OF CLOWNS AND BEAVERS (a sequel)greenspun.com : LUSENET : FRL friends : One Thread
Well, in response to a command from the FRLian Highness, and head story-monger, I have agreed to cooperate in an effort to once again bring joy and meaningfulness into the pathetic and lack-luster world of all of youse guys. As one of a team of internationally acclaimed authors, I hereby offer this legal caveat ; I aint responsible for nuthin!!
Hang on to your Cracker Jack, kiddies, here we go.......
OF CLOWNS AND BEAVERS -------------------------------------
In the uncounted days before man, the waters rested here. A great shallow sea reached up into what is now called New Mexico, its warmth the birthplace and burial ground to myriad creatures along the pathways of earthly genesis.
The leviathans which ruled the waters are gone now, with sparse evidence of their existence to excite the persistent fossil scholar. But on the other end of the prehistoric food chain, the tiniest of organisms went about their daily struggle and desperately clung to one another in unthinking cellular passions.
But the waters were called upon in those days to fill the Pangeaic void of ever shifting tectonic plates. As the eons turned the ocean bottom into the high desert, the conglomerations of tiny bodies were lifted to the blue-black and tormented skies, and what was once the greatest barrier reef in the world slowly became the ragged and purple crags now known as the Guadalupe mountains.
As the great terrace was lifted up from below, torrents fell from above and the limestone bones gave way to great caverns; the celebrated Carlsbad, the private ecstasies of Blacks and Cottonwood caves.
And the young mountains were worn down, disjointed by time. Eventually, men came here, following the streams and the larder of furred animals. They brought precious little but knowledge of soil and spirits, and even less in their passing; the ocher potsherd, the chipped flint point, the campfire ring by an ancient mountain seep.
Other men soon followed. Men with languages still remembered. It was only with these languages that they could subdue the vast dryness of cactus and sage. Guadalupe Peak and El Capitan in the north anchor a bleached and straggling landscape of mesas and spires which men called by their habit of mingling honor and nightmare. The Guadalupe mountains fade into the Delaware and Sierra Diablo. Marching south for three hundred desolate miles the names continue out of history; Apache, Baylor, Van Horn and Davis. Devil Ridge melds with Sierra Vieja, and becomes Cuesta del Burro and Chinati as they skirt the Rio Grande.
The night skies are still troubled here when the wet winds of Baja blow up across Mexico, rattling through the copper canyons below the great river. The occasional thunderstorm gives life to the ocotillo and purple sage, and just as often passes over to crash its bounty into the loftier mountains of pine and spruce, far to the north. On such a night, the touchable stars dance and move to a cosmic choreography first recorded on stony cliff walls by the pottery makers. Records which include mystic and mysterious figures of unknown creatures. Records, some say, of long ago visitors from beyond the canopy of blue.
It is on such a night, near the spot where passing men with Oriental eyes left their long ago, and as-yet undiscovered records, that our story begins.
In the burro mountains, north of the old mining town of Shafter, dawn is not so much ritual as it is astonishment. Unlike dusk, when a tired sun malingers over the shadows in the west, the breaking of morning is a vigorous onslaught of light and heat. The sun literally leaps into the empty sky in its anticipation of seeking out and destroying the wisps of night that hide hopelessly in the lee of its attack.
One shadow, a deep cool grey, had resided in the western fold of a shallow arroyo, and was understandably proud of its tenacity. But, on this day, as it began its inevitable retreat, it revealed the face of a stranger on the sandy floor of the dry wash.
The old man woke slowly, stretching his arms and legs before opening his pale and blue-veined eyelids. He had been dreaming of bright lights and little men with latex skin of ever-changing hues. A dream almost already forgotten, but one which would return to him forever on fitful nights.
He sat up suddenly, startlingly awake.
Well, now. Somebodys done gone an
-- Lon Frank (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 01, 2000
"Well now, somebody's done gone and moved the bayou!"
(just GOTTA remember those IE gremlins)
-- Lon Frank (email@example.com), July 01, 2000.
Letters and email came pouring in from all over the country - all over the world actually. People were fascinated with Pat and Julie. Just the fact that Pat was androgynous and also had golden teeth were interesting enough, but when it got out that the hunter was caught because of the special telepathic connection between the beaver and Julie - well, it was good enough for Prime Time.
In the weeks that followed the attempt on Pat's life, Julie and Pat appeared on television's most popular talk shows. They gave demonstrations of their special powers and went on a countrywide tour. People opened their newspapers, and there was Julie and the 'Golden Beaver' in front of the Golden Gate Bridge, or atop the Statue of Liberty - Pat's golden teeth reflecting the sunshine like the Lady's torch in the morning sun.
In short, they were famous. Julie was amazed to hear from people like old boyfriends, distant relatives, and many others that she had lost contact with. Little did anyone know that Pat and Julie were about to hear from the someone else...
"Who is it", Julie asked, as she spied through the window's curtain overlooking the front porch, and saw the two men in suits standing on it.
"FBI. May we have a word with you please?"
She examined the two men's credentials, let them in, and offered each a cup of coffee. Both declined. She did a little talking and a lot of listening, until fifteen minutes later. . .
"Let's see if I have this straight," she said. "You are trying to find this missing person, a famous clown, and nothing has worked, so you thought that maybe Pat and I could help you?"
"That's right, Julie. We know that Pat and you can communicate telepathically with each other, and we thought maybe there was a chance that these special abilities you both have might be helpful. To be honest, we've tried everything else. Will you take us to Pat? We can show the beaver this picture of the clown in the newspaper and see if you receive any, uh, well, any 'visions' or 'impressions' - you know what I mean."
Julie smiled, looked at both of the men, and said "It's worth a try. Let's go!"
Little did anyone know that they were about to start on an adventure. . .
an adventure of life and death.
-- Rob Michaels (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 01, 2000.
SHOOT AND DANG-FIRE!
Doggone dang son of a pistol, anyway
Ever since Olive had gotten religion down at the camp meeting at Alpine, back in 1984, Elmo had felt constrained to restrict his language to only somewhat innocuous (and ineffectual) expletives.
Now, Elmo, you know its no use to talk such a way. The Lord sees our troubles, and He will provide.
Elmo pushed the door open and lurched out of the ancient Ford pick-up. He moved around to the front and began to untwist the short length of wire holding down the hood. In deference to his lady love, his mutterings carried only to himself.
Well, if Hes watchin now, He better hide his eyes, or see murder committed upon this con-sarned machine. Heck-fire, God Hisself prolly owned it when He was a kid. Got it from his grandaddy, betcha. Blasted ole rattle trap, anyway
Olive sat in the sweltering cab, and watched the tan and lanky man work at the make-shift hood bindings. Her momma had always called him Jerky, and warned Olive that if she ever needed to stab him, to use an old knife, because he was so tough and dry hed ruin a good one.
She smiled slightly, partly at the recollection, and partly because of the warmth of the fire the young cowboy had kindled in her heart nearly forty years ago. In fact, those years had conspired with the harsh sun and wind of their little ranch outside of Marfa to mold her entire face into a topography of laugh lines and crows feet.
As a dull, glistening moisture began to gather in these recesses of skin around her eyes, she began to fan herself with one of the religious pamphlets she kept handy on the dash. All the locals in Marfa knew to give the old pickup a wide berth when Olive was sitting in it, or end up with a handful of salvation tracts. This particular one was titled Return To Eden, and was written by a charismatic, and somewhat mentally unstable, preacher over in El Paso. Most folks found it so hard to decipher that they just put it away, and faked an interest, so as not to hurt Olives feelings.
But she liked it. The way the preacher used some little letters with lots of big ones, and used commas instead of apostrophes, and interspersed it all with equal signs; well, it just had an excitement about it. Kinda like the freak shows in the little carnival that always set up on the old school ground in the fall. She knew it was crazy, and so was old Al, the looney preacher that wrote it. But it was, after all, The Word, and as such, her intuition told her it contained a depth of solace for the human heart if ever it was needed.
And she had a premonition that before this night was over, she just might need all the solace she could get her hands on. They had been to town, where Elmo had conducted his monthly banking business. This generally consisted of going into the Cattlemans Savings Assn. and drawing out $23.75 in cash, then walking next door to the City Drug and giving it to Lula Torres, who took payments for Serria Energy. (It had been ten years now since the single wire was stretched across to the ranch gate and brought up by Elmo to their little house under the mesa.)
While Elmo had been busy with his man stuff, Olive slipped into Huettermans Dry Goods, where the old dutchmans daughter, Arbena, laughed and told her that they had a good selection of new shirts in Elmos size - skinny/tall. She picked out a sky blue one with pale mother-of-pearl snaps down the front and on the sleeves and pockets, and put it on lay-away for Christmas.
It didnt matter that every single shirt that Elmo had ever owned was exactly like this one, differing only in the variety of bright colors. Besides, she had wanted to visit a spell with Arbena, who was a stoutly attractive girl, just coming into full womanhood. Unfortunately, she was coming into that state extremely well endowed with her buxom ancestors genes, and some of the local boys had taken to calling her Arbena Hooters, man! Olive felt it her neighborly duty to encourage the young woman, and assure her that some day soon, one of the laughing boys would suddenly swallow hard, then hock his saddle to buy her a diamond ring.
But now Olive was sitting in the old truck on a rocky little road that led the thirty lonely miles out to the cabin Elmos grandfather had built, nestled into the Cuesto del Burro Mountains. When the old truck had suddenly died, losing power to the headlights and the radio which she kept tuned to KSAV (all the Gospel, all the time), they rolled to a dusty stop. It was then they noticed the Lights; that strange phenomenon of their patch of desert.
First reported in 1883, by an old-time rancher, the eerie Marfa Lights had been seen by hundreds of people, as they flashed and sparkled and wavered above the flats. They were and are an enduring mystery in an ever-shrinking world. Elmo and Olive had seen them often. But never like this. Never this close.
Almost half a mile away, the sound of Elmos abortive cursing and wire shaking drifted past the untrimmed hair in his ears. He saw the starlight reflect off the windshield of the old truck, and thought of other times when the light flickered on dark bayou waters. He turned towards Elmo and Olive and took a few tentative waddles. He was on his way home. Wherever home might be.
-- Lon Frank (email@example.com), July 01, 2000.
Pat reacted very excitedly almost as soon as the newspaper was opened and the clown's funny countenance was unveiled. The FBI men exchanged incredulous glances. Pat looked at the photo, then at the two FBI agents, then at the picture a second time, and then at Julie. She felt the slight tingling at her temples, and the 'vision' from Pat followed immediately...
Cheyenne Mountain is just over two thousand miles away; home of NORAD, North America's defensive headquarters and military command center. It's also home to the SRO - Satellite Reconnaissance Office. The SRO's main job is to keep track of all 1,248 objects in earth orbit, each of which is individually numbered and tracked. Each objects orbital characteristics are also individually monitored - everything up there from satellites in geo-synchronous orbit to the three metal screws that were accidentally released during one of the Gemini missions. The SRO also monitors what is known as 'the fence' - a series of electronically generated 'beams' that crisscross the entire length of the southern United States from the ground up into space. Any object that crosses into U.S. airspace from space 'trips' the fence, acting as a warning of possible attack.
On this particular morning, the 1,249 TH object was found. . . an object that wasn't supposed to exist. The SRO 'knob-turners' acquired the object when it tripped the fence. That's when the trouble began. They couldn't identify it. Minute after minute passed as the shift supervisor and just about everyone else crowded around the luminescent screens in Surveillance Box #4 and watched as whatever the hell it was zigged and zagged, making impossible turns on the monitor's green display, heading lower and lower at impossible speed towards the earth below. Nothing on earth moved liked this thing! Then, just as suddenly as it appeared, it was gone.
The best they could do was rule out specific possibilities. It wasn't a satellite, it wasn't an ASAT (Anti-satellite weapon), it wasn't one of the 1,248 known objects whose orbit unexpectedly began to decay, and it wasn't someone joy-riding. More minutes passed. After every conceivable possibility was effectively eliminated, the shift supervisor picked up the phone and issued a Flash Alert. Within minutes the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States of America was apprised of the situation. The Alert was terse and factual, as usual: "At Oh Four Twenty Local 2000 July 2 the southern fence of the continental United States was tripped. An unidentified bogie was acquired and tracked. The bogie repeatedly exhibited anomalistic motion and was plotted to have disappeared over West Texas, just about 50 miles north of Big Bend National Park, in the general vicinity of a small town called Marfa. . ."
Julie can't believe the images coming from Pat that are flooding her brain. She sees something round and metallic in the air, hovering about forty or fifty feet off the ground. Then she sees an intense bluish-white and very wide beam of light come from the bottom of the thing that reaches all the way to the ground. She sees a person 'float' down the beam, almost as if in slow motion, and she sees the figure land softly on the ground. Then the beam is gone and the thing in the air isn't there anymore! But the person still is. Quickly the image fades, only to be replaced by another. Now Pat is showing her something else: starlight reflecting off the windshield of some ancient-looking truck, and in the distance, someone making their way slowly towards it.
-- Rob Michaels (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 02, 2000.
Ooooh gooodie! UFOS and aliens! And I almost fell off my chair when I recognized instantly the writing style of Al D! I like it already! Is that man they dumped off in the desert The Missing Clown? Are they coming after Olive and Elmo now? I can barely wait to see!
-- kritter (email@example.com), July 02, 2000.
Oh cool! Dueling storytellers... like something right off the bayou? :-)
-- Gayla (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 02, 2000.
A collusion story! The best of both worlds! The most fun ever! :-)
-- Tricia the Canuck (email@example.com), July 02, 2000.
Kritter, it might help to review the first "old clown" saga, back in the TB2K archives. I'd link it, but I don't know where it is. Anyway, in that one it was revealed that old Lon was abducted by alien friends of DiEteR. At this point in the new story, it's a good bet that they got tired of his grumbling (to say nothing of his aroma), and dumped him out, just missing his old home by oh, 800 miles or so.
But enough old news, it's time to continue, Everbody comfy?
-- Lon Frank (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 02, 2000.
The room was small and cozy, but somehow its warm friendliness seemed strange and foreign to the man. It was an addition to the east wall of the larger house, with a genuinely rustic interior and smooth white plastered walls. The roof beams were exposed and slanted slightly to the outer wall, which contained the sole small window. The door, like the bed and table, was obviously hand-made; wide solid planks nailed to a cross frame, and suspended on large, wrought iron hinges. The bed was a simple framework of peeled and polished cedar posts, with an old-time rope foundation and single stuffed mattress.
