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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution


 
The Essay
Show #193
Double Hearing-ing
David Gunn

The woman sauntered into the tavern and sat down on the stool in front of the piano. She rolled up her sleeves, revealing a liver spot tattoo the size of Shamu the Whale. And that was her second most prominent feature. She studied the keyboard as if it was the final exam for a college podiatry course she had no recollection of ever taking, although the lowermost octave did seem to resemble a cut-away diagram of a bunion she had once seen. The candy corn wired to the music rack likewise recalled her art major roommate's hilarious send-up of the callus exhibit in the medical school's commissary. Unbidden, the barkeep, a former chess master with a checkered past, sidled up to her and poured her a plantar's wart punch. The woman took a belt, tightened it, and began to play. From a slow, unassuming chimney blues there abruptly erupted a mad macareña that took the place by storm and drink. Her hands danced wildly over the keys, creating wormholes in the continuous fabric of the tavern's space-time musicum. She played the kind of tune that makes a man weep, assuming he just rinsed his eyes with naphtha. The music sizzled through the smoky room like an electrocutioner's jumper cable, causing most of the still conscious patrons to wish for three hands, one to nurse the beverage and the other two to fend off invisible cannibals.

Meanwhile, in a small, unstable office two flights upstairs, Beano Bengaze was also weeping, but for a different reason. He was sitting upright in an armored chair, his back tied behind his hands. In front of him floated Trowler the Trencherman, his rationality-challenged would-be client whom he all too often traded dimensional instability with. Beano had been preparing for a shamanic ritual involving virgin fogdogs. His uttering of dark, limerickal incantations had already summoned the essence of his ancestral warrior, Weasel Slayer, the way the burning of six-year old business receipts summons IRS bagmen keen on auditing. He had placed the fogdogs on a make-do altar comprised of a pile of ledger demand orders on his desk, and had just intoned the verse, "there once was an oriange flambeau," when the piano playing suddenly took a turn for the lunatic, and Trowler simultaneously materialized. And with his arrival, reality, not surprisingly, changed.

Whereas in past encounters, Trowler had quickly lapsed into gibberish, this time, he didn't say a word. That is, he didn't speak anything, since he had left his vocal cords elsewhere. Instead, he produced curiously lilting sounds by vibrating cilia on the inside of his chin horn. But even with his knack of hearing what others didn't want him to hear, Beano couldn't comprehend the trencherman. The racket from the piano playing beneath him simply demanded too much of his senses. So, skipping to step 8 of his in-progress ritual, he instructed Trowler to shellac his lips shut, wrap the trailer from an 8 mm print of Battleship Potemkin around his eyes, plug his ears with lime anechoic gelatin, and infuse his nostrils with a napalm fizz. It was enough to give an otorhinolaryngologist double hearing-ing. However, properly deprived of his senses, Beano could now get the gist of what his visitor wanted. And it didn't especially make sense.

While the manifestation which harangued Beano in his office struggled, as always, with dimensional reality, scraps of anti-Trenchermatter were enjoying an out-of-body experience 150 feet above the known universe. As Beano listened to the present Trowler keen his plight in parallel fifths, an anti-Beano entity slowly coalesced in front of him. Unbidden, a different barkeep opened the door and sidled into the room. He pulled a shoebox from a voluminous apron pocket and placed it in front of the anti-Beano. The doppelshaman flicked off the lid and extracted a pair of rocket shoes. He laced them up and, as the music below entered the frantic stages of the coda, took off like an atomic ferret through a basketful of peat. Bang, came the final, crashing chord in a mode better left to the imagination. At the same time, the Trowler image winked out of existence, the fogdogs absquatulated into the dark office recesses, the barkeep left by another, likewise unbidden door, and Beano's office returned to the kind of irrational stability that only an abiding faith in Weasel Slayer could maintain. As he undid his bindings, Beano once again questioned his species-neutral attitude towards his clientele. Was there no limit to what he'd do for a couple of bucks?

Beano pulled on his yaque boots and clodhoppered down the stairs just as the last notes were being sucked into the ceiling fan's anticlockwise air wash. He strode to the bar and asked the apprentice mixologist who'd been playing the piano. With a gesture that seemed to encompass this and several parallel universes, the man shrugged his shoulders, and pointed to a stain on the far tavern wall. It looked like a liver spot, except that it was the size of Shamu the Whale. Beano sniffed at it, and was immediately struck by the aroma of naphtha. He was struck rather hard, and by the time he came to, the bar was empty save for the fore-image of this 193rd episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar, which is at times as ephemeral as Beano's fogdogs, while at other times seems to go on and on and on until finally put out of its misery by Kalvos.