Like many people, I’ve been worried about global warming, although I don’t know anything about it.

    During a recent warm spell, I was standing on the corner, waiting for the light to change, and I remarked to the gentleman standing next to me, “I wonder if there is global warming.”

    “Woojathinkso!” the man replied, crossing the street hurriedly and leaving me standing there perplexed.

    Woojathinkso….Is that what he said?….Woojathinkso….I forgot all about the errand I was on and turned around to go home.  What did that fellow mean?

    As I put my key in the door, it hit me!  Wooja thinks so!  Somebody named Wooja thinks there is global warming!  Now I get it! 

    But who was this fellow Wooja?  And why did he think there was global warming?  Maybe he was a scientist.  If so, I definitely wanted to talk to him.

    I checked the phone book, but there was no listing for “Wooja.”  Maybe he had an unlisted number.  If he was a top scientist, that wouldn’t surprise me.  Scientists don’t want to be bothered by strangers when they’re in the middle of something important.  But he had to be known somewhere.  Surely at the university.  That was it!  He was probably in the physics department of the university!

    So I called the physics department.  “Do you have a Professor Wooja?” I asked.

    The secretary hesitated.  “Uh…do you mean Professor Woods?”

    Woods!  So he has an alias!  A foreigner who goes by an anglicized name!  “Yes, I think that’s the one.  I’d like to talk to him.  Is he there?”

    “I’m afraid Professor Woods retired last year.”

    Retired?  In the midst of a global warming catastrophe?  There was something fishy about this.  “Can you give me his phone number, or tell me where he lives?”

    “Oh, no.  We don’t give out that kind of personal information,” said the secretary.

    “Has he written any papers on global warming, by any chance?” I asked.

    “I wouldn’t know.  You’d have to check with the library.”

    Wouldn’t know!  Ha!  She was stonewalling me.  “So, then, I could just go to the library and read everything he’s written?” I asked.

    “Yes, of course.  Just go to the physics section on the fifth floor and ask the librarian.”

    I thanked her and hung up.

    The pieces were starting to fall into place.  This Professor Woods, who was really a foreigner named Wooja, had mysteriously retired, and his present whereabouts were being kept secret.  He must have discovered something about global warming — probably something too shocking to be made public, although that fellow on the corner knew about it somehow.  He had walked away quickly, so perhaps he was being followed.  It was still a puzzle, but maybe I’d find a big piece of it at the library.

    I had never used the university library before, so I asked the librarian in the physics section for help.  “I want to read whatever papers have been written by Professor Woods,” I said, somewhat out of breath after climbing the stairs (I should have taken the elevator).

    She eyed me curiously for a moment, then pecked away at her keyboard and looked at her screen.  “Would that be Professor Theodore Woods?”

    “Yes, I think so.  The one who just retired from the university.”

    “Theodore Woods is the only Woods we’ve got listed.  Here are his papers.”  She turned the screen around so I could read it.

    I scanned the titles of his papers….Magnetotelluric Technology Applications For Deep Earth Resistivity….Time-Domain Electromagnetic Systems….Maxwell Three-Dimensional Conductive Plate Modelling….Rotating Gradient Data Collection For Enhancement of High-Resolution Total-Magnetic Intensity Measurement….Borehole Gravity Logging Systems For 3-D Models and Measurement of Bulk-Density of Intersected Formations….Problems of Ground EM Pulse Geophysics….2-Axis Tipper EM Applications….Full-Tensor Airborne Magnetic Gradiometrics and Total Gravity Field Measurement….My eyes glazed over.  There was nothing about global warming.  Those papers had obviously been removed!  I was too late!

    Frustrated and angry, I went to the physics department to confront that secretary I had spoken to.  As I was wandering around the halls, looking for the office, a young man stopped me.  “Are you looking for someone?” he asked politely, but not smiling.

    Foolishly, I blurted out, “I want to know what Professor Woods found out about global warming!  Why is it being kept secret?”

    The young man gave me a long, suspicious look.  Finally he said, “Are you connected with the university?”

    “No….I’m…I’m just a layman.”

    “Professor Woods was not involved with global warming.”

    “And how do you know that?” I demanded.

    “I was his teaching assistant.”

