *4*!” On cue, a telephone repairman saunters up to the booth outside, loaded down with the tools of his trade around a maximized belt. Until he dispenses with it.
“Dang, Shelley. Just not in the *mood*. Can’t get *over* that guy back there!”
Yes, Arthur might need to disappear from our story for a while. There’s always Keanoob. And Edward, who most call Eddy these days. Might as well drag another character into the story. Appears to be a motif for the novel by this point — character overload. Location will help stabilize: Mortons Gap here. Both of ’em, actually. 2 places at once.
“she just wanted to be included”
Mortons Gap, Corisca, Our Second Lyfe
Greater and lesser.
OMG, Barry’s here. Fishing. The magic continues…
We’ll catch up with him a little later (!).
RN earns cash by making pots. Well: *a* pot. And it’s coming along very slowly, it appears.
Many cats in the city.
Will meditate for money. Arthur Kill decides to join him in the background.
A single red tree (object of meditation).
There’s grass (living) and there’s hay (dead).
Dr. Back appears ant-like on the hill. No going back.
“It’s a girl, Mrs. Kill.”