Tratnalta's downtown parks felt the sun coming up over the trees this morning. The concrete plaza quiet as it could be,slowly came to life. Inground fountains anticipating the pitter patter of children's feet bubbled up and gained pressure. The coolness in the air and the deep shadows of pavilion steps grew shorter and human breath entered the scene. The sun had officially burned a hole in the early crisp haze. Blue sky appeared.
A day for creativity tingled inside the brain of Blank Rosenthal. It shot through his occipital lobes with a treasure of textures. Sandals looked like handmade leathers extending over his smooth moving ankles. Paint spattered his fingers,collected in the knuckle wrinkles and under fingernails. He set up his tent and stood beneath it,watching the others show up to do the same. For the millionth time,he did this in the millionth city. He'd been to Tratnalta before and,felt basically the same as the emotion expressed the bumber sticker : "I guess i LOVE Tratnalta."
Blank had painted toothpicks. Each one with a daily affirmation scrawled delicately up its length.Some toothpicks went futher,depending on his mood and inclanation.Glued & constructed into the resemblance quasi-functional household items. People loved them. The ability to manufacture these, as if on auto-pilot, caused a never ending dilemma with Blank. He was either gifted- or was no longer trying. In any event,it kept him on the road and afforded him the all star breakfast special whenever he pleased.
The fountains behind him were refracting the full power of the day's sun now. Voices murmuured heavily across the courtyard.Various vendors sharing various energies,nervous energy of anticipation mixed with seasoned machine-like cold automatic neutrality. Anything could happen. This concrete environment was going to turn into a scorcher by 1 or 2. And one or 2 would come soon enough.
Blank had a 70's style lawn chair. It was great for conversation. People were so easy. He was reclining in it when Jeff & Mike walked up and nosed around at his work. Mike,the skinny long haired one showed an earnest interest. Jeff was more looking at Blank.
"How's the day treating you?" Asked Blank. He didn't really like how Jeff was looking at him. He had that empty gaze about him that was all too common. It seemed ever-present in Tratnalta. Especially today.
Jeff shrugged and walked closer to Blank,examining the table his elbow rested on. It had business cards,his credit card machine, sales receipts,and a record of the days sales.
"Okay I suppose." Jeff's gaze drifted away and around and skimmed across a toilet paper dispenser with Lacan quotes all over it.
"So this is made out of toothpicks,huh?" Mike asked.
"Yessir...Offered up Blank. Made em' by hand wih meticulous love. I do it with a sort of slow love. Sometimes on the road, sometimes in the comfort of my home."
Mike shrugged and nodded,continuing to examine each and every item in his booth,it was almost like he was an insurance agent,only without pad and pen and calculator.
"You guys seen anything interesting today?" Jeff was standing at th edge of the booth watching people walk by. He spoke without turning around.
"We saw a lady climb a telephone pole and just sit there about 15 feet in the air and stare at people."
Blank sat back down in his lawn chair and lit a cigarette. This made Mike reach for one of his own. "Did the police come and arrest her?"
MIke laughed and answered. "Nope...it was performance art. She's actually supposed to come out here today."
"Really..well too bad I gotta watch my booth" Blank pretended to organize papers and perfectly stack his business cards.
Jeff came back into the shade of the booth and looked over the toothpick art more. "We'll watch your booth for you...she's gonna be doing it just over that way in about 30 minutes.It doesnt take long to size it up,but its sorta amusing to watch other folks go by that dont expect it."
"Thats mighty nice of you to offer. My name's Blank Rosenthal."He extended a hand to Jeff.
"And I'm Mike". Mike switched his cigarette grip and shook Blank's hand.
They found themselves staring at one another politely. Blank passed a quick glance at other folks strolling by,glancing in his tent and moving on. Sometimes the appearance of being involved with other "customers" caused people to simple stray away.
The moment in the day grew on long and tedious with a sort of sudden sensation that passed between the three of them. Bar-b-que smell entered the tent mingled with a band playing traditional blues music,smothering conversation.
"Well guys..I will have ot see about geting over there to see that tree climber lady. let me know if you have any questions about anything you see."
Mike & Jeff left Blank Rosenthal's tent and found themselves walking towards where the telephone pole climbing lady was supposed to be doing her thing again. As they approached the general vicinity, they noticed some commotion. A crowd had formed. people gawked and murmured. They stared and pointed. Only they weren't looking up. They were looking down. In the mddle of the web of people muttering and grumbling,somebody suddenly screamed. Mike caught a glimpse of something on the ground shaped like a purple mess of tentacles. Flowers and pink t-shirts attached to a gyrating mass.it splattered a fluid in heavy clumps on the ground.It made a weird high-pitched sound.
"What the hell..." Jeff leaned in and saw the mass. At first he thought it was a strange piece of art and then he saw what others saw. It caused the crowd to quickly disperse and another person screamed. People grabbed children. Mike & Jeff looked on. The ground beneath the thing was sizzling where glowing orange flower petals dropped. It appeared to have a mouth at something like a center,filled with silver slivers. Sheets of paper and every fingernail that Jeff had ever chewed off fell from its face. The mouth paper had letters in deep black that tattoed the ground. The word Tranalta began to spell on the ground. A stench filled the air comingoff the acidic sizzle in the concrete.
"Fuck this." Said Mike and tossed his cig on the ground and walked away quickly. Jeff looked ot the thing and to Mike and then back at the thing. it was now shaped like a coffee-maker made of rubbery skin. it manufactured a setting around itself, a miniature blue sky filled with storm clouds. The black letters on the ground grew bigger,becoming legitimate holes in the ground. They began to crack on the edges and the thing grew wings.
Mike called Jeff's name and he walked after him. Briefly,jeff considered starting smoking again.
"I really kinda thought coming outo this would be pretty lame." Said Mike. I mean to say, I know it wasnt gonna be about art or anything.I just wanted ot see if I could find inspiration for ideas."
"Well have you?"
Not really." Mike realized he was more hungry than anything. He suspected he could ask jeff at any time of the day if he was hungry and he would be,so that was good.
"Hey,Jeff...are you hungry?"
"I could eat something." Jeff pulled a brochure for the event out of his pocket ,looking ot see if there was anything init about shape-shifting telepathic ground burning art projects.But there wasn't.
"Mike,that thing back there." Jeff realized Mike's pace was rather quick.
"I dont wanna talk about it." Mike cut him off.
"But..it was spitting up fingernails. And the thing was-i somehow knew that they were... my fingernails." Mike nodded and pulle don a cigarette.
"Yeah..." He paused in a grave sort of silence,almost seeming pissed off. "I saw something kinda freaky myself..I dont think i wanna share it really. Let's just keep moving."
They could not sense any specific sense of panic or direction as they moved towards the food pavilions. Some people seemed as casual as the day was long,pushing a baby ina stroller,while others inthe distance would be seen running. Some directly towards each other. Jeff briefly considered the notion that they were experiencing an alien invasion and there were several of these things everywhere.
"You'd think there'd be police and sirens and stuff" Jeff looked around and found himself consciously picking up his pace to match Mike's. When he turned around he had to stop suddenly or else run directly into someone. It was a skinny lady in a green sweaty t-shirt.Well defined feminine arms were outstretched to prevent a potential clonking of bodies and skulls. He looked in her face and realized it was the telephone pole lady.
WHAT WILL YOU DO?
If you think you think you should heed the warning of your mother and sister and not risk uncertain sorcery,turn to page 25
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