    I stood there dumbly for a moment, not knowing what to do next.  “Suppose I wanted to talk to him,” I ventured weakly.

    “Why don’t you write down your name and phone number, and I’ll pass it along to him.”

    So I did.  Maybe that was a mistake.  Now they know who I am!

    Back at home, I pondered the dark mystery I had unearthed.  It was very clear that this Professor Woods, or Wooja, had stumbled onto something  so terrible it had to be suppressed.  A lid of secrecy had been clamped down on the whole matter — probably emanating from the highest levels of government.  Even worse, the people responsible might think that I knew something I wasn’t supposed to know, even though I didn’t know anything — not even what I was supposed to know!

    For the sake of my personal safety, I’m giving up this whole nasty business!  I’m never going to say or do anything more about global warming!  I never should have gotten involved in the first place!

    If you think you’re the brave one who can break through this wall of censorship, I leave it in your hands.  Go ahead.  At least I’ve given you something to go on.  But I’ve just heard the latest weather forecast, and from the sound of it, it may be too late for all of us!  How much time do we have left before…it…happens?  Wooja knows.  And a few others.  But as for me, I no longer want to know!

    Copyright@ 2009 by Crad Kilodney, Toronto, Canada.  E-mail: crad166@yahoo.com

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    The city of Moorhead, Minnesota, is buzzing with excitement as it looks forward to its first Turnip Festival, which will run from Friday, June 5th, to Sunday, June 7th, 2009.  The festival, which is expected to draw many thousands of visitors from all over the Midwest, as well as Canada, celebrates the turnip and its importance to Moorhead.

    “The turnip has dwelled in the shadow of other vegetables far too long,” says City Councillor Nancy Otto, the head of the Turnip Festival Committee and a self-proclaimed turnip enthusiast.  “People forget that turnips were brought to Minnesota by the Vikings before the time of Columbus.”  Otto has also contributed the theme for the festival: “Turnips Are Wonderful!”

    Mayor Mark Voxland regards the festival as a much-needed morale boost after an unhappy 2008 marked by a sex scandal, several murders, and an outbreak of salmonella at a local chicken restaurant.  “Moorheaders have the spirit to rise above adversity, and they know how to have a darn good time, too!” he says.  And he is also confident that the festival will go down in history as the high point of his tenure as Mayor.

    Turnip-related events will include a competition for the best turnip dishes, turnip arts and crafts, turnip bowling, and a special “mystery event” referred to as a “Turnip Bang,” which will take place at Chumley’s Bar on Main Ave.  Just what it is, is anybody’s guess.

    Of course, the highlight of the festival will be the Turnip Parade, featuring a beautiful turnip float, on which will be riding the Turnip Queen, Ms. Kerry Helland, a local businesswoman.  Ms. Helland is already sporting a hair style she calls a “turnip mullet” in anticipation of her appearance.  “This is going to be the biggest thrill of my life!” she says.  There is no Turnip King, but Chuck Gulswig, a teacher at Moorhead High School, will serve as emcee for the festivities.

    The parade, featuring the Moorhead High School marching band, will take place Saturday afternoon, June 6th, and several streets will be blocked off for it.  The parade will start from Townsite Park (Moorhead’s “Crown Jewel”) on 4th Ave. South, go east to 14th St. South, then north to Main Ave., west to 8th St. South, south to 4th Ave. South, and back to Townsite Park.

    Main Ave. between 8th St. South and 14th St. South will be turned into an outdoor mall on Saturday, and there will be plenty of turnip-related products and souvenirs, including t-shirts, postcards, videos, and DVD’s.

    On Sunday, June 7th, Moorhead High School will host a Turnip Ball, which will no doubt be the big social event of the year for Moorhead’s elite.

    The Heritage Hjemkomst Interpretive Center will be showing a special exhibit devoted to Moorhead’s turnip heritage from June 1st to June 13th.

    Festival sponsors include Chumley’s, Golden Needle Tattoo, Speak Easy Restaurant, Casey’s General Store, Mother’s Records, I-Beam, Tastee-Freez, Hornbacher’s, Moorhead Rent-All, and Loopy’s Dollar Store.

    Moorhead-area hotels are already taking reservations and expect to be packed for Festival Weekend, so don’t wait till the last minute!