But the table was exquisite in its beauty. Made of naturally formed mesquite limbs, with a top of hand-planed and fitted mesquite planks, it was held together solely by wooden pegs and rawhide bindings at the leg joints. It supported a small electric lamp made of intertwined deer antlers, which was plugged into the single, out-door type receptacle. The wire ran along the interior of the almost two-foot thick adobe wall, just above the level of the Mexican tile floor.
The bed was made with clean linens that smelled slightly of sunshine and dust, and covered with a double wedding ring patterned quilt. The only other objects in the room were an old and dog-eared Bible on the perfect little table, and a melon-sized, black on white, fired pottery olla, sitting in the depth of the window sill. The little pottery vessel had been made by an already old man in 1880, at the Acoma pueblo of New Mexico. It bore black geometric designs of abstract bird forms on the incredibly bright white clay slip which would make it instantly identifiable to any modern collector. It was a gift of the houses builder to his young bride, after a trip to Santa Fe, trading for horses at the turn of the century.
The man reached out to touch its softly glowing surface, just as the door swung open, and Elmo ducked his way into the room. For the most fleeting of moments, it seemed to the stranger that the rancher had come through some wavering liquid barrier, and he unconsciously took a tiny step backward.
Like the pot, huh? My grandaddy gave it to Nana Maria when he first brought her out here. Her family were some of the early Spanish settlers in old San Antonio. Theres a lot of Yankee tourists that would give their children for that little thing, I betcha.
The stranger looked again at the little pot and weakly muttered something about how the abstract figures reminded of something, but he just couldnt recall.
And thats another thing. Since you cant seem to remember your name, and how you was lucky to find us, and since you was wearing only them yeller longjohns when you found us, Olive thought we might just call you Lucky. Either that, or Long John or Trapdoor or 'Ole Yel..
No, no. Lucky; Lucky will be just fine.
Well, Lucky it is then. And Olive says to put some of this aloe vera on that sunburn. You say you was only wandering for one day? Musta been mighty pale. Maybe youre one of them Canada folks, down to see the park and got lost, wearin nothin but your drawers. Happened before, I betcha. Either that or you dropped in from Outer Space.
Elmo broke into an easy laugh over his little joke, but Lucky could only manage a lop-sided smile.
As Elmo turned to leave, allowing the stranger to adjust to his new surroundings and new name, he laid a faded pair of jeans and a lime green shirt on the bed.
An heres some duds left by a hand that the Border Patrol picked up sudden like last fall. You outta fit them pretty good. Olive says theres water hot, out in the wash house, and you can probally get some of that ranch land offa you before super.
He paused with his bowed head touching the lintel of the little low-cut door, and took one last look at the strangely-clad stranger.
You know, its just a ding-dang wonder you werent et up by some big ole momma bobcat. Theys meaner than a rattler with a tooth ache this time of year. You sure are one lucky feller, and thats the goldarned truth
As the image of a big cat bounded across the empty screen of his memory, Lucky, the stranger in yelow underwear, who was plucked like a gaudy wayward scarf out of the deserts lost-and-found, wondered just what was, his particular, goldarned truth.
-- Lon Frank (email@example.com), July 02, 2000.
Link to the original
Got popcorn? :-)
-- Gayla (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 02, 2000.
After meeting with Pat and Julie, the two FBI field agents filed their report. Neither of them believed that a flying saucer had abducted the clown and then dropped him off, as Julie described from her visions. But they had to make a field report anyway; to their boss who reported directly to the Deputy Director of the FBI.
Julie wasn't even indignant at their incredulity. How could she be when she didn't know what to believe herself! Basically, all of them wrote the whole thing off as just a nice try. They weren't any closer now to finding the missing clown than they were before. It was all a mystery.
But it wasn't all a mystery to the Deputy Director of the FBI, who read the field report with more interest than anything else she had read in a long time. Perhaps that was because of the Flash Alert from Cheyenne Mountain she received and read shortly before dawn - that she quickly and quietly passed up the chain of command. The agent's report and the Flash Alert tied together. It was real. All of it. She knew it. Knew it for sure. She picked up the phone and dialed a number that very few people had, and got the head of a government agency that even fewer people suspected even existed.
The Head of the Advanced Defense Research Office (ADRO), a covert section of the National Security Agency, answered the encrypted phone line immediately. Their conversation was short, and worrisome. The Flash Alert report had been confirmed in the most unlikely way imaginable - by a beaver!
But now the very real threat existed of uncovering something best left hidden. After all, keeping certain things secret for peoples 'own good' is a big part of what ADRO is directly responsible for. In the interests of National Security, the Head of ADRO is provided with a lot of slack, as long as national interests are served. The Head of ADRO can do just about anything he wants to without repercussions. He shakes his head. This is going to be one of those times.
The threat has to be eliminated. First, the two FBI field agents must be taken off the case. Then there is the problem of this beaver that's capable of telling Julie certain things - things that nobody outside of ADRO should know about. One of them, either Julie or Pat, would have to be silenced. There was no other way. He thought about it a good long time. As far as anybody knew, only Pat could provide these images to Julie - therefore, Pat would have to be the one that is killed. The decision made, he picked up the encrypted line and rang the special number.
Other phones were also ringing. Julie heard hers and picked it up after the third ring. She recognized the voice as that of one of the FBI agents. He was calling to thank her (and Pat) for trying to be of help. He also told Julie that he and his partner were both being re-assigned to another case effective immediately. The missing clown case was being turned back over to the local authorities in Louisiana.
Poor old clown she thought, as she shut off her cell phone.
-- Rob Michaels (email@example.com), July 02, 2000.
"Poor alde clown..." ?????
What about then poor ole federales dwon in LA....ain't theydeserving of some sympathies and hand-wringin'....
Shoot ... you might as well say "Poor Alde Git...."
-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Marietta, GA) (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 03, 2000.
Although Olive and Elmo usually took meals at the red formica-topped table in the kitchen, tonight she had set out her aunt Myrtles good dishes on the large mission styled table in the dining room. Like the little bedroom, this room had an exterior wall of thick adobe, plastered and painted a soft white. But the interior walls were paneled with knotty pine planking that filled the room with honey colored light, reflected from the antler chandelier that hung above the table.
In the daytime, the room would be brilliant with light from three small, deep-set windows. Like the rest of the main house, the ceiling was high and almost flat, with huge cedar beams which protruded through the thick adobe walls. Only the interior walls were given over to decoration, and were hung with various photographs and items of familial history.
A few old sepia toned photos of grizzled ranchers and faded wives were displayed in fames of hand carved wood, or store-bought gilt. The men sat bolt upright and stared above flowing mustaches. The women stood by their side, typically with one hand resting on the shoulder of her mate. The young brides with already old faces, wore their high necked and heavy dresses and looked at the camera with a terrified certainty that it could not recapture the beauty of their irreclaimable youth.
Only one photograph was exceptional. It hung alone in a place of honor at the end wall, in a large inlaid oval frame with hand blown and slightly concave glass. It was perfectly focused through the lens of one of those incredible old cameras that itinerant photographers brought west in the early 1800s. Looking closely, one could make out the detail of his horn buttons and the tortoise shell comb in her hair. He was ruggedly handsome and smiled with youthful optimism as he casually cradled a model 1873 Winchester across his lap. And standing beside him was a painfully beautiful Spanish maiden; her aristocracy unmistakable, her pride of carriage overwhelming the setting. It bore the mark in flowing script in a lower corner, of Eden Studio, San Antonio.
The old man, now called Lucky, studied the pictures momentarily and chose a chair at one end of the rectangular oak table. He could not remember when he had last eaten, but he could certainly remember how. He sat down, and immediately stuck a huge spoonful of refried beans into his mouth. They had a smoky, buttery flavor, and coaxed a barely audible moan from his throat. He looked up at his hosts in gratitude, and noticed that neither of them were likewise employed with their silverware. In fact, Elmo was grinning like a brat who just realized his sister had farted in church. Olive had a soft, kind smile and reached across to place her hand on Luckys forearm.
We shall thank the good Lord for His bounty and for bringing you to safety.
Lucky nodded his apology, glanced at the still-grinning Elmo, and bowed his rather shaggy head as Olive began a long and impassioned saying of Grace. But holding the refried beans in his mouth proved to be more than his empty stomach could take. It growled with a ferocity that brought back sepia toned memories of caged circus cats and the sudden smell of grease paint. Startled more by the fleeting pictures in his head, than by the sound of his complaining viscera, he suddenly swallowed the whole mouthful of beans in one resounding gulp.
Elmo was squirming in his chair and trying unsuccessfully to suppress a chuckle that would not be denied. So, Olive graciously cut short her recitation of gratitude, and ended with as charitable a benediction as she could muster.
And we thank Thee, O Lord, for the music of our lives. Music that even now calls us to partake of Your gracious and overflowing bounty. Amen
As the slightly embarrassed guest and the quietly chastised rancher began to eat in earnest, Olive slowly reached into the pocket of her dress and pulled out a folded piece of paper. Mentioning something on the far wall of the room, she surreptitiously slipped it over in front of Luckys plate. When he returned his gaze to the meal at hand, he was mildly surprised at its miraculous appearance. It was a pamphlet, titled Return To Eden.
-- Lon Frank (email@example.com), July 03, 2000.
The Head of ADRO hung up the phone. The man on the other end felt uncharacteristically sad. He knew of Pat and Julie - had seen them on Oprah's show - and also read about them in the newspapers. Too bad. Orders were orders. Normally he did jobs like this himself, but this mission was different. The beaver he would have to kill was famous. He couldn't take any chances. And he had to protect ARDO at all costs. He would have to arrange for someone else to do the actual 'wet work'. After thinking about it a while, a way came to him. The more he thought about it, the more he liked it. Now it was his turn to pick up the phone.
Eeny, Meeny, Miney, and Pat were having some fun. Pat had learned and had taught the other beavers to climb the tree overhanging their dam and dive into the water from the branches above. Splash! Eeny dove off one of the lower branches and into the water. Meeny and Pat were on different branches. Pat, who was partial to the highest branch, looked down to see Meeny jump off. Splash! Now it was Pat's turn. Miney just watched them from the bank of the stream since she was afraid of climbing the tree. Splash! Pat hit the water and came to the surface. Any one of them would have won a Beaver's Diving Competition paws down.
The hunter slugged down another swig of jiggle juice when the phone suddenly rang. "Crap," he thought. He picked it up and listened to a voice he never heard before, nor would ever hear again. "You on the level?" the hunter asked the person on the other end. "Check your mail box and see for yourself," the mysterious voice said as the line clicked dead.
Julie was thinking about the clown as she was trying to go to sleep. She really wanted to try and help him still. She concentrated. Her temples began to tingle. She became completely alert as the vision from Pat arrived. She could see the beavers - all four of them - they were jumping off a tree into the water! The image changed. Now she saw a lone person walking around - a lone person that was wearing only one thing; bright yellow long underwear! At the same time she heard a voice in her head - a voice that said only one word...
The hunter went to his mailbox. There was the envelope, just like the mystery man said. "Well I'll be dipped in crap," he said aloud. He counted the money - 10 new bills with Ben Franklin's picture on them. There would be another ten like this after he did the job. He went back inside the house smiling and took another slug of jiggle juice. This was gonna be sweet. He hated that damn beaver. He wanted revenge. This time he wouldn't fail. He would kill it - but not with a gun like he tried last time. No, this time all he would need was his best throwing knife... and a camera.
"What was that all about?" Julie wondered as the images faded. Was Pat trying to tell me that the person I just saw was the missing clown? And why did I hear the word 'Lucky?' Maybe I should call the FBI agent and let him know. Another voice inside her head said "Yeah, right. Just call him up and tell him that the clown is walking around in bright yellow long underwear, God knows where, and we shouldn't worry about him - that he is Lucky!" She shook her head and decided to try and just go back to sleep. Besides, the government wasn't even on the clown case anymore, was it.
-- Rob Michaels (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 03, 2000.
I'm not going to fear for Pat, cause I know he'll git that hunter good! What I'm afraid of is "What if Lucky discovers he likes wearing makeup?" LOL. :-)
-- kritter (email@example.com), July 03, 2000.
Lucky sat on the little bed in the little room and pondered the ragged images which had been scurrying in and out of his defunct memory. Large cats and the smell of grease paint seemed unmistakable, but others, less clear were more troubling; the wavering barrier he had glimpsed, and just now, a strange electric smell, as though a million-watt toaster was overheating.
But he smiled when he thought of the kindnesses of his hosts. Elmo and Olive had immediately taken him in, and made him feel like an honored guest, even though his circumstance was at best, highly suspicious. They had not asked too many questions, and believed him when he could not provide answers to even the simplest ones. They had shared their food, clothes, and convictions with him, in an unassuming attempt to fill his most obvious needs.
He picked up the little pamphlet which Olive had slipped over to his plate at supper, and took a cursory glance at the amateurish drawing of Adam and Eve on the front cover. Something about Eve and her demure, yet sensuous posture led him to open the fold to reveal the text.
At first, he thought he had also forgotten the basics of written language. The page was printed with a strange and cryptic combination of letters and symbols, seemingly type-set by a blind printer. But, skipping through to the last paragraph, the words suddenly formed a kind of focused message which bloomed into his consciousness.
SO IT IS=THE, RETURN, TO>EDEN YOU,MUST,SEEK!! >for only, by this, journey=will,the,reasons of the>ONE ABOVE BE REVEALED!>you shall, SEEK>FIND>UNDERSTAND!!!!and>ALL,will be=JOY=at your=RESTORATION!
He silently made his way into the dining room in borrowed house slippers of Elmos, which had a blowout at the left big toe. He lifted the large old photograph off its hook, and carried it to one of the little windows in the thick outer wall. By the light of a late rising moon, he reread the potographers mark, Eden Studio, San Antonio.
Ill be dam. Now just what do ya think of that?
Returning to his room, Lucky felt even more confused, but somehow more confident. He now had a goal, at least. In the morning he would talk to Elmo about his grandfather, the Spanish maiden, and the old photograph from San Antonio.
As he began to undress, the lime green shirt slipped from his grasp, and fell at his feet. Looking down at it, Lucky was suddenly overwhelmed by his most vivid vision yet. A mental picture of shoes. Lime-green, huge, bulbous shoes. Clown shoes.
-- Lon Frank (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 05, 2000.
DieTeR is writing in San Antonio now?
-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Marietta, GA) (email@example.com), July 05, 2000.
