Sunday, July 27, 2014

GRAVEN IMAGE




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I wonder what life would be like if the world wasn't one big field of cotton.

In the days of hope when there was choice, overseers rode the rows with whips and chains while we picked our cotton real good. We wanted so badly to please.

During the course of our labors we received regular programming. Sometimes airborne cotton flurrying about in the midst of the pickings would stick to the sweat of the ear and thereby impair regular programming reception. Then as the laborer became aware and productivity necessarily slowed, some roving overseer upon perceiving the irregularity would proceed inflicting such punishment as befitted whims before allowing the laborer the freedom to yet again pick more cotton in the sizzling and relentless sun, or be shot in the face and ground into burger.

Everybody knew what went into burgers. But who was going to say anything? Nobody wanted to get processed. You just kept your head down and chewed.

Then one day a fellow citizen who happened to be near me deep in the vastness of the fluffy white field seemed to slow somewhat down in his pickings. I didn't dare look too closely. Not focusing on collecting lots and lots of cotton could only lead to trouble. And yet, I couldn't help but see. This guy seemed to have uncovered something. I could tell he was staring at it in the dirt. From the corner of my eye I saw him scoop up a dark object and stash it somewhere in his clothing.

I had put the incident out of my mind until when on the conveyor belt back to sleeping quarters I recognized said citizen. Jostling by the endless fields I watched him whisper to the figurine. Just very gently. Effectively imperceptible to casual observance. But I could see that the find had made his day.

Hovering helicopters scanned. Everyone on the conveyor belt pretended not to notice. A butterfly lit on the handrail, multicolor iridescence flashing in fluttering wings. Slowly, my hand reached for it. Assuming a defensive posture, the butterfly revved up and demanded what I was doing.

"I was trying to touch a butterfly," I said. "I didn't know you were a drone."

I had to give them my name and number. They seemed unable to accept my wish for the insect to light upon my outstretched finger.

"Haven't you ever heard of All Quiet on the Western Front?" I said, knowing of course that they hadn't. The drone might have been controlled by someone on one of the helicopters, or just as easily from any other part of the planet. I gave a few seconds for the other side to pull up the gist, then watched while the drone took off like an overseer in hot pursuit of an escaping citizen.

Sometime thereafter in the main cafeteria nearest the quarters I saw said citizen again shuffling in line for sludge, and was surprised when he sat down and asked why I was following him.

"I'm not following you," I said. "I saw what you found in the field, that's all."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Sure you do." I spooned some sludge, green in color. "You know exactly what I'm talking about."

"Yes," he said, in a natural manner as a couple of overseers, huffy and uptight, sauntered nearby, "it sure feels good getting in an extra shift picking cotton."

"It's backbreaking work all right. It's great."

"All right," he said, "if you were going to tell, I guess you already would have by now."

"It's a stone idol, isn't it?" I said under my breath.

"I'm dedicated to picking even more cotton tomorrow than I did today," he said aloud. And then, "There must have been a house on that spot. Long time ago. Someone who knew the old ways was there."

Someone who knew the old ways. My mind stopped at the thought. I couldn't understand why. Part of me wanted to imagine what the hand that once held the idol looked like, and how the voice of the bearer sounded when sending summons. But the attempt made my mind feel muddy . . . 














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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF JOHN WILLIAM CALDER






















POST 1

Being of sound mind and such, I, John William Calder, son of James Zechariah and Rose Elizabeth Calder, do solemnly write these here accounts from my own life, some of which are sure to be real rip-snorters, and all of which being true as anything.

I figure on writing this here autobiography of me since I already got the implements handy from having to keep records mining for gold. I am now the sole proprietor of the Buckwourth mining camp a good ways up Little Miss River and right on the edge of Indian territory. Regarding gold mining, or mining of any sort, it is true that I know next to nothing on the subject, having never had occasion to undertake the occupation prior to my mother's brother kicking the bucket and me thereby falling into it. But seeing how life as a clerk fits poorly on my disposition, plus taking into account Uncle Luke's certainty of the mother lode about to show, that I am plum willing to give the venture a go, and reckon I can say the same for this here autobiography writing that I am fixing on doing.