    And will the Turnip Festival become an annual event?  “That’s our intention,” says Mayor Voxland.  “We’ll put every other turnip festival to shame.  Ours will be the best.  Whenever anyone hears the word ‘turnip,’ they’ll think of Moorhead first.”

    Copyright@ 2009 by Crad Kilodney, Toronto, Canada.  E-mail: crad166@yahoo.com

    The peaceful, picturesque town of Flores, Guatemala, has been in a state of near-panic since Christmas, owing to the sudden appearance of thousands of ferrets.  Local people say the ferrets have been drawn out of the surrounding forests by the presence of over thirty models participating in a nude pictorial for the Spanish-language edition of Playboy.  Nearby Lake Peten-Itza, known for its colorful flowers, palm trees, tropical birds, and marvelous rock formations, has been used frequently by photographers and film-makers, but no ferret invasion has ever occurred before.

    “It’s the naked women!  They are making the ferrets crazy!” says local Chief of Police Gustavo Marin. 

    The town’s officials originally welcomed the nude photo shoot, believing it would be good publicity for a town whose primary industry is cigarettes.  Now they feel they have made a mistake, and they are blaming the magazine for the crisis.

    Experts are not in agreement as to whether the ferret invasion is related to the presence of the models.  Professor Manuel de Calderon of the Universidad de Guatemala believes that the ferrets’ highly developed sense of smell has been aroused by female pheromones given off by the models.  But Dr. Hector Samoza of the Ministry of the Interior says there is no evidence for this.  Instead, he cites previous instances of sudden movements of animals prior to volcanic eruptions and fears a possible eruption of a new volcano in the area around Flores. 

    Several models have been attacked in their tents at night by the ferrets.  Nancy Augusto, 22, of Huehuetenango, was bitten on the breast, and Andrea Carmel, 23, of Jalapa, was clawed on the legs.  Neither injury was serious.  No local residents have been attacked, but the presence of the ferrets has prevented many people from going out.

    A spokesman for the Spanish-language edition of Playboy said the photo shoot would continue because it would be too expensive to move to another location.  The models and crew are scheduled to complete their work by January 4th.

    Copyright@ 2008 by Crad Kilodney, Toronto, Canada.  E-mail: crad166@yahoo.com

Yarmoj, the Evil Storage Jar

December 24, 2008

    Yarmoj was a storage jar who lived in somebody’s basement cupboard in Menominee (pronounced muh-NOM-uh-nee), Michigan.  It’s a nice, little town in the Upper Peninsula where there are no bad things like Crips and Bloods gangs, gay pride parades, Muslim terrorists, serial killers, or people who try to get on the express check-out in the supermarket with a whole cartload of stuff.  In other words, it’s the last place you’d expect something simple and innocent like a storage jar to turn evil.  But evil can spring up anywhere.  You think you know people, but you don’t.

    Anyway, Yarmoj just sat in the dark, on the shelf of this basement cupboard, month after month, year after year, and never got used.  This made him angry and resentful.  The plastic containers got used fairly often — more often than the glass jars.  And Yarmoj felt superior to the plastic containers because he was made of glass, of course!  Whenever the homeowner went to his cupboard to get a storage container, Yarmoj would scream out, “Me! Me! I’m here! I’m here!”  But, of course, people can’t hear the voices of storage jars because they’re in a different frequency range from what humans can hear.  Sometimes the owner did select a glass storage jar, but Yarmoj always got passed over for no apparent reason.

    Every day he would scream his protests to the uncaring Universe.  The other storage jars would tell him to shut up.  “Know your place!” they would say.  Sometimes they teased him by telling him he was Made In China and it said so in small letters that he couldn’t see.  This made him feel insecure about his ancestry.  Another storage jar suggested he should convert to Islam, and then he would be at peace.

    Okay, so what happens to people in a situation of prolonged frustration and anger?  I meant storage jars, of course, but we can talk about people generally.  Eventually, after enough of this bottled-up rage they can’t deal with, they turn evil.  Believe me, I know what I’m talking about.  So what did this do to Yarmoj?  He just lost his mind, what else?  All he could think about was revenge.  (And this is something I understand better than most people.)  He wanted to find some way to lash out at all these stupid people who refused to recognize his talent (as a storage jar, of course).  He had these terrible fantasies of murder and destruction, night after night.  But what sort of power can a mere storage jar wield in a world of big people, big machines, and big weapons?

