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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution


 
The Essay
Show #494
How Hungry Are You?
David Gunn

When Franklin Artemus Burns began to hit the bottle, he did so with a small caliber pistol. For Burns was no toper--he was a marksman. For years, he was also a marked man, but a prolonged stint in the Frobisher Bay Witness Protection Program successfully shortened his high profile. Anyway, Burns typically "hit" the bottle from a distance of twenty-five meters. His pistol fired pellets that he made fresh daily from an amalgam of cork, solder and aspartame, and when they hit the bottle, they pinged. Depending on what part of the bottle the pellets hit, they pinged different pitches. The best bottles could produce six distinct tones, descending in frequency from the top, or suds, to the foot, or bottom. In between, in ascending order, were the flank, the midlothian, the thorazine and the knack. By ricocheting the pellets off the flank and midlothian, Burns could also produce the first dozen pitches of the overtone series. He had ample time to practice during those long days at Frobisher, and by the time he left, he could play nearly thirty clearly recognizable tunes. He even composed his own striking piece for bottle and pistol called "Smith and Wesson Oil" that eventually found its way into the nebulous underworld of the Momnonpop, a mysterious community of musical matriarchs.

One of the Momnonpop's clanswomen was Ruby Primavera, who dayjobbed as host and producer of "How Hungry Are You?," a popular cable television quiz show. She was so impressed by Burns' talent that she personally spirited him out of Frobisher six months ahead of schedule and booked him on the show as a contestant.

The premise of HHAY? was for two contestants to finish the phrase "I'm so hungry, I could eat a [blank]." If the other contestant challenged the assertion, the claimant would literally have to eat his words. Or, as Ruby liked to say, "put yer mouth where yer money is!" And money was indeed a big factor of the show, for the contestant could win a slew of valuable prizes if he did eat what he'd claimed.

Burns' opponent was a formidable one--Gheorghe Zamfir, a one-time panpipe virtuoso and the current champion. During his two-month reign, he'd overwhelmed his opponents by eating, among other items, a box of hand puppets, an abridged proctology manual, a cubic foot of Key West beach, a full-length raccoon coat and a horse. Consumption of that last little item raised a hullabaloo all out of proportion to the act itself. An investigative panel determined that the slaughtering and dressing of the animal was well within the boundaries of good taste for cable television, and only the first two rows of the audience were "inconvenienced" by the resultant spattering of blood and gore. Nonetheless, animal rights groups not only succeeded in banning the act from future programs, they even managed to strike "I'm so hungry I could eat a horse!" from the Office of Homemaker Security's list of politically correct axioms.

Now Burns took no particular joy in eating odd entities and, thanks to a diet rich in auk at Frobisher, he wasn't even much of a hearty trencherman. Still, Ruby had a feeling he'd match up well against ol' Zamfir.

Due to an irregularity in the cathode ray apparatus, the show was broadcast live before a taped audience. But that gave Ruby complete control of the final televised product, which suited her just fine. At nine o'clock sharp, the HHAY Trio--piano, bass and fish whistle--struck up the theme music and the big klieg lights crackled to life, illuminating the stage, where a nonplused Franklin Burns stood in a faux cafeteria line behind a self-assured Gheorghe Zamfir. Behind the sneeze curtain were replicas of the objets de nourriture that had been consumed during the course of the show. Burns stared at the set of macramé-covered golf clubs with a feeling of dismay and disbelief. A smattering of applause greeted Ruby as the music ended and she sashayed onto the stage. Grinning broadly, she shouted to the spectators "and how hungry are you?!" They responded--or will have responded, once they were synchronized with the current program--in a cacophony of suggestions, some less broadcast-worthy than others. Ruby held up her hands in feigned shock, then signaled the would-be studio audience for silence. After they complied, she explained the rules of the game, introduced the contestants, then broke for a string of commercial advertisements while a technician repaired a burst thyratron on Camera No. 2.

By nine-ten, the technical difficulties had been overcome and the game could begin. "How hungry are you?" Ruby calmly asked Franklin. "I guess I could eat a fig," came the measured reply. Ruby made a moue and the audience responded with hoots of derision. "I mean a fig tree!" appended Burns. Ruby beamed and the audience cheered. Turning to Zamfir, Ruby asked "And how hungry are you?" Gheorghe smirked and said "If I continue to win, and I will, I could eat up all of the profits this program has produced since its inception." Ruby blanched and the audience sucked in a collective breath. Such blatant surliness from a contestant was unheard of! Ruby turned back to Burns. "And, ah, how ... how hungry are ..." But Zamfir interrupted her. "No, I want to see him eat his fig tree! According to the HHAY Rule Number 18a, I challenge him!"

Ruby immediately left the stage to check on the rule, so she was not privy to the events that followed. But according to a witness in the audience-still-to-come, Zamfir pulled from his pocket a flask, unscrewed the cap and tilted it to his lips. Instinctively, Burns drew his pistol and fired. The pellet hit square on the bottle's midlothian, and the resulting overtone sent a shock wave through the erstwhile panpipist's body. Zamfir folded up into a neat, three-dimensional rebus, which instantly rendered him ineligible for all of his prior winnings. Simultaneously, the new thyratron burst, plunging the stage into Loch Ness. Burns was never seen again, though the Frobisher Bay Witness Protection Program is reportedly once again back to full strength.

The strength of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar's 494th episode lies in its ability to appeal to the hunger of its audients, and here with a description of today's fare is le sifflez de poissons du jour, Kalvos.