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The Essay
Show #367?
David Gunn

Hot. Mother Bumpkins is hot. She is seated on a stool in the middle of a small room, barely six feet square. The only illumination comes from the walls, which glow with an incandescence that suggests a heat source lurks behind the plaster lath. She touches her hand to her forehead. It, too, is hot, as if she's consumed by fever. Perspiration beads drip into her eyes, burning, burning. She abruptly feels lightheaded and grasps the stool for support, but itís hot, and sears her hand as if she had grasped a fiery poker. The walls radiate waves of heat that wash suffocatingly over her, and she gasps for breath. A tiny pinprick of light appears on the ceiling directly above her. Then another. And another. They join together like flaming tributaries to an infernal river. It is a classic example of the exothermic oxidation of combustible substances--fire. Mother Bumpkins frantically looks for a way out--a door, a window, anything. But there isnít one. There are only four walls, a floor, a nearly blazing ceiling, and a sudden memory of a recurring dream of immolation. Then were the simulacra not merely long-sublimated pathologies, but rather a vivid premonition of this day? Before Mother Bumpkins can think this theory through, she awakens in a cold sweat.

Correction, Mother Bumpkins is not sweating. She is just cold. Bone-cold. Timbers ashivering. Automatically she draws her parka more tightly around herself. The little clouds of condensation that she exhales linger near her mouth like fogdogs surveilling a vaporous kennel. Beyond her own breath she sees only a dimly lit room. Unlike the one in her dream, this room is hemispherical, chair-free and cold. A soft, blue light filters through one of the walls. Mother Bumpkins reaches out and touches it. It's frozen, like ice. It is ice. Her eyes trace a seam in the wall to the floor, where the presence of a low, narrow passageway closes the circuit on another memory loop. She shivers again, but this time from dismay, occasioned by recognition. She is in the igloo that she hastily constructed as protection from the cold and wind when she found herself adrift on the ice floe. How she got here is no longer a question she entertains, for she has no idea, and she knows that pondering it will only drive her further towards madness. Using the ice floe and the stool in her dream as known coordinates, Mother Bumpkins was able to triangulate her position and get her polar bearings--she is on the Beaufort Sea one and a half kilomiles north of the hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, Canada.

In the Inuit language, Tuktoyaktuk means "resembling a caribou," a description with which Mother Bumpkins agrees wholeheartedly. For the past two days, as she has gazed southward towards that community for a sign of rescue, she has noted the many similarities between burg and beast: the antlerlike skyline, the clove-brown-with-white-rump coloration of the microwave tower, the melodramatic sounds of both animals and citizenry in rut, the large concave hooves and rooves. Glancing up into the pellucid blue-black sky, the clouds, too, seem to bear a certain caribousity. Belying typical cloudlike behavior, these donít scud across the sky so much as they migrate in herds. And, unless her eyes are playing tricks on her again--last year's temporary bout of strabismus was a real knee-slapper from their perspective--those over there in the northwest quadrant appear to be calving. Indeed, nearly two score of cloudlets break off from their puffier kin and begin a slow, ambagious descent towards the earth. Then, as if triggered by some unseen impulse, they all suddenly drop like chubby caribou that have just been introduced to gravity. As if she hasnít had enough on her worry plate, now Mother Bumpkins must cope with a heretofore undocumented meteorological phenomenon heading directly for her. But at the last minute, to a cloud they swerve and plunge into the water off of the floe's port bow. As a rule, clouds do not effect much mass, however that rule is not currently in force here. And the cloudlets' crashing into the water creates a tsunami-sized wave that almost washes Mother Bumpkins overboard. Drenched with cold sea water, the reluctant adventurer discovers that she's allergic to krill, with which the water is rife. However, the good news is that the surge pushes the floe south all the way to the Tuktoyaktuk dockominiums.

A short shoreman secures the ice islet to the jetty, collects all the shrimplike crustaceans that litter its surface, and offers them to Mother Bumpkins. She declines, indicating they can go with the floe. A limousine pulls up to the dock, a chauffeur leaps out, opens the rear door, and gestures to Mother Bumpkins. The man looks familiar, as does the word embroidered on his cap. It says "zingo."

She climbs into the car and is immediately struck by its similarity to the interior of a caribou. Pushing past the gills, the pedipalps and the cephalothorax, she settles into the pancreas-like seat. Again, there is something uneasily familiar about these surroundings.

And then, there is that zinging sound.

The circuit on another memory loop abruptly closes and the Mother of all Bumpkins is simultaneously back in the frigid igloo, the fiery hot room and the Monday night zingo class parading around the cantina in Kegler boots. The memory begins to fade, but this time she doggedly grabs hold of it, refusing to let go. It's cool, green and fluid, like runny lime Jello without the pear halves. And then it's gone. So, too, are the cantina, the igloo, the hot room, the dockominiums, the car, and even Mother Bumpkins. There is only this 367th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar, itself a now-you-see-it, now-you-donít entity, as illustrated by last week's ephemeral program. Conversely, today's show is thick with both substance and abuse, and since I'm not sure which is which, we'll just start with Kalvos.