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At the song's prophetic end, people whispered with awe and relaxed, thus making my passage through their ranks all the more easy. Almost dropping Moses as I hobbled onto the sidewalk, I hoped the damn Chickenheads would make their ultimate move soon - before I got too lame to stage an offensive.
In the chilly shadows south of the theater, as I proceeded to the so-called Celebrity Corral, the corniness of the tinseltonian terminology curbed my pain - some. With my left hand shaking freely, I inserted Sunshine's holographed card to access the garage, then made my shivering way past the Harleys and climbed quickly into the Cadillac. Glad to be alone at last, with Dreidel settled into my lap, I slouched behind the wheel and closed my good eye - so not to see my grimaced face in the reflective door of the Stellar Elevator.
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Reflecting off the surf behind us, the moon beams in the gentle eyes of Sola and Sidra while their mother tends the campfire. In the giant shadow of the great pyramid perched to our north, Fela has us tighten our circle of four around the ebbing flames.
Handing a ram's horn to Sidra, Fela gestures toward the lifeless pyramid that looms above and tells me that Evil has dwelt there for millenia. "But soon it will be eliminated for Good. My daughters, sound the shofar to summon our mates from the far shore."
Sidra walks to the waterline with Sola and they blow the mighty trumpet in turn.
When they rejoin us, Fela glasps my hand. "While we wait, Danu, we will explore the puzzle of the pyramid together."
With a small green branch, Sola pokes a dot in the moist sand and contends the world of Earth is simply a pore in the sandy floor of the Universe. "Though the pores seem countless, each one is connected with every other by the sea that covers them."
Sidra strokes Dreidel with one hand and rests the other on my neck. "As the billions of neurons in your brain are joined by your streams of consciousness, Danu, so are all the worlds of life in the Universe engulfed by the Time/Life Wave of TOLA - a symbiotic flow of mutually modulated motron waves we know as Gola."
With sudden regret, Fela speaks. "That pyramid up there was built to polarize, collect, and thus amplify the time vector of Gola - a premature perversion of His intent."
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As Sola draws an oval, a circle, and a triangle in the sand, Sidra explains that an egg, an animal skull, and a pyramid are all one-way configurations composed of layered calcium - to gather the Time/Life Wave and hold it. "Earth scientists already know that a severed crystal of alabaster joined with balsam polarizes light. Soon, they will discover that the calcite construction of the pyramids layered with alabaster were similarly intended to polarize time."
I'm puzzled. "The Twolaens did it to give the pharoah eternal life?"
Emphatically, Fela answers. "No. The deed was done by those who preceeded us to Earth by daez - those from Freedom's Jungle of Grede."
Suddenly, wood crashes onto the fire and I look up at the silhouettes of two men.
The one near his golden years - hair white, body tall, slender and weathered - introduces himself. "I am Mena, Keeper of the Evergreens."
As I stand and interlock hand-and-forearms with Mena, the other - a middle-aged man, average height, balding, somewhat overweight - speaks with measured joviality. "I'm Mr. Suma, Guardian of the Olive Groves."
I say I am David and the three of us sit opposite the women. First, Mena and Mr. Suma explain their Twolaen spirits have dwelt on the other side of the bay for two daez - waiting
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Then, fire reflecting off her face, Fela points up to the North Star Polaris and says she will start at the beginning of our tale. "Up there, Danu, our journey began...
OUR TWOLAEN TALE
Well over one daez or two thousand years before the dawn of the Christian Era, a small vessel fled Twola, last good garden on the planet of Freedom in the Paradise Starsystem. Aboard StarFlight Salvation, the remnant survivors of the Twolaen race sped towards a new home. Their crew of seven - Captain, First Officer, Navigator, Flight Engineer, Culturist, and a pair of Survivalists - were on a twofold mission.
Against Planet Freedom's Prime Directive, empire-builders from the Jungle of GREDE had journeyed to Earth long before, and the Twolaens hoped to deliver Gola's message to neutralize the evil the Gredeans had thus sown. Additionally, the seven sought sanctuary.
