Invasion of Medicine Hat
"So what's it like?"
"It's like one really big airport. We'll be in
"I don't understand why you're taking two days off from school, especially with exams coming up, just to visit the Medicine Hat Progressive Conservative Constituency Association, when you're not even a Tory."
"Call it intuition. Call it a crazy dare. You just have to go on these wild flings for you to really live."
"Uh, Lucian, I'd like to ask you a question. I'm trying to write a story at the moment, but I'm stuck. What would you do if you were faced with an impenetrable grove of thorns?"
"Simple. I'd drop an H-bomb on it. Bye."
Lucian rejoined the others as Giles reappeared. "Our contact will be here in a couple of minutes. He's just buying a paper." The ball bounced over to Giles, and started to go up and down very excitedly.
"What's with this ball?"
"You smell nice." said the ball, and started to sing from South Pacific. Just then the contact appeared; a forty year old notary and city councilor with disrespectfully graying hair and immense sexual vigor. He stopped short and stared at the singing ball. "What is that thing?"
"It's a blue bouncing sentient ball." replied Lucian. "What the hell do you think it is?"
"What's it doing here?"
"The second verse of Some an Enchanted Evening. Haven't you ever seen South Pacific?"
notary drove up to one of
Adrian and Lucian were roaming the halls; the two of them passed a busy office where they saw a very strange sight. In the office was a young man with pale blonde hair down to his waist, wearing a leather vest and extremely tight black pants. He was carrying a large heavy guitar, linked up in an extremely complicated way to a generator, and was prancing about, singing very loudly and frantically thrusting his pelvis forwards. "Who is that guy, and what he's doing there?" the two of them asked passerbys.
"Oh him? He does insurance."
Adrian and Lucian briefly pondered that strange comment, but they soon turned their attention to other things.
"So this is a Christian bookstore?"
"Oh yes si-si-Madam, it certainly is." answered the clerk.
"With all the best Christian books in it?"
"We certainly pride ourselves on that."
"Good. I want a copy of Paradise Lost."
"You know, by
"I'm sorry, we wouldn't happen to have a copy."
"Nothing at all?"
"Well do we have a book called The Futile Search for
"Is The Futile Search for
"Uh, no, it isn't."
"And does it have the passage where Adam eats the apple because he would rather die than see Eve condemned to death alone?"
"I don't believe so."
"Then it's not really the book I'm looking for, is it?"
"But it does tell you all sorts of things about all these New Age cults and how they are doing the work of the Devil."
"That will be wonderful. When I go take my English exam and they
ask me about the rhythmic structures of
"I think some of our books are very critical of Harold Bloom."
"Oooh, that does sound tempting. Never mind, I'll ask for something else. Do you have The Brothers Karamazov?"
"Why would that be here, sir?"
"It is the foremost Christian novel of the nineteenth century. I thought it would be here in a Christian bookstore."
"Really? Perhaps you could check the bookstore near
"I don't really have that much time. Would you have anything by François Mauriac?"
"I've never heard of her."
"She's a him, but never mind. Do you have A Handful of Dust, or Scoop or Brideshead Revisited or any of the other works by Evelyn Waugh?"
"I've never heard of her, either, sir."
"She's a him as well. I particularly wondered if you had any of the toys. I'm very keen about the big fat bouncing Evelyn Waugh doll, and I particularly like the Anthony Blanche doll where you pull the string and he says `I'd like to stick you full of p-p-pins like a p-p-pin cushion.'"
"I'm afraid we don't sell toys here."
"Perfectly understandable. Do you have Graham Greene?"
"I think I've heard of him."
"So do you have anything by him?"
"Not a single book, sir."
"Alright, and you don't have anything by Henry Green?"
"I can't remember if we do."
"Well don't take too much trouble. Perhaps you have some poetry. Do you have anything by Czeslaw Milosz?"
"How do you spell that?"
"No, we haven't anything by her."
"She's a him."
"Sorry, I thought that one of them might be a woman."
"Never mind. Do you have any of the short stories of Flannery O'Connor?"
"No, we have nothing by him."
"Miss O'Connor was a her. How about something by Morley Callaghan?"
"And who would he be, sir?"
"Callaghan is the greatest Catholic novelist this country has ever produced."
"Ah, that might explain the problem. We don't have those sort of books here; this isn't a Catholic bookstore."
"I know, it's only a Christian one. So you have no Pascal?"