The hunter left his car on the outskirts of town and walked through the dark and quiet woods to where he knew the beaver was. The knife was hidden in a holster that was strapped to his left leg, just above the ankle and hidden by his pants. A bottle of jiggle juice swung at his side as he walked. As he got close to his destination, he heard a splash in the stream just ahead. "Crap. Sounds like someone else is here." He took a long pull on the nearly empty bottle and tossed it carelessly on the ground. Then he heard a second splash, louder this time. He approached silently and came to where the stream was, but decided to stay hidden at the edge of the woods and see what was making the noise. Splash! He squinted upstream through both the darkness and the branches and saw the beaver land in the water. Splash! He couldn't believe his eyes. The beavers were jumping into the stream from a damn tree. Beavers don't climb trees, he thought to himself. What the hell? It was then that a "Crap!" involuntarily escaped his lips.
Pat heard it, and looked to see the man coming out of the dark woods. It was the same one who tried to murder Pat before! He was running towards the tree now! Pat ran out on the high branch, intent on jumping to the water and going to the safety of their nearby dam. But fear and haste caused Pat to slip and fall - fall some twenty feet to the ground, where the beaver's head met a sharp rock. Pat landed hard with a sickening thud - and moved no more.
Julie was sound asleep when something suddenly woke her. It wasn't a vision, just a strong feeling that something was wrong - wrong with Pat - terribly wrong. She got up and deliberately concentrated her thoughts on Pat. A minute passed, then another. Usually when she did this Pat responded by sending her some kind of 'image message'. She never had to wait long either. But there was nothing this time, nothing at all. She looked at the clock. It was almost 4:00 in the morning. There was No Way she was going back to sleep now. But she was going to go somewhere. She had to.
The hunter glared down at the beaver by his feet, and at the two gold teeth gleaming in the beam of his flashlight. He took a closer look. It was obviously dead, a trickle of blood still coming from the open head wound. "I'll be dipped in crap. Looks like I won't even get to cut the little bugger up. Damn thing's already dead. Crap! I woulda liked killin' it. An' it's too bad I gotta leave dem gold teeth 'lone. Double Crap! He took the knife out of its holster and cut a small swath of its fur off, tucked the fur inside an envelope, then turned the beaver over onto its back. "Crap in hell! Dis beaver ain't 'xactly a boy an' it ain't 'xactly a girl!" Confused yet excited, he quickly put the knife down on the ground and got out the instant camera. "Wait'll mystery man sees dis!" After the pictures of the dead beaver were taken, he started on the long walk home. Before he left though, almost as an afterthought, he gave Pat a swift kick for good measure. "Take that," he said, smiling. It had gone better than he hoped. He had the pictures and the fur for proof, and had even left the beaver's golden teeth alone - all as the mystery man on the phone had instructed. He had also left something else behind. Unintentionally.
Local Deep inside the Crystal Palace, as the employees who worked there euphemistically referred to Cheyenne Mountain, the knob-turners were doing their usual tasks. This time it was Box Seven that picked up the fence being tripped, and the object that caused the alarm - an object that behaved exactly like the one that caused the previous Flash Alert. The Box supervisor shook his head. It was going to be a long shift.
Julie arrived at the Lake and was hurrying to where the beavers dam was, stumbling along in the pre-dawn darkness and holding a flashlight down to illuminate her path. There was still nothing from Pat. Her worry intensified with each passing minute. She almost felt sick to her stomach. Another few seconds and she would be there. Poor Pat. What on earth could be wrong?
But what she saw next wasn't from Earth.
The ship moved soundlessly just over the treetops, over the stream, over the dam, and stopped. She gasped in utter amazement and stood frozen. A brilliant blue-white beam of light came down from the hovering craft and touched the ground. Her jaw dropped. This was just like the image that Pat had shown her! She briefly wondered if she would see a person 'float' down the beam. Then she noticed something small and close to the ground at the bottom of the weird light - something that was beginning to 'float' upthe beam. "Oh my God! PAT!"
Word spread quickly. Box Seven was crowded now with more than its usual compliment of staff, including a full bird Colonel. The tension in the tiny room was palpable. "Where did the bogie track down to?" the Colonel demanded. The civilian analyst turned to face the officer. "Northwest New Jersey, Sir."
The realization that it was Pat going up the beam and into the ship shook her out of her frozen stupor. She ran towards the ship, towards the beam, screaming Pat's name. But it was too late. The beam went out. "Oh God, Pat's inside there!" The ship began turning counter-clockwise - as it hovered - turning faster and faster. She watched in abject terror as it rose slowly for a few seconds and then zoomed off across the sky. In less time than it took to count to ten, the ship became indistinguishable from the stars.
-- Rob Michaels (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 05, 2000.
Billowing clouds of grey-brown dust rose up behind the old Ford pick up, and covered the two suitcases and the one little make up case, riding along in its bed. Olive sat between Elmo and Lucky, secretly enjoying the excuse to ride with her shoulder touching the lanky rancher, as they had when they were courting. Rather than straddle the hump of the transmission, she kept her knees together in lady-like fashion, and put both feet over on Luckys side of the floorboard, where they occasionally touched the old house shoes he still wore. Elmo could drive the familiar dusty ruts in his sleep, and spoke as he piloted the old vehicle.
First thing, we get to town, we gonna buy you some honest foot leather. Huettermans Dry Goods always keeps a good selection of work boots on hand, and should be able to fix you up.
Lucky looked down at his big toe sticking out of the hole in his left shoe, then at Elmos likewise worn boots and Olives seven-year-old dressy lace-ups, and thought he should protest this further extension of generosity. But Olive had anticipated this, and reached over to once again lay her hand gently on his forearm.
Now dont you say a word, Dear. Weve got a little money saved up, and precious little opportunity to help our fellow man these days. Course, we give to the church, and Elmo lets me send a little extra to that preacher who writes my salvation literature, but thats not like actually having the good Lord drop someone in your lap, you know. And after what you showed us in the pamphlet this morning, and what we found behind that old photograph of Elmos grandaddy, why I just know were doing the right thing.
At the mention of the tract-writing preacher, Elmo expertly spat a stream of tobacco juice out the open window, which impacted an unsuspecting horned toad, and rolled him over in the brown deluge, the scales of his white belly glittering in the West Texas sun.
Yeah, Lucky, I reckon Olives right about this; she generally throws the dice pretty good when it comes to the gold-danged crap game of life. And besides, this little adventure you got us on is the first excuse for a real trip we have had in a dang-blessed coons age.
Elmo knew that she would object to his reference to her as a dice-thrower, as well as his habitual lame cursing, but he also knew that as long as he could manage that particular, one-sided grin that was his trademark, Olive would let him get away with murder. So, just as she took in a full breath to let him have it, he gave Lucky a watch this kind of glance, then bathed his lady love in the magic of smile and wink. She shook her head slightly and sighed as a little girl smile arranged the laugh lines on her face. She knew it was coming, but was still surprised at her continued helplessness every time it worked.
The three of them walked together into Huettermans Dry Goods, and Elmo went directly up to the young girl working with her back to him and embraced her in a friendly bear-hug.
Hi, there, Arby, you pretty little cotton tail, you.
The girl grinned with delight, and gave an exaggerated groan.
Hi, there, Mr. Elmo, you handsome old snake, you.
Olive knew that Arbena Huetterman, like just about every other young girl hereabouts, thought of Elmo as something between Elvis and Santa Claus. They always giggled when he came into a room, and unabashedly flattered him with girlish attention whenever possible.
Olive played her part in the dry goods drama.
Now stop that, you two! Elmo, youre gonna bruise her ribs. And Arbena, please dont encourage the old fool, or Ill have to have Doc Edwards start sedating him again.
Arbena affected her best evil grin and took the older woman by the arm.
I dont know, Miss Olive, you better keep an eye on him. A lot of us girls would like to have a broken-down old reprobate of our very own, you know.
Yeah, yeah, you girls are gonna give me a dog-blasted complex, with all your sweet talk and all. Anyway, Arby, this heres Lucky. While me and Olive tend to some bankin business, see if you might fix him up with some of your goldanged overpriced boots and such. Put it on the ranch account, darlin, O.K.?
As the couple left the store, Arbena turned her gaze, as well as her impressive and locally famous feminine physique, fully to bear on the stranger in house shoes. She retained just a hint of her evil grin.
Kinda pale for a wet-back, aint ya?
As Arbena helped him select a sturdy pair of boots, some socks, shirts, jeans and other necessities, Lucky unnecessarily explained to her that he was not a ranch hand, but that he had gotten lost in the desert while on vacation from Canada, and had wandered up on his new friends quite by accident. He didnt tell her of the emptiness behind his eyes, or of the visions roaming there like desert creatures in the night. Nor did he mention the mysterious message in the phamplet or the key sealed into the back of an old photograph.
Well, mister Lucky, I didnt really take you for an illegal. Not many of them have such a mane of grey hair, and Ive never in my life seen one waddle like you do. Nah, I knew right off, you werent no alien.
Her last sentence ricocheted off something in his mental darkness, and as he looked at eyes of the voluptuous young girl for the first time, Lucky felt a metallic shiver begin at the base of his spine.
-- Lon Frank (email@example.com), July 05, 2000.
Julie just stood there for a while - a long while. Then, coming to her senses, she got out her cell phone. Struggling to see the digits between the darkness and her tears, she dialed the police. Then she struggled with what to tell them when they arrived. Certainly, the truth wouldn't do at all. As she was waiting it became lighter. She saw something shiny on the ground and went over to investigate. It was a wicked looking knife, resting atop a pool of blood.
The Hunter went to the drop point and placed the photos and envelope with Pat's fur in the exact spot the mystery man had told him to. He removed the other envelope that was there already and counted the bills, then went home. It was there that he discovered his knife was missing. "Crap and double crap!" I musta left it by dat damn beaver - on the ground - forgittin' it in the 'citement an' dark. Well, I jus gotta go back an' git it. An' while I'm at it, dem gold teeth is mine fer the takin' too. I already done the job an' got the scratch. Whats I got to lose? Crap! Might as well git goin' now.
The next thing that Julie knew she was being gently shaken awake - by a detective. Several policemen were also there, and she could see two more further downstream. One of them was holding an empty bottle with a funny looking picture on the label. She told them she had come here on a premonition that Pat was in danger. She told them about seeing the knife and the blood. She told them it was then that she must have fainted. But she told them nothing of the other things she saw. After answering what seemed like a million questions, she drove home, and in her mind she went over and over what really happened. There was nobody she could tell. Nobody. And Pat was gone, evidently hurt, and - maybe worse. God, how awful!
The Head of ADRO had been dragged out of bed due to another damn Flash Alert: the second this week! He had just finished reading it when the phone rang. He picked up the secure line on the second ring, recognizing the voice immediately. "Is the job done?" he asked. "Yes Sir. I received the proof just five minutes ago." He hung up. Good, he thought. The Aliens got the beaver, but too late. That's one less thing to worry about.
The police car pulled into the driveway as Rob was stepping out of his house. He wanted to do some yard work before Marie got back from shopping. "Rob Michaels ?" the patrolman asked. Rob looked puzzled. "Yes, officer?" The patrolman took off his sunglasses and looked at Rob. "We need to ask you a few questions - down at the station. Please get in the car." Now Rob was really puzzled! "Why? Am I under arrest?" The cop shook his head. "Well, no, but you are under suspicion."
Pat was on an oval metallic table that was only two feet off the floor of the craft. They were examining the beaver - no, more than just examining, they were doing something else...
something nobody on Earth could have done...
something that involved technologies hundreds of years in advance of the current state of Human science.
-- Rob Michaels (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 05, 2000.
kritter, I don't know how I posted scene 11 twice. Do you think you can fix it, and remove one posting? I'll try to be more careful, but i swear, it's tough to keep up with Robbie!
(Your wish is my command Sir! Just Keep Writing! -k ) ------------------------------------------------------------
-- Lon Frank (email@example.com), July 05, 2000.
I love this co-authored story!
-- Tricia the Canuck (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 06, 2000.
Early that morning Lucky had showed them the mysterious paragraph in the religious tract over a substantial breakfast of huevos ranchero and home made tortillas. Olive, who had spent her adult life dusting and caring for the old photograph, made the connection immediately, and went to fetch it from the wall. But it was Elmo who took up the nearby paring knife and casually slit the brown parchment that sealed the back of the frame. Ignoring the immediate gasps of the other two at the table, he slowly peeled back the brown covering and reached in to remove a yellowed and folded piece of paper.
As he and Olive now waited in the green vinyl booth at the City Drug for Lucky to finish his shopping, Elmo again opened the brittle square of paper. One of the seams had split when he first unfolded it at the breakfast table, and it was starting to crumble around the corners. But it still bore a remarkable pen-and-ink drawing of a magnificent Low Country plantation house. Across the bottom was written in an old and flowing hand, Maison du Jet Deau , and although he didnt know why he knew, Lucky had whispered, House of the Fountain. Below the title was the reddish stain from a small hand-forged iron key that was wrapped inside.
Lucky wore his new boots, but had Arbena wrap up the other clothes, along with the old house shoes. As the girl entered the charges into the account book, he felt a renewed pang of guilt for spending so much money. He gave her a sadly apologetic look.
You know Elmo and Olive are awfully nice folks, but I really hate to take these things. I know that they probably have barely enough to get by on, and some museum somewhere has gotta be lusting after that old truck. At least tell me how much all this comes to, so maybe I can pay them back when I get back on my feet.
Arbena placed her elbows on the worn old counter top, and leaned over towards the old man, giving a view of cleavage that made his head swim.
You really have been out in the sun too long. Why, them two funny old lovebirds owned half the land that went into the Big Bend Park. Some folks say Elmos grandaddy was the richest man in four counties when he came west, right after the Civil War. Man, they got money oldern dirt.
As Lucky opened the door, he paused and looked back, partly in confusion, and partly hoping to again see the magnificent vale of female topography.
But, why the old truck and such?
I guess its just their ways, mister. Rich or not, they are still ranch folk, and I figger they woulda bought all that stuff for you anyway, even if it meant they had to eat coyotes all winter. Its just their ways.
As he slid into the booth beside Olive, the once-lost stranger that she had named Lucky, quietly reached over and placed his hand gently on her forearm.
-- Lon Frank (email@example.com), July 06, 2000.
"How many times do I have to tell you? I don't know anything about any of this," Rob exclaimed in exasperation. "Rob, do you remember when we talked last?" the detective asked. "Only this past Spring wasn't it? Your wife had reported you missing and we found you three days later in the woods trying to kill some beavers that you claim had been bothering you?" Rob frowned. "Yep, I remember, so what?" "Well, remember how you tried to kill them?" Rob nodded his head. "Sure. I tried to poison 'em with jiggle juice." The Detective smiled. "Exactly Rob. Now, tell me, do you recognize this?" The detective held up an empty bottle with a picture of Cuz'n Iggie on it. "That's Jiggle sure enough," Rob replied. The detective nodded his head. "We found it discarded just at the edge of the woods by where the beavers dam is." Rob almost shouted now; "That bottle's not mine! I only drink the anniversary vintage. You can't think I had anything to do with Pat's disappearance! I told ya before! I even paid that vet $800 for one of Pat's gold teeth! Ask that girl Julie, she'll tell ya!"
