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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution

The Essay
Show #480
The Road to Helminth
David Gunn

Like Ruby Primavera, Wampum Joe was destined to follow an itinerant lifestyle. He had held many jobs over the years. Some lasted less than a day; others persisted for decades. His first job was probably his favorite. Because he was at the right place (by the river Ood-nan-tunk at the center of the Earth) at the right time (eleven thousand zillion BC), he was tapped as one of the original Spirit Guides of Navajo mythology. He was given a host of cool supernatural powers plus a life that spanned millennia during which he was revered and feted. The only downside occurred when he was eaten by a group of Navajo hominids who had evolved beyond simple animistic beliefs. But Wampum Joe was nothing if not resilient, and it wasn't long before he had reinvented himself as an Athabaskan fur trader. However, after having walked amongst the All-Elastic and Omnipotent, swapping beaver pelts for marmoset soon wore out its welcome, and off he went in search of new gainful employ. Because he was itinerant, one never knew where he'd turn up next. And soon, indeed he was a turnip--more accurately, Captain Turnip, spokesvegetable for Rutabagas 'n Baguettes, a cultish restaurant chain of the Dakota Badlands. That job, too, was short-lived. His turnip costume fascinated children but was off-putting for the adults--including Wampum Joe--since it accurately mimicked the fetor of a turnip in rut. But, that was then; this is August. And Wampum Joe is operating a motor grader for Crelman Construction Corporation in Helminth, Minnesota.

If the road to Hell was paved with good intentions, then the road to Helminth was paved with aspartame. At least that's what Wampum Joe was finding most in abundance as he scraped the thoroughfare-to-be's surface. The artificially sweet bouquet that arose from the dust as he scrabbled and scraped was heady, and caused him to gradually lose interest in the concept of a straight line. Every precipice he came upon inspired him, and he would find a way to get the motor grader down it. The big double-ess curve he carved into a forty-degree declivity will surely be a source of wonder for highwayologists of the future.

Wampum Joe's road-building talents were not restricted to the motor grader. In bulldozers, chip spreaders and combines he was equally versed ... in a kind of doggerel-eat-doggerel way. By far, however, his favorite mechanized tool was the plastique masticator. It was a bathysphere-shaped device on wheels that squeaked when you squeezed it and which deposited a thin layer of plastic explosives atop the subsoil foundation. Its purpose was not clear, though it did tend to command respect from the subsequent layers of reinforcing steel mesh, asphalt and potholes.

The aroma from the freshly stirred and fried asphalt effectively masked that of the aspartame, and Wampum Joe found he could again think clearly. And again he wondered why anyone would want to build a road to Helminth, Minnesota. It was far and away the northernmost settlement in the state, located sixty kilometers north of the Manitoba border. Canada didn't want it, however, and ceded it to the United States. And all because of apprehension over the town's indigenous population.

If ever a town was eponymously named, it was Helminth. The police chief, the owner of the laundromat, half of the samba band, the entire municipal council, the town floozy--they were all nematodes: roundworms, hookworms, pinworms, whipworms and cacographers. They dressed neatly, seemed generally amiable and were decent tippers. But hang around them for a while and it soon became clear that they were fixated on a single agenda: parasitism. They sought out hosts--usually strangers in town--then fed off of them without ever contributing anything in return.

For as long as anyone could remember, the town had been forgotten by Minnesotans and shunned by wary Manitobans. No roads led into it; only one led out. Isolated from the rest of the world, Helminth had devised its own system of local government, based loosely on the intricacies of a Brazilian dance. When not preying upon others, its residents, got quite good at it. The town floozy in particular was renowned for her exemplary footwork, and one year the North American Samba League awarded her a medal--which she promptly sucked the life out of.

And now, thanks to a large, anonymous grant, Crelman Construction Corporation was building a road from the village of Rattoinette, which sat right on the 49th Parallel, to Helminth.

Wampum Joe finished compacting mile marker 18's glassy surface with the vibrator, adding a little filigree to the embankment, then he stepped back to inspect his work. Hmm. Not enough camber. He climbed in the bulldozer, raised the blade, then dropped it hard onto the asphalt surface. Two plastique charges four layers below him exploded, pushing the middle of the road up just enough to effect a slight arch. Perfect!

The loud honk of a horn startled Wampum Joe and he looked up to see a panel truck idling behind him on the just-paved road. The windshield was tinted and he couldn't make out the driver. A dozen and a half large, bright blue-black fluorescent letters on the side of the truck spelled "Schistosomersaults." As he gazed at them, they faded in and out of focus. Again the horn honked, this time accompanied by a revving of the engine. But what was he supposed to do? He wasn't yet halfway to Helminth. If this crazy driver had to get there, he'd just have to brave the rocky aspartame flats that lay ahead. As if reading his mind, the truck backed up, angled over the berm and sped onto the Canadian topography. It was out of sight in a minute - but not because the driver was Helminth-bent for leather. Rather, he tried to force his way through the Navajo hominids who had been observing Wampum Joe's activities. Instead of parting to let the truck pass, they seized it. And ate it. All the way down to its tailpipe.

The 480th road to Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar is paved with the music of Erling Wold, which is about as un-nematodelike as, so he constantly claims, is Kalvos.