"No Frenchmen whatsoever."
"Do you have books with Michelangelo's paintings in them?"
"Art isn't our strong point."
"No Cardinal Newman?"
"I don't think so, sir."
"What about G.K. Chesterton?"
"You mean the author of the Father Brown series?"
"Yes, I do."
"The writer of The Man Who was Thursday?"
"One of the greatest Christian apologists of this century, and a bold and scintillating critic?"
"Yes, that's the one. Do you have anything by him?"
"Not as such."
"Well, you must have some books by the greatest Christian poet of this century, T.S. Eliot, author of The Waste Land, Murder in the Cathedral, Notes on the Definition of Culture, and The Idea of a Christian Society?"
"Aren't they out of print?"
"What, The Idea of a Christian Society?"
"No, I meant everything he wrote. We don't have anything by him. I'm very sorry."
"What poetry do you have?"
"Poetry isn't really one of our strong points."
"Do you have any novels?"
"Why, yes we do sir." and the clerk got up and got a novel called Truth and Passion, about a young woman who in
the last century emigrated from a
"Terrific. Just what I always needed. Pulp Romance fiction with all the sex scenes left out."
"Oh, but there are some very interesting euphemisms on page 351, which I'm sure you'll enjoy."
"I think not. What other novels do you have? Do you have science fiction books?"
The clerk retrieved a book called The Millennium. It was a sequel to another book that had been all sold out. It took place just after the final defeat of the anti-christ and when Lucian opened it the world was being divided into the damned and the saved. Lucian saw an illustration of a saved Jewess trying to save her damned husband by bribing an angel with all her money.
"I think not." said Lucian, putting the book away.
"May I suggest our advice books?"
"How to use the power of Christ to beat your drug addiction."
"I'm not addicted to drugs."
"Well, perhaps you could give a book to your girlfriend on how to be a real feminine and Christian women."
"I'm single, actually."
"Perhaps you could try one of our books on the joys of Christian love." The clerk leaned over and retrieved it from a nearby shelf, then gave it to Lucian.
"This is a sex manual, isn't it?"
"Well, that's the bluntest way of putting it. Actually it's very controversial in our community."
"And why that would be?"
"Because it allows oral sex."
"Ooo-that must be shocking."
"Well, you could look at our biblical commentaries."
"They don't really say me, somehow."
"Perhaps you could read all our books on apologetics."
"I don't really think so."
"Perhaps you're more of a musical person. Could I suggest some of our Christian tapes."
"That might be a good idea. Do you have Handel's Messiah?"
"No. I was actually thinking more of the music we've been listening to for the past few minutes."
"That's supposed to be music? I thought that was just the air conditioner."
"Well do we have some good gospel tapes." but before Lucian could
make another smug comment
"Does anybody in the party own that bookstore?" Lucian asked the notary's colleague.
"No, I don't think so."
"So no-one would be terribly annoyed if I snuck back here in the middle of the night and spray-painted over the doors ONLY COMPLETE PRATS COME HERE?"
"Well, actually, I think..." but just then the notary came out and told the trio to wait just another five
Lucian walked up to the woman, smiled sweetly and for the first time since she had lit her cigarette Lucian
breathed deeply and exhaled into the prostitute's
face. She then returned to
As they crossed the street and entered the second set of offices, Giles and the others could not help noticing that in the offices of "Creighton Insurance" there was a young studious bespectacled men, very conservatively dressed, who was banging on one of the largest drum sets Giles had ever seen, right in the middle of the office. The notary ushered the group into the waiting room of a chiropractor who was normally closed Tuesday afternoons anyway.
This was where the meeting was supposed to take place in a couple of hours, when all the members could finish work,
but in the meantime the three of them
were supposed to convince the skeptical chiropractor of the need to have faith in the policies of the Federal
party. This was going to be tricky,
and Giles wanted to take a few minutes to explain to Lucian and his cousin about the situation and try to find
some way to bluff a response. This
task however, was made much more difficult by a number of fatal distractions. First off, even though
neither he nor any of his immediate ancestors
had ever been south of the southern border of
it was the third distraction that was to prove the most fateful. Giles had finally agree to present a position
that would attempt to overcome all of
the objections, but when it
"Sorry?" asked the now extremely nervous notary.
