The Demise of Space/Time/Kookla

Part One of Two

Nickels chink down the Africa plane. They leap into a Frenchman's pocket. For old croupiers, the sound of money can be sad. It's too late to reshuffle. Yet halfway through the deck, one hopes for a wild card, crazy risk-takers that they are. And if it comes, then what? Straightjacket?

"Thank you for your sadistic little greeting card," chirped Lampsie. "It found me rather nicely as I was poking about on the subway tracks in search of my severed hand." Nodding toward his stump, the professor appeared somewhat flustered. His face was covered with nut oil.

"Now if you'll excuse me," he said, pinning the hand to his snood. "I'm off to the bathroom to reclaim my stall. It seems I'm in need of a mouth flushing." Thus, coping mechanisms can come without the price of self-bludgeoning and death, the priceless stampede of buffalo. Thoughtful dealers attentive to their role in the odds can deal their cards one at a time.

* * *

A public service announcement:

"Whatever Happened to the Silver Bullet Brigade?"

Source: St. Drunston's Tattler (Summer Issue)

A very real group of NRA supporters are somewhat befuddled at how to engage in their membership. Lured by the promise of receiving the coveted Silver Bullet, they remain confused about their leader's plea -- Charlton Heston -- to wear their bullet with pride. Just how does one go about "wearing" a silver bullet that is not equipped with a lobster-claw clasp or discernable clip-on attachment?

According to Petrel Hawkes, native of Whistlercakes, IA, the answer is painfully obvious. "Silver fits snugly in my pants where I admit that mine is currently jingling!" As for its usefulness, this member enthusiastically says to never leave your hole without it. "It comes in handy," he adds, "Bullet and I have fun."

When pressed further, Mr. Hawkes begins to drool. "Off with the safety, out of the barrel, into the bleating flesh! After the corpse tipped from the tree, Jimmy squirreled it beneath the sofa for safekeeping. They stay good for a while. Wanna see?"

* * *

Following the announcement …

A word from an old freedom fighter:

Just when they thought he was finished, Mr. Heston continued to confound the audience with yet another long, prepossessing speech in sign language. This time about protecting their right to bear arms. "When it comes to dealing with a friend whose ears have been blown off, bear arms. The hand part is good for communicating. A hand can also be helpful around friends who've been mauled by animals."

After everyone had left it was Musket's turn to have a word. He stepped up to the open window and poked out his dirty muzzle. He aimed it at the slowly dispersing crowd, and with a thunderous roar, offered select members a final word on freedom. Among the enthusiastic applause came numerous screams of agreement. People seemed anxious to start helping in the cause. "Help! Help!" they yelled.

* * *

One year later:

Petrel felt a tug at the back of his collar and swung upwards. Hanging from an impossible height he watched his flailing legs. He had become the size of a mouse and was dangling from a worn leather cord. His heart beat faster as he smelled faint traces of sweat not his own. He continued to hang on, realizing that it was easy to hang on. He felt movement, which turned into a steady rhythm, but held fast. Upon the beating heart of his new caretaker, he hung like a human medallion, biding his time.

"Interesting necklace Mr. Heston," said Crabstick. Charles's red, NRA sweatsuit was soaked through as he wildly pumped his limbs on the Nordic Track. Heston did not reply but continued to chew a lugworm. Peering closer at the necklace, Crabstick faltered. "Is that?" he stammered. "Why, you have shrunken my playmate and used him as a neck ornament! Out of sheer malice you have made my playmate smaller and attached him to a dirty shoestring!" Heston grinned and brought out Musket. The two of them laughed together. Operating the exercise device with one hand, he slung Musket over his shoulder. Petrel waved back and forth beneath his collar, beating his tiny fists on Heston's chest. Crabstick was afraid, but it seemed that Petrel was enjoying himself. Should he try to rescue his tiny friend? As Petrel swung back and forth, Crabstick noticed a message in his fluttering hands. Something had been scribbled in crayon.

