Tupac Shakur may have presented a goofball personality offstage, but in front of the mic, or on a movie set, he was dead serious, fearless, unrepentant and mad as hell. The jokes are grim, the humor is black, and the R.I.P. - D.I.S* Alongside Sheen (2) - Trouble Again (Cassette) are murderous. Their jagged, astringent, rigorously cerebral early stuff drew more from Beefheart and Zappa. The two tracks here that seem to have made it to the web scot-free are the lusciously retro psych-pop gem Munoz, and the punkish, politically fueled Naming Names.
Their darker, louder, more punk side comes across with the overtly Siouxsie-esque Newtown and Adventures Close to Home. But Weird Al is awesome! Popeil does the same with the Bs, and King of Suede goofs on the Police. Weird Al is such a funny guy that he could take a completely boring album like Bad by Michael Jackson and make it interesting.
The trouble with what he does is that as the audience for top 40 has eroded, so has his fan base: he could spoof Lady Gaga all he wants, but who over age ten knows any of her songs? Which is mystifying because this is the best thing he ever recorded. This one could be found playing over the PA in every cool bar and club in New York in the summer of ; Ambel has since remastered and tweaked it. Michel Paul regrouped the band in the late 90s to cash in on the punk nostalgia movement before his tragic early death at age 44; a regrouped band continues to tour Europe, playing the hits.
Iconic in latin music circles, the Joe Cuba Sextet were the most popular of the bugalu bands that sprang up in Spanish Harlem in the s, blending the most danceable elements of soul music with catchy horn-and-piano-driven salsa. The famous crossover hit is Bang Bangcovered by thousands of acts in the decades since it topped the charts in The rest of the album is a mix of latin soul and ridiculously catchy, slinky straight-up salsa Asi Soy and Mujer Divina, for example with a thicket of percussion bandleader Cuba was a conguero and resonantly catchy hooks along with some cool innovative touches like the eerie vibraphone on La Malanga Brava.
Alafia was a mambo hit; the final track, Cocinando i. Conventional wisdom is that the audience for Renaissance vocal music is pretty much limited to those who sing it, and who attend churches where it is performed. One look at the crowds who come out for this sort of thing disproves that theory: the appeal of early music transcends everything, including time. This collection is only the second to make its debut at this site on this list.
The Tallis Scholars are hardly the only ensemble to sing these works, but their influence as performers, popularizers and archivists rescuing treasures largely unheard for decades or even centuries cannot be underestimated. Many are ornate, with harmonies that span several octaves; others are spare and haunting, as one would expect from music made in an era where life was even shorter and more brutish than it is now.
This collection is just out in Fall and available from Harmonia Mundi. He wrote string quartets, piano music and symphonies, but he supported himself as a Paris church organist and his works for organ are arguably his finest. He was reputedly a gentle soul: his students loved him. He wore his heart on his sleeve and in the process created a body of work that resonates with an intensity that ranges from poignant to triumphant.
Reggae triumphantly made its way home to Africa: some of the greatest roots artists have come out of that continent. Arguably the finest artist singing in English was Lucky Dube, who was already a mbaqanga star in his native South Africa when, inspired by Peter Tosh, he decided to switch to reggae in Dube, a talented keyboardist, built his signature sound with swooping, pitch-bending organ and synthesizer lines over a traditional roots rhythm section and horns.
He would live to see apartheid dismantled, go on to tour with Peter Gabriel and Midnight Oil before being murdered in a carjacking in In a way, this is a coming-of-age album.
Her breathy, nuanced voice has never been more compelling than it is here: it packs an understated wallop. The wistful House on the Lake recalls a childhood vacation spot that by implication will soon be lost forever in the upcoming auction; Like a Wave and I Was Watching You also reach back in vain for lost moments.
But the standouts here are the angry ones: the smoldering Like Fugitives captures the family dodging curious eyes and would-be well-wishers, while Burn Down This Town marks the single moment where Cash or her narrator standin loses her composure. Behind her, her husband and lead guitarist John Leventhal leads the band deftly through a series of Americana-flavored acoustic rock themes.
Like an album by John Coltrane and McCoy Tyner, this is a meeting between two giants of their field early in their careers. Mos Def and Talib Kweli were already stars of the hip-hop underground when they put out this rich and surprisingly subtle lyrical masterpiece in Released just at the point where major-label rap was getting the substance corporatized out of it, the rhymes here are self-aware without being mawkish, socially aware without being politically correct.
Determination and the eerie, hypnotic Twice inna Lifetime. Since all their early and their most recent material is so consistently strong, we picked this album, their major label debut, from This release gets the nod over the rest of their catalog because A unlike a lot of their songs, most of the tracks here have bass in addition to guitar and B the annoying nerdiness that occasionally surfaces on their other albums is pretty much absent.
This is sort of a greatest-hits cd plus punked-out covers of surf classics. The best of the originals here is the eerie, jangly, Asian-tinged Tetsuwan Atomu. If you like this, everything they did prior to is worth a listen. If you like country music, everything Emmylou Harris did back in the 70s is worth hearing.
Like her old duet pal Gram Parsons, Emmylou was retro before retro was cool: the playing, and the songs reach back to an earlier era before top 40 pop started to infiltrate Nashville. But the real showstopper here is Too Far Gone: a lot of good singers have done it, but her hushed anguish is viscerally intense.
Another first-class Emmylou album that was a contender for this list is Red Dirt Girl, with Buddy Miller on lead guitar, a collection of excellent original songs from which fell out of contention on account of a Dave Matthews appearance on one of the songs. There you can find out where and where the event is happening in your part of the world.
Every year during the holiday season, there are processions of people carring boomboxes, laptops, ipod decks and amplified walkmans, all blasting Unsilent Night in semi-unison to show their support for world peace. The longer the R.I.P. - D.I.S* Alongside Sheen (2) - Trouble Again (Cassette), the greater the doppler effect, and the cooler it sounds. Arrival by about PM is advised.
OK, go ahead and hate on this. But not this sprawling double live lp. None of this is meant to be taken all that seriously. Payne would go on to play with the Rolling Stones and many others; Barrere put out an excellent solo album in and pretty much since then has led a regrouped, female-fronted version of the band who have never reached the heights they hit here.
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For albumsand an explanation of what this is all about — other than just plain fun — click here. Her studio albums were popular for obvious reasons, but her live shows were beyond hilarious. The big over-the-top hit — a Beethoven spoof — is the Fuck You Symphony. This one was reissued sometime in the 90s as a twofer with the equally raunchy Live and Outrageous album. Now in her sixties, Jackson has toned it down a bit, most recently as the afternoon drive dj on an Atlanta radio station.