    There was one idea that he kept thinking about.  If someone used him to store some kind of food, he could contaminate it with some kind of bacteria, and then later the people would eat the food and get food poisoning and maybe die.  And he kept asking the other storage jars if they knew where he could get some bacteria, but they told him it was a stupid idea because people would wash out any sort of container first before putting food in it.  Yarmoj kept looking for some bacteria anyway, and he thought maybe there was some gunk inside his lid, like metallic corrosion or putrid organic matter.

    Well, a big surprise happened!  The homeowner opened the cupboard and took out Yarmoj!  And Yarmoj thought, Now I have a chance to do something really evil!  And he expected the homeowner to put some sort of food into him, but that’s not what happened.  Instead, the homeowner used him to store a lot of screws, nuts, and washers.  And this made Yarmoj really mad because there was nothing socially lower in the world of storage jars than to be used for little pieces of hardware.  Fuck this! Fuck this! Fuck this! he swore over and over.  And this went on for many days until Yarmoj decided he would do something evil or die trying.

    So, sure enough, one day the homeowner needed a screw, and he picked up Yarmoj.  And Yarmoj concentrated all those years of anger and frustration into a kind of psychic energy, and with all the will power he could summon, he tried to make himself explode!  And he did! Yarmoj exploded, destroying himself just like a suicide bomber, and the homeowner was badly cut on his hands and arms!  And he was lucky he didn’t lose an eye with all that broken glass and hardware pieces flying everywhere!

    And guess who that homeowner was.  It was none other than Congressman Bart Stupak!  That’s right!  A real, actual member (Democrat) of the U.S. House of Representatives!

    Fortunately, I can report that Congressman Stupak has been treated for his injuries and is feeling considerably better now.  And I think it would be a very nice gesture if you sent him a get-well note.  You can e-mail him at stupak.public.accutane@mail.house.gov  or write to his office at 2352 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515.  Just say you read about his awful experience with an evil storage jar, and you hope he gets well soon, and at least that evil jar is destroyed, so the world is safer now.  Or words to that effect.

    Copyright@ 2008 by Crad Kilodney, Toronto, Canada.  E-mail: crad166@yahoo.com

    Some years ago, my old Yugoslavian landlords foolishly rented an apartment to an unsavory character without checking his references.  He turned out to be a drug dealer.  There was a regular stream of customers going to and coming from his place, or waiting for him in the hallway — mostly local Sherbourne St. white trash.

    I was in the basement with Mike, the older son.  He was very unhappy with his parents for renting to the guy without checking him out.  “We’re stuck with that drug dealer in Number Seven, and there’s nothing we can do about it.”

    “Did you call the police?” I asked.

    “Sure.  They don’t have the manpower to put every building under surveillance where someone is dealing.  And there’s no point in arresting a customer for possession on his way out because the courts don’t put anyone in jail for simple possession.  And nobody rats out the dealer, because they want to go back to him.”

    “But you gave the police his name and apartment number, right?”

    “Of course.  They said thanks, but they need evidence they can take to a judge to get a warrant.  Just because I say there’s a drug dealer, that’s not good enough.”

    “Is he paying his rent?”

    “At the moment, he’s paid up.”

    “Is he causing any problems for the neighbors?  You could evict him for that.”

    “Nobody’s complained.  They’re all foreigners.  They don’t want to get involved in anything.”

    “There’s got to be a way,” I said.

    “Well, you think of something.  You’re the smart one.”

    We sat there in silence for a minute.  I was thinking.  Finally I said to Mike, “If I get rid of this guy for you, what do I get for a reward?”

    “I don’t know.  What do you want?”

    “A new stove.  The one I have is older than you are.”

    “My dad never buys new, only second-hand.”

    “Okay, well, newer than what I have.  Like, say, five years old.”

    Mike smiled sympathetically.  “I would, but that’s still too expensive for Dad.  How about, like, fifteen years old?”

    “Ten,” I demanded.  “That’s my limit.”  Mike was considering.  “Think about getting rid of that drug dealer,” I added.

