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Nearly Relevant
Nonsense, Fiction, and Miscellaneous Things
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Dog-Paddling Straight Through Time
I enter the auditorium hesitantly.  I walk over to - what appears to me  to be - an official.  He's dressed in a maroon dress shirt, light gray dress pants  and a light gray tie.  A ID badge hangs at the bottom of the purple , V-shape ribbon draped around  his neck.
     "Hi." he says, as I approach.
     "Hi.  I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do.", I say.
     "You're 'au courant', right?  21st century?", he asks.
     "Yes." I say.
"You need to go to the other end of the auditorium.  You see the long line there?  That's where you need to be."  He segues.  "Congratulations ," he says, "congratulations guy ."
     A humongous smile distorts my face and  I blush with joy and content.  I smile, I shake his hand, and thank him.  I can hardly believe my luck- 'au courant', 21st century.  Of course, I'm grateful and relieved.
     I proceed to my destination through an ad-hoc corridor formed in the center of the auditorium as people from other eras- from the 6th century B.C up to the present - populate the auditorium's sides.   Many of them are chatting, unaware of my presence.  Others see me and smile or give a wave as I go along.  I'm happy to smile and wave back.
     As I approach the line for 'au courant' there is a preponderance of people who seem either self-absorbed or jocular.   The self-absorbed are quietly preoccupied. The jocular are - well - jolly.  It's a joy to see their  smiles, hear their laughter, note their glad-handing; 
There's plenty of glad-handing.  I notice standing in line, a swim instructor I  once had.
I break into a trot in order to reach the line a little sooner.
     Quite unexpectedly, a
flood smashes through the auditorium walls.   We are all knocked off our feet.  At first people are flailing,  decourm is embarrassingly impossible to achieve.  Shortly, we regain some kilter and float, swim, or dog paddle our way to presentable.
     Unfortunately, many people of the ancient eras weren't the best swimmers.  Apparently, they hadn't had certified swim instructors.  They suffered the most.
     I don't know how - through all the centuries - they managed to make it this far.

"Yes sir,  your question."

.  .  .

"Abracadabra ."
"Next  question  please."

.  .  .

"If I had a hammer, I'd hammer in the Mooor-oooor-ning"
"Yes sir, your question."

.  .  .

"That's correct.  Two suspects are in custody and a manhunt is underway for the third.   We believe the third is a rhinoceros and as such the officers involved in the manhunt  have been armed with elephant guns."
"Next  question please.  Yes ma'am."

.  .  .

I pause to think then spell out the answer.  "S. A. T. . . U. R. . . D. E. Y."
"We only have time for one more question."

.  .  .

"Good question.  'If I knew what I was doing, I wouldn't be doing this.', is the correct answer."

What Up
     "Yo, Jelani."
     "Cleavon!" responded Jelani. "What up?"  Cleavon waved then started an energetic jog towards Jelani.
      Cleavon and Jelani were friends from the neighborhood.  The neighborhood encompassed a ghetto area of 6 or 7 blocks.  It was basically an overpopulated, crowded suburb of Paradise City; It was something of the 'black sheep' of the city.
     "You got any cigs?"
     "No man I don't."
     "Sh*t, man.  Come on.  We can hit the shop."
     Cleavon as a general rule wasn't self-assured but when he was high his esteem was higher . . . this time maybe too high.

