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Chapter Thirteen

"Puberty Park Big Time"


    Along that dark desert byway, back in the middle of a clear summer night in 1966, somewhere between the vitrified fossils of the Grand Canyon and the velvety crap tables of Las Vegas, we came upon a sprawling entertainment enclave, nestled in its own valley. Dominating the glitzy skyline of the private oasis, a huge sign splashed orange and green neon onto the white canvas of a giant circus tent.
    Cool wind whipped through my hair as I coasted in neutral, listening to electrical transformers hum and pulse back at the distant dam. Half a million incandescent bulbs shimmered in the transparent night as we rolled down a gravel incline onto an asphalt lot and came to an easy halt.
    Getting out first, Donna spun around and leaped backwards, arching high into the air - performing the first involuted swan dive I'd seen since my days at Lincoln High. Catching her acrobatic breath, she grabbed my left arm as her pom-pom sister emerged from the Nash. In an identical outfit, she took my right. Together, the three of us walked towards a main gate that looked like Checkpoint Charlie. Suddenly, the sisters spun me in a happy circle and I got confused which young lady was which.

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     A desert-comouflage Jaguar skidded to a squealing stop nearby while the blonde sister half-whispered to the brunette. "Rhonda, it's our uncle, Mr. Sam."
    As the hefty Mr. Sam grappled out and staggered toward us, I noticed the big black letters painted across his rear quarter panel: MR. SAM-THE CRIPPLED MAN.
    Tapping the brim of his black golf cap, he hustled by, then lifted onto his toes to kiss the stodgy gatekeeper. With a lopsided gait, he strolled into his recreational complex and disappeared. Smiling, Mr. Sam's gatekeeper sat in a prominent, elevated lawn chair with a large sachel of loose muscle under each arm.
    I went to pay, but Donna grabbed my wrist and told the big lady not to charge me. "This is on us, Aunt Palooka."
    Palooka winked and told us to have a good time. "But make sure Mr. Sam don't overdo hisself." Pulling an iron lever, she smiled even wider and waved us through the turnstile.
    Making my way along the macadam midway, I noticed how the whole place seemed to have an electric, lonely air to it. I took a second to speculate whether our collective loneliness was linked to high-tension lines. It was past midnight, but the place was relatively busy. As we stood at yet another hot dog stand, I watched the people some more. Each seemed alone, in his or her own little world. Were the electrical cables really the culprit?

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     The thought left my mind and my stomach tightened with anticipation as Freddie Cannon sang "PALISADES PARK." High fidelity bullhorns mounted on top of candy-striped umbrella poles compressed my eardrums but sounded great. I ordered a giant Kosher Hotdog (with the works) and watched the ferris wheel spin round and round, over by a secondary clay walkway.
    Donna told me to take my time and check the place out, that she and Rhonda were late for an important date. "We'll meet you down in the Big Top, in Mr. Sam's office on the farside of all the animals in Newland's Bowl."
    When I asked what they were late for, Rhonda quickly explained that during the summer months, they ran through two rehearsals a month for their uncle, Mr. Sam Cohen, numbers which he had personally composed and choreographed. "At the end of the month he decides which is best and makes it part of his Big Show."
    The Singer Sisters took off, one behind the other, toward the billowy white cloud of the Big Top. I paid for my pregnant wiener and strolled on down the midway to Freddy Cannon's continuing carousel of chords. The diligent booth operators arranged and rearranged their teddy bears and the little people took samples from their own cotton candy and corn-on-the-cob concessions. At the west end of the midway, as I judged it to be from the relative position of Polaris, I watched a bevy of middle-aged men and twenty-year-old women knock a giant steel ball up to a big brass bell. Declining a free swing, I walked toward an arched canvas entrance, above which hung a miniature replica of the sign I'd seen from miles away.

