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THE MUTED SHOUT OF THE GRAY TOWER

by James Gardner

Disc O'Rock

by

James Gardner



Federal Agent Gordon Peale crushed acorns under his shoes, scattered gravel and made the transition from sidewalk to concrete stair, muttering. “That jerk-off. He couldn’t land his helicopter in an empty parking lot the size of a football field. Oh no; it had to be the size of two football fields, covered with grass, and a college football team... that bent winged beak-less buzzard of a chopper driver.”

A glass entrance door temporarily interrupted the homily which resumed after the door opened. “I hope those football guys kill the S.O.B.” The door closed, and divided hot muggy August from air-conditioned repose. Peale silently read the building’s directory: O’Keefe Hall. Chemical Engineering, Office of the Dean. . . . .Room 101.

O’Keefe Hall, once a public high school, smelled like oiled wood and crushed pencils. It tickled Peale’s nose and he sneezed. He peeked over both hands and his handkerchief and saw a black man in an immaculate white lab coat gazing back. He held a worn spiral bound notebook. Motioning ‘follow’ he took two steps, turned a door knob, and entered his office.

A black teenager, obviously the grown man’s son, hopped up and stared. “You sure got here quick.”

“Doctor Offenhauser, the little stone Frisbee episode has become a matter of national security. We need more information A.S.A.P., something I can fax,” said Peale.

"It'll be in here. The first part’s written by a high school kid, a friend of my son Offy."

Offy smiled at Peale. "We were in the group that found the discs."

Doctor Offenhauser held up a CD-R and placed it and the notebook softly on his mahogany desk. "I added a few notes myself, but mostly it’s what the kid wrote. The photos and video clips I mentioned are on this.”

Offy gestured at a chair. “Sit. You a real live FBI?”

Peale smiled. “Yep.”

Offy pulled out the chair, "Park it."

"Have a seat?" asked Doctor Offenhauser glaring at Offy.

Peale sat. He picked up the offering, smiled, thumbed pages and read:

Jerry’s Science Teacher said they was polished flint. We didn’t exactly steal them, you know.

We were all trying to ‘See Rock City, high atop Lookout Mountain’ up in Chattanooga, Tennessee, like it says on all the billboards by sneaking around the gate. Jerry’s baby brother ‘poof’ disappeared like a snowball in hell [‘hell’ crossed out] Miami. He’s ten and starts hollering because he fell through the ground. We could hear him hollering. A hole opened up right under his scrawny ass [crossed out] butt [also crossed out] self was a cave and we make a human chain to pull him out. It all took so much noise that we got caught for sneaking in. But we got Mike back out first. So we drove down to that little old drugstore at the base of Lookout Mountain.

Doctor Offenhauser interrupted Peale, “It’s an understandable read but... but it might take a few minutes to decode. Coffee?” He emphasized ‘coffee.’

“Professor, a little caffeine to go with all the adrenaline I pumped today might just put me into an early medical retirement.” Peale shook his head ‘no’ but then changed his mind, “Yes, I’ll take some coffee; with extra sugar and extra cream. We can drink to a world without Freddie.”

“Who Freddie?” said Offy.

"Speak English, my son," said Doctor Offenhauser.

“Freddie is my ‘Your Helicopter Pilot for Today.’ Freddie is a... I read his personnel file and...” Peale paused and decided on diplomacy, “He’s hard to live with. Everybody thinks so.” Peal paused again, changed his mind about diplomacy, and continued, “Today and everyday he finds somebody else to piss off or threaten or scare or all three. He’s a cartoon looking for a TV show."

“To be honest ‘Freddie the Pilot’ is also ‘Freddie the Nut Job’ and should be locked up. Christ, I have so many nut jobs to lock up and there are so few jails.” He winked at Professor Offenhauser, who laughed.

“Freddie sounds like a couple of my students,” said Offenhauser.

“My pal Mike has his moods,” added Offy.

“Won’t learn and won’t go home?” said Peale and sat and read: We got some Cokes. Jerry pulls out these flint discs that Mike hid in his pants that he got from the cave, the discs not the pants. There’s no end to the strange shit [crossed out] stuff [crossed out] things that these babies caused. In the drug store they busted a neon sign, exploded like an M-80 firecracker. Made the florescent lights melt and droop from the ceiling, and all of them electric toys started up by theyselves. We got ran out of the drugstore. As long as Jerry let them discs stay on the hood of his grand-momma’s car it wouldn’t start.