In San Francisco I met a man who told me he had been to Sutter's Mill early in '48 and found a fortune in four hours. The biggest chunks filled his fists! Buckwourth being northwest of the Sierra Nevadas, I am nowhere near Coloma, yet cannot say I would too much mind if I was, because at the train station I also met a woman who said she was bound for that very destination, and except for Miss Felicity she was about the loveliest and most enchanting creature to ever trod soil. 

I have cooked up a mess of beans, and they are very good. What with flour, coffee, salt, tea, tobacco and a deal of venison I picked up at the trading post for one of my three fifteen dollar beaver traps, I am feeling fairly well-provisioned. My nearest neighbor is a devoutly religious man by all accounts--most of those coming from the trading post--a trapper and a miner whose piety is reputed to be matched only by his delight on practicing cannibalism. And he's done that at least twice. But the last white man he killed and ate was fifteen years ago, and even though he is older and slower, he has passed up plenty of chances in favor of savages picked up at the post. So with my .40-caliber rifle courtesy of the Hawken brothers of St. Louis, I am not too concerned.

POST 2

My Dearest Miss Felicity,

I have fixed my mind on writing my own autobiography, and would certainly be a good bit into it were it not for the hardships of daily life. Amenities-wise, the outhouse appears in distressed circumstances. After gnawing off a deal of venison this morning by way of breakfast, I have come to learn through hard tribulation to never trust a man trading venison again.

It being spring, the river is bracing and brisk. I have tried my hand at panning. You cannot believe how cold a man's hands get holding a pan in the shallows. Yet this biting cold was made less bitter by the image of your divine visage there to sustain me. Looking at the water I'd see your face floating there. Or if with a crick in my neck from being all hunkered over I looked up, why there you'd be again. I confess I felt a most marked and shameful embarrassment in wondering exactly how much of my hardships of the morning the hovering image of you had seen, but your vision sweetly reminded me in the most angelic manner that I was still working off the ill-effects of the tainted meat.

The bulk of the day went toward repairing the sluice, which I have done as best I can. When I have made my fortune and come calling on you proper, I will share with you this letter along with my autobiography so that you can come to understand the warm ardor with which I regard you as I remain now and forevermore your devoted admirer,

John William Calder

POST 3

A week has slipped along since I last wrote. Though the days pass filled with toil, still I do not lament. I shall persevere in my endeavor to secure my fortune or perish in the attempt. I find the load of my drudgery lightened when recalling amusing incidents which I yet intend to pen. The plain fact is, however, at end of the day, I find both body and mind so beset with fatigue as to preclude all possibility of any sort of further pursuit.

I have discovered an additional neighbor, by all appearances a deformed albino native child. The wretch watched me from over yonder rise while I worked in the river this afternoon. The feeling I was being stared at suddenly washed upon me. On my word, I have never in my life seen a waif half as white as this poor malformed native entirely destitute of clothing . . .






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Sunday, June 29, 2014

SHEPHOTE


















March 15 - First day on the job.

I'm saving the demons.

Way out in the boondocks here on the north fork of Mist River, I am now a field biologist working for the Confederated Tribes of the Yupa Indian Reservation. I live on-site at this juvenile acclimation facility for Spring devils, which are kept in long rectangular enclosures called raceways, or ponds. There are four of those, and a fifth circular station as well containing the ones with the most bacteria. Not quite sure on that. More details to come.

I’ve been telling people for years that water demons are real, but I never thought I’d be working to help save them. Plum job out here, too. It’s not minimum wage and I don’t have to be around downer people all day.

The raceways are about thirty yards long, six feet deep and eight feet wide. The lumpy gray eggs at the bottoms of the ponds are manufactured from adult DNA. After they hatch they’ll get released into the river. Some will go all the out to the ocean, some will head underground, and some will leave the water to hide in the forest, but most of the demons will stay in the river.

