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By Allen Bramhall
©Allen Bramhall 2010 Simple Theory Productions
Welcome to the Billiverse!!!
By Allen Bramhall
starring... Bill Bill Bill Bill 1, 2, 3, 4, formerly formerly formerly formerly just Bill the Anti-Bill Wilbur Green and/or William Greene the Anti-William and/or the Anti-Wilbur
and featuring... Juliette, Queen of the Universe Larry, man with answers Bogle, tutelary bird, or whatever Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, very important painter and quite a few others!
TABLE OF CONTENTS 1) Bill's Bill-Type Adventure Bill seeks Larry and Abby for a very, very, very important reason 2) Bill Views the Passing Parade while watching a parade, Bill 1 meets the senior senator from Massachusetts, a wonderful experience for everyone involved 3) A Meeting of Minds Bill meets his doppelganger and they meet another doppelgangerian set and the 4 of them, each newly renamed, realize they are a special team with some important things to accomplish 4) A Very Special Bird the Bills encounter Bogle, a not always visible bird seemingly made of cardboard and crepe paper, and understand that they now have a tutelary spirit, a mentor, a great new friend 5) A Day At The Park Bills 3 and 4 ride the subway to Fenway Park to see the Red Sox play and otherwise to experience life in all its full, far-reaching complexities 6) Soup to Nuts 1 and 2 open 723 cans of soup! 7) The Amazing Flying Beanbag Chair Bill 1 invents a flying beanbag chair, which is quite a thing 8) The Not So Missing Link Bill 1 makes cufflinks and also considers a wide range of things that need considerable consideration 9) The Adventure Emphatically Begins, to the Max! Four Bills Collect Their Energy and Do Some Stuff, with Ice Cream Included 10) Of Eggplants and Elvis Bill 1 meets someone who sure knows how to talk about frozen burritos 11) Fun With The Godhead Bills 1 and 2 go to an outdoor rock concert and meet a famous painter 12) Green Pillow on a Blue Bed Bill 1 performs cogitations and divagations upon certain matters that need that sort of attention 13) The Course of Things the boys enjoy a golf course 14) The Hole Truth busy times: Bills 3 and 4 dig some holes and fill them in; Bills 1 and 2 play records backwards so that they can receive important messages; and everyone has their attention caught on really neat things 3
15) Lights On! Bill 3 invents something of great interest 16) Taking Time Out Bills 1 and 2 look at a squirrel in a tree 17) Moby Bill the Bills work with mobius strips and, not surprisingly, enjoy the company of Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun 18) Mobilization Time Bogle mobilizes our heroes, thus they visit Larry 19) Up And At 'Em Bill 1 climbs a peak or two in the White Mountains to good purpose 18) Going Their Way Bills 1 and 2 visit Juliette, to everyone's benefit 19) A Cynosure of Something, Maybe Bill 1, with Bogle doing that tutelary thing, thinks about Juliette quite a bit 20) More Adventures, More Adventures the Bills unexpectedly and amazingly find Juliette, a situation that pleases the Bills enormously 21) Pennies From Heaven the Bills, between them, clean 62,028 pennies 22) Out There Bills 1 and 2 visit the famed seaside resort town of Provincetown, and by outrageous good fortune meet up with Stephen and Charlene 23) Real Time Questions Bill 1 inadvertently calls Juliette and uses this serendipitous occasion to talk with her until he sees a balloon float by the window 24) Decidedly Do-able Bills 1 and 2 travel the Boston subway system enjoying to the max the many quarters and subway tokens that they possess 25) A Seek or Swim Situation at a certain enormous rock concert, Bill 3 locates the woman he will marry 26) Talk of the Town all 4 Bills talk and hang out and stuff, and Bill 1 invents a machine that takes quarters 27) What Did He Really Think? Bill 1 purchases 2 bottles of wine because he needs 2 corks 28) Four Bills in a Chord the Bills deal with the magnificent modern predicament of the supermarket in all its nuances, subtleties and complexities 29) Heck of a World basically, the Bills think they see Juliette's sister and brother 30) Political Action Committee, or How the Wheels of the World Turn Bill 3 receives an idea that he should either shoot or shave the president, which seems rather interesting but he and Bill 4 end up mailing Christmas cards, and not a moment too soon 31) Imagine That Bills 1 through 4 get all philosophical and all 32) To Save The Union the Bills and Bogle enjoy the ambience of a coffee shop and a public common, and thereby continue their uncommon philosophical pursuits
33) Tribal Rites Bill 1 and Bill 2 seek to float, for reasons that should be obvious to all 34) Wrong Way Maybe in the midst of a wrong turn or two, Bill converses with a woman who doesn't say much in a nursing home at Christmas time 35) Greek Chorus the Bills talk with Dave, a guy who almost stepped in a puddle Coda) So Long the Bills and the author feel provoked to valedictory sentiment
Somehow escaping time, space, social convention (the glue that holds our world together) and a lot of other things from which few people rarely escape, Bill strides forth INTO THE BILLIVERSE...!
1> Bill's Bill-Type Adventure
One day Bill was enjoying the sights and that's always cool. He'd flown there, wherever there actually was, in his rocketship. The jalopy's design came to him while he had this delivery job. That job was excellent, it gave him a chance to think. He had so much to think about. "I'm getting an idea," Bill said aloud. Bill enjoyed conversing with himself; interesting discussions arose. This time, however, he spoke into a recording device that he invented. It was voice-activated, which was handy. When scooting around the universe, checking out the sights, and an excellent idea came to Bill, why, it was neat that he could express that excellent idea without taking his hands off the wheel. Safety certainly is a consideration we should all make every effort to consider. "What is the idea, Bill?" asked the recording device, which Bill called the billophone. Bill called it that because, well, he couldn't right then remember why. He certainly had that information somewhere. Bill wrote down or recorded just about everything he'd ever thought; he was nothing if not systematic. Anytime Bill needed to check out some earlier thought or important rumination, he could. He had a magnificent filing system although he couldn't remember exactly where he'd set down its particulars. He was sure that he had explained it to himself. At any rate, Bill answered the billophone, since that was definitely the right thing for him to do at the point in time of which we speak. "Oh, it was just this idea about... about ideas!" "Tell me more, Bill." An observer might've noticed that the billophone sounded bored, Bill never would have. "It just occurred to me that ideas are like dandelions. You don't know they're there then suddenly these yellow flowers appear. Before you know it, they've gone to seed and the seeds go places and..." Bill's idea about ideas continued without him. He decided that ideas were like dandelion seeds. They float around aimlessly until they land in a fertile environment and take seed and... Well, this idea about Bill's idea about ideas also soared without Bill. Bi-level, multiphase thinking: that's Bill in a nutshell. Not that Bill is in a nutshell, so 7
far as he knows. The billophone clicked off. Sometimes it seemed oddly loath to listen to Bill's incredible ruminations. Bill found himself unconcerned about the current circumstance. He had a sudden itch to return to Earth. Earth is the planet of Bill's birth but he's always been just as comfortable elsewhere. "I think I'll fly back to Earth," Bill said aloud. He knew the billophone was not currently listening but he didn't mind. He turned the engine of his rocket on, got the thing in gear and zoomed Earthward, unless he was already on Earth, in which case he just zoomed. The ship was Bill's pride and joy. Bill made it from hubcaps that he had luckily found by roadsides. On Earth, that is. He banged the hubcaps into fuselage shape, using a ballpeen hammer. It took 27,983 hubcaps to make that fuselage, that's a lot of hubcaps. He used umbrellas, banjos, electric staplers, hoes, tops to cans of WD40, Waring blenders, chopsticks, blue push pins, Christmas ornaments, empty boxes of pancake mix, garden hoses, spare hubcaps, thermometres, apple corers and those sorts of things to create the rest of the ship. He meant to use marbles but he lost all that he had. That's okay, a nifty rocketship resulted. As he flew along he got to thinking. His mind drifted, wandered and meandered. It was great just riding along. Bill remembered Abby. "Abby was interesting," said Bill. "I should look her up." He nodded thoughtfully then attended to his flying. Earth's gravity was something to consider and so was its atmosphere. Bill had to decide where to land and myriad other things. Bill focused his mind on landing. It wasn't easy but he did it. It can be difficult getting all the procedures straight. The many dials and knobs and blue push pins on the control panel of his rocketship sometimes confused Bill. He knew they meant something. He understood intrinsically that he had reasons for putting all those things there, he just wasn't quite sure, sometimes. That's natural. You can't remember everything, and no one should expect you to. Bill remembered what he needed to remember. The ship landed upside down but that's no big deal. Happens all the time. Why, landing upside down is the simplest thing to happen. All it means is that you torqued the steering wheel too much. It's just no major thing. Bill thought about how insignificant it was to land upside as he hung in his seat and tried to undo the quick release seatbelt that he invented. Apparently the quick release function failed when the rocketship was upside down but that's no big deal, either. Bill persevered and finally, after only seventy five
minutes, wiggled just the right widget. The seatbelt unhitched; Bill fell on his head. That dazed him but Bill's been there before. Falling on your head is nothing, happens all the time. Bill crawled from his rocketship. He brought an umbrella with him in case it rained or if he needed to fix something. He also carried a backpack. It was full of stuff, including an impressive eggplant that he was lucky to run into. Not literally run into, it was just there at the supermarket, more fantastic than he ever thought an eggplant could be, just waiting to become Bill's. "I'm going to call Larry," Bill declared. Bill saw a squirrel in a tree nearby. The squirrel ate an acorn, didn't respond to Bill's declaration. Bill didn't mind. He would call Larry no matter how the squirrel felt about the situation. Bill wanted—needed, really—to talk to Larry because he wanted to contact Abby. Bill did. He did not know if Larry had any similar interest. It's entirely possible but, by the same token, it could also be that Larry did not want to get in touch with Abby. So far as Bill was concerned, if he, Bill, got in touch with Abby, that would be fine. Bill understood no obligation to worry about Larry's problems. If indeed it was a problem for Larry. Bill simply didn't know. Then, suddenly, Bill found himself standing in front of a phone booth. Totally mirabile dictu: just the thing for calling Larry, or most anyone else. Bill got in and closed the door. He was glad he had an even $355.70, all in round, shiny dimes. Bill liked dimes but preferred quarters. "Gee, I wonder," said Bill, looking into his paper bag full of dimes. Since his money was all in dimes, could he say he had 3557 dimes in dollars? It didn't sound totally right to say it that way but what difference does that make? Bill scratched his beard and gave a few thinks to these and other conundra then took a dime and put it in the slot. It made an interesting sound. Bill put seventeen more in and the noise was equally interesting. It's interesting how interesting something interesting can be. Finally, irrevocably, Bill dialed. Bill did not actually know it was Larry's number but there was always that chance. He just chose a likely number. Oddly enough, on the 791st call that Bill made, he got Larry. It was pure luck. Bill didn't think his luck would prove so good. The 790 previous calls entertainingly connected Bill with people who did not know Larry. Several knew Larrys but these Larrys weren't, as Bill eventually discovered, the specific Larry Bill sought. There was only one Larry that Bill 9
wished to reach. Bill spoke with several actual Larrys but only lucky call number 791 put Bill in touch with the very Larry he wanted to reach. "Hello?" said the person soon to be identified as the right Larry. "Hi Larry, it's me, Bill." There was a long pause. The other calls garnered the same reaction so Bill was prepared. He waited till Larry, or who Bill hoped would be Larry, and not just any Larry but the specific Larry Bill wanted to talk with, spoke again. "Who is this?" "It's me, Bill. Do you remember me?" "You sound familiar." "I try to." "I know you?" "We worked together, Larry, if you'll remember. You will, that is, if you're the Larry that I hope you are." "I guess I am, Bill." "I thought you were Larry," responded Bill, disappointed. He thought he'd gotten through but, apparently, hadn't. "No, I'm Larry, all right. And I know that you're Bill." "Oh great," answered Bill, pleased again. "That makes two of us. I got to ask you something." "Yes?" "I have an incredible need to consult with you." "Oh yes?" "It's a matter of utmost importance." "I see." "No one can help me but you." "Yeah?"
"Yup. I got to thinking." Bill paused, since it was the right time for that sort of thing. "Go on, Bill." "Go where, Larry?" "Go on with what you were telling me." "Oh, right. I called to ask about her." "Who?" "Who what?" "Who did you want to ask me about?" That one nearly stumped Bill, but he rallied his forces and, with effort, remembered the reason he called. "Abby," said he. "Abby?" "Don't you remember Abby? She worked in the office." "Abby? You mean Abby?" "Yes, you know, Abby." "Gee, Bill. That was years ago. She moved on." "So you don't know where she is?" "Well, I think she lives in Rhode Island now." "That's not all that far away, Larry." "I didn't say it was." "You could walk to Rhode Island if you wanted. Of course, you could walk anywhere. Well, not exactly. You couldn't walk to Hawaii. Unless you had floating shoes. Do you?" "No, I don't, Bill." 11
"I didn't think so. But if you were on a ship and kept walking around the deck the whole trip to Hawaii, that would be like you walked to Hawaii. You'd put in a lot of miles. Unless the boat went, like, real fast. In which case, you wouldn't walk as far because you'd have less time. But make no doubt about it, Larry. You'd still get to Hawaii, whether you walked, say, 4011 miles or 987. Which is pretty interesting, if you think of it. It's sort of a space/time thing, I think. I mean, it's really the same distance but if you took two people of equal weight and height and put one on a fast boat, maybe a hydroplane, and the other on some slow boat, and head them toward Hawaii and make them walk the whole time. The person on the hydroplane would not go as far, but even so would go the same distance. That's weird, isn't it, Larry?" "It's weird, Bill." "I think so, too. Did I ask you about Abby?" "Yes, you did." "What did you answer?" "I said Abby might be living in Rhode Island." "Right, I remember that part. Well, I just wanted to get in touch with Abby. It's of enormous importance to me." "Wish I could help you but I haven't any information about her." "I'll keep looking. So how's it going?" "Pretty good." "Things okay at work?" "Nothing has changed much since you left." "Abby left, though." "Yes, Abby left." "So she's not around?" "No, she isn't. Look Bill, I have to hang up, I've got something cooking on the stove."
"That's where I'd have something cooking, if I were interested in cooking. It's funny but I..." "Well, it's been nice talking to you, Bill. So long." Larry hung up. The quick manner in which he did so resembled the way the billophone clicks off. It was interesting how that was. Bill dug into his backpack and pulled out his pocket billophone and turned it on. It didn't work. "It must need batteries." Bill went back to his rocketship. He had 2368 batteries stored there, just in case. After a mere two hours and eleven minutes he found the right quantity of the right size battery. He put them in the pocket billophone. Bill has an excellent system for organizing his batteries; it is based on his idea that batteries need to be organized, a bit of enlightenment not everyone has enjoyed. Unfortunately, Bill told it all to his pocket billophone and that wasn't working. It was a great system, though, one Bill could be proud of. So, Bill got the necessary batteries, that's the main thing. Or it's one of the main things. The main thing Bill had discovered in his researches is that there are many main things. Anyway, the device clicked on perfectly. Sadly, Bill couldn't recall what he wanted to tell the billophone. That didn't slow Bill down. Bill possessed but one speed, slow and steady, so there was no way he could slow down. The reason it's important to have a billophone is so I won't lose any ideas," was the idea that he imparted. "You make an interesting point, Bill," the billophone responded. It sounded bored but Bill attributed this to its formerly weak batteries. "Oh, I have another idea." "What's that?" "What's what?" asked Bill, looking around to see what the pocket billophone might be pointing out. "What's your other idea, Bill?" "It's about wheels." "Go on." 13
"I think wheels should be put on everything. Not just vehicles but everything. That would facilitate moving things. There would be less friction, less wear and tear. Friction's a big problem, you know." "Yes, Bill." "With wheels, tables and chairs would be easy to move from place to place. And books, they could have wheels, too, Then you wouldn't be sliding them across tables and desks. That way, the desks and tables wouldn't wear out so fast, neither would the books. You'd just roll them." "That's an imaginative idea, Bill." "Laws could be passed that would make it mandatory for anything that's being made to have wheels on them. Soon everything will have wheels and that will be a big improvement." "I can imagine," said the pocket billophone. "So can I," said Bill with satisfaction. Bill started his ship and flew off. He had to think about things. While so engaged, a brilliant idea managed to reach Bill. It was one standout notion. He would fly to Rhode Island and see if he could find clues to Abby's whereabouts there. Maybe he'd show her the fine eggplant he'd recently procured. He set the rocket's course for Rhode Island and away he went. Indicating that Bill headed for Rhode Island should not suggest that he flew directly. He essentially made an aerial run along the Northwest Passage. It was quite interesting but it took a while to reach Rhode Island. But reach that state he did. He'd reached plenty of states in his day and this was one more. Seeing another phone booth—he was convinced it was not the same one he'd earlier used—he landed nearby. "I'm going to make a call," said Bill. The voice-activated billophone gave no response since this was not an idea, it was a plan. At least, that's what Bill reasoned for why it remained mute. Bill climbed from his rocket with his umbrella and backpack. He pulled out his bag of dimes. It now contained 2748. He put one in the phone and noticed that the sound was remarkably different from that of the other machine. It was interesting, too. Bill put sixty three more dimes in. It was really neat how the sound was so different from a phone booth that seemed so similar to this one. It might be due to different atmospheric conditions or elevation or something. Bill thought about thinking about this
later and decided he would think about thinking about it later, when he had more time. Bill put one more coin in the slot and this time dialed. Maybe this number was Abby's. If so, the chances were good that Abby would answer. It stood to reason. Bill did not get through right away. Two thousand three hundred and fourteen more dimes, all of them excellent and quite shiny, went into the slot before he reached Abby. He chatted with many interesting folks before reaching her. Some were named Abby (or Abbie, Bill couldn't tell), some named Larry, some wouldn't tell him their names. Bill guessed they came from all walks of life. Some seemed perturbed, some confused. It confused and perturbed Bill that this was so. Several people were quite interested in Bill's ideas about what should be done with discarded house keys, and how necessary it was that something be done soon. Some hung up after hearing only a little of Bill's views concerning push pins. That was okay, he finally reached Abby. "Hello?" Most people answered the phone like that, Bill knew. "Hi, Abby." "Who is this?" "It's me, Bill." "Bill?" "Yup. We worked together a few years ago. That is, if you're Abby." "Bill?" "I was a driver and you worked in the office. Remember?" "Bill... Oh wait, Bill, yeah. I remember you. Gee, Bill." "That's me." "Gee." There was a long pause but Bill patiently waited it out. "Why did you call, Bill?" "I didn't call Bill, I called you, Abby." "So how come you called?" 15
"It's really important, Abby. I had to get in touch with you. I've been thinking a lot about you." "You have?" "All the time." "Um, where are you calling from?" "I'm in Rhode Island. I think I'm pretty near where you live. In fact, with my rocketship, I could be to your place in no time." "You could?" "Definitely." "Well look, Bill, that's nice but I'm..." "Yup, Abby, I could be standing next to you in no time, showing you my eggplant." "Oh my..." "You'd like seeing my eggplant." "Oh I don't think..." "That will have to wait, though. First, I've got to talk with you, Abby. It's really important." "Look, Bill, I'm not alone here and..." "The thing is, Abby, I'm desperate. There's something I've got to ask you." "Really, Bill, I..." "I really have to say this, Abby. I think my head might explode if I don't." "Oh, goodness, um, Bill, look..." "I'd hate to say what would happen if my head did explode." "Um, ah..." "So, Abby, do you know where Juliette is?"
"Juliette?" "She worked with us, too. You must remember her. I have to get in touch with her." "You're looking for Juliette?" "Sure." "You called me because you're looking for Juliette?" "Of course. Who else would I call?" "Well, I..." "So, do you know where she is now?" "Well, you know, I really haven't kept in touch with her but I think Juliette still works for the same old place." "Really? Gee, that's interesting. It never occurred to me to ask Larry about that. I'm going to fly back to Massachusetts and call Larry. I'll get to the bottom of this. So long, Abby." "So long." Bill returned to Massachusetts and found a phone booth but he ran out of dimes before he got through to Larry. But at least Bill still had his eggplant. It was a noteworthy specimen, a real supermarket find.
2> Bill Views the Passing Parade
April 19th Concord, Massachusetts Bill crawled from his rocketship. He'd just landed, if plummeting uncontrollably and hitting the ground upside down constitutes landing. It did for Bill because that was the only way that his rocket and the ground ever met. Being used to such circumstances, Bill simply cleared his mind of most, but not all, random thoughts. It was time to release his seatbelt. Bill had designed the seatbelt, as well as the rocketship, himself. In theory, something Bill often deals with, the seatbelt should be a snap to unfasten. After a mere forty seven minutes, easily a new record, Bill got the thing undone. It pleased Bill that he could do it so quickly. Practice makes perfect, as Bill again (for the 598th time) realized. He climbed from his ship and looked around. He stood in a woody area bordering a marsh. Nearby, a former railroad grade cut through the woods. Bill watched some cyclists make their way along the trail. Bill was intrigued. Bill was always intrigued. Bill climbed back into his ship, collected his backpack and his trusty umbrella, and forthwith strode in the direction the cyclists took, that was clearly the way to go. Inside that pack were such important items as a compass, two apples, a hubcap, a rear view mirror (quite a nice one!), a near-perfect empty Quaker Oats box, an unusually fine dried maple leaf, a bar of soap, a cap from a can of WD40, a piece to something that Bill sure wished he could identify (both the thing, and this piece to it) and other such stuff. Oh yeah, and a brick. To pass the time as he strode, Bill thought about things. He did this a lot. There was plenty to think about. First, Bill thought about seatbelts. This led him to consider cream cheese, which led to the subject of those flying monkeys in the movie "The Wizard of Oz." For some reason, flying monkeys made him think about cream cheese again. Cream cheese is about the whitest food you can eat, not counting milk, but then you don't eat milk, you drink it, and certainly not counting paint. Maybe people eat paint. Bill hoped they didn't because it would be wrong. Bill remembered that salt and sugar were white as well, though by no means as smooth as cream cheese. Bill began to think about the idea of smoothness but then a chipmunk scampered in front of Bill and that caused him to think about business envelopes, the ones that are 4 1/8" by 9 1/2". Those are a great kind of envelope though Bill liked 9x12 manila ones even more. Suddenly, someone called warningly to Bill. Turning, he saw more cyclists. Bill stepped aside to let them pass. He said "Howdy" to each passing person in his Texas-tinged drawl. There was a man, a woman, and two young boys. Not far ahead Bill could see a street. He discerned much activity up there. Bill actually sped up, though this is rare for him. He lengthened his long stride and walked with great purpose. Something interesting was going on, and that meant Bill had to take a look.
Reaching the street, Bill found that a large crowd congested the area. Ropes lined the street and the sidewalks were crammed with people. Police kept the road clear. Could anything be more mesmerizing than this, Bill wondered. He turned to a man standing nearby. "What's going on?" "Parade's coming by." "You mean on this street here?" Bill asked with interest. "Shouldn't be more than a few minutes." "What shouldn't?" "The parade." "Oh, there's going to be a parade?" "Yes, it won't be long, only a few minutes." "It will only be a few minutes long?" prodded Bill, delving ever deeper. The man looked at Bill for a moment before replying. "I don't know how long it will be." Before Bill could quiz him further on this fantastic situation, the man moved away. A police officer ambled to the side of the street, stopping near Bill. This set off an irresistible mechanism within Bill. He tapped the officer on the shoulder. "There's a parade coming by here," Bill helpfully told the officer. Possessors of useful information or viewpoint should always, but always, share said information or viewpoint. "You're telling me." "Yes I know. I thought it was information you could use." The policeman turned to Bill, scrutinized him in a manner astonishingly similar to that of the first guy, then walked away before Bill could impart further useful data. Oh well. Some people choose to walk in darkness. Since Bill was pressed right against the rope barrier, he took a few moments to think about rope. Rope could be especially fascinating sometimes. Bill's rope reverie came to a halt—perhaps to be resumed later—with the sound of distant drumming. Several people said "It's starting" but Bill could not figure to what they referred. Folks leaned over the rope, looking down the street. That seemed like a particularly good thing to do at that point in time, so Bill did so. Bill mostly saw the back of a woman's head, but you know, that was pretty interesting. She wore a three-corner hat and had grey hair. 19
The drumming drew closer. There was a fife, too. Finally, Bill saw three figures marching down the road. One man carried a flag, one played a fife, and a boy drummed. Suddenly, it occurred to Bill that this was the parade. When the three passed Bill, he realized that that guy wasn't kidding. It wasn't a long parade at all. It was wider than it was long, really. Bill started to depart but the crowd wasn't ready to leave. This seemed odd. Bill then heard music. They must be having another parade, what with that last one being so short. This time, lots of stuff went by. High school bands, groups of colonial Minutemen, a large aggregation of British grenadiers in ornate red uniforms. Now, this was a parade. Many of the men wore white wigs. Naturally, Bill got to thinking about helicopters and cactuses and key rings and those sorts of things. A cannon periodically went off, which punctuated the proceedings. Bill was glad to see the cannon had wheels. Bill was especially fond of things with wheels. It was simply super neat to see all this stuff going on. It made Bill's mind race. Most everything did that but this was cool anyway. Various groups representing children's organizations went by in fine disorder, and collections of ordinary adults, too. People waved at each other. Bill happily joined in. He said "Howdy" probably at least 197 times, although he lost official count at 168. Sometimes people returned the greeting. Following a group of Minutemen came two people, a man and a woman. You could tell they were important, even Bill could. The woman wasn't too old and she didn't wear tweed. It seemed to Bill that if you weren't wearing some kind of uniform, you wore tweed. Except this woman didn't. She wore a sort of pants suit thing. She looked nice. Bill liked her. Her eyebrows made him think of Juliette. Bill liked it when something made him think of Juliette. The guy with the woman wore a dark suit. He had grey hair. Bill thought he'd seen him somewhere. "Teddy," called the woman next to Bill, the one with the grey hair and tricon hat. The man looked her way and waved. The group of Minutemen stopped and that forced the couple to halt near Bill. "Teddy," said Bill's neighbour again, "how are you?" The couple stepped over to greet the woman. Bill knew who the guy was. "You're Ted Kennedy," said Bill, extending his hand. "Yes I am," said Ted pleasantly but distantly. He gave Bill a weak handshake but Bill clamped on enthusiastically. The woman with Ted, whom even Bill could guess was Ted's wife, if he really put his mind to it, smiled warmly. "I saw you on Hollywood Squares," Bill told the senior senator from Massachusetts.
Ted had turned his attention, even though his hand remained captive, toward the woman who had beckoned him. Bill's remark caught him. "I beg your pardon." "Oh, that's not necessary. I said I saw you on Hollywood Squares. You sat next to Paul Lynde." Mr Kennedy looked aghast, as if he'd had a bad breakfast. That can happen, you know. You have to watch what you eat for breakfast, Bill knew, because you just can't tell. That's one lesson Bill had definitely learned. The woman next to Bill glared at him and tried to say something to the Senator. Kennedy attempted again to pull his hand free but Bill did not realize he still grasped it so he didn't think to let go. Bill can't think of everything, as Bill himself would be the first to tell you, and this proved to be one of the things that Bill didn't think about. A big guy wearing sunglasses came quickly over, gripped Bill's arm firmly and said "Let go of the Senator's arm." "Wow," exclaimed Bill, so forcefully that his grasp on Kennedy's hand slipped of its own accord, "you're a Senator now!" "Thank you," said the Senator as the big guy pressed between him and Bill. Bill wanted to shake Ted's hand, to congratulate him on newly becoming senator, but the big guy was in the way. "No need to thank me, sir. What state are you a senator in?" Bill asked with great interest. It would be neat to visit him sometime. They could talk about old times. Of course, the only old time they had so far was this meeting here, and it wasn’t really old yet, but they could sure talk about that. It would be neat. The big guy gave Bill a rather forceful shove and said "You better watch yourself." No one knew the truth of that better than Bill. Right then and there, as if to prove this very valid point, Bill looked down at his boots. Both were untied. Now doesn't that just go to show you? Bill knew he had to take care of that situation in the immediate future, if not sooner, but he also wanted to carry on his great conversation with the Senator. Sadly, the parade had resumed and the Kennedys were well away. Bill turned to the woman who had called to Ted and declared respectfully, "He was great on Hollywood Squares." The woman glared at Bill something fierce. Naturally, he understood that she never got to see her friend on the show. Bill knew her disappointment must be enormous. Bill wanted to say something sympathetic to her but an escaped helium-filled 21
balloon caught Bill's eye. The balloon made him think of volcanoes, which caused him to contemplate brontosauruses, which set him pondering the idea of Christmas tree garlands, which launched an agreeable meditation on rope, which sent his thoughts to considering boots, which reminded Bill that he had to tie his own boots sometime, if no one else's. Before he could do so, he started thinking of something else. Which is just the way of things, isn't it? The parade, in the meantime, moved on. It was just as if a grim, distracting cloud had slid by. It was a very good day.
3> A Meeting of Minds
First off, Bill had to fix his umbrella; a piece had totally fallen off. To fix the umbrella was a necessity that Bill was not about to shirk. Life sometimes places demands upon you. If Bill didn't fix the umbrella, he didn't know what would happen. Not that Bill ever had clues about such things, or even needed any. Bill feared that someone might step on the piece that fell off. If they were barefoot they'd cut themselves. Not that one should go around barefoot. It was definitely not a good idea, even if things from umbrellas weren't falling off all the time. Bill didn't go around barefoot, especially on sidewalks. Sidewalks are not clean. By no stretch of the imagination, not even Bill's, could anyone say that sidewalks are clean. Oh sure, they could say it, but it wouldn't be true. The risks involved in walking barefoot on sidewalks presented far too many risks, hygienic and otherwise. Bill paused to concentrate on this shiny new reverie. It took effort but he managed. After a while he hit a mental speed bump and returned to the problem at hand: fixing his umbrella. Actually, before he could do that he said something aloud. "I wonder if anyone makes rubber socks. They'd be handy. No wait, they'd be footy. They'd be for people who walk barefoot in dirty places, or handle poisonous materials with their feet. I guess if you handle things with your feet then, really, you footle them." He thought about that. It was nice to think about. Suddenly, without warning, Bill could not, offhand, remember the last time he fixed his umbrella, or if he ever had. He would need to check his notes. Taking notes and, later, checking them, helps one to understand things. You might not understand what you are understanding since you can't understand everything, but there's always plenty to ask. When the need arose, as it so often did, Bill could go billistic: approach things from a total Bill angle. He felt duty-bound to evaluate every facet fully and ask loads of curious questions full of pertinence. Bill was made that way. Anyway, Bill understood that an interconnectedness ran through everything and he must do what he must do: fix his umbrella. It might rain or Bill might 23
need to repair something and his umbrella might be the only thing that could facilitate the repair. It could happen. Yes, Bill understood his next move. Bill got out his keys. "I should manage with these," said he. The key ring was loaded. If wealth were the possession of many keys then Bill definitely had a lot of keys. He sat at the curb and started working diligently. "Got a problem?" a man asked. Bill looked up. A policeman stood there. "I'm fixing my umbrella." "I thought so." "If I can just get this key in here, I think I can loosen this thing. Then I might get this piece back in place." "Yeah, that might work. You work those keys pretty good." "I've had practice. Do you know what this slidey piece is called?" "Sorry, I haven't the slightest idea." "It should have some sort of name." "I imagine it does." "The people who make umbrellas need some means to identify the various pieces of an umbrella. It would be ridiculous if they didn't have names for each part." "It sure would be," the policeman answered patiently. "I just wish the information was generally known. A book explaining things should be given to everyone. It would have the names of things and how to do things and everything. It would make things much easier." "Sounds like it would." "There, I got the thing loose. Good thing I had a key that fit just right so I could work the thing loose." "Good thing, all right." "I told you. The piece went on easy as pie." Bill paused, entranced by a gem of a thought, the essence of which he soon divulged to the policeman. "Why are pies easy?"
"I'm afraid I don't know." Bill's lightning mind considered assorted matters including the easiness of pies, the regretted ignorance of this policeman and the smooth, pleasing way the unnamed piece snapped into place on the umbrella. "Working pretty good, now," Bill remarked with satisfaction. "So it is. How many keys do you have there, anyway?" "One hundred and twenty seven." "Do they all work?" "I guess so. I haven't tried them all." Bill stood. He attached the umbrella to the back of his backpack. "Well, I've got to move on." "No doubt you do. So long." "So long." Bill walked off, as did the policeman. Bill got to thinking. Oh man, he sure got to thinking. "If I wanted to tell someone about how I fixed my umbrella by loosening that piece there I would have to point to it or explain so that it was understood which piece I meant. That's a huge problem." Bill's brow furrowed severely because he could imagine so many problems such a problem could pose. He shook his head. It was problematic. The problem, that is, not his head. "And I never gave a thought, I never considered before, that that sliding thing had no name or that I might need a name for it so that I could refer to it when it got stuck or fell off." This bothered Bill, he liked to stay on top of things. Bill pulled his pocket billophone from his backpack. The billophone is an interactive recording device of Bill's invention. It stored all the thoughts and theories that sprung glitteringly into his receptive mind. Right now, Bill wanted to express some ideas concerning this dire situation. Unfortunately, the billophone malfunctioned. The little light went on but the billophone didn't speak. Before Bill could evaluate this, he started to wonder about the little light on the billophone. 25
"It sure is small," he said. He poked it with his thumb and really got to wondering about it as never before. How long would it last? He wasn't, just then, assessing his thumb but the little light. He would think about his thumb later, when he had less on his mind. Suddenly, a momentous thing occurred. Bill saw someone walk toward him. He looked familiar. Bill had a strong feeling. The person spoke. "Hello, Bill. I think you know me." "I don't know how I know but you're... you're the Anti-Bill!" "That's right, Bill." "Wow! Do you know Larry?" "Not yet, but I was planning to give him a call." "Wow!" This fine situation impressed Bill. A question came to him so he asked it. "What exactly does it mean that you're the Anti-Bill?" "I don't know. I've thought a lot about it, though." "Good. I think I will think about it, too. At least I think I will." A pause ensued as the two soaked in recent events. Such a pause could last some time. While they labour at it—perhaps thinking as they pause—it might be well to explain things here, insofar as explanation can be made. The AntiBill is Bill's doppelganger or personal Anti-Self. The Anti-Self represents the other half of one's nature. Yin and Yang, Good and Evil, and other polarities are involved, or something like that. Explosions seem likely, wouldn't you figure, when one meets one's Anti-Self. With Bill, it's different; the Anti-Bill half is exactly like the Bill half. It shouldn't work like that but so it goes. "I was wondering about the little light on my pocket billophone," said Bill finally. "It's awful small. How long would it last?" "That's just what I wondered." They stood there and nodded. They thought about the little light and about many other things: grapes, airplane propellers, bookmarks, the word 'deciduous', and things like that. They were in perfect sync. "I think we should call Larry," said Bill to Anti-Bill.
"I was just thinking that." "I think there's something we need to ask Larry." "I think so, too. Do you know what it is?" "Do I know what what is?" responded Bill. This seemed like a chance to test his knowledge on whatever subject it turned out his knowledge was being tested on. The Anti-Bill realized his ability to understand the current situation faced a severe challenge but he proved equal to it. He replied, "Do you know what we need to ask Larry when we get through to him?" "Not yet, Anti-Bill, but I expect it will come to us once we reach Larry. There are so many things we could consult Larry about." "There sure are. Let's find a phone booth and call him." The Anti-Bill's advise seemed good so the two walked along. They passed on one phone booth because there was no phone in it. It seemed best that they didn't make use of that phone, since it wasn't there. That's just plain common sense. "Why do they still have this booth here when there's no phone in it?" asked Anti-Bill. "I don't know. I think there should be a concerted effort made to have phones in all phone booths." "Laws should be passed that would make it illegal to have phone booths without phones in them." "Something like that needs to be done," agreed Bill. They found another phone booth, and it had a phone in it, but they needed two phones, so onward, blindly onward. Finally, three contiguous phone booths. Two were unoccupied, which was a big help. They were unoccupied, that is, until Bill and Anti-Bill each entered one. They had a plan. It was Bill's plan. "If we call Larry at exactly the same moment, maybe we will both get through." "Theory seems sound," commended Anti-Bill. "All we have to do is time it just right." 27
"That's all," said Bill. "I see one problem, though." "What's that?" asked Anti-Bill. "I don't know," answered Bill, looking around, "I didn't see anything." "Neither did I." They both nodded. "I don't have any dimes," Bill alerted his confrére. "I don't either." "I have quarters." "So do I." "I have 2011 quarters." "I have 3468. I had 3531 but I wanted to see what it was like to empty a gumball machine." "What was it like?" "It was interesting." "That's interesting." "Here's the gum I got," said Anti-Bill, offering Bill quite a special look into a brown paper bag. "Those look interesting." "They are." "Where'd you get the bag?" "I found it." "I like it. It's a good bag. We could tell Larry about these gumballs." "And the bag. We sure could." "Let's call him first." "That's what we should do."
"But we don't have any dimes." "Would quarters work?" "I'm not sure. We could find out." "How?" "We'll call ordinary people using our quarters and see if we can call ordinary people with quarters." "Wow, yeah. Do you know any ordinary people?" "I don't know. If we just called at random we'd probably find a few." "That stands to reason. Let's make some random calls." "I sure like to do things at random," declared Bill. The Anti-Bill nodded. "So do I." Having discovered to their utter satisfaction that quarters definitely work for phone calls even to ordinary people, they attempted their other experiment: simultaneously calling Larry. What compounded their difficulty on this front was that neither Bill nor Anti-Bill knew Larry's number. They made the best guesses possible. Bill was down to his last seventeen quarters and Anti-Bill had but thirty four when they finally connected. Of all the Larrys in the world, not to mention the universe, they got through to the Larry they wanted to get through to. That sure was something. Bill and Anti-Bill were pleased. "Hello, Larry," said Bill in his mournful drawl, after Larry answered. "Bill, is that you?" "It's me, all right." "It's also me, Larry. I'm the Anti-Bill." "The..." Larry stopped there. For some reason, he had no further response. 29
"Larry, this is Bill speaking. I just met the Anti-Bill today and we thought we'd call you." "It's getting so I'm not surprised that you call, Bill." "I have never, so far, called Bill," said Anti-Bill. "I meant I'm not surprised you called me, Bill." "I never called you Bill, Larry," said Anti-Bill. "Me neither, Larry," put in Bill. "I would if you asked me to, but you never asked me to." "You never asked me to, either, Larry," Bill 2 helpfully pointed out. "I meant... well, never mind." "You must be surprised that I called," said the Anti-Bill. "Nothing surprises me," Larry remarked. "That's interesting," said Bill and Anti-Bill in excellent unison. They thought seriously about Nothing. That sure was something. Although, when you think about it, if Nothing is something then it's not Nothing. This is the sort of thing that the Bills would never shirk thinking about, but they only had time for a brief consideration since so many things were currently occurring. Eventually, Bill tapped on the wall of the phone booth and nodded appreciatively at the Anti-Bill. "So why did you call?" asked Larry, showing a fair amount of patience. "We've got gumballs," said Anti-Bill. "That's unusual but somehow not startling," responded Larry. "A whole bagful in an interesting bag," added Bill. "It's just the right size." "That's a real plus," said Larry. "It sure is," agreed Bill. "The Anti-Bill found the bag. It was just laying on the ground for him to pick up." "Imagine that."
"No need to imagine it, Larry," said the Anti-Bill, "it really happened. By the way, you don't have to call me Anti-Bill. You can call me Bill, too. Or, to make things clearer, you can call me Bill 2." "I'll call you Bill too, that'll be much clearer," replied Larry. "Great," said Bill 2, the Anti-Bill. "And Bill, you can also be Bill 2, too." "Bill Tutu?" repeated Bill, Bill 1, that is. He didn't know how to deal with that so a pause ensued, then a surprising thing happened. "Hi Larry," said a voice that wasn't Larry and it sure wasn't one of the Bills. "Hi," said Larry calmly. Larry's been expecting the unexpected lately. "It's me, Larry, Wilbur." "How did you happen to break into this call, Wilbur?" Larry asked. "Gee, I don't know. Lucky, I guess." "I guess it was lucky," marveled Bill. "Why'd you call, Wilbur?" Larry queried, just to keep the conversation flowing. "I didn't call Wilbur." "No, of course not. Why'd you call me, Wilbur?" "I didn't call you Wilbur." "Okay, so why did you call me?" "Oh, just because I saw this phone booth and it seemed like a good idea." "You mean you thought the phone booth was a good idea?" asked Bill 1, relentlessly seeking the truth concerning the current situation. "I sure do think phone booths are great," Wilbur asserted. "Me too," said Bill 1. "Me too," said Bill 2. 31
"Me too," said Wilbur. "That's why I decided to call Larry from a phone booth." "Hey, we're calling from phone booths, too," put in Bill 2, totally psyched. "That's excellent. Do you guys have beards and look alike?" Wilbur asked. "We sure do," answered Bill 2. "Then I think I'm next to you." "Hey," exclaimed Bill, "this is unbelievable." "Believe it. I'm waving to you right now." "So you are. I'm waving now." "So am I," put in Bill 2. "Yes, I can see that you are. This is amazing." The three of them dropped their phones and left their respective booths. Larry probably hung up and returned to what he was doing before the Bills called him. That's something Larry might do. "I'm Bill," said Bill, "and this is the Anti-Bill. You can call him Bill 2." "You mean I should also call him Bill?" "No, that would confuse him with me." "This sounds confusing," said Wilbur seriously. "What you have to do is call me Bill 2 as in number 2," put in Bill 2. "Oh, you're the second Bill?" "Exactly." "Well okay, then. And I'm either Wilbur or William," said Wilbur or William. "I've never been sure about that but I do know I have the power to turn into a flying elephant." "Wow!" exclaimed Bill. "When do you do this?" asked Bill 2.
"Well, I haven't ever really done it, but I suspect I will when it's really necessary for me to do it." "You wouldn't want to waste the power," affirmed Bill, nodding. "I wonder if I have the power to turn into a flying elephant," mused Bill 2. Wilbur peered at him solemnly. "It's always possible." "Or maybe a flying giraffe. That would be interesting. Then I would find out if giraffes make noise, I've always wondered about that." "You could use expensive audio equipment to find out," Wilbur put in helpfully. "Although maybe a giraffe wouldn't have anything to say if it was alone." "What if a tree fell in the forest and wrecked the expensive audio equipment?" Bill simply had to ask. "If the giraffe made a noise we wouldn't know, would we?" "Maybe you could have people in the forest who think they are trees," said Bill 2. "Of course, if they really thought they were trees maybe they wouldn't be able to talk and tell if the giraffes made noise." "You could hypnotize them," Bill suggested. "I didn't know you could hypnotize giraffes," said Bill 2. "I didn't either," realized Bill. "You'd need a pocket watch," said Wilbur. "I have one but I forgot to bring it." "Maybe you could change into a flying elephant now and fly home to get it." "You're right. Maybe this is the time I'm supposed to test my secret power." "I think we ought to call Larry and ask him," said Bill 2. "Yes, that's what we should do," agreed Bill. "Let's go find three phone booths so we can call him," said Bill 2. "What about these here?" asked Wilbur. "We've already used those," was Bill's reply. 33
"Right," said William. "Say, do you guys think people like raspberries more than pianos?" asked William. "That's a good question," said Bill. "That's my opinion, too," said Bill 2. "Oh, before we go looking for three phone booths, I got to stop in a store to buy a typewriter roll," said Wilbur. "What's that?" asked Bill. "What's what?" responded William, looking around to see if he missed something. "What's a typewriter roll?" "You mean what does a typewriter roll on? I've put wheels on mine so that it can be moved around more easily." "Hey! Great idea! I was wondering, though, what this typewriter roll is that you mentioned." "It's the thing on a typewriter that's a lot like a rolling pin," explained Wilbur. "You mean the wooden part?" asked Bill 2. "There aren't any wooden parts on typewriters, Bill," put in Wilbur. "I'm Bill," Bill informed William. "He's Bill 2." "Oh, sorry. There aren't any wooden parts on a typewriter, Bill 2." "What's the part that's like a rolling pin, then?" asked Bill 2. "That long thin round part where the paper goes." "Oh, is that part called a typewriter roll?" Bill asked Wilbur. "I don't know." "It's like the thing on my umbrella." "You've got a thing on your umbrella?" asked William.