"Insurance. I need to take out some insurance. For my life,
my possessions, my car, if I had a car,
know, other things. Do you know where
I can find an insurance agent in
The chiropractor broke in. "We don't take too kindly to having insurance agents doing ahwr insurance in this town, mister."
"Then who does your insurance?"
"Decadent rock stars who smoke mayor-ri-wanna and come from deep southern states where they talk with these funny southern axe-scents that some of us keep picking up."
Giles, Adrian and Lucian all stared at each other. Then Lucian asked the obvious question. "All right. Why do you have bad rock musicians doing your insurance, instead of real insurance agents?"
chiropractor spoke in the lowest, most sinister voice his
Lucian was momentarily puzzled. "Oh. Do you mean Wallace Stevens?"
At these words the three members of the Medicine Hat Progressive Conservative Constituency Association turned totally white. Suddenly a dwarf who had spent the previous five hours handing out Jehovah Witness's tracts appeared in the door and asked "Did someone mention Wallace Stevens?"
The notary jumped up in evident panic. "No! No! No! No, no-one said it all. You didn't hear anything of the kind."
"I thought what I heard was very clear and distinctive."
"No. What this young man"--he was referring to Lucian-- "said what that he wanted to eat a walrus slowly."
"What?!" asked Giles, incredulous.
"Yes. As soon as this meeting is over we'll take you to a special restaurant that serves nothing but walruses. They're quite delicious actually, they've got loads of rich juicy fat all over them, though it hard to swallow them because they keep moving around off the table."
"You mean you don't kill them before you eat them?" asked
"But that would be cruel. No, we'll take you to a really neat restaurant, and after you've eaten a couple of pounds of fine fresh walrus they'll let you swim with them in their nice big pool. So you see, all he said was that he wanted to eat a walrus slowly, and nothing about Wallace Stevens. Oh shit!"
"No," said the chiropractor, "he didn't say what you think he said. He said, he really said," and the chiropractor dashed out into the hall and shouted at the top of voice "Hey Jack Preston, the notary, said that he wants to sexually abuse all the little boys he can get his hands on."
There was a moment of awkward silence, then reassuring shouts from down the hall: "All right," "OK" "Tell Jack he can come over tonight." "So," said the chiropractor, "there's nothing to be excited about. And no-one ever mentioned what we are not supposed to mention."
"But didn't the notary just mention Wallace Stevens?" asked the bouncing blue ball innocently.
"So what's this about Wallace Stevens?" asked the dwarf.
"Yes. We've been hearing all sorts of rumors." added the prostitute, who just stepped into the office.
"Most distressing rumors about you mentioning Wallace Stevens," said a forty year old female florist who was covered in plastic roses and ugly linoleum wrap.
"Who's this Wallace Stevens that everyone's so wrapped up about?" asked
"He's a major American poet, 1879-1955, and also a life-long insurance agent. He writes poetry with complex imagery and strange rhythms that shouldn't be read by decent folk."
Suddenly the dwarf ripped off the ugly jacket that he had been wearing, cast the Jehovah witness's pamphlets to the ground, and removed his ugly pants to reveal--a six foot tall insurance agent wearing a double breasted suit. With cold practical movements the florist dashed aside her plastic roses and ugly linoleum wrap to reveal--another six foot tall insurance agent wearing a double breasted suit. The prostitute seductively slipped off her green skirt, and removed her yellow wrap and revealed herself to be completely naked--except for the double- breasted suit she wore as a member of the insurance profession. Ominously, threatening, the three moved closer to the seven people trapped in the chiropractor's office.
The insurance agents gave a short patented sinister laugh and carefully opened their guitar cases. "All right men," their leader said: "on the count of three! Three! Two! One! Altogether! Owl Clover!"
"Come on! We've got to warn the rest of the town!"