James McMurtry — Childish Things. A growling, cynically lyrical Americana rock songwriter in the twangy Steve Earle vein, James McMurtry plays midsize venues around the world to a cult audience who hang on every word. The rumbling title track alludes to the hopelessness of depressed rural areas that McMurtry has chronicled so well throughout his career; the swaying, funky Restless looks at the hope or lack thereof for relationships there.
An ex-slave? A Holocaust survivor? Lefty Frizzell was a legendary Texas honkytonk singer from the 50s, a guy who sounded a lot older than he was.
By the 70s, now in his 40s, he sounded close to He drank himself to death at 47 in But he left a rich legacy. But the melodies are sublime, a lush, rich wash of clanging, overtone-drenched Rickenbacker guitar textures.
We just might make an exception for these guys. Marcel Khalife — Taqasim. As the leader of the Al-Mayadeen Ensemble in the 70s, he achieved extraordinary popularity for his politically-charged, anthemic, classically-tinged songwriting, often using lyrics by the great Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. Together with his human rights efforts on the part of the Palestinians, Khalife came under fire from the anti-Palestinian wing in Israel and was eventually driven into exile in Paris.
This album, a hauntingly terse instrumental triptychpays homage to Darwish. Backed only by bass and drums, Khalife builds a tense, shadowy atmosphere, brooding and often downright tormented; mournful resignation gives way to a stately dance that eventually goes deeper into darkness, with a barely restrained desperation. Likewise, torrents are hard to come by. Pretty much everything P-Funk ever did. This is the core of the early group: the brilliant and underrated Tyrone Lampkin on drums, Bootsy on bass, Eddie Hazel on guitar and Bernie Worrell on swirling, gothic-tinged organ putting his New England Conservatory degree to good use.
The album closes with a politically charged gospel numberthe guys in the choir trading verses with the girls. Gogol Bordello may not have been the first gypsy punks, but they took the sound gobal. As usual, frontman Eugene Hutz alternates between English and Ukrainian when least expected; this time out, he adds Spanish to the mix.
There are also plenty of surreal stories here: the bizarre East Village bathhouse scenario Avenue B ; the crazed wedding narrative Dogs Were Barkingand a far more punk version of Start Wearing Purple than the one on the Everything Is Illuminated soundtrack. Toward the end of the album, the songs stretch out, with reggae and dub on Undestructable and Mishto and latin on Santa Marinella.
Burnside played a whole bunch of different styles, depending on the times. He started out as an early 70s style, Marvin Gaye-inspired soul man, went into Chicago style blues, took a fortuitously brief turn into early 80s pop before finding his groove in hypnotic Mississippi hill country blues.
Fans love this style for its trance-inducing, pounding vamps that hang on a single chord for minutes at a clip: it works as well as dance music as it does for stoners and drinkers.
This live set recorded at a rock club in Oregon is his last and best album, capturing him at the absolute top of his game, amped to eleven and blasting through one careening number after another. At one point, he indulges in a little autobiography, but the crowd wants tunes.
The best track here might be the eerie, ominously clattering hobo tune Jumper on the Line ; Brown gets to take his usual long slide solo on Going Down South and makes the most of it. Burnside died of a stroke in ; his grandsons Cedric and Kenny continue to play blues in the same raw, rustic vein.
This one from really solidified his reputation, a retro, Coltrane-inspired triumph. Pretty much everything Garrett else has done since is also worth hearing. Dolly Parton had written a ton of good songs by the time she put this one out inthe second in a series of extremely successful acoustic albums that saw her return to her bluegrass roots.
Back intwo of the biggest weedheads in hip-hop teamed up for an all-night blunt session, brought along some relatively minimal backing tracks, wrote a bunch of lyrics and this is the result.
One of the most kick-ass party albums ever made, Redman comes as close here to playing elder statesman as he ever has, pushing Meth to take his game to the highest level. How High would become a movie theme. Da RockwilderMaaad Crew and especially Fire Ina Hole are classic examples of hook-based hip-hop that keeps going just as memorably after the chorus flies by; at the opposite extreme, Well Alrightcha and 1,2,1,2 have a freestyle feel.
Full disclosure — as a child, one of us had a favorite recording of this which turned out to have been conducted by a member of the Nazi party. That was the end of that. But is there a version that stands out among all of them? You bet there is. Louis Symphony is loaded with dynamics, vividly illustrating what are essentially astrological themes. Most of these will be instantly familiar to moviegoers, particularly the suspenseful Mars, the Bringer of War. Venus, the Bringer of Peace is cast as a mystical tone poem; Mercury is puckish with bubbling brass; likewise, Jupiter is boisterous and bustling.
But the three segments here that are absolutely riveting are the hauntingly bell-like, funereal Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age ; a big, evil, ominous Uranus, the Magician ; and a chilling, viscerally otherworldly version of Neptune, the Mystic who is more like Hades here.
Choosing the Beatles box, or the Pink Floyd box, for example, takes away the fun of being able to pick an unexpected gem out of all the goodies. But Ellis McDaniel was a lot more than just a hitmaker comedian who liked to do bit parts in cult movies: he was one of the most technologically advanced musicians of his era.
A few of the later tracks here are marginal, but most of this stuff is choice — and in the public domain, at least in Europe. As chronicled in the documentary film King of Bluegrass, Jimmy Martin was a tragic character — a mean drunk, a bad bandmate, a micromanager as a bandleader — and one of the greatest figures in the history of the music.
His high lonesome vocals and biting, no-nonsense guitar picking continue to influence bluegrass bands from coast to coast. The only duds here are the ones about his hunting dogsand if the sheer number of these that he wrote throughout his career are to be taken at face value, he went through as many hounds as bandmates.
The songs are longer, more ornate and complex, foreshadowing the art-rock direction Zedek would take in the years following the demise of the band. Brokaw invents new elements with his trademark leads, expertly negotiating an underworldly labyrinth of passing tones. The album opens with the epic One Piece, continues in that vein with Recidivist before going more punk with the slightly shorter Stomp and then eventually the loudest track here, the screaming, riff-rocking Saints Around My Neck.
The most magnificent track is the kiss-off anthem New Coat, another scorching dirge. As the leader of dark, artsy Nashville gothic rockers Ninth HouseMark Sinnis and his ominous baritone have been a forceful presence in the New York music underground since the late 90s. This one mixes brand new tracks with a couple of radically reworked Ninth House songs and classic covers.
Likewise, the cover of St. The catchy, rustically swaying Skeletons and the downright morbid, Johnny Cash-inspired In Harmony wind it up. Much of this, like Porpoise Mouth and the hypnotic instrumental Section 43is unusually carnivalesque and eerie for these guys.
None of us here can vouch for how this sounds under the influence of LSD but the band reputedly tried it and gave it their seal of approval. This one, fromis the only one of his albums that has a fully realized, lushly produced atmosphere from beginning to end, Smith playing virtually all of the instruments himself including the drums.
