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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution

The Essay
Show #404
Who done it
David Gunn

Detective Inspector Anka Rounders gazed emotionlessly at the bodies in front of her. It was a gruesome sight, indeed, but after ten years of police work, it no longer took her breath away. A decade ago, she might have needed an hour's resuscitation in an oxygen tank plus a swearing off of Clive Barker movies for a month, but today, after a few squirts from her dextroamphetamine inhaler, she was right as rain. There were three bodies: a white Caucasian male of indeterminate height, about 40 years old, with an obvious fatal wound to the head, which was missing (ergo the indeterminate height); an Asian female, 16 hands high, 33½ years old, with what looked like a 17th hand grafted to her abdomen; and an alien, four and a half feet long, with gray skin that shimmered under the fluorescent lights, thin, almost fragile body, oversized hairless head, large black eyes, small nose and mouth, no identifiable ears, four elongated fingers on each hand, wearing a gray, skin-tight suit, age unknown. The arms and legs of the three individuals were intertwined in a kind of bizarre cat's cradle. Rounders though it had to have been premeditated, possibly some sort of demented calling card left by the perpetrator. She withdrew a lens from her valise and bent over to examine the bodies more closely. Good grief, the torsos were covered with ... well, they looked like ticks, those hateful little bloodsuckers that she was forever plucking out of the matted hair of her Welsh corgi. She reached down to crush one--and discovered another oddity. It wasn't real. It was made of ... it felt like the material from a cheap pair of trousers. Polyester! Now, why in the world ...? Briefly, she considered the obvious pun that such a tableau suggested--that poly ticks make strange bed felonies--but just as quickly discarded it. No, something more sinister than cheap wordplay was at work here, and she was determined to find out what it was.

Sergeant Constable Schmendrick motioned to her. But he couldn't merely raise his eyebrows or wave a hand to get her attention; he had to stage an entire pantomime. The rest of the police squad, however, immensely enjoyed this break in their investigative routine, and provided an excellent audience. He held up one finger: first word. He pointed to his eyeball. "I," someone shouted, and Schmendrick nodded emphatically. He held up two fingers: second word. He touched his earlobe. "Sounds like," came the automatic response, and again Schmendrick nodded. Then he pinched his nose with his fingers, curled his lips and rolled his eyes. "Smell!" shouted one; Schmendrick shook his head no. "Stink!" called out another, and this time the sergeant constable nodded in the affirmative. "Sounds like stink ... ahh, wink, blink, sink, mink, tink, think ..." At the mention of the last word, the sergeant constable hopped up and down and pointed his finger at the officer who'd said it. "Think," he repeated, and Schmendrick nodded forcefully. Third word. He pointed to his eye again. "I" came the response from nearly the entire squad. Four fingers: fourth word. He shook his head back and forth. "No;" "not;" "never" came the responses. He pointed to the bloke who’d uttered the first word. He repeated "no," and Schmendrick nodded and smiled. Even Detective Inspector Rounders was showing signs of interest.

Five fingers: fifth word. Now Schmendrick hunkered and placed his arms akimbo in such a way that they clearly resembled wings. Employing a trick he learned during his days as a carnival roustabout, he turned his head nearly all the way 'round, then reversed direction. Facing his audience, his eyes big as saucers, he blinked. The impersonation was unmistakable. "Owl," Rounders and two others shouted together. Schmendrick shook them off; then, pursing his lips, he opened his mouth. "Hoooooooooo," came the immediate response from everyone in the room. Sixth word. The growing excitement was palpable. Again he touched his earlobe. "Sounds like!" Now he feigned drawing a pistol from a holster. "Shoot;" "fire;" "gun;" came the replies, and Schmendrick nodded emphatically after the third one. "Gun," repeated Rounders, "sounds like gun." The guessing began, "bun, pun, nun, one, sun, fun, done, run, lun, yun ..." But Schmendrick had heard what he wanted, and he signaled for them to go back. "Lun?" "Run?" "Done?"--to which the sergeant constable nodded emphatically. Seven fingers: seventh word. He scratched himself with his fingers while making a face as if the action were providing scant relief. "Itch!" came the response from several people. Schmendrick nodded vigorously, smiled, then spread his hands triumphantly. The game was over.

Collectively, the police squad assembled the puzzle. "I think ... I know ... who ... done itch?"

Exasperated, Schmendrick finally spoke up. "No! I think I know who done it!" Before Detective Inspector Rounders could protest his absurd pleonasm, he pulled a yellowed newspaper clipping from his wallet. "It's just like a case we had fifteen years ago, back before you was on the force, ma'am," he said, handing the article to her. "Same m.o., right down to the damn alien." After only a couple of sentences, Rounders realized that she wasn't reading a factual police report. She glanced quizzically at Schmendrick. "Sergeant constable," she said slowly, "this is a review of a pilot for a TV drama."

If the word "nonplused" were pictorially depicted in the dictionary, Schmendrick's expression would've fit it to a tee. He snatched back the article, scanned it, then pantomimed the word "nerts!" (One syllable, sounds like yurts.) "Guess I was wrong then," he mumbled taciturnly, as he faded back into the crowd of police investigators.

It seems that the Scheduling Advisory Board of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar was wrong, too, as we had slated Paolo Chagas to appear live on this 404th episode of the show. Alas, we have neither guest from afar nor satisfactory story denouement today. However, we look forward to resolving both issues in the future. Of course, in the interim, there's always Kalvos.