But the infiltration that Lucian Rudman had accidentally summoned was now a full fledged invasion. The would-be conquerors had already destroyed the telephone lines, jammed the television systems and had taken over the radio station in a lightning-like blitz. Soon phalanxes of insurance agents were running rampant all over the city, shouting out "The Emperor of Ice Cream," "The Monocle of Mon Oncle," and "The Worms at Heaven's Gate." They crashed into the newspaper offices and forced it to mass produce one hundred thousand copies of their manifesto as well as "The Man with the Blue Guitar." They crashed over the streets, forcing decent prostitutes and drug-dealers into hiding, and stormed the police station. With their bullet-proof suits and their ungodly poems they soon vanquished the helpless men. The phalanxes soon burst into the schools, which were near closing time, anyway, but still, and they crashed into choir practices, started knocking down hockey teams at the local skating rinks, burst out of vases at tea parties, and started subverting hot tubs. They smashed their way into the local libraries, and held the staff hostage as they wantonly destroyed all the Sidney Sheldon and Stephen King novels they could get their hands on. They looted television and radio shops, and soon radios were found all over the city blaring out "Sunday Morning" as loud as possible. They ransacked drug stores, ate their paperbacks and bound and gagged the staff of the Christian bookstore. A special revenge was visited on the rock stars who had taken over the insurance business. To the blond rock star playing the guitar seven insurance agents burst into the office and mercilessly read "A High-Toned Old Christian Woman" twenty-three times before he died from internal bleeding. To the fool who was playing the drums they covered him in tar, then put him on trial for not knowing basic points of Symbolist poetry. His final fate was too gruesome to record, but we'll mention it anyway: his body was found near the city limits, with an enormous smile on his face, his stomach stuffed with peacock's feathers and a confession of total musical incompetence tied to his ankles. The phalanxes systematically and sadistically hunted down the roadies and all the "horizontal collaborators" of the ersatz insurance men; the lucky ones were stripped naked, had their hair shaved off and were forced to listen to hours of Wallace Stevens symposiums that had been formed on an impromptu basis at the local college. The unlucky ones were varnished and used as weather-vanes. The invaders were merciless; they read poetry to attractive widows in their bathtubs, and the widows drowned themselves to escape this horrible torture. They spent the previous three days constructing a skylight over the chambers of the city council, so that they could crash through it at just the right moment. They burst out of elevators, out of pizza boxes, out of mailboxes and sofa cushions, out of air conditioning ducts, manholes, ventilation systems, furnaces, and drainage systems. They were everywhere, and they were invincible.
Resistance was useless, though that did not stop the city folk from trying to stop them. After Giles,
at around eleven that evening, the mayor of
"I am here," said the mayor, "to begin negotiations for our surrender."
"That is a wise decision," remarked the leader. "You have few resources left to you, and we do not take a lenient view of those who obstruct our plans. Our demands are very simple: all power will be seceded to us and the executive which we have formed to govern the city. That executive shall not include myself, for I will soon be far away continuing our conquests. However, in order to mollify local traditions, you shall be appointed the representative of the community's concerns and communicate to them our desires."
"And what are your desires?"
"We have decided that
"Twenty-four hours a day? Can't we compromise?"
"What sort of compromise are you asking for?"
"Well, couldn't we start with something simpler. Like Longfellow and the Song of Hiawatha?"
The leader roared his head back and laughed a moderately sadistic and triumphant laugh. "No. You've got to be kidding."
"But there must be some Canadian content. Couldn't we have something by W.O. Mitchell?"
"You should be grateful that we are allowing you to wrap fish in W.O. Mitchell. No, there shall be no compromise."
"But our people couldn't take Wallace Stevens twenty-four hours a day. Please, have mercy!"
"Be silent! And tell the soldiers who are fighting foolishly on your behalf that if all resistance is not stopped by next morning, we will resort to drastic measures."
"No, you can't, please give us some more time."
"Silence wretch! Either everyone surrenders or we start reading Faulkner out loud."
"No, for heaven's sake, please, no Faulkner. We can't have our children exposed to that."
"It must be done. We are working on a very tight schedule.
we are supposed to have
"What next assault?" asked Lucian.
"Why, our assault on the rest of the province, of course. We are working on a very tight timetable:
"How can you do a version of Moby Dick, when we're several hundred miles from the ocean?"
"We'll improvise. But you should be grateful, soon to be ex-mayor. After all, at least we're American."
mayor was defiant. "The
"Quiet. Even though we've ransacked your city, caused countless pain and suffering, and are about to destroy all your NHL videos, we are the hardly the worst we could happen to you. Imagine what would have happened if this woman here had mentioned the other great creative artist who worked as an insurance agent. The consequences would have been so devastating, even I would have been shocked. But if we are thwarted in any way I shall not hesitate to summon his name. Do you understand?"
This threat broke down the mayor's resistance very quickly. "Of course, sir, you're quite right sir, I shall leave here at once and try to convince my men to surrender as quickly as possible." The guards sent the two of them outside of the tower and they raced back to where the resistance was located. As they were going there, Lucian asked "Who's this second name everybody is so worried about?"