Nobody wrote about drugs, or specifically heroin, more elliptically or poetically than this guy; here, he broadened his worldview and it paid off. Elliott Smith was murdered in in a vicious knife attack. His killer remains at large. Like the Sonny Boy Williamson anthology on this list seethis one gets the nod over the dozens of other Jordan releases out there simply because it has more songs: 46 in all over two cds. Actually, that was probably Link Wray — Louis Jordan was the king of s jump blues who inspired guys like Bill Haley and later, Elvis.
A charismatic, wildly energetic performer, bandleader and saxophonist, his boisterous, cartoonish and sometimes buffoonish songs have a tongue-in-cheek lyrical sophistication that sometimes gets forgotten as the party gets underway.
King and dozens of others ; G. The two standout tracks here are the raging News at Tenan alienated kid going off on his conformist, complacent dad, and the artsy, Asian-flavored epic Letter from Hirotold snidely from the point of view of a kamikaze pilot who was luckier than most.
The album closes with Bunkersa postapocalyptic reggae-punk number. This was a hard choice. The game plan here is still pretty much to pick one album per artist, and Waits is a guy pretty much everyone agrees on, someone who arguably deserves four or five on this list. And Starving in the Belly of a Whale is the most surreal of them all. Frontman Oatie Kato and his cohorts Madd a. Their follow-up album, No Goats No Glory, had another sizeable hit, Wake and Bakeplenty of pot references, but no more politics.
And that was that. But we still have this classic. The Dirty Three haunt the fringes where jazz, rock and film music intersect. Alice Wading sets the stage, slowly unwinding and then leaping to doublespeed. The t itle track builds from pensive to purposeful to downright dramatic; Long Way to Go with No Punch is truly long, roaring and atmospheric. Campilongo is a virtuoso guitarist, a favorite of the Guitar World crowd, equally at home with jazz, spaghetti western, surf music, western swing, skronky funk and straight-up rock.
His signature trick is a subtly eerie tremolo effect that he achieves by bending the neck of his Telecaster ever so slightly. Why this one? Mouse is a feast of clever dynamics and tricks like mimicking the sound of backward masking; Monkey in a Movie cinematically blends surf, funk, skronk and trip-hop. This compilation features old songs from the late 20s through the 40s about smoking pot, and occasionally, snorting coke.
The others have proliferated thanks to youtube and file sharing, but when the compilation came out init was a tremendous achievement…for those who like funny songs about drugs, at least. And as ecstatically fun as their early albums are, this one from is their most diverse, and most original, maybe because it draws on the songwriting talent of just about everyone in the band while Shane was going through a…um…down period. Twilight's brow furrowed.
It's an ooze that envelopes you and eats you, consuming your soul. Megan opened her mouth, but quickly closed it. Twilight looked around, quickly spotting the seemingly solidified rainbow. She craned her head and neck up, finally cantering back and whinnying. Did I do that? Dash shrugged.
The rainbow shuddered slightly, but remained intact. Rainbow Dash looked back at the other three and shrugged. What about you? Twilight scratched her forehead with a hoof and her eyes twitched. A few strands of hair from her mane suddenly stood up. She looked to Dash. She looked back up and squinted. I am so awesome, nothing can slow me down! There was a half-minute of silence before Twilight chuckled.
I'd love to stay and do some major research into Megan's eyes widened slightly. I'll help! Dash looked back at Twilight over her shoulder as Megan disappeared inside the house. I mean she acts like she knows all this stuff but she's not telling us anything, and she just wants to rush off to help us against the dragon? Twilight bit her lower lip, then shook her head.
There is something weird here, and I want more information from her. Besides," she looked up at the rainbow and the hole leading back home, "this dragon's a whole lot meaner than the last one.
We'll need all the help we can get! Megan ran inside to her bedroom. She grabbed a pair of knee-high work boots and pulled them on, followed by a coat from the closet and a pair of leather gloves with skid-resistant palms.
Megan grabbed a backpack and, with a bit of hesitation, grabbed the photo album from the trunk and slid it in. She stopped at a gun safe set in the corner of the room and unlocked it, pulling out a bandoleer of. She pulled out a Marlin Model rifle and checked the chamber before slinging it over her shoulder. Megan took a moment to check herself over in the mirror, letting old memories wash over her. Once in the kitchen, she grabbed a few more supplies and stuffed them into her backpack.
She paused at her cell phone, then shrugged and unplugged it from the recharging cord. The expression fell away and she clutched the phone. She peered through the glass at the unicorn, pegasus and dragon, feeling her heartstrings tug in seven different directions. Megan suddenly shook her head.
Dragon to stop now! She scribbled a brief note her family before hanging it from the refrigerator. If you're reading this, then I'm still gone. I don't have time to explain, but some old friends need my help.
Call Danny or Molly for the full story. Tell them I've gone back. They'll understand. Satisfied, Megan stepped outside to find the three huddled together. Twilight nodded, but kept her eyes on Megan. The top of my horn only goes up to the bottom of your mammary glands, and I don't want only the bottom half of you showing up in Ponyville. Megan blushed slightly, but she knelt besides Twilight. Rainbow Dash and Spike huddled close to her too.
Twilight's horn glowed and her eyes screwed shut. A wind picked up before all four beings were enveloped in a bright flash of light. When it faded, all four had vanished from sight. The world around Megan wobbled for a bit before it snapped back into focus.
She looked up at the blue sky. Twilight panted slightly and dropped down to her haunches. I didn't know it'd be that difficult! Megan stood up. She looked around and drank in the scenery. A dark forest almost out of a fairy tale stood to her right. Her gaze drifted along a mountain ridge far in the distance, finally settling on an indistinct city set into the cliffside. Twilight followed her gaze and drew herself up. The princesses live there. And when You seem a bit She cleared her throat and held out her arms.
A dull-pink pony with a straight mane suddenly jumped into the air, gasping. Her coat suddenly brightened, and her mane expanded much like a balloon. She ran up to Dash and tackled her, throwing her forelegs around her neck and crest.
Dash grunted and pushed with her forelegs. Pinkie Pie hopped up and over to Twilight, wrapping her forelegs around her neck and squeezing so hard she turned dark purple. She grabbed onto Megan's neck, forcing her to hold out her arms in order to support Pinkie's body. Megan stared at the pony in her arms, leaning back slightly and arching an eyebrow.
Pinkie Pie craned her neck around almost a hundred-eighty degrees. So I know you're not from Ponyville. Then again, you're not a pony, are you? Or inner space? Or medium space? Oh well. It doesn't matter! Megan swallowed and nodded, looking around. She blew on it several times before it flapped up. Pinkie Pie jumped out as a white unicorn and yellow pegasus ran up, embracing Twilight, Spike, and Dash in a series of complicated hugs and exchanges.