"Sure do," Bill replied. "Can you get a new one?" "I could if I knew what to call it." "If we gave it a name then we could call it by that name. Then we could get you another one because we'd be able to tell the person at the store what we need." "You're right, Wilbur," said Bill. "Makes perfect sense to me," said Bill 2. "Then I'd have two!" exclaimed William. "I don't know for sure but I may always have wanted two." "We should think about a name for the thing," Bill said. "Right," said Bill 2, "but we don't want to make hasty decisions about something as important as naming a thing like this." "We sure don't," agreed Bill. "Say Bill," interjected Wilbur, "I was wondering. Why is the thing on your umbrella like the thing on my typewriter?" "I guess because both are things," replied Bill thoughtfully, not entirely satisfied with his answer. "Hey look, four phone booths up ahead," Bill 2 pointed out. "Great," said William. "We were looking for them, weren't we?" "We were looking for three, Wilbur," said Bill, "but I can't remember why." "I'm sure it will be nice to have an extra one," said Wilbur, or William. "I think we wanted to call someone," said Bill 2. "I've got a great idea," said William, or Wilbur. "Let's call Larry and see if he knows who we wanted to call." "Excellent," remarked Bill with satisfaction. 35
"Larry will know," said Bill 2. "He knows so much." The three entered the phone booths. Immediately they came out to confer. "We need money to use these things, right?" asked William, Wilbur, or whatever. "Yes, these phones function through a series of processes that require money to make them operate," answered Bill knowledgeably. "I don't have any money," Wilbur, William or whatever confessed. "I used it all on my last call." "That puts a stress on things," remarked Bill 2 mournfully. "Not good at all," said Bill, also mournful. Just then someone greeted them. "Hey guys." The three turned to the newcomer. "That guy looks like you, William," Bill said to Wilbur. "I'm the Anti-Wilbur." "I'm the Anti-Bill," the Anti-Bill proudly announced. "Pleased to meet you." "So you are what I look like," commented Wilbur. "Exactly," said the Anti-William. "That's interesting," said William. "Sure is," agreed the Anti-Wilbur. "Say, were you guys about to call someone named Larry?" "We sure were," answered Bill 2. "Do you know Larry?" "I don't know. No one has ever asked me that before. I just had a compulsion to call someone, and it might've been Larry that I planned to call." "Amazing," said Bill. "I was just going to call from here when I discovered I had no money." "That puts a stress on things," remarked Bill mournfully.
"Not good at all," said Anti-Bill, also mournful. "Say, I have one fabulous idea," said the Anti-William. "It will be easier for all concerned if I'm called Wilbur, say, and Wilbur is called William." "Or I could be called Wilbur," said William, "and Wilbur could be called William." "What if William was called William and Wilbur was called Wilbur?" asked Bill 2. "I don't think that would work," said Wilbur. "Too confusing," William pointed out. "You're probably right," said Bill 2. "The other idea was a great one," said Bill. "A very excellent idea," agreed Bill 2. "Which one of you wants to be the other one and which will be the other other one?" "I'll be Wilbur," said the Anti-William. "That leaves me as William," said Wilbur. "I'm glad we have that sorted out," said Bill. "If we wanted to, we could call all of ourselves William or Will, or even Bill." "Maybe," mused Wilbur, now called William. "Maybe," agreed Wilbur, formerly called William. The four stood there and got thinking about apple sauce, thumbtacks, tape cassettes, lightbulb filaments, WD40, and those sorts of things. You can only do that for so long before something happens. In this case, Wilbur hit on an idea. "I have an invisible rocketship that we could fly in," he stated, this being the idea that had suddenly arisen, as if out of thin air. "An invisible rocketship!" exclaimed Bill 2. "That's incredible. I was just thinking how neat it would be to fly in an invisible rocketship right now. Where is it?" 37
"That's the problem," lamented Wilbur. "I can't find it. It's invisible, you know." "Yes, you mentioned that." "I've been looking for it but haven't located it." "I wonder," mused Bill, "if Larry knows where your invisible rocketship is." "Maybe," added the Anti-Bill, "he could tell us how to find it." "You know what we should do," said William. "We should call him." "That's what we should do," said Wilbur. The four eyed the set of phone booths before which they stood. "Let's not use these phones," said Bill. "Let's..." began William thoughtfully. "Let's go somewhere else and do something different." "Right," the others agreed. They walked away, well-pleased with the decision. There were so many things for them to do and they wanted to get going. It was great having a sense of purpose. They thought about that, they talked about that, and about a whole lot more. And the world, you know what? It kept on rolling, through time and all of that.
4> A Very Special Bird
At first, Bill thought that the bird speaking to him was invisible. Then he realized that he could see the bird; maybe it wasn't so invisible, after all. When a bird talks to you, you can believe it must be a special one. That just stands to reason. Bill could tell that this one sure was. "Bill," the bird said, "can I tell you something?" Bill thought about this. You don't want to give the wrong answer at any time but especially not when speaking with a possibly invisible bird. Bill hadn't quite lighted on why this was so but he knew instinctively that this being so was so. After having thought about the question, and how he should answer, Bill answered. He did so confidently. "Yes, you can." "Okay then, here it is: you need new ideas." Bill looked at the bird. "You know, you're right." The bird nodded, satisfied by Bill's response. It looked like a colourful male pheasant. Bill had a marvelous idea. "If we could train birds to deliver the mail, it would really benefit mankind." "Now you're talking," commended the bird. "Although, personally, I prefer not to have the job." "It's probably not necessary for every bird to deliver mail," said Bill. "No. But you know, Bill, these birds, they'd be called Mail Birds, wouldn't they?" "Hey right! Even if they were female!" Wow, Bill thought, this is excellent. A terrific and useful idea and it had that nuance about it that made it all the more interesting. How too too! "You should work more on your ideas, bring them all to fruition," the bird told Bill. "What do you mean?" "You've got to make them happen." "Gee, it never occurred to me that that could happen." Bill scratched his beard and thought for a bit. "Say, who are you, anyway?" "Oh, I'm just a little birdie." 39
"You look like you're made of cardboard and crepe paper." "I am. At least, so far as you can tell. I represent an intersection of dimensions." "Oh, I see. That's interesting. At least I think it is." "It definitely is." "Yeah, I thought so. I just didn't understand it." "You don't need to, it's just something that is." "Man, this is great. I'm going to tell my billophone all about this." Bill got out his pocket billophone. He hadn't used it recently. Was he running out of ideas? "You're not running out of ideas, Bill," the bird said, "so don't you worry." "That's good. Say, did you read my mind?" "Yes, I did. It's not really all that hard to do." "No?" "No." "I'll have to remember that." Bill got out his billophone. "It is not hard to read minds," he told the billophone. "Is that so?" asked the billophone. "That's what this bird told me." "Then it's got to be true," said the billophone. It's funny but the billophone always sounds bored. Getting to hear all of Bill's ideas at their onset should be exciting. It was for Bill. Bill figured that the billophone just pretended boredom, perhaps for security reasons. "Did I have other ideas to tell the billophone?" Bill asked the bird. "Not that I can remember." "Well, let me think a moment." As Bill said that the billophone clicked off. "I wonder why it keeps doing that." "Maybe it needs new batteries." "Maybe. Say, what's your name?" "I'm called Bogle. I'm the Bogle Vogel." "What does Fogel mean?"
"Vogel is German for bird. You spell it with a 'v'". "I do? Where does the 'v' go?" "Right at the beginning." "Wow. Larry knows German. Do you know Larry?" "Not personally, but I know of him." "Do you want to visit him? We could all have a nice talk." "I don't want to talk to Larry right now. I don't talk to everybody, only special people." "Larry's not special?" "Not like you are." "I didn't know that. Do you talk to the Anti-Bill?" "I haven't yet, but I plan to." "How about Wilbur?" "Yes, I will talk to Wilbur and the Anti-Wilbur." "Great." "By the way, Bill, I've been thinking." "Me too." The coincidence amazed Bill. "I have an idea." "What is it?" “I was thinking that you could be called Bill 1 and the Anti-Bill, he'll be Bill 2." "Right. We're already doing that." "Good work. And Wilbur can be Bill 3 and the Anti-Wilbur, who is also called William, can be Bill 4." "Wow, and you can be Bill 5," put in Bill gleefully. "No, I don't want to be called Bill 5. My name is Bogle." "Oh." 41
"Why don't we all get together for a good old-fashioned adventure?" "Great idea! Should we call Larry to see if he wants to join us?" "Maybe later. Right now, we should find the other Bills so that we can get going." "Okay." Suddenly Wilbur, soon to be called Bill 3, arrived. His hair appeared about ready to fly away. That would be an interesting sight, should it ever choose to do so. "Bill, am I glad to see you," said Wilbur. "I don't know, are you?" "I think I must be." "Oh. What's up?" Wilbur looked to the sky. "I don't see much. Isn't that a seagull up there." "Yes, it is," said Bogle authoritatively. Wilbur looked at Bill, surprised. "He should know," said Bill. "He's a bird himself." "He looks like he's made of cardboard." "That doesn't make me any less of a bird," responded Bogle with vexation. "No, of course not. I never said it did." "His name is Bogle," said Bill. "He's an intersection." "I'm an intersection of dimensions, Bill. Get things clear in your head." "I'll try." "Good. I'm the Bogle Vogel," the bird told Wilbur equably. Bogle seemed less vexed. That pleased Wilbur, he hated having birds angry with him, especially over such a small matter. "Doesn't Bogle mean bird in German?" Wilbur wondered. "Vogel means bird in German," replied the bird. "What does Bogle mean in German?" Bill asked. "It means bratwurst." "It does?" cried both Bill and Wilbur. "No, I'm just kidding. Bratwurst means bratwurst in German. Which makes sense, when you come right down to it. Bogle is just my name. And speaking of names, I think you should change yours, Wilbur."
"Bogle has this great idea," Bill told his friend. "He wants me to be called Bill 1 and the Anti-Bill will be Bill 2. You can be Bill 3 and the Anti-Wilbur Bill 4." "And you'll be Bill 5," Wilbur happily said to the bird. "No, I'm afraid I must put the kibosh on that idea. My name is Bogle." "Bogle means bratwurst in German," Bill told Wilbur. "No it doesn't, Bill. I told you I was kidding." "I forgot." "That's okay. Where are the others?" "You mean the Anti-Bill and the Anti-Wilbur?" asked Wilbur. "No, I mean Bill 2 and Bill 4. Haven't you been listening?" "Yes, but I forgot." "Look, it's going to be hard working with you guys if you forget everything I tell you. You will have to concentrate or my effort here will be wasted." "We'll both try harder," assured Bill 1. Wilbur—Bill 3, that is—nodded. "We've got a lot of work to do, we've got to function as a team." "We're both sorry that we let you down, Bogle," Bill 1, formerly just Bill, declared. "We'll do our best so that you can be proud of us," added Bill 3, no longer called Wilbur, or William, for that matter. "Say, I just realized that Bill 1 and I are the odd ones." "Aren't the other Bills odd, too?" asked Bill 1. "I'm Bill 3, Bill 1." "I thought you were just Bill 3." "I am!" "But you just said you were Bill 3 Bill 1. That's a radical change from what I previously understood your new name to be." "Oh yeah. Weird. I wonder why I said that." "It's odd," remarked Bill 1. "It sure is." 43
"Aren't the other Bills odd also?" "No, they're even, don't you see?" “I think I'm beginning to understand," Bill 3 stated thoughtfully, "but I'm not completely sure." Bogle relaxed, showing no further annoyance. "Okay, guys. All we need is the others to get here." "They should show up soon," said Bill. "They always do." "Hey, what's up, you guys?" It was Bill 2. Bill 4 was with him. "It's the Anti... I mean it's Bill 2 and Bill 4." "What are you talking about, Wilbur?" asked the former Anti-Wilbur, who also, in the past, used to be called William. "I'm not Wilbur, I'm Bill 3," replied Wilbur, proud that he was getting it all straight. It was pretty confusing, really, so it was something to get it figured out. "Aren't you Wilbur?" "I used to be, but that's all changed." "And you can change, too," added Bogle. "The Anti-Bill will now be called Bill 2. I know you used to sometimes be called that but now you will always have that name." "Great," responded Bill 2. "And the Anti-Wilbur will now only be called Bill 4." "That's excellent. You must be Bill 5." "No, my name is Bogle. I'm the Bogle Vogel." "Bogle doesn't mean bratwurst in German," stated Bill 3 informatively. "What does?" asked Bill 2. "Bratwurst means bratwurst in German," answered Bogle. He sounded weary. "What's bratwurst anyway?" asked Bill 1. "It's a very spoiled child," said Bogle. "Oh," said Bill 1. He started to get out his billophone. "I was just kidding you, Bill 1. You don't need to tell the billophone that piece of information."
"Okay," said Bill 1 agreeably. "So it's official, is it?" asked Bill 4. "We're each of us Bills with different numbers. Not counting Bogle, of course." He looked to the bird. The bird nodded. "I guess we're going to get lots of great advice from you," said Bill 2. "That's right," answered the bird. "Let's find some heavy rocks to put on our heads." "Where should we look for these rocks?" asked Bill 4. "I was just kidding about that." "We're not going to look for heavy rocks, then?" "I don't think so. But we'll do something interesting and exciting." "And informative?" asked Bill 1. "Possibly," allowed the fascinating bird. "We'll sure have some adventures, then," said Bill 2. "Right." Bogle nodded. "Should we call Larry?" asked Bill 3. "That's always a good thing to do," replied Bogle. "I probably won't talk to him, however." "Whatever you say," said Bill 4. "Can we visit Juliette?" Bill 1 asked. "That might be on the program," replied Bogle suggestively. The others voiced their pleasure in the menu of great possibilities that opened before them like a great, wide field of asparagus or pumpkin. The five went off to seek at least four and maybe five phone booths so they could simultaneously call Larry. That's a nice way to spend your, or anyone's, time, including Larry's. The Bills certainly were psyched.
5> A Day at the Park
Yes, there was a day when Bill 3 went to see the Red Sox play. Bill 3 had two tickets so he asked Bill 4, his good friend and perfect double, to come along. All indications suggested that they would have a first-class experience. Most experiences are first-class, so far as the Bills, in their researches, had determined. The two climbed into Bill 3's invisible rocketship and flew until, as not unnaturally happens, they crashed. After that, it was a simple matter of disengaging their seatbelts—quickly accomplished in little more than half an hour—and disembarking. They both, simultaneously, realized that to debark was to make a dog quieter. So now the boys were somewhere, which is always a relief. That somewhere proved to be in the vicinity of Alewife Station. That was lucky because they could then take the subway to Fenway. As Bill 3 thought about that he considered how he almost got married at a Boston subway station although he could not remember specifically which one. It was interesting to think about. Bill 4 had other, many other, unrelated matters with which mentally to tangle. The Bills had a really up feeling about their current situation; they were amidst an adventure. They felt totally prepared, too: both had maps of Baltimore in their packs to consult as the need arose. Sure, they were currently just outside of Boston, but both Bills figured that since Baltimore and Boston began with the same letter, as did Maryland and Massachusetts (although it was a different same letter), and both cities had a ball team in the same league, then, well, you know. This all added to the already incredible upness that they felt, make no mistake about that. They went to the window where you, and a lot of other people, get subway tokens. Everybody does this nowadays, if they have an interest in taking a subway journey. Bill 3 magnaminously said that he would take care of the tokens. "Great!" said Bill 4. That meant he would still have the five hundred and twenty three quarters in all their shininess that he started out with. "I would like four tokens please," Bill 3 said to the guy who was lucky enough to be selling those selfsame tokens. "That will be $3.40," the man said gruffly, as if it wasn't the neatest thing in the world to sit in there, dealing with subway tokens all the livelong day. "Do you take quarters?" Bill 3 sensibly asked. "I'll take whatever you have." "I have some caps to cans of WD40." "Nice try, Mac."
"Thanks. Does that mean you'll take them?" "Not a chance." "I didn't really want to give you my WD40 caps," returned Bill 3 poignantly. "I was just the testing the parametres. The WD40 caps are much too valuable but you did say you'd take anything." Bill 3 doesn't usually rise up like this but he felt the strength of a righteous cause. "He's right," said Bill 4, providing sturdy back up. "I'll take money, wise guy, if you have any," the token salesman answered. "I only have quarters," Bill 3 explained. "I'll take quarters." I have six hundred and seventy one quarters. Currently, I mean." "That's fine, Mac. I need $3.40." "Oh, did you forget to bring money today?" "I meant you have to pay me $3.40 for the four tokens that you want, smart guy." "Oh yeah, I forgot about that." "I forgot too," admitted Bill 4. "If I gave you fourteen quarters, that would be $3.50." "That's correct." "But you asked for $3.40." "I can give you a dime back." "You can? You'd do that for me?" "If you hurry up, Mac. I'm not always such a sweetheart." "Oh, I can hurry up, no problem. Say, how many dimes do you have there?" "What's holding things up?" asked someone at the back of the line. Bill 3 and Bill 4 looked around but they couldn't see who or what might be holding things up. It was an interesting question, and one worth pondering, but of course they were busily engaged as it was. The man at the window, maybe because he was new at his great job, didn't exactly understand everything quite as he should. "Do you want these tokens, 47
Mac, or do you want to get out of line?" "That's a tough choice but I definitely want the tokens." "That does not mean we're not having lots of fun in your line, though," Bill 4 put in. "Good to hear that." "Hurry up," said someone behind the Bills. "He's doing the best he can," Bill 4 said, coming rapidly to the defense of this presumably hard-working and dedicated man. "This must be his first day on the job and he isn't as adept at handling subway tokens as he will soon become." "Say," said Bill 3, looking at the tokens just slipped to him, "these are nice tokens." "Gee, they sure are," agreed Bill 4. "The workmanship is terrific." "Sure is," agreed Bill 4. "Do you know who the man is who makes these tokens?" Bill 3 asked the helpful man at the token window. "Or the woman," put in Bill 4, "if it's a woman who makes them." "No, I don't," said the man, in a strangely weary way. Pushing coins and tokens back and forth must really take it out of you. "Well, if you happen to meet this person tell him or her that Bill says he or she does good work." "Both Bills," added Bill 4 in the interest of utmost clarity. "Get out of here." "Well, sorry to have to rush off but we've got to get going," said Bill 3. "We're going to see the Red Sox play. Oh, by the way, I don't know where you got your information but my name is Bill 3, not Mac." "My name's Bill 4," added Bill 4. "Get the hell out of here," said the guy. "You're right," said Bill 3, "we're probably late." "We sure don't want to miss any of the game," said Bill 4. Before the guy, or anyone else, could slow the boys down by continuing the great conversation they were having, the Bills left. They wandered around
pretty much every inch of the station, looking around, checking nooks and crannies (especially crannies) and trying to get a bead on things. Finally, they found their way onto a train. They rode that for a good while, they really saw the sights. Granted, you don't actually see a lot of sights underground like that, but the Bills saw all that they could see, and then some. After a while it came to one of them, though they couldn't recall later which one of them exactly, to change trains. Eventually, after a lot of really sublime aimlessness, they found their way onto another train. A further excellent inspiration convinced them to disembark—but not debark—at Kenmore station. They didn't get to wander around too much at this stop because the crowd sort of all went in the same direction. Our boys made their way up the stairs into the milling excitement near Fenway Park. It was more than half decent by all accounts. There were people all over the place and every single one of them was different and all so interesting. How vivid, how exciting, how totally mesmerizing! One cannot truly do justice to the multiplicity of things that confronted the Bills there at Kenmore Square and the environs of Fenway Park but here's a partial list: a guy looking sleepy; college students talking to each other with excited importance; women carrying tote bags; white cars; pieces of paper scattered mysteriously on the ground and floating in the breeze; children wearing baseball caps; a guy eating pizza. And there were at least seventy three pigeons, if not eight thousand and one. With so many amazing marvels to consider seriously from all angles, it's a wonder the Bills didn't explode from sheer overload. It's been known to happen. A guy lay on the sidewalk. He seemed to have a leg missing. He held a sign. That right there seemed of interest to Bill 3 and Bill 4. They stopped to read the sign. It said WILL WORK FOR FOOD. "Did you make that sign?" asked Bill 4. "Yeah, I made it," replied the man. He sounded unhappy. Maybe he thought he could've made a better job of that sign, though both Bills thought it was tremendously well done. Sure, the second word lacked an 's' at the end, but that can happen. "You don't have a job?" asked Bill 3. "No, man. I had one, but I..." He shrugged. "Did you ever work with Larry?" asked Bill 4. "Naw, I don't know any Larrys." "We do," said Bill 4 happily. 49
"We sure do," said Bill 3. "One Larry, actually." "That's right. Is your name Larry, by any chance?" "No, it's George." "It's not Will?" "Naw, it's George." "George is a good name," said Bill 4 knowingly. Bill 4 had inside information on such matters. "Say, George," said Bill 3, inspired by a wonderful feeling of having a question that he could ask, "where'd you get all those nickels in your cup there?" "People gave them to me." "Really?" "I don't get money, I don't eat." "Wow, is that how it works?" asked Bill 4. It sounded like an amazing system. Bill 4 wondered who thought it up. "It's how it works for me." "Do you want my quarters, George?" Bill 4 felt compelled to ask. "I'll take what you give me, man." "Well, I'm afraid I can't give you my tops to cans of WD40. I have special uses for those." "I don't need those so much as money, man." "Oh, money I've got, if quarters are okay. As far as I'm concerned they are. You can have my quarters. Only thing is, George, this is all I've got. I can't give you more than I have. That just stands to reason." Bill 4 showed the man the inside of the excellent brown paper bag in which he kept his five hundred and twenty three quite shiny quarters. "You're not giving them all to me, are you?" "I'm not?" This was astonishing news and, truth to tell, it caught Bill 4 offguard. "I mean, nobody gives me that many." The Bills immediately sensed that some unusual and very confusing system was at work here. "You don't like them, George?" Bill 4 asked, having studied the matter with an eye to resolving the mystery before him. "They're very good ones."
"He has some really fine quarters, George," Bill 3 assured the man. "There's a lot of them." "There's five hundred and twenty three, like I said." "Jeez, mister, thanks..." "He has seven from 1968," Bill 3 put in, to suggest the incredible excellence of Bill 4's collection. "Bill 4 showed them to me." "They're mixed in there, you'll just have to trust me that they're there," Bill 4 had to say. "Bill 4 aint kidding," Bill 3 insisted seriously. This was not something anyone should fool around about. "All right," said the guy slowly. "Only thing is, um..." said Bill 4, "Well, could I have your nickels?" "My nickels? You must be joking." "I'm not trying to cheat you," Bill 4 declared. "I wanted them for Bill 3. He collects nickels." "You're going to give me those nickels?" asked Bill 3, amazed at his good fortune and Bill 4's generosity. "You bought two subway tokens for me," countered Bill 4. "That's $1.70 in American funds, slightly higher in Canadian currency." "Yeah but there must be at least seven nickels there. And you wouldn't want to rip this guy off." "Hey, I'm not being ripped off," the guy put in. "In fact, you can have my nickels for nothing if you want them, man." Maybe his disappointment about making a sign below his usual high standards—the Bills would love to see one of his really good ones—had made him a little funny in the head. There was no other explanation for George's odd behaviour. "Look," Bill 4 told George, "I'll trade my bag of quarters, and I'm talking the bag as well as the coins in it, for five of your best nickels. These are all the quarters I currently have." "Take them all if you want them, man." "Oh no, I'm trying not to rip you off." "Bill 4 can drive a pretty hard bargain," Bill 3 told the man, "so be careful." 51
George wordlessly pushed his cup toward Bill 4 who pulled out five nickels and handed them to Bill 3. "Thanks, Bill 4. And thanks, George." "Yeah, thanks," said Bill 4. He started moving again towards Fenway. Before Bill 3 moved on, he handed George two handfuls of quarters from his own bag. It came out to sixty seven, leaving Bill 3 with six hundred and four. That's a nice round number. "Bill 4 doesn't mean any harm, he just drives a hard bargain," Bill 3 confided. "You're not the first to be sucked in by his charm and craftiness." George just looked at Bill 3. Bill 3 caught up with Bill 4. By a stroke of good fortune that you just can't expect ever to happen, Bill 3 had his tickets to the game in his backpack. This made entrance into Fenway Park a whole lot easier. Before they went in, they milled around with the other people out there milling around. It was great. The smell of sausages and peanuts and people all mixed together. There was noise and excitement and everything. The Bills enjoyed themselves doing that for a while. "You know," said Bill 3, "there's a book called Familiar Quotations." "Yup, there sure is." "It's by John Bartlett." "The pear guy, right?" "Right. So he collected all these familiar quotations." "He sure did, Bill 3." "Well, here's my point. It's the unfamiliar quotations that would make a good book. If they're familiar, everyone already knows them." "I was just thinking about that myself," answered Bill 4. "A book of familiar quotations makes no sense at all." "Not one little bit," agreed Bill 4. "It's really something," said Bill 3. Having agreed on this perplexing matter, they nodded. Then they entered the ballpark. The guy who had the neat job of receiving tickets was kind enough to give them part of their tickets back. The Bills were excited about that lucky circumstance. Each put his ticket stub in the most secure part of his backpack. Entering Fenway Parks means another delightful journey through a turnstile. Subway turnstiles are fine, by all means, but the ones at Fenway Park are
simply mind-boggling. The minds of each Bill was suitably boggled by the experience of those turnstiles. They asked if they could go through again but were denied that gaudy excess. Perhaps that's just as well. Something about too much of a good thing, you know. Once through the turnstiles the Bills had a lengthy and gripping discussion concerning turnstiles. It is probably not possible to exhaust the topic of turnstiles. Both Bills vowed to get a few for home use. That sure would be something. The Bills wandered around in the grim and grimy decrepitude of this august old ballpark. By rare good fortune they made their way to Section 12—not Section 8—and the right seats even though they never consulted their tickets nor even their maps of Baltimore. They gave nary a thought about how to find where they should sit but ended up just where they should be. The world tends to roll along, after all. Good luck continued for these fortunate fellows. Their seats were great, practically perfect. They had an almost unobstructed view of this really exceptional column. At least, Bill 4 thought it was a column. Bill 3 considered it a post. They discussed this matter in detail, and that was a lot of fun. Educational too. It was a fine day for a ball game. Temperature was 7 according to Bill 3's thermometer and 137 according to Bill 4's. That averages out to a perfect 72. The Bills sat back and enjoyed things. They watched batting practice and relished it immeasurably. They tried to measure how much they relished watching batting practice but didn't have enough hard data. That's why they decided it was immeasurable. Just a theory, really. There were players running in the outfield. There were nice clouds up there in the sky. There were women who pulled their hair through the holes in the backs of their baseball caps. There were people who walked around the park shouting "Hey! popcorn here," which must be a truly excellent way to spend your time. There were people going places and others who remained in their seats and went nowhere except insofar as the planet Earth is this rock wandering aimlessly through space, or so it is said. It was all basically pretty eventful, as you can see. And the game hadn't even begun! Before the game could start the National Anthem had to be sung by some woman down on the field who did not appear to be anyone the Bills knew personally. She wasn't Juliette, that's for sure, unless something radical had occurred. If so, the Bills had not been so informed. Bill 3 wondered if maybe that woman down there was the elusive women who he maybe was going to marry but then he decided she wasn't. She was probably a very nice person, nonetheless. The game was great. The pitchers really liked to throw the ball a lot so they threw a lot of balls, so to speak, and walked lots of batters. That makes the 53
game nice and slow so that you can spend loads of time enjoying it to the max. Mo Vaughn made the crowd yell by hitting a ball right into those very excellent nets that are on top of the left field wall, which is known by countless people as the Green Monster. The Bills wished they were sitting up there on the top of that wall. They'd have an even better view of the airplane that was pulling an advertising banner behind it, though their view of the post (or column) wouldn't be as good. The next inning, Albert Belle, batting for Cleveland, goofed and hit a ball way, way over the net. "He totally missed the net!" exclaimed Bill 3. "Wow," said Bill 4, "and it's such a nice one." "You'd think a well-paid professional like him, who's supposed to be one of the best sluggers in the American League, could do better than that." "Amazing," said Bill 4. The Bills had to discuss that. They also had to ask people nearby whether that structural thing in front of them was a column, as Bill 4 believed, or a post, as Bill 3 thought. No one seemed to know. The best anyone could do is guess but guesses are definitely not what it's all about, not for the Bills. "Maybe we're talking classified information," Bill 3 suggested. "Must be something like that," replied Bill 4. "I can't imagine how so many people could be so completely ignorant about such an important issue." The Bills thought they could get one of those wandering guys to answer this nettling question but he only wanted to sell them hot dogs. The boys bought seven just to please the guy, and gave him fifty seven of Bill 3's still excellent quarters, yet he still didn't help elucidate them. For two guys so intent on learning about the world, such indifference to their curiosity was quite exasperating. But they got over it. The world, meanwhile, reputedly continued spinning.
6> Soup to Nuts
-- an example of virtual unreality -To the best of his knowledge, Bill had never exploded. Never imploded either. This despite having encountered his anti-self. You expect, in such a meeting, an incredible expression of energy. It just stands to reason. The anti-self, you see, is your complete opposite. Oddly, Bill and his anti-self, originally called Anti-Bill, are exactly the same. Go figure. This fortuitous happenstance allowed Bill and Anti-Bill to join forces in studying and enjoying their little world, in all its multifarious complexity. One thing that the Bills really dig is thinking about things. They love tackling a problem, looking at all the angles, weighing the ramifications, pondering every element, contemplating each feature until a complete picture develops. It sure is a swell way to pass the time, or what people assume is the time. On this day, they dealt with a soup can. "We sure have to open this can," insisted Bill—more commonly now called Bill 1. He understood that a matter of duty, not to mention grave import, stood before them. "Which can?" asked the Anti-Bill, now more commonly called Bill 2. He felt mightily intrigued, a horizon of great adventure spreading before him, or so he imagined. "This one," said Bill 1, holding up a fine example of the soup can maker's art. It contained 18 1/2 fluid ounces if it contained an ounce, or at least, presumably it did. "That's one great soup can there, Bill." "It sure is, Bill 2." "I'm Bill 2, Bill. That's a soup can you got there." "You're calling yourself Bill 2 Bill, now?" asked Bill, surprised that he hadn't heard news concerning this important change until now. "No way, Bill. I'm still just Bill 2, or Bill for short." "Great. That's good to hear." "It sure is. So how come we have to open that can of soup, Bill?" asked Bill 2, compelled by curiosity to continue his investigation into the core of this intriguing matter until he understood it in all its intricacies. "How did you know the can's name is Bill?" 55
"I don't know," answered Bill 2 in all honesty. "Why would the can be named Bill?" persisted Bill 1, never afraid to face the tough questions, or any of the other ones either. "I don't know," admitted Bill 2, big man that he is. "I'm still working on why we have to open that can of soup." "That's an easy one," was the ready reply that Bill sent rollicking through the ether. "So we can enjoy the contents of it." "But I already enjoy the contents of that can." Bill 2 knew in his heart of hearts that whatever that can contained, it would be super. Or souper!!! "Me too," replied Bill with great good cheer. "What I meant was that we have to open the can so that we can eat the soup inside it." "Oh. You don't really think we could fit in that can, do you? It looks awful small." "It does look small, at that," Bill 1 realized, scrutinizing the can in question. "I was wondering, Bill." "Really? So was I! What were you wondering about, Bill 2?" "I was wondering if we can stick a straw into the can." "I've never tried," said Bill, "although I'd love to some time, when I get a chance." "I've never stuck a straw into a can before, either." "Weird, isn't it, Bill 2?" "Sure is, Bill 1." "I think, now that I think about it, you'd still have to open the can, to get the straw in," said Bill. "Yeah." "So we'd still have to open the can." Bill's brows furrowed something fierce before he said those words. Even after he spoke, his brows remained exceptionally furrowed. "I hadn't thought of that," replied Bill 2, illumination arriving, sort of. His brows had furrowed, as well. It was quite a phenomenon to witness. "Say, I was wondering, do you eat soup or drink it?" "You mean me personally?" "Or me." "Well, I always chew soup, just in case."
"Me too," chirped Bill 2 happily. "I like knowing it's ready to be digested." "Me too," chirped Number 1 Bill happily. "That must mean we eat soup, and not drink it." "That's what it must mean," agreed Bill 2. They both shook their heads, each his own. They were super pleased with how well they agreed. They were in sync. A warm glow enveloped them, the sense of having a challenging situation in hand. "So how are we going to open the can?" Bill 2 eventually asked. "We could use one of those spouts that you jam into oil cans." "Those are great," said Bill 2, feeling pretty sure he knew what Bill 1 was talking about, not that his opinion depended on such a nicety. "They sure are." "Do you have one?" "One what?" "One of those oil can spouts?" "I don't know. I'll check my backpack." "Great! And I'll check mine." The two went through their packs and pulled out lots of fascinating, first-class items. Green push pins, empty vitamin bottles, hubcaps, chewing gum wrappers, leaky pens safely sealed in plastic sandwich bags, tops to cans of WD40, red combs, lots and lots of handkerchiefs, and things like that. You know, it's always a good idea to make an inventory of the things in your backpack at regular intervals. That way, you know where you stand, though it would likely be best if you did not stand on your backpack. "It looks like I don't have an oil can spout," said Bill 2. "What about you?" "What about me?" Bill asked curiously, inferring an interesting implication in Bill 2's words. "Do you have an oil can spout?" "Nope. It doesn't look like I do. I have an umbrella though." "So do I." "Should we try opening the soup can with our umbrellas?" "Well, if we don't have a can opener, the umbrella would be pretty good." 57
"A what?" "A can opener." "What's a can opener, Bill 2?" "It's a tool for opening cans." "No way!" "It's true." "Wow. What do they look like?" "Who?" "These can openers you were telling me about." "They look a lot like that thing that you got there, Bill." "This thing?" "Yes." "I thought this was an unknowable mechanism." "It can't be. It also can be a can opener. If I know what it is then it is knowable, q.e.d." "So wait a second, does that mean you know what this is?" Bill 2 reviewed his previous utterance. "Yes." "And you're saying this is a can opener, Bill 2?" Bill 2 had to ponder that question for a while, it was a toughie and he didn't want to get tricked into misspeaking. Finally, after assessing the whole situation thoroughly, he answered. "I never said I knew it's name, and I doubt it has the same name as me but, yes, I believe that's what I'm saying." Light chased away the darkness, which it will do if you want it to. "Wow, this a can opener." Bill admired the wonder of it all. "Yup." "How does it work, Bill 2?" "It's really neat." Bill 2 took the can opener from Bill 1 and demonstrated. "You hook the hook thing on the edge of the can, see?" "I sure do, Bill 2. I'm watching with total attention." Ancient Romans had no can openers but they had no cans, either. Must've been tough to live back
then. The Bills were lucky to live in a society where cans, and can openers, existed in a nice, balanced way. "Okay, so you squeeze these handles and the hook thing cuts right into the can." "Incredible!" "It sure is." "Do you happen to know what the hook thing is called?" "No, I've never learned that piece of information." "We'll have to find out." "We sure will. So anyway, you just turn this thing here..." "Does it have a name?" "It must, but I don't know what it's called." "Darn. So you turn the thing there." "Right, and there you are." "There you are." "Do you have more soup cans? You're going to want to do this, too." "I sure am. Fortunately, I have seven hundred and twenty three cans of soup right now." "That's a nice round number to have. Seven hundred and twenty three, yeah." "Thanks. That's counting this one here that you opened. I still have it, so it counts." "It sure does. Well, we should get going." "What?" asked Bill 1. "Where?" "We have more cans of soup to open." "Oh yeah, I forgot about that." "It'll be great practice," declared Bill 2. "It'll be super fine," said Bill 1. It would be like... like an event for these two curious fellows, an important project. Don't you think so? Bill and his aide-decamp, if that's the right word for what Bill 2 was, had seven hundred and 59
twenty three cans of soup to open. The idea for this resembled a ping pong ball that you smack with a green paddle and which, the ball that is, bounces back and inspiringly smacks you on the head. When that happens, you can do nothing but act upon the impulse. The Bills were used to this agenda, they found it motivational. That Bill had a can opener, the particular fact of which had previously escaped his normally wide-ranging attention, proved an excellent aspect of the current situation. But why, you may ask, did the Bills need to open seven hundred and twenty three cans of soup? Ha! Because! Bill 1 accumulated his rather vast collection of soup cans through entirely legal means: he bought them. Bill once had a job as a delivery driver. Driving offered plenty of time for Bill to think. He could really get a bead on a problem and ponder it out while he drove. Bill also met Juliette in all her glory while working that job, and Larry too, so that increased the excellence of the situation. In the course of things, Bill (somehow) developed the fine habit of buying cans of soup on a weekly, but not bi-weekly, basis. Also, he would think about Juliette, or even talk to her, if she were around and willing and all. He started slowly, maybe five cans a week. Eventually he was hauling twenty or thirty cans a week back from the supermarket. It was really quite nice. Now he would see the insides of those wonderful cans, mysteries would be revealed the revelation of which he had anticipated for ever so long. Bill could barely wait for the magic to begin. Neither could Bill 2. Consider it: metal had been formed into cylinders, probably by some very nice people. Tops and bottoms were then put on, thereby making the cylinder a container. Before the top—or maybe the bottom, who's to know?—was attached, nectar-like soup was put inside each container. What a wonder! Bill possessed seven hundred and twenty three of these so-called—but why are they so called?—cans. Well, fun as the project was, Bill 1 and Bill 2 by no means proceeded frivolously. They looked into each can, they made notes, they discussed the situation carefully. "This one seems to be pretty clear," Bill announced. "It's got yellow glop floating on top." "Glop?" asked Bill 2, looking up. "Yup, it's definitely glop. Definitely yellow glop." "That must be a chicken soup," Bill 2 decided, showing off his expertise. "Maybe so," said Bill. "Why don't you check." "Check what?"
"Check the label." "Oh yeah, that will back up our hypothesis, won't it?" "It sure will." "Well let me see here." Bill looked the label over carefully. "It seems to indicate that this is chicken and noodle soup," he said finally. "That's a good piece of information to have," said Bill 2. "You bet. I'll pour this soup into this plastic trash can." "Is that the trash can designated for chicken soups?" asked Bill 2 with interest. "It sure is." "Righto, then." "Righto." Bill poured. The trash can was astonishingly clean. The Bills always keep things really, really clean and hygienic and nice and safe. It's better that way. The noodles and stuff at the bottom of the can produced a more than respectable plopping sound when they slid out. "That's number two forty five," informed Bill 2. "Great. Do you want to open cans now, Bill 2?" "I sure do." Bill handed over the can opener in exchange for the all-important green college-lined notebook and yellow number 3 pencil. Bill proved an apt student of can opening—man, he opened cans like it was nothing—but Bill 2, being more practiced, proved even more adept. You'd've sworn he was a professional. "This one seems to have a lot of vegetables," Bill 2 declared, after first carefully investigating the insides of that intriguing can. "Excellent!" said Bill, writing in the notebook. "Pour it into the vegetable soup trash can." "You said the vegetable soup trash can?" "Yup." "Okay doke, Bill." The plopping sound this time was of a different nature than the way the noodles plopped. The boys had to discuss this, make no doubt about that. Before they could do that, however, they started looking at the ceiling... 61
Twenty minutes later, certainly no more than thirty and probably less than forty five, they stopped looking at the ceiling. "There sure are a lot of interesting things to think about," Bill 2 felt obliged to assert. The light fixture up there had been the focus of much, but not all, of his recent contemplation. "There sure are." The network of cracks on the ceiling were utterly compelling for Bill 1, but he realized that he and Bill 2 had to get back to business. "So what number can are we up to?" "According to the notes here, that empty can in your hand is number two forty five." "We're sure getting the job done," said Bill, fairly confident that he knew what the job was. He looked at the can but it didn't, really, look back. "It says on the label that this is minestrone. Not only that, it says that it's zesty." "How about that," marveled Bill 2, true to form. "Zesty, huh?" "Yup." "Zesty soup." "Minestrone soup." "Zesty minestrone soup." "An interesting concept, all right." Bill 2 jotted some pertinent notes, what he was pretty sure were pertinent notes, then he and Bill 1 discussed the word 'zesty' for a while. In the course of things the subject of eyebrows came up. That meant they had to speak a few words about Juliette, who possessed really wonderful eyebrows. The very thought of Juliette tended to intoxicate Bill 1. She had, they agreed, a zesty quality about her, not to compare her too closely with minestrone or any other canned soup. Bill 1 considered Juliette someone you could really plight your troth to, although he didn't want you to do it, he wanted to do it himself, when the time was right. He was still working out the procedures for that. Somewhere along their thinking trail, the boys returned to the matter of opening cans of soup. That got them back on track, vis-à-vis cans, soup, can openers and such like. By the time they finished, they had poured plenty of soup into the three plastic trash cans. This demanded a certain amount of decision-making. Turkey soup went into the chicken soup container because the Bills figured birds were birds. In that, it so happens, they were right. A thorny dilemma developed when Scotch Broth appeared. Bill 2, who opened the can, noticed on the label that the soup contained lamb, not beef. So far as either Bill 1 or Bill 2 were concerned, cows were not the same as lambs, nor vice versa. They decided, though, that there was less sameness between lambs
and birds, any kind of birds. And as for lambs and vegetables, well... It did not please the Bills to mix lamb with beef but the exigencies of their situation forced this manoeuvre. All in all, it proved okay. After the seven hundred and twenty third can was smartly opened and emptied, the Bills simultaneously realized that they had reached a new phase in their work. What, namely, to do with the soup that now filled three supremely effective plastic trash cans. Some ideas they pondered: 1) 2) 3) 4) They They They They could could could could use the soup as fuel for Bill's rocketship. float things on top of the soup. look at all that soup at regular intervals and think about it. call Juliette and have a nice talk.