While we were trying to figure how to start the car, Mike spins one of the discs on the sidewalk and it pulls the hub caps off the right side of Grandmother’s old Chevy. She lent it to us. She said we should “See Seven States from Rock City," like was painted on the top of Old Man Wither's Barn. We bribed Mike to hold them and put him in the trunk. Then the car started. Mike’s OK. We gave him five bucks and a canned coke. But he did ride back in the trunk. Tough kid.

After we got back to Atlanta, Monday after school, we decided to let Offy’s daddy look at them. Offy is tan with brown splotches has big long ears and freckles. His dad teaches chemistry at Georgia Tech. So we took them to Doctor ‘O.’

“You’re Doctor ‘O?’”

“Yes, but they usually call me 'Doc O.’"

“And Offy.” Offy smiled and bounced to his toes and back. Peale nodded and smiled.

He put them on an old turntable that they have in the Chem. Department. Mike pulled them out of his pants first. We figured that was the safest place. Mikes hair all stood on end. Offy shocked Mike’s butt with one of ‘em. The bubble pump in the fish tank squirted water on the ceiling.

Peale glanced up. The fish tank and record player were none the worse for wear, “You played them? Like a 45 rpm record?”

“I laid one of the discs down on my Grand-Daddy’s Hi-Fi. I keep it here to remind me where I came from. He pawned it to help pay my college bills my first quarter. The hi-fi, while not plugged in I might add, not only came on but played a strange winsome melody,” said Doc O.

Peale read: We got head-lights and a bunch of cool cave shit [crossed out] stuff, [crossed out] things, helmets and gloves and safety glasses. We got some of those trail food, mixed oats and nuts with little bits of chocolate and yo-gut. Some bat do-do got in Jerry’s that made Mike puked and...

The Fed glanced up at the Professor. His face wrinkled into a frown. “Cool cave shit and Bat do-do?”

Doctor Offenhauser said, “The report needs some editing. We all went back to Chattanooga properly equipped for caving. Turn to page four.”

Peal turned, read: We followed a little underground creek. The water rotated the flint disc thing, lights flashed lots of color like a disco ball, and music played. Jerry threw Mike in an’ made ‘em retrieved the disc and apppologizzed [sic] to Doctor Ofenhas [crossed out] O.

“This kid is writing ‘sic’ after each misspelling. If his English teacher didn’t smoke weed before she got this kid in class, she probably does now.” Peale rolled his eyes and stood. “I need a copy of this.”

“Not all secondary school teachers are female. I used to teach high school English myself. There’s the copy machine,” said Doctor Offenhauser pointing.

Peale, tapping the notebook, said. “Have you got a secretary or an aide? We could have our interview while it’s being copied. I'd like to speak with you and Offy together. If we talk now you won’t need to come by to my office tomorrow.”

Peale jerked straight, groped his pants’ pockets, answered his cell phone, and said “Well, flash him your badge, Freddie the Fed. Tell him you always park your helicopter like that. Hell; let him call the FAA all he wants. You’ve got that little talk scheduled with Air Traffic Control anyway. YES, I do think you knocked one of the antennae off Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport’s control tower earlier today. You can ‘one call does it all’ with the FAA; LATER!”

Peale covered the phone with a hand, “Shit-head Freddie has started an argument with the football coaching staff. He left the chopper in the middle the practice field. Surprise; the football team wants to play football.”

He said into the phone, “Tell him you’re an alumnus that’s a big contributor to the football department or division or... Yeah program, to the football program. You could just move the chopper, Freddie. No, I’m sure it wouldn’t fit in your... That thing belongs to the US Government, Freddie. It had better be in one, useful, piece, when I see it again.” Peale closed his phone.

Agent Peale returned to his light reading: Diameter, ten centimeters half cm thick at the outer edge 2 cm thick in the center. 1 cm diameter hole in the middle. Seems liquid inside or has something internal that moves. Weight about 100 grams. Will fly like a Frisbee when thrown.

