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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution


 
The Essay
Show #509
The Stern and Exacting Miss Sebastos
David Gunn

Miss Sebastos, the stern and exacting Tai Chi Chuan instructor, stood at the front of the class as twenty students performed a slow-motion synchronous floor exercise. Although the aim of Tai Chi was to interconnect a sequence of movements in as fluid a manner as possible, Miss Sebastos whacked a ruler rhythmically against her palm, whap! whap! whap!, calling out an accompanying cadence like a Marine drill sergeant on amphetamines. "Tranquillity! Continuity! Harmony of movement!" she barked. The class consisted of nineteen adult men and women and one macaque, all of whom jumped perceptibly every time the ruler smacked her palm. (Whap!) One young woman who bore an eerie resemblance to the centermost figure in Picasso's "Guernica" actually jumped out of her skin, then spent the rest of the session painstakingly crawling back inside it. Miss Sebastos taught the Yang long form of Tai Chi Chuan, which she said meant that each participant, if his or her movements were correct, would be measurably longer at the end of the exercise. It was always a good idea for participants to at least act taller, otherwise Miss Sebastos would induce a lengthened torso with a blast from her electro muscular disruption energy device. Whap! Each Tai Chi form was comprised of several postures, each with a carefully chosen name of Chinese origin that correlated with its movements, names such as "Grasping Sparrow's Tail," "Pushing the Mountain" and "Embracing the Tiger." Typically, the posture that followed Embracing the Tiger, at least in Miss Sebastos' class, was "Rushing to Hospital with Deep Puncture Wounds and Lacerations." Whap!

That last especially stern and exacting whack was directed at the two students in the back row who were out of sync with the rest of the class by a good half mountain push. But Dr. Bleiber and the macaque, who had previously run afoul of Miss Sebastos, were in the class under false pretenses. The macaque was there thanks to an anti-discrimination ruling that had rankled Miss Sebastos no end. Its freeform interpretations of the various postures never matched those of the other students. Plus its hygienic practices, honed from years in the jungle, left nothing to the imagination. And Bleiber, of course, was the St. Salmons Hospital surgeon who had performed the operation on Sheila's eyes that transformed them into deadly W ray-spitting weapons. As anticipated, Sheila had used her newfound visionary powers to defeat Asbestosman (see previous chapter for details). But instead of then obeying Dr. Bleiber's subliminal command to submit to further experimentation, she had absquatulated, ruining a whole year of planning!

A tip from the macaque, which was a Jehovah's Witness Protection Program informant, had placed Sheila in this Tai Chi Chuan class. So the Hospital had sent Bleiber to find her--but so far, to no avail. Whap! The macaque grunted, squalled, marked his pad for the umpteenth time and gesticulated upward. Bleiber intuited that to mean that he thought Sheila was hiding "up there." Well, Miss Sebastos' lodgings were in a dirigible gondola that was tethered to the roof of the studio. It couldn't hurt to look. But could they slip out of class while the instructor's eyes (whap!) were virtually riveted on them?

Thanks to opportunity abruptly knocking, they could.

The class had segued into "Worm Crawls on Hot Pavement," a movement that involved a lot of writhing and simulated soil swallowing. But for once it was so lifelike that a flock of giant starlings on the hunt suddenly descended onto the studio, prized open the window and attacked the class. They had gotten so far as to lifting an elderly woman in the front row nearly to the window before Miss Sebastos could unholster and aim her electro muscular disruption energy device. In the ensuing commotion, Dr. Bleiber and the macaque slipped out of the room and made their way to the roof, where even more starlings were engaging a leopard that had been guarding the dirigible. It seemed to be a stand off: the leopard was frantically employing the "Sweep Bird with Leg" posture while the starlings countered with a barrage of dung bombs. And that left Miss Sebastos' door unattended.

The macaque scrambled up to the gondola's door and picked the lock with a flair that belied its jungly upbringing. As Bleiber watched, impressed, he noticed a tic in the monkey's right arm that tripped a synapse in his memory buffer. He'd seen that ulnar paroxysm before. But where? A block of stimulated neurons suddenly awoke. Of course! It was Bob, the Species Identity Disorder patient! A veritable flood of neurons straightaway notified him that he had turned Bob into a macaque, not a reindeer! But why?!

Bob yanked the door open. At once, a disheveled Sheila stepped out, leveled her gaze on the leopard and blinked. In the twinkling of an eye (as it were), the leopard vanished in a puff of furry smoke, and the startled starlings were not far behind. She turned to look at Bleiber, who wisely adopted the submissive "Wave Hands Like Clouds" posture. "It's Dr. Bleiber, Sheila," he said, creating realistic little stratocumuli with his gestures. "The Asbestosman Project, remember?" Apparently she did, for she slipped on a pair of sunglasses before turning her eyes on him again. "Mawk!" said Bob, approvingly.

Bleiber stood up and pulled a little laser pointer from his pocket. "Sheila, we've come to take you home," he said, flashing the light onto her sunglasses. "You ... cannot ... resist," he added in a pretentiously mesmeric voice.

Just then, the door to the studio burst open and out stepped Miss Sebastos. She aimed her electro muscular disruption energy device at Dr. Bleiber, who dropped both his laser pointer and back into the "Wave Hands Like Clouds" posture.

"Close, but no cigarillo!" she said, contemptuously. She waved her weapon threateningly. "So, you figured it out, that I, Sebastos, a.k.a. 'asbestos,' am the better half of the Asbestosman Project! Not that it will do you any good now, for you three are about to partake of a Tai Chi posture that I designed especially for the occasion: 'Juggling the Piranha,' which features an aquarium full of my hungry little pets. Now, all of you--yes, you too, Bob--back into the gondola!"

So who's on whose side now? Is Sheila back under the control of Dr. Bleiber? What can Bob do in his present macaque configuration? And just what does "juggling a piranha" consist of?

Well, just like last time, this 509th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar has, alas, run out of room. Likewise, today's in-studio guests have also run out of the room, the reason for which is better answered by Kalvos.