It occurred to them that this last idea—which arrived courtesy of Bill 1's hyperactive grey matter—did nothing, for all its interestingness, to solve their soup problem. So, for all the pleasure it might give them, especially Bill 1, they rejected it. For now, at least. As to the other ideas, these too were rejected. Possibly the soup could be an effective fuel, but that needed further testing to determine. They tabled that idea until they had more time to work that out. Floating things on top of the soup presented a pleasurable possibility for enjoyment. There too, decisions had to be made as to WHAT they would float. No stones, for instance, and probably no ducks, either. What about security envelopes measuring 3 5/8" by 6 1/2"? Ah, so many troubling unknowns. That idea, nifty though it was, also had to wait. As to just thinking about the soup, well, that's okay but you got to remember, these guys are men of action. They were not about to moulder when things could be DONE. The Bills retained the comforting notion that, if the impasse could not be broken, they could contact Larry or Bogle, but they would not seek such succour until they'd thought all things through. Bill snuck in an extra think about Juliette while Bill 2 put further brain power into the disposition of the soup. "Hungry people like to eat soup," said Bill 2 finally, having given his brain a crisp workout there. "That's true," drawled Bill, relinquishing, for the moment, thoughts of Juliette so he could properly enter into this important debate. "Let's find some hungry people," said Bill 2. "Boy, I'm enjoying this whole idea a whole lot," said Bill, almost exclaiming. It wasn't quite an exclamation because he did not sufficiently raise his voice, nor emphasize the words he spoke, to exclamation level. Even so, he was pretty excited by this fabulous thought. An adventure lay ahead. 63
Once the spark of that idea hit the fuse of the Bills's intentions, things happened. It was great. They carefully put the tops on each soup-filled plastic trash can and carried the cans to Bill's excellent, home-made rocketship. The trashcans were heavy, it took two Bills to lift one trashcan. It took three trips, therefore, to get all the soup into the rocketship. "And now," announced Bill, sitting in the driver seat, "we take off." Both men were totally strapped in for safety. Bill did not exactly know where he was going but that's just business as usual. He understood and even relied on the idea that he would get somewhere, so he wasn't tense with concern. Bill 2 was equally equable, as why shouldn't he be? Eventually, but not unexpectedly, they crashed. Bill had a tendency in this regard. Fortune shined in that the three plastic trash cans landed right side up and spilled not a drop. The Bills found themselves upside down, which makes undoing their safety belts a trifle more difficult. Since Bill always lands upside down, they were used to this problem. They went to work unfastening the belts and fifty two minutes later, hey, they were free. So yeah, they wandered around, asking people if they wanted soup, lots and lots of soup. The Bills described in detail how they had seven hundred and twenty three cans worth of soup in three excellent plastic trash cans. Some folks, obviously not fans of soup, tried to avoid them. Others listened politely, and even with interest. A few asked odd questions. It was really quite a fascinating thing for our adventurous boys. A helpful woman told them about a shelter where they feed people who have nowhere else to go. The Bills, conversely, have everywhere to go, so that idea was confusing, but at least it gave Bill 1 and Bill 2 a place to aim for. They could have considered the idea that people who have nowhere to go gave the Bills somewhere to go, but they didn't. It was enough that our heroes knew the world is large, and oh so delightful to investigate. Anyway, this place sounded about right for the Bills. It was not far away, either. They thanked the woman for the information-- you cannot get too much information—then returned to the rocketship. Our heroes brought the soup to the place. The people there seemed surprised by the whole situation. Amazed, really. Bill 1 and Bill 2 knew better. You should learn to enjoy the ride because things are always happening. And all of it is interesting. The woman who accepted their largesse, she was in charge, thanked the Bills for their incredible gift. "Thank you so much, this all will really help." "Uh oh," said Bill, sensing a problem. "There may be a bit of confusion here," said Bill 2. The Bills attract confusion to themselves like magnets attract metal filings, as even the Bills had begun, slightly, to suspect.
"We may have led you astray," said Bill 2. "You've gotten the wrong idea." "What's the matter?" asked the woman. "You're not giving these to us?" "No," said Bill 1. "No," said Bill 2. "We really have to have the trashcans back," Bill explained. "They're my best ones." "Much as we'd like to give them to you, we just can't," added Bill 2, hating to disappoint this nice woman. "I meant the soup," responded the woman. "What about the soup?" asked the Bills in a unison that demanded that they nod at each other. "Thank you for the soup," said the woman, as if that cleared anything up. "I was thanking you for the soup." "You don't have to thank us for the soup," said Bill 2. "We didn't make it," Bill admitted. "Much as we would like to make soup," Bill 2 said solemnly, "we're just too busy." "Way too busy," agreed Bill. The woman didn't know what to say. The Bills surmised that if she did know, she would have said it. They saw no reason to think she would not if she did, but she didn't, so she didn't. The Bills said goodbye, inspiring the woman to say goodbye to them. Before they could, however, they had to face facts. Facts exist so you can face them, which is a fact you should face. "We have to give them the trash cans," Bill 1 realized. "It is what we have to do," agreed Bill 2. It's what the situation clearly demanded. Without further ado, Bill 2 headed for the door. Bill 1, at this point, had further ado: he began thinking about Juliette again. He reflected that she was Queen of the Universe, she was just that excellent, or probably more so. Neither Bill currently possessed knowledge as to Juliette's present whereabouts but that's okay. As always, things turned in upon themselves, making large worlds small and small worlds large. And so Bill thought about things. 65
7> The Amazing Flying Beanbag Chair
Great ideas rule the world and make it complete. Bill, also known as Bill 1, sat deep in his beanbag chair, with plenty of thoughts to ponder. By mind-boggling good fortune, Bill found the beanbag chair on the sidewalk, awaiting trash pick up. The chair awaited trash pick up. Bill, at that time, did not. He'd be happy to, if the need arose, but so far the demand had never arisen. What goes through the minds of people, Bill had to wonder, when he saw that forlorn chair. Some misguided person had jettisoned this fine example of lumpy furniture: it had been totally thrown out! That proved one more mystery for Bill's collection, to be considered at his first opportunity. Discarding such a first-class beanbag chair made no sense whatsoever. Not yet at least, but it would. Bill currently had no time to give that nettling question the attention that it deserved but he meant to once his schedule freed up. Mysteries are made to be de-mystified. Bill hauled that beanbag chair home and settled it comfortably in front of the television. The universe was allowed to spin upon its usual wobbling axis as Bill sank in and thought a few things through. He had the television on but paid no mind to what the people in the soap opera did. Bill had his own problems. Whilst Bill thought, an idea arose. This doesn't always happen, of course. Sometimes, try as Bill might, he just can't think of anything. Not that that isn't time well-spent. In this instance, though, he fetched upon a brainstorm. It was a peachy one: attach a rocket to the beanbag chair. By so doing, Bill can fly to the kitchen, or wherever, during commercials and get a snack or an umbrella. That, obviously, is an incredible idea, one of Bill's best. Naturally, Bill took proprietary pride in it. He'd found something he could sink his teeth into, though just in a figurative sense since the chair was, by all accounts, far from toothsome, filled with beans though it is. As Bill figured it, the rocket didn't need much thrust. If Bill, and the chair, could attain an altitude of about twelve inches, that would suffice. Too high, after all, and Bill would bump his head. Bill did that enough without attaching a rocket to his beanbag chair. Bill climbed from his prized throne. It was such an excellent one that it took him a while to get to his feet. He walked to a closet. Had his beanbag chair a rocket attachment, Bill need not have walked. He could have just put the thing in gear and flown there, simply cruised on over. A rocket chair would save him upwards of two seconds of valuable time on such trips, Bill estimated, and be an awful lot of fun, too. Bill did not go to the closet because some alien pod creature forced him to, although that's as good a reason as any. Bill wanted something that he had carefully stored there. He had a purpose. Bill opened the closet door. The closet was full to the brim with hubcaps. Each one of them had been found personally by Bill. The ones that people had given
him he naturally stored elsewhere. Bill was nothing if not organized. Bill was unsure, at that point in time, exactly how many hubcaps he had in there. He had that information safely filed away somewhere but Bill did not choose to go find it. He knew he had enough for his present needs and that's all, or almost all, that concerned him then. Bill needed sufficient hubcaps to fashion a rocket engine. Since the rocket required only the power to get Bill and his beanbag chair around the environs of his apartment, it need not be large. Yes, he had plenty of hubcaps for the job. Bill chose seventeen of his finest, most shiny hubcaps. He thought for forty seven consecutive seconds then replaced three hubcaps. Fourteen hubcaps ought to be ample for his current purposes. If he needed more, Bill could certainly walk back to the closet and get what he needed. Bill paused to think how great the current situation was. It sure pleased Bill to be pleased with things. Bill took the fourteen hubcaps and placed them next to the beanbag chair. He collected other important items with which to build a small rocket engine: green push pins, a map of Indiana, six aerosol cans, a few pieces of bubble gum (as yet unchewed), some empty coffee cans, a ballpeen hammer with a particularly fine peen, and so forth, the usual stuff. Oh yes, and his trusty umbrella. Bill attacked the job with purpose, totally focusing his mental and physical energies on this very important task. Bill had made rockets before. Why, his favourite means of travel was flying in his own, homemade rocketship. A total of 27,983 hubcaps went into that beauty. He hammered them all into shape with a diligence that anyone would have to admire. You'd've thought he'd wear that peen out. Bill sure was prepared to make one outstanding rocket engine for his beanbag chair. At one point, whilst working on his beanbag chair rocket, Bill realized he was hungry. It was time for a break. Bill went to the kitchen—by foot, of course, since he had yet to finish his beanbag rocket. He thought to enjoy some canned soup but sadly had none. Bill recently opened 723 fine cans of soup so that he could enjoy the convenience, versatility and just plain interestingness of his can opener. This left him with nary a can to open in this time of hunger. Bill understood, deeply, that a can opener can't be a can opener if he did not use it to open cans. Wouldn't it be terrible if the can opener lost its nature as a can opener because Bill neglected to utilize it? Not something Bill liked to think about, but he thought about it anyway. So Bill had no canned soup. He had bread and peanut butter and vegetables and things, so he made a nourishing meal from those items. Before and after preparing the feast, Bill washed his hands thoroughly, three times each. He ate with relish, but no mustard, though he mustered enough relish in what he was 67
doing that he would've relished that mustard. His meal revitalized him and he felt in good stead to finish his incredible project. While Bill was so committed in his billistic activity, in came Bill 2, Bill's own personal doppelganger, or spiritual double. Bill 2 looked like, talked like, and, best of all, thought exactly like Bill. It was quite the thing. "Hey!" said Bill 2, "did you find that excellent beanbag chair on the sidewalk somewhere?" "I sure did," answered Bill 1, trying to contain his glee. It wasn't easy. "Incredible. You must be psyched." "You bet I am." "So now you're putting a rocket engine on it, right?" "Yup." "Natural thing to do." "Don't I know it?" "My guess is that you do." Bill 2 paused, scrutinizing his spiritual twin. "Am I right?" "Yup." "You'll sure have an easy time getting to the kitchen, once that engine is installed." "Yup. And it'll save me lots of valuable time." "It sure will. Boy oh boy." "Yeah, and I'm almost done." "Can I help? I have my umbrella. I can bang on hubcaps with it." "Sure thing, Bill 2." The two proceeded to finish the good work. It was great. Eventually, after a certain, or perhaps it was an uncertain, amount of time, they finished. "The rocket chair looks operational now, Bill 1," Bill 2 remarked. "Yep, I think we've done the job." "Now you can test fly it." "I will do that now." "This will be great." Bill 2 could not, right now, think of a more happy situation
currently to enjoy. Bill sank deeply into the rocket chair. The ignition, made chiefly from green push pins though a few red ones were also employed, was on the left side of the chair. The joystick, fashioned from one of Bill's less good umbrellas, was on the right. "Give it the goods, Bill, old boy," said Bill 2. Bill flashed the okay sign then he flicked the ignition. The chair roared to life just like Sly Stallone's mother when she roars to life, if and when she ever does. With a lurch it shot straight up. Bill managed to stop it before he went through the ceiling. Luckily, he was so deep into the chair that he didn't crunch his skull. Crushing his skull probably would have produced a problem that Bill didn't need. Gaining control of the chair, Bill lowered it to about a foot from the floor then aimed it towards the kitchen. The engine was a trifle too powerful because Bill flew at quite a clip, downright briskly, in fact. Bill aimed well, at least. Smack into the doorway to the kitchen went the chair. The chair was a good fifteen inches too wide for that door so the chair chose to stop there. Bill, however, taking advantage of a physical law called momentum, continued right into the kitchen. It was great. "That was terrific, Bill 1," said Bill 2. "You might want to adjust the thrust a little bit but otherwise it was super." "And you'll notice," responded Bill 1, once he got his wits sort of straightened out, "I ended up right in front of the refrigerator. That's where I wanted to end up." "What could be more excellent than that?" admired Bill 2. "You mean besides telling Juliette all about it?" "Yeah, or Larry." "Nothing at all. How about a glass of milk, Bill 2?" "You know I want some milk." Bill 2 climbed over the beanbag chair into the kitchen as Bill peeled himself from the floor. The two sat down at the kitchen table to drink a glass of cold milk and eat Ritz Crackers smeared with delicious peanut butter. It was great. Suddenly, without warning, the two looked at the refrigerator. After that, they looked at each other. It was as if alien pod people or Sly Stallone's mother had sent them a special message. "You know what I'm thinking, Bill 2?" asked Bill. "What could be more obvious?" 69
"You mean besides putting wheels on everything?" "Yeah, besides that." "And besides telling Juliette and Larry about the beanbag chair?" "Yeah, and besides that." "It's perfectly evident." "You bet it is, Bill," exclaimed Bill 2 with overflowing pleasure. "A rocket engine for the refrigerator." "A remote-control one." "Right." "Let's get to work," said Bill 1, awash in enthusiasm. It sure was a great situation that the two currently enjoyed. Something totally exponential had happened.
8> The Not So Missing Link
-- adventure is a situation -What about cufflinks? Ah yes, cufflinks were something needing Bill 1's consideration. Bill 1 liked cufflinks. They were practical and decorative. Bill 1 just knew they were fun to make. The sun then rose upon a glimmering idea that bred a sense of purpose in Bill 1's heart of hearts. He possessed no shirts for which cufflinks could provide their exceptional usefulness, a minor detail. Bill 1 wanted cufflinks. His course lay clear. Bill 1 retired to his labouratory, which doubles as his kitchen table on those rare occasions when he can loosen up time in his busy schedule for meals. Although the kitchen table was a good seventeen feet from where Bill 1 sat, deep within the contemplative confines of his beanbag chair, it took him less than two seconds to get there, thanks to the rocket on his beanbag chair. Adding that rocket was a stroke of true illumination, a state that Bill 1 reached on a regular basis. Bill 1's life was that much more simplified, which Henry David Thoreau would think downright nifty. Admittedly, starting the rocket took longer than it ought but it was only a nineteen minute delay. During that time Bill 1 managed to discover and fix some slight misconfigurations perhaps permanently if not temporarily. Anyway, Bill 1 had himself a project and that meant adrenalin whipped through his system like an aerodynamically-designed piano bench through space. He had a job to do and was on the case with total concentration. Bill 1 fetched a shirt from his bookcase and carefully placed it on the table. It looked good stretched out like that. Bill 1 decided to wash his hands and did so, several times each. He then smoothed out the shirt as perfectly as the most highly regarded shirt-industry professional could do. The shirt was definitely ready for cufflinking procedures. On the selfsame table he collected interesting items that he figured could and probably would prove useful in cufflink production. Top among the items so collected: several caps to cans of WD40, a ballpeen hammer (no ordinary one), a Phillips head screwdriver—the best kind of screwdriver in all existence—and an umbrella. He would make himself a pair of cufflinks, all right. Before he could do that, however, Bill 1 had to wonder about Phillip. If you haven't wondered about Phillip of Phillips head screwdriver fame, perhaps you're not doing your job. It's such a natural thing to think about. So is the Allen of the Allen wrench, though that's another story entirely. So, Bill 1 wondered, did Phillip invent said screwdriver (and the screw that goes with it) or was he only the namesake? Did Phillip have an 'X' on the top of his head or, possibly, a plus sign? Or was Phil's head shaped like... 71
Well, even Bill 1 realized he was entering weird territory. Bill 1 did not deal in weird ideas, he stuck with fascinating concepts and useful considerations that he can get somewhere with. It's pointless to waste your time on dumb stuff. As Bill 1 understood the situation in the full extent of its ramifications, he needed a sort of slot at the cuff regions of the shirt so that the cufflinks could go through. That just stood to reason. There was a sharp part on his umbrella that could facilitate the creation of that slot. Bill 1 thought for a moment, if not more. Perhaps, he was making a slit and not a slot. He felt fairly sure—but unfortunately not one hundred percent so—that it wasn't a hole, so far as he understood the term 'hole'. He thought about potato chips and Juliette, then, just as he intended, made the opening (it was an opening) in the shirt where the cufflinks could attach. Once again, his trusty umbrella did not let him down. Bill 1, at this point, wondered what was on television. He couldn't help himself, he just had to know. He got up and went to the television. There were seven capless cans of WD40 atop the set. There was also a breadbox. Bill 1 looked at them then returned to the business at hand. Using a couple of the WD40 caps, some green pushpins, and a few other such items, Bill 1 produced two seemly representatives of the cufflinks species. Time had nary a thing to do with Bill 1 so there's no telling how long it took to produce these fine specimen. Bill 1 felt super pleased with the results. He linked the cuffs, if that's the right way of saying it Bill 1 spent a while thinking how absolutely great things currently were. After that he put the shirt on. Only thing is, the cufflinks made it so he couldn't get his hands through the sleeves. That was no big problem since the sleeves were long. Bill 1 could get his whole arm in there, he just couldn't push his hands through. Bill 1 considered that this took away some of the utility of his thumbs and fingers. Bill 1 wondered about that. Thoughts of smoke, soup and lampshades drifted through his mind then he realized this was an excellent time to undo everything he had done. He removed the cufflinks from the shirt. He sewed up the slots, slits, holes or openings that he made on the cuffs while simultaneously feeling duty-bound to discover what professionals in the shirt and cufflinks industries call the slot, slit, hole or opening on a shirt through which cufflinks go. With all that finished to Bill's satisfaction and the high standards he holds for himself, he enjoyed a feeling of well-being. He had done what he had to do. This opened a vast field of good thoughts for him to enjoy: Juliette, cirrocumulus clouds, 9x12 manila envelopes delivered to Bill 1 by the Postal Service, synchronicity, pushpins (especially green ones), information, WD40, Ted Kennedy and his lovely wife, the thread used to sew baseballs, driving in circles, soup cans, quarters, peens, keys, women like Juliette, batteries, beanbag chairs, direct and efficient response to the problems that face us, and things like that. He brimmed with joie-de-vivre, and that can never disappoint.
9> The Adventure Emphatically Begins, to the Max
-- an interlude of fascinating exploits -Four guys now totally named Bill walked along the street with a bird that was or wasn't invisible. They walked purposefully because all five knew that an adventure awaited them. They just needed to find it. "Larry doesn't live in this town, does he?" asked Bill 1. "I don't think so," replied Bill 4, "but maybe, if we're lucky, we'll run into him." "More likely we'll walk into him," Bill 2 pointed out, stickling for accuracy. "Do you think so?" asked Bill 1 anxiously. "Well, we're walking, aren't we?" "I know I am," said Bill 4. "You're what?" asked Bill 3, always but always ready for new revelations. After some careful thought, because you never want to misspeak, Bill 4 replied, as if he were Fats Domino, although so far as we know he isn't, "I'm walking." "Oh yeah," said Bill 3. Bills 1 and 2 nodded, since that seemed the appropriate thing to do. "I just wish Larry lived in this town so that we could walk into him," Bill 4 went on. "I used to have Larry's address written down on a boxtop to a cracker box but I lost it," said Bill 3. "You lost a cracker boxtop?" asked Bill 2 sympathetically. "Yes, I did. And it was a really good one, too. The colours hadn't faded much." "And you had Larry's address on it, so it was doubly important," said Bill 1. "Yeah, or it might've had the address of the woman I'm going to marry. I can't quite remember which." "Either way, it was important," said Bill 1. "You bet." "We don't need to worry about any of that now," said Bogle-- that interesting bird accompanying the Bills—in a take-charge manner. "If we run into Larry here then we run into him." 73
"Or walk into him," Bill 2 felt obliged to add. "That would be an interesting coincidence," noted Bill 3. "I'd like that to happen," said Bill 1. "Hey! Why don't we visit Larry." "Not now, Bill, I want you to shoot the president," Bogle said ominously. "What? You want me to shoot the president?" asked Bill 1. "Wait now, Bogle," put in Bill 3, "which Bill are you talking to?" "Sorry, my error. I was talking to Bill 1." "You want me to shoot the president?" Bill 1 wanted the situation cleared up so they could know how to proceed. Situations are made to be cleared up, if you want to know. "No, I was only kidding." "You don't want me to shoot the president, then?" "No, of course not I don't advocate acts of violence, not even against presidents." "That's good." "Hey guys," put in Bill 3, formerly known as Wilbur, "let's go into this ice cream parlour and get some ice cream." "Great idea," said Bill 4. Then, turning to Bogle, "Can we?" "I think it will be okay," Bogle replied. "But you guys must pretend that I'm invisible." "It won't be easy," said Bill 2. "I am visible to only certain, special people," Bogle explained. "You mean like us?" Bill 2 asked. "Exactly. People with rare intelligence, who see the world’s particulars." "That's great," said Bill 3. "It's a real honour." "You aint kidding," said Bogle. "So now, enter the ice cream parlour." They did, as easy as pie. It was like no pie in the universe could be easier than this particular pie of which we seem to be speaking. It's a good thing that Bogle is invisible to most people since he was a pheasant and looked to be made of cardboard and crepe paper. Even so, he seemed imbued with considerable wisdom. "Do you have any ice cream that an invisible pheasant might like to eat?" joked
Bill 3, when the waitress asked for their orders. "Don't be a tease," cautioned Bogle. "I think Rocky Road is just the thing," replied the waitress cheerfully. "Then I want a big bowl," said Bill 3, "for the invisible bird, and I'll take one for myself." "We don't usually have invisible birds," kidded the waitress. "Don't be so sure," replied Bill 3, winking at Bogle. The rest gave their orders. "That waitress knows her stuff," said Bogle. "I love Rocky Road." "She's nice, all right," said Bill 3, perhaps thinking along somewhat different lines, or loops. "Although I would never have suspected that was her name." "It's good Bill 3 asked," said Bill 4. "I never would have guessed Rocky Road," said Bill 1. "It's an unusual name all right," Bill 3 conceded. He seemed to be somewhere else, though, so no one paid him much mind. "You're not expected to know everything, Bill 1," answered Bogle. "No, I suppose not," sighed Bill 1. He didn't really believe in limits, so this was a tough notion to absorb, true as it might be. Anyway, time kind of rattled along whatever road, rocky or otherwise, it tends to follow. "By the way, Bill 3," Bogle said confidentially, "she may be the one." "Really?" Bogle nodded conspiratorially. Bill 3 had to think all this through. "This is a fine adventure," declared Bill 2. "One of the best," said Bill 4. "And it's just beginning," said Bill 2. Both he and Bill 4 decided to investigate the napkin holder. It had some sort of mechanism in its operative core, and that was interesting, mighty interesting. Soon, the napkins were out of the holder and the thing was being dismantled to a fine fare-thee-well. "Good thing I brought my umbrella," said Bill 2, prying at the holder with the pointy end of the umbrella. "It sure is," said Bogle, looking on with interest. "Hey," cried Bill 1 with loads of enthusiasm, as if he were in charge of the moon's phases, "I think my pocket billophone is trying to tell me something." 75
"It doesn't usually do that, does it, Bill 1?" asked Bogle. "No. Lately it's been acting like it's broken." "Bring it out and let's hear what it has to say," suggested Bill 4, no longer quite so interested in the napkin holder. Bill 2 was still very interested in that holder. It was interesting, so far as he could tell. "Bill, put salt on your ice cream," the pocket billophone announced once Bill 1 had brought it out so all could hear. "The billophone says I should put salt on my ice cream." "When it arrives," added Bill 3 helpfully. The ice cream, you see, had not yet arrived. It would be a completely wasted effort to put salt on your ice cream when you don't, in fact, have any ice cream. "Hey," said Bill 3, "the billophone called you Bill. That's not your name. You're Bill 1." "Bill used to be my name," explained Bill 1. "I guess the billophone has never accepted the change." "That would explain it," noted Bill 3. "What should I do, Bogle?" asked Bill 1. "You should keep the name Bill 1 for always." "No, I meant about what the billophone told me to do." "Do you always do what the billophone tells you to do?" the bird queried. "Sure." "Well then, I guess you have your answer." "You mean I should..." began Bill 1 but then he had to stop and ponder. He needed to think and he couldn't talk while he was thinking, now could he? "Bill 1," said Bogle patiently, "if the billophone has good advice for you, you should follow it. Bad advice, however, should not be followed." Bill 1 continued pondering, so Bill 2 replied. "It doesn't sound good, putting salt on your ice cream." "The billophone said nothing about putting salt on my ice cream," Bogle pointed out. "It was talking about Bill 1." "Right but..." "Bill, listen to me," said the billophone, "I was just joking about putting salt on your ice cream."
"Which Bill are you talking to?" asked Bill 2. "I only know one Bill." "There are four Bills now," Bill 3 put in proudly. "Which one was the first one?" the billophone queried. "Oh, that's Bill 1." "Somebody speaking to me?" asked Bill 1, roused from a good pondering session. "I just wanted to say that you needn't put salt on your ice cream if you don't want," said the billophone. "Oh, okay. Say, since you're working good now, I have a few ideas I want to tell you. I've been doing a lot of thinking and..." The billophone clicked off. There was definitely something amiss with the thing. "Here comes the ice cream," announced Bogle. The waitress bore a trayful of goodies. "This is a terrific adventure," said Bill 4 as he examined the heaping bowl of vanilla ice cream that the waitress, who seemed to be giving off some sort of warm, nice-smelling light, placed before him. "Where's the invisible bird sitting so that I can give him his ice cream?" asked the waitress pleasantly. "He's next to Bill 1," said Bill 3, pointing. "Hope you guys enjoy your ice cream," said she, placing the bowl of Rocky Road before Bogle. She left, but somehow, her smile didn't. Bill 3 took particular interest in that. "The ice cream looks delicious," said Bill 4. "I like the bowl a lot," admired Bill 3 politely, although maybe it wasn't the bowl he was thinking of. "I wish Larry were here," said Bill 2. "It'd be more fun if he were." "And Juliette," said Bill 1. "I can't wait to dig in," declared Bogle. He sat up in his chair and began pecking at the ice cream. He didn't get much. He was just a cardboard pheasant, after all, ill-equipped to eat ice cream. 77
"Looks like you're having trouble, Bogle," said Bill 1. "Bill 2, I want you to take my ice cream and dump it on the head of the waitress." "You mean the waitress that just brought us our ice cream, Bogle?" "Oh forget it, I'm just kidding." "You know, she looks a little like Juliette," said Bill 1 pensively. "Who's Juliette?" asked Bill 4. "She's someone I used to work with," answered Bill 1. "Now she works here as a waitress?" asked Bill 3. "That interests me greatly." "Quite a coincidence," remarked Bill 4. "A wonder of wonders," said Bill 3, and you can quote him. "I thought you used to work with Abby," said Bill 2. "I did," answered Bill 1. "Who's Abby?" asked Bill 3 with interest. "She's someone Bill 1 used to work with," said Bill 2. "Wait a sec," said Bill 4, a little confused. "Is the waitress named Juliette or Abby?" "Her name tag said Sharon," noted Bill 3, with keen observation. "Well, it didn't actually say it. I had to read the thing." "You never can tell with name tags," remarked Bill 2, a prisoner of experience, perhaps. "You sure can't," agreed Bill 1, sounding like one who'd learned a lesson. "I'm sure getting confused," said Bill 3. "This ice cream must be going to my head." "Oh, that reminds me, I'm supposed to dump Bogle's ice cream on the waitress's head." "I said forget it, Bill 2, I was only kidding. You guys can eat my ice cream, though. I forgot that I'm not capable." "Hey, this is extra special," said Bill 3, reaching with his spoon to get some of that Rocky Road. "Hey," said Bill 2, "that was weird. I just saw somebody who looked an awful lot like Larry come into this place. When he saw me he left real quick. I wonder what that could mean?"
"It means you're imagining things, Bill 2," Bogle told him. The bird sounded petulant. Frankly, he was a mess, what with Rocky Road all over him. "Let's split." "Right. We'll move on, see if there's more adventures to have," said Bill 3. "I'm sure there's lots in store for us," Bill 4 stated. "Maybe we could find my invisible rocketship," said Bill 3. He reached into his pockets and pulled out dollar bills. The five pockets of his pants, including the little one that's for change or a watch or something—and which Bill 3 has wondered quite a bit about—each gave forth a bill or two. So did his shirt pocket. He put these all on the table and they all got up and left. "Thanks for paying, Bill 3," said Bill 2. "Very generous," said Bill 1. "I think one of those bills was a hundred dollar bill," said Bill 3. "You talking about one of us?" asked Bill 4. "No, I mean that one of the bills I just put on that table might have been a hundred dollar bill." "Did you have any hundred dollar bills?" asked Bogle. "I don't know, it's possible." "It sure is," agreed Bill 4 equably. "If you did put a hundred dollar bill on the table, Juliette will be pleased. Juliette or Abby, that is." "Or Sharon," added Bill 3. Suddenly, Bill 3 seemed to run into something. "Ouch!" "What happened?" asked Bill 4. "I think I found my invisible rocketship." "I don't see any invisible rocketship," said Bill 1. "If you think about it, Bill 1," said Bogle, "you'd realize that it makes sense that you don't see Bill 3's invisible rocketship." "You're right, Bogle," replied Bill 1 thoughtfully. "As always." "Looks like a good ship," said Bill 2. "I mean, it sure is invisible, so it's definitely got that going for it." 79
"It's a good ship, all right," acknowledged Bill 3, hunting with his hands to locate the door to the craft. "All right, I found the door." "Is there room for all of us?" asked Bill 2. "It just so happens that I designed this rocketship to accommodate four people and a cardboard and crepe paper bird." "Man, that's great," said Bill 4, as they crammed in. "Excellent planning, Bill 3," said Bogle. "Let the good times roll," said Bill 3, starting the engine. "Let's go to New York and kidnap Donald Trump," suggested Bogle. "If we did that we could ransom him for two million dollars in quarters," put in Bill 2. "Or even one million," added Bill 1. "Or even $19,085 worth of subway tokens," said Bill 4, hoping against hope. "Do you really want us to kidnap Donald Trump?" Bill 3 asked Bogle. "I was just kidding. Let's go to Mars." "Yeah, Mars is great," said Bill 1. It was part of his extended universe so he was bound to like it. "Hey, I just thought of something," cried Bill 3. "I just paid our bill with some bills, and my name is Bill." “Your name is Bill 3, Bill 3," corrected Bogle. "You mean I have to say it twice now?" asked Bill 3, rather surprised to learn there'd been a change. "No, once is enough." "So I'm still just Bill 3?" "Right." "Okay. Good." Bill 3 liked that things were now squared away. He concentrated on his flying, although he wasn't really good at concentrating. If he concentrated he could concentrate, but only just barely. That is to say, if he concentrated then he had more concentration. Or something like that. Anyway, the five landed on Mars and had some adventures or whatever and found plenty of things on the ground, some of which were quite shiny. It was all pretty interesting. They stayed on Mars for three days, or seven weeks, something like that.
10> Of Eggplants and Other Things
Bill 1 had never, ever expected—not in his wildest, nor his second wildest, imagination—to have a conversation with an eggplant, and he didn't. So this will be no story about that. As the narrative fog dissipates here, we find Bill 1 standing in a convenience store with nary an eggplant in sight. Of course, he had one in his backpack, but it wasn't in sight. If we were to say "so it goes", perhaps we wouldn't be kidding. Standing in a convenience store is something people do, at all hours of every day, world without end, amen. People are people, generally, and (generally) do what people do. That's quite a dynamic, when you think about it, a construct of perpetual imagination. It may just remain so even if you don't think about it. Referring back to our hero, as well we ought, we find that he specifically—and it's always good to be specific once in a while, if not somewhat more often— stood in front of a dazzling snack display. We're talking communion as Bill 1 tuned in to the festive panoply before him. The spectrum of snacks exhibited included potato chips, corn chips, straight pretzels, twisted ones, variously flavoured popcorns, many types of nuts and those airy, crunchy, cheesy, neon orange configurations of interesting ingredients that are conceptually engrossing for their ability to put snap into your life. All these delights are especially enjoyable when suitable libations are also consumed, so we hear. A fine truism concerning snacks—and let's be honest: this world needs truisms—is that snacks are best when enjoyed with suitable libations. Bill 1 was not, at this point in time, ingesting either snack or libation but he was doing his utmost to take all this in. While Bill 1 was ensconced in such veritable wonder, a man tapped him on the shoulder and said "Excuse me." Some great interestingness could possibly arise from this—or any—encounter, Bill 1 surmised, so he was more than ready to give ear to what the man said. "Those frozen burritos are something else, man," advised this man in a low, husky voice. Well! This was information and Bill 1 loved information. Always, but always, Bill 1 sought to extend the range of information that he possessed. "You mean they are something other than what they are?" Bill 1 asked, ready to be intrigued, perhaps even entranced, by whatever answer the man could conspire to offer. "Brother, that's exactly what they are," replied the man, whose hair was dark as the darkest extant eggplant, although more black actually than purple. 81
"Wow!" returned Bill 1, amazed to have all this to deal with. "I can explain exactly how frozen burritos are something other than what they are." "Wow," said Bill 1, having first decided that this was the most apposite response that he could make at this juncture in time, space or whatever. "You see, man, you take one of these burritos and it's totally frozen. I mean it's a totality of frozenness. Why would you or anyone want to eat it, man, it's like a rock." The man politely gave Bill 1 a chance to thoroughly ponder why he (Bill 1) or anyone else would want to do so. If the thing really was like a rock, as it verily seemed, then he (Bill 1) could see no reason why one would want to eat it. "Look here, brother, and I will now explain. If you just stick it into one of these microwave babies here, and turn the machine on, the component molecules of the burrito agitate and the thing heats up. That's a scientific fact respected by most people." "Well sure," said Bill 1, loving every minute of this great informational onslaught. "Okay so, if you can get the burrito out of the oven before it melts or turns into ash, you've got yourself something that you would want to eat. I mean to say, you really would. I know I do." "Eat the oven?" asked Bill 1, surprised at what seemed an odd conversational turn as well as something that was currently rattling certain facets of his belief system. "No, I'm talking the burrito, man." "Who's the Burrito Man?" "You are, brother. See, you took one and warmed it up in the microwave oven and now it's ready to eat." "I did?" "Sure you did. In your imagination, I mean. A thought experiment. You're the man." "But I don't think I want to eat the microwave. Besides, I thought it melted or turned to ash." "No, that was the burrito. Except that it wasn't." "Oh. So I can still eat the microwave?" Bill 1 remained far from convinced of the attraction in that, although the idea of it roused certain aspects of wonder in him. "I believe I speak of the burrito, my friend."
"The burrito is your friend?" turned out to be the next billism to enter the atmosphere. Bill 1 sensed something about the current situation but was definitely sure he didn't know what. "Maybe so, but I was simply addressing you as my friend." "Okay, I see that." "That's good, man." "What I'm not sure about, though, is: are you saying the burrito tastes good even if it has melted or turned to ash?" Bill 1 quizzed with his standard perfection of inquiry. "Brother, I want you to understand. If you warm the burrito without overdoing it, just right, you know what I mean, then you got yourself a darn good food item. That's the point I want to make." "Well, I knew that," said Bill 1, because he did. Besides, Bill 1 believed one should never, ever overdo it. That just stood to reason. "So look here now. What was at first just about a rock because of its frozen condition, and not something you'd consider eating, has been transformed into a delicious food that you can enjoy as a meal or a snack. To me, that says that the burrito of which we spoke is not what it is." "Wow, I get it." Bill 1 felt as if someone had just turned on the hall light. It's great to get that old hall light going. It makes you feel as if you'd just found your boots under your, or anyone's, bed. "The peace that passeth understanding, brother," stated the mystery man in such solemn tones that even the most ignorant pumpkin in existence would likely take note and be impressed. "And I'm the Burrito Man!" exclaimed Bill 1, savouring an earlier realization. He felt roughly as surprised as the first three crocus blooms in spring, but also pleased by the honour. "That you are, my friend." "Wow." Someday, when an opening appeared in his schedule, Bill 1 would seek to discover exactly what it meant to be the Burrito Man. Till then, Bill 1 could enjoy whatever aspects pertaining to that title that made themselves known to our hero. It was exactly at this time that the French painter Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun appeared. She was very pretty and her hair was a festival of lovely brown curls. "Bonjour Guillaume Numéro Un, bonjour Elvis," said she mellifluously. 83
"Howdy ma'am," returned the mystery man with the prematurely black hair. Bill 1 said nothing right then because he felt slightly like an eggplant. "We have to go now," the painter told Bill 1, indicating the other man and herself. "Okay," said Bill 1. He still felt like an eggplant, but not as much as before." "It's that time," said the man known as Elvis. Bill nodded thoughtfully, not quite sure what Elvis meant, but convinced that the man was right. Elisabeth and this Elvis man gestured pleasantly at Bill 1 and left. Bill 1 knew he had a lot of data to assess and that he should get to the job at his first, or maybe second, opportunity. Meanwhile, there was the whole idea of barbecue potato chips and the entire realm of snacks that he had to think about. Our hero, never one to avoid a task, immediately put his nose to the grindstone, but you must realize that he only did this figuratively: to do so literally just did not currently seem to fill the bill, so to speak, but figuratively: oh yeah, Bill got down to business.
11> Fun with the Godhead
Touching the godhead is such a simple matter. Jump onstage when The Rolling Stones or Madonna or Ted Kennedy are up there performing their little hearts out and showing enough love to fill a fairly large wicker basket. The stage then becomes a bridge into the infinite, or a door into a better than average cookie factory. Once up there, you see, you can race around or dance or enter into a physical encounter with the humanity there. Not counting the security staff, of course, who are just ordinary and often show a marked inclination to encounter you physically in a way that inspires no sense of the eternal godhead at all. This, roughly, is what Bill 1 believed for most of what he was worth. Bill 1 didn't need to touch the godhead because, well, there was probably a reasonable reason why. Still, it was interesting how other people greatly need to. Bill 1 wandered into many situations and discovered loads of people longing for important things they could touch and be totally part of. Such situations are tantamount to fascinating. So here's Bill 1, and here is Boston. The idea being, you understand, that Bill 1 was in Boston. On a cool early autumn evening, as it happens. Indeed, Bill 1 found himself at the Hatch Memorial Shell right there by the Charles River. This Hatch Memorial Shell was not, in any way that Bill 1 could tell, made from shells. You got to wonder how things can be that way. Like, it really isn't fair, naming something incorrectly, with a blithe disregard for the facts. Do people enjoy misnaming things, do they like misspeaking? Bill 1 spoke to several people about this disturbing situation but the sophisticated complexity of his argument surpassed the understanding of those with whom he spoke. After discussing the point with one hundred and seven or so people, Bill 1 wearied of the unimaginative and frivolous responses to what he knew was a really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really big problem. Bill 1 did not give up on the matter—Bills don't give up—but he decided to table further discussion till a more opportune and receptive time. That just made sense. Besides, things were happening. Things tend to happen, at just about all times. There was a concert going on in this very Hatch Shell which, as has already been mentioned, is no shell at all. And do you think maybe it resembles a shell, at least? As if! Anyway, here was Bill 1 as also here was a concert. The concert was loud. Loudness is when noise molecules are activated with great insistence and physical vitality to produce a considerable aural sensation. It's a power of sorts and can be extremely motivational. It can also make you feel like the knob on a thermostat or even a top to a can of WD40 that has mysteriously turned from 85
yellow to purple (the cap, that is, not the can). Which, if and when you think about it, betokens a pretty impressive power. The noise or loudness of this concert at the Hatch Shell probably is what drew Bill 1 to this particularly spot on this particular world. Alternatively, maybe it owed to the chance of his molecules all combining in an effort to be where he currently was. At any rate, there Bill 1 certainly stood. The crowd predominated in American youth, as many crowds do. While the one hundred and seven people Bill 1 had already spoken with showed little interest in the fascinating shell question that he'd brought up, he still found some intriguing aspects to the people he met. But, since the music was so loud and everyone was caught up in the idea of dancing and yelling, Bill 1 felt obliged to forego the pleasure of engaging people in conversation. He used the opportunity to look around, absorb the sights, and otherwise continue to challenge his senses and mind. Somehow, through recondite means, Bill 1 learned that the group onstage was called Green Day. He didn't know them personally or otherwise but there was no question that they were up there. The drummer had green hair. That sort of thing can happen, apparently. Or if not, then something was mighty confusing about the current situation. Bill 1 started to think about that but then he thought about something else. What that something else was Bill 1 never really knew because a further something else caught him and that's the something he stayed with. It concerned lamp posts and crullers and a few other things that seemed to relate to something Bill 1 had been thinking about earlier, or not at all. Suddenly, Bill 2 arrived. "Hey there, Bill 1." "Howdy, Bill 2." They had to shout to be heard. This owed to the fact that the concert was pretty loud and that neither of the Bills was radioactive in any helpful way. "The drummer has green hair," noted Bill 2, asserting an experiential fact that he had just perceived. "Which drummer do you mean?" asked Bill 1, as always, seeking clarification. "That one up there on that stage." "Oh yeah, I noticed that." "That sort of thing can happen, apparently." "Yeah, apparently," agreed Bill 1, apparently. "Is Larry here?" "I haven't seen him." "You mean today or ever?" wondered Bill 2.
That one almost proved a stumper. Bill 1 thought about it for a great old time, during which interval the music and the crowd grew louder. The world spun, but that's considered normal. Finally, Bill 1 answered. "Today I haven't seen him," said he forthrightly, being totally the man he totally was, even though what he just said sounded a little bit funny. "You have a lobster now?" asked Bill 2, feeling certain that Bill 1 ought to explicate such a bold and vivid statement as Bill 2 thought he heard. Besides, Bill 1 having a lobster numbered among the things Bill 2 would like to know more about. "What?" asked Bill 1, whose ability to hear sounds other than the surging noise of the concert was less than it might be. Or maybe, really, it wasn't. "What?" asked Bill 2, who could hear that something was to be heard but couldn't hear what he was not really hearing. "What?" enquired Bill 1, feeling sure that if Bill 2 spoke loudly and clearly—and also didn't explode—then he, Bill 1, would be able to hear what he, Bill 2, said. "What?" returned Bill 2, suspecting that if he used an interrogative at this point in time he might elicit a clarifying response from his good friend, alter ego and doppelganger, Bill 1. "What?" queried Bill 1, seeking from Bill 2 words that would produce understanding concerning the current situation as it now stood. "What?" yelled Bill 2, feeling slightly like a grapefruit that needed an answer to an important question. "What?" bellowed Bill 1, although he wasn't much good at bellowing. It's just that the moment seemed propitious for such an act. "What?" asked Bill 2 at the top of his voice while meanwhile becoming, briefly, a lampshade, a drum, and a piano bench (in that order) before returning to normal Bill 2ness. None of this, as it happens, was noticed by Bill 1 or anyone. "What?" demanded Bill 1, feeling the centre of the earth slide slightly to the right, a move that can only be described as inefficient. "What?" questioned Bill 2, showing a strong tendency to use the word 'what' with an implied question mark in circumstances when an answer was desired. Bill 1 definitely had it in him to pose the stirring question "What?" right then but he didn't. Neither Juliette nor someone who looked like her walked by but Bill 1's mind took a healthy ramble anyway. Several people from the crowd were now up on the stage. They looked possessed by a sense of being on the stage and of being possessed by a sense 87
of being on the stage. They looked busy, too. Bill 2 suddenly entered the same thoughtstream as Bill 1. The result of this simpatico was a concentration of curiosity aimed directly at the stage by our two heroes. It certainly was great even if the Hatch Shell itself left something to be desired. There's nothing wrong with leaving something to be desired, by the way. It fills the spaces. By some people's definition, things had gotten out of hand insofar as the concert was concerned. Something about the crowd pushing down barriers and tearing up the grass and otherwise doing stuff that perhaps oughtn't to be done brought forth this sense. Or something like that. The result of this activity, this broiling of human energy, was a rather more than equal opposite reaction by the local and state police. It would all be considered very interesting by the Bills but their attention was engaged elsewise. They found themselves next to Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, noted for being a court painter during the elegant albeit curtailed reign of Louis XVI. She looked not at all like Juliette, but really, that was okay, even so. If someone was going to look like a flower, Elisabeth might be the one. Elisabeth wore a wide-brimmed straw hat with blossoms round the brim and a jaunty feather sticking out. Juliette never wore such a hat although there were probably no legal reasons why she did not. Elisabeth seemed a little out of place, the way eggplants look funny inside your computer. Bill 2 knew the feeling and nodded at her in his most eloquent and beguiling way. Bill 1 also knew exactly the feeling of being an eggplant inside a computer and so he nodded as well. With the music over and a lot of the crowd moving elsewhere, it was much quieter. "It's really something," said Bill 1, meaning, of course, everything in all its multi-faceted totality of grandeur. In reply to this well-spoken phrase, the gifted painter replied, smiling pleasantly, "C'est magnifique." All in all, that seemed just about the exactly most right thing to say right then. The Bills were more than pleased that she said it, way more than pleased. The time, you see, was just right, as it always, after all, is. Clouds, for a while, moved on, and so did the Bills and their painter friend.