Following eighty-nine years of hibernation along the Rainbow of Souls, seven Twolaen travelers emerged from their honey-combed hyperhedrons. As Salvation penetrated Earth's solar system, all but one of her crew made their way up to the control deck.
Freedom's position in the Paradise Starsystem had materialized precisely proportional to Earth's locus in its own system; thus the orbital periods and potential life-cycles were identical - major factors in the Gredean's original choice of Earth for easy conquest.
Indeed, an ominous red planet marched across Salvation's temporal viewshield as the Twolaen vessel's lithe Navigator slid into her diaphanous gravity bubble. "It's the world our siblings of Earth are destined to call Mars for daez to come."
The voyagers' ambillectual Captain peered at the heavenly body through a left-brained information monocle. "I see this fourth planet from Earth's life-star just barely supports carbonic life."
Salvation's Survivalist #2 withdrew a thin tablet of decrystalized alabaster from his massless desk (of cross-indexed motron beams). Holding the angular white amulet to his powerful forehead, #2 prophesied. "Our Captain, by the time Earth ventures to this crimson orb in the second daez of her Julian calender, only sparse layers of dormant microbes will be discovered drifting above an otherwise barren landscape."
The mission's melodic Culturist checked her own oracular slab and gasped. "How ironic - in the same 21st century when Earthlings finally abandon confrontation as a viable means of resolving disputes, they also travel to a celestial body named after an obsolete diety of war."
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Their matronly Flight Engineer sighed with love. "Then Mars shall become known as The Rose. The calling of our life-star will also be corrected - from Polaris to Paradise."
Slowly, Survivalist #1 sat up in the lower level sleep chamber and barked over the intracom. "Enough smalltalk. I crave the physical amenities of our new home - now."
The Captain disciplined Survivalist Hista. "We've journeyed to this oasis of Golaean life for spiritual gleaning, not for your physical gratification. Man your station."
Deactivating his intracom, the satyric #1 smirked. "Whatever you say, big bad boss man." Then the infiltrator from Grede collapsed into his Captain's assigned sleep pod and cranked its pyramidal keydome over his greasy red curls.
Up on the bridge, when the Navigator queried the origins of life on Earth, her sister, the Culturist, responded. "According to the teletron back on our seventh moon Luva, the geolution of Earth mirrors Freedom's. Gola's viral seeds first sprouted in an Earth garden only three daez after the cultivation of our garden on Freedom - now conquered by Gredeans."
The mere mention of Twola's untimely subjugation by Gredeans dampened the crew's conversation - until Salvation catapulted past Earth's Moon.
Presently, as the resolute vessel veered into geosynchronous Earth orbit, her First Officer made an apropos prediction. "Absorbing elements of the Gredean's cerebral pollution of the Time/Life Wave, Earthling technolution will progress much quicker than ours did."
Survivalist #2 added that the Americans would land on their single natural satellite after two daez. "But half a century after bicycle-building brothers first attain powered flight at Kitty Hawk."
Expanding her bubble, the Navigator spoke with prophetic hope. "Once the nuclear, viral, and plasmic threats dissolve, theirkind shall resolve this planet must serve as their permanent biosphere; and they concentrate anew on knowing themselves and their more immediate neighbors."
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Brushing her long hair, the Flight Engineer commented calmly. "Space travel will then be rendered a periodic practicality rather than competitive compulsion; they will understand a comfortable and pleasurable life based solely on technology is unworthy. No longer will they artificially perpetuate the flesh at all cost, but will seek to upgrade the metaphysical quotient of their souls' total ecologic transaction."
The StarFlight's port engine hummed with retrogravity, then fell silent.
Hista scrambled upstairs and sauntered on deck. "I can see we're finally circling our new home. So where do we land to begin our empire?"
Read my mind, invoked the Captain. "There will be no empire built by any member of my Twolaen crew - ever."
Hista grumbled to himself while the Culturist told the rest of the crew about the Semitic Habiru. "Their tribes wandering the Fertile Crescent feel greatest kinship with Gola. They are the Hebrews who now know Gola as Yahweh."
The First Officer pointed out that the Habiru's cerebral wetware seemed to have co-volved, to date, the furthest. "Their cortex will best absorb the limited influence of our collective Mohla, the lessons we've earned over the daez."