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    I entered through an incandescent spiral walkway, patiently circling more than once, finally descending to and emerging into a cool, cavernous womb of a towering three-ring arena. Cutting diagonally toward the center of the first ring, through a maze of unicycles, trampolines, go-karts, and banked ramps, I came upon a deep oval well. A platinum pole rose from the well and extended several feet above ground. On top of the polished staff sat a giant crystalline egg. I dropped a penny into the mysterious pit and sparks flew every time the copper caromed off the well wall. Finally, when the coin splashed into what sounded and smelled like thick roast beef gravy, I moved on.
    Barbed wire ran above the retaining wall between the daylit field and empty stands. High above the second ring, chrome wires wove a steel web and I jumped a hedgegrove before coming upon the third ring. Barbed wire circled it too. Inside the wire, however, was a three-foot wall of vertical redwood slats, each branded NEWLAND'S BOWL. The interesting combination seemed intended to keep people out rather than creatures in.
    Hundreds of animals reposed or floated in the grassy tundra and pond pressed into the dark soil. There lay two of each: cats, dogs, lions, wolves, bears, beavers, goats, donkeys, horses and bison, among the myriad. They appeared to be the makings of a neo-Noah's Ark, lounging peacefully together on private turf. I paused to watch a giraffe nap noisely, its head perched on a zebra's flank, then looked straight up, squinting in the singular yellow beam which illuminated the entire canvas domicile.

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     Suddenly, a loud click sounded and the awesome light went out, throwing the entire arena into darkness - except for a worker with a flashlight on the other side of the animals. I made my way over. In silence, the overalled gent quickly manipulated the controls of a large electrical panel. In the wash of his flashlight, I noticed his nametag: Jeremiah the Janitor.
    I watched as Jeremiah padlocked a large disconnect switch labelled: THE SUN. I was about to ask where Sam's office was when the diligent janitor tripped another, slightly smaller, switch: The Moon. The panel hummed gently as a subtle light beam rose from the well over in the first ring. Still silent, Jeremiah directed his flashlight, first to each of his ears, then over my shoulder.
    I turned 90° and almost bumped into a weatherbeaten wooden sign which hung crookedly from a green canvas flap: MR. SAM'S OFFICE.
    Pushing it aside, I moved through moist blackness for a moment, then swung aside another flap. As I stepped into a most muggy office, my vision fogged in the heavy humidity.
    Eagerly, a husky voice beckoned. "Mathew - is that you?"
    Wiping my eyes and filling my lungs with chlorophyll, I let the canvas drop shut and introduced myself. "I'm not Mathew. I'm David."
    Barely, through my wet eyes and the silence, was I able to see the girls standing beside a bulky bamboo desk. In the captain's chair, Mr. Sam sat, crewcut and neckless head sandwiched betwixt black golf cap and jungle-comouflage tuxedo. Countless potted plants filled the crowded room with one large, laboring ceiling fan slapping wet air around.
    Finally, the hulky veteran slammed his fist against the rickety desk and barked. "I don't give a flyin' fart who or what you are!"
    Quickly, Donna told the old crab that I was a friend and winked coyly, then smiled at me.

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     Mr. Sam belched as he tilted his black topper rearward and invited me in. He wiped his wet brow on a desert scarf and pardoned the climate. "It's for medical reasons. If you don't mind, that is." He spit into a shallow bronze spitton recessed into the clay floor.
    Standing there for a moment, I wondered what this hardass's problem was. Rhonda stroked Donna's long blonde hair with a wooden comb and told Mr. Sam that I was probably wondering why he called himself the Crippled Man.
    I marched across the rotating shadow of the ceiling fan and stopped directly in front of his desk, like I was reporting for duty. As I explained to him that it wasn't important what he called himself, I noticed a little copper statue of the Marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima. Wrapped in wrinkled cellophane, it laid next to Mr. Sam's hairy right wrist and massive hand.
    Picking up the patriotic miniature, I glanced at the tiny faces of the gallant giants, then looked up. "Were you in the Marines, Mr. Sam?"
    My host balked and slid open a gray sheet-metal drawer, asking if I was born in St. Louis. When I told him that I was, he pulled an object from the drawer - draped with a red shop towel.
    I asked how he knew where I was born and he smiled impatiently, then grumbled. "Now I suppose you're gonna tell me you're a Jarhead too."
    I set the small statue down. "Yeah, I spent some time in the Marine Corps."
    Sam snapped. "Did you now?" Discarding the shop towel, he pointed a well-oiled .45 automatic at my groin. Cocking it slowly, he asked if I was scared shitless. "What now, David Daniels?"