Raceway temperatures and dissolved oxygen readings are recorded several times a day. The raceways get their water pumped from the river. It looks like a of maintenance is required to keep the generator generating and the pump pumping. If frazzle ice clogs the filter in the river, the water level will drop and an alarm will sound. There's a whole huge procedure on that. I really hope it never happens.

I read the manual into my tape recorder and I'll play it back in a couple of hours so I can brainwash myself while I sleep. I have to get up to speed as fast as I can because I was hired at the last minute. Luckily, someone got hurt on the job. So they thought of me. All of my pestering finally paid off.

Living in a trailer in the compound out here enclosed by its cyclone fence capped with barbed wire is a small price to pay for gainful employ.


March 16 - Day 2

Turned eggs, cleaned screens, called in. You have to fiddle with the yagy on its pole outside the trailer door to get the cell phone to work when the 2-way radio doesn't. I wasn’t supposed to turn them yesterday but I had to today. I took all the meter readings and checked the oil on the pump. You have to turn off the alarms, idle down for two minutes, flip the circuit breaker on the generator and idle that one down, then go back to the pump, turn it off, and return to the generator to turn that off, wait fifteen minutes, and then check the oil at the pump.

Minutia. One must be exacting.

To turn the generator back on, you have to turn the key to preheat, turn the idle up (RPMs at 1900) and flip the circuit breaker back on. Then you go to the pump, hold the tottle switch in, turn the key to start, and keep the tottle in until the oil gauge gets up to 20 or 30, at which point you let off the tottle and turn the throttle up to 17 or 18. Once the hose is inflated, you can turn the alarms back on.

It's not rocket science. It's demon science. There are lots of little procedures that you could forget and would be sorry if you did. Each of the four hundred eggs is worth about three thousand dollars, considering the billion-plus being spent by the power company whose dams woke the demons from their long natural cycle prematurely. Gets kinda pricey.


March 17 - Day 3

Erin go bragh. This beer I crack in honor of the little people.

Today I shored up the sump with a bunch of boulders to deflect debris in the river, then I waded upstream to check the view and was promptly greeted by a big river otter slinking through the snowy timber along the bank. He didn't notice me until he got pretty close, and when he did he didn't seem too impressed. What an office. I get paid to play in the river at my mountain retreat. Instead of a tie around my neck I get neoprene waders. Not around my neck, of course. I wear them the regular way.

Something strange today: I heard a voice, or voices, outside the trailer this morning. It annoyed me because I didn't expect it at all. One of the things I'm supposed to do is guard the facility. It's in the contract that they have to have somebody out here at all times, which is like having a guard on a desert island. I didn't hear what was said, but it was definitely at least one voice and it was right outside the window. I immediately went outside to see who it was, but there was no one to be found.

A weird nimbus wavers over the ponds. Supposedly this is intended. But then again other sources say nobody really knows whether demon eggs glow in the wild or not.


March 18 - Day 4

Between raceways two and three there's a metal walkway over which I do deep-dip pushups, a hand on the rail of either pond. Builds wide striated slabs of pec. Then there's the bar by the generator missing a portion of cyclone fence to make room for the manifold intake hoses. That's where I get my pullups for my delts and lats, and chinups for my biceps with legs held up perpendicular for the abs. When I cross raceways over the top on the grip strut to brush the screens I alternate going up on one leg, working each quad slow. I never use the wheelbarrow, but walk the feed bags from the shed, and pump a few delt reps for good measure. Buckets of feed serve as dumbbells. I can’t stop thinking about demon wings. God that must be great to fly.

I hiked up a hill this afternoon before dusk for an eagle-eye view to take some pics of the facility. On the way up I noticed a footprint. Or what looked like one. The snow had melted. I don't know what kind of animal makes a track that looks like a human footprint and I don't know why someone would be barefoot on that hillside. Supposedly we have cougar and bear around here. There was a bit of a sweep where the instep would be which seems consistent with an animal track elongated by a backward skid, and the print also showed five toes. I took a picture of it with my boot in the frame for reference.