The navigator suggested Salvation land just west of Gan Eden. "The garden where Earth's own Mohla first knew Gola one daez ago."
Salvation's Captain resolved. "Then make it be."
Thus it came to pass at the exact time of the vernal equinox, with outer motion shields resembling a pair of intrameshed pyramids - a three-dimensional Magen David - this craft from distant Freedom set inconspicuously down near the Sanai Penninsula, south of the Dead Sea and east of ancient Egypt.
While her crew prepared for deboarding, Survivalist Hista anxously filled his royal gown with zirconuggets. "What of their women's bodies?"
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Survivalist #2 Suma finished his own change, into bleached nomadic garb. "On the surface, Earth-humans resemble us Twolaens; internally, their genetix still lag several steps, having regenerative and immune systems much simpler than ours. Regrettably, the hardware of their mind won't even be able to grasp our current realization of God's Gola for another two daez."
After sending their ship to auto-locate on the far side of Venus, the six loving Twolaens and one clandestine Gredean moved northeast, to mingle with the tribes which wandered the strip of land between the Tigres and Euphrates rivers and the Nile River - the Fertile Crescent. Endowed with more durable flesh than Earthlings, the Freedomites could live for millennia, but chose to periodically renew their bodies to a youthful appearance, to better blend with Earth's culture as it was then.
Determined by lots, the First Officer and Survivalist Hista alternated in immortal flesh - to jumpstart their crewmates' Ohlae. Between incarnations, they all shared the luxury of floating along the Time/Life Wave. Less than a century after landing on Earth, however, stowaway Hista abandoned the Twolaen crew to seek self-centered pleasure - as his Gredean ancestors had done before him.
While Hista lived amid ancient Turkish harems, basked in the sickness of Sodom and Gemorah, and helped build pyramids for a price, the others and their descendants became the patriarchs, matriarchs, and brave Gola-loving souls depicted in our Bible.
At all times, the link to each crewmember's spiritual essence was maintained in an alabaster amulet carried on their person. At the time of a crewmember's transition, the First Officer, acting as monitor, would take the magic egg (as curious laymen came to call it), and protect it until the soul returned to Earth.
As the renewed Twolaen soul matured, the First Officer used the crystalline entity as a direction-finder to locate his crewmate's new body. When the flesh reached puberty, the First officer used the egg's silver probe to discharge the electrified self-essence of the Twolaen culture into the crania - jumpstarting the Mohla. And, in the process, the quasi-crystalline receptor plasma in the egg's core would initiate the desired degree of Pohla-memory.
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Thus - the crewmember would begin to consciously recall his or her mission.
After Hista deserted them, the Captain and his First Officer alternated this duty of monitor. The First Officer first lived on Earth in the flesh of Abraham. The spirit of the Captain grew with Moses, David, Daniel, and Judah Macabee. The Culturist was Naomi, courageous Deborah, and the matriarch Esther. The second Survivalist flourished as Ruth and Susanna; their Flight Engineer as Tamar And Joanna. Their Navagator existed as Solomon and Samson. During the time of Christ, two thousand years after his arrival on Earth, the Captain prepared himself to die once more - but this time it was to be different.
His dreams interpreted, prophecies made, work on Earth done as best he could, he told his First Officer the way it was. "It is best if I not return for a daez, but remain along the Rainbow of Souls with Gola, so my Ohla can better meld with His wisdom and maybe someday serve Earthlings far better. My faithful First Officer, you lived on Freedom longer than me. You know the way of the flesh better and can best help Earthlings avoid the errs of Twola and the traps of Grede during this harsh time in their learning."
The First Officer held his Captain's head in his lap. "My Captain, no Twolaen soul has ever survived the sensoral saturation of the Time/Life Wave for more than two centuries - much less twenty."
The Captain assured his ageless friend that he would survive the ordeal. "My crew's combined purpose will be my strength." That said, he drifted toward physical transition.
The First Officer, though, was destined to remain in the same body for another full daez, resting in Salvation's sleep chambers when she was periodically recalled with a special homing-baton. Additionally, under the last order issued from his departed Captain, he would no longer jumpstart the Pohla-memories of his fellow crewmembers - until the winds of time were again right.