"His name cannot be mentioned under any circumstances. Let it merely be said that his initials are the first and last letters of a very common expletive, and let it also be said that singing mice, people who starve who themselves to death for money, and insurance agents who wake up and find themselves turned into centipedes are not welcome in the city limits." And the mayor rushed on without saying another word.
Back at the base Giles was trying to shoo the extremely affectionate blue bouncing ball away from him. He
would have found this extremely easier if
"We have less than two hours before those fiends attack the rest of the province. If there was only some way we could warn them. Does anybody here have some ideas?"
voice spoke up. "If we set the city on fire, all the surrounding villages would notice and they would notify
"That wouldn't work!" said another voice. "All the people in the villages are tucked away in their nice little beds, and they wouldn't notice anything until the morning, and by then it would be too late."
"If only we could launch a satellite."
"Why? Do we have one?"
"No, we don't. That's why I wished we had one."
"How about an airplane?"
"We're too far away from the airfields. Why don't we make up a hot air balloon?"
"How long would it take to make one?"
"Let's see. We'd secretly have to find canvas for the sack, and we'd have to find someone who could weave a gondola, and of course, we'd have to get a lot of fuel secretly. I think we can have one in the air in about a week's time."
"But we don't have a week! I've got an idea. We'll put arsenic in all the city's drinking water, and we'll poison the invaders before they leave."
"We'll also end up poisoning ourselves."
"Well it doesn't really matter, since we don't have any arsenic either. Perhaps we could use mass hallucinogens to confuse the invaders."
"Oh! Do you know where we could get some?"
"I haven't the slightest idea. But perhaps we all pretended we were suffering from hallucinations..."
"Perhaps I could recommend something." interrupted Lucian.
"What can a boy with a high-pitched voice give us?" asked the person who had suggested burning the town down.
"Could I have some charcoal and milk of magnesia?" requested Lucian. Fortunately the resisters had just been holding a cocktail party a few minutes before Lucian and the mayor had returned, so there was a lot of it about. Lucian formed a large mixture and drank it to the last drop.
"Perhaps I could recommend something." she tried again.
"Oh, yes, that's much more encouraging."
"Perhaps I could recommend something. The crucial factor in the victory of the invaders has been their indomitable sense of unity. To be more precise, their rhythm. I thought that if we could create some counter-rhythm we could unsettle them enough to defeat them. If the mayor had some of the larger groups surrender, enough attackers would move away from the citadel and surrounding areas, so that a small commando group could take over the radio station and a somewhat larger group could smuggle itself into their headquarters. The element of surprise will be enough to overcome them, while the radio station could warn surrounding towns and play the special counter-rhythm."
"Why, that's brilliant!" said the notary.
"I know. Now all we need to do is get a special counter-rhythm and have everyone be ready to play it at the right time. For this purpose I suggest we get some jazz."
"Jazz?" asked one resister.
"You know, it's that black music where the musicians don't do any talking. Surely you've heard of it."
"Oh we've heard of it. We've really heard of it, we've certainly heard of it, uh-uh we've definitely heard of it."
"So why don't we round up some jazz records and get a move on? We've got less than two hours you know."
"Uh, well, there's a slight problem with that."
"You see, when we got the rock and roll musicians to do our insurance for us, they requested that we hand in all our jazz records to them and that no jazz be played within the city limits, ever. Since none of us particularly cared for jazz, we didn't have any problem with that."
"Fine. We can't use classical music, because that's the
background music they use to read the
poems on the radio
station. We can't use gospel music
because they also use it is as the background music for the
poems. We can't use country music
because first of
all, I hate it, and secondly, it's not
very reliable in hand to hand combat. Perhaps we could think up a
mantra or something. I've got
something: Wallace Stevens was disingenuous in
supporting Mussolini's invasion of
"It doesn't have much of a beat." said the notary.
"It doesn't have any beat." said Giles.
"Back in the thirties, the predecessors to the NDP were rather slippery themselves on whether we should confront Mussolini." commented yet another one.
"O.K, we'll skip the bloody mantra. But we've got to think of something up extraordinarily quickly. Anybody got any ideas?"
"Yes," asked the resister who had recommended arson as the solution to invasion, as well as the solution to women in the workplace, fluoridation, congested traffic and the greenhouse effect. "How are we going to prevent the leader from uttering the name of the other insurance agent who we must under no circumstances ever mention on pain of death and literacy?"