The unicorn kissed Spike lightly on the cheek and the dragon fell back, swooning as his face burned red. She suddenly looked up at Megan and smiled. Functional but also fashionable? Twilight walked up to Megan's side. She pointed to the unicorn. Fluttershy hopped out from behind Dash and looked to the ground. Dash leaned in close and rested her head and neck over Fluttershy's neck. We're all right. Twilight, meanwhile, looked to the dark foreboding forest looming before her.
Is she out of her mind? I—" She suddenly felt the top of her head. I think Applejack shouted something about going to kill the dragon, but we were all in too much shock over what happened to you.
Twilight shook her head. Now—" she suddenly looked up at Megan "—are you all right? Megan swallowed and wiped her brow, noting sweat on her hand.
Just fine! Not the Applejack I know. Can't be! But what if it is? And Cloudsdale? They were just Twilight nodded. She suddenly trotted back, eyes wide. Megan looked up, following the direction of Twilight's hoof as Dash flapped her wings and flew up.
She gasped as she saw a thin black line against the sky. Megan slowly backpedaled, keeping her eyes on the sky. Dash stopped in midair right before the tear in space. The Wonderbolts have to let me in now once I audition for them at the Gala! Gather 'round! Megan reached behind and pulled the rifle slung over her shoulder up and over.
Twilight continued speaking as the ponies and Spike stood there. Twilight looked up and Megan looked down, the two locking eyes on one another. Megan let go of her rifle with her right hand, letting the buttpad hit the dirt as she held onto the barrel with her left.
Twilight glared right back up, meeting Megan's stare. Megan looked away. She spun around on her heels and faced the Everfree Forest. She looked to everyone. Pinkie, you're next. Keep your Pinkie Sense honed," she said, muttering the last few words. Then me and Spike, Rarity, and, finally, Megan. I'd better write a letter to the princess asking for backup. This dragon might be more than we can handle! Megan shouted after her. Rainbow Dash opened her mouth, closed it, and unfurled her wings, jumping up and hovering off the ground.
This has been one of the most random afternoons I've had in a while. That's saying something. Megan lifted her rifle back up and began sliding cartridges out of the bandoleer around her chest and loading them into the magazine, one at a time. She glanced down as Fluttershy walked over, half her face covered by her pink bangs.
She slid the safety on and knelt down onto one knee, holding out her free hand and smiling. It's nice to meet you, Fluttershy. Don't worry, we'll get Applejack back! Fluttershy extended a foreleg and laid it against the palm of Megan's hand.
That is Megan hesitated before reaching over and grabbing the butt of the rifle and holding it up. I'm putting little containers called cartridges that have an explosive powder in them. And when they're struck on the end, the powder ignites and sends a smaller bit of metal called a bullet out through the tube. Fluttershy stepped forward and leaned back on her haunches, holding out both forelegs. I know it's an odd request, but it would help tremendously.
There was a pause before Megan lowered her rifle and opened her mouth. Fluttershy peered in, pushing her lips aside. That explains quite a bit!
Rarity walked over, with Rainbow Dash hovering about and Pinkie Pie bouncing around. She tilted her head to the side and narrowed her eyes. But really, Megan, wouldn't you want something with a bit more pizzazz? A bit more glamor, a bit more in the way of haute couture?
Rainbow Dash hovered over Megan's shoulder. She might go overboard on the gems, but if Rarity makes you clothing, it's top-notch and makes you look awesome! Rarity batted her eyes in Dash's direction and smiled. Hopefully this little nonsense with a dragon won't spoil the festivities. At the mention of Canterlot, Megan stood and turned, staring off at the far-off city built into the mountainside.
When was it made the capital? Spike groaned as he appeared in the library with a flash of light and Twilight beside him.
He shook his head. Twilight shook her head as her horn glowed and a roll of parchment and quill floated over to Spike. And I want to let Princess Celestia know we'll need backup concerning the dragon. Spike unrolled the parchment and took the quill in hand. And she's pretty friendly too. Twilight's head drooped.
Besides, you've seen how she reacted to your name, not to mention Applejack's! She cleared her throat. Unfortunately, we will need help in dealing with him. Also, a She's come back with us to help find Applejack in the Everfree Forest and I remember something about her. But, at the same time, I don't. Twilight glanced over and narrowed her eyes. Your faithful student, Twilight Sparkle. Spike rolled the parchment up and held it in his hand. He snorted and blew out a bout of green flame.
The magic-enhanced fire enveloped the roll and it vanished, leaving behind a simple wisp of smoke that drifted out and to Canterlot. We could've found Applejack five times over by now! And she should be fine. Let's go! Spike hopped onto her back and Twilight teleported her and Spike back to the edge of the Everfree Forest. She found Megan there, surrounded by her friends and staring off at Canterlot.
Megan blinked and looked down. She swallowed and motioned to Canterlot. Dash sighed and buzzed about. Pinkie Pie followed, bouncing along. She suddenly paused and her entire body began shaking. Fluttershy followed, with Rarity next. Twilight glanced up at Megan as she walked into the forest with Spike on her back. Megan nodded as she stepped around a small bush, glancing around. Although time might be short. Megan rolled her eyes. Most of the time it's holes in socks, or holes in the ground.
Not in the sky. Spike slapped his forehead. Why can't you think with your stomach for a change? Megan half-grinned at the young dragon as they kept pace with the other ponies. Gem and gold shipments to the Dragon Clans are proceeding apace, as you can see in chart A, subsection—". Princess Celestia sat on her throne as the Minister of Economics, a cream-colored earth pony with the cutie mark of a closed, thick book, stood in front of her with an easel, a pile of charts, and bound papers.
She propped her eyelids up with magic, and used all her self-control to clamp her mouth shut to not yawn. Various other members of the Equestrian Senate stood around in the princess's main chambers, most of them sitting on their haunches, yawning or just plain dozing off.
A pair of unicorns—the Minister of the Interior and the Postmaster General—had set up a card game near a pillar, and darned if Celestia wasn't tempted to join in. The Minister of Economics grabbed the edge of the chart on the easel with his lips and pulled it off, his tail simultaneously wrapping around another and lifting it up. There was a sudden puff of smoke. Several members of the Royal Guard materialized around Celestia and the various officials, weapons in mouths, wings, or floating in front of their horns.
Underneath there must be something more flexible, so a microcharge should just poke a drill hole through and let the air out. We'll just have to settle for being rich, not fabulously wealthy. We've got no big planet anywhere near where it would have to be to get any astronomy buffs on Saskatch looking out this way. And we're too far for any satellite around Saskatch to pick up more than a burst of static.