12> Green Pillow on a Blue Bed
Bill didn't usually fear things because fear is like a green pillow on a blue bed. It's just there. Or maybe it isn't; you'll have to check the pillow on your own bed to be sure Still, times of concern occur for Bill. You never, for instance, know when you might explode. Perhaps for no reason at all you might discover that your component molecules have spread across the firmament to a degree that might even sadden or otherwise discomfort you. That would prove royally confusing, though possibly quite interesting. If you were Bill—though chances are dim that you are—you'd find that everything rolls through the universe. That being the case, you might find yourself supposing numerous things. Suppositions fill and somewhat inform this dicey world in which we live. You have to make what you can with the data available. If love is an airplane circling the Eiffel Tower, and there is no reason to dispute that notion out of hand, since Juliette herself could be in that plane, then Bill might have to brace himself for a sense of endless mountains. You can't always stride past these conceivably fearful ideas, whistling a merry tune. Since facts are facts, or close enough, then sometimes you must face up to the green pillow on your bed. That's just what Bill did. Okay, so Bill did not recall the colour of the pillow on his bed and he had to go check. Big deal! It's a big ole world with a lot of items (all of them excellent, by the way) to be noted, catalogued and, eventually, remembered. Bill is the first, or at least the second, to admit that it sometimes takes time for him to remember everything. That's the real point. Everything is, after all, pretty big, as should seem obvious to all. That being understood, we can witness Bill in action. He went, in his slow and easy way, to the room in which his bed resided. His bed stood there quite stationary. Sure, a radio-controlled rocket bed would be an excellent, excilient thing, a real boon, but our hero had yet to bring one into existence. He had, to be sure, thought about a radio-controlled rocket bed, so there existed the possibility of such a bed's existence. A certain existence is, then—speaking of the bed, that is—almost in existence. It's a good thing Bill hadn't thought about that, nor of thinking about thinking that, since that would have sent him spinning through the universe not unlike Darth Vader at the end of "Star Wars", just after Luke, Leia, Han and the forces of goodness had brought forth a stirring, fabulous, heart-wrenching victory... Where were we? Good question. We were watching Bill check the pillow on his bed to determine 89
-- history comes home to roost --
colour, if not other facts. Whatever he might have expected—and the range of Bill's expectation showed a startling limitlessness—went by the board, although Bill was too focused to watch that board carefully. What he saw—and that's the crux of this particular paragraph—was: yes, a green pillow on a blue bed. Stark. Bill thought about the situation. That made him think about thinking about the situation. Somewhere amidst all that thinking was the realization that there was a green pillow on a blue bed. His pillow and his bed. What did Bill fear exactly? The green pillow, the blue bed: they fade and disappear. Let us look back in time. Time being fluid and flexible, you can do almost anything with it, and probably should. If you remember something, you return to that experience, and it blooms again, just like those dandelions you thought had flown away in the wind returning in gorgeous brilliance and numerousness. A defining time in Bill's life was a certain job he was fortunate to have had. He was given full command of a delivery van owned by a wine company. Specifically, he was empowered to supply direction and purpose to the vehicle's wanderings. Bill's duties circled around the delivery of fermented grape juice to certain august members of the retail sector. The American naturalist William Bartram, someone who wandered and looked, had his reason for extolling vitis vinifera, the wine grape, "whose exhilarating juice is said to cheer the hearts of gods and men". So there was that. Bill knew his job, at that time, was integral in the rhythm, duty and wandering of his life. So there was that, too. Bill hired on, or came on board, to use a phrase, right around the Christmas season. This is a time of considerable activity by the ever-earnest buying public. Not only were people supplying their own table with vinous supplement, and gifting dear friends and loved ones likewise, they were also bequeathing festive seasonal greetings, in the form of wine, unto respected business acquaintances, clients and the like, employing a marked show of sincerity. All this that they might place themselves in more favourable light to these selfsame acquaintances, clients and the like. The upshot of all this, as necessarily there must be an upshot to all this, is that Bill was an all too busy camper during the weeks preceding this fantastic, highly-regarded holiday, or you might try calling it a hollyday. And that was just fine with Bill. The person in charge of sending Bill on his, Bill's, merry way was a chap named Juan. It was to Juan that Bill would report for duty. Bill would arrive at the workplace betimes each morning, having strolled to work. At that time, Bill had no car or rocketship by which to make his travels more quick and efficient. He possessed a desire to create a rocketship, if ever he found himself having the time to do so. With right good cheer, Juan, who was only worn to the bone by his nervewracking and busy job, especially at this time of the year, would listen to a random recitation of Bill's latest ideas. Bill was, at this date in time, in one of his keychain phases. Bill really, really, really, really, really, really, really wanted to have his own business making and selling keychains. Bill was especially fond of delineating the many potentially agreeable aspects of this business
venture with Juan, or anyone else. You know, if you could artificially create chitin, you could make an outstanding keychain, you surely could. Yes, Bill was a-flow with ideas. Well, Juan would shuffle paper and look like lightning bolts and sound rather grumpy and then he would cut Bill off. No doubt the poor man feared being overcome by all the fantastic ideas and notions with which Bill brimmed. Bill also sensed that Juan felt nearly overwhelmed by the intensely busy aspect of the joyful season. Juan would then indicate the work load that our hero faced. Bill usually managed to sneak in a few further casual words about chitin or whatever whilst Juan shuffled more of those all-important papers. Chitin concerned Bill greatly at this spot in time. Bill saw unbelievable financial potential in the development and marketing of artificial chitin, a material whose time surely had come. Juan's attention span, especially at Christmas time, simply was unequal to absorbing the complexities that Bill discussed. The earnest man would quickly shoo Bill on his, Bill's, way. As part of this shooing process, Bill and Juan, or someone entrusted by Juan to perform this service, would load the van with various parcels containing wine. An outstanding clipboard came into Bill's possession, to be used by him and only him. Attached to the board by that useful clip arrangement—the man or woman who invented that must've been brilliant—were numerous receipts. Bill would deliver the item or items to the correct address and receive a signature on the receipt from the person receiving the item or items. That, in a nutshell, was Bill's job. Bill would climb into the loaded van as if it were a sky blue rocketship. He would attend to the complex but fantastic mechanical operation of the vehicle and away he would blaze, racing along at 20, 30, even 35 miles per hour. Well, events did not exactly work out quite so resoundingly crisp as we have portrayed them. Bill had to study the map book something fierce before initiating his jaunt into the realm of the unknown. He had to give close consideration to planning his route and even more to Juan's insistent and contrary theories along the same lines. Bill also had to clean his hands several times. Don't think Bill neglected to inspect the van itself, inside and out, knobs included. Time, finally, spins itself into a different groove and Bill is on his way. His current memory has a resonance and a presence. There is no green pillow, there is no blue bed. Bill would definitely tool around in that van. "I remember Dunstable," said Bill aloud in his bedroom. "I remember it a lot." Neither the pillow nor the bed replied, if they were really there at all, so Bill went on. "It sounds like it should be on Cape Cod. Right near the town of Barnstable, right in the middle of the county of Barnstable. It isn't, though. It isn't even close to that." Bill had to shake his head at this point. He stopped thinking about the pillow 91
and the bed. He had this wild theory that the world ought to make sense sometimes. One way that would be nice and a big help for all would be that if there's a town in Massachusetts called Barnstable and also a town called Dunstable, they should be near each other. It mattered not to Bill if they were both the Cod, or near the New Hampshire border. He just figured they should be contiguous. It's a valid, possibly timely point. Bill shook his head again. "At least I found Dunstable. I didn't give up on that one. Still, laws should be passed to clear up this difficulty. Things should make sense." Making deliveries was a freewheeling sort of activity. Bill would race along at a speed usually seven percent below the speed limit and he would see some sights. When he came upon a place whereat a delivery was to be made he would stop the van. That just makes sense. The target site might be a house, an apartment, or a place of business. "I am here to make a delivery," Bill would announce to whoever was there to hear his words. By prior arrangement, the recipient usually knew someone would arrive that day laden with vinous items. Imagine Bill delivering to a dentist's office. The medical profession maintains high regard for the giving of gifts between its esteemed constituents. It's a cherished form of saying thank you for the generally important referrals and other sorts of help that the medical profession likes to perform and then be thankful for. Bill would say to a likely person such as a receptionist that he was here to deliver a gift to Dr X from Dr Y. Sometimes Bill changed that speech all around. He would say that he was here to deliver a gift from Dr Y to Dr X. Bill was not one to ignore the proposition of prepositions, or anything else. The likely person that Bill there encountered would then say something or other. Bill noticed that this happened just about every time. It was quite predictable. Information regarding where Bill should place the gift item would then be given. Bill would follow the instructions to the letter. Whilst so engaged, Bill could still find the opportunity to discuss interesting matters like artificial chitin or the odd circumstance of Dunstable being nowhere near Barnstable, and vice versa, despite how much better it would be for everyone if the two towns were near each other. Not all the deliveries that Bill made were gifts. Sometimes he brought wine that would soon sit upon the dinner table. It was as if the store went to the customer. It's funny old world, actually. As Bill stood in his bedroom, his thought swirled in and around a sort of maelstrom of time and space. It was excellent. Deliveries to homesteads often put Bill into contact with the actual named recipient of the wine. Most people don't have receptionists or that class of people employed at their home address. Bill would helpfully put the wine where he was told to put the wine. He would offer certain insights and opinions and such points of interest as occurred to him. Bill could get utterly involved in that
process, that's for sure. Juan had this baffling interest in Bill's whereabouts and progress along the delivery route. To keep Juan abreast of the situation as it presently stood, Bill would call Juan at each stop. If Juan were unavailable, as it sometimes chanced, Bill would call Larry. This workplace, it should be noted, is the very one where Bill met many people central in the Billian cosmography. Yes, Larry was Bill's co-worker. So, too, was Juliette. Abby as well was someone with whom Bill could talk on a co-worker basis, when he had the time, that is. And there were others. After each stop, Bill would call in with the latest developments. Even as Bill stood in his bedroom, in utmost proximity to both a green pillow and a blue bed, he could recall the surge of respectable feeling he would feel whilst so thoroughly involved in the far-reaching complexities of that delivery job. It was better than a teak piano bench, by roughly eleven percent. Bill did everything he could to make those deliveries happen. It wasn't easy. The days darkened early, although not more early than they were supposed to. Bill would stare into oncoming headlights, resulting in a dazzling sense of being blinded. Naturally, Bill would ponder things. He especially enjoyed thinking about what he would do with the 27,983 hubcaps that he had collected in his wanderings across this globe. Something fine and terrific would likely result. In the sky, Bill would notice things like a comet that apparently no one else, for some reason, saw. He also took interest in the seeming conjunction of Mars, Venus and Jupiter. A remarkable blaze of light and engrossing interest resulted from this apparent conjunction of those three important planets. Bill figured he ought to follow it. Sadly, he could not let Juan or anyone else down, so he kept on his course. Still, remarkable things exist to be noticed and studied. Around five o'clock, with plenty more stops still to make, Bill would call Juan to provide the latest update on matters. Bill remembered this aspect of his job perfectly. "Bill, come home," Juan would immediately say, having identified the caller as Bill and not some crank. It was almost as if Juan wanted Bill to come back right away. "I still have five stops to go," Bill would answer as accurately as possible. It might be there was only one stop left, or nine. It varied each day. "We'll do them another day, Bill. Come back." "I just have these five stops to go, Juan." "Forget it, Bill. You can do them tomorrow." 93
"I'll take route 128 to route 3. I'll be in Lowell in an hour. I need to go to Lowell, don't I?" "Forget it, Bill." "I could never forget Lowell, Juan. After I do the Lowell stop, I'll swing off to Dunstable." "Bill, just forget it." "It's a good thing I know where Dunstable is, isn't it, Juan?" "Bill, don't do any more deliveries today." "If Dunstable was near Barnstable, I'd still have a long way to go." "Bill, do you realize that I can't go home until you get back with the van?" "I think you've mentioned that before. That's a pretty interesting situation, isn't it?" "Bill, skip the remaining deliveries and get back here." "You bet I will, Juan. I'll just do these last five deliveries and then I'll hurry back. I'll probably have to stop for a nap because I'm pretty wasted but I'll be along real soon. Probably before ten o'clock, if my watch isn't broken." Usually around that point in the conversation Juan would mutter something and hang up. Bill could then refocus his energies and perseverance on the job at hand. Maybe it was ten o'clock when he'd get back, or maybe it was nine thirty. Juan for some strange reason exhibited evidence of being worn and overworked. Suddenly, Bill realized a strange feeling. There he stood, facing the situation of a green pillow on a blue bed. The thought arose and would not unarise without Bill giving strong consideration to it. Bill had driven that van for all he was worth, well into the night. For that, he would meet at each stop growlly, grumpy people. They'd mention the current time and ask why he was so late and offer assorted inscrutable remarks and comments that left Bill quite baffled. What Bill really faced was a fear that he, Bill—try though he always did—could make no sense of the current situation. Isn't Christmas a right jolly old time? A time when we give gifts to our dear family, friends and cherished business acquaintances, even when we don't like any of them. Aren't people figuratively reaching out to each other just like how home runs seek the beautiful nets above the Green Monster at Fenway Park? Why, it's a festive time that allows plenty of opportunity for people to foregather and discuss calmly and without undue emotion the whole problem of Barnstable and Dunstable. The hurly burly of the rest of the year can drop away for awhile. This is a festival time. Isn't the bridge made, the rocketship perfectly launched, the piano bench filled to the brim with fascinating sheet music, soup given to those who need it, and the question foremost on your mind basically answered? Why, then, doesn't
any of this ring a bell? If there were no loneliness, Bill mused, then maybe it would have to be invented. Which is fine, but shouldn't emphasis always be placed on understanding the world in its amazing, rollicking particulars? The time is there to be filled, after all. Well, Bill thunk about this, all this, then he scratched his head. He looked at his bed. What did he see? A green and blue pillow on a green and blue bed. The light shone like an answer. Things can get plenty serious sometimes, for some silly reason, but resolution remains. The pieces must simply be placed together.
13> The Course of Things
On a particular day—since for them no unparticular ones exist—four guys named Bill found themselves upside down on a golf course. This may not happen to everyone, it simply means Bill 3's invisible rocketship chose this place to perform crash-landing procedures. Big deal. "Hey, we're on a golf course," noted Bill 1. After forty or so minutes, the four of them had worked their way out of their seatbelts and from the rocketship, fully armed with backpacks and umbrellas. "Did you know that 'golf' spelled backwards is 'folg'," remarked Bill 2, pleased that such an interesting realization blossomed forth for his delectation. "Wow," said Bill 1, Bill 3 and Bill 4, totally impressed. "That's ridiculous," said Bogle, the feisty, semi-imaginary and variously visible pheasant who functions as a mentor for the boys. He'd waited outside impatiently while the Bills extricated themselves from Bill 3's excellent rocketship. "Really?" asked Bill 2. "Really." "But why?" "Think it through, Bill 2." "Okay." Bill 2 stood there and gave the matter a real going over. He stretched out his cognitive muscles to the nth degree, if not a scosh further, and took all the time he needed. His willingness to tangle with the problem could in no way be disputed, a heroic search for the far end of the question. The other Bills watched as Bill 2 worked it out. Twenty seven minutes later, Bill 2 looked like he had done so. "Well?" asked Bogle, somewhat irritably. "What was the question again?" "You said 'golf' spelled backwards is 'folg'." "Yup. I said that, all right. I remember that distinctly." "He sure did," Bill 4 agreed. "And I wanted you to think it through again."
-- work is play, play is work --
"You mean me?" asked Bill 4, confused by this news. It had snuck up on him at a time when he wasn't, sad to say, exactly prepared. "No, I meant Bill 2." Bogle appeared to be in one of his grumpy moods. "Oh yeah, right," recalled Bill 2. "I remember that part." "So what was your conclusion, Bill 2?" "'Golf' spelled backwards is not 'folg'?" "Yes and..." Bill 2 paused briefly. "'Golf' spelled backwards is 'flog'!" "Righto, Bill 2," replied the bird, clearly pleased by Bill 2's good effort. "We knew you could do it, Bill 2," said Bill 3. "What's a 'flog'?" asked Bill 4, imbibing in a natural tendency to ask excitingly apposite questions like that. "Is it 'glof' spelled backwards?" asked Bill 2. "I don't think so, Bill 2," said Bogle snidely. "Why not?" "Just because." Bogle was, by any scale, one moody bird. "Did we ever get an answer as to what 'flog' is?" Bill 4 tenaciously asked. "See the way those golfers swat at those balls over there?" asked Bogle. "They are flogging at the balls." "Ah hah!" exclaimed Bill 4, enlightened something fierce. "So what's a folg, Bogle?" asked Bill 1. "Yeah, Bogle," said Bill 2. "That's the part that's got me stumped. Is it like a glof?" "It's your mistake, Bill 2," explained Bogle. "Oh." "I knew there was a logical answer to that question," said Bill 3. "Apparently that was it." "Is glof also my mistake?" asked Bill 4. "Or Bill 3's?" 97
"Yes to both," answered Bogle, looking tired. "Oh," said Bill 4. This resolution of the matter did not entirely satisfy our intrepid heroes. Something seemed to await. "Now what?" wondered Bill 2, after due consideration of the current situation. "What adventure have we in store for us?" asked Bill 1. "I'm climbing back into the invisible rocketship and I'm leaving you guys here," said Bogle with authority. "Wow, is that what you're going to do?" enquired Bill 4. "You betcha." "So you won't be part of our next adventure?" Bill 3 queried with a potency that could definitely cause your homemade peanut butter to look better. "Nope. You're on your own. I need a break. I want to see if you guys have the right stuff." "I have loads of stuff here," declared Bill 1, starting to rummage through his pack. "So do I," added Bill 2. "I'll bet some of the stuff I got here is right," put in Bill 3. Before Bill 4 had a chance to voice a similar belief, Bogle interrupted. "Look guys, you don't understand. This is your chance to prove what you've got. I want you guys to learn to sink or swim." Bill 1, looking at a water hazard as Bogle said these words, dutifully moved toward the site of his sink or swim lesson. "Bill 1, you have misconstrued my words," Bogle announced, a bit of petulance for some reason creeping into his statement. "Oh yes?" "Yes." "Then I don't need to practice sinking or swimming?" "Nope. I was speaking figuratively." "All right. So what is it we're going to do?" "You guys are going to figure things out without my help." With that, the fanciful bird went back to the invisible rocketship. He did so as if possessed by some kind of spectacular ability in locating invisible rocketships. Soon the Bills could hear, but not see, the rocketship take off. The Bills stood
now totally on their own. "I wish Bogle told us which of this stuff that we've got is the right stuff," said Bill 4. "I'll bet that's part of our assignment," asserted Bill 3. Learning is life, life learning. "Bogle must want us to evaluate all our stuff and determine what things we have that are right," said Bill 2. "This is going to be a great adventure," Bill 1 could not resist the impulse to say. Bills rarely if ever resist impulses. "Man, this is great," said Bill 2. The four Bills faced a fantastic challenge. This was a situation where they would learn things, they would develop, they would grow. In response to this, they stood there. More than that, they stood there thinking. They did so with fierce determination. They thought about water in its liquid state. They had a reasonable reason for doing so. They stood near the water hazard, as the reader will recall. A water hazard resembles a pond, that much the Bills understood. "Either you are supposed to hit the ball into the water or over it," articulated Bill 2. "I've seen people do both." "So have I," said Bill 1. "I've seen people wash their cars," said Bill 3. "Have you ever seen Larry wash his car?" asked Bill 2. "I'm not sure about that. I’m not even sure it was his car, let alone if it was Larry." "I might have seen Larry wash his car," Bill 4 stated. "It is something that could've happened." "Did you ever see Juliette wash her car?" asked Bill 1 with interest. "No," admitted Bill 4, "I never did. I don't think I've ever seen her car." "I'd love to see her car," said Bill 1, while the image of a rose opened in his mind. "Have you seen Juliette wash Larry's car?" asked Bill 2. "No," Bill 4 had to further admit, "I think I've missed that experience too." "I'd love to see Juliette wash Larry's car," said Bill 1, realizing that there was just so much for him to learn and see and do. "I'd love to see Juliette. Gee, there's so much to learn and see and do." 99
"And we don't have Bogle to help us," said Bill 3. "Well, we're just going to have to deal with the situation as it now stands," stated an incredibly decisive Bill 1. The other Bills gazed at him. It sounded like he had the measure of things. "Wow, Bill 1, you sound so authoritative," said Bill 2. "I feel a power within me that has been formerly hidden," replied Bill 1. "I'm starting to feel the same way," said Bill 3. "Me too," said Bill 4. "Count me in," put in an eager Bill 2. "And right now," a totally charged Bill 1 proposed, "I think we need to find out how many balls are in that pond there." "Great idea," the others applauded. What an excellent idea to pop up, as if from out of the blue, a place where ideas don't always pop up from. "I'll be the one to collect the balls," Bill 1 submitted. "I'll take notes," said Bill 2, starting to rummage through his backpack for a green college-lined notebook. "I'll look for a container to hold the balls we collect," said Bill 3. "And I'll..." Bill 4 began but wasn't especially clear on what he planned to do just then. He stood there in a pose of utmost readiness. The other Bills looked on, waiting. Thirty seven minutes later, Bill 4 decided what he could do. "I'll help Bill 1," he announced. "Great," said Bill 1. "Then it's settled." Bill 1 and Bill 4 proceeded to step into the water, which disturbed the ducks floating there. That was a necessity that could not be avoided. There was a gorgeous number of golf balls to harvest. Bill 2 rummaged for all he was worth—breaking the barrier of the nth degree— until he found a green college-lined notebook in his backpack. He discovered three red college-lined notebooks (he'd been under the mistaken impression that he had four hundred and seventy two) and one green one that simply was not college-lined. All in all, he felt pretty great. Bill 3 found seventeen empty plastic trashbags, two seemingly discarded plastic trash cans, fourteen corrugated cardboard boxes, five surprisingly clean oil drums, six washtubs, nine peach baskets, two wastepaper baskets (although the idea of waste paper sure boggled Bill 3's mind), and three
suitcases. None of those could possibly be deemed proper receptacles for the golf balls Bills 1 and 4 would dredged up. Luckily, Bill 3 happened upon nineteen lost hubcaps. Each could comfortably hold ten golf balls, he felt certain. That was just right. Sometime in the midst of their project, several gruff, tiresome but no less interesting men came along and told the Bills that they, meaning the Bills, couldn't do what they, meaning the Bills, were doing. The logic of that was so preposterous that the boys, meaning the Bills, hardly knew how to respond. They, the Bills, were busy as could be, how could anyone think they, the Bills, weren't doing what they, the Bills, were doing? That made no sense. The men remained strongly in their, the men's, opinion and really got vociferous. Each Bill could understand having strong beliefs but this was ridiculous. The men wore plaid pants, if that explains anything. Nothing, probably, could explain why the men wore these plaid pants, except that there exists a general tendency for men to wear pants. Anyway, after a while, thoughts of rabbits, pliers, piano benches of the sort that you can lift the top of, eggplants, WD40, ducks, super novas, Juliette, waterfalls, women like Juliette, drumsticks, umbrellas, possible sisters of Juliette, cans of soup, women who vaguely resemble Juliette, and such things coursed through their minds with a rugged imperative. The boys knew they had to roll on, whether or not a hellhound might be on their trail. Luckily, Bogle appeared—just to the Bills—congratulated them on some very good work, and led them away. In moments, they were in the invisible rocketship, flying happily to who knows where, filling yet another day to the brim.
It's just as obvious as the wound from Cupid's arrow that if you dig a hole, then dig a second one, then take the dirt from the first hole and stick it in the second hole, then dig a third hole and stick the dirt from the second hole in, and so on, perhaps to the end of time or your endurance, well, if you happen to do all this, faithful as the wind, as Bill 3 actually so happens to do, then you can truly say that you are doing something. Bill 3 worked earnestly and with vigilance, carefully putting just the right amount of soil into each new hole. The point of this great exercise is hard to explain yet that wouldn't stop the Bills so it won't stop us. Bill 3 tried to work it out in the full complexity of it all while he dug but he was too busy digging to wrestle that tantalizing problem into a pinning predicament. He gave it the old college try, however. He never does otherwise. Bill 3 knew in his heart of hearts that he was onto something, something big. Even if Bill 3 hadn't quite figured out what that something was—a resultsorientation isn't really the alpha and omega of a glorious life, you know—he had fun with his project. Digging those holes and filling them in in the above described manner washed Bill 3 with a pleasure that was decidedly first-rate. He felt focused. He neared the point of self-ultimacy, and that's a happy upsurge in the karma count. Bill 4 showed up, as he is more than wont to do. He forthwith tossed a query in Bill 3's direction, which was also his (Bill 4's) custom, if not prerogative. Bill 3 was likewise so accustomed, which helps explain their simpatico. So anyway, Bill 4 said—after performing greeting procedures—"What are you doing?" "Digging holes and filling them in." "Wow! That's great, Bill 3." "It sure is." "Are you getting a good blend?" "What do you mean, Bill 4?" Bill 3 felt caught in the dilemma of needing an answer to a question which he in fact asked. "Well, the way I figure it, if someone digs holes and..." "I dig holes," exclaimed Bill 3. "I also dig piles of dirt, piano benches, and apples. I dig them all a lot!" "Wow! Me too!" "Wow!" agreed Bill 3. The two both paused to enjoy the marvel of it all. "So anyway," continued Bill 4, "if someone digs holes then fills them in, he or
-- an introduction to process --
14> The Hole Truth
she should make sure to put different dirt into each hole." "Wow! That's exactly what I'm doing." "Wow! Really?" "Yeah!" "Only, it's not exactly what you're doing," advised Bill 4 seriously. "You're also talking to me." "You're right. You're right. I forgot about that." "I almost forgot about that, but then I didn't quite." "I now have a sense of accomplishing more than I expected," Bill 3 remarked, realizing that he wasn't exactly a green bean, no matter how much he might like to be. "Wow! I wish I could join you." "Join me to what?" wondered Bill 3, completely curious about this exciting point. Which he naturally would be curious about, as we suspect you might be able to imagine. Bill 3's canny response, with its subtle brilliance, stumped Bill 4 something fierce. Neural misfire occurred: Bill 4 had nothing on tap by way of reply. Therefore, following a seemly measure of time—if time is of any concern at all, let alone measureable—Bill 3 shrugged. Bill 4 noticed the simple elegance of that gesture and shrugged too. Once again, simpatico asserted itself. "So anyway," Bill 3 blithely remarked. Bill 4 recovered enough from his neural misfire problem to say, "Yeah." The world chose to continue spinning. The boys looked at Bill 3's handiwork. "If you had a shovel you could help me," offered Bill 3. "This is so weird," said Bill 4, "because I don't usually carry a shovel with me." "I know it gets awkward, what with also carrying your umbrella and your backpack," responded Bill 3, a man of experience. "How come you're carrying my umbrella and backpack?" asked Bill 3, finding that an awkward situation had possibly developed. "I meant my pack." "Oh, right." "Right, but today I just happen to have brought my shovel." 103
"Wow! So that means you can fill in the holes that I dig." "Wow, right!" "Alternatively, I could dig the holes that you fill in." "Wow, right!" "Furthermore," Bill 3 went on, suddenly aware of a pleasing surge of momentum, as if the inventor of jackets had come up with an even newer kind of clothing, "you could dig the hole and I could fill it in." "Wow, right!" The two nodded, happy as a pair of larks with a brand new package of cream cheese with which to while away their larkful time. "Wow," blurted Bill 3 as well as anyone in the history of humanity has ever blurted, "if I'm not mistaken, I could fill in the hole that you dug." "Wow, right!" The two larks we just mentioned just received a second package of cream cheese, with a resulting one hundred percent increase in happiness for them. In other words, Bills 3 and 4 obtained a further boost in happiness. "This is incredible," Bill 3 declared, as part of his expression of current happiness. "This is incredibler than anyone has a right to expect to encounter," Bill 4 solemnly insisted. "Wow, right!" agreed Bill 3. He nodded, then he and Bill 4 got to work. Seven hundred and twenty three holes, a nice round number, were dug then filled in with a precision and expertise that you might feel obliged to admire. Meanwhile, Bill 1 and Bill 2 just happened to be listening to some records backwards, curious if any messages of note might be heard, as they had heard could be heard. They didn't know how just facing away from the record player would make it possible for Satan or anyone else to give them a message but they were willing to find out. The idea piqued their curiosity, as did all ideas. "This doesn't make sense," Bill 1 finally said with discouragement. "We're not getting any message." "Unless," said Bill 1 broodingly, "the message is that there is no message." "Good point, Bill 1, but how would we know that there is no message?" asked Bill 2 on a decidedly need-to-know basis. "Good point, Bill 2. We should look at our procedures. Maybe we are implementing incorrect ones for receiving backwards messages." "Good point, Bill 1. We have to study all possible means of receiving backwards messages." "Good point, Bill 2."
Our two heroes nodded, further stirring up them cognitive juices, then thought about their present situation as it more or less currently stood. That didn't exactly help but it did allow a considerable amount of time—if anyone cares to measure time, let alone consider it—to pass. In the usual way of things, their thoughts slid into other streams and wandered a varied and wonderful landscape. Meanwhile, or somewhere along the time-space continuum, such as it is, Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun painted her own portrait. She did so by gazing at her image in a large mirror then transferring it, the image that she saw, by way of dabs and strokes of paint, onto a canvas. She worked with care, which the resultant painting showed. She definitely had discovered for herself a fantastic way to spend time, if time is something that can be spent. If it isn't, all the better! At some other time, perhaps, Bills 3 and 4 finished with their hole project. Unquestionably, their effort produced a good blend. Each hole represented a sliding of soil and worms and other earthy stuff one foot along the perimetre of a circle carefully defined by our heroes, an assay of their imagination. A sense of time being something that goes around and sort of stops came inspiringly to the boys. They felt that the idea of that sense was really something special. It caused them to enter a sort of river of consideration. Everyone knows that rivers are defined by the water that races by. The water never stops yet the river isn't moving so a fluid something or other occurs that makes one out of many. That is the gist, but only the gist, of what the Bills 3 and 4 thought about after digging and filling in their seven hundred and twenty third hole. When Bill 1, Bill 2 and Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun arrived, as they were bound to, they all thought about this and many other things, including the idea that a hole consists of something that isn't there. The whole situation resembled an everlasting flower or something, and time went on.
15> Lights On!
Bill 3, during a chance few moments or days of his spare time, developed a great, fantabulous invention. Executing such an enterprise in pure billian fashion made Bill 3 feel truly excellent. His invention definitely could very likely prove a maybe possibly real boon to humanity. A sense of accomplishment surrounded our hero. He developed, you see, a power generator that was small, quiet, and totally energetic. Working on this project took time but—since time is a measly barrier at best, especially when you are enthralled in an important and enjoyable task—that hardly signifies. When Bill 3 finished, he had himself a contraption that was shiny and useful. Also aerodynamic, although he had not subjected it to the big test—out the door of his invisible rocketship while he's tooling along. He called the gadget the power maker. Bill 3 never used capitals in naming his inventions because that would be egotistical. Tests proved the thing functioned like a true marvel of the physical world. He ascertained that the power maker worked with the efficiency of a hi-tech can opener well-drenched in that savoury lubricating essence and modern marvel called WD40. Satisfied, Bill 3 stowed his invention. He placed it in a corrugated box that he got from Bill 1, who got it from that place where he, Bill 1, once worked, not to mention Juliette, Larry, and Juan, although, so it appears, we did. This fine box was then carefully placed under Bill 3's kitchen table where it totally belonged until such time as it belonged elsewhere. The world could now roll as it wished to, our hero would roll right along with it. Should chance cause the power to fail, Bill 3 knew what to do. He was prepared. That's what being a Bill is all about, that and a few billion, so to speak, other things. One day, when in the course of human events, the power went out at Bill 3's abode. Why it did so was a complete mystery for him. He sure wished the answer to that puzzle was forthcoming. Before he could apply himself to the tantalizing program of working that one out, however, Bill 3 sensibly sought to alleviate the lack of power that he now endured. He brought the box containing his power maker out from under the kitchen table. He removed the power maker from the corrugated box in which it had been properly stored. He looked at the wonderful invention , fruit of his scintillating imagination, for a few moments, though things were dim right then. Still, Bill 3 made the thing so he knew what it should look like. He was able to imagine that what should be there, visually speaking, was, even if in the dark this wasn't all that apparent. It was something of a dreamy interlude there for Bill 3, hardly a rare circumstance for him. Then—well, not then but a bit later—Bill 3 roused himself into a sort of regular consciousness. It was at this point in time that Bill 3 plugged in his power maker. One plug went into the top wall socket, the other into the bottom one. The top plug, you see, invited the power surge into the machine while the
bottom one transmitted that surge back into the system, thereby reviving the system, restoring the power and causing the lights to go back on. It was upon a complex theoretical basis that Bill 3 worked out this incredible invention, as you ought to be able to imagine. In Bill 3's conception, it was sort of like a mobius strip, so it had to be neat. Oddly, even after Bill 3 flicked all the available toggle switches on the invention, nothing happened. Previous tests worked perfectly—and to Bill 3's satisfaction, too—so this was a really, really, really mysterious situation for Bill 3 to be in. In response to it, Bill 3 tapped the power maker, scratched his head, looked under the kitchen table, frowned, unplugged and replugged all cords, washed his hands, thought about calling Larry, put his hands in his pockets (left hand into left pocket, right hand into right: tests have proven this the most comfortable way), tapped the power maker, considered calling Larry, put his head in the refrigerator, flicked toggle switches galore, removed his shoe and looked in it, scratched his head, tapped the power maker, examined the idea of calling Larry, unplugged the top cord then turned it 180 degrees and replugged it, scratched his head, looked for a number 3 pencil, thought about Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun (so noteworthy as a painter during Louis XVI's reign), scratched his head, tapped the power maker, pondered Boston's subway system, looked under the kitchen table, remembered to remind himself to remember to discuss his upcoming wedding with anyone (including his fiancée) who would listen, brought out his collection of green pushpins, washed his hands, tapped the power maker, and just generally thought about things. None of that seemed to help. Well, that wasn't going to stop Bill 3 so he thought some more. He thought about canned soup, someone named Sharon, green pushpins, piano benches, Juliette's magical relationship to anyone named Sharon, the romance of Boston's subway system, and certain other related matters. That was great but he didn't seem to have brought forth a satisfactory solution to his current perplexity. He slowly, very slowly, unplugged both cords from the wall socket. At that moment the lights came on: power was restored. Such illumination for Bill 3! For there, obviously, was the answer, the absolute key to things. Bill 3 understood the whole matter with a total comprehension that presented many of the pleasant aspects of a pillow full of chocolate chip ice cream. The reader, perhaps not having the wit with which Bill 3 was endowed, may need clarification of what our great hero currently understood. That clarification immediately follows. Unplugging the power maker, you see, causes the lights to go back on. Now, even really dumb readers will realize that Bill 3 had unplugged the machine earlier but the lights did not go on. Silly people! The power maker has built-in convolutions, just like Bill 3's wonderful brain. The whole thing takes TIME, don't you see? It's just like a mobius strip. 107
Bill 3 felt boldly wonderful for having solved all that. When you've tackled a problem, absolutely looked unflinchingly in its eyes, and defeated it, it's a feelgood situation of the first order. And man, it was a tricky old problem too, but Bill 3 persevered right into the innards of it, got the lay of things and figured things out. A lesson, then, for all to learn. It was as if the world had presented Bill 3 the best coleslaw in the universe, better than anyone could imagine. The moral here, simple but beautiful: the felicities of achievement are many and wonderful.
16> Taking Time Out
Squirrels need no books, banjos or sieves. Bill 1 and Bill 2 liked each of those items but whether they needed them, in the full scope of that word, the Bills could not for certain declare. They had not, as yet, given the question proper consideration but meant to at their earliest convenience. Squirrels live a different way of life, you see; they don't even need WD40. The squirrel value system makes no room for the stuff, fine as WD40 is. It's just the way of things, their position on the evolutionary scale. The Bills held a different view. They definitely could find 1001 applications for that modern miracle, and even more for the excellent red caps that come with each and every can. For the Bills, WD40 made so much sense! Whilst the earth happily rolled along, obviously content in its revolutions, Bill 1 and Bill 2 stood beneath a stalwart white oak. White oak is possibly their favourite kind of their favourite kind of tree. This one evinced no selfconsciousness at their fascinated study. The Bills also watched a squirrel keep busy on a branch some twelve feet up. All four of them unquestionably attended to business. The tree appeared in good spirits, so far as the Bills could tell. The Bills were not sure that they could tell, but they savoured that impression. They savoured any and all impressions, as a matter of fact. 'Twas a grand day by all accounts. The tree was in full leaf and greenery. The squirrel balanced on that branch, see, and squawked, the way squirrels do. The Bills bethought themselves a mesmerizing helix that entwined the tree, the squirrel and many, many, many other things, including themselves. Yeah so, the Bills just stood there and watched, as has already been mentioned. A slight breeze, or perhaps time itself, swirled gently around them. The tree stood still but its branches swayed. The squirrel did not seem compelled to do more than what it did. Likewise for the Bills. You know, that's not such a bad lodestar to be led by, the mere cadence of the world. This was such a day as happens, say, on August 21, but perhaps there are other days in the year that perfectly resemble this one. The Bills weren't thinking about that. That point would have to await another time, when their schedules were freer and they had time to reflect. The Bills stood there, looking up. If all blues are the same then perhaps Juliette's blue eyes looked down upon them from the very sky. The universe, after all, turns inward into itself so that one makes many, if you get this particular drift that the Bills so enjoy drifting with. Their thoughts, don't you see, could go anywhere and everywhere. The squirrel sat there on that branch—if sitting is quite the applicable word— 109
looking down. The tree remained rooted, which is perhaps just as well and certainly within the spirit of trees in general. It did not appear to look in any one direction. There was much spinning of worlds in universes, as well as universes within themselves. The Bills gladly spun within all that spinning. All in all, it was great. Time, after a while, seemed to go somewhere. The Bills somehow and in some way inferred a direction opening before them. And so, at some point, in time or space, the Bills hefted their umbrellas and their backpacks and went to another place. This great day turned out to be one more among so many.
17> Moby Bill
Look at it this way. If you take a strip of paper, twist it then attach the ends together, you've got yourself a Moebius strip. Had you used the very best strip of paper you could find, or an excellent ribbon perhaps, and called on all your care and talents to fasten the ends together, you could well have produced a first-class Moebius strip!!! Even if you hadn't, for some reason, made a first-class one by following the above directions, you still would've made a Moebius strip. And that's really the point. Having a point is one of the points to be made here (if there is a here), especially if it relates to Moebius strips. Moebius strips are about the niftiest of things you can make, ranking right up there with piano benches and rocketships. There was one great day when Bill 1 made seventy three Moebius strips, and all were, by honest appraisal, firstclass ones. It was a great thing to be part of. There's just so much more to a Moebius strip than that someone named Moebius invented it, although that certainly offers plenty to consider. Bill 1 had no strip named after him, after all, not yet anyway. That right there is an accomplishment that Moebius can boast over Bill 1. Also over most other people, except for someone named Median, if there is someone named Median. But let us not stray from our point because that would not be right, not at this juncture, at least. Remember, time is something that happens. It happens in space, and space often gets confused, what with all its twists and turns, so the point is always important. Let's just say you made a Moebius strip, and for the sake of argument, let's also say that you created a first-class one. Possessing one, you should incorporate it into your consciousness, if you have one. In other words, you should think about the Moebius strip, for all you, and it, are worth. It is great to think about. You can also ponder, consider, contemplate and deliberate upon it, too. All in all, a most worthy activity in which to participate. A point about Moebius strips is that if you took a number three pencil—which are definitely the best kind of pencil extant—and drew a line along the surface of a Moebius strip, you could put a line on both sides of it without lifting your pencil. Think of that! What that means is that there is, appearances to the contrary, but one side to a Moebius strip. What has this to do with Bill 1, or any of the other Bills, you may ask? Besides that it's really, really, really, really, really quite neat—this whole idea of Moebius strips—the main thing is that the doppelganger effect illustrated by Bills 1 and 2 and also by Bills 3 and 4 is very much on the order of a Moebius strip. Here's how: Doppelgangers are supposed to be opposites, and yet, in the case of the Bills, 111
the two pairs are just about exactly similar. It's like the two sides of the Moebius strip that turn out to be the same side. The twist makes all the difference. Isn't that breathtaking? Bill 1 looked at the seventy three Moebius strips that he had made. Whether they looked at Bill 1 or not was not for him to know, though he could certainly surmise the bejesus out of the situation were he so to choose. Bill 1 was super pleased to have these Moebius strips. As you can well imagine. When Bill 2 arrived, as he so often tended to do, they got down to further research. First, of course, Bill 2 had to exclaim, "Wow, that's a lot of Moebius strips!" To which Bill 1 naturally had to reply, "That's seventy three Moebius strips, Bill 2, and every one is first-rate, if I say so myself." The only possible response that Bill 2 could make, in this most twisting of universes, is "Wow!" Which he made. If the universe is content to turn in upon itself, fold on fold, a singular multiplicity, then why shouldn't those who people the universe do likewise? Well, maybe for no reason at all, but that's okay. Bill 1 and Bill 2 knew there was much about this very universe in which they found themselves that they felt must be uncovered and revealed. Man, they went at it with blissful seriousness. They did so by wondering about things and discussing for all they were worth. "Have you ever stuck an eggplant on top of a refrigerator?" asked Bill 1, suddenly struck by the absolute appositeness possibly revealed by that question. "You mean, have I ever stuck an eggplant on top of a refrigerator?" asked Bill 2, trying in his special way to clarify the question that he had a fearsome impulse to answer. If the situation were properly clarified, that is. Bill 1 gave that inquiry strong consideration, just to be sure he knew he had the thing all suitably in mind. "Yes," he answered finally, struck to his heart of hearts by the affirmative nature of his answer. "Not yet," Bill 2 replied, "but I plan to at my earliest convenience, unless I can get to it earlier. Why do you ask?" Bill 1 wasn't exactly quite as sure as he would like to be on that point but he gave an answer anyway. "Because it seems like a very important thing to do soon, if not sooner." "Maybe we could do it now," suggested Bill 2. "I don't think so," said Bill 1 thoughtfully. "If you meant the now when you spoke, well, it's too late for that." "Oh, yeah. Well, what about now?" "Hmm. It seems like it may be too late for that, too."