The sound of the river lulls me to sleep.


March 19 - Day 5

I woke up this morning mysteriously fascinated by the Greek goddess Hestia and plan to undertook a thorough investigation upon her history precisely because all of the experts claim the virgin sister of Zeus is virtually of no importance. How can this be, I wonder?

I’ll turn the eggs again tonight, and turn up the heat in the raceways a little.Snow again today.

Clusters of bare branches coated with snow make the river look like the ghost of a giant coral reef. The weight of the snow bends the boughs into claw-like arches beneath which I pass when taking temperature readings from the river.

They say cabin fever tends to strike after a week or so. Mostly because of the typical 2-way call-in, I bet:

"Base, this is Acclimation, I couldn't hear you on that. Could you repeat transmission? Over."

"...to the...I'll...switch to the ...-ver."

"Base, can you repeat that? Over."

I notice a tone on the 2-way, as though the person on the other end needs to act all put out in order to feel seeming qualified. So far I don't see a whole lot of caring about the demons. What I find is a handful of cliques. Nope, even out here, you can't get away from the grade school games. Glad I brought books with me.


March 21 – Day 7

Last night the goddess spoke to me in dream. Her true name, I discovered, is Shephote. Worshiped in Sumeria, worshiped in Egypt, she was one of those in Cuneiform called the Anunnaki. Increasingly in the dream she conferred her love upon me, and I came to realize that hers were the hidden hands which have helped me many times in my life from afar. She's the actual source of the virgin goddess myth. I feel it. The reason why she's discounted is because she's so powerful.

The project supervisor, I am told, will show up here sometime this afternoon. He's an okay guy when we're alone, but that changes whenever anybody else is around. Looks like one of the eggs is leaking . . . 




More SHEPHOTE to come!


The trip to otherworldly destiny starts here.

STEWART KIRBY books



Monday, June 23, 2014

PUNCHY BUFFET

(From THE MESMERIZER)



In the middle of talking about stage blocking for the production, Mary Annette turned to see the still and silent figure, ebon cape astir. She and Randy both caught a wince-producing whiff. Chewing a big bite of burger with a grimace, Randy spun around and said with a half-full mouth, “Frickin’ crap, what the hell?”
             
The eerily lit form in the premature gathering dark seemed carved in stone before suddenly springing to life. A few steps forward with a long purposeful stride and a black gloved hand shot out, swatting the burger from Randy’s grip onto the dirt and straw where it lay open and ugly for all to see, the dead mangled meat of the patty defiled with debris.
            
 “Hey!” Randy shouted. “What the hell’s the matter with you?”
             
The horizontally spinning Chair-o-Planes seemed to perfectly mesh with the vertical turn of the Ferris Wheel behind the black hat, shades and swathing, from which now came a labored, muffled mumbling, too horribly hoarse and garbled to be understood. A shadowy arm came up, pointing at Mary Annette. More garbled sounds followed–with increased vehemence.
             
Randy’s voice, starkly contrasted, sounded unnaturally shrill. “Listen man, you’re a frickin’ nut–”
             
The fist that connected with Randy’s face sent him sprawling to the ground. Largely this was from Randy’s own overreaction in trying to avoid the punch, but he got clocked jarringly enough on the side of the face that he could not say anything, and for a moment could not even see as the figure waded in.
             
Mary Annette screamed as the revving engine of the carnival stunt rider’s motorcycle blared and the dead flesh fists of her old boyfriend audibly impacted on the long-haired actor’s head.
             
It was a fair fight. Several times Randy tried to marshal his forces, taking on a film-inspired martial arts pose and simultaneously emitting what he intended to be intimidating screams of warning, but with his boxed ears ringing so hard, his vision blurred so bad and his balance so extremely off, he stumbled into the Test Your Strength apparatus, flailing fingers lucking onto the handle of an oversize mallet.
             
Randy raised the mallet high overhead at arm’s length, summoning a desperate yell as the black-caped figure appeared in his impaired vision distorted like a cubist painting wielding the glistening blade of a sword swallower distracted by the fight. That the blade was blunt mattered little when the dark figure darted in thrusting forward like a fencer. Mallet in hand, Randy ran.
             
