Jack Yerby's Marshmallow Stonehenge
|submitted by Morton Charnel|
Cass: Fate sometime cacks up a furball of improbable circumstances into your lap once in a while. There you are going on happily when ACK!, you're tangled up by a knot of improbable events all improbably linked to each other. These improbabilities effectively hurl quantum mechanics, chaos theory, and the second law of thermal dynamics out the window where solely by divine intervention, they are saved by landing in a dung heap.
Or so I at least got the feeling, recently.
I had no way of foreseeing these impending improbabilities when Maria called on November 5. I'd just been thinking of her upcoming marriage to an old friend of mine named Jack Yerby. An improbable pairing I should add. Jack's impetuous nature made him an audacious sculptor, prone to go charging off after what ever assailed his imagination. Despite her charming and dutiful nature, Maria's innate reserve girded her like a fortress of caution. And so for a long time, I could never decide if their relationship was that of a dashing knight to his lady fair or a drawn-out siege.
But her spluttering and nose-blowing over the phone told me they'd gone to war; she'd broken up with Jack.
I soon realized in horror that I needed to act at once, for I'd rather lose my limbs to a horrible farming equipment accident then endure whimpering or big puppy eyes from either of them. Thus resolved, I headed out to Jack's place to make the boy snap to his senses, re-ignite his ardent passion for his lady fair, yadda-yadda-yadda. Anything as long as they were o'er the hills and far way.
The stars twinkled brightly that evening as I neared his house. Jack just had bought a 15 acre "farmette" four miles outside Iranistan. With no neighbors closer than a mile or more in any direction, he had plenty of privacy. Suddenly, a brilliant light filled the car then just at that moment the radio cut off and the motor died. I guided my Ford Tempo slowly to the edge of road and stopped. Shielding my eyes, I discovered the blinding light was coming from Jack's farm just over a rise to my right. I fished-out out my flashlight, but it refused to turn on.
Dread clunked about my stomach like an underdone potato as I realized the classic signs...my abduction by superior consciousness stood at hand!
The brilliant white lights had changed now; I made out seven very bright lights---two near the ground about six feet apart, five all in a line about six feet off the ground. I heard a low rumbling from a huge machine. Then a giant figure---huge---over six and half feet tall clad in silvery, shiny clothes appeared in front of my car. With a step or two, it lumbered to my open window.
"Name's Robby Roswell," the giant thundered, sticking out an appendage the size of a bull but cleverly disguised as a hand.
Startled, I stared through my windshield. The flashing yellow lights shone quite clearly now. It was a tow truck; a very big one--- the kind used to haul tractor trailers on the interstate. Bewildered, I gave his hand a firmish squeeze which was returned with little or no damage being inflicted upon my hand.
"Lemme guess, you was driving along and suddenly it died---no lights, no radio, no nothing. Just died."
I nodded an affirmative. He seemed one of those big burly guys who is too big and too burly to worry about anything save inadvertently squashing others of lesser stature. He saw my flashlight. "May I?" He clicked it and when it failed to work, he smacked it once times in his palm. A feeble beam glowed. "Batteries are shot," he said, handing it back. He retrieved his own larger flashlight from his truck, it shone like a locomotive headlight. "These Fords got a thing called a TFI module. Controls the fuel ignition. Burn one out and it shuts down everything."
I had gotten out the car to watch him poke under the hood and explained I was on my way to Jack's. He laughed aloud, roaring like a Norse God at a smorgasbord. "He's a character," he snorted. "You saw that big light from his place over yonder. The things a guy'll do, sometimes, I tell ya."
I mentioned his flashy suit. He smiled, "It's one of them old asbestos jobs. Comes in handy. Got called to haul out a tanker truck full diesel fuel that jack-knifed 'bout five miles down the road. Just headin' back to the barn when I saw you. Probably spooked ya, didn't I?"
Robby towed the car the hundred or so yards to Jack's house. He didn't charge me for it since it was so close and said he'd come back in the morning to fix the car. As he left, I marveled at the unlikely coincidence of having a car breakdown with a tow truck appearing so readily containing a knowledgeable mechanic who did not charge for the tow---that is ignoring any involvement with aliens. Such coincidences certainly never burdened Professor Heisenberg while thinking out his famed Uncertainty Principle.
A generator humming nearby in the unseasonably warm night drew me out along a dirt track through some trees and brush and up the side of a tall mound rising about one hundred feet at a steep incline. As I gained the top, I saw the area brightly lit by a pair of halogen lights---but nothing as bright as the flash that I experienced on the road. In the glare, I saw a sight that convinced mine Jack was rapidly paddling upstream sans paddle, canoe, or PBS documentary camera crew.
Stonehenge loomed before me. Being made of marshmallows, any impenetrable brooding mystery had been replaced with the sweet puffiness of a puppet show for preschoolers. I expected a plush blue teddy skipping about, talking in a silly voice.
"You?," Jack spat with marked disappointment, he wore his heavy leather welder's apron and welder's mask tilted up over his head. "I thought it was her. I heard a car on the road and thought it was her so I set off the white phosphorus to get her attention. Silly of me, really."
"Almost gave me a coronary!" I complained, moving in amidst the mystic puffy monoliths. Jack watched me look around for a moment and when I shrugged my shoulders, he laughed.
