The Gypsy's Address
“We and others have been buying property here for two decades,” continued the Phantom. “To keep the corporations out. We leave it as it is, the natives do as they please, without persuasion of greed, and we visit as we like.”
“Paradise undeveloped, yet actual, beats paradise falsely promised in hell,” Brian finished, along with his beer.
“Which means your invitation to here unwind must too soon be declined,” Strange sadly said, turning her gaze to Penny. The Cats frowned, not knowing her meaning.
Penny explained as Cuddly sniffed about in the shade at the rear of the mansion: “The Punctuator and Makin’ Wind. They have equipment which of technologies, not unsophisticated, consist. Cuddly, that pig, there, which no one can resist, is the prey of their hunt from which they’ll not desist. The more we elude them the more they insist.”
“They have weapons to blow this place sky high,” Strange backed Penny’s words with a sigh.
“Add to one ‘Amen’ another ten,” Penny emphasized.
“I must be some kind of dork. To me that pig appears but pork,” Lee remarked.
“We don’t bother chasing mice around. They sound like a fair fight,” Phantom suggested.
“We’re two humans and one dog stray to a sacred place we’re meant to stay,” Penny said. “’Til then we journey. That’s life’s way. Yet, as you so graciously say we may, we’ll call tomorrow a holiday that this house be home for one more day. We’ve, then, a pair corrupt to lead away. If leave them here, too great is the price this world will pay.”
The Stray Cats, not knowing the danger that Makin’ and the Punc posed, yet observing Something’s quiet acceptance of Penny’s decree, chewed in silence for a quarter of a minute. Until Brian suddenly stood to pop a cap from another beer and offer a boisterous toast: “Bless our luck for trucks of potatoes! One bag, one pygmy, one farmer grows!” All five, to clink bottles, full of life rose.
The rest of the day and the next you and I soared above rockabilly and big cats that roared. Penny, at piano, jazzed and bluesed away. Not a few of his notes deviated astray, but some he recovered so well that all had to say, “Trade that truck for some keys! You’ve got that sense to play!”
Strange couldn’t lick a guitar near Brian’s style, but what she did brought even the jungle’s dead ghosts a smile. In another world just as lively meanwhile. . .
“By the time I’m done with you the chances are remote that, with so many leaks, you’ll sink less than float!” Hatfield yelled through a window he’d raised at the back of his shack. He then rapidly emptied a cartridge, causing three streams from a water barrel to flow, already plugged with not a few corks, setting next to McCoy’s shack.
“Well, I’ll be a cake of dough to bake below from head to toe!” uttered McCoy, incensed to see more leaks in his barrel. He shouted back to Hatfield: “Not before you learn how to aim! The way you shoot’s a cryin’ shame to which fame I wouldn’t want attached my name!” Then, like a sniper, he patiently kept his sights on Hatfield’s forehead peeking in and out his window. When certain, McCoy fired, shattering one of Hatfield’s window panes. . . Not a sound. . . Not for five seconds. . . Not for ten seconds. . . Not as McCoy began to wonder if he’d finally fulfilled his lifelong mission. . . ‘Till of a sudden from inside Hatfield’s cabin:
“Your bullet missed it’s address! All it did was make a mess!”
Something Strange and Old Penny dearly wanted to stay. But in a blink arrived their departure day. They’d calculated that in that way they’d leave Makin’ and the Punc, jungle blind without a guide, just far enough behind to draw them north and far away. The Cats known as Stray were in peril by too brief or too long a delay, though just a guess how long it would take One Bad Ass to find its way. All said their farewells in the morning sun while the Cats were preparing their instruments for another practice session. As Penny and Strange walked to their trucks Slim Jim Phantom brought down his magic sticks on his cymbals and did a percussive lead into a special medley of Bulletproof and 18 Miles To Memphis.
“I’ll piggyback,” Penny CB’d Strange, pushed the ignition, released his tractor brakes.
“Here we come, United States,” Something likewise replied, slipped it in third and pulled away.
Not nine miles and the small road they were on began to broaden. Another nine miles and Strange passed a sign that read ‘MEMPHIS POP: 7,432’.
“Memphis. . . Brazil?” Strange CB’d.
“Unless this is Tennessee already.”
“Or Misery.” [Missouri to four wheelers.]