“You must have written this part. It’s legible and coherent. The kids were throwing these?”

“Little ten year old Mike threw one about thirty meters into the splash pool at the base of the subterranean falls. It flew well. You ready for that coffee?” said Doc O and poured a cup. The odor of Bestcafe` promised liquid peace.

Peale took a sip of coffee and said, “’Good from the first drop,’ just like on TV. So there’s something inside huh? Of the rock CD’s. Rock... er, flint CD’s. Disco Rocks?” Agent Peale smiled.

“They’re alive. No they don’t breathe or anything, but... They have a lively feel, like grandmother’s wind up alarm clock,” said Doc O.

“They’re clockwork? Gears and stuff?”

“No, but you feel movement inside. Like a plastic bottle full of motor oil. They definitely generate sound and magnetic fields rather easily. They broadcast radio waves too.”

Peale grabbed at his pants again, and said, “Excuse me.”

“Who? The campus cops want to what? Tell them, tell them... Hello? Freddie?” Gordon Peale shook his cell phone and slapped it on his palm. Put it to his ear.

“I don’t know why I hit the phone; it never helps. But my call dropped or maybe Freddie did. Freddie’s an ass. He’s probably started a fight over nothing... again.”

“Will you come with me? Somebody is... on the phone it’s hard to tell who’s doing what to who; I mean whom. Somebody’s bitching about the chopper. Freddie’s got a badge, and a gun and poor negotiating skills. Did I say ‘poor?’ He negotiates like a concrete mule. I might need you to fix a parking ticket for our chopper or make bail for Freddie or maybe arrange for his burial. We’ll know after we get there.”

Doc ‘O,’ half smiled and said, “It’s a short stroll to Rose Bowl Field. I don’t have any pull with the football program or the campus police per se, but I do know the head football coach and the top cop.”

“You’ve got to have more clout than Freddie. Are there cheerleaders over there? I heard a girl giggle before the call dropped.”

***

The 1928 Georgia Tech football team played in The Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California. For motivational purposes they named their practice site in Atlanta, Rose Bowl Field. The name stuck.

It’s only a short block from O’Keefe Hall and Doc ‘O’s’ office. But Gordon Peale, Federal Agent, and Lewis Offenhauser, Dean and Professor of Chemical Engineering, had to go almost another quarter mile to get around the cement block wall around Rose Bowl Field.

The two professionals walked quickly, trailed some ten meters by Offy. But they were all soon running. Doc 'O' got a phone call from his son, “Daddy, I just got a call from Mike. The cops are talking jail and that Freddy guy is waving a gun.”

After finding the end of the not so great [but plenty long] Wall of Georgia, Peale and Offenhauser sprinted through an open gate.

“Where is it?” wheezed Peale.

Doc ‘O’ pointed and wheezed himself, “Past the baseball field.”

The spectacle stunned the eye and assaulted the ear. Flint saucers buzzed through the air back and forth flashing colored lights and playing music. A few made it over the baseball field but they turned around and came back. Some landed near Freddie and his helicopter. Others just flew by belching noise and light. A hundred uniformed college football players ran and threw and caught the flying discs.

Peale and Offenhauser passed two wheel barrows, a steel oxygen bottle, and a golf cart that were bouncing three meters into the air. They hit each other and the ground. Sometimes they were in formation, sometimes not. A small pick-up truck tapped its tires to the rhythms and appeared to be contemplating joining the fun. No one seemed to be hurt, yet.

A crowd knotted around a parked blue and gray helicopter. Coaches and cops, with an assortment of ‘other’ held a heated argument. Freddie, distinguishable not only for extensive pushing and shoving, but also for yelling, “I’m a Federal Agent,” waved his badge and Glock automatic pistol.

“Get that egg beater out of here," yelled a coach.”

Freddy stopped yelling and sounded confused, "Egg beater?"

But Freddie waved his badge and shouted again, “Mom said, I mean; no way, assholes. I’m a Fed and I’ve got a gun.”

Peale momentarily held his knees and studied the grass. Doc ‘O’ drank a Sports Aid drink he got from the water-boy/girl squad attached to what was once a Division One football practice.