Like a beautiful record or compact disk that has gotten stuck as stuck can be, the Bills sort of, after a fashion, continued with this sense of nowness for a while. For them, it was rather interesting but, suspecting the reader hasn't quite the endurance or rampant curiosity of our heroes, we will skip over the next 609 times they quizzed each other about the various nows that were slipping by oh so fast. Eventually, as happens, something changed. Bill 2, in responding to yet another "It seems too late for that" from Bill 1, said "Maybe we could do it sometime soon." That fortuitously (at least for the reader) and beautifully unstuck the record or compact disk. Bill 1 thus could reply. "Yeah!" said he. A point in space identifies a place that is not there, or anyway, mathematicians tend to think so. Should you ponder that, as it's possible you might, you may find the universe start to wiggle a bit. The Bills knew this from experience. Together they thought about that eggplant that had entered their thoughts. A combined billian thought about this eggplant atop a refrigerator resonated in the world like a conversation between musical instruments. What could be more pleasing than to know that every place is somewhere, and any place can be everywhere. The universe is a package holding space, and space is nothing, just as every point is nothing cubed. Such a course of thinking naturally led to Juliette, Queen of the Universe. Juliette became Queen of the Universe by a simple but really super terrific process. Any place she happened to be was someplace, just like that eggplant on that fridge. Not that Juliette was much like an eggplant, or a refrigerator, for that matter, but anyway. Someplace being anyplace and anyplace being everywhere, then Juliette was definitely, therefore, everywhere. That, at least, was how Bill 1 thought, and thought, about it. His ideas slid easily along the Moebius strip to illuminate Bill 2 too. And Bill 2 began to think. Look at it this way. If you take a strip of paper, twist it then... Before Bill 2, or Bill 1, could continue along this exciting and entertaining path, two people entered. They were Bills 3 and 4, of course. Bill 3 had received mail from a non-profit organization. It was a regular missive, a communication from afar. By arriving from parts not particularly known, it gave the lie to distance. That means no one can ever be lonely. "I glean something from this letter," said Bill 3. He was, as you might expect, extremely pleased that the word "glean" had, of its own accord, worked its way into his active vocabulary, although that is something that will demand further consideration later, when there's more opportunity to give the matter proper, well, consideration. "What have you gleaned?" asked Bill 2, taking a certain pleasure himself in voicing such a word as "glean." It is a word that has a derivation and etymology 113
and so forth going for it, it has tradition. "It's like this," began Bill 3. "What is?" asked Bill 1, quite curious about this particular point. "Yes, what is?" wondered Bill 4. It's nice to get things really settled and organized before you start figuring things out. Like, it's super great when you know the question before you answer it. Try it sometime and see. "Well," said Bill 3, marshalling his thoughts because he was obligated to clarify this situation, "I mean, with this letter from this non-profit organization." The other three Bills nodded knowingly. Now they knew where they stood. Maybe it was on a Moebius strip. The point is that they had their feet firmly planted. They were ready. "This non-profit organization has asked for my money," Bill 3 announced. "No way," replied Bills 1 and 2 in perfect unison. "It's true," stated Bill 4. "I read the letter and there can be no doubt." "Actually, there can be doubt," admitted Bill 3. "It was addressed simply 'Dear Bill'." "But Bill is my name," interjected Bill 1. "My nickname, actually." "But Bill is my name," interjected Bill 2. "My nickname, actually." "And Bill is my name," said Bill 4, feeling it was not for him to interject at that juncture in time. "Oh, I mean, it's my nickname." "Yes, but I am the one who opened the letter," Bill 3 pointed out. "Ah yes," said Bill 2. Which about summed up the feelings of Bill 1 and Bill 4 as well. "Anyway, this non-profit organization would like my money. Of all the money in the world, it wants mine." "Another way of looking at it," said Bill 1 from the other side of the Moebius strip—bearing in mind that there is no other side—"is that this non-profit organization wants money only from Bills." "I hadn't thought of that," admitted Bill 3, momentarily dismayed that he had let a thought go by without thinking it. "Even that is remarkable," said Bill 4. "It sure is," said Bill 2. "It's like," said Bill 3, but a wayward thought that he definitely was thinking, despite not having planned to, took hold. He had to drift with it. Fortunately, Bill 2 was tuned to the same frequency and could finish Bill 3's thought.
"It's like they said, 'Of all the money in the world, it is Bill's that we want.'" "Yes, that's what it's like," said Bill 1, feeling the obvious honour of it all. At that moment, all four Bills nodded, agreeing something fierce and feeling oh so proud. The next person to knock on the door then enter was Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun. Since for her to be there was to suggest an odd happenstance concerning time, space and, most likely, Moebius strips, it was rather apt that she should arrive just then. But absolutely excellent. Look at it this way. If you take a strip of paper, twist it, then... Well anyway, there she was. She said, "Bonjours, mes chers amis." The feather on her jaunty, flower-bedecked hat had and was panache. Her voice was like Arabia, her hair like a waterfall, her eyes like a sun-flecked tide pool, her pendant earrings like plainclothes police. And her lips were a lot like lips. Juliette never showed up but the matter of distance sometimes takes time, as we all understand. So look, just take that piece of paper, twist it, then attach the ends together. Loneliness is only a tiny spot in space, the merest point in time. That's really the point of this exercise.
18 > Mobilization Time
It was a nice, quiet day on Mars, Venus or whatever place. For four guys named Bill, it would be no ordinary day, no matter where they were. "The people of Earth need us," cried Bogle, the cardboard pheasant. He was not a particularly excitable cardboard pheasant, as cardboard pheasants go, so it meant something that he sounded so anxious. "Are we on alert?" asked Bill 3. "We must head back to Earth immediately. Our presence is needed." "I'm ready to go, and so is Bill." "Which Bill do you mean?" the bird asked. "All of them, actually. We worked it out: we share the same nickname. Saves valuable time to say Bill instead of Bill 1 or Bill 2 or Bill 3 or Bill 4." "Sounds good," said the cardboard pheasant thoughtfully. "That's a nice touch. Shows you're thinking, shows you have initiative. Just so long as you regard your real name as Bill 3, and Bill 1's as Bill 1, and so forth." "No need to worry about that, Bogle old boy." "No, you guys have accepted your responsibilities without question. Now there's a big emergency and we've got to get going." "Yes, you mentioned that." "We've got to get going. Where are Bill 1, Bill 2 and Bill 4?" "I don't know but I'm sure they'll show up." "What's up you guys?" asked Bill 1. He just showed up, see. So did Bill 2 and Bill 4. "Bogle was telling me how there's an emergency on Earth and we must go back and help out." "It's serious, is it, Bogle?" asked Bill 1, with concern. "You bet. We have to get going just as soon as we can. Where is your invisible rocketship, Bill 3?" "To be honest, I'm not sure. It's around here somewhere." "That's obvious, since that's how we got here," said Bogle, sounding vexed. "I'm sure it will show up. Well no, I don't mean that. The invisible paint I painted it with won't wear off, not even on Mars or Venus or other such places
that offer tough climatic conditions for one's paint job. So in that sense, it won't show up. But I think we'll find it." "Did you use something special in your invisible paint?" asked Bill 4. "It was pretty special stuff, all right. I forget what it was, though, but I knew I had a winner of an idea when I came up with that ingredient." "Too bad you don't have a billophone to give your ideas to," remarked Bill 1." "I do, actually. You made one for me." "Oh yes, I forgot." "Yeah, but I forgot to use it. Isn't that dumb?" "It's dumb all right, Bill 3," said Bogle, still showing exasperation. "The important thing now is to find your ship." "We will, Bogle old bird," said Bill 3, "we will. All we have to do is wander around and it'll show up. Works every time." "Ouch," said Bill 2. "What's the matter?" asked Bill 3. "I don't know. I think I walked into something invisible." "Boy, that's no fun," said Bill 4. "That can really hurt." "It's very unsettling," Bill 2 felt bound to declare. "I wonder what the invisible thing is," said Bill 3. "I have no clue," said Bill 2. "I can't think of anything it might be," said Bill 1. "Did it ever occur to you guys that it might be your invisible rocketship?" asked Bogle. "No," admitted Bill 3, "it didn't occur to me." "Me, neither, Bogle," put in Bill 2 cheerfully. "Perhaps you'd let it occur to you now." "Gee," said Bill 3, "I suppose it's... Hey guys, do you think maybe Bill 2 walked into my rocket?" "It's possible." 117
"You could be right," said Bill 3. He felt around in the air until, by gosh, he found that there was, indeed, an invisible rocketship there. "Do you think it's your invisible rocketship?" asked Bill 1. "I sure as heck hope so," was Bill 3's reply. "Open the ship and get in, Bill 3," said Bogle petulantly. Sometimes it seemed like the Bills got on Bogle's nerves, hard to imagine as that is. Everyone clambered in. "This is my rocketship, all right," said Bill 3. "I'd recognize that pile of Chevrolet hub caps anywhere." "Which pile of Chevrolet hub caps, Bill?" asked Bill 1. "You talking to me?" asked Bill 2. "No, Bill, I'm talking to Bill." "You're talking to me?" asked Bill 4. "No, Bill, I'm talking to Bill." "I guess you're talking to me," said Bill 1. "Yup." "What was the question again?" "I wanted to know which pile of Chevrolet hubcaps that you'd recognize anywhere." "Oh, I meant the pile over there near the Ford ones." "Oh, those over there." "Right." "I'll bet you could make a superiour dumpster out of those," Bill 1 decided. "Dumpsters are great," stated Bill 2, pleased to think of dumpsters at a time when he hadn't expected to think of dumpsters at all. "That's just what I've been thinking." "Bill 3, would you please get this rocketship going so we can get back to Earth," interjected Bogle. "These are desperate times." "Sorry, Bogle, I'll start it up right away." And Bill 3 did, he actually did something that he planned to do. Now, that's an adventure! And they flew right back to Earth, quick as a kitten. They landed near Larry's backyard. They didn't know it was Larry's backyard but they saw Larry. Bill 1 got out,
eventually, and asked Larry whose backyard it was. Bill 1 did this because he was the one who had the very special relationship with Larry. "It's my backyard," is how Larry answered Bill's question. "Well then," said Bill 1, "here we are." "We?" queried Larry suspiciously. "The other Bills and I." Bill didn't want to mention Bogle right away. The Bills got out, so did Bogle. "Larry, can you, by any chance, see our invisible friend, Bogle?" Bill asked. "No, I don't believe I can." "Not everybody can," Bill told him. Bill 1, that is. "You can't see any invisible rocketships around here, can you?" asked Bill 3. "No, I see none." "That's good. Were you expecting to?" "To see any invisible rocketships?" Larry asked. "No, I didn't expect to see any." "Oh," said Bill 3. "We should get down to business," said Bill 2, looking to Bogle for confirmation. The cardboard pheasant nodded. "Exactly what business are you talking about?" "We came back to Earth because we learned through our sources that this planet is in grave danger." "Any idea from what?" asked Larry. Larry was amazing, he could be so calm in the face of such a dread predicament threatening the only planet he had ever happened to ever be on. "Um," said Bill 3. He looked at Bill 4. Bill 4 shrugged. Bill 3 looked at Bill 2. Bill 2 shrugged. Bill 2 and Bill 4 looked at each other. They each shrugged. Bill 1 shrugged before anyone looked to him. Bill 3 then looked at Bill 1 and they both shrugged. The four Bills looked to Bogle. "To be honest, I only made up that story about an emergency," the bird told the Bills. Larry couldn't hear because if you are an invisible bird, especially one that is made out of cardboard and crepe paper, you're also not usually heard. It pretty much stands to reason, don't you think? Only certain fortunate, special, Bill-like people enjoy the opportunity of hearing and seeing Bogle. "You mean there is no big emergency here on Earth?" asked Bill 1. He was 119
shocked. The other Bills were equally amazed. Bogle had lied. "Look guys, I noted a certain lethargy with you. You seemed complacent, weren't getting the job done in the manner the world expects you to. You guys weren't being Bills. I had to give you guys a kick. You guys needed a wake up call." "We..." began Bill 3, but emotion forced him to pause." We weren't doing the job?" "No indeedy. You were sitting round up there on Uranus and..." "We were on Mars, I think, Bogle," said Bill 1. "Nevertheless..." "We were on Venus, I think, Bill," said Bill 4. "I have my Billfinder right here," returned Bill 1. "It says we were on Mars." "Is Mars different from Venus?" asked Bill 2. Bogle and the other Bills stared at Bill 2. "Sure, it is," replied Bogle pettishly. "The point is that you guys let me down and let yourselves down. I did what I had to do. I had to get you going." "Well we sure got going," said Bill 3 happily. "I mean to say, we really mobilized." "Yes," agreed Bogle, "you guys did good. I hope you have learned your lesson." "We sure have," the guys said in concert. "So now that we're here with Larry..." said Bill 1, but Larry was gone. The Bills tried the doors to Larry's house but found them locked. The windows likewise. The Bills performed all the usual, and most of the unusual, tests to determine this fact. "Larry seems to have disappeared for some strange reason that is not readily to be explained," Bill 3 finally said. "That's too bad," said Bill 2. "We could have had a really, really great adventure with him, now that the Earth has been saved and all," said Bill 4. "Looks like it's no go," said Bill 3. He almost felt disappointment at the realization, as if water doesn't seek lower ground and all nature loves vacuums. The four sighed then looked to Bogle for guidance. Between them, it was decided that they should go on an important search for ten dollars bills that had been printed slightly incorrect. And that's exactly what they did. Furthermore, they concertedly wondered where Juliette was right at that exact moment, and in the process, that moment grew large.
19> Up and At 'Em
Once again, Bill 1 crashed. That's merely a matter of a rocketship hitting the ground more suddenly than most people favour. Why make a big deal of that? All you have to do is work your way out of your seatbelt and crawl from your ship with your backpack and umbrella. Bill 1 grasped all this perfectly, even if he couldn't quite prevent his rocketship from crashing upside down. Bill 1 discovered that his ship chose to crash near a parking lot up in some mountainous region. This seemed more than interesting, as most things do. Bill 1 could not remember having done this in the recent past. He'd done quite a number of other things, however, yet still his horizons expanded. He scanned the area and scoped his situation to the nth degree, pretty much the only degree that Bill 1 recognizes. He moseyed to the parking lot and looked around. Some cars were parked there but no one was around. It was quiet and peaceful, as if there were more to the world than cars, credit cards and data bases, unlikely as that may sound. Bill 1 noticed latrines and felt the usual uncontrollable urge to have a look. Why, they were full of shit! They smelled ripe, too, but he perceived a real functionality to these latrines. He had to admire that. The whole idea of practicality rang richly in Bill 1's mind. Maybe he should get one for home use. Our great hero thought that he would stroll around. He observed a sign that identified the trail as the Crawford Trail. Bill 1 didn't know Crawford but figured he or she must have a very nice trail. It just seemed likely. Bill 1 headed up. Not far along, he met two men coming down. "Howdy," said Bill 1. "Morning," said one man. "Yes, it is," agreed Bill 1, percipient to the max. "You're carrying an umbrella?" asked the second man. "Yes, I know," answered Bill 1. "That's different." "Thanks," Bill 1 had to reply. "It's handy, I guess," the man said. "Oh, I could tell you stories," Bill 1 replied. He began to review in his mind precisely which ones he would tell but the first man spoke. 121
"So far, it's a pretty nice day," the first man advised. "Of course, it can change pretty quick around here." "Yes, it can," agreed Bill 1. He didn't exactly know what the man meant but he knew there was lots of changeableness everywhere. The men nodded then continued down. Bill pressed ever on. The trail was dim and shadowed because the trees were thick. It was also cool like a plum from the refrigerator. Several rushing streams maintained a constant noise for much of the early going. Bill 1 dug into some really fascinating deliberations. The trail rose and so did Bill 1's thoughts. He climbed on, slow, slow, slow and steady. He understood the whole idea of point A and point B, although he also liked point C as much as he liked piano benches, which he liked as much as anything else, including eggplants. Bill understood point A and point B, having done massive cogitational work on the problem of where one is or isn't. Basically, you're at one place, and that's somewhere, and you head to another place, and that's also somewhere. Using simple logic one can see that, assuming equivalencies of height, weight, speed and that sort of thing, point A equals point B. And, since the interval between these two points is also somewhere, Bill knew that you can never be anywhere but where you are. And that's just dandy with him. Where Bill is is exactly where he wants to be. It was a good thing he had a well-packed pack, including seven Gravenstein apples. Bill 1 felt pretty sure that someone named Gravenstein had invented this kind of apple one time, probably when he or she wasn't busy doing other things. Bill 1 didn't exactly know if a person could, really, invent an apple. He'd never done it himself, but it was on his to do list. Further choice items in Bill 1's pack were bread, a National Geographic (July, 1964), 112 green pushpins, several caps to cans of WD40—which are great for drinking small sips of stream water from—a ballpeen hammer, just about enough shiny quarters, and many, many, many, many, many other useful, wonderful things. Oh, and he had a brick. Time is a function of thinking about how something isn't happening so Bill 1 never thought about that. He had so many other things to think about first. Among them were: thumb tacks, squirrels, lampshades, the French word for 'swing' (provided one existed), dimetrodons, distance, and those sorts of things. Eventually, since nothing ever stops and Bill 1 is part of that nothing, he got above tree line. That basically means the trees got shorter. He saw no one until he reached this place with a broad view of the green valley below. Several people gathered here drinking water and enjoying the view. It seemed like an exceptionally reasonable thing to do. "Howdy," said Bill 1, as he must. The people returned the greeting. "Some nice mountains here," commented Bill 1. "Certainly are," one of the people replied. She wore a kerchief, which looked
very good on her. Bill 1 assumed there were practicalities involved in the use of the kerchief as well as the obvious pleasureableness in how it looked on her. Bill 1 didn't wear or otherwise use kerchiefs but he had some exactly like that one. He had seventeen in his pack and another 916 back home. Except that they were different colour and had different designs, they were just the same as what this woman wore. That seemed quite a coincidence to Bill 1. He thought he would mention this rare happenstance, and also remark on how nice the kerchief looked on her, but before he could, a noise changed the direction of his thoughts. Bill's thoughts were much like billiards balls, readily sent in any direction by the motivation of the world's energies. In this particular circumstance, and at this particular time, the noise was made by a bird. It screeched in a really fascinating manner. "What kind of bird is that?" Bill 1 asked. "Raven," one of the people told him. "Wow," said Bill 1, happy not to regard the answer as a transitive verb or gerund or homophone of any sort. He paused a moment to file that information away, for later retrieval and consideration. "They sound like people screaming," said the woman with the kerchief. Bill 1 had to agree with that, there was no way he could do otherwise. He liked agreeing with her, as it happens. The birds flew nearly overhead. That was as good as telling Bill 1 to follow. He did so, drawn inexorably. Not far ahead, the trail sign pointed to the summit of Mt Clinton. That's the way the ravens flew. The next mountain was Mt Eisenhower. Imagine calling a mountain by a president's name! Too bad there wasn't a president named Clinton ever. There ought to be, at some point in time, Bill 1 figured. Bill 1 strode to the top of Clinton and sat. The ravens hovered nearby, making use of abilities they were born to use. Bill 1 ate some bread and two apples. He thought about a few things, maybe everything. He certainly thought about how great it is that billiards balls go all over the place. Oh man, then he realized something outstanding. His name was Bill and he was thinking of billiards. That sure seemed neat and gave his thoughts extra impetus to bounce all around. The next thing Bill 1 knew, he was at the summit of Mt Eisenhower. It, like, just happened. Sometimes, Bill 1 knew, the way things happened just happened. On top of that mountain stood a large pile of rocks just sitting there with all their secrets intact. Bill 1 clung to the wonder of that for a while and then looked up off to the right. There, not all that far away, especially if you happen to have a rocketship handy, was Mt Washington. Bill 1 knew this by intuition, which is a great thing to have. He might've 123
guessed it was the Matterhorn, K2 or Magic Mountain but he just didn't. Mt Washington was probably named after George Washington, the guy who once was an American president. That's what Bill 1 figured, in between a couple of rogue thoughts about Juliette. Unless, of course, it was named after George Washington Carver, who helpfully invented peanut butter. Bill 1 felt really, really, really elevated just then. He noticed that Mt Washington was much higher, in elevation, than Mt Eisenhower, which was certainly its prerogative to be. Clouds off and on obscured the top of Mt Washington. Bill 1 knew something about that. His head was always sort of in the clouds, if you get the meaning there. He sympathetically watched a train chug its way up the mountainside. That's a thing a train would do. Bill 1 knew in his heart of hearts that that train must have excellent wheels. Bill 1 deemed wheels to be excellent, and excellent wheels were, therefore, especially excellent. Anyway, Bill 1 thought about a few more things. The world was being larger than usual right then so he let himself go. He thought how great it would be to be a cloud, a rock, a raven, a brook. He then wondered what Juliette was doing exactly right then. Above him, near yet far, clouds floated like narwhals. The earth, unasked, offered this pleasurable sense of being round and complete. You just know that no one can ever be lonely or sad and you can definitely float forever. When the time was right, well, Bill 1 moved on.
20> More Adventures, More Adventures!
What did Juliette expect that day? So many possibilities. Any Bill could tell you that a world of possibilities waited out there, and in here too, wherever here may be. Maybe Juliette simply did not know, for sure, what to expect when she opened the door. Imagine: four guys, whom we know now to be named Bill, standing there proud and expectant. Well! Two of the Bills looked familiar, they looked like Bill. "Hi, Juliette," drawled Bill 1. "Bill," said Juliette. She sounded real interested to find Bill 1 there, not to mention Bill 2, Bill 3 and Bill 4. "It's Bill, all right," said Bill 3, referring to Bill 1 by his, Bill 1's, nickname. It was also his, Bill 3's, nickname. "Bill," repeated Juliette, for reasons unclear to any of the Bills present. "It sure is," Bill 1 felt obliged to assure her. She gazed at the four great guys standing before her. "Who are they?" Juliette asked, indicating the former William and the former Wilbur. This story happens to set itself at a time when Juliette had yet to meet the Billian quartet in all its full frontal attack. Times can get pretty twisted, at times. "I'm Bill 3." "That's right, Juliette," put in Bill 1. "This is Bill 2 and the other one is Bill 4. You can call us Bill for short." "Okay..." An interesting pause—which the Bills enjoyed to the max—ensued before she went on. "What are you doing here?" "Currently just standing here having a great conversation with you," Bill 2, in his enthusiasm, replied. "We found some ten dollar bills that are slightly wrong," said Bill 1, not losing sight of the purpose that brought them to where they were, at that point in time. "That's interesting, you've got to admit," said Bill 3. "You just got to," said Bill 4, when it became clear that Juliette wasn't about to do any admitting. Despite Bill 4's insistence, she chose not to so admit. "Show her the one that's all wrong," put in Bill 2. "Yeah, show her, Bill," said Bill 3. 125
"You mean me?" asked Bill 4. "No, I meant Bill." "You mean me?" asked Bill 2. "No," answered Bill 3, "I was referring to Bill." "Right," said Bill 1. "That's me." He opened his backpack, which he's never without, and pulled out an excellent paper bag. From this he fetched another excellent, albeit smaller, paper bag. Inside that was a nice plastic bag and in that was a bill. Green currency, that is, not one of the Bills. Though it might be interesting to find yourself in a bag, maybe, but Bill 1 was not currently considering this interesting point. Bill (Bill 1, that is) carefully removed the treasure and showed it to Juliette. "Whoever did that one, sure goofed," remarked Bill 3, expressing the thoughts of all four Bills. "Looks okay to me," said Juliette, naturally caught up in the excitement that the Bills brought. "But Juliette," said Bill 1 patiently, "that's absolutely the worst portrait of Alexander Hamilton I ever saw. It looks like some other guy entirely." "It is some other guy entirely," replied Juliette. "What!" gasped all four Bills in utmost astonishment, as if green beans were suddenly proven to not be green beans at all. "That's Andrew Jackson there." "What's he doing on a ten dollar bill?" asked Bill 3. "This is a twenty dollar bill." "It is?" Bill 3 was quite surprised. So were the others. "Of course, it is." "Well what do you know," said Bill 2. "Unbelievable," said Bill 4. "How did you know this was a twenty dollar bill, Juliette?" asked Bill 1 with interest. "The presence of Andrew Jackson gave it away. Also, you see this two and this zero here?" "Hey, that's an easy way of figuring it out," said Bill 1, pleased with this discovery. He took a few moments to share it with his pocket billophone. The billophone worked good, Bill 1 got half way through his discourse before
the handy thing clicked off. Its batteries or something were a little haywire, or so Bill judged. He knew something about haywire. Anyway, he recorded a tantalizing modicum of his thoughts into the billophone before it clicked off. Bill 1 took it in stride that his billophone clicked off just as he was getting into the really interesting stuff. "Why are you guys here anyway?" asked Juliette suddenly. It must've just occurred to her that she stood in her doorway carrying on this fascinating discussion (which she probably hadn't expected to have) with the four Bills. The Bills looked at each other, scratched their beards (Bills 1 and 2) or kinda stroked the escaping elements of their sparse hairstyle (Bills 3 and 4). "I don't think we ever had a reason for coming here," admitted Bill 3 finally. "Were we looking for Abby?" asked Bill 2? "I don't think so," said Bill 1, puzzling over this conundrum as if it were a hyper-intelligent doughnut that wouldn't talk. "What about Larry?" persisted Bill 2. "Were we looking for Larry for purposes of consultation?" "That sounds familiar," said Bill 4. "I don't know," mused Bill 1. He stared at Juliette for a few moments in a considering sort of way. For some reason, she seemed uncomfortable. "I'm actually busy right now," said she. "I'm cooking dinner for my husband and child. "She moved to sort of close the door but Bill 4 kind of stood in the way there. "You have a husband?" asked Bill 3. "That means you're married, I guess." "Yes," said Juliette, "it definitely does." "Married?" asked Bill 1, struck by this fascinating revelation. "You mean married?" "Yes, and with a husband and everything." "Does he live here?" asked Bill 2 with interest. "Of course, he does." Bill 2 considered the complexities now confronting him. It was as if you could untie a pretzel if you wanted. "You know, Juliette," Bill 1 suddenly espoused, "you have the most beautiful eyebrows in the world." "Okay, it's really late and I've got to get dinner ready and Jerry is..." 127
"Is Jerry your brother?" asked Bill 1, showing, in his way, that relentlessness doesn't have to end. "Jerry is my husband and it's for him that I am making dinner." "What are we having?" asked Bill 4 pleasantly. Juliette looked at him. He was still sort of in the way of the door and all. "I'm not kidding about your eyebrows, Juliette," pursued Bill 1, continuing to not relent. "Somehow I knew that," answered Juliette. Suddenly she pointed behind the Bills. "What's that over there?" "Is it an invisible bird?" Bill 4 naturally asked, taking a step in the direction indicated. Sadly, Juliette could not reply because she didn't even hear the question. The wind apparently blew the door shut—an action that simulated the end of time—and she couldn't figure out how to reopen it. "Did Juliette see Bogle?" asked Bill 1, very, very interested. "So it seems," said Bill 3. "Where is Bogle?" asked Bill 2. "Juliette was pointing this way," said Bill 4, heading in the direction she indicated. "Do you think it's possible that Bogle now is invisible to us, and that Juliette can see him?" asked Bill 1. "It's entirely possible," said Bill 3. "This is getting interesting," said Bill 2 interestedly. "Ouch," said Bill 3. "What happened?" asked Bill 4. "It's weird but I think I walked into an invisible rocketship or something." "How unusual," remarked Bill 4. "Ouch," said Bill 1. "What happened?" asked Bill 3. "I think I walked into an invisible rocketship or something." "I just had the same strange feeling myself." "Ouch," said Bill 2.
"Did you just feel like you walked into an invisible rocketship?" asked Bill 3. "Yes, I did." "I wonder," pondered Bill 1 agreeably, "if Juliette knows anything about an invisible rocketship around here." "It would be unusual, though extremely interesting," noted Bill 3. "I mean that two invisible rocketships should be parked right near each other." "Two invisible rocketships?" asked Bill 2. "Well, there's this one and mine, the one we got here in." "Oh, I forgot about that one," confessed Bill 2. "That is a very strange and rare coincidence," said Bill 4. Suddenly a door opened in the invisible rocketship. "Are you guys getting in or what?" It was Bogle. He seemed perturbed. He could be touchy at times. None of the Bills knew whether this was the condition of all animated cardboard-and-crepe paper pheasants who are invisible to the eyes of most people or just this particular one. It was an interesting question that was sure to be pondered fully by the Bills when they had a chance. "What are you doing in this rocketship?" asked Bill 3. "Just planning important plans while you guys gallivant all over the place." "What I mean is, how did you get into this particular one?" "Through the door." "But Bogle, it's not right to be in somebody else's invisible rocketship." "You invited me in," answered Bogle, still touchy. "Wait a sec. This is my invisible rocketship?" "Certainly." "Oh. Well, see, I didn't recognize it." "I wonder why." The Bills also so wondered. "Boy, when you invent an invisible rocketship, you should be able to recognize it," remarked Bill 3, feeling foolish about the whole thing. "Don't worry about it, Bill," said Bill 2. "This is something that can happen to any of us." 129
"Why don't you guys get into the rocketship so we can get going," suggested Bogle. The guys did. "Are we off to find Abby?" asked Bill 1, hitching his seatbelt tight. "Or Juliette?" put in Bill 2. "You already found Juliette," snapped Bogle, showing temperament. "That's right, we did." "What about Sharon?" asked Bill 3. "Who's Sharon?" asked Bill 1 with interest. Whoever she was, she sounded nice. He could just imagine her eyebrows. "She's that nice waitress at that ice cream place where we got ice cream." "Oh yes," said Bogle, less touchy now. "I remember. She was quite percipient. She knew that I loved Rocky Road ice cream." "Even if you couldn't eat the stuff," chuckled Bill 4 pleasantly. "That's not funny, Bill 4," the bird replied angrily. He was in some sense a cardboard-and-crepe-paper pheasant that definitely suffered mood swings. "Sorry." "But it wasn't Sharon's fault," Bogle went on. "She was very nice, and did what she could." "She sure did," agreed Bill 4. "She fills the world with..." began Bill 3, but he ran out of steam there and was unable to finished what boded to be a pretty nifty declaration. Responding to this situation, he scratched the top of his head, where there's less hair to get in the way. "Bill 1, snap out of it," Bogle said harshly. "What's the matter?" wondered Bill 1, seeming to have just awakened. "You were daydreaming about Juliette's eyebrows." "So I was. How did you know?" "You forget that I am somewhat omniscient." "That really just means you can read minds, doesn't it, Bogle?" asked Bill 4. "Well, yes, basically. But it's a responsibility that I do not take lightly." "I can imagine," said Bill 3, quite finished—for now, at least—with scratching
his head. He began to think about what Bogle had just said, then he thought about eggplants, the string used in stitching books, elbows, verbs beginning with the letter 'e', and that sort of thing. He smiled as he pondered, he was always happy when he did what he liked to do. "Let's take this jalopy somewhere," suggested Bill 4. "Good idea," said Bogle. "Unfortunately, it appears that Bill 3 is ruminating something fierce. I think it's best if we don't disturb him. He might explode or something." "That wouldn't be good," responded Bill 1 knowingly. "It's good you're here to help us," said Bill 2. "Don't I know it." "That's for sure," added Bill 1. "The thing is," the bird went on, "with Bill 3 out of action for a while we'll need someone to fly this rig." "Let me," offered Bill 4. "After all, I used to be the Anti-Wilbur. I have a special kinship with Bill 3." "So you do," said Bogle thoughtfully, "so you do. Well, okay. Just don't crash into anything." "At least don't crash into anything hard," put in Bill 2. "I will definitely try hard," Bill 4 said. The gang sat back to enjoy the ride. They knew they flew to new and even more wonderful adventures. Unfortunately, Bill 4 flipped the rocketship over, right there near Juliette's place. They remained all stuck in their seats trying for a long time to disengage their seatbelts. All except Bogle, who was instead caught on an interesting can opener that was attached to the dashboard. He evinced considerable dissatisfaction. The whole thing was really quite something. While they struggled to extricate themselves the Bills got thinking. Bogle wasn't thinking, he was expressing real annoyance, but that didn't annoy the Bills. Finally, Bill 1, the initial Bill, felt he had to say something about what he was thinking. He therefore, then, proceeded to say that something. "You know," he said, "I have come to believe that Juliette is the Queen of the Universe." The reader can take it reliably that this is when, in terms of time, if such terms mean anything, Bill 1 reached this useful revelation. "That's just what I was thinking, too!" said Bill 2, amazed at the coincidence. "Me, too," chimed in Bill 3. 131
"So was I," added Bill 4. Bogle, the magical bird, squawked to beat the band but the four Bills looked at each other and said, "Yeah." It really was a really fine moment. Had they not been otherwise engaged they would have then flown directly to Larry's and divulged their bombshell. An orderly and engaging universe should have a centre from which shines the radiance, or that is one way to deal with the complexities of our balancing act.
21> Pennies From Heaven
-- an Adventure -Bill 1 busy? Sure thing. He was in his kitchen, a place where you can be so busy that it can cause all your number 3 pencils and piano benches to melt in the fire of your exertions, although that spectacle had not yet quite happened to Bill 1. Our hero could really, really concentrate once he got his momentum up. Stoves, ovens, refrigerators, Waring blenders, and oh yes, kitchen sinks offered many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many fantastic opportunities for study, investigation, appreciation and just plain fun. Bill 1 had every intention of making good on the implied invitation of this most incredible of rooms. Right now, at the point of time of which we speak, Bill 1 sat at the kitchen table, a right excellent place to be. He had his tweezers (only one, actually: a tweezer). He had his copper cleaner. He had his pennies. Oh, he would get some cleaning done. Bill 1 naturally enjoyed keeping all his pennies sparkling clean. Who doesn't? He never, however, cleaned his quarters, dimes or nickels for very definite reasons that he couldn't quite remember right then. His records would reveal these reasons for not cleaning his other coins, were there a break in his schedule allowing him to research the matter. But pennies, he sure kept them clean as clean can be. He knew he simply had to. He cleaned them with a proficiency that all had to admire, unless they just weren't up to all that admiration. Bill 1 kept all 19,507 of his pennies in a strangely wonderful corrugated box. He had obtained this box when he worked for that wine company where he met Larry, Abby, Juan, Juliette.......................................................................... A long and quite enjoyable contemplation of the essential Juliette sidetracked Bill 1 for a while, time meaning nothing. When he got back—it was a nice ole ramble he'd taken there—he began cleaning his pennies one by one. He used a simple but effective method. With the tweezers, he selected a likely coin to wash. They were all likely, but he had to choose. He dipped the penny in a bowl of water then carefully sprinkled copper cleaner on it. Then, using a spare—at least Bill 1 thought it was a spare—toothbrush, he scrubbed it just right. A dip in the water again for a rinse and the penny shone like pennies should shine. The process did not stop there because—and this is the part that most people forget—Bill 1 dipped the penny into a bowl of lemon juice, for a very specific reason that, currently, Bill couldn't recollect. The coin was then carefully dried using cotton balls. When the pennies were absolutely dry, a squirt of WD40 finished his chore. A job well done. Whilst Bill 1 laboured, Bill 2 arrived. 133
"Hey, Bill 1." "Hey, Bill 2." "I decided I wanted to clean my pennies," Bill 2 announced. "That's what I'm doing." "You're cleaning my pennies?" That query almost stumped Bill 1 but he wrangled with it till he had it all worked out to his satisfaction. "No, I'm cleaning my own pennies." "Great. Then I can clean mine. I have 19,507." "So do I!" "Wow!" Bill 1 and Bill 2 felt incredibly excellent about such a terrific situation. Just then Bill 3 showed up. "Hey guys." "Hey!" greeted Bill 1 and Bill 2 in a fine example of unison. "I decided I wanted to clean my pennies," Bill 3 announced. "That's what we're doing," Bill 2 told him. "You're cleaning my pennies?" Bill 3 was amazed to receive such astounding, albeit interesting, news. Bill 2, as always, evaluated all the data relevant to the current situation before replying. "No, I'm cleaning my pennies and Bill 1 is cleaning his." "His what?" quizzed Bill 3, psyched that he would soon receive new information concerning his fine friend Bill 1. Bill 2 gave that query all the cogitational attention it deserved before he replied. "His pennies. We both have 19,507 pennies." "Wow, so do I!" "Man, this is great," declared Bill 1, feeling connected with how great everything is, as well as with the whole super terrific flow of the world's energy. "It sure is," agreed Bill 2, agreeing with how great everything is. "I'm not just slightly psyched right now, I am totally psyched," said Bill 3. Just then Bill 4 arrived. "Hey guys." "Hey, Bill 4," greeted Bills 1, 2 and 3 in a truly virtuoso display of unison.
"I decided I wanted to clean my pennies," Bill 4 announced. "That's what we're doing," Bill 3 told him. "You're cleaning my pennies?" Little did Bill 4 expect to fall headlong into such intriguing information. It seems he was in a situation. Bill 1, Bill 2 and Bill 3 conferred a while, trying to get a bead on the question, then Bill 3 answered. "No, I'm cleaning my pennies, Bill 2 is cleaning his pennies, and Bill 1 is cleaning his." "His what?" asked Bill 4, ready to be fascinated by a new revelation concerning his friend Bill 1. After a short confab, during which Bills 1 through 3 got everything clarified between them, Bill 1 answered succinctly, "My pennies." "Ah!" said Bill 4, enlightened. "I have 19,506 pennies." "Gee, did you lose one?" wondered Bill 2. "Yup," answered Bill 4 sadly. "Gosh," said the three other Bills. It was great to share such an energizing simultaneity, but the positive aspects of the situation were diminished by Bill 4's sad loss. "Did you look in your boot?" Bill 2 asked. "I usually do, but I didn't today. Why?" "Maybe you lost your penny in your boot." "Wow, I hadn't thought of that," Bill 4 realized. He didn't like realizing things he hadn't thought of, but he did it anyway. "You should look," advised Bill 2. "Which boot, do you suppose?" "Try the right one first," Bill 2 told him thoughtfully. "If no luck then check your left." "You know I'm going to." Good as his word, Bill 4 removed his right boot and looked in. It was remarkably dark in there but he peered carefully. He reached in. No penny. "I guess you'll have to look in your left boot," surmised Bill 1 for all he was worth. 135
"I guess so," said Bill 4. He proceeded to perform left boot removal procedures. After a totally thorough investigation, leaving no stone unturned—if that phrase applies, and it just might not—he was rewarded with a penny. "Now you've got 15,507 pennies," said Bill 1, showing considerable relief that a dicey situation had resolved in an affirming way. "This is great," said Bill 2. "I agree," said Bill 3. "Me too," said Bill 4. All in all, it was swell. So the boys cleaned 62,028 pennies, and it kept them pretty busy. Of course, they all had their thoughts, and a fine collection of thoughts they had. Bill 2 strolled along with a general consideration of frozen orange juice concentrate, butterflies, Waring blenders, 5x8 index cards, seatbelts and other such related things. Bill 3 pondered the many incredibly fascinating aspects and ramifications of getting married, especially when the ceremony takes place at a subway stop in Boston to someone whose name is probably Sharon. Bill 4 delved deep as deep could be into the whole idea that to carjack does not mean to use a car jack. As for Bill 1, the idea of someday showing Juliette 62,028 gleaming examples of the world's many magical marvels—highlighting his own 15,507 contributions to that onslaught of wonder—made him feel, once again, like a balloon filled with helium that was just floating all over the place. For Bill 1, it was cogitas ergo somewhere over the rainbow. His thoughts reached the planet Venus in no time at all.
22 > Out There
Bill 1's excellent rocketship managed its usual fabulous upside down crashlanding with perfection. That it crashed so often—basically its every meeting with terra firma could be termed a crash, if you want to take a technical view of things—was not part of his original design. But it crashed so well, consistently upside down, with never an injury to ship or passenger. You have to admire that. Bill 1 did. So did Bill 2. "This rocketship sure crashes with authority," remarked Bill 2. "Never misses," agreed Bill 1. The idea that it might miss had, of course, been considered. You've got to consider everything, after all, even the spooky stuff. "So where are we?" asked Bill 2, brimful of the ability to pose questions at times when he needs or wants an answer. "You mean, besides in my rocketship?" Bill 1 didn't like to answer a question until he was quite clear what that question entailed. He often, therefore, responded to a question with one of his own, the better to receive the clarification he craved. Bill 2 had often met Bill 1's questions to his, Bill 2's, questions, but they, the questions, always set him, Bill 2, back on his, Bill 2's, heels a bit. He (Bill 2) pondered before replying to Bill 1's question concerning his, Bill 2's, question. "Yeah, besides that. I mean, where is it that the rocketship has crashed?" "I'll check my Billfinder," answered Bill 1 forthrightly. He brought out the Billfinder from his backpack. It was a terrific device, as was the Billfinder that he removed from it. Bill 1 had invented the Billfinder, having discerned a real need for such a thing. It could identify exactly where, in this or any universe, he was. Handy. "Great," said Bill 2, while Bill 1 consulted his special contraption. "We are in Provincetown, Massachusetts," Bill 1 soon accurately announced. "The one on Cape Cod?" "Yes, that one. Right at the end of Cape Cod." "Provincetown is really out there, then." "Sure is." "That means we're really out there." 137
"Wow, that's right." Naturally Bills 1 and 2 had reached a point where they just had to appreciate the way things were turning out, currently. The world spins constantly, as we are often led to believe, but some things really strike you as being something. The boys remained in their seats, perfectly well-hitched by those great seatbelts of which Bill 1's rocketship boasts. The blood most naturally ran to their respective heads since they hung upside down, that being how the rocketship had (crash) landed. The current situation made both of them think. "Did you ever make deliveries to anyone in Provincetown?" asked Bill 2, alluding to the excellent delivery job that Bill 1 enjoyed at an earlier epoch of his (Bill 1's) life. "Unfortunately, no. Provincetown was outside my official delivery range. Not that I didn't want to try, but Juan never let me go that far." "That's too bad, although I'm sure he had his reasons." "I'm sure he did," Bill 1 declared. He trusted Juan's ability to have a reason for the things he told Bill not to do. Juan might evaluate the situation incorrectly but at least he had his reasons. "He would simply have to have reasons for saying you should not deliver to Provincetown," Bill 2 went on. "Right," acknowledged Bill 1. "It just wouldn't make sense if he didn't. And it would make no sense for Juan not to make sense. He had too much work to do." "Well, it sure would be great to drive all day, and half the night," mused Bill 2, "trying to get an important delivery to someone in Provincetown." "It sure would," Bill 1 agreed wistfully. "Well, you learn to deal with it." Bill 1 shrugged philosophically, which is not so easy as it sounds. "So, we're in Provincetown now." "We sure are. Where were we heading, anyway? I mean before we crashed." "I don't exactly remember but I know it was someplace interesting." "Well yeah. We wouldn't head for any uninteresting place, would we?" "Not if we could help it," agreed Bill 1. The two Bills had to give all this the thought it needed and deserved. It was really something, after all. "Provincetown is interesting," noted Bill 2, having assessed such facts as were currently available to him before arriving at this appraisal. "You're right, Bill 2. That means we're where we should be." "Wow, you're right," Bill 2 had to say. There are situations of such superb
rightness that you just have to really get into the whole situation of their being really great situations. This was one of those situations for both Bills. Man, you truly feel situated in such situations. The boys adeptly climbed from the ship. This act, when you count unhitching the special seatbelts, which you definitely should count, took only thirty nine minutes. The Bills found themselves amidst some sand dunes, which are the favoured type of dunes for both Bills. Armed, as always, with back packs and umbrellas, our two great heroes marched towards a really fine road that headed towards what would necessarily be a fantastic adventure. They pretty much moseyed right along, moseying being a particularly fine mode of travel. Traffic along the road was busy enough but neither Bill thought to hitchhike. They were in no rush; time centred on them, and the world spinned: everything was fine. They saw lots of sand, and the veritable Atlantic Ocean in the distance. Well, so, you're strolling along. You see herring gulls in self-important flight. You see cumulus clouds doing their vast-watery-thing-in-the-air thing. You see the Pilgrim Monument standing like a proud exclamation point in the distance. You see cottages, cars, more sand and further subtle nuances on your visual screen. Oh it's a grand thing, walking along aimlessly with only the cares of the world to bother you. The Bills were well into it. Our boys hit the town in fine fettle. Be it known: if the Bills must be in a fettle, they always but always want it to be a fine one. They have their pride, you see. So they proceeded, curious about the rich interplay of activities and energies as displayed by this town into which they came. Things moved as smooth as a well-lubricated piano bench, than which nothing can be slicker, more than likely. "This is great," said Bill 1 as they entered the business part of this vital little town. For some, Provincetown was the centre or vortex of a vacationing lifestyle, a place to unwind and relax, but the Bills had to be on their toes. There was so much to observe and study. "This is really great," said Bill 2, feeling Bill 1's description hadn't quite caught the full wonder of it all. Imagine a place where unicorns and electric floor waxers gambol together. Provincetown wasn't anything like that but imagine imagining that! "It's got people walking around and the ocean and everything," enumerated Bill 1. "It sure does," said Bill 2, as he pondered whether there might be even more than that here. There just might. "We've got our work cut out for us," stated Bill 1 with determination. "You said it," said Bill 2, though that fact had not been disputed. 139
The Bills proceeded to take it all in, to the best of their ability. Provincetown— vacation paradise that it is—enjoys close proximity to a terrific ocean, is loaded with shops full of fascinating items, and boasts loads of people roaming around doing or not doing all sorts of things. Wow and a half. "A lot of people wear shorts here," observed Bill 1. He was not far from the truth with that assertion. "I wonder why?" Bill 2 had to ask. The Bills did not, as a rule, wear shorts. A reason for this probably existed, but the Bills did not, off hand, know it. Later, when they had more time, they would surely explore this curious circumstance. "It's a mystery," Bill 1 finally said. Which did not mean that either of them had given up on the question—Bills don't give up—but they tabled it because, well, there was just so much. They walked out onto a wharf. "This is a wharf, isn't it, Bill 2?" "Yes, I believe the scientific term for such a structure is 'wharf.'" "I haven't been on a wharf in a long time," said Bill 1. "And this is a long wharf," said Bill 2. "At least, if wharves are generally shorter than this one, then this is a long one." "That only stands to reason," said Bill 1, pleased to encompass such a view. They took note of the shops lining the street end of the wharf. No doubt these would be super fascinating places to investigate. First, however, the Bills had to wander out to the end of the wharf. A fishing boat bobbed nearby, and men scurried on its deck, dealing with the catch. Hovering gulls showed almost as much interest in the proceedings as did Bills 1 and 2. The Bills spent a good, portion of time—if time really can be apportioned—enjoying the spectacle of the fishing boat, fish, gulls and busy men included. Eventually, as will happen, they strolled back towards the shops. Everything is an invitation for further study—that's what life's about—so the Bills had to enter a store which sold saltwater taffy. They hoped thereby to accomplish further study. Happily, they stood there amidst a mingling of people eager, apparently, for taffy. Soon a line sort of developed behind our happy heroes so that their turn to be served arrived. They didn't even know they wanted to be served until then. It's charming how the world chooses to roll along, isn't it? "Can I help you?" asked the young woman behind the counter. "Only you would know," Bill 2 pointed out for her edification and benefit. "Then let me help you," the woman said. "Okay," replied Bill 2. He and Bill 1 stood there, waiting for her to help them. This proved an untenable situation since nothing seemed to get resolved so, after they furrowed their brows for a moment, Bill 2 had to speak.
