The Gypsy's Address
“Well,” Nancom smiled with a sigh to the murmuring public which filled the great hall, “perhaps what Miss Strange has to say has gone astray.” He shrugged his shoulders, looked at his watch: “Today is a holiday anyway,” he joked.
“Amen!” shouted one of Nancom’s rousers amidst the chuckling crowd.
Something’s Hand backstage had sent his sidekick back to the restroom to find Miss Strange. He returned, shaking his head, gesturing with empty hands. The crowd, meanwhile, was becoming restless. The Hand and the Side began to enlist several people to search for the missing candidate for the position of mayor of Memphis, Brazil. They hurried outside the auditorium to see if Miss Strange had returned to the Hand’s pickup truck. Not there. Two searchers ran toward the rear of the auditorium as the Hand and the Side came around the front. Something had just stepped to the front of her big Ken to walk around a large group of people preventing her from crossing the street.
“There she is!” shouted the Side to the Hand. He and the Hand rushed through the crowds to catch up to Something, gripped her by each arm and jerked her away: “What are you doing, Miss Strange?” asked the Side.
“Perhaps she was pondering,” guessed the Hand.
“Perhaps she was wandering,” said the Side as the two of them urged Something through the crowds toward the entrance to the auditorium.
“What are you doing?” Something shouted. “Who are you?”
“What are we doing!” the Hand answered. “You’re late to the debate, Something! Come on! Hurry!” He’d noticed that Something was no longer in a satin blouse, but a white tank top stained with blotches of oil. He gave her a hard squint, unable to figure her strange behavior of a sudden.
“What?” Strange asked, noticing the Hand staring at her filthy tank top.
“Good strategy! Working class appeal!”
Strange felt no threat from the Hand and the Side who had addressed her by name. She was, however, curious, thus allowed the two men to rush her backstage and push her through the split in the curtain. She suddenly found herself standing on stage before a large crowd offering a loud mixture of boos and applause. Mr. Poop turned about at his podium, forward to her left, surprised and less than pleased to see her. Strange gave him an undiscerning frown, which he returned as if looking at a clown, while the mediator gestured to her to step up to the empty podium. In the confusion of it all it slipped Something’s mind to radio Penny.
“Citizens of Memphis!” the mediator addressed the cheering throngs, brandishing signs and waving flags above their heads. Something saw one which read, ‘STRANGE FOR MAYOR!’ She stepped back to the curtain to speak with the Hand through the split:
“I’m Something Strange, not Something Strange!” she loudly whispered.
“Yeah! Whatever!” the Hand whispered back. “I’m noting what you’re throating! Now get back in the ring!”
Mr. Poop turned to see what his opponent was doing at the curtain behind him. He’d taken a deep breath of disgruntlement when she first appeared on the stage. Clearly, his scheme had gone awry.
“I don’t want to be Mayor!” Strange protested to the Hand.
“Too late now to get suspicious over what you’ve been ambitious!”
“Where’s Something Strange? Go find her!” Something instructed the Hand, whispering her demand as loudly as can.
“Now’s not the time to disdain all you’ve worked so hard to gain!” answered the Hand, utterly confused. He thought, perhaps, it was fear which sometimes arises just before finally achieving a destination. He put his hand through the split in the curtains and gave her a light shove. “Go! It’s easy! Just don’t get sneezy!”
Strange frowned at the Hand’s odd advice, then turned to approach the podium. The announcer presented her to the crowd: “Citizens! Mayoral candidate, Miss Something Strange!” tucking his microphone beneath his arm to applaud Miss Strange. Something couldn’t help but smile from the raucous cheering throughout the great hall. She bowed her brow, then waved as she reached her podium, noting as well the boos of disapproval.
“And our Mayor incumbent, the honorable Mr. Nancom Poop!” shouted the mediator, applauding the Mayor as he had done Strange, the audience clapping and cheering mixed with boos. Nancom raised his fists into the air, as in victory, then blew the crowds a kiss.