The detective exchanged a glance with the other policeman in the room. "We'll check on that Rob. Now, what actually happened to those other beavers that you were trying to get rid of?" Rob hesitated a bit before answering. "Uh, well, I liquidated, er, I mean they died." The detective's smile returned. "Of what, Rob?" he asked. Rob frowned as he said "From, um, from drinking, you know, my jiggle juice." The detective's smile widened. "So you admit that you were trying to kill these other beavers, and that some actually died from your jiggle juice?" "Well, yeah, but it was an accident, and I, I mean, I didn't have anything to do with last night. Nothing at all. Sheesh! Ask my wife. I was sleeping like everyone else! Can I make that phone call now?"
If there was such a thing as being 99% dead than that's what Pat was. The 1% spark of life-force still in the beaver was bare minimum for them to work their miracle. Yet it would prove to be enough. Pat was alive after all.
"Marie! You're back home! Come down to the police station right away and bring that girl Julie with ya. I'm in trouble again. No, I didn't do anything at all this time. I swear!"
-- Rob Michaels (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 06, 2000.
Lucky swatted the dust from the tattered upholstery and held the door open so Olive could scoot into the center of the seat in the old truck. He had worried ever since that morning when they had decided to try and find the old Eden photographic studio, that the ancient vehicle would leave them to die a slow death in the desert. Taking his place beside his benefactress, he slammed the passenger door, which refused to catch, forcing him to reach out the open window and open it with the outside handle, before slamming it again.
You know, Elmo, I really do like this truck. Has a really, uh, solid feel about it, you know. Not like they make them today, no sir. But I been thinking, you know, in case you dont feel like drivin all that way, maybe we could just ride the Greyhound. They got pissers, oh, sorry Olive, I mean they got restrooms and air conditioning and everthing on them big busses nowadays.
Elmo and Olive stared at him blankly for a moment, then looked at each other and broke out laughing at a private joke only they shared.
Elmo turned the wheel of the old truck and bounced off the highway into the parking lot of Frontier Ford, where a faded sign assured the passerby that You can afford a Ford at Frontier.
Dont worry, bud, we aint loco enough to try and herd this ding blasted old rattle trap out on the highway. Were gonna take Olives car.
As Elmo went into the building to have the car rolled out, Olive explained that it was a wedding present from Elmo, and that they kept it in the garage because of sentimental value, and to keep it from rusting away in the desert sun. She had driven it quite a lot when she was younger, but now they just saved it for an occasional pilgrimage to El Paso, to get a new supply of pamphlets.
A fly had flown in and buzzed around for a full three seconds before Lucky realized his mouth was open. He absentmindedly snapped it shut and swallowed the unfortunate aerial insect without taking his eyes off the car now glistening in the sun before him like some sort of teenage hormone-induced mirage.
It was a 1965, cherry-red, Ford Mustang fastback. Two wide white racing stripes ran over the hood and across the roof, with smaller ones on each side, across the bottom of the doors and the two exaggerated air scoops. In the side stripes was the lettering GT-350, and across the rear were small chrome letters saying SHELBY. It had dully gleaming magnesium wheels, and wore a set of high performance Goodyear Eagle STs, with white raised lettering. Four-inch chrome exhaust pipes stuck out slightly ahead of each rear tire, and filled the parking area with a distinctive purring growl.
Lucky swallowed again, this time fortunately devoid of any further wayward morsels of indigenous protein.
Holy Mothers bunions! Is this it? Olives car?
Elmo just grinned as he held the passenger side door open so Lucky could contort his sizable girth into the lightly padded rear seat. Elmo hiked up his jeans, and followed in the same door, taking the shotgun position.
They sat and watched as the little lady in her blue flowered cotton dress walked around and kicked the tires with her black dressy lace-ups. It seemed to Lucky that her skirt hem fluttered a little higher up still-shapely calves, and the kick was a little firmer at each successive tire. But little did he guess that this was just a preamble to the most amazing transformation he would ever witness.
Olive finally slid expertly into the drivers seat and began to unbutton her sleeves and collar. She slid an antiquated 8-track Beachboys cassette into the dash, as Elmo rummaged in the glove box and fished out a large pair of rhinestone-studded sunglasses. As he held them out to her, they smiled at each other in celebration of the completion of their little silent ritual, and their eyes held momentarily, as if they were the only two people left in the world.
As Olive carefully and slowly rolled the little red car out into the highway and started gently off towards the east, Lucky gave a slight sigh, glad to again be on familiar ground with his two new friends. Only a second later, he wished he had held onto his breath, as the Beachboys tape picked up with,
......and well have fun fun fun......
And as Olive stomped the accelerator on the high performance, 306 horsepower engine, she stage-whispered in a voice made of smoky burlap and honey,
Hold on to your Munchkins, boys; were off to see the Wizard!
-- Lon Frank (email@example.com), July 06, 2000.
They arrived at the police station together. Marie was surprised to see that Julie looked even more upset than she did! They found Rob in a room with a policeman, sitting down looking at the floor and holding his head in his hands. He looked up with an expression of relief as they came in.
The two cubs heard something coming from the woods and stood still, waiting. Their 600 pound mother was a short distance away, searching for food. They hadn't been feeding well lately. When she looked behind her and saw that her cubs hadn't followed, she turned back to see why. Her nose caught a new scent on the breeze coming from the direction of where her cubs were! She quickened her pace. Besides being hungry, now she was pissed off.
Just as Rob was about to start explaining to his wife what was happening, the detective came back holding several pieces of paper. "Looks like I owe you an apology, Rob. You're no longer a suspect. The FBI has a new fingerprint identification system that we can tap into. It only takes hours to do what used to take days before. We have a match from the prints off both the knife and the bottle. All of the prints are from the same person - the hunter that we arrested recently for trying to shoot Pat. Too bad we had to release him.
He was halfway to the dam in the thickest part of the woods when he approached a clearing with a small, clear, running stream. As he stepped into the clearing, he was thinking about the two gold teeth that would soon be his. He stopped dead in his tracks. His eyes almost bulged out of their sockets at what he saw. "Mother of Crap!"
Rob, Marie, and Julie all exchanged surprised glances. "You can all go home now," the detective continued. "I'm really sorry for all of the inconvenience. We've issued an APB on this guy. He's not home now, but don't worry, we'll get him. And this time he won't be getting out anytime soon." None of them knew that they would never find the man. Nor would they ever know the reason why.
She arrived at the clearing from its opposite side just as the hunter emerged from the woods. The man was between her and her cubs! She rose up on her hind legs with a ferocious roar, dropped back down on all fours, and did what she had to do: protect her cubs.
Back at the Michaels' house, Rob was already sleeping - exhausted by his ordeal. Julie was siting down at the kitchen table, watching Marie carry the hot cup of coffee to her. Julie realized she was wrong earlier this morning. She could tell someone the truth - someone she had confided in before.She took a deep breath and started talking.
The truth poured out of her mouth as quickly as tears poured out of her eyes. Marie listened without interrupting as Julie spoke of things that were strange and impossible: the FBI and a famous missing clown, visions from a telepathic beaver, a lone figure wearing only yellow underwear, a beam of light, a ship in the night sky. And Marie believed her. Julie managed a tentative smile for the first time all day.
The hunter never had a chance to do anything - except crap in his pants. Anyone who knew him would have thought that to be somehow appropriate. When she was done she 'buried' what was left of him in a pile of leaves, twigs, dirt, and branches. They slowly made their way back to their den a short distance away. She and her cubs would come back later...
when they were hungry again.
-- Rob Michaels (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 06, 2000.
65 Cherry Red Mustang Fast6ack...wooohooo! Olive has style!
The hunter meets his fitting end...<6uuurp!>
Pat the androgenous 6eaver taken away on a UFO..news at 11:00!!!
-- kritter (email@example.com), July 06, 2000.
This is wonderful!!
-- helen (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 06, 2000.
Little towns like Sanderson, Dryden and Langtry blew past the windows of the souped-up Mustang like sets in a tornado disaster movie. Elmo sporadically sang along with the Beachboys while Olive furiously power-shifted through the outskirts of each passing settlement. For the most part, Lucky just hunkered down in the torture chamber of the low slung rear seat, and hoped his bladder would outlast that of the fem fatale at the wheel. They stopped for gas at the border town of Del Rio, where Olive took advantage of the pause to drink an Orange Crush, and hand out six salvation tracts to other travelers.
It was just over five and a half hours later, when the odometer rolled over at 400 miles, and the red land rocket rolled onto the valet parking apron of Casa Grande del Oro. The luxury hotel spread its courtyards and private balconies along two blocks of the famed San Antonio river walk. Olive pushed her sunglasses up onto her forehead.
Well, fellers, it does look kinda pricey, but were on an adventure, and anyway, I always say, its flat to fly and round to roll. Now lets get us some of that fancy food, and a couple of them fish bowl margaritas.
Lucky shot a worried glance over at Elmo, and decided to keep an eye on Olive, just in case her head started to smoke and spin around. But the rancher just held a finger alongside his nose and watched as Olive got out and handed the keys to the young parking attendant. Somehow her buttons had seemingly refastened themselves and her skirt behaved absolutely demurely in the evening breeze.
Elmo climbed out of the passenger seat, and then grabbed Lucky by the arms and pulled him like a breach-birth calf out of the little cars womb. As he helped the travel crippled old man to regain his formerly upright posture, Elmo whispered close to his ear.
It wouldnt do to mention the way she drives. She dont think nothing of it. All these years, shes a reglar gol-darned Jeckle and Hyde, and she dont even know it.
As he limped behind the couple into the plush lobby, Lucky massaged his lower back and muttered to himself,
Jeckle and Hyde, my hind foot! Jack the gol-darned Ripper would be more like it.
The late twilight is particularly pleasant along the riverside walk through old San Antonio, and since all their collective joints were complaining from the afternoons ride, the trio of friends decided to stroll for a while before dinner. The old brick of the water side path is about ten feet below street level, and is quiet and shady with lush plantings and hanging gardens from the restored balconies above.
Olive had changed into a pale and flowing silk gown, which made her appear to float along the walkway as though she were the shade of an aristocratic debutante, returned for her evening promenade. Elmo, of course, wore his cleanest blue jeans, and a pure white Wrangler shirt with dark grey snaps. His silver trophy buckle glinted off the tiny wave tops in the dark waters of the little confined river. They held one anothers hand, and nodded to smiling passersby.
Waddling a few paces behind them in a constant low noise of creak and rustle, Lucky hurriedly kept pace in his new Justin ropers, stiff, unwashed jeans, and an identical white western cut shirt.
Three blocks from their hotel, they decided to climb to street level to get a clear look across the plaza at the world-famous old mission. Once an unassuming neighborhood church and yard of mud brick walls, the Alamo had come into history by the time-honored manner of spilled blood. The distinctive facade of the main building caught the last rays of the sun, and glowed softly metallic, like one of the little souvenir paperweights sold in the hotel gift shops.
Olive gripped her mates hand more tightly as she felt the inherent Holiness of this place where once men had gathered to butcher one another over flaming ideals of liberty and loyalty. And where the bones of the fallen on each side now nurtured a great city proud of its rebel heritage as it was of its Hispanic ancestry. A city where streets named Hilldebrand, Wurzbach and Fredericksburg, mingle comfortably with Zarzamora, Culebra and Blanco; where blue corn tortillas share menus with lasagna or schnitzel, and Fiesta includes one and all.
An old city in a new world, San Antonio had been a haven for travelers of the last two centuries. Some came here to rest, some to settle. Some came from the far corners of the world. Some came farther.
As they turned to retreat back to the level of the river, Lucky froze in the middle of the road. Elmo looked back and grabbed him just as a passing 57 Chevy with side murals depicting a reclining and scantly clad Mexican maid, lurched by with a blast of Tejano music coming from its open windows.
Hey, bud, you wanna be a hood ornament on a low rider, or somethin?
But Lucky wasnt paying attention to the traffic or to Elmo. He was still staring at a small statue along side the road in the next block. A plaque on its pedestal said in simple letters, Hertzeberg Circus Museum. Olive followed his gaze.
Oh, look, Elmo. Isnt it cute? A little white elephant statue.
-- Lon Frank (email@example.com), July 07, 2000.
Anyone who knew Marie could tell you that she was playing with all 52 cards, plus the jokers. Not much got by HER. She took a sip of coffee and looked up to see Julie wiping away tears. "There's even more to this whole thing - something we don't know about," Marie wondered aloud. "What do you mean?" Julie asked. "Well, you said that the FBI agent told you that they were off the case - that it was going back to the local authorities. The FBI would never do that, they would stick with the case once they had it - either until it was closed or hell froze over - whichever came first."
Julie was thoughtful, and after a moment said; "You're right Marie, that never occurred to me. The word he used was 're-assigned', I think." Marie nodded her head. "That makes sense. Your two agents were ordered to stop investigating - by someone higher up and with enough clout to get around normal procedures. Someone who, for some reason, wasn't taking any chances that Pat would break open the case. And I don't think we can do a damn thing about it. Even if we could, it probably would be better if we stayed out of these people's way, if you know what I mean."
Julie's eyes widened. "Oh my God! I could have been in danger too!" Marie nodded, and took another sip. Julie shuddered at the thought, then asked; "Does that mean the Hunter was a government agent too?" Marie shrugged her shoulders. "Not necessarily, dear. I think it means Pat was closer to finding the clown than you thought. Once they realized that Pat was the real deal they had to back off, and have Pat, um, - Marie lowered her voice - taken out of the picture. She didn't have the heart to add 'for good'.
"Julie, I think that whatever the reason is, someone at the top doesn't want that clown to see the light of day, or doesn't want the 'wrong' people finding him first. Maybe he knows something he shouldn't, or maybe they even want him to remain 'missing', or worse." At that a new thought came suddenly to Julie; "Marie, I don't know how I know this, it's more of a feeling than anything else, but the answer has something to do with the UFOs! Maybe it's because I actually saw the clown AND Pat in those light beams. There has to be a connection with the UFOs. And everyone knows how the government feels about that subject! I saw something that's not even supposed to exist, didn't I ?"
