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The Essay
Show #308
A Long Overdue Recap
David Gunn

If there is one thing this story doesn't need at this point it is another character. Consider: in 24 episodic chapters, commencing way back on December 25, 1999, we've had to work our way through the singularly convoluted goings-on of no fewer than 15 characters: Peter, Peter's Crab Nebula travel agent parents, Clementania Habb, Kinkajoul/Charles VI, Cyanora, Evadio, Canadian Wingate, Bung Hollow Wingate, Juan Trouserini, Beano Bengaze, Weasel Slayer, Professor Warbler Hadley Blackmoor, Betty the Dirigiblist ... and me! But no matter how ill-advised the introduction of yet another character is, I must cede to the wishes of the story, for I am merely the teller of its tale.

With more loose threads than an unraveled Afghan, it is time for a recap.

· Peter, the 17-year old who started the story, was last seen on the second floor of his Uncle Kinkajoul's Saskatoonian cabin confronting about 90 -- an eyrie and a half -- eyeballs.

· Cyanora, who vanished from her kitchen into an Algonquin Hole to the accompaniment of the sound of 400 owls attempting to outwit a giant badger in the rain, is about to -- we are told -- materialize in front of him.

· Peter's parents, having escaped a spacecraft moments before it crashed into Stone Age Earth, were grabbed by an Algonquin Hole, then spat out 12,796 years later in Myrtle Grove, Louisiana.

· Clementania, herself fresh from an Algonquin Hole-displacing experience that put her into the New Hampshire cabin of Beano Bengaze, was awaiting clarification for the odd goings-on from her recontextualized ancestor, Charles Habsburg VI, who likewise had been Algonquin Holed and now answered to the name Kinkajoul.

· Evadio, who started out life as a Crab Nebula tourist client of Peter's parents, suffered the vagaries of Stone Age Earth accommodations before she, too, was "Algonquinized," winding up on the banks of the Sarstoon River in present-day Belize trying to have a conversation with a box of eyeballs cradled by Kinkajoul.

· Juan Trouserini made only a cameo appearance before he was promptly dispatched from this mortal plain by befuddled Belizian Mesolithic tribespersons.

· Beano Bengaze continues to flow in and out of chapters with no apparent schedule, much as his confidant, Weasel Slayer, flows in and out of temporal focus.

· Professor of Calamitology Warbler Hadley Blackmoor and all of his oh-so transparent doppelgängers -- Carlo Bramblework and Lark A. Clobberworm, to name but two -- was last heard from almost but not quite visiting catastrophic mischief upon ancillary character and real-life cartoonist Rube Goldberg. His subsequent whereabouts have not been determined, but are anticipated.

· Betty had been happily landing a transatlantic dirigible at the Lakehurst, New Jersey Naval Air Station in 1937 when an Algonquin Hole shunted her to a game of full-contact bridge in new millennial Indianapolis, whence she was now, presuming the accuracy of the last chapter, about to decamp.

· The Wingates, Canadian, Bung Hollow and also Spengler, who has been mentioned but not featured, have to date escaped any time-and-space altering shenanigans. Relegated to minor roles, they were last heard from attempting to sort out the phenomena of sentient ears, noses and eyes, which is where their story finally picks up.

Living along the banks of the forgottenmost fork of the Gauley River deep in West Virginia's Monongahela Hills, Bung Hollow Wingate was used to events taking their good old sweet time to unfold. But when his Canadian cousin had not so much as exhaled ten minutes after preparing to divulge some startling new truth about evolutionary physics, his patience took a back seat to concern.

Bung Hollow waved his hand in front of Canadian's face. The latter seemed not to notice, although his nose independently tracked the undulating motion like a frog's tongue unerringly follows the flight path of a botfly. Nor did a brief reprise of Saber Dance, recorded on a piano in the lobby of a Puyallup Washington hotel, rouse his cousin.

I, on the other hand -- who, if you've forgotten, have been wandering through a labyrinthine tunnel that somehow links Beano Bengaze's New Hampshire hideaway to that Puyallup hotel -- respond instantly. Yes, I hear the music. It seems to emanate from behind a door in the wall that was illuminated when I squeezed the nose-shaped light switch.

Rube Goldberg, who perhaps is not so ancillary a character as I first thought, may have devised the concept of contraptionology, but it was Borraka B. Cromwell who coined the term. Ergo, Cromwell is the name that we remember, the one that gets the parenthetic mention in the O.E.D., the one that lends its name to a fine line of vacuum cleaners (the CromVacWell®), the one that pops up in Puyallup newspaper crossword puzzle definitions, the one after whom the crafty English lord protector, Oliver, was christened. Further, it was Cromwell who successively applied the term in grant funding projects to turn on the research appropriation tap. But whoever is responsible, contraptionology remains a tangential, if important, part of American popular culture, and one with which I must now deal.

I must deal with it because the door handle that separates me from the haunting strains of Saber Dance is nothing if not a contraption. It is comprised of levers and pulleys, pull-rings and turnbuckles, buttons and bows. According to a rebuslike instruction imprinted in basso-relievo on the door surrounded by images of timpani-wielding nymphs dancing the fandango, I must first step on the treadle. So I do.

Fortunately, which I realize is a relative term here, the ensuing activity will necessarily spill over into the next chapter, thereby obviating the need for another character in this story after all, at least during this 308th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar. And anyway, why introduce another personality when we have all we can manage and more in the Character Dept. with Kalvos?