Makin’s double in Denver leaned back in her chair to munch the hind quarter of a roasted pig while doing that day’s inventory:
“Mmm. . . Not bad. . .” Chomp, chomp. “Three Internationals, two Volvos and one Western Star to Mr. Poop.” Chomp, chomp. “As for me, one load of slot machines to keep Nevadans betting. Three loads of plane engines to keep Al Qaeda jetting. Enough rum an aircraft carrier of sailors to please. Enough butts to smoke out L.A. ‘til every citizen wheeze.” Chomp, chomp. “Mmm. . . Cuddly Wuddly was a little sow. . .” Chomp, chomp. “Cute and hugly as a baby cow. . .” Chomp, chomp. “But I was starved. So I ate him anyhow. . .” Chomp, chomp.
“If they’re still parked we’ll soon have featherbrains to scatter,” the Punc CB’d to Makin’ Wind as he tailed behind her cloud of dust.
“Sweet gluttony I’m feeling. I only wish they all were fatter,” Makin’ replied.
Penny had noted that Strange was nowhere to be seen. Nor did she answer her walkie. He stepped out of his truck to begin a search, not making it as far as the rear of Something’s trailer before Alias whipped up to meet him. She’d heard Penny’s voice over the walkie, recognized Something had forgotten it, left Cuddly in the sleeper long enough to go tell Penny.
“Alias!” Penny greeted. “How’s my extraordinary friend?” kneeling to give her a brisk rubbing.
“Good!” Alias lightly barked. “But apprehensive.”
Alias allowed Penny to rub her for a brief moment, then stepped away, stopped, then stepped away again to indicate, “Come with me!” Alias barked the signal that let her into the truck as Penny was jostled by passersby. Once the door was shut Alias padded a button to roll down the passenger window so Penny could join her from outside. She jumped over to the driver seat and pawed at the windshield beyond the steering wheel to knock loose the walkie. Which she took in her mouth and deposited on the dash before the passenger seat for Penny to see.
“Thank you, Alias,” petting her again through the window. “And Cuddly?”
“Tell him, Cuddly” Alias barked.
“Tell me what?” Penny asked.
Cuddly presently put his head out the sleeper between the seats: “Kidnapping.”
“Kidnapping! By who?”
“. . . Various.”
“. . . All right,” waiting to see if Cuddly had anything else to say, then giving Alias a frisky goodbye with the palm of his hand: “Thank you, Alias. Thank you Cuddly. I’ll be back soon.”
After which Penny disappeared as the passenger window rolled up. Alias checked to see that the stick was in neutral, pushed the ignition key with her paw, toggled the idle switch, turned the knob to the air conditioner, made sure bunk was set, returned to join Cuddly in the sleeper.
“Patience, mi amigo,” responded the Matador to Belle’s stomping and grunting in the trailer. He stopped playing guitar as he took a swig from an old round canteen: “I don’t yet know which route will bear the best fruit.” He rose from another log he was sitting on, this one in the shade of the trailer, poured water into his hat and placed it on his head. Belle stomped, shook his great horns, let out a bawl. The Matador pointing his finger at Belle: “That’s why I like you. Your advice is most astute. The best fruit is on the route on which people have the most loot. . . Hmm. . .” studying the crossroads: “What we need is a sign.”
The Matador walked up to the side of the trailer, pulled a ripe pear from the inside breast pocket of his jacket, offered it to his great-horned companion, one full ton of no-nonsense muscle.
Something’s double could feel the pickup up truck into which bed she had been thrown pull to a stop. The lid to the trunk into which she’d been stuffed was presently opened. Sweating profusely, she rose onto her knees to see two cops standing at each end of the trunk. They had pulled off to the side of county road not much used.
“Stand up!” she was ordered, then pulled to her feet. One cop bound her hands behind her back.