Marie's eyebrows raised at that, and she looked with new respect at the young girl across the table. Much of it was just speculation they knew, but they both felt like they were closer to the truth than before. There was a long but comfortable silence, and then they both sighed.
Perhaps Julie was a strong enough person after all, Marie thought to herself. She certainly was bright. Marie decided to say what she had been holding back. "You know dear," Marie said gently, "Pat's gone, and I hate to say it, but, well, Pat's probably gone for good." Julie started sniffling and said; "I know, Marie. My mind's been on Pat and little else, and still there are no messages or images or anything. Just... nothing." Julie started crying again. Marie felt the tears well up in her own eyes now. "I know, dear. I became very fond of Pat too." She put her coffee down and went over to put her arms around the sobbing girl who was nearly half her age.
They cried together.
-- Rob Michaels (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 07, 2000.
.... Been there, grew up there, walked the walk on good days, great days, hot days and beautiful days .... my dad built the forms that created the Riverwalk down around the Arena ...
-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Marietta, GA) (email@example.com), July 07, 2000.
(Need a FRL #24 in the title here....
Good ole frl #23 is about to slip off the bottom of the listing......
-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Marietta, GA) (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 07, 2000.
I guess it is time for a real caveat.
Although the Hertzeberg Circus Museum is actually an honored and delightful establishment in San Antonio, and the little white elephant statue is an enduring and beloved icon, it must be remembered that the proceeding as well as the forthcoming is a work purely of fiction and no resemblance to anyone, either living or dead, is intended or implied.
-- Lon Frank (email@example.com), July 07, 2000.
Along the San Antonio Riverwalk, various small ethnic eateries had set up little round wrought-iron tables in imitation of European sidewalk cafes. Each had a colorful umbrella advertising imported Rhineskeller wine or Corona beer.
The trio of friends had been sitting at a waterside table for an hour, eating little Czech sausages wrapped in buttermilk pastry. They were somewhat a departure from the traditional fruit-filled confection, but were the most popular item on the menu of Moinas Kolaches (We Gotcha Kolache), and were just the thing on an already-hot South Texas morning. Lucky had been careful to finish in time for them to be waiting when the little circus museum opened at 9:30.
When the massive oak door swung open precisely at the advertised moment, they were subjected to the coldly analytical gaze of a tall and severe looking young woman. Her tailored grey pinstripe suit hung from her squared shoulders in perfectly straight lines, unimpaired by womanly curves or bulges of any kind. As the lanky rancher, his wife and their still-limping friend passed by her in single file, she spoke to the air above their heads.
Good morning, and welcome to the Hertzeberg Circus Museum. Our tours are self-guided. My name is Agnes Maggart, and I shall be pleased to answer any questions you may have about our collection. Thank you.
Within the cool semi-dark of the first room, Lucky looked back at the hawk-eyed docent, and mumbled to himself, as he had begun to do more and more frequently.
Lord have mercy, its the Anti-Arbena.
As they drifted from one exhibit to the next, Lucky began to wonder just why he had felt so intent on coming to the little museum. But then, they drifted into a room of old circus photos, and he once again began to receive dusty mental images of gaudy tents and bearded ladies. One picture in particular, caught his attention. It was a forlorn little circus trailer at rest in an overgrown meadow, shaded by a huge moss-shrouded oak. He was just beginning to lean forward, as if he could fall into the light-faded image, when Olive gave a little gasp.
She was tapping the glass of a large photo which captured the 1894 Barnum Circus parade in front of the Alamo. It was one of those old panoramic images, and the swinging trunks of the elephants were blurred by the time required for exposure. But it wasnt the picture she was excited about.
Come here, Elmo. Take a look at this!
In the lower left hand corner, in flowing script, were the words, Eden Studio, San Antonio.
Well, Ill be dunked in sheep dip and deep fried. Its the same gol-darned thing thats on the picture of Grandaddy and Nana Maria. Eden Studio.
At Elmos mention of Eden Studio, Miss Maggarts gaze darted immediately to them from where she was studiously observing the suspiciously mesmerized old man in front of the clown photos. She silently moved closer to the couple now searching for other Eden marks in the display.
Are you particularly interested in the early photographic records of Eden Studio, by any chance?
Olive and Elmo immediately took the bait, and began to tell the severe young woman about his old picture and the cryptic message in the pamphlet, which Olive repeatedly assured her was the work of The Almighty, through a humble lunatic preacher in the desert.
The excitement in their voices brought Lucky out of a deep daydream featuring the peculiar smell of elephants. He hurried across the room, and interrupted just as Elmo told the docent about cutting the seal on the back of the old photo at the breakfast table.
Yeah, but we didnt find nothin. Nothin at all. No sirree, nothin. Zippo. Nada. Thats uh, thats why we came here; we sorta figgered to find this Eden Studio and ask about maybe buyin some reprints, you know, or somethin, I guess. You wouldnt know where it is, I mean now, would ya?
Agnes Maggarts eyes were as expressionless as those of the red snappers lying on ice in the old El Mercado market square, just four blocks to the north. But her lips curled in what surely must have been her best effort at a smile.
Well, actually, you have found Eden Studio. It was in this very building until Mrs. Edens death in 1939. In fact, their photos of early circuses became the primary item in Mr. Hertzebergs collection.
Elmo slapped his blue-jeaned thigh, causing a small puff of dust to float on the morning sun from a nearby window.
Well, now aint that a consarned blue ribbon miracle, if ever you heard one.
Now, Elmo, dear, theres no need to blaspheme. The good Lord led us here, thats a fact. Surely, so this lovely girl could help us to fulfill our faithful pilgrimage, and be restored by our return to Eden. Isnt that right, Sugar?
Agness eyes darted in slight confusion, momentarily from one to the other of the smiling couple.
Uh, yeah. Right. Anyhow, if you want to see the whole collection, we have recently archived it in computer format. It was Mrs. Edens dying stipulation that the photographs be make available to the public in perpetuity.
For some reason he didnt understand, Lucky still felt that they shouldnt tell all to the suddenly helpful young woman. He knew he would have to assert himself in the conversation if they were to have a chance of learning the meaning of the ink drawing and its key.
Well, if that means we can see them, just you point us towards this perpetuity where theys bein kept, and were on our way.
Agnes intuitively sensed that it was time for her to end her involvement in the conversation, and just pointed to a computer screen sitting on a desk in the corner.
Its very user-friendly. Should you require assistance with the printer, please ask. I shall be greeting other guests.
As Olive sat down in front of the little computer, Lucky looked around at the four rooms of slightly dusty mementos, totally devoid of other sightseers, and mumbled,
Yeah, fer cryin out loud, I sure wouldnt want to get trampled by all the other guests, or nothin.
Two hours later, Miss Agnes Maggart pushed a series of buttons on her untraceable cellular telephone. When a voice responded on the other end, she said,
Maggart here. Three subjects inquired about Eden this morning at o ten hundred. They proceeded to view the archive, and printed out the series that you were concerned about. Two old farmers, one male, one female. One additional old male; talked to himself, and,
-- Lon Frank (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 07, 2000.
Ya got me hangin' on the dusty edge now Lon! Ya can't stop now... Please, take me outta my misery...Continue!
-- Aunt Bee (Aunt__Bee@hotmail.com), July 08, 2000.
Just you hold on to yer ticket stub, Bee!
I think Rob has a couple of big scenes coming up, but since we're makin' this up as we go, it's just as mystifyin' to us as it is to ya'll.
Anyhow, I'm glad you're enjoyin' our little adventure. Ole Robbie and me are havin' a ball!
-- Lon Frank (email@example.com), July 08, 2000.
"enjoyin'" is putting it way too mildly
i'm with bee on this one...i'm sitting on the edge of my seat!
(mebs rubs her hands expectantly......not once losing grip on her ticket)
poor lil pat has been thru so much!!
-- mebs (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 08, 2000.
Mystery man was pissed off. The damn hunter had disappeared off the face of the earth, and there was an All Points Bulletin issued for his arrest. They wanted him and wanted him NOW. He knew this, and almost everything else that had happened regarding the case. The hunter had slipped. His 'asset' had screwed up. But he was responsible.
"Damn it, I should have executed the mission myself," he thought. None of this changed the fact that he had the photos and fur swath, the 'proof' that the beaver was dead. At least his asset had done that part right. The mission was successful, he reminded himself for the hundredth time. And he was safe. He had done nothing to compromise himself. Even the $100 bills were untraceable. The detective showed not even a hint of suspicion. Still, when anything slipped, even something small, he had to report it. And he didn't look forward to having to make this particular report. He decided to get it over with. He picked up the phone and dialed.
Alexander Lawless, the Head of the Advanced Defense Research Office, picked up his secure line. He listened without saying a word, until the man was done. "Find him before the locals get him. You know what to do," he commanded. "And if he's still missing after another 48 hours, that in itself may mean something to me. I want to know as soon as you do." Mystery man cleared his throat. "Yes, Sir!"
After hanging up, Alexander thought about it. Maybe the UFO abducted the hunter too. In that case, mystery man wouldn't find his asset. But that didn't matter. As long as the beaver was dead, it couldn't send that girl anymore information on where the clown was. To make matters even worse, the beaver and girl were almost T.V. stars! Who knew what they might reveal unknowingly, or to the wrong person. ADRO had to find the clown first - and secretly. That remained the key. No other agency would even understand what this was really all about, not even the FBI. UFO's were ADRO's turf. The information was highly compartmentalized, and with good reason. National security was at stake here!
But there was no corpse, and despite the photos and other evidence that Pat was dead, without a corpse there would always be a nagging doubt in his mind. Alexander Lawless didn't get to where he was by taking unnecessary chances. He was already being mentioned as the one to succeed the soon-to-retire Director of the National Security Office. If he played his cards right they would be begging him to take the Top Job! Now wasn't the time for a slipup.
He had to assume that somehow the abducted beaver was alive, and that the Aliens would return with it. If they did, he would have to be ready. ADRO would need a Rapid Deployment Team to cover the contingency. He picked up the secure line and started barking out orders.
The phone rang again as soon as he put it down. Alexander listened carefully to the young agent as she reported what had happened at the Circus Museum. Now he finally had a lead on the clown! He told her what it was he needed her to do, and knew she would have no compunction about doing it. None at all.
Their miracle work was finally done, the operations all successful. The ship turned onto its new heading: the third planet in the solar system. Pat was coming home at last...
-- Rob Michaels (email@example.com), July 08, 2000.
The three friends again sat around an outdoor table in the gathering shadows of the late Alamo City afternoon. Their waiter at the little courtyard restaurant of the hotel had brought over three large glasses of iced tea, with lime and orange slices and sprigs of mint hanging on the rims. The decorative drinks were compliments of the young parking attendant in gratitude for the experience of driving Olives car the short distance to the parking garage. Elmo had looked at the concoction before him with slight horror, and grabbed the sleeve of the young waiter.
Just what in tarnation is that?
Iced tea, sir, a speciality of the Casa Grande del Oro.
Well now, son, I know ice tea, and it sure dont have no ding-blasted fruit salad floatin on it, neither.
At which point the young man furtively glanced towards the station of the maitre d, and bent down slightly, close to Elmos left ear.
Yeah, I know what you mean. Me and the other waiters call it Yuppy tea. My old man would probably have me gelded if he knew I was servin this stuff. Ill be glad to take off the rabbit food for you if you want.
Now, Elmo, dear, the good Lord put all wonderful things on this earth for our enjoyment, and I do wish youd try some of them, if just to make me happy.
Elmo turned on his trademark grin, gave the waiter a wink, and lifted his glass to his smiling sweetheart of nearly forty years.
Well, little darlin, if itll make you happy, Ill guzzle a number three washtub full of this here yuppy tea, or puppy tea, or any other dang-blessed thing this feller brings out.
As the young waiter returned to the kitchen area, another man wearing a stained white straw fedora and cheap imitation Italian sunglasses was peeking through the screen of foliage surrounding the courtyard. Barely over four feet tall, and absolutely rotund, he was covered almost to his knees by a huge blue and yellow vertically striped shirt, which gave him an uncanny resemblance to the open umbrellas over the sidewalk tables. Around his neck hung a camera with an expensive telephoto lens. He whistled quietly at the young server.
Hey, youse, cmere. Dat the old broad with the fancy wheels?
Lucky took the four 8 X 10 sheets of paper out of the bag bearing the little white elephant logo of the Hertzeberg Museum. They were prints of a series of seemingly related photos which they had found in the computer archives earlier that morning.
At first glance, the copied photos appeared to be abstract designs of a sort found on pottery of the various descendants of the mysterious Anasazi Culture. Inhabitants and builders of the high cliff dwellings and pueblos of the four corners region, the Anasazi, so called after a Navaho word for the ancient ones, developed a technique which would blossom into the later incredibly beautiful art crafts of western American Indians. Later day collectors would come to fight over the glowing, black fired pottery vessels of Santa Clara Pueblo, the polychrome jars and bowls of San Idelfonso and Zia, and perhaps most striking of all, the black on white bird designs of the ollas from the little village of Acoma.
Olive had been the first to notice the old photos, and had pointed out the little birds in the designs to Elmo, and said they were just like the ones on Nana Marias little pot. But Lucky had stared at them with unusual fascination. Somewhere in the recesses of his flickering memory lurked a recognition of these strange lines and figures.
He now spread them out on the little table, and had to almost stack them on top of each other because of the small space. Suddenly Lucky gripped the edge of the table and stood, leaning over the scatter of paper.
Look. Look here at the little symbols in the corners. See, all of them have them. But when we put them together.....
He slightly rearranged the accidental alignment of the prints and straightened up, his mouth once again hanging open. Together, the designs on the papers aligned to form a larger pattern, some sort of blueprint or schematic, at once simple, and yet undecipherable in its complexity. Ten seconds passed before Olive gently placed her hand on his, causing Lucky to close his mouth and remember to breathe.
What is it, Dear? Do you recognize it?
Yes. I mean, no. I, I really dont know. Maybe if we make the marks line up at the other corners....
Once again he rearranged the papers, and when he was done, it was Olives mouth which hung open. There before them was the simple outline of a large building they all instantly recognized. A classic antebellum Greek revival mansion fronted with great columns and magnificent portico.
The lines converged along the new border into a single line of stark block-style letters, Maison du Jet Deau, Jeanerette.
From the vine draped balcony directly above them came the muted clicks of a camera shutter.
-- Lon Frank (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 08, 2000.
But changed..? LOL. OMG! Is he/she a complete beaver now, one way or the other?
I don't trust that bad ole' Agnes. Watch out for her, Lucky!