But if it is a bomb, some warhead lying around after that weird old war"-he chuckled-"I ask you, could there be anything crazier than that war, frogs against jellyfish, wasn't it? A billion years ago, too! I mean, if this is some kind of bomb, then we'll have done our duty in destroying it. If they call us on it, if they notice it way out here, then we'll just say it blew up as we approached, for no reason, that we were scarcely aware of it before it blew.
But he knew that if it were some work of art or a piece of alien technology then they were fabulously wealthy. He and Tili would be able to afford megahabitat lifestyle when they got back to Nocanicus.
The ultimate dream of fabulous wealth, a private estate, hundreds of square miles in extent aboard one of the luxury megahabs. Pramod had always dreamed of a space on one of the Marwar habitats.
Marvelous re-creations of ancient India, with slave clones instead of the untouchables and forty-square kilometers per person. He would keep a white mare and ride her through his own park.
Tili could build her Taj Mahal, he his Red Fort. They would be legendary in their own times. A couple who had come back from economic exile on the frontier and stormed the heights of society in the Hindi milieu of Nocanicus. He had defiled himself in joining with Roger Xermin three years before, and he agonized endlessly over it. But to have continued as the manager of a tree farm in the boondocks of Saskatch colony would have been a kind of death for him.
And this was a great chance, a chance that could only come once in a lifetime. If he'd turned it away he might never have had another and would have ended his days, early, in brutish circumstances, on a dim frontier planet.
So Pramod had joined. So he was here. So there was no end to the impurity, the disgusting acts that he must do in order to redeem himself in his own world, the world of "illusion. If Xermin was right then it would be to the good. The crawler was loaded and sent across to the pumpkin.
It placed three micro charges, the second and third set to blow only if the first failed. The crawler was retrieved. A small drone with sensor equipment was dropped. The Seed of Hope got underway on booster rockets and then swung around and ignited main drives and pulled away from the pumpkin, ahead of it and above it in the ecliptic. When they were far enough away, they detonated the microcharge and watched the result via the TV from the drone: The charge produced a puff of dust as it opened a small hole, and there was a sharp release of vapor.
The drone collected samples. The gases included oxygen, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen, hydrogen, and some exotic organic chemicals including amino acids. They waited, their eyes glued to the pumpkin. Seconds ticked away, and slowly they released a collective breath. It wasn't going to explode. A puff of escaping gases, a small hole blown in one side. It continued to float, hardly even pushed out of its orbit by the detonation.
Perfectly safe now, Pramo-you'll see, and we'll be rich! Watching him on the main screen in the bridge were the Beshwans and Sally Xermin. Roger soon became a bright dot, slipping silently across the gap. Windowed at the bottom left-hand of the screen was the video from the probe, inserted into the interior of the alien object.
Unsettling video, presenting a weird jungle of bizarre, organic-looking shapes. Stalactites, stalagmites, balls, tubes, coils, wires as narrow as floss, things that looked like spider webs, massive knuckle shapes, shining instruments that resembled knives. It was all rather inexplicable, and it made Pramod Beshwan very anxious, but his anxiety was balanced perfectly by the thought that every bit of that alien interior was incredibly valuable.
Not only was it very old but it was very alien, very alien indeed. Broken up into frame-able pieces it would be worth untold fortunes on the antiquities market where collectors would pay first and worry about questions from the authorities later. Scrapings had been taken from various places inside. The samples had been examined in the laboratory by Xermin.
Analysis had revealed a number of unusual alloys, cerams and in one case a superpolymer of complex array texture. Beshwan had shrugged. He was worried about long-dormant disease.
That's a total vacuum in there. Pramod, you promised me not to go on about 'disease organisms' any more. And now here you are starting up again. We've exposed it to vacuum for fifty hours. We've sampled the expelled gases and we found organics, but we haven't found any inside, except this paint coating on the interior walls. The temperature in there is just a degree or two above absolute zero. There can't be anything living in there. You will not collect any specimens yet, you will not bring anything into the ship.
We must have a full rock miner's tent set up and all the tests must be made in that. Some alien virus may be in there.
I want everything examined and irradiated before it is brought into the ship, even into the cargo sector, let alone the life-support module. You know I hate it. And now Xermin was maneuvering beside the pumpkin with a laser blade. A bright spark flared on the main screen. Roger intended to cut a hole through the outer skin. Suddenly the pumpkin seemed to blink. Tili screamed. Sally hushed her sharply. The spark went off. There was a terrible second of silence.
Roger's voice continued; he seemed happy enough. Must have touched off some automatic system. It opened a door for me. I can get inside. He maneuvered himself inside the thing until all they could see on the main screen was the lower part of his spaceboots.
On the viewscreen window with the interior video, Xermin had erupted into the jungle of alien shapes, pushing aside the delicate web things and springy coils, seeming to fill the interior in his bulky suit and helmet. The computer expanded that window and shrank the other.
Pramod was struck rigid with doubt. The abrupt opening of the shell had been a terrible shock. The thing was not entirely passive. Xermin examined the interior carefully, squeezing, pressing, using a collector tool to take small scrapings. He was enjoying himself enormously. I can't imagine what they are, but they are connected, seamlessly, to the wall material. Or at least they're covered in the same material as the walls. It may just be a shared coat of paint, or lacquer, I don't know.
There's something with long arms, other things that look like light bulbs, connected by threads in different ways. There's two things that might easily be carburetors if there were any reason why they'd want such things in here. I don't know for sure, but I'd say from looking at them that it's going to take us quite some time to figure out what these things are. It floated toward him quite easily, looking like a rectangular virus, a studded cluster of smaller modules, that was connected via a coiled tube to the central complex.
Xermin took out a power tool and examined the object. Later he managed to disconnect it and one of the others from the coiled tubes. The black cups unscrewed, with a single turn, moving quite easily. Roger then brought two of these objects back to the miner's tent and began to examine them, "carefully," as demanded by Beshwan.
The things might explode if you try to open them. He placed them in the surveyor one at a time and the computer ran a check. One device appeared to be a kind of gas generator, a vaporizer, or both. An input tube led to a small, reinforced chamber with several nozzle points. The other instrument was more mysterious. Complex passageways existed between the modules that were grouped in a dodecahedral array. Both devices were made of unknown materials, primarily a very tough polymeric substance through which were threaded long gangliae of a silvery metal.
The metals turned out to be alloyed aluminum and palladium. When subjected to an electrical current of 6 amperes, at volts, the viruslike object abruptly emitted small pinpoints of light. Roger darkened the chamber. The pinpoints burned hot and bright. Something about their dispersal from the viruslike module made him think of a planetarium star-field projector. He mused on this idea for a moment. Was it perhaps, a navigation system? He moved the virus module, still with the electrical leads clamped to its working end, across to the inner skin of the tent.