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With the exception of Hista, the crew, not consciously knowing their true roots, lived through the decades and centuries that followed as many of Earth's greatest leaders, statesmen, philosophers, and inspiritional guides. The First Officer became known to his peers as the Nice Old Gentleman while he walked the Earth for so many lonely years. Survivalist Hista also moved about the planet all that time - becoming the devil's most willing and greedy disciple.
Our Twolaen Tale told, Fela stands and waves a flaming twig at the edifice above. "The devil's essence now dwells within this stone monument, casting a shadow over all humanity. It must be flushed out by our Captain - slain if necessary."
Standing, I ask the obvious. "Who and where is your Captain?"
As the others stand beside me, Fela pulls me to her breast. "It is your mortal mission, Danu, to find our Captain for us again."
Suma snarls. "You must kill the disease Hista has spread - the same illness which overran all Freedom - selfishness."
With a smile of hope, Sidra launches my bird into the balmy air and Dreidel circles my head, her feathers brushing my face.
Barely did I have time to realize that Dreidel and I were back in the cold theater garage in St. Louis when someone banged at the alley door.
As I climbed out of the Cadillac, a desperately insecure voice squealed. "Open up, Police. Open up - Please."
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I keyed the door with the holograph, and it motored up.
As sirens and screams again agitated my ears, the same rookie we dealt with in the showcase stepped in and asked if I'd seen anyone suspicious. "Step aside for police business. I need to search the premises, please."
As he tip-toed toward the Harleys, I staggered outside - but had little time to wonder about what was going on.
A black Porsche skidded to a halt in the alley and its feline driver tossed a sub-machine gun at my feet. "Explain this to the authorities, Dahling!"
As the slut raced away, I summoned the rookie and pointed to the weapon. "A neo-nazi named Eleanor Schicklgruber just tried to frame me. But what's all the commotion about?"
Stooping to examine the weapon, he said that someone shot the stars. "It's an Uzi, mister - an Israeli anti-terrorist weapon unless I'm mistaken. But don't worry, please; you're probably clear. I heard it almost all."
Accompanying the rookie back up to the showcase, I found none of the stars, or anyone else, dead or severely injured. Paco and Sly had taken minor flesh wounds in the right thigh and left arm, respectively - while Sunshine's delicate skin hadn't been scratched, thank goodness. After the paramedics patched up the middle-aged boys, I invited the whole lot to sleep the night in the relative security of the Daniels' house.
They acquiesced to that much, but when I told them to leave their Harleys at the Fox until daylight, Sly balked. "Yooo Davis, what do we all look like - a cartel of cowards? Where we go - Guts, Nuts, and Grace go."
Not even Sunshine would change her stubborn mind, but my pain was still too bad to feign braveness. I opted to drive the Eldo.
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After all the police interrogation and paper work was finished for the time being, I chauffeured Victoria and Kimmble back to Betsey Lee Drive, then stopped to rent a second cane. At an all-night drugstore, by the newspaper vending machine in front, I said hello to an old friend named George who I hadn't seen in years and went in to rent a mate for Moses.
Feeling a bit more prepared, I wheeled the Eldorado to rendezvous with the stars. All the way to the Mock Estate, I speculated why there appeared no simple way to ferret fact from fiction in dreams (such as the one I'd had in the Celebrity Corral).
Bitsey could have been waiting with a shotgun - but I was lucky for a change. Little sis obviously hadn't discovered how I unintentionally wasted her CVX two nights before. She was nowhere to be seen as I showed April and Coleen to the guest bedroom on the mezzanine level, Sly and Paco to the rathskellar, and Sunshine to the master bedroom suite - all without a peep from my frustrated semi-sibling.
My balance worsening, I was forced to put a chair in mom and dad's super-sauna to take a shower.
Finally, as I was drying off, Bitsey barged in. "I can't stand that lunatic buddy of yours blowing his saxophone out in the backyard. If you don't have him and all your other friends off these premises by dawn, I'm going to call mom and dad at the airport."
I wrapped myself in an Hawaiian towel. "At the airport?"
