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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution

The Essay
Show #442
Wholly, Mackerel
David Gunn

Lark A. Clobberworm ladled the Scotch from the self-serve tureen into his tankard, added a dollop of aspartame and a pinch of protactinium, cleared his throat, and knocked back the mixture. He winced as the alcohol hit home, and then shuddered as an uninvited tang engulfed the aftertaste: his whiskey had gone sour. Glancing into the tureen, he noticed a pair of bitterns wading at the far end of the bowl. He tried to shoo them away, but they regarded him with disinterest, almost disdain. Clobberworm withdrew a mackerel from his vest pocket and flung it at the birds. They squawked in alarm and flew indignantly away. Their startled cries got the attention of the mixologist, who had been at the opposite end of the bar carving elegant little caducei out of swizzle sticks. Clobberworm motioned him over, pointing to the tureen. The mackerel was swimming through the spirits slowly, languidly, occasionally licking up rotifers that had homesteaded on the bank of the bowl. The barkeep held a swizzle stick horizontal to and six inches above the Scotch. Abruptly, the mackerel leapt out of the liquid and over the stick, clearing it by a good inch and a half, a genetic memory from his dad, who was a Sea World star. Unlike his pa, however, the mackerel didn't plunge back into the bubbly broth, but instead continued to gain altitude. Exhibiting a flair for the aerodynamical, it sailed all the way up to and through the ceiling, dribbling saturated hydrocarbons as it went.

Clobberworm recalled a similar flying fish incident during a mass at the Church of Ladders in Sepulveda. The cleric had just begun the Rite of Saint Algonquin by pelting the congregation with apple pips when a mackerel flew through the window, circled the iconostasis, and drifted up into the belfry, where it dislodged a packet of Eucharistic wafers that had been lurking there since the Reformation. Blessing it, the cleric declared the fish a Holy Mackerel, though the appellation was later repealed by the Third Vatican Council and Fish Fry.

Meanwhile, one of the hydrocarbons, a benzene radical, had floated ambagiously down from the ceiling and slipped unnoticed into the half-empty tankard. But just as Clobberworm was about to give the concoction a second chance, there came from the hole in the ceiling a noise - faint at first, then gradually louder. Clobberworm had heard the sound once before, when Carmina Burana had tumbled from the 80th floor of the Zippery Brothers Building into a petting zoo. (Why that tune was on the 80th floor of that building in the first place is an improbable story in itself.) The noise grew in volume, and then became hazily visible. It looked nothing like Orff's scenic cantata, not even at thirty-two feet per second per second. Rather, it was a vaguely gray, five-and-three-quarters foot long wienerwurst covered with buttons, scores of them. The buttons pulsated with a rhythm that was precisely mimicked by the rotifers in the tureen. The brew in the tankard, too, responded to the throbbing, and sloshed over the side of the cup. As the barkeep wiped up the spilt liquid, the hydrocarbons bonded with the fibers in the rag, turning it into one of the more unpleasant petting zoo residues. And somewhere in the belfry of a church far away, the erstwhile Holy Mackerel was probably also reacting to the beat of the wienerwurst buttons.

As the volume of the sound increased, it looked less like a wienerwurst and more like Norbert Wiener, the father of cybernetics. The pulsing buttons became stochastic. Some of them turned into plaster found exclusively on the 80th floor of the Zippery Brothers Building; others transformed into little whiskery filaments that bore an uncanny resemblance to Wiener's goatee.

Now a luminous ring began to form around the hole in the ceiling. It grew bright and hot, and some of the surrounding lath started to spark and sizzle. The two bitterns suddenly burst from the hole, flapping their smoldering wings and booming indignantly. Their cries, together with the Carmina Burana-like racket, produced a cacophony that was too much for even Clobberworm to bear, and he sprinted for the exit, followed closely by the bartender, the rotifers and the reference to Sepulveda. Even outside the building, the noise was formidable, daunting, and Clobberworm had to clamp his other mackerel over his ears to maintain his equilibrium.

Just then, the barkeep pointed up in the sky. Clobberworm followed his finger to where two cumulus clouds had collided, resulting in a vapor trail that clearly spelled the word "Noizepunk."

At last, the story that launches Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar's 442nd episode begins to make a modicum of sense, for the combination composer-rapper soon to be live in the studio answers to the Noizepunk name, much as numerous other names--some less egregious than others--are regularly answered by Kalvos.