When he was three feet from it, the microbeams became focused, scattering millions of tiny lights, which Roger was certain were fields of stars, across the fabric of the tent wall. As he turned the thing in his hands, more stars were shown, a projection that seemed uncommonly close to a view along the center of the galactic plane. A distinct thickening of the stars in one region betrayed the galactic core. Now besieged with excitement, Roger returned to the work station and disconnected the alien device.
He examined it again, more closely. After a certain degree of probing he found that the viral submodules were assembled in a pattern like that of a three dimensional rubik puzzle.
He used the computer to calculate which submodule had to be removed first. When turned the appropriate way it unscrewed quite easily. A framework was soon exposed. Under it, suspended in a wire micromount, was a glittering jewel the size of his thumbnail.
He shut off the computer recorder. He entered a datacard with a fast patch program, secured a rewind, and eliminated all view of this particular aspect of the investigation. Roger stared at the thing. Undoubtedly the artifact would fetch R.I.P. - D.I.S* Alongside Sheen (2) - Trouble Again (Cassette) price of a planet. A feeling of raw triumph, huge and unrestrained, surged through him.
Roger examined it closely, with the computer record shut off. It glittered diamondlike. It was cut with hundreds of small faces. It spun easily within the mount. Roger smiled. To hell with old Pramod Beshwan, to the brave went the spoils, so Roger had always believed. He reached in and clipped away the wire mount. He would test this item later, in private. He hid it carefully in the ziplock garbage bag he had floating overhead in the tent.
No one else was coming out here; it would be safe. He turned the computer recorder back on. Eventually Roger turned off the equipment and put himself under the scanner. After two full negative readings he let himself into the airlock. The adults convened a meeting on the bridge at once. Pandi however chose to watch her favorite TV show, "Surrender Yawns. In its tight-packed strip of towers around the spaceport's southern rim could be found all the vices of more sophisticated systems.
In the polyglot jungle of alleys and strips beneath the towers everything was for sale and anything could be had for money.
Huge hotel signs blazed above it all, welcoming the hordes of visitors who came to the frozen world but never left Spacetown during their stay. Of course the ITAA-approved brochures told a different story. In those glossy images, Saskatch was a wintry wonderland, with great skiing and spectacular lee fields.
Tourists could watch the dramatic calving of icebergs from the arctic ice sheets. Glaciers, volcanoes, tundra, and dark forests-these Saskatch had in abundance. Odd, then, that of the tourists that swarmed to Saskatch, so few ever left the warm confines of their hotels in the cool, wet Beliveau valley.
Strange, too, that the rule changes required to upgrade the policing of the Saskatch spaceport remained blocked in the Rules Committee of the ITAA. Under the procedures normally employed by the Saskatch Drug Enforcement Police, undercover operations inside Spacetown had to be cleared with the highest levels of command. Normal procedures had been forgotten. Johan Griks and his small team worked harder than they had ever worked, and mounted an extraordinary video surveillance of the Fixer Brothers.
Griks was sure that through them he could get a glimpse of the high-ups in the Saskatch elite who were dealing most actively in TA The Fixer Brothers moved constantly between favored hotels-the Luxor, the Edwarde, the.
Beverly-and certain bars and restaurants and gambling joints, where they did quite a lot of their business. Always they were accompanied by a full team of security goons, led by the indomitable Kow Huk, a Korean killer with eyes like black stones. Griks and his team were looking for a key, a way to get a recorder into the Fixers' presence, to see just who it was they met with in the backroom of the Toxi bar on Kung Street.
They had been able to place an operative in a small gift shop on the corner of Kung Street within camera shot of the front door of the Toxi, and they had two operatives on the roof of a small row of tenements jammed together on the same side of the street, near the corner. Getting inside was much, much tougher. Then came a windfall, the sort of opportunity that Griks had been waiting for. A rickshaw deposited a known R.I.P. - D.I.S* Alongside Sheen (2) - Trouble Again (Cassette) rider named Carney Waxx on the doorstep of the Toxi, and after a momentary frisking, he'd been allowed in.
Not long afterward the street was cleared by three burly thugs and the Fixer Brothers' black limousine cruised up to the doors. The DEP team signaled Griks. He ordered a chopper. Inside the deep recesses of a bar painted black and muffled by senso screening, Carney Waxx sweated and prayed. The Fixer Brothers were always impassive, but Carney knew, even as he spoke, that they were not pleased with his explanations. It was a full-size shipment, except that he'd lost half of it.
They wore identical clothes. After you'd been trapped by Mad Yagu. He confused you with a redfly. Your hawkwasps starved on the trip, you neglected them. They smiled, but not nicely. They took the half of the TA45 he'd brought with him: They let him get up from the chair, sweating dreadfully under the armpits, and turn and leave.
They even gave him back his WAK. They ordered a video made of Carney's last moments. They were specific about the degree of humiliation involved in the murder: a severe beating and a certain amount of electrode work; the shotgun up the anus; copies to be distributed to all Carney's known friends and associates. Thus had the Fixer Brothers established a reputation in Spacetown; thus were they still in business, fifty years later.
When you dealt with the Fixer Brothers nothing could be allowed to go wrong. Carney came out of the meeting at a run. He just beat the thugs to the front door and darted out onto Kung Street through the dense crowds. It was drizzling again from a dark gray sky. The thugs were behind him, three of them headed up by Kow Huk, the Fixers' dough-faced killer. More thugs waited ahead of him on the corner of Beliveau Avenue under the lights of the Kwaidan Farms restaurant.
The Street was walled in on one side by two big towers with bar restaurants at their base. On the other side was a row of narrow tenements.
He tried to dive into the doorway of the nearest bar, a glitzy Korean joint, Ruby Koo's, but found his. Word got out fast on Kung Street, where slender radio headsets were commonplace. The armored bouncer waved a fist lazily in Carney's direction. He backed away. Kow Huk was getting close, impassive as ever.
Kow Huk paused and spoke into his headset mike, marshaling his team. Carney ran toward the corner, pushing people aside. Three more thugs were waiting, heavyset bruisers, wearing waterproofs and a certain amount of armor beneath.
Without a loaded weapon, Carney was doomed. Wildly he looked around in the crowd. Everyone in Spacetown carried a gun of some sort; he would have to try and grab one from somebody. Then a wisp of a Caucasian girl in a set of dark green overalls caught his hand and whispered fiercely in his ear. Carney dived through the gap between stalls, keeping hunched down. The girl was beckoning him through a low hatchway in the wall between two noodle houses.
Carney crouched down and scrambled through. Station after station made. The news anchor of one station was handed a piece of paper as he was on the air live and read. That was another thing I thought only happened in the movies. After the newscasts were over, I. He started telling me how. The murderer would get a few years in jail, he said, and would then be.
He added that I should be banging on the door of the police station, trying to get my hands. You come in here and tell me all this crap. At the preliminary hearing in NovemberPlummer and Harvey gave testimony about their.