Carnies came rushing over in increasing numbers, jacked-up and intent on stopping the attacker in black, even as Randy slammed into bystanders in his dazed dash to escape. Yet with unchecked stride the dark one struck at stumbling carnies, eluding the outstretched groping arms that came at him from all sides and gaining on Randy, who, in doubling back toward the Ferris Wheel dropped the mallet and leaped to catch an upward-rising seat, the empty bucket of which rocked and swayed as he struggled to pull himself up over the back.
             
The Ferris Wheel operator, having joined in the attempt to intercept, lay sprawled among rigged milk bottles and softballs, unable to stop the wheel as Randy managed to pull himself into the seat just past the top of the ride in time to see the dark figure, black cape fluttering, ascend the summit with sword in hand two buckets behind and coming down like a nightmare distilled into corporeal form . . . 



(From UNTOLD FRONTIER)


And they grooved through the grove heartbeat in hand, as one with the wind as were their kind, and they came to a place where Yupa warrior guards spun round from behind trees with great big knives and slapped high fives as the three passed by, swiveling like that periodically right on up to the twenty-four foot square pit wherein a one-eyed black bear with mange sat on its vaguely gray and pinkish mottled haunches looking up at the moneyed mitts of the ravenous spittle-spewing crowd which consisted of screaming pink-skinned white men, many of whom wore bright white powdered wigs and said things like, “You filthy sons of whores!” and, “Kill! Kill! Die! Die!” with such furious exertion--doubly resounding on the appearance of the astonishingly scantily clad Sacajariton--that it was a matter of some several moments before every man there felt fully the presence of Danyul Bune among them, and subsequently shut the fuck up.

It was a foregone conclusion to all who knew Danyul that he would win, or at least should have been, not simply because the bear was small and sick and lacked an eye, but because Danyul had, far and away, the best resume of anybody around for physically besting other beings. Pick a contest, any contest, Danyul always won. Some folks said it bothered him that far to the east there was another guy in coonskin whose name sounded the same. Playing the fame game. When in fact if you actually compared them, Danyul was way better.

For one thing, Danyul was only four years old when he first killed a man. Danyul was a robust man who looked very strong, but Danyul was much stronger than he looked. Sturdily constructed in the extreme, he could at the same time imbibe to much further an extent than one would ever think of even dreaming humanly possible. Some contended Danyul Bune wasn’t even human.

He was already stripped down to the waist. Danyul’s super-manly torso, sporting just that right amount of sag, rigorously jiggled when he dropped down in the pit. Very authentic. Still, he had the balls.
Tracker yelled encouragement at the lip of the pit. “Yeee-haww, Danyul! Show that mangy ol’ bar what’s what! Wooo-weee!”

What was left of the bear’s hair flew off in clumps as it flared up in defense of its tortured life. At this point, it only wanted out, really. But Danyul wasn’t having any of it. He didn’t like the way this goddam bear was looking at him. The bear had, Danyul strongly felt, shown him grave insult. It had initiated asininity. Danyul had taken a personal dislike to it. The code of honor had been breached, and Danyul demanded justice.

“Don’t fuck with me, bitch!” Danyul barked an inarticulate oath, lunging in with a left hook that connected at the base of the bear’s jaw and sent it sprawling to the length of its chain with an audible snap of the spine that nearly killed it.
The cheers of the men resounded through the redwoods as Danyul Bune bashed the bear's brains clear out of its screaming skull with a loud and sudden burst! Later on, after getting paid, with Sacajariton on one arm, a stein of beer in hand, tokin' a fattie, he'd hear Tracker recount the way the bear's neck stretched waaaay out when Danyul struck it, and how the blow lifted the bear clean off of the dirt, so that it hung in the air for one golden moment for everyone forever. But this, this moment was his.

