Sep 3, 2010

Transparent feline people with beaks on a slow night!?

Seattle it blinks. S-e-a-t-t-l-e it spells out letter by letter in hot pink followed by a brown glow, a fade and three more blinks. What kind of towns have signs like this I thought. This can't really be Seattle can it? Then again I've met a few people from out there; nerds who are always fooling around with their computers. I wouldn't be surprised if this is just another one of their elaborate holiday pranks.

Suddenly the train jerked back into motion and the conductor swung up from the platform and waddled down the aisle. Trailing after him were four people I can only describe as transparent. Must have gotten on in "Seattle" or wherever we are.

"Hey! You! Conductor!" I called out as he brushed past, "What town is this?"

He turned his head quickly. The motion jerked the eye holes in his black cat mask around to the back of his head making him look for a moment like a man with a shapeless black bag on his head, like a condemned man.

"Have a seat," I said, sort of on impulse. He realigned his eye holes and stared down at me, his coal black eyes flickering. After a pause he sat down, sweeping his tail across his lap in a graceful feline motion.

"I'm not really supposed to sit down on the job," he said, "Keep movin' is the idea. But, hey, I'll tell you. It's a pretty slow night." There was silence for a while as the train rumbled along. "So, what's your line of work?" he said, eyeing the packages that were now moving around on the seat.

"Salesman," I said. "Chicken salesman."

One of the boxes started to shake and the head of a snake shot out of the top of one of them. I clapped the head back in but the conductor or cat or whatever he was didn't seem to notice.

"What outfit you with?" he asked fiddling with the safety pin on his tail.

"Small outfit. You probably haven't heard of it. Part of the ALBC." His ears perked up at that so I decided to fill him in.

"Let me put it this way. We've been recognized by the ALBC for preserving vanishing livestock breeds. Now when I say vanishing I don't mean endangered species. What I mean here by vanishing here is poof... as in gone... as in now you see 'em now you don't. That's the kind of thing we do. Ever seen a chicken vanish?"

Suddenly all the people with beaks twisted their heads out into the aisle, clacking their beaks and shrieking. I watched them twitching and screaming. Must have touched some kind of nerve.

When I looked back, the conductor was gone. But the cat suit was still sitting there. Same position. Tail across its lap. Empty. It flicked its whiskers, opened its cloth mouth and screamed, "OXYDIZE THE GARGOYLES."

This is the segment written by Laurie Anderson for NPR's Halloween pass-it-on story from 1996. 'Commentator Spooky Story' is available in NPR's archive, and whole script can be still read in the Teh Internet Archive, yay!

Listen to her part only, edited out from the whole show: