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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution


 
The Essay
Show #151
The End of the Road for Ed Loudlegg
David Gunn
The commercial airliner had been circling Greater Newark Airfield for only a minute, but to at least one cooped up passenger it felt like an eternity. Although the flight had originated in nearby Boston, normally a scant hour away, "playful tail winds" -- as the captain so euphemistically called them -- had blown the vessel hundreds of miles off course. During the past four hours, the pilot had tried to land in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Detroit and Omaha, but in vain. More than a few of the airborne patrons had responded to the turbulence by imitating the scene in The Exorcist in which Linda Blair's head spins round while she ralphs half a bucket of pea soup, and the seat pockets soon were glutted with used motion discomfort bags. At last the sickening yawing slackened, and the jet propelled machine promptly initiated a steep descent, so precipitous, in fact, that it caused an unlocked sweet trolley to roll from the back of the plane all the way to first class, where it bumped the automatic oxygen mask dispenser switch. In window seat 38F, Ed Loudlegg swatted the hissing safety device away as it brushed against his face. The sibilant sound conjured up a long suppressed memory of a camping trip in the high Arizona desert: It was dusk; he'd just unwisely driven his Fiat Spyder across a dry, jagged arroyo, and all four tires had been punctured by cactus spines. As the tires slowly went flat, a swarm of nettled pythons slithered towards him seeking warmth ... and maybe supper, too.

The instant the giant wheels grazed the tarmac, Ed prized open the window, stuck his face out, and gratefully breathed the swampy metropolitan New Jersey air. An alarm sounded, the cabin pressure dropped to 80%, and a severely coifed stewardess raced down the aisle to scold the claustrophobic passenger. The copilot reversed the engines, and the plane abruptly shuddered to a halt and began to back up, away from the terminal and towards the Meadowlands Sports Complex, where an open air flea market disguised illicit commerce with renegade OPEC members.

Coming to a stop just short of the Grimpen Mire Country Club, the aircraft disgorged its cabinful of queasy passengers into a waiting shuttle bus, which whisked them to the terminal. Ed was as relieved as the others to set foot on solid ground again, but his schedule demanded that he hop the next available flight to Atlanta. He was, you see, a periodical publisher, a magazine maven, and his life was dictated by time management constraints. He was already an hour late for an appointment to peddle point-of-sale advertising in his newest trade rag, Popular Marketing Mechanics, to a north Georgia consortium, and he feared if he canceled the meeting, it would reflect badly on him. For while he and his publications were well respected in the industry, he couldn't escape the fact that he was, in stature anyway, short. So he tried to compensate by always going that extra, well, six to eight inches.

Today's extra kilofoot, therefore, put him aboard a charter flight to Atlanta. Luckily, the trip was smooth and uneventful, and he deplaned refreshed and relaxed. As he strolled through the concourse towards baggage claim, however, he sensed that something was drastically out of kilter. The air smelled vaguely of hydrogen peroxide, the overhead lights were dim and winked out as he passed them, the people occasionally walked through solid objects, his own center of gravity kept shifting, and the voice amplified by the loudspeakers was in a language he didn't recognize. As he approached the car rental desk, his nerves on edge, a premonition haunted him. Although it was the same clerk, wearing the same uniform, uttering the same banal pleasantries, Ed was certain this wasn't the same agency with which he'd done business a dozen times. Then he noticed the name: it wasn't Alamo; it was Z'Ha'Dum.

Fear gripped him and, simultaneously, so did the bony hands of a tall, colorless man, clad in the gruesome garb of a madman. And so did he so act, as he raised a cudgel and brought it down hard on Ed Loudlegg's head, shouting what sounded like "flambeau oriange!" It was all over in a few horrible seconds. A bystander, too shocked to react as the madman sprinted to the exit, began to scream as Ed crumpled onto the floor, his vital fluids gushing from mouth, nose, and ears. A security team arrived, cordoned off the area, and then a coroner to officially pronounce the obvious.

So many of us muddle through life trying to do good work, some even striving for a betterment of human existence, such as composing that great American electroacoustic piano trio or ridding the world of anchovies, and yet unexpected horrors may await us at any turn. The only solution is to hunker down with episode 151 of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar which, for the next two hours, will try to keep the madness of wolves from your door, beginning with the worldly observations of Kalvos.