    Mike looked up at the ceiling, squinting.  He was calculating.  “Okay, deal.”

    “Deal!”  We shook on it.

    “What are you going to do?”

    “Don’t ask.  From this point on, you know nothing.

    I went upstairs and began executing my plan.

    I took a dozen index cards and wrote on each one as follows: “Drugs.  166 Isabella, #7.  6PM – 10PM.” 

    I waited until Sunday night.  Around 2 a.m. I went out to the elementary school four blocks away.  I stuck my “advertisements” on the playground equipment with adhesive tape and returned home.  Of course, no one saw me.

    Monday morning I went down to the basement, where Mike was doing paperwork.  “You can expect action this week,” I told him.

    “Really?  Okay!  Are you going to tell me what you did, or not?”

    “I’ll tell you on Saturday when we go down to Queen Street to pick out a stove for me.”

    Tuesday, nothing.

    Wednesday, nothing.

    Thursday afternoon, Mike calls me from the basement.  “They got him!  Come on down for a beer!”

    Mike had a big smile for me when I walked in.  He patted me on the shoulder.  “You did it!  Whatever you did!”

    “So, what happened?”

    “The cops came around three o’clock.  They had a warrant for the guy, but they came down here first.  I said, ‘Don’t break the door down.  I’ll give you the key.’  So they went up and caught the guy as he was trying to flush everything down the toilet.  He didn’t flush it all in time, and they got him.”

    “Very good!”

    “They asked me if I knew anything about some cards on a playground, and I said I didn’t know anything about it.”

    “That’s right, you don’t know anything.”

    “And you’re still not going to tell me?”

    “Saturday.  We’ll go in your truck, and I’ll help you move the stove.”

    So it’s Saturday, and we’re coming back from Queen Street with my “new” stove.  Now Mike wanted to know everything, and I told him.

    “But who would believe a drug dealer would advertise by leaving cards on a playground?  It’s absurd!” he said.

    “It doesn’t matter,” I said.  “The kids find the cards, they take them to the teachers, and the school calls the police.  Now the police have something they can use to get a warrant from a judge.  Even a liberal suck-ass judge will give them a warrant.  Think of those innocent kiddies, right?”

    “Yeah, right.  But if he gets a good lawyer, do you think he can beat it in court?”

    “I doubt it, but what does it matter?  He’s out of your building.  That’s what I said I’d do.”

    Mike shook his head in amazement.  “You’re some guy!…But Dad’s going to want to know why I spent so much on a stove for you.”

    “Tell him the truth.  I helped you get rid of the drug dealer, and that was my reward.”

    “Should I tell him the details?”

    “No.  That’ll be our secret.  Let him think I’m a magician.”

    Copyright@ 2008 by Crad Kilodney, Toronto, Canada.  E-mail: crad166@yahoo.com

    This story starts slowly and gathers momentum until it explodes in a nerve-shattering climax.  Along the way, the reader is treated to numerous colorful characters and subplots involving espionage, global catastrophe, romance, and the supernatural.

    Excuse me….I have just been informed that this story has received scathing reviews in the Toronto Star and Saturday Night.  Therefore, it will be necessary to go back and make changes while there is still time to save my literary reputation.

    Ahem….This story starts with a bang, and then the reader meets the two principal characters — a man and a woman — who are in a troubled relationship.  A lot of back story is given to explain the problems between them.  The plot has been simplified to deal with condo development.   The man wants to redeem himself by building a spectacular condo project, but the woman tells him he has to choose between her and the building….Unfortunately, this will not do, as it appears the story has received even worse reviews in The Globe and Mail and Maclean’s, and certain harsh comments have been made about the author.  So it will be necessary to start over.

    Thank you for your patience….This story begins with a long description of the Hawaiian Islands, where it will now take place, instead of Moncton, New Brunswick, as previously intended.  This should make it more commercially acceptable to American publishers (all the Canadian ones hate me anyway).  The protagonist is a CIA agent, and his female counterpart is the divorced wife of an unscrupulous Wall Street money manager….I’m sorry.  There is a problem.  This story has already been rejected by Esquire and Playboy, although no reason has been given.  The rejection slips merely say that it does not meet their editorial needs.  Frankly, I doubt they even read it.

