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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution

The Essay
Show #464
The Crown Jewels
David Gunn

It's Saturday morning, and Ursanola is at the village flea market looking for an amino acid rain gauge. After a fruitless hour of scanning the hundreds of tables and booths, she gives up and wearily walks back to her Segway for the ride home. Serendipitously, the machine is parked right in front of The Dollar Store. On a whim, she goes inside. She ignores the gewgaws, gimcracks, fribbles and bric-a-brac that dangle enticingly from overhead display racks and heads straight for the "Reduced For Quick Sale" bin. Digging through layers of tawdry trinkets and knickknacks, she abruptly pulls out the Crown Jewels of Rangoon. Although there is no tag identifying them as an historically priceless commodity, she right away realizes that the row of emeralds that encircles the crown alone is worth way more than the $9.95 asking price. Still, her intrinsically haggling nature causes her to offer the saleswoman only eight dollars. The saleswoman--Blanche, according to her nametag--wants to examine the crown then, but Ursanola is loath to let it out of her possession for even a few seconds. So she increases her offer to nine dollars. Growing suspicious, Blanche rips the crown from Ursanola's hands. Ursanola yelps as two of the rubies pop off of the visor and go flying across the room. Blanche turns the crown over in her hands. Evidently, she had not spent much time in Rangoon, otherwise she probably would have recognized that the fifteen diamonds on the front, just below the "Dishwasher Safe" label, had been skillfully set in the unmistakable outline of the Shwe Dagon Pagoda. Still, there is something about the crown that reeks of mystery and fabulous adventure. "Nine-fifty," she says finally. Not quite a full second elapses before Ursanola has neatly stacked thirty-six quarters and ten nickels on the Dollar Store counter. Blanche dutifully rings up the sale, sweeps the coins into the till, and hands Ursanola the crown and a receipt that cautions the buyer that all sales are final and that the item's warranty is void.

When Ursanola gets home, she draws the curtains, gingerly extracts the crown from her pannier, then gapes at herself in the mirror as she places it atop her head. It fits her like a glove. Of course, Ursanola's head is not shaped to accommodate a glove, and so the Crown Jewels of Rangoon slips off and tumbles to the floor. Another ruby and three sapphires pop off the fleur-de-lis to the left of the diamond-studded Pagoda. Ursanola is sure they rolled under the sofa, so she gets down on her hands and knees to look for them. But there is something very strange about the underside of the sofa, something she'd never before noticed. An intense odor of ozone is emanating from the floor beneath it, as if it had been struck by lightning. And there's an accompanying sound, a sort of ... sucking sound, like water coursing down a drain. An eerie tingling sensation sets her hair on end as the floor begins to vibrate, and suddenly the sucking sound turns into a powerful suction force, drawing Ursanola under the sofa. Frantically, she grabs hold of one of the sofa's legs and wraps her arms around it. With supreme effort, she slowly pulls herself free of the prodigious sucking pressure. But then she spots the crown sliding inexorably towards the sofa. As it passes her, she instinctively reaches out for it--and loses her grip on the sofa leg. With a howl, she slips, along with the crown, under the sofa and down what can only be ... a drain.

Time and space no longer have meaning for Ursanola. She feels like she's adrift in a world of ambiguity. No, not adrift--she definitely has the sensation of movement, of forward motion. The image of a tube enters her subconscious, but is she in one or watching one? And while she's pretty certain that today is still Saturday, she no longer knows what year the day belongs to.

Later that same Saturday, Blanche is in The Dollar Store office unpacking a carton of Bavarian baubles when an alarm bell signals the arrival of a pneumatic tube canister. She presses a button and into the receiving port drops the cylinder. She opens it and withdraws the Crown Jewels of Rangoon, back from another mysterious and fabulous adventure. Noticing the missing sapphires and rubies, Blanche roots through a pile of gemstones on her desk and selects six suitable replacements. Then she picks up her glue gun and attaches them to the crown. The glue is quick-setting and, in two minutes, Blanche returns the crown to the "Reduced For Quick Sale""bin. Another alarm bell sounds. Puzzled, Blanche again presses a button on her distribution console, and another canister drops into the receiving port. This one contains a compressed and very befuddled-looking Ursanola. Blanche impassively examines the cylinder for damage, sees none, transfers it to another pneumatic tube labeled "Vladivostok," and presses the Send button. Then she totters over to the armoire in the corner of the room and retrieves three more "Dishwasher Safe" crowns embellished with myriad precious gems. To archeologists and collectors, they are the crown jewels from the cities of Cnidos, Sybaris and El Dorado, but to Blanche, they are merely commodities to push to the bottom of other "Reduced For Quick Sale" bins. Which she dutifully does.

The front door opens. It's another customer, so Blanche activates the electromagnetic fields on the crowns that will start the whole process over again.

This 464th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar is likewise awash in process, whose activation of similar electromagnetics is ineluctably attracting you, the listening audient, to the remainder of this program, including, to start with, Kalvos.