"How can you help us?" asked he. "Do you want to buy some saltwater taffy?" the woman returned. "Neither of our names is Taffy," Bill 1 explained, baffled by her odd response to the situation currently obtaining. "I can't believe you made such a guess as that. Beyond that, I haven't the slightest idea why I would want to buy saltwater." "Neither do I," Bill 2 helpfully put in. "Although it would please me to learn." "Me too," said Bill 1 agreeably. "Very funny, you guys," replied the helpful woman. "What kind of taffy would you like?" "You mean this stuff here?" asked Bill 1, pointing at the colourful candy. "That's what we sell here." "This green and white one looks nice," said Bill 2. "So does this pinkish one," put in Bill 1, not to be outdone by his doppelganger. "So you would like half of each?" asked the woman with considerable patience. "Yes we would," said Bill 1, "depending on what you mean by half." "Yeah, depending on that," said Bill 2. "How about a half a pound of each," the woman suggested. "Is that a good amount?" Bill 2 asked. "It's a very good amount." "We'll take it," stated Bill, 1. He liked the sound of things. A lot. The woman collected the taffy from the display, weighed it and bagged it all. "That's four dollars exactly." "Do you take quarters?" asked Bill 1. "Yes, we do," said the woman. "Do you take dimes?" asked Bill 2. "Yes, and we also take paper money." "Oh we never carry paper money," said Bill 2. 141
"Never," said Bill 1. "Pay with what you have." "You mean you want all my quarters?" asked Bill 1. "And all my dines?" asked Bill 2. "I want four dollars worth of American currency, whether it is in pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters or paper money." "Oh," said Bill 2," handing her twenty dimes. "Oh," said Bill 1," handing her eight quarters. Somehow, this wasn't as fun as he had expected. The woman collected the coins, counted them then rung them into the cash register. It was an excellent cash register and worked like a charm, leastwise like such a charm as worked like the register. The Bills enjoyed that. The helpful young woman then pushed the bag of candy towards the boys. "You mean we get to keep the bag?" gasped Bill 1 in astonishment. "Take it and keep it, too," said the woman, her attention shifting to the next people in line. This was like manna from heaven, like rain for the thirsty, like Christmas on Mars: it was great. The candy, and the bag, too! The Bills walked from the store fully equipped with all the amazement that they could currently process. It was too incredible. They had to sit on a bench and absorb the wonder of it all. When they were done—for the moment, obviously—with absorbing that wonder, they each pulled out a piece of saltwater taffy. Carefully, delicately, they removed the respective pieces of paper covering the candy. They then looked at the candy conscientiously. When they felt they had done enough of that, they replaced the wrappers in a manner that whoever had initially put the wrapper on would've admired to the max. The candy then went back into the correct bag, which each Bill further studied with interest. Finally, the bags were placed in their backpacks. That proved to be a wonderful excursion into curiosity. They continued to sit there on that bench on that wharf. Whilst so engaged— and believe it, they were engaged—the Bills saw Norman Mailer pass by. Naturally they recognized him, since the Bills indeed do watch television. Like a lot of people, they had never read the books written by this, or any, Norman Mailer. That didn't mean that Norman Mailer couldn't be who he was. He could be Norman Mailer all the livelong day whether the Bills ever read his books or not. He didn't look busy. The Bills thought about thinking about Norman Mailer later, when there was less going on to distract them. As it turns out, the distractions never diminished and the Bills never got back to thinking about thinking about Mr Mailer. Oh well. Maybe Mr Mailer thinks about himself enough that the Bills didn't need to assist him in that most august activity.
Eventually, the Bills rose and continued walking. They surveyed the merry world before them, a world of people wearing shorts and sunglasses and talking amongst themselves. They skipped by so smoothly you'd almost guess there had been maximum usage made of WD40. The Bills noticed a store that was crammed with people and stuff people were interested, so it appeared, in buying. It was quite something. The Bills had to check that out. Among the things available for purchase in this stand out store were necklaces, hats, postcards, sunglasses, pipes, posters, and other vitally amazing things. The vastness of it all was such that the Bills had to step outside at intervals, to restore their equilibrium, such as it is. You got to know your limits, just as much as you must realize that limits don't usually matter. Outside the store, on the sidewalk, was a woman who would, if you paid her money, apply beads to your hair. Neither Bill had enough hair for such festoonery, nor were they inclined to decorate themselves, but they found the idea of such a job more than fascinating. They couldn't even think of a word that could convey how they felt to learn of such a thing. While that whole thing went on, well, an amazing, incredible surprise manifested itself. Bill 1 looked up and he saw someone. Certainly, he could've done that many times on this day, and probably had, but this particular time was extra special because he recognized that person. It was Stephen. "Hey ho, Stephen," said Bill 1 with a thrill. It was not everyday that he had opportunity to say those syllables. He relished the chance. The person so named turned to Bill 1. He did not immediately acknowledge the great circumstance of finding Bill 1 there. This slowed our hero not in the least. "Don't you remember me, Stephen? We used to work together." No particular memory came to Stephen so Bill 1 had to help. "I drove the van. I did the deliveries. Remember?" The person named Stephen looked at Bill 1 till finally recognition dawned. "Why yes, I do recall you now. You're Bob, right?" "Wrong as wrong can be, Stephen. I'm Bill 1. You used to know me as Bill, but I changed my name." "And I'm Bill 2," said Bill 2. "I didn't know you had a twin," said Stephen, still showing evidence of surprise. "I didn't either," said Bill 1 seriously. "Me neither," said Bill 2, with equal seriousness. They looked at each other with surprise. 143
"You two aren't twins?" queried the woman with Stephen. "I'm not," said Bill 1. "Are you, Bill 2?" "Of course I'm Bill 2," said Bill 2. "Don't tell me you forgot." "I didn't forget, I just got confused." "I'm afraid I'm rather confused as well," said Stephen. "That's okay," said Bill 2, "you get used to it." Experience stood behind that statement. "So have you seen Juliette lately?" Bill 1 asked with as much interest as he could possibly endure, and that's a lot. "Why yes, Charlene and I dined with Juliette and Jerry just the other day." "Charlene was there, was she?" asked Bill 2, fascinated to learn this enticing tidbit. "Who's Charlene?" Bill 1 asked on his usual need-to-know basis. "She's my wife," replied Stephen. "Have you met Charlene," Bill 1 inquired of the woman with Stephen. "I'm Charlene," said she. "Wow! That's the name of Stephen's wife!" "Small world!" exclaimed Bill 2. It's not always, he knew, but sometimes it is. "You don't understand," said the Charlene who accompanied Stephen, "I'm Stephen's wife." The Bills had to consider this development. "You're Stephen's wife," Bill 1 realized. "And you're named Charlene," added Bill 2. "Right on both counts," said Charlene. "So have you seen Juliette lately?" Bill 1 really, really, really, really, really needed to know. "As I said, we dined with Juliette and Jerry just recently." "Who's Jerry?" Bill enquired. "He's her husband," answered Stephen.
"Charlene's?" asked Bill 2, showing evidence of being just a trifle confused. "Juliette's," answered Stephen. "She's married then, is she?" asked Bill 1, feeling like a Frisbee that failed to reach its destination. Could this be disappointment? "She certainly is." "I think you knew that already, Bill 1," said Bill 2. "Maybe so. I guess I keep forgetting." "That must be it," said Bill 2. "So how's Larry?" Bill 1 asked. "Larry's fine." "He's not married to Juliette, is he?" "No, Jerry is." "Jerry is what?" queried Bill 1. He really needed to know the answer to this fascinating question. So did Bill 2. It would likely prove revelatory. "Jerry is Juliette's husband." "I don't know Jerry," responded Bill 1 firmly. "He's Juliette's husband." "Oh yeah, I guess I heard that somewhere." "You know, Bill, it's been great meeting you here, but Charlene and I are busy..." "Really?" Stephen had caught Bill 1's attention with that remarkable piece of information. Bill 1 liked to hear all about people who are busy. "Yes we..." "We have to buy an painting for our living room," Charlene managed to put in. "I see," said Bill 1. "I see, too," said Bill 2. "Two what?" asked Bill 1, suddenly confused by these latest developments. Stephen broke in before Bill 2 could reply, which he planned to do in excellent fashion. 145
"Right," said Stephen. "And we have to get to the gallery and select just the right one before it disappears. It would be horrid if we didn't get just the right painting." "Yes," Bill 1 had to admit, "it would be horrid." "Very horrid," said Bill 2, shaking his head sadly. "I mean," Stephen went on, "so much depends on having the right painting." "It's vastly important to us," said Charlene. "You understand." The Bills nodded. Sometimes, things could really be something. "So we'll be running along," stated Stephen tugging Charlene's arm. "Nice to meet you, Bill and, um..." said Charlene. "Yes, jolly good seeing you," Stephen intoned as they drew away. The Bills waved toward the receding figures. "They were in a great rush," declared an exotically dressed, strikingly beautiful woman in a sumptuous French accent. The Bills turned to the person who spoke. It was the famous court painter during the reign of Louis XVI, Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun. "It sure seemed that way," said Bill 2. "They were off looking for paintings," said Bill 1. "Ah yes, paintings," responded Elisabeth, nodding. "I guess Juliette's married," said Bill 1. Some facts are harder to absorb than others. "That's what it sounds like," said Bill 2. "Tant pis," said Elisabeth suggestively. "But let us continue in our ways." "Right," said the Bills in unison. The three strolled off to have further adventures in this fabled town at the tip of Cape Cod, amidst ocean, sand and sky.
23> Real Time Questions
The thing about reality, and it's a pretty cool thing, really, is that it really may be just an alternative to a reality that is just as real as this reality that really seems to be happening. And vice versa, of course. It's just that simple. For instance, in one world, there may be a person, perhaps the very Queen of the Universe, who is married but not to you, yet in the other world, that you can imagine oh so well, she isn't married, nor is music a distant thing. And so that whole soulmate situation can in some sense proceed unencumbered by certain facts and irrelevancies that seem to crop up in certain realities because in certain other realities these barriers and difficulties don't exist. See? It really is just that simple. That, at least, is Bill 1's take on things. Or one of them. Bill 1 liked having a take on things. Which is all preamble to a happenstance that occurred one fine day. Juliette, you see, was at home and not especially distracted. She was, therefore, indelibly positioned to hear the day's bidding. That's when the telephone rang. Juliette, being just as subject to such importunings as anyone, answered the phone: "Hello?" "Howdy there, Juliette." "Ooo, it's Bill, again." "Wrong, Juliette, it's Bill 1. Who's Bill Again?" "He's nobody." "Sounds interesting. I wonder if I know him." "He's not interesting and you don't know him. He doesn't exist." "I guess that could be a problem," Bill 1 guessed. "I mean the whole idea that..." "Bill, do you have to call me now?" "I have never called you Now and had never figured I would. Your name is and always will be Juliette so far as I am concerned." "No, Bill, do you have to call me?" "Of course not, Juliette. I'm already on the phone with you right now." "I mean, Bill, do you have to be always calling me?" "I don't know. I'd be interested to learn, though." 147
"Bill, can I tell you something?" "I bet you can but I don't know for sure. I'd be interested to find out." "You've got to stop calling me, Bill." "I've never called you Bill, Juliette. It would make no sense for me to call you Bill." Bill 1 shook his head, but of course, Juliette couldn't tell. There was no aural evidence for her, you see. "No, you've got me there." "I guess you're a little confused today." "Maybe so." "Been drinking too much or something, right, Juliette? Hitting the old bottle?" Bill 1 chuckled, pondering the pleasant image of Juliette being drunk and silly. He also thought of balloons, dandelions, mandolins, autumn leaves, mail boxes and other such similar items. "No I haven't been drinking," Juliette replied. Now, Juliette replied directly after Bill 1 made his risible little remark but, what with the time/space continuum being a sort of fluid mush of stuff that swirls within various realities, including alternate ones, Bill 1 had plenty time to think those interesting thoughts of which we just mentioned. "Well then, have you maybe been playing with the springs to retractable pens?" Bill 1 asked slyly. He knew there had to be a logical reason why Juliette was so giddy today. The springs to retractable pens sure did it for him. "Wow, Bill, does your mind always take such left turns?" "That's an interesting question, Juliette. That's a really, really, really interesting one." Bill 1 paused, kinda dug in his heels and made ready to grasp that question and really work it over. He hardly got going, however, before Juliette spoke again. "Why do you keep calling me?" "I didn't call you," answered Bill 1, trying to remember to not forget to remember to think about that left turn question that Juliette posed there, the next time a chance opened up for such consideration. "Then how come we're talking on the phone?" persisted Juliette, obviously on some weird trip. "Well, to be honest, Juliette, that's a tough thing to answer. You see, I thought I dialed Larry's number. Not that I know Larry's number, of course, but I sure did dial what I thought just had to be Larry's number. Something funny happened, I guess." "And so you got me."
"I got you?" asked Bill hopefully. "We're talking, aren't we?" "We sure are," answered Bill 1 happily. He didn't realize that that was all it took. "This is great." "No, it's not, Bill." "No?" Bill 1 felt a rush of confusion, as if every mushroom in the world had become a chickadee, and every horse a piano. "It's just this, Bill. I'm, well, I don't think I'm up to all the attention I receive from you." "You're not?" "No, Bill. It's just that, well... Look, Bill, just don't call so much, okay? I mean, I'm busy with Emily and Jerry and all and..." "Who are they?" "Emily is my daughter and Jerry's my husband." "Oh yes?" "Yes." "Oh." There ensued a pause that Bill 1 didn't need to fill and Juliette, for some reason, didn't want to. Bill 1 was thinking, basically, and Juliette just sort of waited. "So you're saying you're married?" Bill 1 finally asked. Safe to say, Bill 1 had not gotten himself around that idea all too well. "Yes, I'm saying that, as I have said it before." "Then that means you're still married." "Okay, that's what it means." "Well, that's interesting. That's real interesting. It doesn't mean I can't still like you, does it, Juliette?" Bill 1, with his slow and thought-filled drawl, always sounds mournful so he couldn't really sound more so, but Juliette decided he did. Well, she thought so, anyway. Maybe she was receiving on a different frequency or something. That happens, you know. 149
"You can still like me, Bill," Juliette told him, noticing that the world can go from green to grey in no time. "Great!" said Bill 1, always ready to say 'great!' when situations were favourable to such a great exclamation. "Well, I got to hang up, Juliette. I just saw a balloon float by the window." And Bill 1 totally hung up the phone before Juliette could reply. In all the spinnings of this very excellent world that Juliette had enjoyed in her days, that was the first and only time she'd been interrupted by a balloon. The world, round and peaceful like a balloon, can float away unforgettably. You just go with it. As Juliette mused, her thoughts drifted to balloons...
Bill 1 was doing nothing, and that seemed so weird. Normally a man of action, he now sat in his beanbag chair and wasn't really thinking about anything at all. Bill 1 got pretty worked up about that. As he thought about thinking about things he realized that in thinking about things, thinking being an action word, he was therefore totally doing something. Quod erat demonstrandum, man. Coming to this excellent conclusion, Bill 1 felt totally stoked, like a steam engine with lots of coal or mattresses being heaved into its blazing furnace: full steam ahead! He knew this was so because he'd thought about it. He'd thought plenty about it. Bill 1 therefore felt totally up. He pushed a button. The button was on the right side of his chair. Incorporating some incredible scientific principles that Bill 1 knew all about right down to the least hypothesis, that button caused a balloon under the back of the chair to fill with shaving cream from several shaving cream cans. As the balloon filled it lifted the chair forward until Bill 1 fell out, just as he totally wanted and expected to do. Once again, modern science had provided a useful convenience to make life better and more enjoyable. What ho! Bill 1 determined he would go for a walk. He grabbed his backpack from the kitchen sink. He took his umbrella from the bucket that also contained the special lefty baseball bats that he designed and made. He opened the door to his digs and stepped forth purposefully. The world is much like a flower that you can sniff whenever you feel like it. Only, it doesn't exactly look like a flower and rarely smells like one. Bill 1 had loads and loads and loads and loads and loads and loads and just plain loads of purpose, he just didn't exactly, right then, know what that purpose was. But, as has been mentioned, he felt stoked. Something would turn up. The world, after all, is round, and interesting things keep rolling into view. "If I was born in Mexico right now, I'd be Mexican," Bill 1 realized for only the second time in his life. It felt just as thrilling to realize it now as that first time. "I'd also be quite young," he said, after further reflection. Bill 1 debated whether he should write these points down or tell his billophone. He decided after much—almost too much—thinking, to do both. He got out his billophone. It had been stashed, as always when not in use, in his backpack. "Remind me to both write down and tell my billophone about the realizations I just came up with," he told the billophone. "Righto, will do," said the billophone, sounding more eager than usual. It had fresh batteries, which probably helps its attitude. With intense satisfaction, which is the best kind, Bill 1 returned the billophone 151
to his pack. He stepped outside, right into the vortex. Something would happen, Bill 1 knew. It always did. What didn't happen was Bill 1 floating off into space. Not literally. He had no plans to float off into space so this didn't trouble him greatly. By a delicious fortuity, Bill 1 suddenly remembered his subway tokens. There's something absolutely great about remembering your subway tokens. And here was Bill 1, on a really decent day, doing so. In an earlier epoch of Bill 1's life, which is not to say that that epoch is over— all being one and one making many --Bill 1 used to collect subway tokens. Some, in fact many, he found. On the ground, beneath rocks, next to trees, under doormats, in the stacks at the library, and other likely places. Serendipity always acts to keep the interested person interested. Somewhere along the way, Bill 1 realized that you could actually buy subway tokens. If you go down into those holes where the subways run, you'll find a special window. Working at that window is a lucky man or woman who will receive your money and reward you with subway tokens. When Bill 1 learned this, why, he took total advantage of a favourable situation. It was a fine and satisfying system. Whenever Bill 1 thought of it, and depending on whether anyone worked those windows, he would make a visit and purchase some subway tokens. Since Bill 1 was careful not to use any, he built up quite a stash. It was great. On this day, Bill 1 wandered aimlessly until he came to a subway station. He went down. He looked around. He watched people deposit tokens into turnstiles and slide themselves through. Bill 1 observed carefully, taking in all the particulars of the method by which one performs those fascinating manoeuvres. When he felt the time was propitious, he acted. Bill 1 stepped into line. Although you're supposed to push when you're in the line, as if being in line weren't a perfectly great thing, Bill 1 didn't. Pushing is not his thing. He had his token ready. When it was his turn, he used it like a pro. The token slipped into its slot. Bill 1 successfully pressed himself through the turnstile. Bill 1 liked that whole thing something fierce. He wanted to go through again but uniformed agents of the subway concern denied him that pleasure. It didn't seem right but he could only go through once. Bill 1 had to accept this. Bill 1 had a turnstile at home, which he enjoyed quite a bit. The one he had was a free one, no tokens needed. Those are good but Bill 1 decided he preferred the kind where you can mobilize your token collection. He thought he would think about thinking about this later, when there was a break in all the activity he currently engaged in. Bill 1 made his way to the trains. Lots of people were down there. He watched a few trains go by. You got to choose the right train. You sure don't want to travel on a train that doesn't please you, that just stands to reason. One with an appealing aura finally pulled into the stop. Bill 1 had a good
feeling about it. He got on. There were no seats free so Bill 1 stood. He held onto the rail. He felt good, great actually. He was moving out. Bill 1 just happened to notice that twenty six people wore baseball caps, right there in that one car. He observed that it was never more than one cap per person. He lacked cap data for the other cars. Bill 1 wished he had hard facts but circumstances did not, currently, allow that. Bill 1 made a mental note to study this point at a later date. With luck, he might collect information that would validate some hypotheses that he expected to have. Bill 1 determined there was a veritable panoply of baseball caps being worn on that subway, in myriad colours and styles. That whole situation would be great to think about sometime. He thought he would think about that sometime. Bill 1 looked around and observed. Some people conversed, some read books or newspapers, some looked asleep and some just stared at you as if you were a purple preying mantis with a volleyball in your mandible. It was interesting how all that was. People tend to be varied, was how Bill 1 understood things. It was the best guess he could make. After a good long ride, with much jostling and plenty of noise, Bill 1 left the train. The surge of people pretty much encouraged his decision to do so. He felt extremely pleased about how things were developing. At this end of the ride, it was Bill 1's good fortune to go through another turnstile. They would not let him put a token into it, however, though Bill 1 insisted that it was an important feature of an excellent ride for him. You only get to pay when you enter, it turns out. He felt ripped off but there was nothing he could do about it. Oh well. Out on the street again, and the sun shone brightly, as it is wont to do. It was a pretty decent day, as it turns out, as every day tends to be. Bill 1 certainly hadn't been aiming anywhere—where's the fun in that?—but he found himself at Kenmore Square. Fenway Park was around here somewhere, as Bill 1 understood things. This was as good a place as anywhere. But then, as Bill 1 well knew, so was everywhere else. He would've gotten deeper into that whole idea, if that was a whole idea, but then Bill 1 started wondering about the person who invented the pencil. Getting something that great done one day: that'd be terrific. What satisfaction! Suddenly, with not a smidgeon of warning to prepare Bill 1 for this occurrence, Bill 1 saw a man. It wasn't just any man—who is? This particular man had one leg. Bill 1 had two legs, both quite functional and roughly the same length. Bill 1 immediately broke certain ice that needed to be broken. "Howdy," he said to the one-legged man. "Hi," was the reply Bill 1 received. "I just took the subway in," Bill 1 remarked. "Had a good ride." 153
"Yeah?" "Yup." "Do you know Juliette?" Bill 1 believed that that was a good question to pose on a fairly regular basis. "Juliette who?" the man responded. "No, that's not her last name. Actually I don't know her last name. I suppose I should find out. Do you want to see my subway tokens?" "Uh, no thanks. I've seen subway tokens." "You haven't seen mine." "No, that's true." "I'd've remembered if you had." "No, man, you're right. I haven't seen yours." "I'd be willing to show my subway tokens to you. They're very fine ones. Their workmanship is really first-rate." The one-legged man looked at Bill 1, then said, "Okay, my friend. Show me your subway tokens." "Great," said Bill 1. This would be the first time, so far as he could recall, that he'd ever shown a one-legged man his (Bill 1's) subway tokens. He could check his (Bill 1's) records later to verify this. "I can't show you all my tokens, unfortunately," said Bill 1 as he rummaged through his backpack. "I had to use one to take the subway here." "I guess that's the way it goes," said the man. "I guess so," returned Bill 1, although he wasn't totally convinced that this situation had to obtain. "I'm not complaining about using the token, you understand. I had a great ride." "I'm sure you did." "It's just, well, you know how it is." "Yeah." "Say," said Bill 1 suddenly, "you walk pretty could with that crutch." "It's the only way I can walk," the man told Bill 1. Bill 1 had to think about that, but he didn't have time right then. Too busy talking. "Wouldn't it be easier with two crutches?"
"Yes it would," the man said simply. "I thought so," said Bill 1. "I lost my other crutch." "Ah, I see. That explains why you only use one." "It does, doesn't it." "Well I guess so. Say, look at this token here. Notice how finely engraved it is." "Crazy, man." "I wouldn't know anything about that but if that's what you think you are, I guess that's okay with me." The guy looked at Bill 1 real seriously. "Say, is your name Bill?" "Oh, no, it sure aint. Definitely not." "Funny, you reminded me of a couple of guys. They were both named Bill." "Naw, my name's Bill 1. My nickname is Bill, however." "Bill 1? One of the guy's I was thinking of was called Bill 4. " "Oh yeah, sure." "You know him then?" "I know him right now." "Are you brothers?" "Not that I know of. Of course, there may be facts that I'm unaware of." "And you're Bill 1?" "Yup, I sure am. Small world, isn't it?" "You're the original Bill?" "Well, that's always a possibility. I sure am Bill 1, that much I know." "They gave me all their quarters." "What? Bill 3 and Bill 4?" "Yeah, it was weird." 155
"It certainly was," said Bill 1, again rummaging through his pack. "They should've told me that was what we were doing." "No, hey man, no, don't. I don't want your quarters." "But you have to take them." "I don't want to take your money." "They are very fine quarters. I always get the best I can find." Bill 1 pushed a good-sized plastic bag at the man. "No, please." "But don't you see, if Bill 3 and Bill 4 give away all their quarters, I have to, also." "Look, man, I can't take this. I shouldn't have taken what they gave me." "But you did. You didn't want to ruin their fun. Why do you want to ruin mine?" Bill 1 looked totally serious on this point, as naturally he should. "I get the feeling you guys need help more than I do." "Well, it's a big world. It's good to have a hand now and then." "I got to agree with that." "If you think that's necessary, go ahead." The man chuckled, it definitely was a chuckle. Bill 1 didn't know why he did so but was too busy to explore that point just then. "These are my quarters," Bill 1 felt he needed to explain. He wanted the man to understand the situation. He wanted the man to appreciate some fine quarters. "Yeah, but..." "Okay, I admit it, some of my quarters aren't as shiny as they should be. I can come and shine them up for you sometime, when I have less on my schedule." "Jeez, man, I don't understand you guys." "No, neither do I," replied Bill 1. "I'm working on it, though. Say, I bet I could make a really great crutch out of some of my baseball bats." "Baseball bats?" said the one-legged man, like he'd never heard of them. "This is definitely something I can do." Bill 1's words rattled with determination as he peered closer at the man's crutch. And here was the light Bill 1 sought. He made sure the guy took the bag of quarters since Bill 1 definitely could not use them now. Then, turning back toward the subway, our hero headed off. His mission: to make a crutch. The one-legged man thought that was the last he'd see of Bill 1. That just shows
how little he knew. Bill 1 knows how to finish a task. The crutch he produced proved excellent.
25> A Seek or Swim Situation
Life is a chain reaction, though not so much a reaction to chains, Bill 3 was pretty sure. When he considered them—and he managed to do so on a regular basis—Bill 3 reacted to chains quite favourably. Reaction is action, remains the Bill philosophy. Chains beautifully define the word 'interlocking', which is pretty neat. No, the chain reaction that life resembles is a sort of Domino Theory. One thing transpires, you see, causing another to happen. And so it goes and goes and goes, a vigourous recitation of fascinating opportunities and occurrences, like a cd player programmed to play just the great tracks, until something else of interest occurs. With all this, and as always an odd few other things, in his mind, Bill 3 went outside. Duty keeps you going and Bill 3 had to move. He'd been inside, sitting in—way in—a beanbag chair. Outside Bill 3's domicile, one might see, if it could be seen, Bill 3's invisible rocket. Bill 3 meant to fly that thing, a mission had declared itself. He knew he must, and was determined he would, find her. Who? Why, his would-be betrothed, whom Bill 3 felt pretty sure was named Sharon. If she wasn't so named then Bill 3 would learn what her name was, and make the necessary changes in his records. The point is that he had to locate her. Something drove our hero to this. One must always be ready to give kismet a hand. Okay, so enough preamble. Bill 3 is a man of action not preamble, although he likes preambles, when they are appropriate. He headed for his invisible rocketship. A difficulty with invisible rocketships as a rule, and certainly with Bill 3's: they are hard to see. Bill realized this again when he collided with something. Since he couldn't see what he hit, he made the reasonable assumption that he found his invisible rocketship. As so it proved. Finding the door—a challenge right there for Bill 3, the invisible rig's inventor— Bill 3 climbed in. It was a neat old vehicle, all things considered. Bill 3, for one, made it a habit to consider all things, or as many as he could possibly manage. He fastened the seatbelt. He thought for a moment. He unfastened the seatbelt. He sat down in the driver's seat. He pulled the seatbelt around him and then fastened it. Doing it this second way made the belt much more useful as a protective device. Bill 3 meant to keep that in mind, and so should you. Bill 3 poked certain buttons (fashioned out of genuine buttons); he flicked certain toggle switches (the toggles of which were fabricated, with no lack of cleverness, from spare Allen wrenches and cotter pins); he pushed the pedal (formerly a cheese grater) to the figurative metal (actually a mat formed of dried gladiolus leaves). Boing, into the air flew the invisible rocket. One of the many huge differences between Bill 3 and his colleague and close personal friend Bill 1 is that Bill 1 tended to use push pins (usually green or blues ones) for his switches. That struck Bill 3 as outré, but Bill 1's rocketship
worked fine and that's the main point. To each his own, Bill 3 figured, in this wide and various world. Bill 3 had no notion where he was going. That's a good thing, actually. That way, you're never disappointed when you get there, wherever there happens to be. Bill 3 zipped around wonderfully. As he did so he savoured the sights and enjoyed the way his mind floated upon a refulgent stream of ideas, theories, concepts, considerations and hypotheses. It was all quite excellent. At some point—time meaning absolutely nothing—Bill 3 looked down to see the hugest crowd imaginable. Now, Bill 3 had tried to imagine large crowds before, and what he saw down there far exceeded all his efforts along that line, so you can realize, it really was a major crowd. Bill 3 felt a strong urge to check out that situation and see what these fellow travelers on this particular planet were up to. Bill 3's rocketship, on its own initiative, enjoyed a like urge and proceeded to act on that urge. It forthwith headed straight down faster than Bill 3 could respond, and crashed. That might sound like some big deal but it really isn't. Naw, you just have this precipitous conjunction of rocketship with ground and there you are. Then you unhook your safety belt and climb out. Happens all the time. Sure, it's more difficult doing that when you're upside down but since Bill 3's rocketship invariably landed, or crashed, that way, he had practice aplenty in dealing with the situation. In less than fifty two minutes he was free his ship. No one saw his invisible rocketship land, though he touched ground close to the festivities. Invisible rocketships tend to come and go without much notice. They've got that going for them. Bill 3 scanned this new environment in which he found himself. After absorbing puh-lenty of information in small and large doses, Bill 3 came to understand that he had landed at Woodstock. Woodstock is a fabled town in New York or somewhere. Various signs and indications pointed to this as the answer of Bill 3's whereabouts, even though he didn't have his billfinder to make absolutely sure. Further helping to clear up the matter of his location, Bill 3 saw several signs that said WOODSTOCK 1994. He felt really pretty good about having settled the matter of his whereabouts; relief collected him in its warm grasp. Now he could get on with the things he needed to get on with. Bill 3 put all the energy and concentration he could muster into the next step in his method. He wandered. Whilst so engaged he let his five senses do their job. Bill 3 took in a ton and a half of juicy, marvelous, mind-boggling sensory information. Basically, he saw people doing things. Wow! Bill 3 beheld a line and decided he ought to queue up. Lines usually end somewhere, and that's always interesting. As Bill 3 stepped into the line the guy ahead of him greeted our hero with a nod. Bill nodded back. 159
"Damn these lines, right?" the guy said. "Well, I don't know how that will help matters any." "What?" asked the man, looking bewildered. "Well, if you dam this line, by which I understand you to mean block them somehow, then no one will get anywhere. It just stands to reason." The guy studied Bill for a while, then smiled. "Oh I get it, man. Yeah right." "A dam would really slow down everyone's progress." "Well, it sure, would," realized the man. "Progress should never ever be impeded." Bill 3 was on the verge of explaining exactly how impeded progress conflicted with all that Bill 3 held intellectually dear, or something like that, but the man spoke again, halting Bill 3's attempt to delineate a few things, "I dig what you're saying, now that you have explained things." "Yup. So what is this line to, anyway? It's a really excellent line." "It's for the bathrooms. The port-o-johns." "Port-o-johns?" asked Bill 3. He didn't know that term but knew it was a really, really good one. "Yeah, you know, a portable toilet." "They've got portable toilets?" "Yeah." "Wow," replied Bill 3, totally amazed. His world had grown slightly larger. Bill 3 could just imagine these portable toilets would have. "Yeah," laughed the guy, "way far out." "How far out are they?" "Oh, we've got a ways to go. If you're desperate, you can go ahead of me." "I'm never desperate," said Bill 3. "You must have a good bladder, man." "I always thought I did," Bill 3 replied earnestly. His bladder had never let him down, so far as Bill 3 could recall. And he was sure he would recall if it had. The man chuckled, then said, "I'm Bob, man." He proffered his hand.
Bill 3 shook it. "Bobman is an interesting name. Most names are, I've come to find." "My name's Bob, man," said the man, thinking he had clarified things. "Yes, you said. Bobman." The man laughed then asked, "So what's your name, man?" "I'm Bill 3." "Bill 3?" "Yup." "Bill 3, far out. I mean, wow, it's like you're saying we've all been turned into numbers and nothing more, right?" "I'm saying that?" returned Bill 3, fascinated to hear such intriguing news. "Sure, man." Gee, thought Bill 3, that's an interesting turn of events. He foolishly had figured he was Bill 3 because he was the third of four Bills. This opened a vast expanse of new considerations. Bill 3 started to think about this whole nameand-number thing. He also thought about pumpkins. Pumpkins are vines and vines are like chains and chains are like lines because they usually reach at least one conclusion. "Gosh, I have to go," said Bill 3. "You still got a ways to go in the line," the guy answered. "I have to go somewhere else." "You'll find long lines at the other port-o-johns. Of course, you don't need to use the port-o-johns." That seemed interesting to Bill 3, but it represented an extraneous concern. "Well, I have to go." "A lot of people are just going where they are." What a curious idea! Going where they are... That makes no sense. Still, Bill 3 would enjoy thinking about that. But later, unfortunately: he was a busy guy. He had his duty to attend to. "A guy has to do what a guy has to do," intoned Bill 3, feeling the rich resonance of those words, as opposed to the rich resonance of other ones. 161
"Man, when you're right, you are right," replied Bob. "You know," said Bill 3, struck by the beautiful aptness of Bobman's remark, "I never thought of that." He took the opportunity to think about that for awhile then his attention turned to acorns, Sharon, the French language, pretty women, ice cream, shirts and things of similar nature. Finally, he shook free of his ruminations, at least momentarily, and said goodbye to Bobman. "Yeah, man, so long. It was good meeting you, Bill 3. Probably see you around." "Righto," said Bill 3, nodding. He walked off with such purpose that it could probably make all your silverware shine with a brand new gleam. As he did so he looked into things, which caused his thoughts to ramble and amble happily all over the place. Could the colour green ever be a place? Do birds understand their feathers? Is all mud known? How captivating to have so many things to puzzle over. Bill 3 saw a sign that said FREE LOVE but it didn't say from what. That seemed odd because the sign was so definite that you'd think it would be clearer. Furthermore, it would be awful useful to know from what love should be freed. Well, Bill 3 had no time to worry about such matters. He had to keep bouncing along the trail of his interesting concerns. Bill 3 did so by entering into fabulous conversations with people. He liked to get other viewpoints, see things from different angles. And he asked people about Sharon. Some people said they knew her but maybe the Sharons these people knew weren't exactly the same as the one Bill 3 sought. Bill 3 also inquired after Larry because Larry was someone good to consult. No one seemed to know him, unfortunately. Anyway, Bill 3 floated through the experience of it all like a cork on water. Suddenly, without warning, a woman came up to him. "Are you Bill 3?" she asked. She looked familiar. She looked like she ought to be. Bill 3 immediately thought of ice cream cones. "I'm Bill 3, all right," answered Bill 3 all right, proud as always to be able to say that. "I think you know who I am." "You're..." began Bill 3 but emotion prevented him from finishing. "I'm Sharon. You've been looking for me." "Wow! I have!" "And I've been looking for you." "Wow! How did you find me?" "I don't know. Maybe you were never lost."
"Wow! Great!" "It sure is." "You once served ice cream to me, didn't you?" "Yes, I remember that. That was back when I was serving ice cream." "Wow!" "Say, have you ever turned into a flying elephant in times of need?" "Not yet, but I plan to." "Wow!" They looked at each other, blissful and tickled, like the happiest Frisbee in the world. They paid no attention to the crunchy, muddy world around them. It's boundaries were too small and confining. "If only there were an invisible rocketship we could use to fly from here," said Sharon wistfully. "We could really get somewhere that way. It would be like a dream." "I have an invisible rocketship." "You do? Where is it?" "Well, it's around here somewhere." "So all we have to do is find your invisible rocketship in the midst of a quarter million or more people." "Yup," said Bill 3 delightedly, "that's all we have to do." "And then we can fly away," said Sharon, blooming with happiness. "Yup," answered Bill 3. With a purposefulness that could send your Christmas tree into orbit and cause your poodle to understand you, the two strode off to find their conveyance out. It was great, it really was fine. The world offers many ways to please you, don't you see?
26> Talk of the Town
It was one busy day for Bill 1, just like each and every day necessarily is for him. The world offers an unrelenting supply of places to go, facts to learn, sights to see, words to speak, pianos to wash, subway tokens to find, sounds to hear, things to think about, quarters to count, points to discuss, balloons to watch, ramifications to study, peanuts to shells, and on and on. Not forgetting Juliette, of course, which, for Bill 1, is an impossibility. All that can keep a guy plenty busy, if not downright dizzy. Bill 1 does his best to stay even with it all. He travels the face of this most excellent planet upon which we live and checks things out to the max. For Bill 1, there is no down time. Recently, negotiating the distance between point A and point B, if those two points actually are separated, has become for Bill 1 a matter of peripatetic travel. He makes his tour on foot, that is. This stems from having a broken rocketship. In a recent, odd, unexpected happenstance, Bill 1 happened to land his ship right side up. Apparently, his rocketship was so unprepared for such treatment that it knew not how to respond. All it could do was break. Bill 1 grasped that he could fix his ship—he invented it, after all—but he couldn't possibly do so until his schedule freed up. The world right now was a veritable maelstrom of activity that Bill 1 had to deal with. So, for the nonce, he walked everywhere. He looked at everything, and thought and thought and thought whilst doing so. He got some work done, all right. So Bill 1 wandered even more than usual, no straight lines for our hero. It doesn't seem like he missed a single adventure. He saw lots of escaped heliumfilled balloons and he found almost 300 caps to cans of WD40, all in excellent condition. It was great, and quite energizing. For the above enumerated reasons, Bill 1 found himself standing at a bus stop. You can get a good view of things at bus stops. Bill 1 stood there for all he was worth, senses honed for precise reception. A man, definitely of the average variety, hove into Bill 1's proximity. Natural as natural could be, Bill 1 said "Howdy." "Hello," said the man, who had a newspaper under his arm. "How are you today?" "I'm glad you asked," answered Bill 1 forthrightly. "I'm fine but my rocketship is broken." "Your rocketship? You have a rocketship?" "Yeah, and I landed right side up but I guess it doesn't like that. I've gotten used to landing upside down myself, so I can understand how it can be. So the ship broke and all." "I'm sorry but I don't know anything about rocketships," the man admitted. He
seemed disturbed that he didn't. "That's okay, I can tell you everything I know about them. I'm going to fix mine as soon as I have time." "Yes, well, that's very interesting." "It sure is," Bill 1 could naught but reply. "It's a great ship. I'm really glad I made it." "I suppose you're from some other planet?" "I don't know," answered Bill 1. "Some other planet than what?" "Excuse me," said the man—showing his ability to say "excuse me" when situations, evidently, demanded—"but I think I better not wait here for the bus." "Oh no?" Bill 1 felt a strong sense of curiosity concerning this development. An enormous spectrum of possibilities ranged before Bill 1 as he considered the present situation. The man, however, said no more but walked off. Bill 1 meant to think all about what had recently transpired but three young woman arrived at the bus stop. "Howdy," said Bill 1 for all, or almost all, he was worth. The women—actually more on the order of teenagers, so far as Bill 1 could tell—looked at him then giggled amongst themselves. Bill 1 felt sorry for them, it must be tough to be deaf, especially at so young an age. He had every intention to speak as loudly as possible so that they could hear him and communication could thereby be accomplished. Before he could do so, a man tapped him on the shoulder. Bill 1 faced this new turn of events with a brave inquisitiveness. "Do you have the time, please?" the man asked. "Time for what?" Bill 1 returned, highly interested to hear what the answer might, and thus what they might not, be. The teenagers, if teenagers they were, giggled nearby. "Do you know what time it is?" "If you mean right now, no, I don't. I knew what time it was an hour ago, though. Why do you ask?" "Never mind," said the man, in a growly sort of way. "Okay," Bill 1, always obliging, told the man, although to never mind is not easy. Not for Bill 1 anyway, he is ever on the alert. The man stepped off as if the ground were slightly slanted away from Bill 1, a phenomenon he'd noticed before. The world rolled further along on its great spacely journey. 165
Circumstances allowed Bill 1 to enjoy similar byplay with numerous—if nineteen, in this case, can mean numerous—other people. All these people, for reasons unclear to our hero, stood around at the bus stop. Buses came and went in what Bill 1 could only describe as a regularity. It made him think of the hydrologic cycle, and also of pink grapefruit. Conversations, alas, never seemed to get off the ground for Bill 1. There was a clear tendency for people to ask him how he was doing and then not wait for a full reply. Suddenly, satisfying no expectation that Bill 1 possessed at that point in time, although it sure did please him, Bills 2, 3 and 4 arrived. The four of them immediately and without hesitation performed greeting procedures to the full extent of their abilities and enthusiasm. Each Bill saw fit to greet every other Bill in the quartet. Obviously, or so one would think, three of the Bills needed no greeting since they had been wandering in perfect combined aimlessness but all agreed that it was better to be sure about such matters. These greetings took about fifteen minutes, if you're all hung up in a world where time matters at all, as the Bills obviously aren't. "I've got a great idea," announced Bill 1, when all that greeting finally subsided. "Where?" asked Bill 2. The three other Bills had to stare at their compatriot. "That question makes no sense at all," Bill 1 finally had to instruct his friend and complete doppelganger. "Sorry," replied Bill 2. "I guess I got all excited." "It can happen," said Bill 3 excitedly. "It sure can," agreed Bill 4, a surge of adrenalin racing through him like a number 3 pencil into a doughnut. "So where, I mean, what's your great idea, Bill 1?" "It has to do with quarters," came Bill 1's more than capable reply. Bills 2 through 4 looked at each other then said simultaneously, "We like the idea already." "It gets better. I mean, that's only the tip of the iceberg." "What iceberg is that?" asked Bill 2. "I don't know," returned Bill 1, looking around to see. "What?" Not only did Bill 1's latest question stump Bill 2, it did a job on Bill 3 and Bill 4 as well. Time, or something like time, slid along peacefully while the boys considered everything they could think of to consider. When the time was right, Bill 1 spoke again. "I was thinking about inventing a quarter-getting machine. It would be called a billometre."