A detachment of fops from Lord Buttle's stockade accosted Danyul and Tracker after they'd dropped Sacajariton off at her place. Tracker quickly inferred that the fops had stupidly bet on the bear, and now as revenge for their loss they claimed the right to detain and search Danyul Bune's person.

Not being a man to suffer others treading on his liberty, Danyul Bune whipped out the war hatchet he kept at his side with a bloodcurdling whoop and shocked the assemblage of freedom-hating functionaries by severing their leader's skull clear from his body with one quick swipe. Dark arcs of blood fountained from the fresh stump. The white wig, spattered with red, flew aside and the shocked, distorted face winced on contact with the surface of the trail . . .




(From THE TOWER)



Imaginary pistol emptied, the wigged-out off-duty cop charged.

“Holy shit!” Phil shouted as he bobbled the joint on remembering now where he'd seen this Leslie guy before. But little was the chance for Phil to express his inner feelings in the manner of finding himself on the informal with Leslie when the intoxicated officer slogged himself free of the muck in his mental mire long enough to lunge himself bodily at Phil, flattening him backwards utterly befuddled. Phil couldn't tell if he was being arrested and feared resisting, but found himself unable to do anything else. This proved ineffectual against the drug-addled whacked-out cop writhing and screeching for backup as he maneuvered Phil into a full Nelson and began working his head toward his chest.

“Hey! Fuckin’ shit!” Phil grunted through his teeth.

“Back off!” Lash screamed, staring into space with swirling eyes. “I said no! I said no! You’ll never take me alive! I'll kill you, pothead! Die, pothead, die!” . . . 






(From DRIFTING ROOM)




Maenads and magicians swam in lurid light. Increasingly Sam had difficulty telling sketchy people acting pretentious apart from pretentious people acting sketchy. So overcast was the night, particularly over the field, that the waxing moon appeared as a silver sliver. Dead Smoke, a local band unknown to most, materialized upon the bandstand in conjunction with a smattering of applause which may have had more to do with a successful tossing up of shoes just as a scarlet-clad figure with an antiquated hat bearing a bobbing feather emerged over Sam’s left shoulder in the confines of the crowd and spoke in suave tones of a dream he’d had where small aliens with scythes labored in that very field. Huge white heads under frayed straw hats bent low, reaper’s blades swinging to the steady cicada thrum as dour overseers with black-lined eyes made almond-like sat rocking on porches with slow sips of cool drinks and shotguns in their laps while mutated children suffered wet bandages wrapped around their skulls intended to elongate them in the manner of ancient Egyptians.
             
In Sam’s clouded vision plunging cataracts resounded. Honeyed speech from the scarlet figure poured into his ear. Strange images mingling with the music manifested in his mind. Nightmarish faces tipped back laughing. Icy laughter rang. Whup-whup-whupping shoes windmilled in the dark sent scent like spuming censors of votaries at variegated speeds–now threatening to slice through the crowd like a runaway radial arm saw–now ranging round worlds in impossibly enormous orbits–now a roulette wheel–now a cosmic cyclone–all molecular action was wrapped up in the motion of the shoes–now a single spinning source, now countless replications, vibrations glimmering like rings spreading in pools–nightmare faces plastered on darkness tipped back ringing icy laughter mismatched with monstrous mouths–
             
Suddenly Sam leaped up on the stage, tearing the mike from the stand. Dead Smoke had just finished their set. Epiphany was coming on.
             