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     I figured it must be some kind of sick test with an empty gun.
    He said that maybe it was loaded, maybe it wasn't. "You too frightened to talk, or even think?"
    I told him that I hadn't yet prepared myself to lose my manhood, much less my life. "But my begging sure isn't going to make any difference, not if you really intend to pull that damn trigger and blow my balls to kingdom come."
    Mr. Sam chortled, saying that the gun wasn't loaded, and tossed it back into the drawer. The damn thing discharged and blew a giant hole in the side of his jungle desk. Belly-laughing harder, he reached out to shake my hand and told me why his friends called him the Crippled Man. "I lost my schwantz in the black ash of Mt. Sarabachi."
    I laughed lightly and shook his hungry hand. Sam flopped back into his wicker high chair and one of the girls passed judgement. "You guys are horrible."
    I sat in a rusty aquamarine lawn chair while Mr. Sam asked his two favorite nieces if they were going to comb each others hair all night. "Why the hell don't you go get ready for your number?" When he reached out to goose their smiling cheeks, they marched off, toward a pair of opaque plastic curtains in the far corner.
    As soon as we were alone, I asked Mr. Sam if he was really at Iwo Jima.
    Two showers began running, their spinning spigots resonating as my cantankerous host explained that he was in the first wave at Iwo and lost a lung too, that that was why he needed all the medicated moisture. He hacked and tried to whisper. "I got one bull fry left so I can still fornicate in my dreams." Rocking back into his comouflaged throne, he slapped his heavy thigh and we laughed some more.
    He began stacking fifty dollar bills and said that it was no big deal in the Pacific, in retrospect, anyway. "But you flatter me, David, and I like that. It makes me feel good. In the crotch, I learned that with discipline and the ability to adapt a person can do anything - except live forever." Then he asked me what I thought about living forever.

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     I flinched a bit. "I'm having trouble just doing the standard tour."
    He grimaced with compassion and said that that was what he was afraid of. "Something's very wrong."
    I explained that it was nothing to worry about, that everybody had problems. "It's part of life. What the hell."
    Then, from the farside of the curtains, waves of soapy water splashed over the top and onto the floor. One of the girls shouted from her wet stall for Mr. Sam to show me how he tried to time-travel.
    Mr. Sam wiggled his large ears and ignored the request. "Like I was about to say, Daniels, I use tempered discipline around here. My people work productively, play hard, sleep good, and earn big money for everybody. We make the crowd happy, so everybody's happy. What more could anyone want in this world?"
    As he stuffed a wad of bills into his velvet vest, Rhonda and Donna came streaking out, well tanned, oiled, and covered only by flesh-colored leotards, blunt-nosed ballet slippers, and brown rubber shower caps. Their eyebrows were smothered in sepia grease paint, completing the allusion to imperfect purity.
    The girl with the wider hips coaxed Mr. Sam to go ahead and show me how he tried to time-travel. I figured she was Donna, the older one.
    Sam snarled that he didn't try to time-travel. "I try to alter the reality of the future from what little I already know of it." Clenching his fists, he closed his eyes tight and tilted his head toward the ceiling fan. His face strained and turned red as he moaned and groaned. His fists trembled for a moment. Then he relaxed and opened his eyes. "It's no use. Everything's got to be just right."

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     The younger co-ed with the wider shoulders told Sam that he had to want to alter the future for the right reason. "Not just to show off."
    Mr. Sam cut a subtle fart and ordered his nieces to the locker room. "Go practice your routines while we finish beatin' our gums. I need to fill him in on the three dimensions of Reohlean reality."
    Donna put her hands on her polished hips and sighed with frustration. "You mean passing, transitional, and absolute? We drove all the way from our summer seminar to listen to you two kids yak all night? We give up!"
    As they sauntered off toward a cut-out in the canvas between the two showers, Mr. Sam sat up rigidly and straightened his paramilitary tux. "Like I was about to say before we were so rudely interrupted, I run Puberty Park with a flexible fist. I give the people something real, not just a show, and they gladly pay fifty bucks a family to see it, over and over. The high wire walkers don't use nets, the animals aren't in cages, and if one of my people gets slightly injured, that's quite unfortunate. But risk and sacrifice are very real parts of life and my people know it. An animal could get hurt, too, but nobody out in the world worries about that." He cut a loud fart and guffawed.
    I got up and walked to the far side of the office. Wiping sweat from his wide brow, Sam threw his saturated golf cap into a cardboard box and pulled a replacement from his desk, a black baseball cap. Then we talked and talked.
    Politics, economics, and war, even mortality and morality, made our agenda. Brilliant, Mr. Sam would tolerate nothing less than ones full attention. When my eyes wandered to a ribbon, medal, or citation on the canvas wall, he'd clear and reclear his guttural larynx until my attention returned to the subject at hand.