As Penny followed Strange into town so many people were in the roads that they had to slow way down, often stopping to let groups of pedestrians pass across before them.
“This place is in a whirl,” Something radioed. “Must be some kind of hurrah.”
There was, indeed, a great bustle about semi-permanent stands to each side of the unpaved road where vendors were selling everything from jams to hams. Further to the right actors and actresses in queer costumes and masks were putting on a show for a crowd of laughing children. In grottos to the left many a blanket had been sprawled over a lush green lawn, with many a picnic basket opened to who leisurely communed there. Now Penny and Strange knew why the soundtrack had changed. A woman seated Indian-style before a tree sang as she played an acoustic guitar, some flamenco-influenced beauty she’d heard done by Strunz and Farah. A man and woman not far away, in colorfully stained clothing, stood at easels, painting each other’s portrait. Deeper into town a gypsy had pulled a portable table from his horse-drawn wagon and prepared to earn money from passersby with a deck of cards. His girlfriend, in a long flowing dress of copper and vermillion, danced for coins already chinking into a large can on the ground. As many rode horseback along the roads as drove old automobiles. It was nigh an early nineteenth century scene as Penny and Something’s big trucks ever so slowly rolled forward. Apparently no one thought big trucks to be peculiar. Penny had seen two a couple blocks down a wide dirt road they’d passed. Now he and Strange had come to a dead halt, pedestrians too thick in the road before a large, pillared, whitewashed house with a sign over its wood stairs reading ‘COURTHOUSE’. Much larger to its right was a brick building which Penny and Strange would discover to be an auditorium doubling as The Grand Saloon. Conspicuous amidst the crowds were the many who brandished signs reading ‘NANCOM POOP IS MAYOR!’. . . Yes, his mother had spelled his name wrong. . . Just as many milled about waving signs which read ‘VOTE FOR SOMETHING!’. As Penny and Strange pulled their tractor brakes a woman around the corner of the auditorium, who could have been, and was, Something’s twin, stepped out of an old pickup truck onto the raised walk of wood planks. She was immediately assailed by three newspaper reporters armed with pens and pads of paper:
“Miss Strange!” called one, “Do you think you’ll wear ‘Mayor’ for a title? Or might your campaign may as well have been idle?”
Like Something, Miss Strange wore Georgia boots and jeans. But she’d exchanged her usual tank top for a white long-sleeved satin blouse, also forgoing her dirty old cowboy hat. Unlike her double from our world, however, she never wore a whip at her hip.
“Since I take flat broke as my point of view,” Strange sneezed, “while knowing there’s nothing a human can’t do,” she sneezed, “dignity tells that the people want someone new.” To which a large gathering of Strange supporters applauded and cheered.
On the opposite side of the auditorium from Penny and Strange the incumbent mayor, Nancom Poop, waited for his chauffer to open the door of his limousine with darkened bullet-proof windows, then stepped out in a dark brown silk suit. He was likewise approached by reporters from the town’s three newspapers:
“Mayor Poop!” addressed one. “Your opponent, Something Strange, alleges you are in bed with private interests, robbing the citizens with a greed insane!”
“Greed is lawful for the common gain,” Nancom, whom anyone might have confused with Gene Hackman, glibly smiled.
Makin’s double, meanwhile, was the weigh master near a truck stop in Denver, Colorado. As Makin’ and the Punc found their way out of the jungle, beading in on Something’s location a hundred miles away, Makin’s double viewed the screen on the desk in her office as a secret lens x-rayed the contents of a trailer a trucker was pulling onto the scale.
“Hmm. . . Looks like a load of cardboard,” Makin’ surmised to herself, then CB’d the driver. “All right. I’ve got your weight. Come on in.”