Bitsey answered that their Imperial Express to Vegas still hadn't arrived from Detroit. "They've been stranded all day at the Skyhigh Club - since you had their rental car and Josephine from Braggs is using dad's Lincoln."
As I removed the chair from the tub, Sunshine's bedroom voice came from the direction of my parents' bedroom. "David, I'm ready for you."
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Bitsey squealed. "Who's that in mom's room? One of your $2 Kansas whores?"
Using Moses' nameless sidekick as a cattle prod, I told sis to shut up and pushed her from the bathroom into the hall. "And stay out of my way unless you want a different kind of surgery than what you're hoping for." I slammed the door, got dressed, and entered the master suite from the opposite door.
Sunshine, fully dressed and waiting for me on the couch with a knapsack in her lap, said she'd had a brief chat with my sister. "I think it's best if you and I spend the night together in a motel." She gave me a kiss on the cheek. "Okay David?"
"Not really. You don't need to affect romantic attraction just because you think I'm an alien too - a gimpy one."
Indeed, Bitsey had succeeded in getting the star and I upset with each other, so we decided to cool off with a midnight ride. Sunshine slipped on her riding boots, and we headed for the garage. On the way out, just in case I needed to leave for Lenexa in a hurry, I grabbed my grocery bag of clothes and shoebox of belongings.
I hung both my canes from Proud Mary's rear racing mirror and ordered Sunshine to fasten her seatbelt. After the oil pressure on Granny's Chrysler came up, I nailed it. Shooting rearward out of the garage, I barely cleared the overhead door before doing a reverse donut down the drive and into the street. With my aching hand, I shoved the hypermeshed transmission into low and left smoking rubber halfway to the main gate.
Sunshine clasped my cramped wrist. "What are you so fired up about? Relax, David."
Backing off the pedal and turning easily onto the far west end of Olive Boulevard, I asked where my date would like to go.
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She said she wanted to see the places that made me happy as a young boy and pushed a tape into Proud Mary's player. "You forget, David - I'm from another place and time."
As Bob Zimmerman sang "JUST LIKE A ROLLING STONE," I pulled into the parking lot of the all-night drugstore where I'd rented my cane with no name and directed Sunshine's attention to the guy by the newspaper machine. "That's Good George."
Sunny knuckle-scrubbed Dreidel. "Tell me all about him, David."
Gladly, I explained that George was happy just to be alive and well amongst people, that he knew something that we didn't. While George gulped on a bottle of pop, I related the little I knew of him. "In my third grade class at Hawthorne, he was a few years older than the rest of us, twenty inches taller, and always wore washed-out coveralls. The teacher said he spent too much time with his father and dog in the woods beyond Mt. Olive - and too little time in class. George rarely talked, and when he did, it was with simple words about his love for the woods. When George's father fetched him from the playground everyday, no one waved. To their face, the kids called them both retarded and other things, but George always smiled and waved anyway."
I rested my unoiled arm on the back of Sunshine's seat and continued. "In fifth grade, when George disappeared from the classroom completely, I felt guilty. I'd never made fun of him, but I'd never stopped the other kids from it either. After he was absent for six months, our teacher told us that his father had been burned badly in a forest fire. Much later, I overheard my mother gossip about that George lived at the foot of his father's deathbed.
"When I finally saw my one-time classmate again, he was standing in front of this same store - gulping a pop, holding a folded newspaper, and watching people. He waved at me one day, called me by name, and I waved back. For years, everyday when I passed, George was standing here, always smiling - right where he's apparently been standing for the last three decades. He doesn't look much older now than he did then."
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Sunshine whispered. "He's not retarded or crazy - just different, thank God."
Cranking up the car, I yelled out the window. "Hey George, it's good to see you! Take it easy, guy!"
While Sunshine waved and I spun Granny's treads in salute, Good George tossed his tattered Browns' baseball cap into the air - and his ageless Dachshund jumped up to snatch it.
A few minutes later, Sunshine clicked on the directionals for me. "That looks like Mt. Olive right there, Danu."
With a wicked downshift, I swerved left and slid sideways up the southern hump of the street where I'd spent my very best days (age 1-10).
