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The Essay
Show #415
Hyde Center Desserts
David Gunn

Beano Bengaze is on a secret mission. It is so secret that he has subconsciously repressed all but the initial phase of it, which is to get in his car and drive west. He is not cognizant of any passage of time, but when he has to shield his eyes from the dazzlingly setting sun, he deduces that evening is approaching. That means he's been on the road for ... well, even that part of his memory has been temporarily subverted. He scratches his chin and discovers a fresh crop of stubble. Hmm, that would put him on the road for at least a day, maybe two. He passes a road sign that says "682840." The number does not ring a bell. It does, however, honk his horn.

On and on into the darkening night he drives. The moon rises, casts a jaundiced glow on the surrounding countryside. Save for the ice cream truck that has been shadowing him for the past unknown measure of linear time, his is the only vehicle on the highway. The road suddenly bears right, north, but Beano instinctively continues west. Directly ahead is a vast field of straw, but there is a fissure in it that trends generally westward and Beano unhesitatingly drives into it. The ice cream truck, however, bears right, following the road. The straw path is abundantly undulating and Beano is reminded of his tormented days years ago aboard the HMS Maldemer.

Time indeterminately passes. The light from his car's high beams ricocheting off the lofty straw stalks reveals that the path is gradually narrowing. Soon, the straw is brushing against the sides of his car. The car sideswipes one sturdy tendril, and it reacts by yanking off the right-hand rearview mirror. The straw curtain abruptly parts and Beano drives into a perfectly spherical crop circle. He rolls down his window and slows to sniff the air. The intoxicating aroma of scorched gherkins is everywhere. So is the plaintiff sound of a theremin, louder even than his car's motor. By the time he reaches the far side of the circle, the stubble on his chin has grown to goatee length. The circle funnels back down to a pathwidth and, as Beano enters it, another vine rears up, entwines around and confiscates the car's left-hand review mirror. And then, abruptly, the path ends, blocked by a 12-foot high wall of straw. Beano slams on the brakes, but his momentum carries him into and through the grainy barrier. His car comes to rest in front of a roadside marker: "Chief Tonganoxie, last lineal chief of the Delaware Indians, lived near here prior to 1864. His lodge was a stopping place on the trail into Kansas." Tonganoxie! He knew that the town lay west of the Missouri River but somewhere east of Topeka because his subconscious just released a pheromone that divulged the next phase of his mission: find a local bakery called "Hyde Center Desserts." Serendipitously enough, to the roadside marker is affixed a poster that reads "Kansas' Finest Cannolis are at Hyde Center Desserts, on the Tonganoxie Common." The text is superimposed over a map that clearly points the way to the confectionary. Beano pulls onto the highway and heads into town, passing the ice cream truck en route. Even in pitch darkness, the Common is easy to find--Tonganoxie, after all, sports only about 2,300 residents. And from the sounds emanating from a small, nondescript building of orange and green clapboarding with a faded "Hyde Center Desserts" sign above its door, not all of them are asleep. It is the sound of a theremin--no, more like four theremins!, each one more argumentative than the last. The aroma, too, wafting from the open window does not bring to mind sweetened comestibles, but rather ...

Beano parks the car behind the statue of a giant upright vacuum cleaner--which is how 19th century Kansans translated the indian chief's name--and skulks across the street to the building. Peering through the window, he sees six men surrounded not by the ingredients of filled pastry rolls, but rather of enough armament to equip a small army. He identifies Merkel K1 Jagd 30-06 stalking rifles, AK-47 Kalashnikov assault rifles, Benelli M3 Super 90 "Kromo" (left-hand) shotguns, Glock 31 .357-caliber pistols, Tulsky Oruzheiny Zavod 5.6-mm submarine submachine guns, Steyr-Mannlicher SBS tactical .308 bolt-action rifles, a Perazzi MX-2000 competition shotgun, several boxes of caltrops, plus a box of scented dryer sheets. His first reaction is of disappointment, because he really does hanker for a fresh cannoli.

His ensuing feeling, however, is of apprehension over the dryer sheets, which is corroborated when a fifth pheromone released into his medulla obbliggato notes that "Hyde Center Desserts" is an anagram of scented dryer sheets. Unfortunately, the significance of that information is locked in the sixth and final pheromone, which isn't scheduled to be discharged for 15 or so minutes. Meanwhile, one of the men in the weapons room has spotted Beano peering through the window and he sounds the alarm. The men grab guns but, besotted from too many cannolis, begin to shoot indiscriminately. One bullet, passing within inches of Beano, hits the support of the giant vacuum cleaner at just the wrong angle, causing a stress fracture. It appears that OSHA's warning to the town about the statue was justified after all, because Chief Tonganoxie's effigy promptly topples right onto Hyde Center Desserts.

By the time the dust clears, Beano's sixth pheromone has kicked in. The scented dryer sheet, he learns, is the nefarious product of terrorists who mean to destabilize the olfactory sensibilities of the Free World. From all indications, it's working. The pernicious commodity has wheedled its way into the clothes dryers of gullible launderers the world over. Once exposed to those cationic softeners, the user is quickly subsumed into the seedy underworld of anti-static cling addiction. The effluvium now pervading the Tonganoxie Common--a mixture of perfume, yellow dye and ricotta cream--is even altering Beano's perception of reality. Still hankering for a comestible from the sweet trolley, he totters towards the giant cannoli that has materialized in the street in front of him. The part of his mind still unaffected by the dryer sheet redolence tries to warn him that he's really approaching the ice cream truck, but it'll take a seventh pheromone to break through his stupor, a pheromone that, infelicitously, won't be released for another two hours.

Until then, we can at least offer you the 415th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar, which today is brought to you by the letter S. Yes, the last names of all of the composers featured on the show begin with that letter. What, you don't believe me? Well, as soon as this music runs its course, I'll be back to prove it.