    All right, never mind.  A few changes, and we’ll be back in business….A beautiful young rock star receives a human head in a box.  There is no note, and she doesn’t recognize the man’s face.  (Now I’m sure I’m on to something!)  She calls her friend, who is a bumbling but humorous private investigator who looks like Walter Matthau.  The scene shifts to somewhere I haven’t decided on yet, and the reader realizes that the box was delivered to the wrong address!  (This is sensational!)  The bumbling investigator, however, stumbles onto a clue (I don’t know what, but I’ll think of something), which leads him to a gang of drug traffickers.  (This is a winner!  I’m sure of it!)….Oh….I’m sorry….My mistake….It seems that a very similar story was published only minutes ago in The Idaho Review, and the movie rights have already been optioned to HBO.  I don’t believe this!  This is either the worst luck a person could have, or there’s something fishy going on!

    Okay, I’m not through with this sucker.  I’ll give it one more try….A prospector in Alaska stumbles onto the richest gold deposit in the world.  Now he has to lock up the mineral rights to the whole surrounding area without anyone suspecting that he has found something big.  But he has been followed by his nemesis, an evil prospector with no talent, who just rips off other people’s discoveries, and the nemesis intends to kill him before he can get back to the nearest town to file his claims.  There will be a big fight, which the hero wins.  After that, he has to kill a bear and a mountain lion.  And then he falls down a ravine, hits his head, and loses his memory, so he can’t remember where he discovered the gold.  There!  I think I’ve nailed it!

    Oh, no….My story has been rejected with prejudice, if you can believe it, by The Paris Review, for “failing to address women’s issues or the environment, and failing to include minorities”!

    Well, that’s the last straw!  This is a stupid, rotten, corrupt business, and those miserable sons of bitches can rot in hell!  Years from now, when they’re almost bankrupt because nobody reads their inferior shit any more, they can crawl to me on their hands and knees and beg me for a story!  “Conquest and Horror” will be waiting for them, and I’ll shove it down their throats!

    Copyright@ 2008 by Crad Kilodney, Toronto, Canada.  E-mail: crad166@yahoo.com

Cow Five

August 6, 2008

    When you work at Snuj, there’s no fixed timetable for anything.  There are no clocks or calendars.  If you want something, you have to do something to get it.  This kind of purity doesn’t exist anywhere else.

    I made up my mind to go see Ludwig.  Ludwig was black and didn’t speak with any identifiable accent.  It was an unwritten rule at Snuj that you never asked Ludwig about his background.

    “I want Cow Five,” I said to Ludwig.

    He gave me an over-long stare before reaching for the lower drawer of his old wooden desk.  He took out a magazine and handed it to me.  “Now you go to the men’s room and do what you have to do, understand?”

    “Yes.”

    “You just bring back the cover.  The rest can go in the waste basket, understand?”

    “Yes.”

    I took the magazine to the men’s room and…I did what I had to do. I brought back the cover.  “The cover is still clean,” I said.

    “We don’t care about that,” he replied, taking it from me.  He opened another drawer and took out a brown envelope, which was sealed.  “Now you go to Zeugma and ask for Nine Special Ray.”

    “Nine Special Ray,” I repeated.

    “Yes.  Now go.”

    I went downstairs, pausing at the window in the stairwell to look at the Unerectable Dome across the street, a structure that was perpetually collapsing and being rebuilt.

    I walked into Zeugma, where Carney, the albino, sat in a cubicle very much like a subway toll booth, with the added feature of a bell on the counter.  I held out the brown envelope to him.

    “Ring the bell if you want service,” he said condescendingly.  I rang the bell.  “What do you want?” he asked.

    “I want Nine Special Ray.”

    He snatched the brown envelope out of my hand, opened it neatly with a letter opener, and peered inside briefly, frowning.  Then he took a small ledger from a cubbyhole, opened it, and flipped a few pages.  He was still frowning as he scanned a page.  The frown was Carney’s only facial expression.  I wondered if it was a medical condition.  “You do…Solar AB….The string, that is.”

    “Where?”

    “In the Fish Tank, of course.  That way.”  He pointed.

