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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution


 
The Essay
Show #534
Beano Burr and Weasel Hamilton
David Gunn

Beano Bengaze, musical shaman and ranking marionettician of the Bumpkin Clan, was in a pickle. He was in his kitchen leafing through the Shamanifesto, that classic manual of über-universal wellness, hunting for an all-purpose elixir for Weasel Slayer, his spirit guide and hyperventriloquistic foil. Normally invisible, Weasel had been straying into what was for him the uncharted territory of dimensional focus. Image clarity for an incorporeal entity was, of course, very bad form and tended to lessen the shock of his sudden materializations. So Beano was looking for a spicy concoction to put the tang back into his buddy's intangibility. However, he wasn't having much luck. The Shamanifesto was big on potions to cure male pattern bald eagles, reptile dysfunction and Tutankhamenopause, but to Beano, they were so yesterday's medicinal news. No, he wanted something with a narrow spectrum of therapeutic powers, one that focused on the out-of-focus. In the end, he settled on an animistic cocktail called the Animatomizer®. But he did so with more than a soupçon of apprehension. Because for him to properly administer the medication, he first had to transform into a cocker spaniel.

Many shamans had the ability to change into other life forms, and the more adept of them readily assumed the guises of animals high on the food chain. The Shamanisticians of the Klondike Guild, for example, routinely assumed the roles of ferrets, bears, coyotes and very large rotifers. But organism transference was the one shamanic trick that stymied Beano Bengaze. Oh sure, there was the time that he turned into a screech owl for a couple of hours. But whatever boost to his self-confidence the accomplishment gave him was wiped out by the "disturbing the peace" citation he received from the Klondike Guild, a consequence of his admittedly incessant drive-by hooting.

So Beano contented himself with vegetable conversions, at which he actually got quite good. With little effort he could transmogrify into four recognizable forms: an orthodox kohlrabbi, a zigguratatouille, a point of no returnip and the aforementioned pickle. Regrettably, none of these shape-shifts was requisite for the Animatomizer®'s dispensation. No, there was no getting around it. He had to turn himself into a droopy-eared canine that shamans especially just loved to kick.

Beano assembled all of the ingredients for the ceremony in his cabin's breathing room, then he summoned Weasel Slayer. His spirit guide often frequented a chink in the furnace chimney--it was really a cleft in the corporeal world that led to a parallel universe where mischievous rotifers were the dominant life form--and that's where he was now. Weasel was currently the color of putty, so when he passed in front of Beano's office shelving unit, he briefly disappeared. But then he reappeared and assumed his normal position, hovering precisely eleven inches above the floor.

Beano lit a solitary candle, placed it in the middle of the floor, then withdrew a handful of blue-black power from his pocket protector and sprinkled it over the flame. As he uttered a chant in Esperanto that had the unmistakable cadence of a limerick, the powder sparkled brightly and coalesced into the shape of a log. The shaman changed one word in the chant and sprinkled more powder into the flame. Now the flickering image of a frog appeared. Beano changed another word, sprinkled another pinch of powder, and this time was rewarded with the vaporous outline of a dog.

Hold that thought! he told himself as he dug the remaining ceremonial ingredients from his pollen sack. Murmuring now in ventriloquese, Beano invoked the name of Corn Dog Woman while thinking very hard how cool it would be to trade personalities with a cocker spaniel.

The room spun. So did Beano's reality. Somewhere, a dog barked. But it wasn't Beano. When he glanced in the mirror he saw only--a cocklebur? No no no! he scolded himself. Cocker spaniel! Again he called to Corn Dog Woman; again he thought of the droopy-eared pooch, and the room and his reality whirled anew. This time, instead of the barking dog, there was the sound of ocean waves crashing onto a beach. In hindsight, he thought that maybe he had overdone it with the powder, or perhaps the Esperanto wasn't intoned quite right. But for whatever reason, when Beano came round from this transmogrification, he found himself two centuries in the past having gone from cocklebur to Aaron Burr, Thomas Jefferson's embattled vice president.