No sooner had we reached level grade, when Sunshine pointed out her window. "Stop, Danu. Stop!"
As I stood on the brakes, Proud Mary skidded crookedly onto the cobblestone drive to our right. I asked what was wrong, and my Hollywood date pointed to an unlit lantern-stand with a sign: CONNELL CABIN TO LET - INQUIRE WITHIN.
Sunshine told me to pull up so she could go inside to check on it, but I told her the Connells moved away years ago. "Whoever lives here now probably doesn't have a cabin for rent and they're probably asleep."
With that, the wooden lantern-stand flickered on; so I pulled forward. Dreidel fluttered from the car as Sunshine climbed out and made her way to the open door of #1200 Mt. Olive - a ranch home I knew well.
Thirty seconds later, she was back to tell me the nicest gentleman had invited us in for coffee. With her help, and that of Moses and companion, I traversed the stone path.
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As we approached the tall silhouette of a man, the screen door swung open. "Come on in and have some coffee, David."
I almost lost my balance. "Is that you, Grant? You still sound the same, Anchor Head."
He stepped aside to let us in. "So do you, Head Knocker."
Wrapping my arm and Moses around Sunshine's waist, I pulled her in with me and did the intros. "Grant, this is Kitty Frank - but you can call her Sunshine or Sunny. Sunshine, this is Grant Connell - a genuine joker."
While our host snugged his robe and herded us over to a sofa in front of the fireplace, I told Sunshine how Grant and I had gone all through school together, but hadn't seen each other since he got out of the Navy in the 60s.
As we sat, several wall-mounted enzyme lights struggled to life and washed the hard cherrywood floor and soft cedar walls with familiar warmth.
No sooner had Grant sat down on a sofa facing us, a curtain off to one side of the room swept open and a radiant lady walked in.
Grant jumped back up. "David and Sunshine, this is my better half Nancy."
All four of us sank into the two facing sofas, and I slid my canes under the mohogany coffee table between us. "Grant, I thought you stayed in Silicon Valley after you got out of the Navy and went to work in the computer industry."
Nancy said they lived on Half Moon Bay until their son was born. "Then we moved back to the midwest to bring him up."
Grant explained his family lived most the year on a windmill-and-solar farm outside Clearview City, Kansas. "We come to visit the old Mt. Olive homestead on the holidays. My parents aren't living here anymore."
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I got the feeling Grant was just about to mention his parents had moved on - when a young man stumbled in from the other room, stubbing his toe in the process. As he yelped in pain, a young woman with a basket on her back followed close behind.
Standing again, Grant motioned me to remain seated and performed the proems. "David and Sunshine, I'd like you to meet our only son Kurt - and his only wife Janet."
After Grant's only wife gag dropped like a lead balloon, I apologized for waking everyone, but Kurt said nobody had been sleeping. "Dad and I just finished up in the racepit."
As Janet, Kurt's better half, swiveled 180°, two babies cuddled in a wicker back-basket showed their chubby heads.
I was duly impressed. "Good looking twins you got there, Kurt and Janet."
Kurt smiled lopsidedly. "Sorry, only one of them is ours."
Proudly, Grant took partial credit. "The other little rug-rat is mine - and Nancy's."
Sitting down on a third, perpendicular sofa, Jan and Nan tucked the nursing neophytes under their long auburn manes, and the little bald-headed squirts went to work.
Grant explained that his parents, Helen and Henry, always wanted a daughter. "But all they ever got was yours truly. Now they have a granddaughter and a great-granddaughter." Turning up the collar on his terry-cloth robe, Grant asked his son to fetch some coffee. The instant Kurt left the room, Grant got up to light the fireplace, bragging. "Kurt's only 19 and already has his Master's in Symbiotic Engineering."
While Grant tickled his daughter and granddaughter, I gazed about the Connell family room - conjuring up boyhood memories of playing Easy Money, spinning jacks, shooting marbles, jumping hopscotch across the chalked floor, blasting off firecrackers inside the fireplace, and flipping baseball cards everywhere. To be sure, this was a home - Mr. and Mrs. Connell had treated us like kids, not dysfuntional furniture.