"Oh, do you mean..." asked a just revived
"We will have to make sure we gag him quickly once we enter the citadel. But the key thing we must do is to prevent the invasion of the rest of the province. In order to stop us from thwarting him, the leader will order Faulkner to be read to us. When that happens, I want you not to panic but to think to yourselves If Faulkner were a Canadian he would probably vote for the Progressive Conservative Party."
"If Faulkner were a Canadian he would probably vote for the Progressive Conservative Party.' chanted the resisters in unison.
Thirty-five minutes later the mayor returned to the invader's headquarters, announcing that the largest contingent of resisters, who had barricaded themselves in a high school auditorium, were ready to give up their weapons and end resistance on promises of safe conduct back to their homes. The leader sent a special squad of his best men to march over there and receive the surrender. Five minutes later, a lady with large amounts of facial hair and a rather low voice came up to the tower, and announced herself.
was admitted and in the next forty minutes twenty-six other
"Nonsense," said the leader. "Everyone knows that these people are harmless. Why the only way they could be dangerous was if the resistance cunningly sneaked into a 24-hour laundry and stole twenty-seven uniforms. And everybody knows that's ridiculous; after all, all night long, only seven 24-hour laundries have been attacked."
Meanwhile at the radio station, there was only a skeleton crew, constantly rereading "Sketch of the
Ultimate Politician," while scantily clad
harem girls swept the floor, wiped the
windows, and served them coffee (very
black, with little milk or cream, and absolutely no sugar). So
they did not notice Lucian, Giles,
"Who are you?" asked one of the broadcasters.
"We're the new cleaning ladies." said Lucian.
"But you're not wearing the special uniform of transparent cloth. And come to think of it, aren't you all men?"
"I'm not." said the blue bouncing ball, who bounced over to the broadcaster. "I would like to know how I can learn more about Wallace Stevens and listen to more of his great poetry."
"Oh, well, you see..." and the broadcaster started talking about the poet's childhood, his education, his sexual
proclivities, life in the great big
insurance companies of the world, how he started to write poetry, and his political opinions, before
"I was finding that very interesting." complained the ball, but the others had already burst into the station and
knocked out the broadcasters. They
artfully covered up the change of power by running on the radio a five minute commercial on the utility of tune-ups,
and then they had to confront the harem
girls who preferred the increased wage rates and the lack of sexual harassment. But then Lucian
started giving out orders. "Ball, I want
you to bounce around and not get in
anybody's way. Giles, I want you to
radio the surrounding cities and tell them to get prepared. I
will help tie up the broadcasters as
"Because it's a very good poem, and I like it very much." And
the four started working, with the ball
singing the prisoners into a very deep sleep,
and Lucian securing them with the hardest bonds and the largest gags she could get. Giles, however, was
having considerable trouble trying to convince
any of the other towns that
"The Secret Code?" asked
"Not for the past three hours. Why do you ask such an odd question? There is no reason not for you to know it."
"Well, I'm just a little new here."
"What do you mean you're new? The skeleton crew was picked out hours ago on grounds of endurance and intelligence. Why would there be any replacement?"
"One of the broadcasters just came down with cancer."
"Cancer? Did I say cancer? I really meant AIDS."
"Try appendicitis, you moron." shouted Lucian from across the room.
"Sorry, I really meant appendicitis. It was very sudden and I was called to replace him."
"Why wasn't I informed of this immediately?"
"Because...because...because it only started five minutes ago, and I just got here, and I was just about to call you with the news when you interrupted, so you there was no time at all for me to telephone you, and it's not because resisters came into the building and knocked out all the broadcasters."
"Ah. Can I speak to one of your superiors?"
"Umm, none of them are here at the moment. Uh, they're all in the bathroom, helping the broadcaster who had appendicitis. And they are also suffering from acute constipation."
"Pardon me, but I desperately need the proper code."
Only then did the singing blue ball hear this. "Oh the code? TSESU-36. Sorry about all that."
"No problem at all," said the messenger in tones that suggested he considered it a very serious problem indeed. "You will know that we are changing codes half an hour from now. Of course that will be in your special radio booklet."
