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The Essay
Show #99
The Wicker Wars
David Gunn
There is, far off to the northwest, in a part of the country inhabited primarily by single-celled conscientious objectors, an oligarchic duchy comprised almost entirely of flexible plant branches and twigs, known as the Land of Wicker. Local government varies from erratic to eccentric, and parliamentarian rules of order have been on vacation ever since poetry superseded ice as the official legal currency. Poems are evaluated daily by a panel of ontological hedgehog researchers, and the net worth of each -- i.e. the poem, not the hedgehog -- sometimes fluctuates wildly from one 23-hour period to the next. A perfectly pliant sonnet may rate 90 points one day, but if the researcher has to extract a dozen painful quills from his arm in the interim, the poeter might, at the next appraisal, find herself suddenly impoverished. Oddly enough, doggerel is frequently in short supply and is valued highly. One recent crambo, for example, was traded straight up by its perpetrator for a house-trained family of four and their furniture ... which was, of course, wicker.

Wicker was founded in ancient times by a troupe of French Canadian mimes who had disgraced themselves all over Europe and the eastern United States by performing a synchronized ensemble rendition of "Escaping from the Box." Officially banned from any city whose name contained a vowel, the outcasts were covertly supported by the Friends Of Mimes, a shadowy group of mimimery aficionados with ties to the Xerox Corporation. A predecessor to the hedgehog research panel briefly outlawed mummery, then, two quill-free days later, openly celebrated it. These days, mimes are neither pariahs nor heroes; they are simply liable for costly excise tariffs if they don't speak at least seven times a day.

An Algonquin Hole slowly spins on its paradimensional axis in the village park, 18 feet above and also below treeline, gradually replacing the population of ground squirrels with gelatin-based life forms from a distant galaxy affectionately called VM67T³. The galaxy, several thousand light years to the left of the winter constellation known as The Soiled Trousers, never produced much in the way of lifeforms with advanced cognitive abilities, so, when nonplused bushy-tailed North American rodents began showing up exhibiting a canny ability to climb trees and stuff nuts in their cheeks, the sphagnum mosses which were the dominant administrators of the quadrant immediately ceded all civic authority to the more mobile squirrels. Unaccustomed to the low gravity, the squirrels sometimes tumbled up into the treetops. Their ensuing nervous chattering was misunderstood, and led to an untimely halt of intraplanetary importing of non-representational split-twig figurines.

Queen Joan the Mad, nutball daughter of Ferdinand, Isabella and Lois, who succeeded her mum to the throne, lived most of her nincompoop life in seclusion at Quesadilla castle. Occasionally, however, she ventured out to Wicker, where, disguised as herself, she ran Le Flambeau Oriange, a furniture repair shop that specialized in slipcovering, upholstering, and split-twig figurine rehabilitation, all of which were forbidden there. The shop sat atop a major deposit of iridium, a mineral rare on earth but abundant in meteors. Before it was discovered and hauled away for ballast in the Wickerworks Orphism Plant -- whose own tangential story may someday require another sesquintro to discuss -- the mineral incessantly flooded the shop with W-rays, perhaps contributing to Joan's mental wackiness.

The largest city is Wickersham, as is the smallest. This is not a contradiction; it is merely a byproduct of Algonquin Hole influence, an influence felt far and wide, here and there, now and then, come hell or high water, for richer or for poorer, but especially on Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar, this unadulterated 99th episode of which -- good though it probably will be -- is merely a tune-up for next week's 100th anniversarial gala show, which you should miss only if you fancy contiguous root canal as your primary goal in life. And who better to get to the root of today's show than one steeped in the traditions of proximate dental hygiene, a connoisseur of mouthal anesthetics, Kavitylos.