"It uses light and temperature," he, explained, snappinga bulky cable into a control box. "The piece uses halogen lamps with different colored filters. The heat from the lamps will slowly melt the marshmallows at different rates and create new forms which I'll photograph for future ideas. When the whole piece gets into a form I like, I'll preserve it with a thick coating of specially made cornstarch."
"Yes, but why marshmallows?"
"Pickles are more expensive," he shrugged. At that he bent to move a cable, his buttocks glowing opalescent in the glare of halogen work lamps like an ill omened moon.
"You're naked!" I shouted surprised, still half expecting the plush blue teddy bear but not a welder wearing naught but his apron and mask.
"I'm allergic to scented detergents. Maria washed all of my clothes with one to stop me working on this piece. Even my lucky silk briefs are in Zoar being professionally laundered!"
"Can't be safe welding in just that," I observed. "What if you drop a lump of hot metal on your...self."
"I don't weld with it if that's what you mean," he chuckled. "Well that'd certainly call attention to all this, wouldn't it? Her stupid research! All this damn secrecy the company insists on! It's crap, that what it is!"
"What's are you jabbering about? What research?"
"The company's got some big psychegraphic project going on and they don't want anyone knowin' 'bout it or callin' attention to anybody doin' the research," he shouted, trudging back around behind the white puffy monolith.
"Company?" I asked in alarm, "You don't mean The Company?"
He muttered "Central"-something and then "Which one did you think I meant?" Then he fired up his noisy welding torch.
A cold thrill raced through my veins. Maria working for The CIA! Incredible! And what was this secret project and why psychegraphics? Why Iowa for crissakes? The very thought set my teeth on edge. What was so important that she had to risk her relationship with Jack by sabotaging his clothes with an April Fresh Scent? Something vastly sinister and complex lurked in the offing, I told myself. Creating new forms, indeed. Somethng centered on this ridiculous candied artifact---and I had been suckered right into it. Through geometric logic, I could plainly see that Jack's and Maria's activities were much more than just mere coincidence.
Suddenly, Maria stepped into the circle. "What are you doing here, then?" I warily asked.
"Oh, we patched it all up. Jack called me about fifteen minutes after I called you. He has something to show me."
Jack coughed, getting our attention then flipped a switch. Suddenly the marshmallow monuments glowed with a colored light. And as Jack flicked other switches and turned dials, the lights pulsated and moved. It was wonderful and weird; almost a psychedelic effect going all around us.
"Oh, Jack---it's wonderful," Maria cooed. Then she realized his fashion statement and burst out laughing.
Jack caught up the sides of his apron and executed an obscene curtsy.
Maria laughed and hugged him. "It's a pity it has to come down."
"The apron?" he smiled.
"You know the company thinks it'll interfere with the project results."
"I'll put off the unveiling publicity until your project's done," Jack offered. When Maria shrugged in agreement, he quipped, "We're out in the middle of no where; who's going to see it?"
"The CIA for one," I spat indignantly. The looked at me as if I were insane. But I knew I was too wyly for their ridiculous attempt at plausible deniability. "Don't play games with me!" I shouted, "Sculpture indeed! Just what sort of clandestine research project are you people perpetrating on the public out here?"
Jack stormed back. "She doesn't work for the CIA, you idiot!"
I scoffed with laughter but when Jack's expression only hardened, my brow furrowed in confusion. "But you told me she did."
"I said 'Central States Marketing'. What d'you think I meant?"
My mouth hung open, drooling consternation on the grass.
"Mort, you're nuts! We are not CIA or anything else!" Maria complained. "I'm researching how local people react to the name 'Stonehenge' for..."
"Stonehenge English Fruit Preserves," interrupted a British accented voice. A trenchcoated figure stepped into the multicolored marshmallow circle. "Central States is interested in marketing them in this part of the United States. Jack's little project stands to introduce an adverse effect on the marketing research, isn't that true, Maria?"
"Who are you?" she demanded.
"MI-6," stated another voice with a southern drawl as another trenchcoated figure stepped forward. "Why is British Intelligence skulking around here, anyway?"
"The very question I have for the CIA," came Bostonian accent from another trenchcoated figure emerging into the circle.
"Interesting that the NSA should be interested in the same satellite photos as MI-6 and the CIA," said yet one more trenchcoated figure sans accent striding forth.
"I'm here to safeguard the integrity of one of our national treasures," answered the British agent.
"I'm here because you're a foreign agent," said the shadowy Southerner.
"Well, I'm here because you're here," remarked the Bostonian agent.
"And I'm here because you always leave us out of the loop," said the last one.
The Southerner assessed Jack's colorful folly. "Looks like the set for that stupid kids' show," he remarked. The other agents muttered agreement. "Do you have a mission here, then?" he asked the British agent.
"Not really," the British agent replied disdainfully.
"Then I don't either," replied the Southerner.
"Nor I," injected the Bostonian.
"Me neither," said the last one, looking around, taking all the glowing marshmallowish-ness in. "It probably looks awfully weird from the air."
The trenchcoated figures all withdrew, except for the Southerner who tarried just a moment to say to us darkly, "This never happened."
At that, a bright light in the sky caught my eye. I glanced up to see a shooting star streaking by. Suddenly it stopped dead overhead. Then it zigged right, then left, then resumed its course.
Yep, I mused, Doc Heisenberg probably had it a lot easier...
Back to this Issue Contents