Chapter Forty-two

   "Bop City is what they called it, Bop City is what they named it, Bop City is where it was, when it was, the place." -- Anonymous

   That bit of folk haiku scrawled above the urinal in Bop City, a seedy jazz club on the city's south side, was all that remained of "the place" which -- from 1948 until its demise by a wrecker's ball in 1964 -- stood as one of the finest jazz clubs in town. But this isn't about an old jazz club, this is fiction, and you can continue, or skip ahead to Chapter Fifty-seven if you want, but that would be kind of uncool.
   For those not skipping ahead, let's return to Bop City, on a particular night back in the late forties, or early fifties, or late fifties, or early sixties. I walked into "the place" alone that night, just to relax, and have a drink, and witness another one of those titanic bebop battles between the giants of the tenor sax, giants like "Big" Ben Farley, or "Big" Sonny Greg, battles that took on the atmosphere of a heavyweight championship fight.
   I sat down in front, near the drums. I always liked being as close to the drums as possible. Sitting across from me was this very attractive, very familiar-looking woman, who was also alone. I don't know why, but I couldn't bring myself to look at her.
   Anyway, this night was special. Not only was the legendary tenorman "Big" Ben Farley in the house, but "Big" Sonny Greg was there too, so sparks were sure to fly. The sparks were already flying between me and this sexy siren, I hoped.
   After what seemed like an eternity I finally got the waiter's attention -- it was Frenchy from Chapter Thirty-one, but this time without the accent. I ordered a drink and asked him to deliver a hi-ball to the captivating lady I was afraid to look at. He laughed and told me she'd left ten minutes earlier.
   Meanwhile, "Big" Ben Farley had taken the stage. What a presence! He began with a medley of his hits -- don't ask me to name them -- but my mind was wandering, I was thinking about the girl who just left, and how she resembled this girl I know who's moonlighting in someone else's novel.
   Anyway, once again, I was getting a headache, and had to leave. Maybe the drummer was a tad too loud.
   Outside the club, which now lay in ruins, I was approached by a beggar, although he certainly wasn't dressed like one. And he seemed to have a chip on his shoulder, too, like he wasn't really a beggar at all, but a very successful, very wealthy businessman, a businessman who owned real estate, quite a bit of it, in fact, including, according to him, the ground I was standing on, and if I didn't move -- and immediately -- I'd be arrested for trespassing.
   Well, I wasn't about to believe that one. I asked him if he would be willing to talk to me, on the record, in the novel. He said sure.
   "Sure," he said, speaking for himself. "I can speak for myself," he reiterated.
   Where's the deed to this property? I asked him.
   "Deed? Deed? I don't need no stinkin' deed! This land has been in my family's name for generations!"
   What's your family name?
   What? No, seriously.
   "That's my name. Qdxmnkcr."
   But that was my stupid joke a couple of chapters ago. There is no one with that name.
   "There is now. You created Izldr L. Qdxmnkcr and, ever since, there's been a Izldr L. Qdxmnkcr, and I'm him. Not that I've done much -- except hang around, and wait."
   I could easily go back and delete that passage -- that whole section about you -- and you would cease to exist.
   "I would advise against it."
   "Well, I had some experience years ago in the movie business, and I learned that, if you change one thing, other things have to be changed and before you know it, everything's a mess."
   Apparently you've never gotten your head stuck in a Xerox machine.
   "I heard about that. How are you feeling?"
   You heard about it?
   "Word travels fast backstage, or out in back, or whatever you call it in a novel. You know, that area where all of the bit players and marginal characters hang out."
   I've never been back there, but I've heard about it.
   "They said you took a real good hit, that you can't even tie your own shoelaces now. One guy who was in the crowd scene in front of the bank (See Chapter One -- Ed.) told me you were so confused you became a character in your own novel, or something like that."