Mickey changing her clothes. He then grabbed her and told her not to scream. All he wanted to do was. She lied to me, just like my wife and mother. At that moment, an attractive brunette about twenty-five years old stood and left the courtroom. Over the course of the trial, LaRette used many objective expressions to describe the brutal. She said. I smacked the bitch in her ugly, screaming head and stabbed her again so I could get her clothes off. She got up and ran into the kitchen, so I slit her throat, but she.
I threw her on the floor and got her panties off. I wanted to fuck her alive. She was. At a hearing in Januarya St. Charles County circuit Judge ruled that LaRette voluntarily. Due to a foiled escape attempt by LaRette in September, police doubled security, having two. The court granted the defense a change of venue, to Warren. However, Plummer and Harvey both testified LaRette was alert and unaffected by any drugs he.
During one of the brief breaks, Susie and I talked outside the courtroom. One of her girlfriends. The woman was obviously pregnant and looked as if she could have the. What other tragedy was going to happen? It seemed to pour more darkness. They were going to ask Susie to look at them. What if I looked at a picture and lost control? LaRette was just in the. I was irrational, and anything. Susie examined the pictures and identified her mutilated sister with the same stoicism and.
Where had that come from? Later, two officers led LaRette to the front courthouse steps outside. Handcuffed and in leg. I followed Dad as we walked through a corridor leading to the front steps. Suddenly, Dad pulled a window scraper from his pocket, the type that holds a single-edge razor. Being a lifelong con man, Dad knew people who knew other people, and he also knew how to. Dad had his window of opportunity, and he went for it.
A lifetime of snipping. One officer. I carefully moved into a. He looked past me at first, but then we made. Mickey was just one woman in a string of murders and rapes and other. I wanted to kill LaRette myself, and worried. One insidious aspect of the hate I felt for LaRette was that I felt obligated to carry it. How could I not hate him and still feel good about.
I knew the dangers of burying powerful emotions. Love is a complex emotion—but so is. Hatred gets inside of you and entangles. It can burst forth in any number of irrational ways, spoiling. When a child experiences violent hatred or perverted love, that child must suppress it in order. I even prayed for the opportunity.
My hatred for LaRette continued for weeks. It was like the pressure at the. The storm followed me everywhere and I had to deal with it again and again. It grew stronger. I seemed to have two choices: live with the struggle or subdue it. Even worse, it was interfering with my feelings for Mickey.
Loss and hatred pulled at me constantly, and I wanted to kill LaRette. I would never have forgiven. I felt myself becoming angrier and less loving every day, and it was a destructive feeling. Nothing would ever diminish how I felt about her. I worked hard to come up with something about the way she died for which I could be grateful. The grocery receipt had pinpointed the. Once my rage had subsided, I began to feel as if executing LaRette would accomplish nothing.
Despite the holes in. It took about ten years before. Over the years, I made a few phone calls, trying to find someone who could get me an audience. After awhile, Lee would allude to certain aspects of a murder, and.
It humanized him. Most of my family and. Was that one. LaRette would then slowly reveal things only the killer would know. According to Pat Juhl of. A Catholic, LaRette wanted to confess his sins and to clean his conscience. Lee told me that. He wanted to stay on death row. Several months before Mickey died; I wrecked my pea-green Ford Falcon while driving home. The light was red as I sat in a. It was. Someone, I thought, was going to get creamed.
I glanced in my rearview mirror in time to see a car slam into the back of mine, which pushed. An African-American. The cloth was. Do you have glass in your eyes? I got this shit in my eyes and I ran out of the shop.
I heard sirens in the distance, and an ambulance arrived shortly. A few minutes later, the man. The rear end of my car looked like an accordion, but I was able to drive it home. Someone once told me that green cars are the most likely to be rear-ended.
They apparently. White cars suffer a similar fate in snow-covered terrain, while brown cars blend in. Miraculously, Ray suffered no permanent injuries. Whatever he had splashed into his eyes had. Since the car was still drivable, I bought new dining room furniture with the money Ray paid. Before I left, I spent some time playing piano with Mickey. We searched for the nasal. Now that title only serves as a reminder. Peeling paint exposed rust spots around the wheel wells, on.
I used to love watching comedians do impersonations on television. Mike and Joanie were my biggest fans—especially Joanie. In high school, I knew which girls were most vulnerable to my humor I called them leakers.
You make me feel alive. Let me point out for you, if I may, beautiful lady, the many salient aspects of. I walked back and forth alongside the car and pointed out defects as if they were attributes. Mickey looked up and down the street, worried that a neighbor would come out and yell. Consider the urine green color.
Permit me to be frank. Let's face. Well, this color will blend well. I had her! I see. This is our. Chaz and I had a baby coming, and I thought it was time to. Mickey called a few months after Megan was born. She was trying to buy a car and needed a. Not having established credit anywhere, neither her bank nor the dealership would finance.
The point was. Summer was approaching. The heat and humidity would be almost unbearable, and not appropriate for a pregnant woman. Louis levies a one percent tax on people living or working within city limits.
The tax helps. I never did give Mickey money for a car, so she never had a chance to own one, but she came. Dad had set aside money to buy her a car, but he ended up using it for the reward he later offered. I dwell on the image of. I remember Mickey reaching for the porch railing. Mickey was the only subject of the photo. With both hands, she was holding onto a thick tree. Her face was in the upper right-hand portion.
The background is a blur, yet I got. Mickey was wearing a white long-sleeve cotton peasant blouse and black slacks. The wide. Her sun. She was looking into the camera lens, directly at the viewer. The Arizona sunlight. I was a little bothered at the time that she was also wearing lipstick and false eyelashes, but it. Her hazel almond eyes were confident, giving no clues as to what she was thinking. It was a Mona. Lisa smile, impossible to read, which made the pose even more interesting.
Unlike her school photos, in which she appeared bored or distracted, that photo presented. When we divorced, she insisted upon returning to California. I could have fought her in court. He hung around a used car lot located at an intersection where four or five roads joined a one-way.
Instead of circling prey like a vulture, Dad played poker and waited for. With the car gone, every few months I bought or borrowed a different junker from Dad, then. To minimize my embarrassment when driving those cars, I. The trial was nearly a year away, and by 1 NovemberI found myself alone in our one. My daughter was less than a year old. Less than four months earlier, Mickey had been murdered.
What was there to do after that but await the trial and follow it, in case something went. I tried to brighten the kitchen of my flat by painting it orange with yellow trim—but it looked. I took some comfort in the fact I was alive and healthy. I could always go for a beer with my friend Tony. He drank responsibly. We spent several. Tony was a devout Catholic, and I. She invited herself over, which I thought was dangerous, since I was.