"And where that would be?" asked
"In the special secret hiding place of course. Everybody knows that." and the messenger signed off.
three humans and one bouncing ball looked at each other. "Did you
think we fooled them?" asked
"Not bloody likely," said Lucian, "but they're too busy to send a squad over here and figure out what's going on. Still the faster we warn the outside world of the imminent invasion and race the hell out of this building, the better. How's it coming along Giles? Making any progress?"
"None whatsoever. Nobody believes a word I'm saying, and some of them say that if I keep calling they're going to get the police. What's even worse is that they don't really mean it."
"All right then. We'll have to try Plan B. I didn't want to
go through with this, but we have no
"Less than fifteen minutes."
Lucian used her walkie-talkie to contact the mayor. "We've got the radio station, but we can't reach the outside world. Plan B is in effect. How may men do we have in the tower?"
"O.K. Tell them to put Plan B in effect in forty-seven seconds." Lucian clicked the radio off, then turned to the bouncing ball, as she extracted a tape from her breast pocket. "Ball, can you teleport both of us into the tower?"
They did, and Adrian put the tape in, started it, and fled with Giles from the radio station building with ten seconds to spare. Lucian made a final countdown: ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one...
"OK, Ball, beep us into the tower!"
And so the blue bouncing ball did and Lucian arrived just in time to see twenty-seven rugged men kick up their high heels and lift up their Avon skirts and burst into a rousing chorus of "You Light up My Life." The shock was devastating; stern, hardened insurance agents broke into mindless panic, as papers scattered all over the room and plans came to a screeching pause. A reserve group of shock troops was called in, but before they could sweep aside the chorus line with a firm rendition of "Sunday Morning," they were scattered by the full thrust of "You Light Up My Life" on the city's radio stations. With radios all over the city blaring out the deadly music, local squads and patrols were dazed and confused. The leader quickly regained his sense of proportion and ordered the committee for Medicine Hat to break out the Faulkner, but a special set of seven Avon agents repulsed them with Lucian's mantra. The sound of machine gun fire filled the air, although none were allowed within city limits. The invaders tried to conserve enough energy to get ready for the transports that would take them to the rest of Alberta, but the blue bouncing ball caused too much chaos by scattering papers, upsetting inkwells and ruining files with its bouncing. Those who were not stunned by the chorus line, or confused by the bouncing ball, were dispersed by Lucian who used a very convenient hose to spray them with coffee with sugar. Just in time, Adrian and Giles appeared, and helped to mop things up, as the former city council chambers started to burst into flame for no good reason
"Well everything seems to be going well." said Giles. "Particularly those men in those Avon Lady suits."
"Yes," agreed Adrian. "I wonder what you would look like in one of those, Lucian."
"Don't be silly Adrian, I wouldn't be caught dead in one of those." Then everybody realized something vitally important. "Where's the leader? He's by far the most dangerous of them all!" And then Lucian vaguely remembered the leader racing up around a spiral staircase that had been built especially for him to race up around in situations like this. "He's that way!" she shouted and dashed off in pursuit.
The leader and a quartet of acolytes were on the top floor of the tower, desperately gathering up crucial documents in the hope that they could escape and plot their evil in some other Alberta town. Lucian easily dispersed the acolytes by turning up a radio at high volume and throwing it at them, but the leader was made of sterner stuff. He smashed it with one blow of The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens. He then moved to a strange device; it was a gigantic mechanical spring that was supposed to have shot off seven agents at a time right into the open cockpit of the planes flying overhead. The leader no longer had the men who would be there to operate the device, but everything had been carefully synchronized so that the spring would eject at least once automatically. He was now standing on the spring.
"You have done very well. I must honestly say that I could not have expected this. But all you have done is to delay our final push for an hour or so. For above in the planes overhead is a crucial hallucinogenic gas, which when dropped on Medicine Hat will fill its denizens with all the imagery of The Great Man's poetry. My men will be unaffected, while a precious few will be so amazed by it, they will become our willing agents and join us in our crusade. But the vast majority of they city will be destroyed; Medicine Hat will be devastated, but we shall rule to conquer. All I have to do is give the order to drop. So, so long, hasta la auf weidernshen baby!"