-- kritter (email@example.com), July 08, 2000.
The Mother ship loitered just out of Earth orbit. Next to it were her two small scout ships. Everything was ready. The two small ships left their mother's side and began their short trips. Pat was in one of them.
Within seconds Crystal Palace was in an uproar. The fence was tripped twice in two different places simultaneously - something that had never happened before. Alexander Lawless was in Box 1 when the second alarm was raised. He had guessed correctly. They had come back. He alone knew the reason why.
"Where are they tracking down to?" he demanded. The shift supervisor turned to him saying; "The first bogie plotted to Northwest New Jersey again, Sir. The second is still being tracked." His eyes were glued to the monitors just like everyone else when the answer he wanted to hear came: "Looks like the second bogie has been plotted to be over Mexico, Sir; somewhere south of a border town called Nuevo Laredo.
Alexander had a tough decision to make. He had two possible landing sites but only one Rapid Deployment Force. He usually could do just about any damn thing he wanted. But violating the airspace of a friendly neighboring nation for a covert operation comprised only of American forces was out of the question without higher approval - even for him. And there wasn't time to get approval. So his decision was made for him. He had no choice but to deploy to New Jersey and hope that the beaver was being dropped off back 'home'. And this time there would be no slipups, not with the grunts he was sending. They would make sure that the beaver would be eliminated once and for all.
Marie had asked Julie if she wanted to stay over at the Michaels' for the night. Julie gratefully accepted her new friend's offer. Everyone was sound asleep, even the Michaels' cat Murphy, when the ship approached and hovered silently over the Lake in back of their house. A beam shot out from the small craft's bottom and shone through the quiet house's guest bedroom window - directly on Julie. In seconds she was aboard, and the small ship was on its way to its next destination.
The other small ship hovered just to the south of Nuevo Laredo. There was no blue light beam from this one however. Instead, a small luminous 'bubble' the size of an overgrown beach ball detached itself from the craft and sped away to the north, completely undetectable by any human technology on the planet. It arrived at its destination. The 'bubble' rested on the ground and then burst open - 'evaporating' into the fresh night air and freeing the occupant inside. The insertion was successful. Pat looked around and saw the site in the moonlight, a site that there was a special name for.
It was called The Alamo.
Pat needed to leave there, and headed as quickly as possible to the spot THEY told him to go to by the San Antonio River. The new studded collar around its neck felt a little odd and somewhat tight as Pat ran quickly to the destination. Attached to the collar, complete with a dog-tag medallion, was a small bag that held several small items. Pat heard something occasionally rattle and clink in the bag. It took a while, but Pat finally got to the spot safely, and then stopped to look at the lone figure curled on the hard ground surrounded by soft moonlight.
She was there just as THEY said she would be, and she was sleeping soundly. Pat couldn't waste any time. Both of them might be in danger soon if they stayed out in the open too long. Pat began licking the girl's face. She woke slowly from her deep dream, and was startled to find that the walls in the Michaels' house were gone, so was the bed, so was the - Where the heck am I? She blinked and shook her head. The Golden Retriever pup was wagging its tail and went over to her and starting licking her face again. What the heck? The dog rolled playfully over to have its belly rubbed. She reached down and Oh my God! The dog was androgynous - just like Pat! At the first thought of Pat she felt her temples began to tingle - and then the images came: the ship, the operating table, the brain transplant, something unexplainable in a large fluid-filled cylindrical tube. The images cleared. She thought she understood, and a smile lit up her whole pretty face. The dog stood up and barked twice. She pulled the puppy closer and gave it a loving hug. Julie was only able to get one word out before the tears started: "Pat!"
-- Rob Michaels (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 08, 2000.
Puppy love! How sweet it is! PAT LIVES! Hallelujah!! (Wiping the tears from my face) My faith is again renewed... Excuse the interuption, please continue (holding my ticket tightly).
-- (Aunt__Bee@hotmail.com), July 09, 2000.
Robert Redfords life had been difficult. At the height of four feet, four inches, he had reached his vertical limitations by the age of nine. A cute, chubby baby, he had grown into a stout toddler, and then into a hefty preteen. By the age of thirteen, he was already becoming hardened to the unkind jeers and pranks of his peers when he was called upon by his peculiar, unflinching array of chromosomes to cross the threshold of puberty.
During that period of their lives most boys are plunged overnight into an eternal struggle of emotion and heredity. The human male child, who by nature is an uncomplicated hedonistic heathen, capable of unthinking acts of destruction and inspiration, of cowardice as easy as courage, is suddenly confronted with the man he will become. Most make the transition with trepidation, being molded into noble conformity by societal pressure, or warping slightly into a new persona, guided by his particular ideologies and tempered by the chemical sorcery of testosterone.
It is a time of physiological change; new muscles are given precedence, hair populates previously pristine areas of skin, limbs and stature are lengthened and in turn, enhanced. And it is a time of emotional change; when the young female is magically transformed from pest to mysterious siren, the hitherto unheard music in her voice conveying a terrifying allure.
But for young Robert Redford, puberty was little more than a cruel practical joke of genetic conspiracy. While it was true that he developed the natural sexual functions and desires, he was physically equipped with a somewhat vacant armory of attractability. When other lads grew clefts in their chins, and rippling pectorals, Robert was rewarded with body hair which began at the level of his heavy and almost contiguous eyebrows and spilled in waves over his rounded shoulders. And while his friends grew taller and discovered athletic talents, Robert, as though governed by a private gravity, experienced only an ever-increasing girth.
But the greatest hurdle confronted by the young man was neither biological nor chemical in nature. It was purely coincidental.
The year was 1969, and a movie was produced which became a huge box office success. It was called, Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, and featured an incredibly handsome actor, who by the whim of laughing gods, was named, Robert Redford.
Ever since the day that Robert Redford, the actor, smiled into his first public relations interview, Robert Redford, the rotund unknown, had lived in a private hell of dreaded introductions. Every time he was put into the unavoidable position of stating his full name, he could hear the spoken, or mercifully unspoken, rebounding thought of, yeah, sure, and Im Paul Newman/Richard Nixon/Mae West/Rin Tin Tin!.
But the scales of fortune did hold a balance for Robert. As he matured he found a tenaciously secure self image, bolstered by a talent for cunning and an ability to justify almost any action, should it by chance benefit or protect him. After finishing an education characterized by flagrant use of devisive flattery, purloined sympathy, and outright chicanery, he found a fertile field of endeavor for his cultivated talents. He applied for a job with the Federal Government.
Due to the increasing pressure to hire and promote individuals with normally non-standard qualifications, he found himself in the training program for agents of the new and highly secretive Advanced Defense Research Office. Surprisingly to everyone but him, and the head instructor, to whom he had casually mentioned the severe monetary and punitive penalties for discrimination against the handicapped, he graduated once again in the top percentile of his class. But this time the very regulations which he had made the cornerstone of his ascending carrier would prove to be the latest in the line of pratfalls which had dominated his life.
As he walked, ten minutes late, into the office of the ADRO Field Operations Director, the day after his completion of training, he was confronted by the back of a womans head. With its hair pulled back into a tight and humorless bun, the head was higher than his, even though the body to which it belonged was seated in a chair at the center of the room.
He hesitatingly walked in, far enough to peer around at a profile of tightly pursed lips below a long thin nose surmounted by thick and black-framed glasses.
The Field Director rose and held out his hand as he lied to his tardy apprentice,
Ah, Robert, so good to see you. I was beginning to worry that you had suffered some debilitating accident. But it is rare for me to have the opportunity spend a little stolen time in the company of such a lovely young woman.
He gave a profuse and patently phony smile in the direction of the unflinching head.
Id like you to meet your new partner, Miss Agnes Maggart.
As the photographic images began to develop in the elaborately equipped darkroom in the back of the museum, Agent Maggart lifted them into the glare of the overhead red light bulb.
Well, Redford, these are very substandard, as I suspected they would be, but they will have to do. However, I can read the magic printing, as you so eloquently put it; Maison du Jet Deau, Jeanerette.
Yeah, well, you try hanging by your bloomers from a second story balcony, and see how good you can take snapshots of some geezer tourists. And just what is all this about anyway? And who is this French babe, Mayonnaise Jeanie-rette?
Agent Maggart paused to push her glasses higher on the bridge of her nose before she looked disgustedly at her diminutive partner.
Not who, you minuscule moron, but where. This is obviously a rendering of a plantation house in Jeanerette, Louisiana. And what its about is Alexander Lawless. And what Alex Lawless wants, we get. Got it?
Yeah, yeah, whatever. Just remember its my turn to drive."
-- Lon Frank (email@example.com), July 09, 2000.
Rob waited for Marie to go out of the room before he called the police station. He talked to Officer Brooks, the same officer that had come to his house to give him an unwanted ride to the station earlier in the week. He told the officer that Julie was missing, that her car was still parked in their driveway. He was really worried about the girl, and that Marie was worried sick and started sniffling just at the sound of Julie's name. After the call Rob went outside for some fresh air. He was only out for a little while when he dimly heard the phone ringing. "I'll get it," Marie said.
Alexander Lawless had struck out. ADRO's Rapid Deployment Team was sent to the woods of Northwest New Jersey but had found no trace of what they sought. If the beaver was dropped off there, it wasn't at its dam or anywhere nearby the Lake. He knew at least that much. That meant the beaver was in the other bogie, the one that tracked south of the border. The last known position of the clown was also in that part of the country. Maybe he would need to deploy another asset to that area to find the beaver. His best agent was engaged tracking the clown. Before he sent someone else there he would need some confirmation of where the beaver was. In short, even HE needed a break.
Marie couldn't believe who it was. "Julie! We've been so worried!" She heard the familiar voice at the other end say: "Pat's with me! And you wouldn't believe what Pat looks like Marie! Anyway, last night, THEY came and took me here." Marie was excited as she said; "Thank goodness you're ok! You are ok aren't you, dear?" Julie told her she was still a bit confused but that she seemed fine. She even had her pocketbook with her, luckily, with the cell phone inside it. "Where are you dear? Where did, uh, THEY take you? Do you need for Rob to come give you a ride to your car? Its still here." Julie giggled and said; "No thanks Marie. I'm at the Alamo! And I really have to go now. But I just had to call you and let you know why I disappeared and that I was ok. I knew you would be worried! There are other things I want to tell you too but I don't have the time now. We have to lay low. But I'll call again when I can."
The last thing that Julie needed was anyone, including the well-meaning police here in town, looking for her if she was trying to lay low. Marie had told no one about her conversation yesterday over coffee with Julie, including Rob. If only Rob hadn't called already and reported her missing. She really couldn't blame him since he didn't know the things that Julie had told her, and besides, his heart was in the right place. She let out a long sigh. There was only one thing to do. She called Officer Brooks back and explained that there was a misunderstanding. Julie wasn't missing after all. In fact, Julie had just called her and everything was just fine.
After hanging up, Officer Brooks frowned. Something in her voice didn't ring true, something about the call. He knew someone who would pay good money for just about any information regarding Julie. But first he would have to do some homework. The cop dialed a good friend at the local phone service, gave them the Michaels' number, and waited. He didn't wait long. His friend told him that there had only been one call to that number all morning, and also told him where the call originated.
Julie unhooked the bag from Pat's collar ring and removed the items. She put on the hat and dark sunglasses and looked at her reflection. Even her own mother wouldn't recognize her! Next she took out the small piece of paper. It was Pat's license. That's odd, she thought, it was issued in Jeanerette Louisiana! She looked in the bag and found a small metal ring with two keys on it and put them in her pocketbook. Then came the last item, a leash. She snapped the end of it onto Pat's studded collar's ring right by the dog-tag medallion. They began walking down the Paseo del Rio - along the concrete and stone banks of the River. Anyone looking for Julie or the beaver would instead just see a girl walking her dog. Her confidence grew with each passing step.
Officer Brooks dialed the secure line for the second time in 24 hours. "Yes?" Alexander asked gruffly. "No word on the hunter. I am calling about someone else you are interested in. The Girl was reported missing by someone I know. Then a few minutes later his wife called and changed the tune - said the Girl wasn't missing after all. Something smelled. I did a little checking. It doesn't make any sense to me but I thought I would tell you anyway. If it really was The Girl who called, then I know where she is: in San Antonio." His big break had arrived. He had confirmation. If that was where The Girl was you could bet your last dollar that she was with the beaver. Now he would have to see what he could make of it. Alexander Lawless controlled his excitement as he said: "Forget the hunter - he's gone for good probably. You've earned a bonus. It will be double the usual amount and in the arranged spot in 1 hour. I want you down in San Antonio to follow up on this. Get going Now! She's there, and she's got to have the beaver with her. Find them. And once you do, be imaginative. There will be a bonus if you hit both targets. After you arrive my other agent will contact you. That information be included with the bonus you'll get in 1 hour. And uh, good work mystery man."
-- Rob Michaels (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 09, 2000.
On Highway 70 leading west out of Roswell, New Mexico is a line of sun-washed and notoriously tacky tourist traps. Various signs implore the passing vacationer to See The Authentic Photos Of The Aliens Taken To Area 51, and perhaps buy, Flying Saucer Wreck Site Souvenirs.
One such establishment was a small and venerable single-room restaurant. Painted light green, with faux Swiss-cheese holes in the walls, it was crowned by a large round sign depicting the full moon, with an oversized Buck Rodgers era rocket ship sticking out of its brow. In Chinese red letters across the sign was the name, Moon Wok-it Cafe.
The current proprietor of the cheesy eatery was a third-generation Asian-American, named Jimmy Moon, who had inherited the business from his grandfather. The elder Moon, whos original first name had been unpronounceable to the lazy American tongue, was a slightly built gentleman of tremendous energy. His relentless enterprise earned him the respect of his adopted community, and his stature earned him the local moniker of Half Moon.
Of course, in the manner of many members of minorities, Half Moon used the humor of his neighbors to his continued advantage, and named his son and heir, New Moon. Unfortunately, Corporal New Moon was one of the valiant casualties of the Tet Offensive, and thereby passed his folded flag as well as his place in the hereditary line to his newborn son, James.
In a glass case by the checkout counter in the cafe was a small artifact which old Half Moon always swore he had found at the authentic site where the now-famous flying saucer crashed in the desert near Roswell on a hot and windy day in July, 1947. It was a small metallic disc, flame-stained and pock-marked. On one side it bore a little pattern of thin lines. On the other was a black, abstract silhouette of a birds head.
