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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution

The Essay
Show #526
The Bumpkinses
David Gunn

It was a sunny summer morning when Johnny Bumpkins opened the door to his house and peered outside. His ma had told him to wear a jacket if he went out, but it was too warm for that. And he wasn't going far--just for a little stroll in the woods that abutted his home. He grabbed the snack bag of leaves and twigs from the kitchen table, tugged on his favorite baseball cap, then latched the door behind him and toddled down the walk to the path that led off into the forest. A light wind blew through the trees, ruffling his hair and invigorating him. What a fine day it was for a walk in the woods! Maybe he'd have another adventure today! The carpet of pine needles that lined the forest floor crunched slightly underfoot, and a familiar aroma wafted up from it. He sniffed. It smelled just like ma's room air freshener! The trees gradually thinned and Johnny walked up to a big flat rock that was in the middle of a sun dappled clearing. He called it his magic rock. Sure enough, the moment he sat down on it, two little bunnies magically appeared from nowhere and approached him. They wrinkled their pink noses. Johnny Bumpkins returned the wrinkle. A form of inter-species communication followed that no one save the young lad was privy to. All three of them suddenly hopped up in the air in unison. Then the bunnies rolled over, laughing and laughing! Johnny Bumpkins twitched his nose as if to say, 'so long!' Then he got up from the rock and continued on his way.

The overhead leafy canopy was denser here, and the woods were correspondingly darker. Another breeze sliced through the trees, but this one was cold and slightly ominous. The youngster shivered. But then, he happened upon some other forest creatures that were also his friends. He stopped to watch Mr. Squirrel gather an acorn into his mouth and scurry up a tree. Nearby, Mrs. Bird chirped and chirped as she pulled a worm out of the ground; then she flew up into the same tree where her nested chicks clamored for breakfast. Oh gosh, it was so good to be here in the woods! But would Johnny Bumpkins have felt so cheery had he known that a huge, savage tapir, attracted to his leaves and twigs, was stalking him at that very moment? Probably not, so let's not ruin his day by warning him.

Instead, let's return to his home where Mother Bumpkins was hosting a house party. A group of her girl friends were seated in the living room engrossed in the presentation of Mrs. Fibonacci, a consultant for the Stepford Corporation.

"And in conclusion," she said, absent-mindedly smoothing her apron, "I guarantee that once you begin following the Stepford Plan--and I mean religiously--your husbands will begin to pay more attention to you. Mitzy, you had a question?"

An attractive young woman in a yellow chemise piped up in a small, shy voice, "You said that all we had to do was run our tap water through the Stepford filtration unit. But Moe, my husband, is a plumber, and he'd notice something was different right away."

Mrs. Fibonacci smiled patronizingly. "And that's the purpose of these kaffiyehs that I've handed out to you all." She held hers up. "It may look like an ordinary Arabian head scarf, but its circular metal band contains a tiny transistor radio that implants hypnotic suggestions in the brain of the wearer as he sleeps. All you have to do is slip it over your husband's head at night and Stepford will do the rest."

Examining her headband, Mother Bumpkins discovered a row of minuscule speakers in the lining that buzzed ever so faintly when she touched them. Mrs. Fibonacci motioned for her to hold the band up to her ear. Mother Bumpkins did so. As she listened, she broke into grin that had just a touch of venom to it. She nodded at Mrs. Fibonacci, who returned the malicious smile.

Ruth, in a pretty blue dirndl, liked what she'd heard. "Well, you can count me in!" she said emphatically.

The other six women readily agreed to sign up for the program, too. Only Jim, brilliantly disguised as his mother-in-law, Blanche, sat stonily in his chair. He had to report this ghastly plot to the Village Men's Club pronto! They might not believe him, so he'd take the kaffiyeh as proof of the conspiracy. But as he tried to pocket it, he realized too late that his dress didn't have any pockets--too late because Mrs. Fibonacci had observed his surreptitious action and was now regarding him with suspicion. He reached up to wipe away a bead of sweat that had collected on his brow and noticed with alarm that some of his foundation had come off with it.

But then Bernice chose that moment to ask a question of the Stepford consultant. With Mrs. Fibonacci's attention diverted, Jim saw his chance to escape. Politely excusing himself to Shirley, he shuffled unsteadily on his high heels towards the door. He almost made it--his hand was on the knob--when Mother Bumpkins suddenly loomed in front of him, barring his way.

"Blanche," she hissed, "you don't seem to be on the same page as the rest of us. Maybe you need a little convincing." And suddenly, Jim found himself pinned to a chair by five pairs of strong arms as Betty--his own wife!--firmly pushed the altered kaffiyeh down over his head.

Suddenly, from deep in the woods, Mother Bumpkins heard a blood-curdling roar. It sounded like a tapir. But of course tapirs were native to Brazil and Sumatra. Surely, they wouldn't be around here! There followed a scream of such horror that she couldn't be sure if man or beast had made it.

For sure it didn't come from this 526th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar, because today's screams originate from a guest whose ululationary tendencies remain steadfastly horror-free. Just ask the tapir. Or Kalvos.