     The door to the shop slowly, designedly closed behind them.  The shop owner who had glanced up at them and smiled was now looking down at some paperwork he had on the counter.  Cleavon and Jelani headed over to the display case holding the cigars and some smoking accessories. The case was positioned behind the counter and to the left . It had two knobbed, glass plates finishing the case as cabinet doors.  Cleavon opened one of the plates, grabbed a box of cigars, pulled them from the case and preceded toward the store door.  Jelani - knowing what Cleavon was doing - was surprised but not astonished by the act.  To be astonished Jelani would have had to have been wholly inculcated by the facade of Paradise City, County of Contented, in the State of Wonderment, of the USA.   Unlike Cleavon, Jelani had never been so impressed.
     The store owner quickly took to the other side of the counter giving chase of Cleavon.  Near the door, the owner brusquely brushed up against Cleavon, Cleavon swung an outraged arm practically knocking over the smaller man.  Jelani yelled 'Yo' but got no response from either man; The store owner and Cleavon continued the momentary scuffle before Cleavon was outside the store. Meanwhile the store owner was racing for the phone.
     Less than one-quarter mile from the store Cleavon and Jelani slowed their running as they heard the initial wails of police sirens.
     "These businesses are crazy." said Cleavon a bit winded. "A box of 3 dollar cigars and they can't do without it."
     "Same could be said of you Cleavon." replied Jelani.
     "Yea, well I don't have any alternative.  I've had it with this lying rhetoric that begins 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness' and ends with 'Capitalism, Capitalism, Capitalism'.  If I wanted nothin' but to have a simpl'r lifestyle where could I go?  Michigan? Nebraska? Alabama?  Their all the same, every last one of them.  How is that freedom of choice?  The only choice I have is to sell my soul and liberties to capitalism.  And all for the desire of a $3 cigar. What kind of facade is this country selling?  I ain't buying it."
     "I don't know man but here comes a cop." A police car pulled up to them.
     Jelani stopped.  Cleavon approached the cop car and was told - as was Jelani - to stop and put their hands up.  Jelani raised his hands, Cleavon threw the box of cigars at the officer, yelled 'Here take the damn things' and ran. The police officer gave chase, tackled Cleavon and another scuffle began, with the officer suffering a blackeye, and Cleavon a bullet graze to the arm before Cleavon beat it around the corner of the next block.  A second responding police car, directed by the first officer,  pursued Cleavon around the block.
     The first officer went back to Jelani whereupon Jelani commented his friend wasn't usually this crazy.  "Cleavon" he said "had - most of the time - a peaceful facade . . . but today he was high."
     The bruised, shaken, officer thought about Jelani's attempt at exculpation.  The officer felt his swollen eye and exclaimed, 'Peaceful facade!  I wasn't hired to shoot at peaceful facades!!!!!'
     As Jelani was being guided into the back seat of the police car the two heard from the not too far distant a shot . . . then another.
Been Reading Donald Barthelme

     "You know" interjected the-girl-in-the-know "this phone rings on occasion."
     "Agreed" replied the young man, without any lechery, " this could be a sign of malfunctioning . . . or possibly malfunction-ation."

     The pressure measured a high no. of psi.  A relief of the pressure through a pressure relief value was recommended.
     "Whatever the problems" began an engineer dressed as a scarecrow, "the system  is designed - with intent -  to promote individuality, individual pursuits of happiness, and the associated securities."  The pressure dropped.
Someone else happily intoned, "The Sound of Music©".  The pressure dropped yet again.
     "The extremists . . ." the pressure jumped;  Fears - yet rationalized - induced mild panic.   ". . . are FINISHED!!!!!" blurted the speaker.  There came a drop of another few psi and a sigh - or a
sandwich board sign - of relief.
     "My barber's the one to compliment but thank you anyway" was expressed.   The pressure dropped yet again.
     It seemed the crisis had been asserted, or possibly even averted.
     Franklin Something pondered and on occasion even thought;  "If we can't be sure of anything and high pressure is considered bad then high pressure could be good.  But if high pressure is good how can we say we can't be sure of anything?"
It was a good day to be human and at the top of the food chain.  "Possibly, McDonald's™, or Wendy's™" thought Franklin.  "Or . . . are they franchises, not food chains?"  Franklin decided a conference was in order and arranged for the conference to take place, sometime later . . . or possibly sooner.   
     "No, no." he thought "I can't get to Oklahoma any sooner."
"Nice haircut Lewis."
     "Thank you, but really my barber is the one to compliment.", replied Lewis.
     "If Lew's haircut is nice, maybe it's really bad."  thought Franklin.  Franklin left . . . or rather, he may have left.  He also may have arrived.
It was a good day to be human and at the top of the food chain.
The Rescue: Alternative Endings
      "You can't sell a short story of such a lugubrious nature.", they told me.  So, in order to generate some interest in that direction, I've come up with 3 alternative endings.