"You cannot plough a field by turning it over in your mind," said the note. Crabstick was shocked. He returned to his treadmill and resumed walking. He neglected his lunch of fish sticks. Hanging his head, he regarded his plodding steps.

* * *

Lucubration in the library of colonnaded bog:

Things changed that afternoon and the phrase became like a mantra. "You cannot plough a field by turning it over in your mind." For weeks, Crabstick found it difficult to concentrate. By day he spent hours asleep in the library of colonnaded bog and by night he remained bent over books. In the morning he ate frozen waffles.

"Petrel," he said one evening. He had finally thought of an answer. "In light of your compelling argument about the nature of space/time/kookla, please consider the following …

A) According to groundbreaking developments in cognitive bog theory, tiny animals live beneath the surface of a healthy mind pasture. These creatures in fact outweigh the amphibious swamp cows grazing above, including the so-called "outer" cows responsible for making "frog milk," a delicious beverage quaffed by philosophy swillers. What these mysterious inner beings are and what they can be doing beneath of soggy crust of our minds is difficult to even begin to comprehend, but given your new size, their very existence marks what we thinkers like to call a whole new bog of inquiry.

B) Taking for granted the existence of actual living worlds bustling with swamp cows and other outer grazers, love of dirt is perhaps among the earliest of human passions. Mud pies gratify an individual's first and best instinct -- love of digging in the ground -- as well as his second best instinct: looking on while paying another creature to dig for mud.

C) Considering that love of dirt is as sure to come back to a man as he is sure, at last, to go under the ground and stay there, making the earth his home, can we not go deeper than ploughing and burrow into the subterranean depths that all human creatures (or in our case smallish boy creatures) ultimately aspire to inhabit? Remember, death is not the answer.

Crabstick's gleam of triumph outshone his reading lamp, illuminating the far wall where the books on the shelves seemed to titter, but Petrel was nowhere present. In front of him on the table was a paper dirigible that had drifted through the window and had apparently been orbiting his head. It whimpered in Crabstick's hands and then opened. Inside was a crayon-scrawled note:

"Fix'd like a plant on his peculiar spot, to draw nutrition, propagate, and rot."

* * *

Later that morning at the farm:

Three hours after the sun rose over the babbling brook, the Madison County Quilting Bee (consisting of Mrs. Whitaker, Ada Quansit, the Malcolmb sisters, and our own Aunt Lavinia) was roused from their morning stitching.

Still in cotton jammies, they were escorted quickly and quietly to a freshly dug trench behind the hen house. Upon request, they lay down their knitting needles and colored fabric swatches without argument into a neat pile behind a haystack. The wide-eyed quilters did not argue as three hooded figures propped them at the edge of the deep gully that had not been there the day before. Then, without fanfare or explanation, the doomed posse was systematically shot in the forehead by the hoodless one, Mr. Heston, who waited for the sound of each thudding carcass before firing off the next successive shot. After the carnage, Charles and his troops mounted their horses and rode off to wherever they had come from.

In the middle of this appalling turn of events, Petrel had been dropped. Still attached to the leather cord, he had watched the executions in horror. Such violence -- perhaps necessary, perhaps not. And the guilt poor Petrel faced: the crime the Madison County quilters had committed had after all been at Petrel's own half-baked suggestion, a puzzling tapestry thrown in at a bizarre juncture in the discourse of time/space/kookla. Even Aunt Lavinia had been against the new design, but Petrel had only laughed and said, "It's another take-it-or-leave-it flapdoodle." And for what? All it had done was trigger a hodge-podge of inductions and suggestions, all too vague to produce any answers.

Petrel remained on the Martin's farm and spent the rest of the morning looking at the sky, wondering about life. He thought about what the Experiment had taught him thus far, the reactions it produced in him, and the questions it raised. At peace and in no hurry to find the ultimate answer, he continued with his introspection well into late afternoon.

end of Part One

Read Part Two

About the author:

Bryce Newhart and Doltus Effings do not perform magic, nor do they own any tigers