Bill 1's auditors could scarcely believe their ears but each one decided they would. They couldn't speak just then, however. "The invention would go something like this," Bill 1 went on, with all the authority of someone who had a great idea and was going on about it. "You put a quarter into the billometre and... Well, maybe not you guys, but someone does. Anyway, quarters are put into the machine, which will be made available to all citizens who are anywhere near where one of the machines happens to be." "Wow," exclaimed the multiple Bills. Already, they could tell it was a super idea. "That's not all." "There's more?" asked Bill 2, feeling like he was about to get to see the bottom of an iceberg, which is something he has always, always wanted to see. "There sure is, Bill 2. The billometre will provide a card that says Thank You on it." "You thought this up all by yourself?" asked Bill 3. "Pretty much," answered Bill 1. "I was inspired by parking metres." "Parking metres are great," said Bill 3, remarking upon the obvious. "Are you going to sign the thank you card?" wondered Bill 4. "I was thinking about it." "It might be hard to do, though," ventured Bill 2. "It would take a lot of time to sign each card." "You're right," said Bill 1. "It would really tie up my schedule to be signing cards all the time." "What if you got a stamp with your signature on it," suggested Bill 4. "You mean a postage stamp?" asked Bill 1 thoughtfully. "There's a postage stamp with your signature on it?" asked Bill 2. "No, not yet," Bill 1 admitted. "Maybe someday, though." "But you wouldn't want to wait around for that, would you?" asked Bill 3, just as perplexed as a butterfly would be if it had to talk to Sylvester Stallone's mother. "Well," said Bill 1, still thoughtfully, "I like waiting around, but I sure would 167
like to get those quarters, too." "I was thinking of a rubber stamp," Bill 4 put in. "Right now?" Bill 3 had to query, taken by the wonder of it all. Bill 4 had to consider for a moment before replying. "Yup." "I'm always thinking of rubber stamps," noted Bill 2. "Do rubber stamps stick on envelopes as good as regular ones?" Bill 1 asked Bill 4. "I'm talking about those stamps that you thump onto an ink pad then bang on things." "Those are great," said Bill 3. "Yeah," Bill 4 went on, "and you could have your signature put on one." "I could?" asked Bill 3, just about startled by that excellent revelation. "I meant Bill 1." "I could?" asked Bill 1, startled by that revelation. "Yup. And then there you would be." "Yeah," responded Bill 1 with happy understanding, "there I'd be." Just then, he had a feeling that he was inside a cornucopia filled with peanuts, avocados and persimmons. The feeling went away but a thought about persimmons lingered with a sort of nifty scent. "You could also include on the stamp the current date," said Bill 3. "Or any date you want," added Bill 2. "Or any dried fruit at all," put in Bill 4. "I meant a date like August 1." "Oh," said Bill 4, as if he were a piano bench carelessly floating through space. "Wow," said Bill 1, the world suddenly taking on the lineaments of a pretzel or mobius strip fashioned by some wonderful mythological creature. "You wouldn't want to make a separate stamp for every date," reasoned Bill 4, showing that he's got a head on his shoulders but not necessarily that he has an onion in his backpack. "You could use my date stamp," offered Bill 3. "I could?" Bill 1 was momentarily mystified by this suggestion. "It stamps any date you want," Bill 3 explained.
"Well, I wasn't planning to stamp dates or any dried fruit at all. "I meant a date like August 1." "Oh. Say, that solves my problem." Bill 1 felt glee at how the situation was resolving. "It's not made out of dates, is it?" "I don't think so." "We already came to a conclusion concerning that, Bill 1," said Bill 4 although he wasn't quite as definite about the matter as he sounded. "So where do we stand right now?" asked Bill 2. "It's this bus stop on Mass Ave," said Bill 3 expertly, scanning up and down the street to make sure. "I meant about the billometre." "We've worked out the idea of using a stamp to put Bill 1's signature on the thank you cards," answered Bill 2. He really had a hold on things right now. "Only thing about that," said Bill 1, "is that there's something impersonal about using a date to put my signature on the card." "I like dates," said Bill 4. "I especially like date bread." "Date bread is great," said Bill 3. His eyebrows rose impressively. He turned to Bill 4. "A great bread is date bread," asserted Bill 4, totally stoked to speak such a resounding sentence. He and Bill 3 nodded for a while. "Juliette's great," said Bill 1, showing that he can still obsess as the need arose. "How about if you initial each card to show that you personally stamped each Thank You card," suggested Bill 3 brilliantly. "Wow," said Bill 1. "Wow," said Bill 2. "Wow," said Bill 4. "Wow," said Bill 3, caught up in the momentum of it all. "That's a great idea," remarked Bill 1. "It sure is," said Bill 4. 169
"Of course, all ideas are great," said Bill 2 solemnly. "Yeah," agreed Bills 3 and 4. Bill 1 nodded almost more solemnly than how Bill 2 just spoke. Well, before the world had a chance to explode into dust at the very end of time, and the idea of loneliness could finally melt into the sun for good, the Bills made good on this excellent idea. They created the billometres using the usual materials at hand. They distributed the machines throughout their known universe, made the personally initialled Thank You cards and worked up attractive signs to attract the quarter-spending crowd. Due to such sterling effort, people could now enjoy the pleasure and convenience of Bill 1's special invention. As the sign on each one said, "Bill Thanks You For A Quarter." Truer words ne'er were spoken, or written in crayon on a piece of corrugated cardboard, either. All this represented one busy span of time for four guys named Bill.
27> What Did He Really Think???
Bill 1 liked to think about things. He liked to think about everything. If you think about everything, it gives you little else to think about. That's what Bill 1 thought. And thought and thought. Simultaneously, he thought about thinking that thought. What a thing to think, he thought. Thinking about how he was thinking about what a thing that was to think about, he realized he was super, super dizzy. When things start to concatenate—link linking to link in a chain of endlessly well-thought links—you have every right to get dizzy. Bill 1, for one, certainly was whirling. That's neither here nor there, although if it isn't, where the heck is it? Bill 1 was getting royally confused now, which made his dizziness all the more piquant. Such confusion was great, and utterly dazzling, but rather challenging, all the same. Bill 1 stood there, ever so much in the thick of it, just like always. He had to compute some data. Sometimes, you just got to. There, for Bill 1 at least, happened to be a liquor store. Bill 1 entered the store on purpose. He doesn't always do things exactly intentionally but this time he was in the market for that which can be procured at liquor stores. Nowhere else could provide our man with exactly what he then needed, wanted and sought to have. Upon entering the emporium, Bill 1 strolled its almost dimensionless breadth of attraction. He felt really good about the uncanny circumstance that was revealing itself before him. His dizziness subsided and though that concatenation earlier mentioned still endured, it wasn't currently driving him batty. Bill 1 had a need needing fulfillment. This need demanded corks. Corks represent a fascinating usage of the outer bark of the quercus suber tree. That which Bill 1 specifically wanted was two corks. It would delight, satisfy and probably provoke him if he had two corks. There were reasons why two corks became a need for him but he couldn't remember exactly why. He possessed the relevant data in his files, of course, and would search them out after he had procured the corks. First things first, as one must insist is only logical. And there you are. Or, more accurately, Bill 1 is. He set his course dead on to acquire a brace of corks. Once Bill 1 possessed these corks, the world would see just how preoccupied he could be with them. To come into possession of two corks was, for Bill 1, a matter of buying two bottles of wine. That was, simply enough, the methodology of acquisition that he chose, don't you see. He had mentally naysayed the idea of confronting a store employee and asking "Have you any corks for sale?" or some such flimsy gambit. It's a matter of style, you see. Bill 1's style proclaimed that he should seek that he may find. 171
Such being the case, Bill 1 carefully selected exactly two bottles of wine. This entailed scrupulous study, and a willingness to take all the time required, to determine the presence of cork in the bottle (not an easy thing to do, the capsule often gets in the way), plus identify the cork as truly the product of a quercus suber tree and not some manmade simulacrum,plus certain other arcane investigations that provided our protagonist with the impetus to make specific selection. If you're going to do something, you might as well do it right. Bill 1 brought the lucky bottles, his chosen ones, to the counter where the ever helpful and dynamic clerk would gladly and efficiently perform the transaction just as it ought to be transacted. Bill 1 felt very up, what with his current situation cruising in a really ideal way. It was as if the Queen of the Universe, forever known as Juliette, sailed into the store and remembered Bill 1 by name, or close enough as no matter. The convivial world disinvents loneliness every day and makes possibility a thing to live by. The clerk—who might have been the owner of the establishment, just as, by the same (or similar) token, his middle name could've been Zorro—cheerfully assessed the situation with a practiced eye. Aside, perhaps, from being the honouree who sits in the booth at subway stations doling out tokens all the livelong day to an eager and friendly public, what position of employment could present a greater sense of pleasure than being a cashier or clerk at a liquor store? Bill 1 could think of only one: driving all day making deliveries, or at least trying to.1 Bill 1 watched carefully, eager to learn how the clerk would proceed in this particular situation. The man scanned the bottles, that Bill 1 placed before him, with a practiced eye. That means he actually lifted his attention from the exciting newspaper that he had been perusing for all the good it would do him. No doubt the man's whole life had aimed toward this very moment. Wow! And Bill 1 was part of it! Just as quick as lightning anointed with a healthy dose of WD40, the man told Bill 1: "$12.99." By that he meant, and Bill 1 understood, that twelve dollars and ninety nine cents was the low end limit that the man would accept in exchange for the bottles Bill 1 hoped and intended to purchase. "Ah yes," answered Bill 1 to the best of his ability. Our champion would've loved to have given the man a fifteen dollar bill right at that moment. That would have been more than excellent, by something like 37%. Bill 1 had no fifteen dollar bill, unfortunately. If he had fifteen dollars upon his person then one could, if so minded, call him Fifteen Dollar Bill. That would've been outstanding, as exciting as a trumpet vine or wisteria growing up the side of your garage or mine, but there was no time to ponder that now. Bill 1 was just too caught up in this consumer experience that he had willingly entered into. The central figure of this tale wished to try out his ability in the use of paper money. Bill 1 normally uses quarters to purchase the many needful things that he finds he needs to need. In this instance, Bill 1 pulled out one five-dollar bill and ten one-dollar bills from somewhere in his backpack. He pushed the money across the counter toward the clerk as if to say, "Here is a five-dollar bill and ten one-dollar bills with which I wish to purchase these two bottles of
wine." The clerk, who would've been called Clark had this all happened in England, raked in the paper currency and assessed exactly what Bill 1 had given him. He would then proceed according to the nature of that data. "I don't need these," the man said, pushing two singles back to Bill 1. "How come?" asked Bill 1, who was more than ever determined to ask a question if somehow and in some way he found himself in a situation whereby he needed or just wanted an answer to something, like why someone wouldn't take the crisp, vivid money that he'd offered in legitimate payment for a purchase that he certainly wanted to make. "They're too much." "Really?" Bill 1 looked at them. The two bills looked ordinary enough—and Bill 1 knew ordinary—but clearly our hero had missed some subtle but fascinating detail that had just about overwhelmed this pleasant and downright percipient person here. "Yeah, too much." "Are you sure?" asked Bill 1, feeling that the basis for his asking was definitely a need-to-know one. "Yeah, you gave me fifteen dollars," the clerk, or Clark, replied. "Thirteen would be enough." "Oh man," said Bill 1. He shook his head. Almost everywhere on this mostly pleasant world it is considered quite rude to shake someone else's head, leastwise a stranger's, so Bill 1 made it a point not to. "Not only do you get these two singles back, you also get this penny." "Oh man," said Bill 1, pretty much without further recourse to any other words in his vocabulary for the time being. This was getting intense. Brave man that he is, Bill 1 accepted the situation as it currently stood. "Here you go," said Clark, placing a particularly shiny penny atop the two onedollar bills. He then took one of Bill 1's bottles and placed it in a slim bag. This he stuck in a larger bag with the other bottle of Bill 1's selection. This parcel he pushed towards the greatness that is Bill 1. "Oh man," said Bill 1. He had not, by any stretch of the imagination, not even his own—which can really stretch, if you must know—expected to receive two bags, especially ones of such obvious majesty. This was incredibler than a pink piano bench called Carl floating above the Atlantic Ocean for some reason. Well, maybe. Bill 1 had to shake his head again. When you think about a pink piano bench, whether or not it is called Carl, but just consider it floating over the Atlantic 173
Ocean, oh man. It's almost too much. Almost, but not quite, because for the Bills, even too much is not too much. But here, the idyllic sense upon which Bill 1 floated was rattled and shook. A realization arrived like a special delivery hyacinth on the first sunny day of Spring, which, in the New England region that Bill 1 claims as home, occurs right about April 27, if climatic conditions haven't delayed the season. The realization mentioned quite recently developed from some arithmetic that Bill 1 performed. It went thus: one bottle at $4.99 and one at $7.99 should total, as our hero computed it, $12.98. Work it out for yourself and see. "Something's terribly wrong!" exclaimed Bill 1. "What?" said the Clark guy in a sleepy manner reminiscent of someone who is just filling time and taking up space at work, a most preposterous notion. "I should receive another penny." "Yeah?" "Oh yes. If you add up the bottles more carefully you'll find that I should pay you $12.98." With magic fingers, Bill 1 gestured in the air. There was no builtin meaning to the gesture but possibly Clark might infer further proof of Bill 1's point thereby. "Oh, yeah, right," answered Clark, as if he were almost pretty much awake. "I owe you a penny." He pushed another penny toward the central figure of this story. "It's not the principle of the thing," Bill 1 told this great liquor store employee, "it's the money. I just like pennies." "Fair enough," the guy told our man, even though the incredible information on the sports page of that day's newspaper sang a particularly tantalizing siren song. Clark was getting quite an earful. His eyes dropped to the paper and started drinking in the newsworthy delights. Bill 1 busied himself by removing his pack from his back, opening said pack, removing a paper bag full of pennies. This he opened and was about to place his rightful two cents worth into the bag when, lo! a discovery he did make. "What's that?" Bill 1 asked. "What's what?" asked the ever-vigilant clerk, looking up from the paper whose informational splendour had nearly swallowed him, what with the breadth of fascination it offered to his inquiring mind. "I said, what's that?" Bill 1 told the man, not wishing to shout but the situation seemed to demand it. "You mean the pennies?" Clark queried, following the indication of Bill 1's finger. A line extending from Bill 1's excellent index finger would touch and even go through —since lines don't end—a terrific little tray on the counter. On that tray were numerous pennies, an exquisite array of numismatic beauties.
"Well, I guess I know what pennies are," Bill 1 replied, as well he might. Bill 1 happened to understand quite a lot, though not, alas, all, about pennies. "But that tray. How come you have all those pennies on that tray." "Oh, that's in case you have too many pennies," Clark explained. "Too many pennies?" gasped Bill 1. "How can you have too many pennies?" The concept was way out there in some galaxy that Bill 1 didn't know about, not yet at least. It was just way too. "Well, some people keep their change in their pocket or a little change purse and they just get too many," Clark patiently told our hero. "They leave the extras there, or take some out if they need a couple." "Wow! I guess I better put my pennies in there," said Bill 1, full of the determination that basically defined him. "Do what you like," said the clark, shifting his attention back to the patented enjoyableness of the sports page. Bill 1 gave a last lingering look to his bag of pennies. Not counting the two of the recent transaction, which had yet to make it into Bill 1's fine bag, he had 1101 pennies. Some people, oddly, would say that's more than enough, but not Bill 1. Still, he placed the bag on the tray, as the situation obviously demanded. He slipped his two bottles with their two corks and the two complimentary paper bags into his pack. A thought, just a little stray one, happened into his brain. With a determination of the sort that a field of alfalfa, if it was capable of feeling such things, would probably consider ever so admirable, Bill 1 took the two pennies that had been left on the counter seemingly eons ago. Whistling a happy tune, the only kind he knows, Bill 1 strode from the liquor store and into the larger world, an even better man. Further thoughts led to further places, as always.
28> Four Bills in a Chord
Of course, the world occasionally enters a harmonic phase in which the universal vibrations hum in beautiful synchronization. Such times cause the Bills to foregather and have a regular old jam session. Yes, they put their heads together—bonk!—and count coup on as many ideas as they can manage. An exhilarating time ensues, a most excellent event. The Bills met in such a tribal assembly and they showed the world how to get some work done. They thought things through, all right. They were thinking about gelatin now. "Gelatin is great," asserted Bill 1. "You can put food colouring in it," Bill 2 pointed out, "and that is a real plus. Makes for a festive item of sustenance." "It's soft and solid," said Bill 3. "It's like a..." Well, Bill 3 had to think further about what gelatin is like. He thought that he would think about that later, when fewer things were pressing. "Good source of protein, if you happen to be looking for a good source of protein," Bill 1 stated. He did not, at that time, sound like a duck, seagull or pencil. He didn't know if he ever did. "You can also add fruit and other food products to gelatin," added Bill 3. "That produces a much more complex effect, food-wise." "Gelatin is really great," maintained Bill 4. "It's really, really great," declared Bill 1. "That's what I think," agreed Bill 2. Bill 3 and Bill 4 nodded in complete and total concordance. "We agree on that one, then," said Bill 1. "Write that one down, Bill." "You mean me?" asked Bill 4. "No, I meant Bill." "You mean me?" asked Bill 3. "No, I meant Bill." "You mean me?" asked Bill 2. "Yup. You're the one that is currently taking notes." "I forgot about that." "That's okay."
"I almost forgot about that," said Bill 3, "but I didn't quite." "That's okay," said Bill 1. "I also forgot that my nickname is Bill," confessed Bill 2. "I didn't forget that my nickname is Bill," said Bill 3. "I didn't forget that my nickname is Bill," said Bill 4. "I'm not sure if I forgot if my nickname is Bill," said Bill 1. He shook his head. Nothing fell out. What did fall out is the rocketship. It chose that point to fall from the tree in which it had crashed, A big oak, don't you know. Bill 1 was driving the thing—the rocketship, not the oak—and, as these things happen, happened to end up in that rather terrific tree. While the boys attempted to disengage their seatbelts—which act offers loads of pleasing aspects—they concluded with a beautiful suddenness that it was an excellent time to have themselves a session. Which is where this fine story began. The rocketship tumbling to the ground put an end, for the time being, of their think-tanking. The thump as the rocketship landed, upside down as usual, rattled the respective brains of Bill 1, Bill 2, Bill 3, and Bill 4. It was great. "Well guys, we're back on terra firma," announced Bill 1. "That's an interesting happenstance," remarked Bill 3. Certainly, everything is interesting, but this current situation abounded in interestingness. "We might as well get out of the rocketship and wander aimlessly," said Bill 4 with a great sense of purpose. "Excellent," said the other three Bills in an uplifting show of solidarity. Yes, the world displayed its harmonics something fierce right then. The Bills could put incredible energy and concentration into aimless wandering. After the whole seatbelt-disengagement bit, which was suitably concluded after only forty one minutes, the boys climbed from the ship. It was a day of wonder, beauty and curiosity; it was an average day for the Bills. A supermarket happened to loom nearby, singing its siren song, so the boys entered. There was no two ways about it. "Let's get some soup," said Bill 1. He used to have 723 cans of soup, but he opened them. Bill 2 had helped. "I can't get any more psyched than I am right now," exclaimed Bill 2. He wished he could but it just wasn't currently possible. 177
"Neither can I," agreed Bill 3 with an equal exclaim. Bill 4 said nothing. He was thinking some concerted thoughts about antelopes, pumpkins and twenty cent postage stamps with Herman Melville's picture on them. It so happened that he was maxed-out, psyched-wise, but he produced no exclamation concerning that. There might be a point later when he would make some enthusiastic mention about what we're talking about here but right now rien. "Let's look at vegetables first," said Bill 3. And that's just what our heroes did. They looked for a long time at eggplants. "If I had an egg that was that colour and that shape, I'd think I had something," remarked Bill 2. "I think you'd be right," said Bill 4, fresh from all that thinking that earlier ensnared him. "I don't think there's any yellow stuff inside eggplants, either," said Bill 3, showing how he knows a few things. "Does anyone know if this eggplant is in any way a cynosure?" asked Bill 1. That stumped the boys, no one could answer that poser. Suddenly, without warning, Bill 2 said something wild. "Do you guys think my name should be Bob?" The other three Bills looked at Bill 2 in astonishment. "That would be wrong," said Bill 1. "Very wrong," said Bill 3. "Completely wrong," said Bill 4. "Oh," said Bill 2. "Do we want to look at the fresh basil here?" "I sure do," said Bill 3. "Me too," said Bill 4. "We're having an excellent adventure here," Bill 1 took a moment from his busy schedule, right at the point of his schedule where studying basil was the thing to do, to state. "Supermarkets are great," said Bill 3. "So's this basil that Bill 2 pointed out," said Bill 4. He held up a plasticwrapped package of basil leaves. Everyone gave it a good going over, peering at and perusing all the fascinating features of the package. What their five senses couldn't ascertain concerning the basil in the package, the Bill's imagined. "Smells rather nice," said Bill 4. "Juliette's wonderful," said Bill 1, perhaps a bit off track.
"She sure is," agreed Bill 2. "This is a great supermarket," said Bill 3. "It's a super supermarket," said Bill 4. "It should be called a supersupermarket," put in Bill 3, "because it's that super. In fact, if it were a supersupermarket, I'd have to say it was a super supersupermarket." "You would just have to," said Bill 4. "I think so, too," said Bill 2. "I'm pretty sure I would have to, too," said Bill 1. "Tutu?" asked Bill 2, wondering why Bill 1 was changing the subject. "What?" queried Bill 1. "What?" asked Bill 3. "What?" wondered Bill 4. Once again, the Bills were locked into perfect simpatico. It was cool. Unexpectedly, a woman walked by wearing green shorts. Not one of the Bills could have predicted that. It was just something that happened. She pushed a shopping cart, which is reasonably predictable though admittedly none of the Bills predicted it, but the green shorts sure were unforeseen. "If Juliette ever wore green shorts," Bill 1 remarked, "I think maybe she'd wear ones that were sort of like those." "That's a good point you make, Bill 1," said Bill 2. "Quite admirable," was Bill 3's comment. Bill 4 had mentally stepped out for a bit. He was pondering the whole idea of Baked Alaska. He'd neglected to think about this earlier. When Bill 3 noticed that Bill 4 focused on something he, Bill 3, got to thinking about desks. That was a subject rife with myriad fascinating aspects. Suddenly, the Tribe of Bill moved on. Oh, they looked at cheese, they looked at bandages, they looked at unit-pricing labels, they looked at cans of olive oil, they looked at processed cheese spread in all its gorgeous orange grandeur, they looked at a certain woman, or two, they looked at green peas captured forever in sturdy, well-made cans, they looked at elegant bottles of salad dressing, they looked at the ceiling, they looked at dog biscuits, they looked at flea collars (which surprised the boys, since you wouldn't expect fleas to wear collars), they looked at children (who looked back), they looked at containers of frozen orange juice (who didn't), they looked at things you can stick in your 179
toaster (the range of which seemed way too limited to the Bills), they looked at hunks of meat, they looked at colourful boxes of cereal, they looked at cartons of soy milk, they looked at handy (but apparently not footy) kitchen gadgets, they looked at a selection of lightbulbs that could well make you think you were looking at quite a few light bulbs, they looked at everybody's shoes. All these details were amalgamated into a single complete vision. The Bills were exceptionally prepared and focused to do that. Flea collars drew the boys into their mesmerizing sphere. Turns out they forgot they'd already looked at these modern marvels. Some things, and sometimes everything, can look knew every time you look. "Wow!" said Bill 1, performing exclamation procedures to the max. "Wow and a half!" said Bill 2, who took the exclamation standard that Bill 1 had just set and zoomed way past. "Get a load of these flea collars, guys," Bill 1 was able to say. "I didn't know fleas wore collars," said Bill 3 reasonably. "I didn't know fleas were that big," said Bill 4, completely investigating the excellent package in which a more than excellent flea collar found itself relaxing. "I..." began Bill 2, but he just didn't have the right stuff right then to finish rightly whatever it is he felt it right to say. He did retain a sense that collars for fleas was really something but there was just too much to deal with right then. The Bills looked at each other and moved along. They spent a good—a very good—seventeen minutes looking at a display of WD40. Each and every can had its own individual top. Amazing but true. Finally, saving the best for last, the Bills looked at the canned soup. The selection was marvelous, and the sheer number of cans inspired awe. Each Bill had his awe inspired something fierce. Eventually, after much thinking, discussion, and debate, the boys selected nineteen cans. They chose what they determined to be the best and most representative soup cans in that whole incredible store. The Bills were done but they didn't want to admit it so they went up and down every aisle again. After completing that important phase of their work, they got into a checkout line. Sure, the adventure continued. There were interesting comments to make to the cashier, bagging advice to offer to the bagger, greetings to perform to an elderly lady, chewing gum to consider, an itemized receipt to study for all its incipient message, chewing gum to reconsider, and so forth. Oh yeah, and they had to pay for their soup, as do we all. Bill 2 pushed the laden cart outside. Bill 4 pushed the elderly woman's cart, and, with the help of Bill 1 and Bill 3, discussed numerous important and intriguing matters. The woman seemed interested in and honoured by the
attention of the Bills. Bill 1, Bill 3 and Bill 4, somehow managed to get all the bags into the woman's car. She thanked them, as if it wasn't just excellent to have the chance to open somebody's car trunk and look around while sticking shopping bags in. They used one hundred and four of their quarters in purchasing their excellent soups but felt duty-bound not to accept the ones the woman offered them. And they appeared to be first-rate quarters, too. Once her car was loaded, the quarter question resolved to the dissatisfaction of the woman, and she rolled carefully away, the Bills re-entered the supermarket. They had misplaced Bill 2. Bill 2 had returned to the supermarket because he had lost his three compatriots. By a marvelous confluence of coincidence, the four met up and, after another look through the store, left. Once outside, feeling the deft breeze of the still beautiful day, the Bills started to float into another current, one just as full of wonder and surprise. Something, you see, had just struck them.
29> Heck of a World
If Bill 1 pulled his billfinder from his backpack he could easily ascertain that he was in the fair city of Boston at the particular point in time of which we currently speak. More specifically, at that city's Public Gardens. Bill 1 decided, once the lucky happenstance of crashing at this place occurred, that he was where he was and needn't particularly know more concerning his whereabouts. Not right now, at least. He could, at any time, bring forth his trusty billfinder and oh so capably discover where, exactly, in space if not in time, he was. So, unfastening his seatbelt and climbing from his upside down rocketship, which act took merely thirty seven minutes, Bill 1 stood ready to wander aimlessly to the best of his ability through the capital of Massachusetts, like perhaps half a million other people maybe were doing right then. An adventure, yet again, had begun for Bill 1. It was a bright and sunny day, as it turns out. Those are always good. So are cold days, rainy ones, snowy ones, and every other kind, too. Face it, the world exhilarates the canny traveler. Bill 1 saw a zillion things all over the place. It's amazing how many things just wait to be seen. Some aren't waiting but you see them anyway. All in all, it's nifty. Prime among the things Bill 1 saw was a woman with a microphone. Well, you may or may not see that everyday. Bill 1 numbered among those who did not see such a sight often. The woman stood in front of a camera. Other busylooking people mingled around her. The situation arose clear for Bill 1: he unquestionably had to watch. The woman stood situated with a store directly behind her. Police went in and out of the store, busy as busy could be. The woman talked into the microphone about how the store had been robbed, or some such story. As it appeared, she wanted the person holding the camera to know this fascinating information. Man, what an interesting occurrence! The woman looked nothing like Juliette at all. Of this, Bill 1 felt almost entirely convinced. The woman's hair was straighter, shorter and just plain different than Juliette's. The colour, especially, was all wrong. The woman's hair curved over her ear sort of like a cup. If this woman really thought that that's what Juliette's hair did, she was so far wrong it wasn't funny. Except that he thought this, Bill 1 wasn't thinking about Juliette at all. He did, however, start, suddenly, to reflect upon a man who stood behind this woman in front of the camera. The reason this man diverted Bill 1's rogue attention was because the man waved. The man grinned and waved right at the camera. He really seemed taken by this activity. Obviously, his world was filled to the very brim with the pure delight of waving at a camera. The man gave the thumbs up sign which, as Bill 1 understood it, meant that it pleased the man when his thumb pointed upward. Bill 1 copied the move and,
surprised, found that it quite pleased him to give the old thumbs up. The man in front of the store behind the woman in front of the camera started to walk away then came back to perform thumbs up procedures anew. Once again the clear pleasure of the act intrigued Bill 1 and he did the same. The man waved both arms. Bill 1 could tell the man had really connected. There's nothing more wonderful than getting a good connection with the universe and all as this man clearly had managed. Eventually, the guy wandered off. As attractive as wandering is for Bill 1, he wondered if maybe he ought to continue investigating this odd situation before him, vis-à-vis the woman, microphone, camera and the man holding the camera all in fascinating conjunction near this store where the police were busy. Why, basically, did that woman, who looked nothing at all like Juliette, talk about this apparent robbery to the guy with the camera? Very unusual. And that's great because the unusual is, by all means, super terrific. Bill 1 could not get enough of it. And now, what seemed unusualer, another person showed up and started doing the same stuff as the non-Juliette woman. Holding a microphone, talking in front of the store with a camera going and all. This guy didn't look like Juliette's brother, what Bill 1 figured Juliette's brother would look like if he looked like anyone, which Bill 1 imagined he did. Bill 1 had never seen Juliette's brother so this was all guesswork. Of course, it was a guess that he'd never seen her brother because, well, maybe Juliette's brother was somebody that Bill 1 had seen but at a time, like now, when Bill 1 didn't know that it was Juliette's brother that he saw. Do you understand? Well anyway, now there were two people talking to people holding cameras. It seemed like an interesting way to fill many minutes of your day, and many days of your fortnight. Bill 1 could watch this sort of thing all day and every day, except that a bus went by. Buses are pretty much like dinosaurs, you know. They're big, as many dinosaurs were big. They're thunderous, as dinosaurs were supposed to be thunderous. Bill 1 always had a Jurassic feeling about buses. And then you get to thinking about how there may be fifty people sitting on that bus going somewhere, that's a further mesmerizing attraction. The busdriver drives and everyone is just being part of that whole experience and all and, well, you can imagine Bill 1 had a lot to think about. It happened to be a nice additional interesting thing that Bill 3 and Bill 4 were on that bus. They waved to Bill 1, who waved right back. Long after the bus had roared, or thundered, away, Bill 1 still thought about the complexity of it all. There remained room in his thoughts to think about Juliette just then, and how she did not look like the woman in front of the camera, nor her brother, if that guy was her brother, so Bill 1 gave that stuff some think-time too. 183
Maybe, as Bill 1 delved deeper into this tantalizing conundrum, that man and that woman were brother and sister. What a small world! as Bill 1 realized for the 11,034th time. Those people must be sending special messages to their sister Juliette. Bill 1 ran into a street sign which had just been standing there but Bill 1 had not been and so, locomotive all the way, he collided. Entirely Bill 1's fault but no harm done so let's all just relax, is what Bill 1 thought. Besides, he was thinking how nice it was that Juliette had a sister and a brother who were going to send her some really interesting messages through the magic of television. What Bill 1 heard the people talk about made little sense to him, and that's always great. Gives you something to chew on, to work out. Sure, it's interesting that a store got robbed, and police were hanging around in an especially busy manner, and somebody waved and gave a thumbs up. But these are all components to a grander mystery that Bill 1 simply had to consider to the nth degree, if not beyond. Another bus, at this time, roared by. On this one, Bill 1 saw Bill 2. Bill 2 waved happily. Bill 1 waved back in like manner. Had that bus been smaller, Bill 1 might've had some Triassic thoughts, since Triassic dinosaurs were smaller although Bill 1 didn't know if that made them more affordable. This second bus, in fact, seemed just about the exact same size as that previous one that so enthralled our hero. Bill 1, therefore, went Jurassic once again. Did an archeaopteryx just fly overhead? Maybe it was good old Bogle, although Bill 1 wasn't sure that Bogle ever flew. In further consideration of that point Bill 1 realized that Bogle does fly, because he's been in Bill 1's rocketship and also in Bill 3's invisible one. So, q.e.d., Bogle does fly. Bill 1 was incredibly pleased to so successfully work that one out. A fine sense of accomplishment ensued. Anyway, turns out what Bill 1 saw a few moments back was a pigeon, also known as the rock dove. Man, what a lucky day to see one of those! Juliette's sister, her brother and a pigeon, all in one day. Bill 1 had to think about that! Meanwhile, or actually a little before meanwhile, insofar as we're referring to an occurrence prior to the ones just related, Bills 3 and 4 found themselves on a bus. They'd been staring with full concentration at a sign that presented some interesting news concerning when one could or could not park in a certain place. That sure was fun and full of enthralling ramifications. A bus arrived, though not especially out of thin air. Buses may or may not arrive out of thin air but, so far as they knew, the Bills had never, as yet, witnessed such a fine event. People pushed towards the bus in such a diverting and compelling way that the Bills went along too. The world often shows you the way to go. Luckily for the Bills, they each had ten quarters in their right front pants pockets. They stuck these quarters into that thing next to the busdriver which they sure wished they knew the name of. And so they were on that bus. The busdriver complained about receiving ten quarters from the Bills but they were not about to pay more. Well, maybe they were, but, in the long run, they didn't.
The Bills now sat in a first-class bus. They felt downright Jurassic at the moment and their thoughts floated about in a distinctly rhamphorhychus-like way. The world continued to spin, just like their heads, and the eternal rhythm seemed to cruise nicely. Suddenly, as that most Jurassic of buses bounded ponderously down a certain Boston street, Bill 3 and Bill 4 saw Bill 1. They waved. They waved and waved and waved. Yes, they sure did wave. First Bills 3 and 4, then all three of them in a sort of waving unison. It was excellent. Meanwhile, or pretty much so, Bill 2 realized that he was still on the bus he'd gotten onto. It's always good to know that where you are is still where you are. That helps keep things straight. He'd been wandering around in Boston in nice fashion. During this wandering, Bill 2 fell into an interesting conversation with a guy with one leg named George. Suddenly, Bill 2 realized he had confused himself, as if that hadn't happened before. Because, he was sure that that guy had not told him, Bill 2, that his, the guy's, leg was named George. No, Bill 2, as he thought the whole situation through, was pretty sure that the guy's name was George. Bill 2 was further pretty sure that George did not tell him, Bill 2, what his, George's, leg was named. Bill 2 had certainly never told George what his, Bill 2's, leg's name was. In the course of an interesting conversation Bill 2 gave George 841 quarters. It made so much sense for him to do so even tho George put up a fuss about it. That was not all of Bill 2's quarters; he retained twenty seven for his own personal use, hoping that George had no need for these. It was because Bill 2 kept these twenty seven quarters that Bill 2 was able to enjoy the bus ride he most certainly was now enjoying. At the most opportune time possible, you see, Bill 2 put ten shiny beauties into that thing next to the busdriver that he, Bill 2, didn't know the name of, and now he was seated. It was a right jolly situation for Bill 2, even tho, as he thought about it, he didn't know the busdriver's name, nor the name of that thing next to the busdriver. Bill 2 hadn't even gotten to wondering what the busdriver's leg's name was. As Bill 2 rode that bus, happy as a lark, he looked out the window and saw Bill 1. Not only that, he saw a person who could only be Juliette's sister tho she looked nothing like her. And more! That must be Juliette's brother there too! That lark mentioned earlier must be even happier now. Bill 2 waved at Bill 1, who returned the greeting. It was great. It was better than great, it was really, really good. Meanwhile, or really, a while after meanwhile, Bill 3 and Bill 4 conversed. "I guess you saw Juliette's sister there," said Bill 3. 185
"I sure did. Funny she doesn't look at all like Juliette." "Nope. She doesn't look like her brother either." "Who's brother? Juliette's?" "No, Juliette's sister's brother." "You're right, they didn't look alike." "Weird," said Bill 3. "They still looked like nice people, tho," Bill 4 remarked. "How could they not?" Bill 3 asked. "We've always considered Juliette pretty much the Queen of the Universe, so her sister and her brother must be pretty terrific too." "It just stands to reason," said Bill 4, nodding for all he was worth, and then some. "Bill 1 sure was lucky to happen upon that interesting situation." "Yeah," agreed Bill 4. "Say, Bill 3, we should get off the bus." "Right now? When it's still moving?" "It's stopped, Bill 3." "Oh, yeah. Well, let's go." And so they climbed from the bus. They headed back towards the site Bill 1 had been sighted. Meanwhile, Bill 2 was getting off his bus. Well, it wasn't really his bus, though he liked it a lot. He just got off, not so far down the street as Bills 3 and 4. He wandered himself up to where Bill 1 witnessed the great spectacle of Juliette's sister and brother talking into microphones like there was no tomorrow. Which may or may not be the case. "Hey, Bill 1." "Hey, Bill 2." "Juliette's sister doesn't look anything like her, does she?" "You're not kidding, Bill 2." "I know." They looked at each other and, man, they nodded! "This is great," said Bill 1. "It sure is," Bill 2 could do naught but agree. They stood and watched, with rapt attention, which is the best kind. Juliette's sister and Juliette's brother finished whatever it was they were doing.
They really didn't talk to each other. The Bills simultaneously got an idea but immediately forgot it. Well, that sort of thing happens. Suddenly, without any warning except for two voices saying "Hey Bill 1! Hey Bill 2", the Bills were greeted by the other two Bills. And something else happened, as it is wont to do. And the upshot of all this was that four guys named Bill, totally and completely in sync, felt a true impulse of the very world. That is an unbeatable circumstance, by all accounts.
30> Imagine That!
Imagine being in the midst of Everything. You don't have to, because you are! You, the Bills, and everyone else. Dazzling, don't you think? The Bills certainly think. Oh yes. They launch into thoughts with a vigour that mocks the commonplace and prosaic. They make time and space no better than a caterpillar's dream, vitalized as they are by the energy of their blooming curiosity. You read about them here because they are heroes, and because the world is not as flat as rumoured by “experts”. Its plains and planes all SWOOP. At the time of which we speak, the Bills are in four separate places. Love spreads, fills, and provides a dynamic for the universe so that no one, anywhere, ever can be alone or without it. It's the human safety net, like the ocean is for every fish. The Bills, as was said, are in four separate places, and perhaps four different times. Even as you read, Bill 1 stands in a liquor store, seeking just the right two wine bottles that will have, as he needs, two corks. He seeks so that he shall find. Bill 2 investigates a parking metre. He performs this study because its essence reached him and pulled him in, his curiosity afire. This occurs somewhere on the planet Earth. Bill 1 was on Earth as well. In fact, Earth can be regarded as the centre of the universe of these adventures. Not to be limited by mere matters of location on the physical or temporal grid, of course. Bill 3 and a certain, oh so certain, person named Sharon scan an array of beautiful, interesting, nifty-looking clouds. They speak some sort of something about WD40 and those who are, or are no longer, close. Bill 4, for his part, floats three inches above the ground. He is accompanied in an inestimably pleasant way by the rather beautiful—there's no way around it—painter named, for all the world to know, Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun. None of this necessarily makes sense so you, dear reader, you may relax if you so choose. At the same time that all this goes on, if it is going on, Juliette is in another place. A Mobius sort of twirling together of time, space and a few other things seems appropriate to mention at this, well, time. As has been said, this all may make no sense. It's just something, is all. Let us imagine a hill-side that is dew-pearled; a lark that likely is on the wing; and a snail that is on the thorn. Or imagine whatever the heck you want, the world invites your imagination. The point is this: you have broken free! Now you can see that Bill 1 knows an incomplete world; Bill 2 one that burns; Bill 3 one that gathers in; Bill 4 one that instructs, lifts and twirls. Others may know other things, simple as that.