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     With the stuff of dreams in his big bloodshot eyes, he told me about when he was a boy. "We lived in this neat little river town along the Mississippi, south of Hannibal, Missouri." Biting a clump off his second cigar in half as many hours, he spat it onto the floor, hitting the hub of the rotating shadow of the ceiling fan.
    Pointing to a curious handbill on a clipboard behind the Crippled Man's right shoulder, I asked if it came from Hannibal, Mark Twain's hometown.
    Sammy went silent for a moment, then smiled pleasantly and handed me the old drawing. I examined the faded rendering as the old salt went on palavering despite my distraction.

    Mr. Sam outlined how he served as a pubescent apprentice in a clock shop in Clarksville, how everyday at lunch he and his print shop croonies would go down and salute the barges and ferries as they labored north. "How we'd love it when the people on the boats would wave back. But WWII changed things - for the time being."

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     I interrupted the intrepid Mr. Sam Cohen long enough to ask what the Franklin-Twain Thinking Cap was designed to do.
    He claimed that it operated on the same principle as the Great Pyramid at Giza. "On a smaller scale, of course." Supposedly, the thinking cap concentrated what Sam termed the Time-Life wave, in a single human brain, as the Pyramid of Cheops did in the entire king's chamber.
    Mr. Sam insisted that the adjustable alabaster bonnet was a joint-invention. "To one degree or another, Ben and Mark worked on the concept from 1717 until 1910, their entire adult life to that time, 193 years."
    I said that that was impossible, that my American History wasn't that bad. "Benjamin Franklin died in 1790 and Mark Twain wasn't born until 1835."
    Mr. Sam yawned. "It's obvious you know little of the continuity of our human soul. You have a long way to go, David Daniels."
    Handing the patent flyer back, I picked up the Marine Corps statue again, wondering whether this strange warrior before me, actually thought he was Sam Clemens reborn, Benjamin Franklin reborn twice. Admittedly, Twain and Franklin did have a similar sense of humor. As Mr. Sam rehung the clever sketch on its assigned clipboard, I asked what the shooting star at the top was supposed to represent.
    Mr. Sam stared at me and shook his head. "Nudnik, don't you even know that Mark Twain, godfather of American Literature, was born when Halley's Comet came in 1835 and died when it returned in 1910?"

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     After I excused my ignorance, my host went cautiously back to talking about how WWII changed everything.
    Tightening the statue's cellophane wrapper, I examined the little Leathernecks' faces even closer. They all shared the same enigmatic quality, some mysterious expression symbolizing their determination, perhaps the look of truth.
    Sam barked at me. "Hey, I'm talkin', Daniels. Either quit daydreamin' or get the hell out of here. Like I said, those were the good old days, when right was right, wrong was wrong, and fun was fun."
    I asked what it was actually like at Iwo Jima.
    Mr. Sam called me a dumbshit and said that he meant that the days before the war were good, that the war, like all wars, sucked a big hairy one. He said that he and his buddies weren't heroes, they were pawns of the discontented big wigs. "It was nasty. If you really want to know what it was like in the Pacific, look in the garbage dump behind your local butcher shop."
    After a moment of silent somberness, march-like music leaked from the locker room and I noticed the look of truth creep over Mr. Sam's friendly features.
    He reemphasized how the so-called good war changed the world, for the time being. "The animals out under my Big Top don't fight 'cause they all answer to the same master, to me. But we people of the world have too many damn masters."
    I asked if he meant our heads of state, our chief executives.
    He shook his head up and down and said that we had far too many of them, because there was only one real CEO. "The Head Knocker upstairs." Sam went on to say that when the Enola Gay mothered the threat of nuclear oblivion, our world lost faith in God. The old Marine believed that before the bomb, people endured wars, famines, quakes, and plagues, but always figured that somewhere down the road of history all the suffering would end and make the journey worthwhile, whether their Pohla was around to witness it firsthand or not. However, after they crapped Little Boy onto Hiroshima, Sam said, everyone figured that if mortals held the power to totally destroy humanity, it was too late for God to intervene. "All the bloody idiots started to think it was only a matter of time 'til human demise. They decided that Gola must not really be up there, and it's been downhill ever since, David."