As Lucky attempted to have his posterior follow him once again into the rear seat of the little automobile, Elmo and Olive were discussing their plans over a road map spread on the cars roof. Given to them by the hotel Concierge, it detailed the low, plantation country along the Bayou Teche, in southern Louisiana. There was no mention, nor any notation marking the location, of any antebellum mansion called Maison du Jet Deau, but the town of Jeanerette was plainly identified, just south of the Cajun Mecca of New Iberia.
When they had agreed on the route Olive would take, they climbed in and the cars soft purr pushed them out into the empty street in front of the hotel. As they rolled slowly down Alamo Plaza, Lucky realized that the strange transformation of personality was again coming over their normally sweet and reserved driver. The glamor sunglasses had reappeared, as had the unending 8-track of surfer songs.
As he hunkered down in the rear seat in anticipation of the wild ride he knew would ensue, Lucky happened to look out the rear edge of Elmos passenger window. There, on the Paseo del Rio, just a half block away, a young woman walked a beautiful amber dog. As Olive waited impatiently at the red light, behind what could have her twin sister in a champaign Caddy, the dog started barking loudly, and half-dragged its companion towards the red Mustang.
When they were a bare dozen paces apart, the struggling girl at the end of the leash suddenly saw the mans face peering out of the cars window, and stopped dead still. As she lifted the dark glasses off with her free hand, her eyes locked in confused recognition with those of the older man. Her dog, now recovered of its civility sat at her feet and grinned towards the eager little auto rumbling in the frozen traffic.
Olives slight feathering of the clutch broke the momentary spell, and Luckys gaze was attracted by a shining object hanging from the dogs collar. Slightly larger than a common dog tag, this one glittered in the sun, and seemed to be printed with some sort of symbol. A black, stylized silhouette of a desert bird.
Lucky opened his mouth to speak, but was cut off by Olives raucous screech. The traffic light had turned green a full two seconds ago, and the land yacht in front of her had yet to move.
Come on, granny! This aint no PARKIN LOT, ya know!
Before Lucky could compose his thoughts into comprehensible words, the Cadillac turned out of her way, and Olive demonstrated the little cars ability to attain the speed of 60 mph in just under eight seconds. Carroll Shelby would have been proud.
By the time Lucky had recovered sufficiently from the imposed G-forces of their launch from the traffic light, and once again managed to draw air into his lungs, they were streaking up the entrance ramp of the nearby freeway.
Hey! Hey, did you guys see that? That girl back there?
Olive gave a lecherous wink to her co-pilot, and purred in her Mr. Hyde-influenced sultry voice,
Why, Lucky, Shu-gar. Here I thought you only had eyes for me.
No, no, she had a dog, and...
Oooh, now, I certainly cant compete with that, you frisky little devil.
No, listen. I, I think that dog had a tag with the sign on it, you know, the little bird sign.
This time Elmo turned around in his seat and gave his friend a look of genuine concern.
Now, bud, you know you been starin at them gol-danged papers all day. Why, you prolly gonna see them little birdies in your sleep. I know that consarned memory thing is weighin on you, but Me and Olive will stick by you, and we know where it is were goin now.
Lucky leaned forward and put one hand on each of their shoulders.
Yeah, I know. And no matter what I was before, I couldnt have had any better friends than you two.
As he sat back in the seat, Lucky tried to see in his mind the street and the dog and the little glittering tag. But his memory only contained one image - eyes. Her eyes.
-- Lon Frank (email@example.com), July 09, 2000.
I know I didn't post it twice this time. No, really I swear. You guys just gotta believe me, I didn't do it! Tell your boss I didn't even know she was his kid sister! And I never touched.......
(blush) sorry, I just kinda got carried away.
BTW, "Moon Wok-it Cafe". Moon....Wok-it, get it? nyuk, nyuk. I gotta tell ya, comin' up with this kind of sophisticated humor is exhaustin'; just exhaustin'.
-- Lon Frank (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 09, 2000.
The familiar tone from the computer's internal speaker sounded. Alexander had mail. He looked at the sender's code: it was his field agent in San Antonio. The text of the message body said the agent scanned the photo and then needed to digitally enhance it, that they had sent him only the best one. He looked down at the attachment. It was a file with a JPG extension. He double-clicked it open and stared at the digital image, concentrating on the face. There was no longer any doubt. It was the clown, minus the grease paint. Alexander Lawless smiled as he clicked the 'reply' button.
Pat led Julie over to the statue in front of the Clown museum. Once there, Pat's tail began wagging and the puppy barked. Her temples started to tingle. She saw a picture in her mind of a man sitting down drinking something - ice tea - only with something green in it - something he had the good taste to quickly remove! Then another image came. It was the same person only now he was sitting in a cherry-red Mustang! The one Pat had just dragged her over to! Once again she heard a voice in her head say the word "Lucky." It was then that she knew he was the clown, and that Lucky was his name. "So that's it! No wonder I thought I recognized him!" she said to Pat. The pup barked once and wagged its tail even more enthusiastically. She smiled. The clown liked ice tea too, and somehow, seeing Lucky, she knew she liked him as well - liked him very much. No wonder Pat had led her to the car, and now to this clown museum!
Agnes was just coming out, closing the door and locking the museum up for the day. She turned to see a girl with a golden retriever puppy standing by 'her' statue. Even with the sunglasses and the hat it was apparent that the girl was pretty. Very pretty. Agnes hated her immediately.
"We're closed now. Sorry," said Agnes sneering. Pat barked a couple times and looked upset. "When will you reopen?" asked Julie. "Not until Tuesday morning. We're closed until then for some maintenance." At that, Pat actually growled and seemed even more agitated. Then the dog lifted a hind leg over the base of the statue and peed on it! Agnes was aghast as she looked down at Pat debasing 'her' statue. "How dare that mutt... wait a minute... is that dog a... a... a..." Julie quickly cut off the question. "I'm terribly sorry. Pat's just a puppy still! Oh, Pat, how could you! Julie grimaced at the expression on Agnes's face. "I'm soooooo sorry. I,uh, I think we'd better be off now - thanks anyway. I'll come back on Tuesday. Sorry!" She hurried off leaving Agnes angry and confused.
Officer Brooks had taken the Red Eye out of Newark International. After a brief a hop to Dallas the flight arrived at San Antonio. He went to the airport car rental and filled out the forms, driving away only minutes later to his hotel. Shortly after getting something to eat and settling in, the phone in his room rang. It was his contact. They were to meet here in his room in 30 minutes.
After leaving the museum, Pat led Julie across the street. They walked only a short distance before Pat stopped and turned to stand directly by an empty parked car with Louisiana plates. Pat barked and looked up at her, tail wagging. Julie thought that Pat might repeat the performance at the statue but the dog simply stood staring at the car. She started walking away but Pat wouldn't budge. What the heck? "You would think this was our car the way you're acting!" Pat barked once and looked excited. Her temples tingled and this time when she saw the 'image' she knew exactly what Pat wanted her to do.
She opened her pocketbook, found the keys, and took them out. As she did she guiltily looked all around - almost as if she were about to commit a crime. Julie noticed that the lady from the museum was walking down the street towards her, but she was on the other side of the road and not even looking their way. She turned the key. No luck. She tried the second key. CLICK. She opened the door and Pat went in and stood on the front seat as if the dog owned it! She went around to the other side, got in, and started the engine. The tank was full. And the seat was just the right height and distance from the pedals. Even the mirrors needed no adjusting! She turned to Pat: "These Aliens think of everything, don't they!" Pat barked once and sat down. There were only two things in the glove compartment: one was a small bowl, obviously for Pat to drink from, and the other item was a map - not of Texas, but of Louisiana. She pulled out into the traffic, wondering where to go next.
Officer Brooks opened the door and let Agnes in. He spent about five minutes showing her newspaper clippings and photos of the girl and the beaver with the golden teeth. Then he started talking about each. It wasn't until another five minutes had passed that he mentioned, offhandedly, that Pat was androgynous. Agnes frowned. "An-drog-y-what?" she asked. Brooks explained.
Agnes's eyes widened in sudden understanding. She told him about the girl and the dog - a dog that was androgynous, a dog that was named Pat, and come to think of it, the Girl could have been the same one as was in these photos - same height and build, she remembered jealously. As she was leaving, she remembered one other thing: that both of them got into a car - with Louisiana plates.
-- Rob Michaels (email@example.com), July 09, 2000.
The little red car had devoured the late afternoon hours speeding towards Houston, and crossed the Sabine river into gathering darkness and the petrochemical aromas of Lake Charles. Turning south onto a smaller route, marked scenic, on the map, Olive had expressed her desire to find lodgings at one of the little coastal towns of Creole or Grand Chenier. That way, she said, they could awake with the great and wonderful ocean just lying at their feet like a shining blue carpet. Like most people who were tied to the land for their existence, she had never traveled more than a day away from her unending chores, and had never seen the ocean except on television or in magazines.
It was almost midnight by the time they were settled in a mom and pop motel, perched on the roadside just south of where the Mermentau bayou drains Lake Misere into the untractable marshlands of Upper and Lower Mud Lake. Olive stood in the parking area with her arm looped through Elmos, and titled her nose slightly upward.
Oh, Elmo, dear. Just smell that aroma. Its the scent of lilac on Mother Natures bosom, the primordial odor of Gods wondrous creation.
Elmo could only detect the unmistakable rotting vapor of swamp mud mixed with the acrid smell of salt grass. A thin line of perspiration ran from the tip of his nose.
Well, Im truly sorry darlin, but that primordial smell youre smelling just might be me. They say its the humidity down here, not the heat, but I swear, this place seems to have a gol-danged bumper crop of both.
Lucky carried their bags from the trunk of the car, and talked to himself.
Dam, this place smells familiar. Reckon I used to be a frog or somethin?
The next morning they detoured slightly, so Olive could see the Gulf, and as she put it, walk upon the shimmering sands of the nearby beach. When they pulled off the road and onto the hard packed sand, she just stared in horror for a moment, then raised a hand to her lips.
There on the narrow stretch of dirty grey sand, was the jetsam of an unconscious society. Every unthinking act of litter was documented here; every careless toss of household trash, every abominable act of industrial dumping. For as far as they could see in each direction the beach was covered by scattered pieces and piles of mans garbage, collected by the waves, and deposited here like exhibits in some gallery of grotesque art.
Industrial sized light bulbs mingled with glass jars of every description. Broken pieces of lumber resided alongside blackened work gloves and the occasional orange hardhat. Snarls of heavy fishing line and ripped pieces of nets laid in wait for the unwary shore bird. And throughout it all, were scattered thousands of marble-sized globules of shiny black tar. The gift of leaky offshore oil platforms, they glistened along the undulating wave line, collecting odd bits of broken shells from the oyster and whelk and angel wing clam.
Their driver had neither shut off the engine, nor had she reached for the handle to open the door. The hand covering her mouth trembled slightly, as a single tear emerged from behind the left lens of her dark glasses.
Elmo folded his arms and shook his head slowly.
By midmorning Olive had somewhat recovered from her shattered dream of pristine beaches and sparking water. As she unerringly guided their car along the small roads of Louisianas Cajun country, she had been constantly rewarded by vistas of grassy wetland plains and shady private swamps hung with Spanish moss. The mornings high point came when they had to stop at a tiny draw bridge to let a towboat pass, on its way to the locks at Vermillion Bay.
But the shock of the beach must have been still with her an hour later, when she did something she had never done before in her life. Olive took a wrong turn.
The trio of travelers found themselves on an ever-narrowing road through cypress and small bayous. When it abruptly came to an end at a crumbling cross road, Olive leaned forward and looked down each of their two choices. No other vehicles or buildings were in sight, but a small sign pointed right, and said, GOTB 2 mi.. Another sign, painted in soft pink and sky blue, pointed left and said, Center For Peace and Light, Inc.. Elmo looked up from studying the paper in his lap.
Well, there aint no gol-danged town on the map named Goteb, thats fer sure.
Olive nodded her agreement, and started to turn the wheel left, when Lucky suddenly put a hand on her shoulder.
Wait, Olive. Lets, uh, lets go down that way, they might have a place to eat lunch or something.
Olive parked the car along the vacant street in front of the best restaurant in town. Actually, it was the only restaurant in town; Sheryls Bon Bon Cafe.
As they took a table in the back with a worn but clean yellow formica top, a beautiful woman with the pale hair of California walked over, a small order tablet in hand.
Hi, folks. Today we got some really good gumbo and cornbread, or fried......
As Sheryl had spoken the menu, all three had looked up expectantly, and she in turn, had acknowledged each face. But when she reached the round, grey-rimmed and smiling face of Lucky, she suddenly paused in shocked surprise. Like all the various inhabitants of the little backwater community and surrounding farms, she had never seen Old Lon the clown without his grease paint and rubber nose. But the news coverage had been so intense when he disappeared, that his gaudy face had been constantly displayed for several weeks. And the eyes were somehow the same.
......uh, that is fried, uh, fried catfish and potatoes.
All agreed that the gumbo would be the ticket, and as she walked back to the kitchen, Sheryl couldnt help but glance over her shoulder twice again at a still-smiling Lucky.
Elmo shook his head, and grinned at his mate.
I swear, Olive, we got us a ding-dang lady killer here. First the girl on the street, and now this good lookin waitress. Maybe we should be takin him to Hollywood.
Luckys smile grew across his rubbery face.
Yeah, well, I can certainly understand how the women-folk would become light-headed at the very exposure to this magnificent countenance, but still.....
His smile drooped slightly, and became more a look of pleased confusion.
..there was somethin in her voice.
He whispered, mostly to himself,
-- Lon Frank (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 10, 2000.
......... "Something familiar"
(I promise that before I start another story, I'll change back to Netscape Navagator!!)
-- Lon Frank (email@example.com), July 10, 2000.
Brooks knew he was on to something and that his boss would be happy with his next report. He didn't understand it all, especially the beaver-dog switch, but maybe the Head of ADRO would. Agnes shared his excitement. He dialed the number with Agnes at his side, and explained what he had just leaned from the other agent. To say that Alexander was surprised was putting it mildly.
Alexander Lawless hung up and thought hard about it - An androgynous dog that just happened to be in San Antonio and happened to be named Pat and who's owner matched the general physical description of the Girl. It was too much coincidence. And they had a car! That changed things considerably. They would be able to move around freely without drawing any attention. A long time later the beginnings of a smile creased his face. Maybe the Girl and Dog would lead him to the clown. At least he knew exactly what to look for now. And look he definately would.
Although Julie had never had a dog of her own before, working as Dr. Gold's assistant at the animal clinic had taught her the basics. And it was the basics of food and water that were on her mind and undoubtedly on Pat's mind too. They were famished. Up ahead on their side of the road was a Fried Chicken fast food place. She knew that dogs couldn't eat chicken made that way due to the soft chicken bones that they might choke on, but she liked fried chicken just fine! Julie put her directional on and turned into the drive-up.
