Board a flight of fancy. Take off faster than a time-lapse ecdysiast. Pierce the clouds. Cruise at thirty thou the sunny blue.
Unfasten belts. The smoking lamp is lit. Fire up a joint. By the third toke, the mind’s wheel spins a tale about gazing up at, caught in my headlamp, dozing upsidedown halfway up a stalactite, a bat.
We encounter turbulence. Shudder into a tailspin. The stewardess – stripped to pasties and G-string – tosses me a chute.
The bat – snatched from a dream of gobbling blood-stuffed mosquitoes – attacks my flashlight. Out the door into the whoosh I leap, a splitsecond before centrifugally glued to the cabin wall. Pull the string.
Float, too fast for comfort, down through the cloudcover into a cave mouth. Bounce down a tunnel into the cavern where the bat bites my nose and I in a panic succumb to visions of the Thane of Polyurethane, in under a bridge out of the rain, squatted on cardboard, bored as a sheet of wallboard.
The Thane, a lean drifter between the ages of 19 and 49, snoozes. Glimpses flashes of himself as a Roaring Twenties gangster hugging the runningboard of a Packard fleeing a bank job. Bubba Rand at the wheel, Sucker Roomba riding machinegun. All three dressed-to-the-nines thugs time travelers. Bored with the usual kill-your-grandfather or invest-in-Microsoft-1979 excursions, they have elected to experience the thrills on which those Cagney movies of the day are based. The only human of the trio being the beanpole derelict. Bubble-butt Bubba a robot the Rand Corporation assembled. Sucker a vacuum fluctuation trapped by super magnets from a future just around the corner from the Interstate under whose Jackson Street overpass the Thane dozes and...
Blast their way out of town, leaving behind a path of blood, guts, corpses. Adjust their ties. Reload. Admire diamond cuff links wink. Daydream about Acapulco, Rio, Paris. Cruise down a country road, yawning at, on either side, fields of corn and beans, beans and corn, corn and beans. Encounter, almost to the hideaway, a roadblock. Cops with BAR’s, tommies, scatterguns, even a small-bore howitzer. The time violators, reacting superluminally, board the roomba. Sail off into the blue, creating legends of saucers and little green men with coffeecup ears.
…is now waking to a cop shaking his shoulder.
“Time to move on, Bud.”
“Move with the amoeba,” the Thane mumbles to the pterodactyl beating wings in his face. “Humanity all one organism. One organization here to cleanse the planet, sterilize earth’s surface.”
The bat flutters into Hank’s bat: Aaron’s rod clobbering on the nose number 715, to beat – sure as Boaz, coming home boozed from the fields, musta beat Ruth – Ruth. The apple sails up out of the cave into the sky. Pierces the cloudcover. Targets the corona of the Thane’s tazered skull.
Seems the damp from the cardboard finally, through capillary action, seeps into the nerves embedded in the drifter’s maximus, causing him abruptly to stand. Causing the cop to fear for his life, or maybe simply to wish to have the time of his life employing his toy in the task for which the gizmo is intended.
The Plastic Prince, heir apparent to the Throne of Stone, obeying the action-reaction law, belts the officer’s beezer. Decks the blob in blue. Protrudes out from under the bridge a new pseudopod. Oozes downtown, whistling offkey one of the lesser takes of Bird’s Relaxin’ at Camarillo.
The meth-head wino, most recently from the sticks east of the mountains, realizes, doing a gooey ectoplasmic softshoe, the many are the one: the cop, the bum, the bum’s bum, Bird, the dream, the tale, the stewardess, the stripper – all pulling from the blue Air on a G String, as from the last word rise heavenward the eye, the ear, the nose, the tongue, of the listener. Or so he hears, inside the skull, voices hum...
The roomba – swollen to Astro Dome size – touches down beside a White Sands dune. A white door in the rim of the white craft slides open. Out hop the three chronoteers.
Sucker, computing the location to be a desert, hallucinates a saguaro. Mistakes the trunk and upraised limbs for a G-man sporting cactus camo. Swivels around. Tommyguns the too-close-for-comfort mirage.
Bubba bursts out laughing at the Machinegun Kelly wannabe. Points, guffawing uncontrollably, at the boob Roomba’s burst of slugs stochastically sketched in the sloping dune; even as the bulletholes suggesting the connect-the-dots crudity refill with the whiter-than-white powdered gypsum that surrounds the boys as far as the eye can squint.
The Thane orders everybody to shut the fuck up – this is serious. The saucer has now morphed entirely back into Sucker, and they are stranded without food, water or even a 1929 Packard roadster. Did anybody remember to bring along the loot?
The fugitives sneer wordlessly out at the glare of dune after dune after dune in the zero humidity, 115 degree heat.
Bubba belches robotically. Points out this all prior to Hoover declaring where they stand ankle-deep in gypsum a National Monument. Meaning they could maybe pack up a few tons of the stuff, stuff it up Sucker’s orifices, after converting him back to a spacecraft, and rhumba back to Chicago where they could sell the magic white to wallboard factories. Use the proceeds to buy their way out of this time fix.
Sucker, unable to imagine such a fate, spins around Sufi-style. Enantiodromia self-contradicts. A gust kicks up a dust-devil. White tornado sound effects ajax Sucker’s superpositions. Bubba swears he smells ammonia.
The Thane, whose brain is probably more plastic than any other wetware in the galaxy, lists to, hypnotized by the devil, starboard against the dune.
The cool of calcium sulfate dihydrate penetrates hip and shoulder. Brushes chickenfeed the high-hats. Head & Shoulders, riffing on a harp, solves dandruff; flakes head for the Hills Brothers. Dizzy strings along, on jazz lute, one of many collective delusions. Miles passes the collection plate. Chet Baker, loaded on smack behind his Raybans, takes a solo and...
The Thane awakes propped against an alley wall, taking a lengthy piss. Bricks layed during the Klondike Era cool his skin. He remembers, gradually as sand heaping an hourglass bottom, gypsum’s highly evaporative and reflective properties. Wonders whose property he leans against; also why all his clothes seem to have disappeared, as buxom police with hourglass figures and leveled scatterguns from either mouth of the drizzly alley in on him close.
…Bird, in a flight of heroine fancy, takes it plain and simple out.
Willie Smith is the author of several collections of poetry and short fiction and one novel. He lives in Seattle next to the intersection of two Interstates.