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     I told the old fart that I didn't know about Pohla or Gola, but I had a proctor at Washington University that thought nuclear deterrence had already saved the world from another world war. "Assistant-Professor Frost preached that providence gave us the power to destroy ourselves so we'd be forced to settle our disagreements peacefully. Of course, Proctor Frost advocated free-love and the legalization of marijauna too."
    Mr. Sam stood up and growled. "Well I hope your pothead pro was right!" Grabbing the statue from my hands, he boasted that he still had faith. "Gosh darnit, even if no one else does." Heaving the tiny gyrenes against the canvas wall, he plopped back down. "As soon as the damn Cold War melts away, they better get rid of the fuckin' nukes before the world commits suicide by mistake."
    The music stopped and the girls emerged from the locker room, wrapped in white towels. They pleaded in unison for us to knock off the rap.
    Donna yelled. "Hey everybody, let's get on with the show!"
    Rhonda swiveled her hips playfully. "Yeah, enough of the sci-phi stuff!"
    Sam clapped his hands twice, quickly; then three times, slowly. A red-white-and-blue parrot fluttered from a hatbox on the south wall and soared towards us. It circled for a second, then landed on its master's hulky right shoulder. Sam poked a fresh stogie in his own mouth, a shred of tobacco in the bird's, and grinned proudly. "His name is Cyrus."

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     Rhonda said that Cyrus was a real intellect.
    Sam glowed with satisfaction. "I bought little Cyrus from an ex-communist sympathizer of Fidel Castro, for ten thousand American bucks - Confederate of course. My semi-sweet bird of paradise doesn't exactly talk to me, but he does give me advice when he feels it's in my best interest to do so."
    I asked how the bird gave advice and Mr. Sam demonstrated. "Cyrus, show Motorcycle Daniels what you do if I ask you a question and your reply is negative." The bird pecked Mr. Sam's fleshy neck. Sam jerked away. "Okay, okay. Now show what you do when you agree with daddy." The splendid bird spread his wide wings.
    Mr. Sam asked me if I believed him and I told him that I wasn't sure, that he should ask Cyrus a real question.
    Poker-faced, Sam looked at the fowl. "Cyrus, do you want to go see your two cousins perform your daddy's newest number before we go down to Vegas?"
    Cyrus spread his wings and sailed straight up between the rotating fan blades. Circling a floodlight above it, his magnified shadow danced off every surface in the office.
    Pride flushed Sam's puffy face as he raised his rigid arms. Like a missile, Cyrus swooped down to the door flap and pecked at it with all his might, hovering in place.
    Sam flailed his right arm and yelled. "Ready on the right?"
    Donna shrieked. "Oh Yes, Uncle Sam!!"
    Sam waved his left in a small circle. "Ready on the left?"

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     Rhonda shouted. "Sure. Lets go already!!"
    The salty soul stirred both arms, in opposite directions. "Ready in the rear?"
    I bellowed consent. "Sure, why not?"
    Sam said he heard my wisecrack about why not and lowered his arms. Sharply, he saluted the American Flag which hung on one side of the flap, then threw a wet kiss to an aquamarine banner on the other side.
    Insubordinate Rhonda ordered her uncle to dispense with the theatrics and his face turned beet red as he grumbled something. Suddenly, his stubby legs took off at a frantic pace.
    The four of us (five counting Cyrus) charged through the double-flaps and out into the Big Top. With the air blowing cool and crisp, we raced across the nightlighted arena. The only source of visible light was the no-longer subtle well over in the first ring. Now pieringly bright, a blue-white laser shot up from the fountainhead's depths, bounced off the Big Top itself, then focused on a stage over in the second ring. We swerved around Newland's Bowl and veered towards the spotlighted target.
    Donna and Rhonda moved fluidly as Sam's garish gait stretched our charge past the rear of the illuminated stage. While the cosmic sisters split up and started circling the elevated platform in opposite directions, I chased Sam and Cyrus toward our designated position in the outlandish ordeal. Fifty feet on the far side of the stage we stopped behind a gigantic electronic synthesizer. Too many jewelled keys to count.
    While I watched the girls continue to counter-circle, Mr. Sam adjusted a pencil mike on the mighty music machine. Then Sam banged the keyboard and a drum roll bellowed from pyramid-speakers overhead. The veteran pumped a wide wooden pedal and the drums became a big brass orchestra, performing one of John Phillip Sousa's lost pieces (so Sam said).