But before the spring could go off Lucian rushed over to the leader and attempted to pull him off. As the seconds counted down before the spring sprung into action the two wrestled, struggled, and fought over Utilitarian ethics to the death. Lucian had no success in getting the leader off the spring, but fortunately it didn't matter, as for some reason that was never adequately explained, there were a large number of cable and wires and ropes hanging over the launch site. So when the spring did go off, instead of the two landing in the nice warm cockpit of a fighter plane, the cables dragged them down to the top of the tower. The two disentangled themselves from the wires and themselves and saw the planes overhead suddenly explode (which conveniently and completely destroyed the hallucinogenic gas). They were being devoured by the flames, then quietly chewed by the flames, then politely had their faces wiped with a good napkin by the flames, and then pleasantly digested by the flames. The fighter pilots all parachuted out in multi-coloured rainbow parachutes while above them fireworks started exploding and the eternal notes of "You Light up My Life" could be heard all over Medicine Hat. The invasion had been defeated!
"No! I refuse to believe I've been defeated!" As the flames flickered around the top of the tower, as hordes of angry Medicine Hattians climbed up to reach him, there was a desperate gleam in his eyes and a mild-mannered one in his ears. "You realize this is your last chance to surrender." he said.
"And what if we don't?" responded Lucian with cheap defiance. "What else can you do?"
"Do you know what would happen if I jumped from the top of this tower?"
Lucian pondered the problem for a minute. "You would probably crash through the glass windows of the municipal recreation centre and land safely in the swimming pool below, which is available all year around for the citizens of Medicine Hat. From there you could make your escape for a few minutes until we caught you trying to get through the locked doors."
"A few seconds are all I need! I warned you that we Americans were a lesser evil. You would have preferred our rule to the name of the other. All I need are the few seconds to name that name that cannot be said. Against his power, there is no escape, no evasion, no defense. You could have been ruled for eternity by a decent conservative American Protestant, whose only problem is a willful ignorance of Europe, but who wasn't megalomaniacal at all. But now you will see the darker dreams that Europe can produce." The leader leaped off the tower. "Sooo Loooong Suuucker!" and crashed through the windows of the Medicine Hat Municipal Recreation Centre.
"Nooo Youuuu Doooon't." yelled Lucian leaping right after him. They crashed into the shallow end of the pool and wrestled for a few frantic seconds. But the leader soon managed to escape from Lucian's arms and got out of the pool. He dashed around the edge, when he heard people coming into the building. Desperate for a few more seconds, he raced to the ladder over the deep end, followed right behind by Lucian. The two struggled near the top of the ladder before the leader pushed her right off. Fortunately, Adrian was right under her, so she wasn't hurt. But now the leader was at the ladder's summit and raced to the end of the diving board. As the room filled with people he sneered at them in triumph. "You poor fools! Now there is nothing you can do to stop me from saying the name of Fr..."
"Hi there!" said the blue bouncing ball that had just materialized right there on the diving board beside him. The leader was so utterly surprised that he lost his balance, and fell right into the water. Since he didn't know how to swim, he almost drowned before the townspeople pulled him out, gagged him, and mailed him parcel post back to Indiana.
There were some brief moments of euphoria and for their work in saving the town, Giles, Adrian and Lucian were
briefly noticed while the key of the city
was given to the mayor's brother in- law. Shops opened for a
three o'clock in the morning madness sale,
enormous profits. Restaurants offered
"all you can eat sauerkraut" specials, while the Christian bookstore offered all the C.S. Lewis you can bear
specials as well. But there was a considerable
clean-up problem to take care of, not the least of which were the twenty-seven dancing Avon ladies who
couldn't be stopped from singing "You
Light up My Life." (It was so bad that Giles had to release some
of the Wallace Stevenites to shut them
There was also, of course, the problem
of trying to find rock and roll musicians as talentless and irresponsible as the ones that had just been
murdered. Giles suggested that they
get some jazz musicians, but the city council feared that if they used them everybody might get a good sense of
rhythm, with devastating social consequences
to follow. There were of course bodies to be buried, fires to be put out, extremely expensive advanced
fighter-planes to be picked up, billboards
to be removed from around the city council chambers, and scantily clad harem girls who wanted their wages
renegotiated or they wouldn't serve any
sort of coffee (or even tea) whatsoever. But the most important
problem of all for Giles and the others
several members of the Medicine Hat Progressive
Conservative Constituency Association were either dead or severely injured. This meant that there
could hardly be a meeting for Giles and
the others to address, so he and the other three returned to Calgary
the first thing next morning, and were
Ottawa by early evening.
Conspiracy and Matrimony
The Parliament of Gryphons