What Beano Bengaze may have lacked in the how-tos of interspecies transformation, he more than made up for in his knowledge of American history. So when he glanced at his watch and noted the July 11, 1804 date, he knew that that was the day Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel in Weehawken, New Jersey. He dug his hand into his pocket to feel the reassuring familiarity of his pollen sack. But there was something else in his pocket, and it bore the unmistakable contour of a late eighteenth century pistol.

Beano jumped as a hand tapped him on the shoulder. He turned and looked into the face of Weasel Slayer. But no, it was Weasel Slayer-cum-Alexander Hamilton! Oh, he'd forever be the laughingstock of the Shamanisticians if they ever found out about this bungled organism swap!

Instead of a firearm, Hamilton had with him a dozen copies of Ben Franklin's "Poor Richard's Almanac: The Unexpurgated Version." Whereas the original publication was a 90-page bibelot, the number of pages in the Unexpurgated edition swelled to 840. History records that by the early 1800s, Burr and Hamilton were mortal enemies. And yet here, an hour before they were destined to duel to the death, their conversation was genial and lighthearted--perhaps because Beano and Weasel were each influencing their actions.

Weasel Hamilton suggested that, in lieu of monkeying around with pistols and possibly hurting someone, they should settle their score with weapons that were more in keeping with their patrician upbringings--the almanacs. They'd toss them at one another from the high wire that his seconds had strung over the Weehawken Inlet of the New Jersey Sea. After all, both men were both expert funambulists, having risen to the rank of Black Belt in the Ringling Brothers School of Aerial Arts. Beano Burr glanced up at the thin wire that stretched high above the inlet as a stiff onshore breeze buffeted it like a dryer sheet in a wind tunnel. Thinking he still might be able to yank some sort of shamanic rabbit out of this hat, he agreed.

At last the wind died down and the two men clambered up to the wire and prepared for formal combat. They inched to the center of the wire, each carrying six Almanacs. Beano Burr threw one of his books first, but his aim was wide. It fell into the sea and was instantly dissolved by the fatty acids in the frothy surf. Now Weasel Hamilton hurled a book. It caught Burr on the shoulder, and for one exquisite moment, Beano windmilled his arms to regain his balance. For some reason, Hamilton didn't press his advantage, and when Burr at last willed stability back into his stance, he straightaway unleashed a three-Almanac salvo. Hamilton dodged two of them, but the third caught him squarely on his keister, and he toppled over, plunging towards the foamy sea.

Beano quickly dropped his other books, pulled a pinch of sparkling pollen from his pocket and tossed it into the air, simultaneously re-invoking the name of Corn Dog Woman. Instantly, a strong gust of wind materialized, picked up Weasel Hamilton and blew him gently back onto the shore. But it also knocked Beano from the high wire. And as he fell headlong towards the choppy water, he uttered Emergency Shamantra No. 6.

In the fuzzy interstices between the corporeal world and that of the mischievous rotifers, an indescribable cross-dimensional omnipotence reached out, plucked Beano from the air, and deposited him back in his 21st century cabin. Simultaneously it separated Weasel Slayer from Weasel Hamilton, spiriting the first to Beano's cabin, and turning the latter into a blender. Hamilton's seconds raced to aid him, but it was too late. The former US Treasury Secretary's constituent parts were jumbled beyond repair. President Jefferson later paid homage to his friend by renaming the shoreline Hamilton Beach.

More good news: Weasel Slayer regained his ability to invisibilize, and Beano eventually turned himself into a cockerel. True, it wasn't the droopy-eared dog he'd hoped for, and his early morning crowings led to another disturbing the peace citation, but he felt he was on his way to bigger and better transformations.

Such as transforming this introduction into the rest of Kalvos & Damian's 534th New Music Bazaar, and further turning my voice into that of Kalvos.