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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution

The Essay
Show #540
Texas T-Bird
David Gunn

At precisely twenty-two past two, Larry's wristwatch alarm began to yelp petulantly. It sounded like a noise that a race of hyperkinetic aliens would make en masse just before attempting to vaporize Iowa. In other words, it was a sound that Larry couldn't ignore. However, he might have to ignore it, for the reason that he couldn't locate the alarm button ... because he likewise couldn't locate the wristwatch that housed it or even the wrist on which it was presumably strapped -- all consequences of his malfunctioning LTMLDRB, or long-term memory loss data retrieval buffer. He probed his memory banks for details, a task that typically resulted in a string of NSF error messages. But this time, happily, he did recall why he'd set the alarm: so he would leave the house in time for the appointment he'd made exactly one year ago. With whom and for what purpose? Well, he’d worry about the questions to those answers later.

Larry lived ten leagues from his nearest neighbor and twenty-one leagues from town, so leaving the house typically involved his car -- which suited him just fine, since the vehicle was his pride and joy. He pressed the Rewind button on his VCR remote control to activate the garage door opener. Inside the climate-controlled chamber, safe from the elements -- especially bismuth and protactinium, which always seemed to have it in for Ford Motor Co. products -- sat a handsome 1962 Thunderbird Hardtack. The car had been born and bred in Austin, Texas, and had never been driven out of state. Still, those daily commutes from Amarillo to Brownsville added up mileagewise, and its odometer had long ago passed the 1-light year mark. Larry had had other classic cars -- a 1944 Sphagnum Interloper, a 1950 Hudson Wingback, and a 1968 Chevrolet de Capistrano with roof-mounted pigeon cote -- but the Thunderbird was his favorite. One of only two hundred that had been painted "Shirley Temple black," the sleek car featured a 3.14159 liter-of-Coke engine with cruise-o-matic transmission-viejo, wiretap wheels, an Algonquin simulated carburetor and a combination inflatable steering wheel and rudder. He couldn't help but stare at it proudly before opening the driver's-side door. Occasionally, the car gaped back, which might nonplus another person. But Larry wasn't another person. Ofttimes, he wasn't even himself. But today he was Larry, and Larry had an important appointment in -- he checked his wristwatch, was delighted to at least find his wrist, then recalled that he'd shoved the timepiece under the living room sofa cushion so he wouldn't have to listen to its annoying alarm, which he had forgotten how to deactivate. And he couldn't rely on the Thunderbird's clock because it had been running backwards ever since the car's odometer passed the 1-light year mark. Anyway, he was certain that the rendezvous was imminent, so he ducked under the lintel, slithered onto cockpit seat, latched the door and started the T-Bird's engine. After the usual sequence of backfiring, which never failed to chase the two squatters out of the garage, it thrummed to life. Such puissance!, marveled Larry, as the car bucked like a nearsighted bronco in a cactus factory. But that was fine with him. His car wasn't meant to idle. It was meant to move! He fiddled with the turn signals, which really did turn the car, first incrementally to the left, then upside down. Once the vehicle was again correctly oriented, at least for Texas thoroughfares, Larry neutralized the positronic parking brake and shifted into first gear.

Out of the garage the Thunderbird roared like a crowd of Manhattanites cheering on the New York Limerick Guild in the annual Hot Doggerel Tournament. Still unsure of his destination, Larry engaged the crew's control and allowed the on-board automatic pilots to work it out amongst themselves. To blot out the buzz of their automatonic bickering, he switched on the radio. Nothing happened. At least, not in the car. Back at his house, however, the VCR was rewinding. Soon, the squabbling fell into a cyclic cadence that lulled him into a state of lassitude, a state that bordered Texas on all three sides. Add to that the rhythmic clank of the pistons against the drive train, the omnipresent ticking of the dashboard clock counting down from 8.18 trillion, and the recurring ploink of the spark plug as it discharged excess bismuth and the resulting repetitive sound was one that any acoustoelectrician would die for. Well, what else could one expect from an Austin auto?

The answer to that question is not to be found in the Thunderbird or even in its garage, but rather in the house. Not Larry’s house, but Kalvos & Damian's house, which you are about to enter. At the door, brandishing a wristwatch whose alarm has been defused for the next two hours, is Kalvos.