    I went down the hall to a wooden door with faded letters: FISH TANK.  It was unlocked.  It was like a janitor’s closet with a chair.  I sat down.  A tangled mass of strings hung down from a high shelf.  Each one had a tag.  The rectangular tags were Neon, the round ones were Fruit, the triangles were Solar, and so on.  There was another closet called Beggar’s Dream with other tags, but don’t ask me about that.  So I had to look for a Solar AB.  I found one.  I yanked the string, and a key fell down from the shelf.  A gold key.  Irish Knights.  But we had other names for them.

    I went to the other side of the building to what was called the Insensorium, or “Sorry.”  I knocked at the open door.  There were a half dozen guys dressed as leprechauns, all with their feet up on this big table, smoking clay pipes.  “Whut-choo got?” said one, talking like a ghetto black, although he was very pale.

    “I have a Solar AB.”

    “You going for Cow Five?” asked another.

    “Yes, that’s right,” I said firmly.

    The leprechauns chuckled and made some remarks in a dialect only they understood.  Bunch of assholes.  Older guys with no degrees, no technology, just years of seniority.  Not one of them ever saw Cow Two, I’m sure.  The oldest one got up, picked up a large wooden mallet, and stood in front of this large copper plate on the wall.  He struck the plate with much force.  The others went Ooh! and Ahh! with fake reverence.   Then the one who had struck the plate said in a loud ceremonial voice, “Voola One-Two-Three!”

    “On the roof,” someone else explained, although I already knew that.

    The elevator only went to Six.  After that you had to climb this long ladder, which was always greasy and slippery, and the handrail was loose besides.  I came up onto the roof.  It was an asphalt roof that was always too hot in the summer, so the company wisely sprinkled dirt on it, which was guaranteed to make a mess of your shoes.

    There was this large pigeon coop set close to a wall, and set into the wall was a bank of boxes like safe deposit boxes.  There was very little clearance between the coop and the boxes, so you had to squeeze in to get to your box, and it was hard to read the numbers as well.  I managed to find Voola 123 and put my key in, hoping it would work, because very often the leprechauns would give you the wrong box number, and you’d have to go back down, and they would claim it was an honest mistake or you heard them wrong.  Ha, ha.  Very funny.  But fortunately my key fit.  I opened the box and pulled out a small gold brick.  Pretty damned good.  You got a gold brick, that was good.

    I had to take the brick down to Ludwig.  Before I could say a word, he said, “Carmody,” and pointed toward the end of the hall.

    Carmody was dressed in a blue uniform like a bellhop.  He guarded the Gasworks.  There was actually no gas in the Gasworks.  It was just an old traditional name that went back to the time when Snuj was called something else.  Carmody unlocked a metal door and led me down a long gangway to a basement that was poorly-lit and smelled like oil.  There was a lot of low, throbbing machine noise that came from these chambers behind the walls, but you couldn’t actually see the machines. 

    Royster was in charge down there.  I think he lived there because I never actually saw him come to work or leave.  He was supposedly a mechanic, and he was dressed like one.  But rumor had it that he was the one who actually controlled Snuj.  He was said to have the entire 800-page Code Book memorized.

    Carmody said to Royster, “He’s all yours, Sir.”

    “Yes.  Fine,” said Royster.  Carmody went back up the gangway.  Royster said to me, “Come this way, please,” and he led me through a maze of passages.  “Watch your head.  Low ceiling,” he warned me.  We reached an area referred to humorously as the Un-Stable, which smelled like animals.  There was a row of stalls screened individually by canvasses, which were rigged like shower curtains.  He led me to the one at the end.  “This is it.  Congratulations,” he said, shaking hands with me.  Then he left.

    I took a deep breath.  Was this for real, or was it just a dream?  Would this be the happiest moment of my life, or would I be cruelly disappointed?  I pulled the canvas aside, and there it was…Cow Five….It was tied to the wall with a rope and was chewing contentedly on something.  There was a decal on its side like that of a racehorse — a white 5 on a background of green and gold.  I almost couldn’t believe it.

    “Four years of college just so I could stand here now,” I said out loud.  “But it was worth it.”

    “Moooo…” said the cow.

    Copyright@ 2008, by Crad Kilodney, Toronto, Canada.  E-mail: crad166@yahoo.com