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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution


 
The Essay
Show #369
Atoka
David Gunn

Borraka B. Cromwell holds the business card up to the light afforded by the salad-in-a-can vending machine and reads it again. It says "Evadio, Mineral Communicator, Atoka, Oklahoma. Ring 326-7625." Three weeks ago, the card was thrust into his hand by a mysterious woman in an adobe hat in the lobby of a hotel in Puyallup, Washington. It wasn't the woman's fading in and out of focus or her leafy habiliments that awarded her the mysterious moniker. Rather it was the consort of snuffling noselets that peeked out from under the adobe hat's brim that pushed Cromwell's mysterious! button. He'd heard of animal communicators, psychic couriers who surfed the world wide web of parallel universes in search of disembodied pets to chat up, and then convey any nuggets of doggy wisdom to their former owners with all of the panache of a pineapple-ham pizza deliverer. But a mineral communicator? Who needs one! True, he'd had a Pet Rock when the fad swept the country in the mid-1970s, but he had never thought of it as an existential entity with which to correspond. Still, curiosity had gotten the better of him, and now, after driving a souped-up Segway for 2,161 miles, he is in McGuffy's Diner, the part of the Route 75 Truck Stop south of Atoka that is least likely to be listed in the Michelin Guide. He dials the number--which for whatever reason spells "fat rock"--and speaks with a woman whose voice provokes memories of both gherkins and titanium. The conversation is brief and wholly confusing. The only part that he understands is that she’ll be there in ten minutes ready to "get off his rocks."

Cromwell slips into a dining booth. His pantaloons squeak a lively glissando as they rub against the vinyl seat covering. Thinking that he's signaling for her, a waitress abruptly descends upon him. She is helpful the way a cold sore is helpful--which is to say, not a lot. In fact, not at all. Unable to provide any details concerning the House Special, the waitress badgers Cromwell into ordering it anyway, then she vanishes like a randy fogdog in an all-you-can-eat cathouse. Cromwell turns to the booth's entertainment center, a portable 45-rpm record changer, and plunks a quarter into slot C1, "Atoka." An articulated arm retrieves a scratchy disk from the library of three, positions it onto a spindle, then drops a stylus onto the grooved vinyl surface. The song begins:

   I like to drink my cola coca, midst the mosses of Atoka,
   An artichoke provokes a joke about a Yokohama polka,
   I sometimes take or two a toke o’ pure Jamaican smiley smoka,
   A locomota full o’ mocha chokes a bloke-a from Atoka
   Oklahoma, Oklaho ...

"Borraka B. Cromwell, I presume?"

The voice cuts through the lyrics like amebic dysentery through a perforated duodenum. He turns down the volume on the entertainment center and attempts to stand up, but the vinyl seat cover is having a cross-species mind-meld with his pants and won't let go. "Evadio, I presume," he says, acceding to gravitational prerogatives. And he waves her to the bench seat across from her.

Cromwell has the distinct feeling he's met her before. The adobe hat, the leafy apparel, the extra sniff organs--there is something familiar about her that he can’t quite put his finger on, especially when she drifts out of focus.

"It's true, I talk to rocks. What questions do you have for them today?" Her voice comes from behind him, and he automatically turns around. But there is nothing there except for a flickering image of the interstices of a trouser fly as seen through the eyes of a vinyl life form. A complementary flicker of doubt about the wisdom of his journey momentarily derails Cromwell’s wagon train of thought, but he soon recovers.

"Ahh," he begins, but then falters.

"Here. I'll help. First of all, what kind of rock was it?"

With her voice still 80% disembodied, the noses snuffling a rhythmically wheezy accompaniment to "Atoka," a certain degree of misguided passion emanating from the seat of his pants, and now suddenly a plate of unidentifiable House Special thrust in front of him, Cromwell's faltering capacity easily continues unabated.

"Igneous, sedimentary or metamorphic?"

A tendril of cognition abruptly regains control of his thought processes. "Sedimentary," he declares.

"Clastic or chemically precipitated?"

"Clastic." He doesn't know where he's going with this, but it's better than trying to figure out where the serving dish ends and the House Special begins.

"Shale, sandstone or breccia?"

"Sandstone."

"Quartz, feldspar or argillaceous fragments?"

"Feldspar."

"Male, female or gender-neutral?"

"Mmmmm ... ah, I don't know. How could I know?"

Evadio smiles. "I merely wanted to see if you were paying attention. Good, now I'll slip into an all-points trance and access the sandstone database. When next you talk to me, I'll be ..." And just like that, without so much as a "by your leaf," she is gone. Cromwell stands up--his trousers having apparelently ended their tête-à-tête with the vinyl seat covering-- and peers over the table. Where Evadio had sat is now a small, oblong, gray pebble, which looks a lot like his erstwhile Pet Rock, all the way down to the cardboard transport case. Silently, except for "Atoka" gently blatherskiting in the background, he stuffs the House Special into the box, places two two-dollar bills beneath it, and leaves.

Leaves--back in the car park, Cromwell's Segway is covered with leaves, even though he parked it well away from the baobab trees, which seem a bit out of place in the non-tropics of southern Oklahoma. If he regards the leaves just so, they resemble little noselets.

"Sedimentary?" The question comes to him out of the blue, like a ventriloquizing cloud. He ignores it, pumps the Segway's fuel bladder, engages the topological gyrometer, lets out the choke, and is quickly away in a cloud of feldspar fumes. "Clastic? Breccia? Gender- neutral? Argillaceous?" The questions dog at his heels like ... well, enough similes. For that matter, enough of Cromwell and Evadio, of fogdogs and vinyl, of gherkins and titanium. And soon, perhaps, enough of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar, for this 369th may be one of the last of its episodes, thanks to the short-sighted, bottom-line mentalities of corporate moguls who have better things to do with low-wattage radio stations than allow the free flow of musical ideas from your obedient servants, Damian and Kalvos.