31> To Save the Union
Bill 1, Bill 2, Bill 3 and Bill 4 stood in front of a coffee shop, occupying a portion of the universe. Not one of them drank coffee, as a matter of custom. That takes nothing from how interesting a coffee shop can and should be for the canny observer. Much of humanity knows that these are places you can go into and out of, as well. "This sure is a coffee shop," said Bill 1, believing that that was an appropriate remark to make at that time. He could tell because it had all the earmarks, if that makes a lick of sense. "It sure is," marveled Bill 2, taking note of those selfsame earmarks, which did, apparently, make a lick of sense, after all. Bills 3 and 4 nodded, jibing completely with the prevailing sentiment as expressed by Bill 1 and agreed to by good old Bill 2. "You know," said Bill 3, "coffee is an interesting thing." "Vastly entertaining," opined Bill 4 "It's an infusion of ground up coffee beans," Bill 3 went on. "It's a very black liquid, unless you add milk or cream." "Or white paint," added Bill 4. "I'm not saying anyone adds white paint to their coffee, but if they did, they'd sure make coffee a lot less black." "I mean to say," said Bill 3. "You'd know just from the sign there that this place sold coffee," commented Bill 1 with what you might call equipoise, if you had any urge, or ability, to use such a word. He felt it needful to continue the divagation he was, seemingly, divagating upon. The sign indicated that the emporium before which the Bills stood was called the Coffee Cavern. "Yeah," said Bill 2. Loneliness is just a concept. "You could also ask someone if the place sold coffee or not," surmised Bill 4. "The pictures of coffee cups there is a giveaway, too," Bill 1 went on. "It also smells like coffee," said Bill 3. "What does?" enquired Bill 4, intent on keeping things really, really clear in his head and all. Bill 3 discovered that he had just been asked a rather tricky question. He shut down many of his functions so that he could concentrate his inductive powers on the matter at hand. Finally, because he persevered, Bill 3 answered. 189
"The air... I guess..." "Oh, yeah, you mean you smell coffee," said Bill 1. "That's it," said Bill 3, "that's it exactly." "Since when did you start calling me 2, Bill 1?" asked Bill 2, having endured a surprising realization a few liens back. "I'm Bill 2. At least I thought I was." "That's what I thought, too, Bill 2," put in Bill 3. "Maybe things have changed." "Things have been known to change," Bill 1 commented, feeling in his heart of hearts that change is something that things are subject to. "Too bad Bogle isn't here to clarify things for us," said Bill 4. "Yeah," said Bill 3 wistfully. "I didn't call you 2 Bill 1, Bill 2," insisted Bill 1, remembering, somehow, to get back to that earlier point. "I don't remember you calling me 2 Bill 1 Bill 2, Bill 1," said Bill 2 honestly. "No, I don't remember calling you 2 Bill 1 Bill 2 Bill 1, either. That just wouldn't make any sense at all." "No, it wouldn't," agreed Bill 2. "It really wouldn't," contended Bill 3. Bill 4 almost added an agreeable comment of his own, but then he didn't, for some reason. He might've been on the confused side of things, something that has been known to happen. "Well," said Bill 1. He gave a few thinks. "Where were we?" "We've been a lot of places," said Bill 4, pleased that he had a cogent comment to offer this time through. "We sure have," said Bill 1, recalling some of those places. A few of them included the presence of Juliette, which made Bill 1 enjoy them all the more. She provided a sort of cynosure to the experience, if that's actually what we mean to say. "However," said Bill 3, in the middle of a rush of events commonly called Now, "at this moment we're standing in front of the Coffee Cavern." "And we're smelling the coffee," said Bill 2. Yes, the Bills had a lot to deal with but at least they had awakened to smell the coffee. Being awake—and forever so, in a sweet unrest—they could deal with things, to the best of their ability. These things included the many people rushing in and out of the coffee place. Everyone seemed to have a major destination when they entered and also when they left. It was really breathtaking to witness.
You don't have to love coffee to be astounded by the whole idea that these roasted, ground up beans could produce an infusion that people of all sorts of descriptions would feel impelled and compelled and driven and tempted to purchase and drink and talk about. Sometimes, the world is not as flat as it seems. Which brings us to the idea of cardboard pheasants. Cardboard pheasants are something that the Bills certainly could deal with. You know, cardboard pheasants aren't easily explained. And really, why should they be? Especially ones that talk and occasionally give wise counsel, and aren't always there. When we mention cardboard pheasants we expressly mean such as are, or seem to be, animate. One named Bogle is the one we particularly mean. If you know of others, that's your business, as well it should be. This cardboard pheasant, yclept Bogle, is something of a tutelary spirit for the Bills. Bogle brimmed with great advice and much exhortation for the boys. He dedicated himself to the idea that Bills should be all they can possibly be. His job, clearly, when he was around, which was not always, was to keep the Bills on the straight and true. It transpired, then, on a certain day, that the Bills were just hanging out; they were simply being there. That coffee shop was all jolly good fun but our heroes had moved several hundred yards down the road. They were in a town, you see, that possessed a grassy common ground centrally located. This common ground, called a green, was indeed green. Were it not that colour, the Bills would be considerably agitated and dismayed, and righteously so. They would have to deal with something that needed dealing with. It just does not make sense for a green not to be green. And it makes less sense to not make sense. Let's be reasonable. The world has rules by which it and we must abide. Well, perhaps we've slipped onto a tangent. The Bills now sat on and near a bench located at this so-called green. People do this sort of thing, as well as other things. Which you probably already know but we mention it anyway. The Bills were watching the world, or parts of it, roll and run and fly and otherwise move by. It really gave them a sense of something that they probably ought to have a sense about. "It sure is a nice day," commented Bill 1, by way of making a casual commentary that might lead to further revelations of conversation. "It sure is," agreed Bills 3 and 4 in unison. Bill 2 agreed too, but he nodded and so wasn't part of that unison there. Everyone took a moment to nod. That, at least, was in complete, fourway unison, if it's possible to nod in unison. "I can still smell the coffee," said Bill 1. "I can remember seeing the people going in and out of the coffee shop," said Bill 2. "So can I," said Bill 3. 191
"Me, too," said Bill 4. "No, me 2," said Bill 2, trying like the blazes to keep things clear. "Right," said Bill 4, pleased that what he felt was true had received confirmation from a reliable source. Without warning, a voice spoke... "The Union needs you guys," this familiar voice stated, entering the friendly dreamland that the Bills inhabited whenever they got together to appreciate the world as it currently stood to be appreciated, for them at least. "Bogle!" exclaimed Bill 2, getting the jump on the other Bills, vis-à-vis exclaiming. "The one and same," replied the cardboard-and-crepe paper pheasant. He was a proud-looking, magisterial yet decorative sort of bird. "What are you doing here, Bogle?" asked Bill 1. "I think you know," the avian advisor said quietly. Bogle could be enigmatic when he chose. Obviously, he has just so chosen. Bill 1 decided he better think that one through, and did so. Eventually he felt he had a grasp on the question. "Is it... is it because you think we need to kick into action, Bogle?" "You got it, Billy boy. You got it exactly." "Wow," admired Bill 2. Bill 1 certainly got to the bottom of that conundrum, and it only took him only twenty nine minutes. "Bills, we've got to kick into action," Bill 1 announced dramatically, feeling a surge of something of the sort that might surge through him in a situation such as this one. "We have things to do," proclaimed Bill 3. "It's time to get going," Bill 4 declared. A really quite excellent pause ensued, since the boys were far from clear on exactly what they now had to do. Bogle remained patient as the Bills filtered thoughts and ideas through their various and sundry minds. "You guys do remember that I mentioned that the Union needs you." Bogle was giving them a much needed hint. "Oh yeah," said Bill 1. "I remember something about that," said Bill 4. "Thanks for the tip, Bogle," said Bill 2. "Now we can really get working," said Bill 3. And though their hearts were in
the right place—which they would have to be unless something really gruesome occurred to the Bills's respective thoracic cavities—our heroes discovered there was more to knowing what you should do next than just knowing what you should do next. Finally, however, Bill 3 pierced the veil of mystery. "Are we supposed to save the country?" he asked the fantastic bird. "Bingo!" "Gee, how do we do that?" "You guys have got to clear away ignorance," returned the bird, "figure things out and make things happen. Basically, you should do what you guys should do." The Bills were speechless for exactly seven minutes; that's how incredible Bogle's revelation was to them. "Can we also repair bicycles, if that need should ever arise?" asked Bill 2. He knew he had tools in his backpack to facilitate repair. Amongst the excellent tools that he had were some excellent wrenches, pliers, screwdrivers, Allen wrenches, and even those fantastic tire-removing gizmos that always put extra leaks in your tubes. "That may be part of it," answered Bogle, retaining the sense of mystery. "And there may be more." "You're not going to ask us to kill the president or anyone else are you?" asked Bill 3. He'd been faced with that idea before and found it an uncomfortable proposition. "Nope, that sort of thing is right out." "That's good," said Bill 3. Such things don't fit into the Billian cosmography, we are happy to say. Bill 4 just about said the same thing, but then he said nothing instead. "I want you guys to impress upon the world at large that we are all like molecules." "You mean that we're all parts of a larger entity?" asked Bill 1. "Yeah, something like that." The Bills looked at one another. That took a few minutes for them to sort out and all, you know, exchanging significant looks and all. Finally, Bill 2 had something really, really, really, really, really important to say. "There sure are a lot of people throwing Frisbees here on this green." He was accurate in his observation: there really were a lot of people throwing Frisbees there on that green. 193
"It's odd, but two hundred and twenty years ago there was a little battle here," noted Bogle. "The shot heard round the world," said Bill 1, having read that, truly, on a rock nearby. "And now people throw Frisbees here," said Bill 2. "Some do," clarified Bill 3. "Some people just sit on benches, like we're doing and..." "And figure out ways to save the Union," interjected Bill 4 brightly. "Yeah!" said Bill 2. "Man, this is one great adventure," said Bill 1. Right about that time an errant Frisbee banged against his forehead. A teenager raced over. "Sorry, man, the wind took it." "It's right here now," said Bill 1 philosophically. "Hope you didn't get hurt," the teenager said. "Nope, it hit my head," Bill 1 replied. "Can you see an invisible cardboard pheasant anywhere around here, by any chance?" Bill 2 asked casually. The teenager didn't hear, or didn't seem like he did, or something like that. Anyway, he ran back to the ones he was throwing the Frisbee with. "I suspect they didn't see you," Bill 3 said. "Nobody sees me if I don't want to be seen," the canny bird answered. "I guess you want us to see you," said Bill 4. "I guess," said Bogle. The five of them sat there for quite a while, part of a larger something or other. It was a warm, pleasant, comfortable afternoon. The Union bore up as well as it could, in its dire time. And thus the flower continued its bloom.
32> Tribal Rites
-- Onward Blindly Onward -A neat thing concerning humanity is that it—meaning all of us—divides beautifully into either of two fine factions: conservative or liberal. Cut and dry and no questions to be asked. Experts in magazines, and on radio and television talk shows galore, prove out this happy fact of an obtaining system. It's the rite of our division. If you keep your tracking systems alert, or if you listen to anyone at all, you will always be kept informed about what the right side is. You can also perform the evaluations yourself if you are so minded, but you may consequently be found wrong, to your utter disgrace. Anyway, the split proves not an even 50/50; sometimes you might be one thing and then realize whilst considering some pesky tax or war, or facing some love interest, that you are in truth entirely incorrect in your understanding and inadequately responding to the info flow. Fear not! Enlightenment will eventually reveal that you really and more properly belong in the other group. You will then—dedicatedly following all proper forms—switch to the alternate extreme just like how recent nonsmokers leap to a new sense of stern government sanction for the sake of clearing the air. The world will then continue to maintain its interesting, skylarking course while we—meaning humanity, of course—divide up into our convenient and rust-proof categories. Having said that—and indeed we did say that—we now must admit that the Bills—who function as protagonists in this story—didn't seem to fit either category. The problem being that our heroes remain so wholeheartedly busy dealing with all the varied and numinous aspects of the world that tumble their way that, well, they just don't seem to get down to the brass tacks, or tax, of our divisions. It's weird, really, but so it goes. At any rate, it bears out the unexceptionable rule that rules were made to be broken, or possibly that it is the very exception that serves to prove the rule. Whatever. So anyway, Bill 1 sat in his fantastic beanbag chair. This was certainly in the course of human events, like it or not. Bill 1 definitely liked it. He did not just sit there, however. Bill 1 was never one to not be busy. He concentrated. Furthermore, he concentrated on floating. This is quite a more specialized activity for one to pursue or peruse than many that garner the public's attention. How typical of Bill! It had occurred to him at one point in time—one obviously filled with brilliant illumination and serendipity—that, if one put one's mind to it, one could escape the bounds or bonds of gravity. One could, that is, float. One just had to focus one's mind, which is just what Bill 1 wanted to do anyway. It would take a mighty effort, Bill 1 knew, but he was willing to make it. Illumination is light, as we all know. Bill 1 struck the veritable core with this 195
realization: the more illumination one has, the lighter one will be. Bill 1 wanted to be totally lighter than air. The theory seemed impeccable, it just made so much sense. Bill 1 sought to test this extremely interesting and endearing theory to the best of his ability, if not beyond. He concentrated, he thought, he held the door open wide. The resulting headache after a good—a very good—two hours and seventeen minutes of effort along this line (that leads to eureka, nirvana, satori and bingo!) did not quite make a whole lot of sense. One of Bill 1's greatest certainties—which he believes with complete and boundless certitude—is that not making sense makes no sense at all. Still, the flux of things rattles on, you know, and Bill 1, our hero, just dealt with the situation as it stood before him. Bill 1, therefore, bore down for a further try. Oh yes, he marshaled his forces and really gave the matter his full and abiding attention. Finally, he saw that, sad to say, conditions currently were unfavourable vis-à-vis his floating experiment, more's the pity. He wasn't enlightened enough to see the light. you understand. Bill 1 had to move on. The first step in moving on consisted of rising from the exquisite depths of his beanbag chair. He spent the next forty nine minutes trying to do so from what must be the deepest, not to mention most excellent, beanbag chair in existence. All in all, it was a great afternoon. Sometime soon after extricating himself from his fine chair, Bill 1's telephone rang. Whether there was some fabulous cause-and-effect thing going on here, Bill 1 did not know. He did fathom that usually the phone's ringing indicated something or other; there was semiotic value to it, don't you see. It electrified his sensibilities and caused him to respond with alacrity. Well, Bill 1's version of alacrity. Bill 1 had only one gear, but it was a nice, steady one. Bill 1 made his way, on foot, to the phone and watched as it rang. Maybe, in the overly busy way your life goes, you've never noticed but, you know, if you didn't hear that phone ringing, you wouldn't know that it did so. The telephone simply sat there—if 'sat' is the right word for it—while the phone produced this stunning, alarming, important-sounding alert. That was interesting. Bill 1 had to let the phone ring a full seventeen times while he enjoyed the whole essential quality of the situation. Finally, with a nice show of tenacity obviously about equal to that of the intrepid caller, Bill 1 took hold of the phone thingie and he sure did speak that magic word. Which is to say, he said "Hello?" Yup, he just up and said it. The inflection he utilized helped to indicate that Bill 1 did not know to whom he spoke, but would wholeheartedly welcome that information. It so happens that he would welcome any information whatsoever, he having a great penchant for information of all sorts, but that fact was not ascertainable by the way he had just said "Hello?" "Hello," replied a voice full of certitude. Clearly, this person was someone who could say hello when circumstances either demanded, or seemed to. Bill 1 liked the way things were going, insofar as the current situation was concerned. There was an off chance that things might come to some sort of head, eventually—brilliant understanding and all—and that would be right
pleasurable. "Hello," returned Bill 1 with a firmness that just seemed so right. He knew in his heart of hearts that it was the right thing to say at that juncture. "Hi," said the voice at the other end of the line. The conversation sure was expanding, rather like one of the proposed models for this very universe we seem to inhabit. A glimmer of recognition made its way into Bill 1's sporty, active brain. "Hi," said he, fulfilling some sort of necessity of which the current situation, as we shall so term the current situation, seemed aboundingly blest. "It's me," said this voice, ringing with a sort of familiar tone and all. "I thought so," replied Bill 1, because you just got to figure that that would be the case. That is to say, that if a voice declares its me-ness, it must be speaking a verity. Who this Me was was not altogether clear, however. Perhaps the answer lay in the future... "It's me, Bill 2," the voice insisted on continuing. Well, this was unexpected. "But I'm Bill 1," our hero had to explain. "Oh," said the voice. A pause ensued during which anything could have happened. Nothing much did, but the possibility certainly existed. It always does, so you should take any precautions that you care to think might help. "So who are you?" asked Bill 1, driven by a need to know who was on the other end of the phone line. "It's me, Bill 2," the voice answered. "You are having a very, very hard time understanding things here," said Bill 1, not unkindly. There's been a time or two when he had misapprehended affairs a wee bit so he did not intend to get snippy but he did want things clarified. "I'm Bill 1." "Yes, and I'm Bill 2." Bill 1 had to think about that. His partner in this fantastic conversation was willing to give him all the time in the world to work out this latest conundrum but Bill 1 took only fourteen minutes. "Am I to understand that you are Bill 2?" Bill 1 finally asked. "That's it exactly!" exclaimed Bill 2. He was darn happy. So was Bill 1. "Ah," said Bill 1. Bill 2 was Bill 1's doppelganger and best friend. They often looked at the world's myriad marvels together, performed relevant experiments and otherwise checked things out. It sure interested Bill 1 to learn that Bill 2 was on the phone with him but suddenly Bill 1's mind slid elsewhere. As surely 197
was its wont. It's like this. The time/space continuum, or whatever it is, is a liquid, gooey, changeable thing. You float from one thing, stick to another, and rarely know what the heck is going on. It's great, though. Bill 1 got to thinking about a monster. The monster in question was a printing machine that he was required to operate one time in his working career. The folks in charge deemed it a right good move to give Bill 1 this responsibility in addition to the delivery job that mostly filled his spacious time. Oh man, the world looms large. Now, Bill 1 is up to every necessity, he can face it all. When Juliette, for instance, disdained the flowers he once offered her, and claimed to be married, Bill 1 knew the world wants to test him. He found the full predicament of his work situation maximum hard to bear, however. The printing press was pretty good size, about the size of two beanbag chairs. It was quite a bit heavier than any two beanbag chairs unless they were filled with lead or mercury instead of beans. Not even Bill 1 could figure out why anyone would want a beanbag chair filled with mercury or lead instead of beans. At any rate, the press was a feisty device, given to aggravating mechanical tantrums. No one had bothered to put wheels on the thing either, even though Bill 1 had cited the obvious advantages of such a dynamically appropriate course. Now, the main thing about the printing press was the way it commanded your attention. The world's a pretty full place, with much that attracted Bill 1's attention, so the grave insistence of this particular machine wore heavily on our hero. Look, the thing made noise galore, it jammed often, and there was always this infernal mailing deadline to make. No one seemed to recognize the complexity into which Bill 1 had been thrown. Our boy dealt with it, but it was a rough road indeed. The thing you've got to do, in dealing with a situation, is to make all necessary adjustments. Plastic gloves proved extremely useful in keeping ink off Bill 1's hands. He still had to clean his hands, plus those selfsame gloves, because he just had to. Furthermore, the plastic gloves to be used had to be just the right kind, which would seem obvious but in fact, to the heathens with whom Bill 1 worked, it was not. Nor could his co-workers grasp that the print room had to be very warm, even downright uncomfortable, so that the paper would remain dry. Damp paper jammed the machine, which caused Bill 1's world to spin quite out of control. No, none of Bill 1's co-workers, not even Juliette, understood the intensity of Bill 1's quest. And that's the territory where Bill 1's mind roamed, once it had left the conversation with Bill 2. Balloons return to earth, however, frogs start croaking again in the spring and Bill 1 remembered he was on the phone with Bill 2. The idea of mentioning his interest in self-floating came to the forward part of his mind. He thought he just might mention it. Bill 2, in his turn, remembered he was telecommunicating as well. He bestirred
himself from thoughts of perfume, grapes, blue push pins, WD40, the moon, anyone who might be Juliette's presumably fascinating sister, and those sorts of things. There had been a wonderful glow to his musings. He found himself especially attentive and receptive to what would assuredly follow. A horizon of possible reflections. Bill 1 had but one thing to say at this special, gleaming moment, fraught as it was with the energy of release. "Hey Bill 2, guess what? I'm floating. I'm floating in the air." This proved less surprising to Bill 2 than you might expect, because Bill 2 just then, floated too.
33> Wrong Way Maybe
Bill prizes those bright red signs you see by highway off ramps, ones that inform you: WRONG WAY GO BACK. What an excellent convenience. If Columbus met such a sign when he banged into that island he called San Salvador, he might've found out where China really lies. Then he might've become really famous. That's one of the things Bill had decided. Bill always seeks to get a take on a situation, whatever situation currently under scrutiny. As a delivery driver, and a percipient one, he has plenty of time to ponder things, and the inclination to do so. He sees these informative signs and his thought processes inevitably kick in. The reason for Bill's accord with these seemingly bossy and peremptory signs centres around their utility. Bill deems it utterly useful to know whereat he stands, sits, or whatever. Defining where one is clarifies where one isn't, and vice versa. How can you have a universe without some centering force? That would make no sense. Bill has gotten to where he looks for those signs, purely to revel in the beauty of their utility. He thus almost never finds himself facing vehicles—flung free from the power of the highway—heading directly at him. Bill thereby attains a more certain place in the universe by the effort of those signs. Thus thinketh. The foregoing, luckily, bears relevance to our little story here. Bill fell into a situation caused by a lack of such a usefully informative sign as we have here discussed. It may or may not be a long story that herewith follows. Bill, you see, once was a delivery driver, present tense as far as this story is concerned. This challenging job demanded that he push the boundaries of his understanding and knowledge. You might think it's no prob travelling from point A to point B, but there are many points out there, including C, D, Q, X and Z, to confuse you. Bill knew this from experience. So, Bill's job required that he find certain places in this vast and interesting universe. If that weren't enough, he then had to locate—among ever so many— certain persons at these certain places. Think of the probabilities. Delivery jobs are no easy thing though Bill gave it his best effort. Maps, putatively helpful, aren't always up-to-date and accurate, despite how obviously important it is that maps should be. Bill believed that a governing body, headed by people knowledgeable and respected in the field, should oversee the production of maps to ensure accuracy and up-to-dateness. This only makes sense. The world should make sense. A further outrageous difficulty, for the conscientious delivery person, is that people often give directions that are absolutely clogged with misinformation. Any right-thinking person would consider this reprehensible. After a few times following explicit directions to Poole Street and ending up at School Street, you'll definitely feel dazed and confused. Bill sure felt that way but, as always, he pushed on.
On the particular excursion of which we speak, Bill sought some doctor or other as official recipient of the specific delivery item he had. It was a gift from some doctor or other, part of the protocol for some people at the season of the year of which we speak. Following some unfortunately muddled person's directions, Bill found his way to this place that would prove, eventually, to be the wrong place. But maybe not so wrong. An adventure ensued. It sure looked like a place likely to have doctors. That improved the likelihood of discovering the specific one he sought. Bill entered the facility with right good cheer. Had there been a red sign stating WRONG WAY GO BACK, Bill would have gone no further. Despite whatever superficial evidence that he had found the place he sought, he would have sought elsewhere. A great adventure would have gone by the board, however. Inside this place, he saw a lot of old, old people. Old, that is, in the sense of wheelchairs, walkers, tubes attached to arms and other grim and awful equipment. Bill took it in, not an easy thing to do, but Bill's curiosity never turns away. After much wandering around—which, admittedly, Bill enjoys—and much inspired inquiry concerning the whereabouts of the Doctor X (not his real name) for whom a gift from Doctor Y (not his real name) lay in wait, Bill starkly realized that he was in the wrong place. Yow! Still, it was a place, so it couldn't be all that wrong. Bill looked around with all the inevitability of a caterpillar or bumblebee. He had plenty of time, if time is something you can have. Bill rarely passed up chances to wander around looking at things. For all his bluster, Juan didn't really care how late Bill returned from his route. Juan was Bill's ostensible boss and duty bound to direct Bill's delivery routes. Bill always, but always, came back with all deliveries successfully completed, or at least with a detailed plan on how he can accomplish them the next day, along with that day's regular deliveries. No one can blame Bill for being five hours late if he accomplishes so much. Bill was simply sure about this point. Besides, let's be reasonable: time does not matter; it never has. The place was beyond Bill's wildest expectations, which is saying a lot. It was noisy and dim and it smelled funny, in a not funny way. For reasons beyond Bill's every effort to understand, many people—patients, you might call them— remained in the hallway. They were strapped into wheelchairs and just allowed to sit there. One should remember that the world is a small place as well as a large. Other patients roamed around, either on foot, if such ability remained with them, or in sportily mobile wheelchairs. It was a strange place, no two ways about it. "Get out of here!" someone yelled at Bill with a vigour that could probably cause a mallard or even a Canada goose to drop in dismay its hard won piece of white bread. 201
Simply incapable of getting it, try though he might, our hero turned to the source of this demand, an old women. She sat in one of several regular chairs near a sort of office. The walls, Bill noticed, were merrily decorated with signs bearing such pre-eminent, if inscrutable, slogans as SEASONS GREETINGS and PEACE ON EARTH—GOODWILL TO MEN. This woman managed to do something rarely done, she made Bill feel out of place. Before our hero could respond, a younger woman briskly came over. "Don't mind Bessie," she told Bill, "she means nothing." Well that's an astonishing remark to make so casually. "She has to mean something," Bill insisted. "It doesn't make sense to not make sense." "Bessie's a little confused," the woman explained, as if that answered anything. "Bessie, why don't you come with me." "Tell that stinker to get out of here," the old woman snarled to the younger one. "She doesn't want me here?" Bill asked with concern. "Forget about it," the young woman responded. "Bessie gets confused." She led Bessie, who had further things to mutter, away. Bill felt confused, he often feels confused, but had no interest in yelling at anyone. He did not, could not, simply forget about it. Throughout the place, people busily did things. Not the patients—they were apparently not supposed to do anything—but those who were employed here. Bill watched people walk around with clipboards in hand or talk on the phone or transport sheets and towels from point A to point B, and probably to other letters, as well. Bill watched a woman pull a vacuum cleaner around. She smiled pleasantly at Bill. That was notable because not many people smiled in this place. "'Allo," she said in some accent. "Howdy," returned Bill in friendly fashion. "This is some interesting place." "Oh yes, very nice place." "A lot of people in wheelchairs," Bill observed conversationally. "Yes, yes, many sick, old people here." "I've always admired chairs with wheels," Bill went on philosophically, getting his momentum. Bill never lacked subjects for discussion. "Very nice, they are. People can get around more." "A real convenience." Suddenly an alarm sounded. "Oh my, somebody opened one of the side doors," the vacuum cleaner woman said. "Someone is getting around a little too much." She hurried away.
Bill had never, ever thought of having an alarm for when the side door was opened. He had no side door but still, he should have considered the possibility of an alarm for a side door, in case he ever had one. Slovenly thinking like that will get you nowhere. And nowhere is definitely nowhere to be. Bill determined to consider the possibility of a side door alarm if and when he should have a side door. Bill slowly followed the cleaner to see where she went. At the end of the hall stood an elderly man in the doorway. The cleaner spoke to him cheerfully and led him back into the building. An interesting set of circumstances, thought Bill. A range of thoughts constantly percolated in his mind. There sure was much here to assimilate, or at least just look at and think about. Bill watched a wheelchair-bound woman pull herself along the hallway using the handrail that lined all the walls. She went at it with respectable dedication if not speed. Bill was a slow and steady guy and had to admire her progress. A large lounge area seemed inviting. It was furnished like a living room. A Christmas tree, which reminded Bill pleasingly of a rocketship, filled a corner of the room. What could be better than having a Christmas tree fill a corner of your room, outside of having a small rocketship do so? Groups of people gathered in little knots here and there, mostly there, murmuring quietly. This seemed to be where visitors came and sat with whoever they came to visit. Bill had not come to visit anyone so he decided he better move on. Bill continued strolling this fascinating place. He noticed that many of the people in the hallway, strapped into their personal wheelchairs, were asleep, or something grimly like sleep. They slumped over and didn't look comfortable. Possibly they meditated, thinking a few things through. Bill could identify with that. Nobody looked like they wanted to converse, even Bill could discern that. Ah! But there was one willing to converse. She was doing so, even though there was no one there to talk to. Bill moseyed over to join her conversation. "Howdy!" said Bill cheerfully, although some strange force seemed to affect him in a way contrary to his normal cheer. It was as if people could be unhappy, wild as that seems. Something about this woman strapped into her chair brought this sensation. The woman looked up. Bill had previously greeted several people and, except that woman with the vacuum cleaner, had disappointingly received zero response. "I didn't know you would show up, after all," the woman said, apparently to Bill. She started to say something else but that got buried in a mutter. She looked up at Bill and gave him a wan and distant smile. "I didn't know I would either," answered Bill, not about to hide the truth from anyone. 203
The woman picked at the strap holding her in. She mumbled something. Bill figured he should just nod. He put his pack down—he carries it with him always—and knelt. This woman was hard to hear. Another woman emerged from a door near which this woman sat. This one moved briskly, almost too briskly, given the local norm. She caught sight of Bill and returned to the room, closing the door hard behind her. "There goes that chair-stealing witch," someone called from down the hall. Bill had to look because curiosity certainly never ends. He saw that wheelchairbound woman, locomoting for all she was worth. One leg added motivation to what her arms could do pulling her down the hall. She was doing what she could. The woman with Bill didn't look up. She mumbled something that Bill just could not hear. Very aggravating, her remark could well have been very important and illuminating. Before the nosy wheelchair woman arrived, yet another woman showed up. She was young, obviously not a patient at this interesting dark place. She greeted Bill warmly. "You're here visiting Elizabeth?" she asked, although it was one of those questions that assumes that the enquirer already possessed the answer. Elizabeth said one simple thing. "Toby." "Some of her family call her Toby, but we have her name listed as Elizabeth so that's mostly what she goes by," the woman said. Bill nodded, he didn't know what else to do. Apparently, some people named Elizabeth are also called Toby. Elizabeth said something that began with a mumble but ended clearly with "... where I lived." "Where do you live, Elizabeth?" asked the woman. Elizabeth turned toward her and said conspiratorially, indicating Bill. "I don't think he would help." "I would if I could," Bill responded immediately, upset that his intentions could be so poorly understood. Elizabeth, or Toby, turned to Bill and said, stuttering some, "We don't know if we're sad or satisfied." Bill could see where that would be problematic. She grinned as if what she said were strikingly funny, which added to the sense of things being problematical. The door to the room nearby opened and that mysterious, brisk woman stepped out. She looked at everyone and returned to the room.
"There's that witch again," cried the woman slowly drawing herself down the hall by way of those handy hand rails. "Watch out, she'll steal your chair." Bill wanted to keep that in mind but there seemed to be an abundance of things to keep in mind and think about. He felt near to overwhelmed. "Let me get you a chair," said the still peripatetic and youthful woman, who maybe was a doctor or something. She went off. "I wanted to create something that would last forever," Elizabeth told Bill. She frowned. "That sounds like an interesting thing," Bill had to say. "Here you go," said the doctoresque woman who had gone for a chair. She dragged one up and gestured Bill to sit. He did so. The door to the room immediately opened. The woman from in there came out with a determined look. She grabbed Bill's chair, clearly with a sense of proprietorship. Bill didn't know what to do nor what to think. It was amazing, and quite disturbing. "That witch is always stealing chairs," said the one dragging herself down the hall. Her progress wasn't exactly excellent insofar as rapidity is concerned. Still, she was making progress; she had got that going for her. "You just leave that chair alone, Eleanor," said the woman that we will now simply assume is a doctor or something. Bill had no gifts from Doctor Y to deliver to her, though. She had a nice firm tone, as if she were someone telling someone else what to do. Eleanor, who seems blest with added dimension now that we know her name, snorted then zipped back into her room, swiftly closing her door. "She's always stealing chairs," said the woman from down the hall, who had finally made it. "It was right on the porch for a long time," Elizabeth began. "Of course, then we..." She hit some sort of roadblock and stopped. She frowned. Bill wanted to hear more. "Watch out, now," said the busybody who had just arrived. She spoke to a woman moving with determination down the hallway. This woman used a walker. The walker was equipped with wheels so the woman need not lift it. It pleased Bill to see this because he liked wheels. They make good sense, especially in the modern world. "Where are you going, Agnes?" asked the doctor. Agnes gave her no response. The door to the room opened and out popped Eleanor again. She went straight for Bill's chair. "That thief is always stealing things," the woman in the wheelchair said acidly. Eleanor grabbed at Bill's chair with a serious need. He was about to stand and 205
let her have it but the doctor spoke. "Eleanor, leave that chair there, please." By this time, Agnes, figuratively if not quite literally tearing up the carpet, had made it down the hallway to the side door. She pushed it open. The side door alarm sounded, making Bill marvel anew at the efficacy of it. It virtually said WRONG WAY GO BACK, although Agnes apparently wasn't listening. The doctor hurried down to take care of that situation. Eleanor had not given up trying to take Bill's chair and again he thought to let her have it. "You can't have that chair, you thief," the wheelchair-bound busybody snapped. Eleanor gave up and hustled back into her room, closing the door crisply. "She really wants this chair," Bill remarked. "She'll steal anything. Did you bring cheese?" "I might have," Bill answered, not remembering off hand if cheese numbered among the many items in his pack. "Did you bring cheese?" Elizabeth asked, suddenly looking quite interested in the current proceedings. "I'll have to check. Do you like cheese?" "I'm not sure that I know what cheese is," Elizabeth admitted. She frowned. Bill frowned too. When you think about it, what the heck is cheese? "Don't give her any food," said the busybody, "they'll just steal it." Bill was getting confused again. Elizabeth spoke. "One time I went over, over the..." She trailed off in a stutter then frowned. "Are you worried about something?" Bill enquired. "It might be," came Elizabeth's reply. "It sometimes is, you know." "I think I do," said Bill. A rattling and banging at the next door down caught Bill's strained attention. It sounded like an emergency so Bill went to investigate. He opened the door. An old man stood there, agitated. "Couldn't you open the door?" Bill asked. The man moved to get past Bill. "You turn this thing here and then you pull it, if you're in the room." The man did not appear to have time for the lesson. He walked down the hall,
away from the side door and its efficient alarm. Bill returned to his seat just as Eleanor was walking away with it. "She's always stealing things," said a person known to say such things. "You don't have to take the chair," Bill said. "I'll just sit in it." He did so and Eleanor looked upset. Bill thought maybe he better let her have it after all but once more she was shooed by the busybody. "Get out of here, you witch." "I wanted to... to..." said Elizabeth. She gestured when the words stopped flowing, then she said, "Well, I'm going to leave it at that." And that's what she did. So did Bill. "If you give her food the nurses and everybody will just take it all," the busybody said. "They'll eat it all and she won't get any." That made more sense than Bill expected. "I guess I won't give her any food." "Hi Lizzie, how are you doing?" a bright voice greeted. It was another cleaning person, another cheering presence. She smiled and touched Elizabeth on the arm. Elizabeth muttered something about boxes or something, Bill couldn't quite catch it. "Someone come to visit you?" the cleaning person said, smiling at Bill. "I told him not to leave any food because the nurses will eat it all," said the nosy woman. "Lizzie would have trouble with most things, anyway," the cleaner said. "She lost her dentures." "That thief must have stolen them." The door nearby had pushed open but at those words slammed shut. "Well, I got to get back to work," the cleaner told Bill. "Have a nice visit." "Okay, thanks." "Can you give me a push?" the busybody asked. "Sure, Mary, where do you want to go?" "Take me to the lounge." "Okay, away we go." They headed down the hall. The cleaner chattered; Mary snapped harsh remarks off the walls. 207
"Sure is a busy place," Bill said after a moment. "It's stuffy, though." Elizabeth made no reply. She stared at the floor just in front of her. One hand rubbed the other distractedly. "Maybe I should get moving, too. I still have a lot of stops to go." Bill scratched his beard. Elizabeth muttered something that was impossible for Bill to hear. "Juan likes to pretend he's mad when I come back late, but he's really super happy that I got all my stops done." Elizabeth looked sleepy. Her eyes were open but she sat slumped. "I'll try to come back sometime soon. I'm sure there will be deliveries around here. I'm a delivery driver, you know." "I think it's at the store," Elizabeth mumbled. She seemed to want to go on but didn't. "Maybe it is," Bill replied, figuring that was as good as any answer to that interesting comment. Elizabeth lifted a hand awkwardly, made a sort of gesture then said, "Maybe we will all just end up just hushing." "Maybe so. I've never thought of it that way." He considered the idea of just hushing. Bill looked at Elizabeth and felt sure she had fallen asleep. He was himself not against stopping the van by the roadside for a refreshing and much-needed nap. The warm stuffy air here made him sleepy, as a matter of fact. Bill rose from his seat. Immediately, Eleanor materialized once more, snatched Bill's chair and dragged it into her room. Bill walked back to the front entrance, the one without the excellent alarm. The air outside invigourated with a brisk chill. It was getting close to sunset. He still had several stops to go. The day had been interesting. If this had been the wrong way, he figured he was glad he didn't go back.
34> Greek Chorus
A man named Dave almost stepped into a puddle one day. It would've been a wet experience, it would've given his feet something to think about, it would've been a little bit yucky. Fortunately, he caught himself just in time, in the veritable nick thereof. "You almost stepped into that puddle there," Dave was informed by someone. Dave looked up, up from the watery, shiny, dark circle of watery, shiny dark... stuff. Someone who had clearly just spoken stood there facing this Dave person we've but moments ago encountered. That someone was Bill 1, resident of this very world, if not others. Bill 1 happens to occupy the centre of the universe, which proves quite convenient for him and for all the things he does. "I wasn't paying attention," the man, Dave, replied, somewhat abashed. Everyone knows that stepping into a puddle when it hadn't ever been your intention and in fact was contrary to your preference is right out. Having someone witness your peccadillo adds something or other to the situation. "You should pay attention," said Bill 2, an important member of the Bill coterie. Dave meant to shrug but before he could accomplish this eloquent gesture, a third voice spoke. Dave hadn't even had a chance to remark the likeness between the two who had spoken to him. "Paying attention really must be regarded as a necessity at all times," Bill 3, another card-carrying Bill, piped in. Lord knows Bill 3 was trying to keep up with everything—the whole, complete totality, that is, and nothing less—to the best of his considerable ability. "If you don't pay attention, you may not notice that you stepped in a puddle or walked into a wall or any number of other interesting occurrences," Bill 4, wellpositioned to know such things, pointed out. He, too, was a definite Bill, a physical twin to Bill 3, a psychic quadruplet to the Bills 1-3. It's a small but dynamic tribe of which we speak. Dave was quite tall, which is neither here nor there. It happens to be a fact, and those can be pretty fascinating. By this time, Dave had noticed what the narrator already troubled to mention: that two of his (Dave's) interlocutors resembled each other and the other two resembled each other. Rather like two sets of twins, that is. Well, at any rate, tall or not—although we've already established that point—and whether or not these were two sets of twins, Dave chose to reply by saying, "Sometimes my mind wanders." Oh my! The Bills could sure relate to that. Haven't you ever noticed that you start thinking about puddles in the street and then you notice that the very puddle before you resembles some kind of fascinating bird and birds naturally send you pondering the question of the sky and what it is doing up there and 209
that can cause you to contemplate the concept of 'there' and its nifty corollary of 'here' and thus you find you feel like a bird or a shower curtain or someone from another time or place and so forth until you realize that you are standing here in a puddle looking there at the sky, and people gaze at you with curiosity and surprise? In point of fact, the Bills have never noticed people looking at them—too busy with greater necessities—but you get the idea. "Sometimes you think about onions, don't you?" quizzed Bill 1. He's been there, he knows what that is like. Dave wore an expression something like one that someone unclear (but not nuclear) about something or other might, possibly—were things to winnow out properly—have. He said, probably à propos Bill 1's above statement, "I suppose I have thought of onions." "Deeply?" asked Bill 2, which maybe sounded weird but again Dave had no chance to reply. "I figured as much," said Bill 1 with quick enthusiasm. He was kind of showing off his assiduous acumen, if truth to tell. "Do you ever think of blue push pins?" asked Bill 2 hopefully. Blue pins can intrigue, if you know how to be intrigued. Bill 2 sure did. To be intrigued is to gain many deep, bountiful insights concerning onions, blue push pins or anything you can or even cannot name. "Not as a rule," Dave had to admit like a grim, distracting cloud over a parade in Concord, Massachusetts. "Oh," said Bill 2. It seemed unfortunate that this person—whom we know as Dave—did not, as a rule, think about blue push pins. Is that self-denial, or what? "But I guess I'm thinking of them now," Dave added. "Of who?" wondered Bill 2, ever ready to fetch onto some new information that he could evaluate and store for later study. Was this person thinking of Juliette (as Bill 1 happened to be), or mayhap, Juliette's purported sister? "Blue push pins," Dave answered. "I mean, you reminded me of them just now." "You did, you know," Bill 3 pointed out to his billian comrade. "You sure did," Bill 4 confirmed with almost redolent pleasure. It was great to be up on all this, man oh man. "I guess I did," guessed Bill 2. It was a revelation. Those are always neat. "Did you say you are reminded of Juliette?" Bill 1 queried. His mind tended to stray along certain rather loopy lines, by no means a commentary on Juliette beyond that her wonderfulness struck a chord with our premier hero. "No I didn't say."
"Are you reminded of Juliette?" persisted our champion. "I don't know any Juliettes." How bereft can one be? For the Bills, there was only one Juliette, but be that as it may, Bill 1 felt an enormous urge to say "Oh." He did so, how could he not? "Do you know Juliette's sister?" asked Bill 2. Bill 2 did not actually know in any knowable way that Juliette indeed had a sister. He just knew that if she did, she (meaning this rumoured sister of Juliette) would necessarily be wonderful. "Sorry, I don't know her, either," replied Dave. "So where are you going?" asked Bill 3, endeavouring to gain more facts. Facts are the linchpin of knowledge, or something like that. You can't have too many. "I'm heading for work," answered Dave. "Do you know Larry?" asked Bill 4. He'd been casually wondering about manhole covers for a while now—if one can really be casual doing such a thing—but now wanted to get in on this great info onslaught. "I work with someone named Larry," said Dave. "Larry's great," opined Bill 4, proceeding on the interesting assumption that there is but one Larry, leastwise there's only one great one. "Yeah, he is," said Dave. "But hey, sorry, I have to be going." "You have to go, huhn?" said Bill 2 by way of keeping the sitch all clear and everything. "The old nose to the grindstone." "You must do what you must do," Bill 1 told Dave. Applying his nose to a grindstone is not, as yet, an experience that Bill had enjoyed or even experienced, but philosophically it made sense. "For instance, if you have to step into a puddle then that's what you have to do," averred Bill 2. "By the same token," added Bill 3, "if you don't have to step into a puddle then that is what you don't have to do." "That's right!" chirped Bill 2. "One of the things you don't have to do," clarified Bill 4 with verbal dexterity. "I'll keep that in mind," said Dave. "I think." 211
"That's what you should do," said Bill 2, nodding agreeably like a world gone sensible. "Well, I'll do that, then," Dave responded. "And if you see Juliette," said Bill 1, "tell her..." Our boy sauntered into a quagmire there, since he wasn't exactly sure what he wanted Juliette to be told. He knew, however, that she ought to be told. "Tell her hi," said Bill 2, coming to the rescue. "Well, okay, sure," replied Dave, an agreeable person as it happens. "Tell her sister hi, too," Bill 2 added. "In case Juliette has a sister, that is." As much as Bill 2 knew this putative sister was wonderful, he also knew she existed. She had to. "Okay, I'll do that. But I do have to leave." "Yes," said Bill 3. "You have to go to work." "I certainly do." "You could say hi to Larry, while you're there," suggested Bill 4. He'd been inspired to say this sentence, so that's what he did. "I sure could." Dave started moving away. "Well, so long. Oh, who should I say you are?" "Who did you have in mind?" asked Bill 1. "I meant what are your names?" "We only have one name," Bill 2 told Dave. "We're all Bills." "How about that," said Dave appreciatively. Four Bills together. "I'm Dave." "Larry knows us real well," said Bill 3. "For years and years," put in Bill 4. "Larry's a fascinating guy." "Yes he is. I'll tell him I met four guys named Bill." "Thanks," came a four-part Billian harmony. Dave nodded then strode away, taking long strides because his long legs were long enough to accommodate long strides. The Bills wandered along in their varied way. They discovered much, much more that compelled their radiant interest. Did you ever notice that stories never really end?
-- coda? no, it's really quite warm -The author, being an author, says "You don't know the Bills, do you?" The readers, being readers, look up and down the avenues of the world, hoping to submit themselves to an answer or two. The Bills exist regardless. "We could be everything and do everything," espoused Bill 1, à propos the moment in which he spoke. "We could do anything and be anything," declared Bill 2, adrift on a lively iceberg that perfectly describes his life. "There are spaces between where there are no spaces," Bill 3 felt compelled to alert everyone. If there is an everyone. "There is an esprit to every core," said Bill 4, which was nothing if not an unprovable assertion that could, but may not, last forever. Before moving on, which is a constancy that the world enjoys, the Bills said "So long." An agreeable sense of possible return nestled in the phrase. Go, Bills, go! The author being an author, closes with an epilogue, importance most naturally being a byword. The last word, and the author's intention to have it, is ever like that.