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     With Cyrus circling his big head in glee, Sammy released the foot pedal and the drums took hold again.
    Maestro Sam yelled into the mike. "Sweet Birds of Paradise, American Ladies!!" He shoved a crystal lever forward and the Moon got brighter. "Paradise Ladies!!" With pride, he pointed at both his little ladies.
    On that cue, the gymnastic twosome attacked the stage from converse directions, accelerating into virtual flight. They met at the front lip of the platform, stiff-armed the ledge and catapulted upward, head over heels. A powerful updraft lifted them high into the showbiz air, well toward the rear of the stage.
    On landing, they huddled in a ceremonial position while Sam played on. Slowly, the two girls stood erect, side by side. As the music stopped, their inner arms hugged each others waists. Lifting outer arms like trembling wings, they resembled a giant featherless eagle, shivering.
    Sam flipped a bat-switch and the adroit duo froze in place. The source of light, over in the well, began to hum, then modulate its brightness and colorphase with the pitch and tenor of the now-mellow music machine.
    I looked at Mr. Sam and he gestured toward the well. "It's the way down to Hotel Vegas." He said we'd go down the timedrop after the ballet, then cocked his cap. "It's a well-regulated clear hole, miniature and artificial, of course."
    A loud thumping terminated our exchange. The four-legged eagle was stomping its slippers on stage, the sound reverberating through the p-speakers above. Sound-sensitized canvas, Mr. Sam said.
    Hoisting their outer legs, the girls transfigured into a two-legged bird, jogging and pounding in place, warming up for a great flight, some noble mission.

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     My pulse raced as Sam fondled ruby-colored keys. A bell melody flowed nimbly from his stubby fingers and the fertile eagle began to move with perfect coordination and unity of purpose. Gracefully, the heavenly combo circled the platform with lithesome arms fully extended, flowing with their uncle's melody, a melody of spring, of awakening. The metamorphic eagle was metaphorically alive and fruitful.
    I'd forgotten about my motorcycle out in the so-called real world; it seemed so far away. In truth, this delightful haven was now my real world, a universe unto itself.
    The music broke into a complete rock 'n roll ensemble. "VIVA LAS VEGAS" filled the arena as the girls parted and flew in opposite directions, shaking and gyrating. Suddenly, Sam tripped a long-handled toggle switch and the laser-moon strobed the girls' movements with pulsing optical music, floating their forms on fluttering waves of awe. The girls' heads heaved with polished skull-caps and fiery eyes. Hour-glass hips grinding in place, the angels tossed their caps onto the stage and their unfettered manes danced on golden shoulder-skin.
    Sam yelled crazily. "Fly like an eagle! Fly like an eagle!!"
    Reforming their eagle, the nude-colored twosome flew on and on to the forceful harmonics. The chords echoed the rugged veteran's soul and I grew proud to know him as the opera proceeded.
    Twenty minutes later, theatrics still at a hectic level, my host suddenly shut down his organ and tossed an army blanket onto the stage. Pointing to the beam of light over in the first ring, he yelled at the girls. "Cover yourselves! Right now!!"
    As they did so, the lightbeam's hum turned to a desperate shreik. The girls dropped to their knees and huddled under the dark olive blanket while the mysterious tower of power brightened, then refocused in a puff of white smoke under the ceiling. The beam turning gold, the animals to our left howled as the canvas burned into the form of a hexagram - the Star of David.

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     Then, as the light grew dim and the flame quickly receded, Mr. Sam grumbled matter-of-factly. "Praytell, maybe next year." With Cyrus back on his shoulder, the one-lunged vagabond took a deep breath and roared like a lion in winter. "Keep on dancin'!!"
    The girls dropped the blanket and went to work. The music-circuits made a mind-piercing, metallic rock n' roll, while Donna and Rhonda's nimble bodies did incredible acrobatics beyond clinical description.
    Sam readjusted the mike and sang a sweet tune. "New Land of the Free, of Thee I sing; the Heavens now on Earth, the Birth of new Gardens of Love. Sweet Birds Of Paradise."
    As the sisters joined in the melodic song, Sam reached down and withdrew a fluffy feather from a clip-switch. Presently, tens of thousands, if not hundreds of millions, of feathers of every size and shape fluttered down from baskets above. Quickly, they clung to the girls' oiled bodies and the twosome flew as a fully feathered, though tamed, bald eagle.
    A good ten minutes later, the music began to falter and the eagle collapsed. When I asked what was wrong, Mr. Sam snapped. "We're tired and worn out. We need some refreshment."
    After the girls rolled off the stage, we walked back toward the office. Sam asked if I'd ever before witnessed the last number - the "SWEET BIRDS OF PARADISE" number.
    When I admitted that I didn't remember, he got angry, but Donna interceded. "Uncle Sam, aren't we going to ride the Magic Carpet before we dive down to Vegas?" Obviously exhausted, not to mention frustrated at my supposed ignorance, Mr. Sam didn't answer.

end chap 13



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