An Alternate History

II. A Device Bound Together with Our Father’s Transparent Tape

I spent the next couple of days hunting for a copy of “You’re So Vain”. They didn’t even have a copy of that damn song at Longhair Records. On the third day, I happened to be driving down Lead Avenue, skylarking – hoping to see my brother flying by as a bird or errant rocketship, or something grand and mystical like that – when inspiration struck. Lucky for me, I wasn’t sitting in a bathtub when all of that crap went down because I woulda jumped plumb outta that basin and probs hit my precious noggin on the sink.

I was also occasionally looking out toward the western horizon in awe.  The volcano-strewn desert out there was dominated by the huge Amazon Product Fulfillment Center; it was just so big and white and filled with things, I mumbled to myself as I neared the freeway overpass.

It was then that an epiphany came roaring through my brain. Ignoring the 30 mile per hour speed limit – and Mayor Keller’s vicious robotic traffic cameras – I raced home (if indeed one can be said to race at all in a circus clown car) and – using an electromechanical device linked to a vast digital information network that I still referred to around friends as the interwebz – logged into my account at Amazon.

Of course they had a copy of the Carly Simon record I had been dragging my ass around the city to find. It was the third track on an album called No Secrets. Better yet, I could get the whole damn thing delivered to mi chante within one sidereal day. Before I hit the yes button on the checkout page, I drifted over to my hi-fi system and tested the phonograph player. I dropped the needle on “Watcher of the Skies”, and cranked it the hell up. Then, feeling that I had somehow thwarted forces greater than I had previously encountered in this Earthly life, I finished my digital transaction and waited. I think I danced after that, even shaking my fist at the universe and singing along when Peter Gabriel gravely intoned, “Will you survive on the ocean of being?”

At 10:37 AM the next morning, the doorbell rang again. The being at the door looked like the same Amazon dude as before, but now he was wearing a much more elaborate hat costume. Two of the fingers on his right hand were bandaged, but he didn’t seem to recognize me and even smiled a blue-lipped, toothy grin when I appeared in the doorway. “Hello, Mr. Carrillo, I have another package for you,” he said in a high-pitched, warbling, sing-song voice that could have been mistaken for a springtime bird visitor except for the fact that today was somewhere in October.

“Thanks”, I said, nearly grabbing the package from his hands. As the manila-wrapped record from 1973 passed between us, the Amazon Man asked me, “Do you like the way vinyl feels against your bare hands, Mr. Carrillo?” Stunned at this savage yet accurate affront, I slammed the door on him one more time and headed for the hi-fi system.

This time around, when I bent over the stereo system and toggled the power switch, nothing happened. The switch was spring loaded.The turntable should have started its cyclic journey when the spring snapped back into place after being pushed with a human finger. “Well, I’m human”, I whispered to no one in particular, and I tried again. When nothing happened after three tries, I nearly panicked. I could feel something pop in my chest. That uncomfortable feeling caused me to grab onto the power switch while I screamed the familiar Chicano phrase “A la machina!” – which by the way can be traced to early 20th century Mexican American farmers in the lower Rio Grande valley who constantly had to deal with farm machinery that was old or in bad repair. That must have meant something to the spirits presiding over this macabre exercise because, as I mouthed the sacred curse directed at the inconstancy of all machines, the turntable started turning. Unfortunately when I released the power button from my freaked-out grasp, the damn thing stopped again. I finally figured out that holding the switch down was what kept it working. As I made that realization, I let the record player stop and ran to the hall closet. After digging around for what seemed a gazillion years, I was rewarded with the roll of transparent cellophane tape left at the bottom of a plastic bucket by my father just a few years ago, when the future seemed bright unless you were an 80-year old local politician who had been forced by circumstances to sell cars for a living. If you wanna know, he spent the last years of his life trying to tape up all the messes he had made in this world. But that would be an unkind digression dear readers. What was important to understand at this point in the narrative was the fact that I now possessed the means to play the song by Carly Simon, access my brother (whom I reckoned was out there and alive, somewhere, if not here) and move toward the future with an uncommon sort of grace generally reserved for rock musicians and expert dog groomers.

And so with the tape in place, the turntable doing its thing and Carly Simon’s bright yet melancholy voice droning along in the background, I began my transit into an unknowable future. Mang, I sure wish Albino had a joint waiting for me, wherever in the heck he was.




Rudolfo Carrillo

Rudolfo Carrillo is a writer/artist living in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Carrillo holds a BFA  from the University of New Mexico and is currently a graduate student in the UNM English Department. His art work has appeared at 6o6 Gallery, Raw Space, and the ASA Gallery; his literary work has been featured in Typo Mag, On Barcelona, and Maverick Magazine; his work as a journalist has appeared in many regional publications. Carrillo was the news/music editor at Weekly Alibi – where he wrote as August March. Rudolfo recommends the New Mexico Black Leadership Council.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Thursday, May 30, 2024 - 22:22