“I come from another dimension! I am not of this world! Listen to me! I had to get a paper route sack! A paper route sack with a doll inside! I didn’t know about the doll! I didn’t know it was made of this weird cork stuff that’s like a homing device for aliens! I’m not kidding! Back in the 1800s an alien was down in a well trying to find something with this homing device thing, I don’t know, dead aliens I guess, but a girl accidentally dropped a bucket on its head and knocked it loopy. Wait! It’s a long story! She’s a crazy old woman now I tell you! But the aliens, they got me after I got the doll because I was too tired! I didn’t know! Except they couldn’t control me for long because of a blow to the head I took from a fall when I was a kid. So then when I was on the spaceship, I beat a bunch of them up! I was hitting and hitting and hitting so much! That’s how I got here. It was an accident. That’s all. One of the aliens got accidentally zapped down with me. Right in the middle of Carata. And then I found out I have the super powers when I tried to catch it. I ran and ran so hard. That was when I cut my hand in a knife shop. Bugs and stuff that lick my blood, I know this now, that’s why they grow big. I can’t explain why. But the alien jumped on the back of a truck and I got a ride from an old Indian guy. He said his name was Chimney. Does anybody know a Chimney? And then when we got down here I knew the alien was somewhere nearby, because that’s one of my powers too, and I just sort of laid low, which was perfect because back home I lived here anyway! In the parallel universe. All I wanted was to get back home. Then it turned out my parallel universe girlfriend’s kid was helping the alien. How’s that for weird? But it was allergic, allergic to peanuts, and it died. So I stuffed the body in my pack and took it to the old woman. Right here in town. It’s the only way I’ll ever see the aliens to maybe catch a ride back. She’s probably still bathing it in buttermilk right now. I don’t know. I’m supposed to go back later and help her stuff it in the freezer. I know all this sounds crazy, but it really is the truth. You people have no idea. You run around acting like you know everything, when really you haven’t got the slightest clue what’s going on at all.”
             
At this point it was unclear to Sam if the mike had even been working. Members of the band Epiphany had been engaging themselves so busily off the stage with cords, equipment, instruments and various other apparatus, perhaps assuming Sam was himself part of the event, a postulation which may have been shared by a majority of those concerned, that it was possible no one in the band paid more than cursory attention to a word that he had said.
            
 Indeed, so forcefully and incoherently did Sam unburden himself with his bizarre announcements, and so completely unencumbered was the truth of his experience with the trappings of artifice which the peoples of all worlds generally recognize what is called communication, that no one in the crowd at that hour of the night questioned the authority of Sam’s self-expression in the slightest. But if Sam had been given a free pass by a less than keenly observing audience, suddenly that pass was revoked on the nearly simultaneous occurrence of what were for Sam perhaps the two strangest events of his journey yet to unfold.
             
At the sound of thunderous applause Sam looked to see, stepping on stage, Neil Young. Instinctively Sam withdrew. Rather, he started to–wide-eyed, open-mouthed, dazed–when something beyond the clamorous throng had him doing, had anyone been observing, an unintentionally decent impression of Radar O’Reilly from “MASH.”
             
“Listen–listen! What’s that?” he said, and not a single person heard as Neil Young, backed by Epiphany, launched into “Rockin’ in the Free World.” Just when Neil reached, with ferocious intensity, the line by which he titled the song, there appeared from overhead nothing less than a gigantic bumblebee which descended toward the side of the stage where Sam now stood, totally disoriented and utterly befuddled.
             
Up went his arms–whether in supplication or self-defense will forever remain unclear–and the next thing Sam knew he was both gripping and gripped by two of six oddly-jointed armor-like legs, the ones in back to which he clung each as long as he was tall. Plucked like a piece of pollen, Sam dangled over the crowd.
             
Of those who even noticed–and the fact that not all did will not be too difficult to be believed on the part of those who have ever seen Neil Young perform–some percentage doubtless assumed the bee was simply part of the show, manipulated perhaps by pulleys and wires arranged overhead and unseen in the dark. Others there, following the lead of the crowd around them, contributed to the uninterrupted flow of general hysteria.
             
Whatever the case, in the moments it took for the monstrous creature to adjust its flight to the weight differential, Sam overheard overhead from two or three sources in the crowd, while his flailing feet brushed hands outstretched as though to receive him, “It’s a free bee!” and “It’s the bee’s knees!” and “Look at him, he’s catching a buzz!” 
            

Sam felt a tugging which nearly grounded him, then suddenly rose, borne again, bare feet brushing the tightrope wire. They had gotten his shoes. Socks, too. Some cheers flew up from the crowd as the song went on and high over the giant trees Sam was carried completely away . . . 


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