“Step out!,” commanded the other officer, giving her arm a jerk. Both jostled her out of the trunk, then made her sit on the lowered hatch of the pickup. Manacles wouldn’t fit around the tops of her Georgia boots so they tied her ankles together with a length of rope. Once prepared, one of the cops put the barrel of his pistol to her temple and pulled the hammer, slowly, so she could hear. He left her in suspense for nine or ten seconds, until she sneezed, jerking her head back. The officer withdrew his pistol, both of them laughing in hilarity at her sneeze, a peculiarity for which she was known in Memphis.
The great hall was in such commotion it was giving Something locomotion. She spoke the first that came to mind since what to say she had no notion: “The DOT has fatigued and robbed truck drivers long enough! That department, and not a few others which only functions are to make things worse, will be dismantled!”
This was followed by roaring applause. Strange didn’t know that Memphis, Brazil was a big truck hub, nor that scores of truck drivers stood in the audience. But it worked. So she went with it: “Exorbitant fines for asinine logbook violations will be repaid double to the victims! It will be repaid by the DOT slobs who unthinkingly wrote those fines so they could continue sit on their worthless asses!”
This brought such an uproar of applause that Nancom Poop, who had not a little invested in complex schemes involving the trucking industry, was feeling threatened enough to consider slicing the heads of who had bungled the kidnapping of Miss Strange who now stepped from behind her podium: “Governmental positions of power and security to no other purpose than to rob the hard-working citizens of Memphis will no longer be hmmed and ahhed as to their possible, though unlikely, value! No! They will not! They will be summarily deleted! Along with all doles to citizens! Wake up and go to work! Television doesn’t pay the rent!”
The crowd went wild. Kia, you and I, could hear it all the way from Penny’s truck. Strange had discovered she had a gene for oration, a powerful instrument from township to nation. This gift, just now blooming, she couldn’t put to rest: “Trucking companies will insure that thirty-four is done at home, not a junk-food two bit in Portage, Maine!”
“Go!. . Go! . . Go! . . “ boomed the audience, chanting.
“The bigger the official the bigger the pretender! The office of the ATA will be moved to the Popsicle Man’s fat rendering station!”
“Go! . . Go! . . Go! . .”
“Warehouses which drivers designate as tight will compensate drivers one hundred dollars for the risk and time it takes to back into a dock!”
“Go! . . Go! . . Go! . .”
“You’re a maniac! Your head belongs in a sack!” shouted Mayor Poop, no longer able to bear the popularity of Miss Strange.
“Go! . . Go! . . Go! . .”
“Statistics can be jumbled to make them fit any purpose one likes! Insurance companies are exiled from Memphis for fraud! Pack your bags! Now!”
“Stop your tongue from zigzagging! My ears are nearly gagging!” countered Poop.
Go! . . Go! . . Go! . .”
“This town will see a truck stop with pool tables, foosball tables, bowling alleys, a swimming pool, healthy groceries and German beer! Truckers need to move, not sit on their asses!”
“Go! . . Go! . . Go! . .”
“That you’re a retard is all I can regard!” Poop now punching the air with his fist.
“There will be air hoses with chucks at the pumps! There will be water for radiators! There will be mechanics twenty-four seven! There will be a $1000 cash prize for every thousandth driver who fuels!”
“Something Strange! . . Something Strange! . . Something Strange! . .” chanted the people as they swayed back and forth. Many held up cigarette lighters aflame. The mediator couldn’t stop it, the auditorium in a fervor, all taken by the performance of Something Strange.
“You ought to have ‘cow’ written on your brow!” Poop shook his fist.
“Something Strange! . . Something Strange! . . Something Strange! . .”
“What on earth?” Penny said to himself as he entered the auditorium, having heard the chanting of his companion’s name. He watched as Something Strange gave an impassioned speech to the lively public packed in the hall between himself, at the main door, and the stage. He also saw the cops at the steps to either side of the stage which led to Something defining Strange. Returning outside, he hurried to find another entrance.
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