"I'm having chicken, but I wonder what I can get you to eat" she said, looking at Pat affectionately as they waited in line. All day long Julie had been in the habit of talking out loud to the pup, but it was now that she was about to notice something really very peculiar.
Julie rolled down the car window and looked at the menu. "So what'll it be Pat? Want some Fried Okra?" Pat didn't act very interested and barked twice. Julie looked at the pup. "You don't seem too excited about that choice - how about some Fried Crawfish Tails?" Pat looked at the floor and barked twice again. Julie shrugged her shoulders. She saw the next menu item and smiled. "Well, they have Jalapeno Peppers," she said grinning mischievously at the cute pooch. Two barks, and a low growl. "No, huh. Ok, let's see - they have Popcorn Shrimp." Pat looked up, stood on the seat and barked - but only once. It was then that Julie knew what she had only suspected before - that every time she asked Pat something the pup would bark ONLY once or twice.
She decided to try a little experiment. "What would you like to drink, Pat? Soda?" - two barks. "Milk?" - two barks. "Water?" - one bark. "You sure you want water?" - one bark and a wildly wagging tail. She smiled. "And an order of Popcorn Shrimp? - one bark - and then Pat tapped a front paw on Julie's lap three times. The dog looked at her expectantly. She started laughing. "You want three orders of the Popcorn Shrimp?" WOOF!
The meal was a complete success for both of them. At Pat's insistence, Julie had ended up getting a six-pack of water instead of just one bottle. Both of them were feeling fine now. Since they were stopped, she pulled out the map from the glove compartment, opened it, spread it out on the front seat and then folded it in half. She looked at Pat and said; "We'll start with this part of the map, ok?" Woof! She giggled. Julie was feeling a bit silly next as she teasingly spoke as if talking to a small child; "Ok you lovable little poochee woochee, can you tell Mommy where we should go to find Lucky the Clown?" Pat growled playfully followed by a Woof! Then Pat looked down at the map of Louisiana and tapped his paw over a part of it. Julie lifted the paw and said some names in the area. "Lafayette?" Woof, woof. "New Iberia?" Woof, woof. "Franklin?" Woof, woof. "Jeanerette?" WOOF!
"Wait until I tell Marie about this!" Julie thought to herself. Had she said that out loud, Pat would have barked twice for "No!" She got out the cell phone and dialed.
Alexander knew many things, but he was missing something very important - he didn't know where they were anymore. Both his field agent and mystery man continued to search San Antonio for the Clown and Girl and Dog with no luck so far. He started thinking out loud. "Only the clown knows where 'the machine' is. I must get to the clown before anyone else does - it's the only way I can be sure that nobody else finds 'the machine' first. That would ruin everything! National Security is at stake! It won't do my career any good either." He had to find them soon. Were they all hiding somewhere in San Antonio? Or did they go? He had to find out. But it seemed as though all he could do at the moment was sweat it out. The Head of ADRO wasn't happy. Not happy at all.
But Marie was very happy - and also relieved - to hear from Julie, who filled her in on all of the things that happened. Marie was really laughing hard when Julie described Pat's 'barking answers', and how they figured out what to eat and where to go next. She also told Marie about her growing fondness for the clown and the odd feeling of recognition that seemed to pass between them. She told her that she didn't know the two older people that Lucky was with, but instinctively she felt that they were the clown's friends. "Now we're hot on Lucky's trail, and the next stop is Jeanerette Louisiana," Julie summed up. Marie made Julie promise to call again real soon. Julie smiled and said kiddingly; "OK, Mom, I promise." They both laughed then said goodbye.
Within minutes after Julie and Marie hung up, Alexander was looking at the transcript of their conversation. It was a brilliant move on mystery mans part to tap the Michaels' phone line on the unlikely chance that the Girl would call there again. "So they're all on their way to Jeanerette to meet like one big happy family are they," he said aloud with satisfaction. He would just have to invite someone else to crash their little party. And he knew just who to send. Seconds later Agnes picked up the phone. She and Robert were going on a little trip to Louisiana to find an old cherry-red Mustang. And a clown.
After the call, Julie pulled out onto Interstate 10 again and continued to head east. After a couple of hours she was leaving Houston behind. She turned happily to Pat saying; "Were already about half way there." Pats tail wagged. She smiled as the road passed under her wheels, and turned on the radio to hear the Beach Boy's always-wonderful harmony: "And we'll have fun, fun, fun when her daddy takes the T-bird away." She noticed that Pats tail was wagging to the music! She turned to the pooch asking "You like the Beach Boys too?" WOOF! Julie laughed so hard she thought she would split her side open and lose control of the car. "I love you Pat!" WOOF!
-- Rob Michaels (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 10, 2000.
Pick it up Michelin boy, I want to be there by breakfast.
Somehow her voice seemed perfectly suited to the sterile interior of the government-issue Chevrolet. And both had a slightly unnerving, sexual appeal to Robert. In order for him to drive, he had moved the bench seat forward as far as possible, which had the effect of forcing his female accomplice to juxtapose her 63" frame into a series of awkward and uncomfortable positions.
As she shifted in her seat once again, her knees came to point straight upwards, her thighs nearly vertical and reaching to the level of Roberts chin. As she tilted her head back to relax slightly on the seats headrest, the hem of her expensive and executive stylednavy blue silk dress slipped over her upraised knees and slid towards her lap, exposing the lacy top of her left thigh-high stocking, and a quarter inch of unblemished skin.
Robert had meant to only glance, but as the wheels of the car crunched through the loose gravel on the side of the highway, he realized his lapse, and jerked his attention and the tires back to the road ahead. Agnes looked up, momentarily startled, then noticed her exposed limb. With an evil smile, half disgust and half pleasure, she fixed her stare on Robert as she reached down, and with both hands, slowly smoothed her stocking from ankle to top, before lifting her skirt slightly and throwing it back over her knees.
The car swerved slightly, as Robert reached to turn up the air conditioner controls.
As Olive and Lucky walked out to the car, Elmo fished in his pocket for the correct change to pay their bill. The alluring waitress slightly craned her neck to watch Lucky through the window.
You folks, uh, arent from around here, are you? I mean you dont exactly look like bayou people.
Nah, darlin, we got us a little place over in west Texas. Near Marfa?
Sheryls face did not register any recognition at the name of the town.
You know, the Marfa Lights? UFOs and all that?
The waitress gave him a slight smile of apology.
Well, at least me and the missus are from out there. Our friend isnt too sure where home is. That reminds me, how do we get to Jeanerette from here? Were lookin for a gol-darned plantation called Mason Jet, or Fountain House, or somethin like that.
Sheryl pointed back towards the crossroads where they had stopped.
Well, Jeanerette is right back the way you came in on. Just go all the way to 182, and turn right. I never heard of a Fountain Plantation, but you ought to check with the public library in Jeanerette; they have a lot of records on the old places.
Thanks, darlin, and thanks for the lunch too, it was a gol-danged feast. Elmo burped slightly, Just kinda spicy.
He turned, and opened the door to leave. Sheryl looked again out at the man in the back seat of the little car, and raised her voice slightly.
You say your friend isnt sure if he might be from here?
Well, to tell the truth, he aint too sure about nothin but time to eat. We think hes from up in Canada someplace; maybe worked fer a circus or carnival or something like that, and got the amnesia.
As Olive accelerated rapidly past Doirons Boarding House, the restaurateur was lost in thought as she jotted down a single word on the back of her order pad: Amnesia
They had stopped for a breakfast of eggs with Tabasco, little bland sausages, and the omnipresent southern side dish of corn grits. Agnes looked at the grainy white glop in her plate, and scowled.
How, exactly, is one supposed to eat this, this, library paste?
Robert paused in his attack on his meal, with a mouthful of yet-to be-chewed eggs, and excitedly looked at his companion.
Thats it! Agnes.
He sprayed little yellow bits across the table, causing the thin woman to lift her hands in self-defense.
Thats where they will go! To the library. I mean they will be hunting for this mayonnaise fountain place, too, wont they? And everybody knows, when you need information, you either go to the barber or the library!
Agnes tilted her head and looked at Agent Redford as if looking at his famous namesake.
As unbelievably incomprehensible as it may appear, I do think you may be correct.
The librarian assured the trio of visitors that she was indeed, familiar with the site of an old plantation house known as the House of The Fountain, or Maison du Jet Deau. All that was now left of it was a small cemetery and an empty meadow, down on the banks of the bayou, close to where they had eaten lunch. As the three friends started for the door, the librarian whispered to her young assistant.
Thats strange. Thats the second time this morning someones inquired about that old ruin. I wonder whats going on out there?
As Lucky held the library door open for Olive, she paused and placed a hand on Elmos forearm.
Elmo, dear, I think Ill see if the have a ladys room here, before we get on the road again.
Thats a ding-blasted good idea, darlin. I think Ill join you. That little car of yours sure seems to ride rougher than it did when we was kids.
As Lucky walked the half-block to the little car to await his friends, a small, round man darted out on the sidewalk in front of him.
Hey mister! Help! Its my wife. Shes uh, shes.....having a baby. Yeah,thats it, shes having a baby, in the car, right now!
He opened the rear door of the nondescript Chevy with government tags, and as our hero leaned in to help the damsel in distress, he was reunited with a tall and obviously un-pregnant Agnes Maggot.
Hey, wade a minute, aint you the girl from the mus.....
She held a handkerchief to her face and pointed a small aerosol can at him. As Luckys face hit the rear floorboard, Robert lifted his heels and pushed them in and slammed the door.
Directly across the street was a small shaded bench on which sat a wide-eyed young girl and her golden dog. She had been about to go over and introduce herself, when the man she had come to find had collapsed into the back of the Chevy sedan. She now watched in bewilderment as they sped out of sight.
Elmo and Olive emerged from the glass doors, holding hands and smiling. Olive was commenting on how nice it was that a small town still could maintain such a large religious section in its library, but Elmo was scanning the empty street.
Now, I wonder where that doggone Lucky has got himself off to, this time?
-- Lon Frank (email@example.com), July 11, 2000.
Julie just stood there - stunned. She felt the tears beginning to well in her pretty eyes. They had come so close! Now Lucky was gone. She only had a glimpse of the woman in the car. The woman looked unpleasantly familiar - her identity being just out of reach. But it was when Julie noticed the government tags as the car sped away that she knew, knew for sure, that an ill fate had befallen Lucky. She looked down the street. The car was already only a memory. It was hard to believe it all happened, and right in front of her and Pat too, and it happened so quickly!
Now she was more convinced than ever that she and Pat had to help Lucky. But Julie had no ideas on how. Neither did Pat evidently. She looked down towards Pat. The pooch was stretched flat across the ground with its head resting between its paws, as if thinking mightily. How awful this all is!
She looked across the street. The red Mustang that Julie had spotted and that had led her and Pat to stop here was still there. But there was no sign of the older couple that Lucky had been with back in San Antonio. She wondered if the car belonged to the old couple or to Lucky. It certainly was bright enough to make any clown happy! But wasn't it the older woman that was driving it in San Antonio? She looked up and down the street. She would know them if only she saw them. But they weren't around.
She felt the crushing pressure of having to make an irrevocable and hasty decision. Should she wait here and hope that the people would be back soon, or should she try and pick up Lucky's trail and the government car?
She had to decide so quickly that she even forgot to ask Pat for help. She looked up and down the street yet again. Lucky's friends were nowhere to be seen; and who knew when, or even IF they would be back with all of the crazy things that had been going on. Maybe the Mustang was Lucky's car after all.
The government car that forced Lucky inside was getting further away each minute. Maybe she and Pat could spot them if they went NOW. She knew what the car looked like and knew the direction they had headed off in. Julie hesitated a few seconds more then made her decision. She and Pat went to their car and drove quickly away.
Julie would never know that had she waited but one minute longer, she would have seen Lucky's friends.
Olive and Elmo were very confused at not being able to find their companion. They each looked around again. Nothing! They couldn't understand where he had gone off to. It just wasn't like Lucky! They decided to stick around by the car and wait. What else could they do? They knew that he would be back - after all, their car was still right here! He mus be 'round here somewheres!
Neither of them knew they would be waiting for something that would never happen.
Alexander Lawless was jubilant! He had the clown! Finally! He almost felt like singing! The 'machine' was only one step from him now, and so was the promotion to Director of the National Security Office. He couldn't wait to start the interrogation.
END OF PART I
To be continued next week.
-- Rob Michaels (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 11, 2000.
Ah, well... I guess I can't complain too much, this much fun for free must have that Lawless guy 'bout ready to arrest someone, or worse ;-)
Wonderful work, Rob and Lon - lured me back from my holidays early.
-- Tricia the Canuck (email@example.com), July 12, 2000.
(((Tricia))) I'm glad that you enjoyed the story! It was a bit of work doing it but at the same time it was fun too. And thanks for the encouragement - it is appreciated!
-- Rob Michaels (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 14, 2000.
Rob and I were just wondering.........
Is this getting too tedious? It has been a load of fun for the two of us, and we wanted you to enjoy it, but if no one's really interested anymore, we don't want to tie up the forum, or bore anyone to tears.
We know it's summer, and lots of us have extra things to occupy our time. Just let us know if we should give you a break.
(If you're nice, we might tell you how we thought it would end, anyway.)
-- Lon Frank (email@example.com), July 18, 2000.
What's the problem?
I read, you write; I right, you reed (unless you are in the percussion section); you right, I read......
-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Marietta, GA) (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 18, 2000.
Personally, I enjoy reading your stories, and I feel like it's an invaluable part of the forum. Not having them would be like a living room without a couch. A Dog without a Bone. A horse with no NAME! Please keep going..if only for us few who look forward to a daily update on Pat and his/her/it's world. You don't even have to do them daily...I'll take weekly. I'm not THAT greedy.
-- kritter (email@example.com), July 18, 2000.
I am *that* greedy, but I'll take whatever I can get...
May I respectfully suggest a new thread for Part II?
-- Tricia the Canuck (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 18, 2000.
STORIES! MORE STORIES!!
-- helen-cookie-monster (email@example.com), July 18, 2000.
You wouldn't leave us hangin' Lon, would ya? I'm hangin' on to my ticket! Ya gonna tell me the price of admission wuzn't fer the whole show? Can it be?? Say it ain't so!!
-- Aunt Bee (Aunt__Bee@hotmail.com), July 19, 2000.
tale has not ended!
we are all down on our knees
you must continue
-- mebs (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 19, 2000.