   People will talk. Say, speaking of which, what's the buzz back there about, oh, You Know Who?
   Yeah, Maureen. Seen her?
   "Naw. She upped and went and got a job with -- oops! -- I'm saying too much, aren't I?"
   I know the whole story. But she'll be back. She promised she'd be back by Chapter Forty-three.
   "That's the next chapter. What are you waiting for?"
   You mean, end this chapter now?
   "Why not?"
   Too soon. Besides, it's time for another Dancing Cloud adventure. Ready, kids?
   The trip back from the future, for anyone who hasn't been there (including my new friend Mr. Qdxmnkcr), can be fraught with trauma. And for Dancing Cloud, who had just swallowed dozens of peyote buttons and topped it off with a large stack of pecan pancakes, it was most uncomfortable. He stepped off the 1998-1000 A.D. express feeling, naturally, more than a little sick to his stomach.
   But the queasiness soon disappeared when he arrived home at his primitive-by-our-standards cliff dwelling, and saw his family gathered around a fire, about to eat dinner. And it was one of his favorites, too -- condor! His appetite had returned, so he knew he was feeling better.
   Dancing Cloud brought some gifts back from the future, a fact his mother appreciated since none of his friends brought back gifts. One of the gifts was a Rolex watch, and he gave that to his father, who practically fainted dead away. For his mother he brought a set of four potholders, each with the inscription "VOTE FOR BOB SAMUELS, CITY COUNCIL" printed on them in large capital letters. Of course, to a Powloo of the Eleventh Century, this meant nothing, but she was overcome with emotion.
   For his younger brother, Dancing Cloud brought back some comic books, a high-powered squirt gun, and one of those "50-Games-in-1" game boxes, perfect for rainy days in the cliff dwelling when you can't go out and play.
   And, for his younger sister, Dancing Cloud brought back a boom box and lots of CD's -- mostly Madonna and Janet Jackson. Needless to say, she was thrilled, and the envy of her peers.
   "What about me?" asked Dancing Cloud's Uncle Lupo.
   "I didn't forget you, Uncle Lupo." And with that Dancing Cloud handed his delighted uncle a carton of Benson & Hedges cigarettes. Menthol. As his uncle happily lit up, claps of thunder could be heard off in the distance. But, were they really thunderclaps? Dancing Cloud wasn't sure, and then the sound again -- no lightning -- and Dancing Cloud realized, the sound came from drums, war drums! As the war drums got closer, all the Powloo warriors in all the caves went to the equivalent of Condition Red, or Defcon 1, or whatever.
   "Under attack! Under attack!" came the warning cries from across the canyon. And it looked like a huge one, too, as thousands of tiny figures appeared on the horizon and the Powloo could see that this would be one fight they would never survive. Unless... they could disappear! Of course! Dancing Cloud rushed to where the peyote was kept, grabbed an armful and started handing it out to his family and friends. Using a slingshot and a frisbee he had brought back from the future Dancing Cloud distributed the rest of the peyote to every man, woman and child in the tribe. The Powloo Nation then, en masse, transported itself about six hours into the future. Not much, but enough. Barely enough. Here's what happened (and interrupt me at any time if you see Maureen):
   The invading force, fifteen hundred warriors, were all Nudniks. That is, they were from the Nudnik Tribe, a k a the Nudnik Nation. Nudniks were known for their savagery, and the Nudnik warriors had a reputation to uphold. However, when they finally reached the cliffs, and scaled them with surprising ease, with no resistance whatsoever, and then reached the caves themselves -- they found no one home. The leader of the Nudniks told everyone to wait a few hours, maybe it was a national holiday or something, or everyone was at the tribe picnic, or out picking berries. Or it was a trick. But, after a few hours and still no sight of any Powloo, the decision was made to break camp, return home, return to Nudnik Territory, as it was known. Just as the last of the Nudniks were leaving the Powloo started to re-materialize, trying not to laugh too loud.
   "I think Maureen's here."
   What? Oh, thanks.

(This ends Chapter Forty-two.)

Chapter Forty-three