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Twice, Kurt returned. First, with clay cups and a bronze coffee pot; then, with a clay tray of toasted bagels, cream cheese, and strawberry jam. While he stoked the granite fireplace, the rest of us dug into the goodies and talked about old times, new times - and another chance.
Kurt finally sat down and munched on a bagel. "We'd all be asleep if it wasn't holiday time." Then he went on to explain in detail the wholesome Connell version of family life
After we emptied a second pot of coffee, Grant and Kurt helped me outside and around back to take a look at the Connell racepit. Making my way across the cobblestones in the dark, I recalled the previous time I'd seen Grant. He was home on leave from the Navy and I had just survived Lump's first barrage of shock treatments. Grant had a new Austin-Healy Sprite and asked me if I wanted to take it for a spin. When I told him the doctors had ordered me not to drive for awhile, he said aw bullshit and pushed me behind the wheel.
Turning the back corner of the ranch house, we came into the wash of a gold INDY OIL sign, and I realized for the first time that Grant Connell was the best friend any person could have.
Kurt slid a heavy metal door to one side and I limped behind his father into a dark void. When Grant stopped, I relied heavily on both canes to keep from falling - while Kurt keyed a cluster of switches. Many rows of fluorescent lighting blasted on, showing an immaculate machine shop too vast to contemplate in a single take. I stood in silent awe of the polished array of tools and machinery. The walls were covered, belt-high to head-high, with thousands of high-buffed vanadium hand tools - each recessed into its own custom cut-out.
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Smiling wide, Grant and Kurt escorted me through a well-organized gauntlet of drill presses, lathes, and milling machines - each goose-necked into its own marble base.
I asked what they were going to do with so much equipment. "Refit the Battleship Arizona?"
Kurt replied. "We hope that won't be necessary."
On the far side of the heavy stuff, Grant's real offspring came into view. Lit from quartz-iodine spots high above, his baby stood on a flat-black tarmac pad.
Grant grinned like a jackass eating cactus. "So what'a ya think of Kurt's Chevelle?"
Kurt opened the lipstick-red hotrod's door, and I collapsed into the driver's bucket. "She's the sharpest '67 I've ever seen. She even smells new."
Kurt pushed his chest out. "We just dropped a ZR-1 under the hood tonight. She's all aluminum, has four-valves per cylinder, and sports solid fuel injectors designed to deliver over five hundred horsepower at the rear spindles - from corn starch."
I was dumb enough to ask the obvious. "How do you drive a machine like this on the street?"
Grant chortled. "When no one's around - with our foot to the floor." Then he slapped Kurt on the back and asked him to activate the space heater in the cabin while he showed me some of their pet projects.
As Kurt jogged away, Grant reached into the car and turned on the radio. John Lennon's "IMAGINE" filled the racepit as my ambitious peer pointed to a chain-link cage to our right.
He said the contraption sitting on the aluminum workbench would make the discovery of fire look like kid's stuff. "It's the prototype for a cold-fusion engine - but we need to keep it secret until we convert the patent rights to public domain."
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I was impressed even further when Grant toed a floorswitch and a bank of mercury-vapor floods illuminated an elevated workroom, enclosed in glass. Grant tapped the switch again, and a white curtain slid to one side of the aluminum-framed lab - exposing a polished aquamarine object. The size and shape of a watermelon, it was tethered to a glass stand.
I gasped. "It looks like a bomb."
Grant said it was a bomb. "When perfected, it'll explode in the upper atmosphere and rebreed the depleted ozone. That's only the mock-up; the real McCoy is out in Clearview City. Jan and Nan just dubbed it the BLIZZARD OF OZ." With a cough, Grant went on to say that until it was fully functional, we'd better all do our damnedest to preserve the O3 we still had left.
Kurt returned with a lap-top computer and set it on the hood. "Dad, have you discussed our plans for the gravolectric mill with David?"
Grant grimaced. "It's not functional yet, Son. It's useless as tits on a boar hog without a gravity shield."
"But Dad, you always told me how you used to come up with your best ideas after talking with David." That said, Kurt turned the computer display towards me.