The Matador, eighteen miles north of Memphis, sat on an old log in the hot dust. He was fingering another beauty by Strunz and Farah on his guitar, sounding a little like the soundtrack. If he wasn’t Antonio Banderas, filling in for Charles Bronson, then what’s apparent is often no clue as to the truth of what the eyes view. He wore black, hip-hugging, bell-bottom trousers ornamented with silver disks up the outside of each leg, these attaching leather tassels. But it was hot, and he was momentarily a little disappointed, a bit discouraged, by life. He stopped playing, leaned his guitar against the right drive of his dilapidated Mack, pulled back his old straw cowboy hat:
“It just ain’t fair the things a man must bear,” as he stood in the hot sun, then raised a little dust with his boots as he slowly walked alongside the trailer attached to his fifth wheel, a cattle hauler in which stood one solitary bull, which the Matador now addressed: “What do you think, Belle? What should we do? A traveling bullfight’s no good without crowds to view.” Belle stretched his neck in the trailer to blow the Matador a little kiss as he approached:
“I think you should act a little meaner in our next performance,” suggested the Matador. Belle snorted and stomped a rear leg which shook the entire cattle hauler. “Good! We must give a show worthy of the world famous Matador, so brave that I need neither sword nor picador against Belle, the world’s fiercest bull!” Belle stomped again.
The Matador pulled a bright red apple from the right inside pocket of his black vest jacket, then slipped it through an open space in the cattle hauler, which Belle gladly accepted with his large lips. “Don’t worry,” the Matador assured Belle as he chewed his fresh treat. “A decision will come to us soon.”
Makin’ and the Punc were meanwhile making dust in Something’s direction. Though some distance away, Something’s location was clear on the screen before Makin’s eyes: “She hasn’t moved in some time,” Makin’ CB’d the Punc. “They can’t be but an hour away.”
“They may think a deadly fate they elude. But we’ve a message for them slightly rude,” the Punc answered.
Makin’s double in Denver x-rayed another truck as it pulled onto the scale. “Hmm. . . Cigarettes,” she said to herself. “And a Western Star. Can’t have more than three hundred thousand miles on it.” She pressed the key to a microphone standing to her left on her desk: “Supper just came into view. Tell Nancom it’s due on the ninth by two. You won’t have to unload it tonight.” She then spoke to herself, neglecting to CB the trucker on the scale: “Your axles are fine, truck driver. But this is the last of them you’ll view. Thanks to me, this is the final scale you’ll ever have to do.” Makin’ pressed a button, upon which the Western Star and its trailer instantly dropped into the earth. Not a minute later – the truck, load and driver gone – the scale then rose back into place.
In Brazil, thirty-two miles north of Memphis, a nearly new Peterbilt aerodyne, lost by a Stevens Transport driver, recently buried somewhere young, emerged from the tail of a cargo plane, to be driven an eighth of a mile to the gate of a high chain-link fence topped with barbed wire, surrounding a great dirt lot where were parked a couple thousand trucks and trailers. The driver proceeded through the gate upon an exchange with two armed guards, then made his way directly to a large garage into which the truck and trailer disappeared. It was a lucrative confederacy. Makin’s twin got the load for redistribution. Nancom got the equipment.
Something needed a pair of gloves, her old ones become but black oil sops, which Something remembered upon noticing a vendor across the street selling just that, along with other leather items.
“Penny,” she CB’d, “long as we’re stuck here in this crowd I’m gonna step out. That man across the street might have a pair of gloves that fit, something other than extra large.”
“All right. I’ll just wait in the truck here with Kia. Make sure your walkie is working.”
“Can you hear me?” Strange tested her radio.
“Good. I’ll be watching,” Penny testing his.
Something set her walkie on the dash between the windshield and a notepad. She retrieved her sunglasses hanging from the passenger visor, got distracted twisting in the little screws to tighten them, then stepped out of her truck, forgetting her walkie where Alias couldn’t see it.
Something’s double was ushered through the crowds by her top horse breeder and trainer, the man whose old pickup she had stepped out of. He, amazingly enough, was the mirror image of Russell Crowe. He took her hand and made a path for her into the auditorium, then down a hallway toward backstage.
“I’m going to use the restroom,” Something’s double told her companion, then disappeared into another hall, with a sneeze, as Nancom Poop, escorted by nine police officers, made his way into the auditorium. The last Something’s twin saw of the public debate she was to hold with Honorable Poop was a black gloved hand which came out of a recess in the hallway, clamping her mouth shut, rendering her unconscious with a potion in a rag. Two men in uniform then quickly dropped her into a trunk and wheeled her outside to a police department pickup truck.
Nancom Poop amiably waited at his podium before the auditorium full of noisy citizens. The podium to his right had remained empty several minutes past the time the debate was to have begun. The announcer and mediator of the debate had gone backstage to ask Something’s top Hand what was the delay.
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