Science Fiction Ending

     The hiker looked up to see a distant jet, it's contrail following.  He waved, hoping to get the jet pilot's attention.  No dice it appeared, the jet just kept going.  Suddenly, he could see something fall from the belly of the jet.  Exactly what it was he couldn't tell from this distance.  It fell straight down, a flame seemed to ignite at one end of the object.  The object veered away from the jet and toward the hiker.  It approached the hiker at a very high rate of speed and as it did so it became clear that the object was a piece of old, dilapidated luggage.  It smashed into the ground with great force, nearly killing the hiker, who only seconds before had been standing in the spot in which the suitcase landed.
     He looked up to where the jet had been and saw written against the sky, in calligraphic clouds of white contrail mist, "We're on the way".
     He looked back to the dilapidated, old suitcase and watched in amazement as the luggage mechanically opened.  It transformed into a pod ship from which exited a co-pilot and a stewardess.
"Hop in." the co-pilot said.
     As he approached the pod ship, the stewardess asked, "Glad to be going home?"
     "Oh, yeah." said the hiker.

Steampunk Ending

     He wasn't sure he wasn't hallucinating, but it appeared to him to be a large whaling ship from the 1800's sailing on the desert floor. It was in full sail.  He guessed it was approximately 30 miles away.  As it got closer he realized it wasn't so much sailing as it was riding, for the ship sat atop 2 axles with a wheel on each end of the axles, for a total of four wheels.   Although the desert wind appeared to be propelling the ship, the ship also made loud, clanking and clunking noises as if it had an engine, or at the very least, had metal parts.  Sometimes it hissed and let off a great puff of steam.
     The hiker waved to it to get it's attention.  It appeared to work.   The ship turned to  starboard, about 5-10 degrees, and headed for the hiker.  However, about 10 yards into the new course, the front axle of the ship split in two, dropping the the ship harshly onto the desert floor, the ship lurching to the port side.  
     It took a good 25 years or so for the ship's crew to repair the axle.  Once repaired the, the ship's captain took too the helm again - which happened to be fashioned out of an old, dilapidated suitcase.  Heading for the hiker and about 40 yards into the trip, the rear axle of the ship broke, once again sending the ship to the desert floor, this time lurching to starboard.  It took another 25 years to repair the rear axle but eventually the ship was, once again, underway.
     It arrived at the spot where the hiker had been only 5o years before.  All that was left was some parched bones.  The ship's crew delicately gathered together the bones.  "Glad to be going home?" a deckhand forlornly asked the bones. The bones were presented to the ship's cook to be used as ladels, stirrers and other cooking utensils.
 Musical Ending