It looked like an ingeniously simple idea - little more than a water turbine. While I examined the drawing through the windshield, Kurt explained that the weight of the falling water on one side of the turbine turned the generator, while, on the other side, a gravity shield would allow the water to rise back to the top effortlessly - then recirculate.
Grant growled again. "Yeah, but I go no idea how to throw a gravity shield together."
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I told them that once upon a time I met a man named Mr. Sam out near Vegas. "He showed me the plans for a gravity blanket. I never saw it work, but it might give you guys some ideas."
Lucky for me, their computer was a Macintosh, and my shaky hands were sufficient to SuperPaint something worthwhile. "Unless I'm mistaken, you don't need water or a turbine. Use a randomly-cindered lead shaft and it should turn on its own - like an alternately out-of-balance wheel."
When I handed the completed rendering over to Kurt, he saved it and told me I could live in their cabin the rest of my life. "For free - if you want."
Grant tapped the spotlights off as Kurt re-thanked me.
Lumbering toward the door through the row of lathes, I told Kurt not to thank me. "Thank Mr. Sam the Crippled Man in Puberty Park."
Kurt keyed off the rest of the lights while Grant stepped outside and yelled toward an open window that we were finished. Some minutes later, we were discussing the Blizzard of Oz again when Sunshine and Dreidel joined us under the Indy Oil light.
Clasping my shoulder, Grant said it had been too long. "Visit our reclaimed plat outside Clearview City next time you're in the neighborhood."
Dreidel fluttered to my shoulder as I told Grant I hadn't seen or heard from Dale Goldberg or Eddie Weiss since the day we all graduated from Lincoln. "Do you know where they live or what they're doing?"
With a grin, Grant said they were both pursuing the arts and doing fine, that the next time he talked to them, he'd tell them to drop me a line. "Better yet, Head Knocker, if I can get in touch with them in time to fly to Kansas, I'll invite them both on the New Years run of the Freedom Flyer. I got the whole caboose reserved."
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After I shook Grant and Kurt's hands the best I could, Sunny and I took their leave and headed over a secondary stone path - rearward, toward the cabin.
While she helped me descend a long flight of wooden steps to a chunk of bottomland, I noticed an object glowing - off to our right. Asking Sunshine to stay put on the cabin's porch, I struggled towards an ultraviolet enclosure of some sort.
Limping across the clay a hundred yards, I came upon the radiant night-thing - a bathtub-sized affair. An elevated plot of soil served as the semiviolet invert's base. Inside was a miniature greenhouse - one row of dainty pink Gardenias and another of robust Tomato plants. Staring into the single lamp which ran the length of the transparent lid, I saw no wires or other connections. The luminous tube hung from the underbelly of the lid, glowing steadily - with no apparent source of power. As I knelt for a closer inspection of the tube, it showed itself to be monolithic and transparent - its only innards being a half-fullness of some mysterious lavender fluid. I tapped the glass above the tube and watched a ripple spread. Putting my palm to the ground for balance, I felt the surprising warmth of a supersmooth stone. I struggled to my feet and peered down upon a prism-shaped marker:
OUR GARDEN OF GRACE
HELEN & HENRY
Returning slowly to the cabin, I thought that surely it was no monument to Grant's parents. He said nothing about their migration. Maybe the tube inside had something to do with the plasma engine. And maybe the plants have something to do with the Blizzard of Oz, I thought as I mounted the porch.
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Opening the door to the cozy cabin, Sunshine read my mind and responded curtly. "Food for thought, Head Knocker."
I noticed an enzymatic spaceheater glowing orange in the corner and actuated a similarly powered lantern. As the soothing light came gradually up, Sunny dropped our packages onto a bunk along the east wall and kicked off her boots. "Get comfortable while I take a quick shower."
I started thinking about how great it was to see that Grant was doing so well. But before I could think about it too much, Sunny's soft footsteps halted behind me - and I rolled over to look up at her heavenly self. Long ringlets of wet blonde hair covered square shoulders and outer hemispheres of suctateous breasts; an alabaster egglace dangled below the oiled cleavage, glowing gently against her smooth abdomen.
Duly invited, I sat up and held her queenly hips. Goodness Gracious - Holy Coww!!
end chap 30
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