“Cut a dude some slack. Let me have a Sports Aid. Thanks, girlfriend.” Gordon Peale tilted and drank ‘Blewe.’

With tongue and cheek returned to a usable state, if strange color, Doctor Offenhauser invoked deity. “My God, would you look at that; a half-time show from outer space.”

A TV news crew taped. Their reporter commentated. “A new kind of workout: stone cold Frisbees. Yellow Jacket Football will never be the same after today.

From the twenty-five foot observation tower a horn sounded; followed by a PA announcement intended to coordinate practice. “It’s five oh five, position drills. It’s time for position drills, people.” The frustrated female voice added. “Turkey, move your helicopter.”

Freddie lost all decorum. He flipped his Glock’s safety to ‘off’ and popped several rounds into the air. “I am so misunderstood. Mom said when in doubt baffle with bullshit. This is a top secret,” pause, “Top secret something. Back away. Federal Currier, carrier,” pause, “Federal Agent.” Pause “I’ll call my mother!”

Freddie’s blistering profanity and periodic gunfire soon cleared the area around the helicopter. Mike put one of the stone Frisbees in his pants for later. Offy saw him do it and did likewise. Jerry, further into puberty than either and remembering the strange qualities of the discs, tucked one under his arm. He didn’t want to lose any hubcaps.

Functionally foaming at the mouth Freddie said, “Back off, Peale. I’ll tell. Get that funny looking big eared,” Pause “Hey, that’s Doctor Often-Fucker isn’t it?”

“Offen, Hauser; that’s Offenhauser. You may call me Doc ‘O,’ if that’s easier.”

Freddie blushed pink and then blanched white, “I hear my mother calling me.” The helicopter started quickly and was airborne in another second.

Offy groped in his pants and produced his disc. “Son, what are you doing?” said Doctor Offenhauser. Offy smiled and shrugged handing the disc to his father.

“Doc ‘O,’ let me see that.” Peale held out his hand.

“Sure, just remember they’re probably weapons,” cautioned Doc ‘O.’”

“Thanks.”

A voice thundered from the disc, “Peale, I’m gonna tell." It softened, "I mean write you up.”

“It’s a radio too? That blithering ass,” with palms down Agent Gordon Peale took a soothing breath and let it out slowly shaking his head. “How Freddie has managed to hold on to his job this long defies logic. But I’ve seen it myself... reports that clearly show Freddie's incompetence get lost or deleted and somehow never make it to the personnel office.”

Peale smiled and said, “Little Disc O’ Rock, friend Freddie needs a lesson.” He pitched the disc at the retreating helicopter. It accelerated. In a single heartbeat the stone disc traveled as fast as a rifle shot, splitting the air and leaving a vapor trail.

The explosion shook the ground. The retort pressed every ear. A wave of hot air hit the ground bringing the odors of jet exhaust and burnt upholstery. People cringed and ducked. Shredded aluminum alloys rained onto the baseball diamond along with frost coated stone Frisbees. Small clouds of lint swirled about. The disc Peale threw hurried back and landed at his feet.

“Damn,” said Offy.

“Son, don’t use words like that,” said Doctor Offenhauser.

Peale picked up the stone Frisbee, slipped his arm around Offy’s thin bony shoulders and handed the now cold disc back to the startled teen, who brushed frost from it.

“I wouldn’t put that thing in my pants,” said Peale.

Before Offy could reply a snowball the size of a small helicopter made a two bounce landing on the south end of Rose Bowl Field, crumbled, and deposited Freddie next to the first aid station. Thin wisps of fog curled from Freddie. A slightly darker smoke arose from his ears and nose.

Using Freddie's voice Disc O’ Rock said, “Peale, Momma’s gonna fire you.”

“Doc O, let’s go back to your office. I can use some more coffee. Got any Jack D? I need to write a report to Freddie’s mother.

“Dear Boss, let me explain how I..., accidentally of course..., shot down Freddie. He flew away in his helicopter leaving his new Frisbee behind. And I just...”


Read more stories by this author



2011-05-15 19:07:12
Comedy is the most difficult thing to do in speculative fiction, I think; here's a fine example of how to do it properly.




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Books by Quantum Muse contributors and friends.
THE MUTED SHOUT OF THE GRAY TOWER

by James Gardner


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