     "Glad to be going home?" asked Lang.
     In a deep baritone of voice, as if singing a refrain, the hiker replied, "Oh Yeeeeaaaahhhhh!"
     Lang and the buggy driver looked at each other, stopped the buggy, and proceeded to grab the hiker by the arms and legs.  They flung him and a dilapidated old suitcase - which wasn't even the hiker's - into the desert.  They then took off.
The Rescue
     He hadn't yet felt endangered at being lost.  Although his supplies were dwindling, he thought - having been lost for a day and a half - that somebody had started to look for him by now.  He even felt eerily free under such seemingly dire circumstances.  He'd not yet keeled over from thirst or hunger, booger-bears hadn't attacked him during the night - he joked that the booger bears didn't have a governmental chit which was required before they could commit booger-bear scares.   He was anxious only when he dwelled on being lost. 
     Moving about the desert, the place had seemed beautiful yet inexplicably unoccupied.  One trail hadn't lead to another, there were no trails. Although he'd come across a few lizards he hadn't been aware of any rattle snakes or scorpions.  A lack of traffic noise seemed the most obvious evidence of unoccupation.  But for all this isolation he had  a sense of being in a safe enclosure.  As if the desert had been - despite it's expansive dome of sky above from horizon to zenith and the virtually, in any direction, unobstructed views;  Despite it's lack of restrictions it was untethered, safely, from a former unification with nature; A nature that had maintained predation and from which the desert - for it's own preservation - had withdrawn.  A now solo act, which in it's individuality had offered sanctuary to those who felt the same upset at foreboding encroachments.  In the agreement between the two, the hiker was welcomed to the desert without as much as a second glance.  No affidavits, notarized documents, or other evidence of beholdenness were required.  Of course, the desert's natural state wasn't characterized by security in entirety. What lived here was not granted freedom by authority, but neither was it secured as harmless by authority.  Predation, starvation; randomness, continuity - characteristics of noncontrollability - ruled.  But he realized it was a part of being free.  Of being naturally free, instead of socioeconomically free.  Freedom required risks.  To lessen risks was to, necessarily, lessen freedoms.
     He came upon a group of boulders.  The area was bright with afternoon sunlight. The sky was a clear, light shade of blue. He sat down on the desert floor to rest against a boulder.  Both feet were brought in to nearly resting against his butt.  One leg was bent and parallel to the ground, the other bent and perpendicular to the ground.  He wiped rivulets of sweat from his brow, looked up to see a small, distant jet flying in a direction leading away from him, it's cloud white contrail trailing behind.  The furthest part of this contrail evaporated, little by little, as if - with ever increasing distance - it's correspondence to the high-tech jet could not be maintained.
     A leopard lizard dashed from pediment to boulder and came into his left side view. The shadow cast by the lizard was short at this hour but the contrast was sharp and clearly delineated.   Momentarily, it stood,  aware of his presence before - unlicensed - scurrying away;  It committed  neither tort nor transgression.  The hiker's countenance oscillated from a commiserating joy in the lizard's freedom to a melancholic realization he could never be that free.  He looked to where the jet had been.  Although the contrail remained, the jet itself had vanished like some vestige of civilization which had flown the coup.  But he knew civilization hadn't abandoned anything.  Bartered maybe, . . . bartered it's natural freedom in return for a political-economic freedoms.
     Political-economic, industrial, high-tech, low-tech; Coinages rooted in materialism, not the geographies of rocks or cactuses, flora or fauna. It seemed a sad state of affairs.  Fritz Lang's Metropolis had presented a distasteful future.  A sweetening intermediacy was required. Thus came about buzzwords of culture, markers of progress, candies of consumerism. All, by happenstance, softening the ominous portent of the film. The dismalness seemed to grow fainter with this softened, intermediate stage, but this stage was an illusion he figured. We were all just biding our time;  Hoping, not for some different future, but for some different generation to experience the final dismalness.
     He heard the not too distant noise of an engine. A dune buggy motored into view, its course bouncy from the uneven path it took, it's speed an innocence of surety that it would get there . . .  somewhere . . . wherever it was going. He stood up waving both arms to get the occupants attention;  Ran to intersect their apparent course until they turned at having spotted him.
     They pulled to a stop, 15 feet or so from him.  The passenger disengaged from the buggy and ran toward him.  From his pockets he pulled food and a bottle of water.  "Here's some water and food," he offered,"we brought along in case we found you."  Then he offered his hand in greeting.  "I'm Robert Lang.  Are you all right? Have you any problems?"
     "No, no major problems."
     Lang explained  he and his friend had volunteered to help search for him, the missing hiker.  "Come on let's get in the buggy." Lang said.
     Lang returned to the passenger seat, while the hiker slipped into a backseat.
     "Glad to be going home?" Lang asked.
     "Oh yeah." he said, nodding, acknowledging the fact of his being rescued. Lang turned frontward and the dune buggy started off, the rescue nearly complete.  The hiker didn't think about his apartment, his job, the newspaper, pedestrian traffic, vehicular traffic, local laws, state laws, foreign countries, international money market funds. Instead, he felt the midday heat, the bumps of the ride, the smell of the buggies exhaust, the inevitableness of impingements as the buggy rolled over plants, rocks, desert dust. He thought of the leopard lizard and of it's darting.  He imagined a scene which might take place latter that evening.  The lizard poised somewhere upon the desert floor; the pale blue sky turning to a darker, saturated blue as twilight fell.  The lone lizard taut with awareness, blinks, moves, hesitates, then darts off yet again.  Freedom, not flight, the essential quality of it's scurrying.
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