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The Essay
Show #307
Whither Warbler?
David Gunn

In May of 1937, moments before she vanished from the face of the earth in general and the nose of the Lakehurst Naval Air Station in particular, Betty the supersonic dirigible pilot was 27 years old. If she lived to see the dawn of the next millennium, she would therefore be 91 years old. Yet here it was 2001 A.D., Betty was seated at a card table in Indianapolis, Indiana with four other women playing full-contact bridge and she looked no older than, roughly, 27 -- 28 at the outside. That's because Betty had been the reluctant relocatee of an Algonquin Hole, a time and space-scrambling phenomenon that not only snatched her out of her own universe and dumped her in another, but also forced her to learn a pointless card game in the interim. Oh, but Betty wanted me to point out here that she actually liked the game; however, due to extremely poor luck, she had yet to win a single trick. She also said that she'd like someone to explain where she's been for the last 11 days. Well, it may seem like 11 days to her, but in reality -- or at least in this version of reality -- 26 weeks have passed since she leapt from her out-of-control balloonocraft and failed to make contact with the ground. But, regardless of whether the days number 182 or 11, the important thing is that her Algonquin Hole sojourn ends today, April 14th, the date W.H. Blackmoor has penciled in as his greatest désastre de résistance.

But back to Betty.

Astute rememberologists will recall that she was last seen on a circular, black vinyl plain surrounded by gelatinous obelisks arranged in a herringbone pattern. According to Algonquin Hole scholars, this is the Hole's vestibule, and the obelisks are benign growths that are prized as culinary delights in certain universes through which the phenomenon sometimes passes. (The Jello Culinary Institute has tried to recreate the temporal comestibles in its kitchens, but success has proved elusive for three reasons: the recipe is based on utter speculation; several of the conjectured ingredients haven't been seen since November 22, 1740, coincidentally the day Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI vanished in a freak meteor shower; and each attempt has spawned a catastrophe in the kitchen, one that, if the culinarists only knew, had the smudged fingerprints of Warbler H. Blackmoor all over it.) The herringbone pattern of the obelisks, on the other hand, has never been adequately accounted for and is the source of much spirited debate among Algonquinists. After sucking down the last drop of spirits and making rude little noises with their straws, however, the theorists generally concede that it probably exists simply for its own perverse pleasure. Regardless, Betty didn’t find any part of the "vestibule" either benign or appealing. The surreal landscape blunted her appetite, and the absence of anything resembling New Jersey just plain gave her the willies. Gradually, though, as others have done in this story -- or would have done if they’d only followed my instructions -- she gathered her wits and tried to get on with life in her new environment.

You can probably hear the Algonquinists chuckling now. Entities in Algonquin Holes simply don't "get on with their lives." They usually aren't even aware of the passage of either time or space, since they're sealed in little temporal cocoons until the Hole boots them out into their new universe. Betty's training as a supersonic dirigiblist, however, had prepared her for peculiar trans-dimensional phenomena, so she was able to compensate for the temporal stasis. She could even sense the approach of Indianapolis in the year 2001, briefly interrupted by a detour through a Saskatoonian cabin in which a multitude of restless ears, eyes and noses was piled from floor to ceiling. Her trajectory, she calculated, would put her into the kitchen of a Boise Street duplex, where four women were engaged in a friendly but combative card game. They seemed not to mind -- indeed, even notice! -- when Betty just materialized in the east southeast chair and joined in the current hand. And Betty was only mildly surprised that she intuitively knew all of the intricacies of the game. Still, she couldn't seem to win a single trick.

But then, she felt a little tickle in her latissimus dorsi. The alarm for her inner clock radio just went off: it was April 14th. Slowly she placed her cards face down on the table (and for once the six deuces and Jack of Diamonds would have been a winning hand), pushed her tray table into its locking upright position, stood up -- again without the merest acknowledgment from the other women -- and waited ... but for what, she didn't know.

Alas, we don't know, either. Because Warbler Hadley Blackmoor, Professor Emesis at the University of Hummock-on-Smythe, has failed to show up during this long-awaited 307th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar. That by itself is no calamity, and certainly no désastre de résistance, but we are nevertheless left once again without a satisfactory literary denouement, and instead have to rely on the implicitly apocryphal tales of Kalvos.