Anne was attractive and personable—but she. When she left, I thanked her for the conversation and she stopped. Patricia Bucciero. Like her mother, a Canadian, Pat spoke fluent. French, English, and Italian. Her father, a consul for the Italian government, had transferred to St.
Louis with its large Italian community. Anne and Pat had become friends while in college. Pat had. She charmed me with her wit, shoulder.
She was twenty-two and every bit as refined in her. I thought I was in love with Pat. For the first time in my life, I longed to be with someone all. We were a natural. Our interests in art and film were in synch, and we could spend hours. Streep in the role of the complicated, sensual femme fatale. That afternoon, Pat and I made love in a. We eventually. For nearly two years, my infatuation with Pat. Unlike the snake-like Medusa hair, we had seen in his mug shot, LaRette's hair was short.
The superficial scar around the base of his neck had healed, leaving no trace. Like a veteran actor. Kansas, and in the murder of Mrs.
The patterns were similar. There were no signs of a forced entry. The killer had followed Mrs. Miller home, stabbed her sixteen times in the chest, and raped her. Then he had cut her throat and left. After viewing the design on towels found in the Miller home. LaRette identified it as the same design on the bloody towel that her husband had burned a short. Two women who had been raped in Manhattan, Kansas, described a similar mark on the leg of.
A motel. Though I sat near the back. Everyone could see his reactions to the. LaRette had a theatrical face with large. Anyone else would have called the police or an.
He cut her throat, tore her clothes off, and stabbed her. Friday, August 14,the judge instructed the jury about the requirements for a verdict. And then you can convalesce in the New Year. What was he talking about? Convalesce - just what kind of major operation did he have in mind? I felt as if I had fallen in front R.I.P. - D.I.S* Alongside Sheen (2) - Trouble Again (Cassette) a huge vacuum cleaner which was irresistibly sucking me into its dark innards.
Stop pushing me, I thought, wha ts. So I decided to take the bull by the horns and ask the question which my inner voice had suggested a few times in the past. But then his eyebrows shot up. Do you come from a medical background? I could see that he was annoyed with himself for falling into my trap, but he composed himself and leaned back in his chair. Fair-skinned people often get melanoma as a result of too much strong sunshine. In Australia and New Zealand your' chances of getting it would be quite high.
In Africa, too. And the only time I spent in Africa was ten days in Khartoum where the sky was overcast the whole time and where I popped from one air-conditioned building into the next. Otherwise - surely holidays in Greece in May or September wouldn't qualify as tropical? Besides, I don't sunbathe if I can help it. I find it deadly boring. And we don't know what else can cause melanoma.
But if it's tackled early, you have nothing to worry about. Let me just check one more thing,' he said, coming over to me. Gingerly he lifted my skirt and probed my.
I had no idea what was going on. And then you'll be given a skin graft from your left thigh. To cover up the hole, so to speak. Why does it have to be so large? To make sure nothing is left behind that shouldn't be there. If we only removed the bit immediately surrounding the trouble spot, in a few years' time you might get something much worse and you'd be furious with us.
Quite rightly, too. The brown spot was the centre of the danger zone which stretched in an irregular manner up north towards the knee and down south towards the ankle, and the whole zone was covered with small, squiggly imaginary lines, indicating the spreading power of.
But how did this polished, ageing man know that it was melanoma, after one swift glance? Probably by having spent much of his life looking at problems just like mine. In which case he knew just how far no-good cells could travel. That was logical enough. But even so every bit of me body, mind, feelings, nervous system - felt taut, in the fight-or-flight mode, because Dr Colville was prescribing surgical rape against the integrity of my body, to eliminate a trouble I barely knew I had.
I felt cold inside and out, and slightly shell-shocked. Well, I've got just the man for you. Extremely good at skin grafts, very experienced. Go and make an appointment at once.
Mr Lennox's consulting rooms are just round the corner. Getting through on the telephone may take longer. My personal version of the principle of no taxation without representation demanded that I must not be forced into anything without being given pretty good reasons for it. It's not as if this spot on my leg stopped me from eating or breathing, is it? He's a very busy man and may not be able to see you at once. I always tell my students to watch out for the texture of these things.
If they feel velvety, they're harmless age spots. The only trouble with them is that they can't be removed. Once they appear, they're there for life. I was glad to say goodbye to Dr Colville, gladder still to leave his rooms in the large building in Harley Street that was a warren of consulting rooms, administrative offices and heaven knew what else. Having lived much of my life with no need for medical treatment, I now felt a lively antipathy for the atmosphere of the bustling medical beehive I had just left.
Also, I realised how much I disliked Dr Colville. By his snap diagnosis, which I suspected was He had talked at me and through me but not to me, not even for a moment. I felt disturbed and belittled by his divine indifference to me as a person and, perhaps because of my negative feelings towards him, I refused to accept his diagnosis at face value.
But what I needed most at that moment was to be comforted, so I went to my favourite cafe in Wigmore Street, had a coffee with a croissant and butter, smoked a cigarette, and through those basic pleasures quickly reassured myself about my autonomy and freedom of choice. Even so, reluctantly, I called on Mr Lennox's secretary and made an appointment for the following Friday. Then I hurried towards Oxford Street, away from the Harley Street area, doleful with its doctors and disease.
It is a false alarm, I thought, there is nothing to it, but I will follow it through just to prove that I am as healthy as I feel.
The week was busy both at work and in the evenings, but every time I became absorbed enough to forget about that threatening mark on my leg, it promptly popped back into my consciousness.
It was like living with a time bomb strapped to my body. My immediate problem was what to say to Hudie, my love and companion for thirteen years.
My relationship with Hudie was apparently indestructible. We had had some spectacular ups and downs and several breaks but had always bounced back, sometimes to our mutual astonishment. At first glance we do not look particularly compatible, but we share some vital qualities and needs: needing, for instance, warmth and closeness as much as we need separateness and privacy. He is grounded, practical and utterly reliable; I tend to get entangled with airy theories and riveting but useless information.
He is self-sufficient and solitary; I am gregarious and avid for communication. Unlike me, he is patient, tolerant and forgiving, which may explain why we have lasted so long. What saves him from too much virtue and placidity is a flamboyant, extravagant streak worthy of Louis XIV, and occasional bouts of endearing pig-headed obstinacy. We had no secrets from each other, but now, faced with an ominous situation, I did not know how much to tell Hudie.
As he was a great worrier, I wanted to spare him avoidable anxiety, especially because I knew that any potential threat to me would trigger his fear of separation, loss and death. The subject of. I longed for him to come to grips with his fear yet felt that I must not speak unless he broached the subject. It did not occur to me at the time that sheltering him from a major reality, such as death, was not only foolish but downright patronising.
After all, who was I to decide what a grown man could or could not take? But all these considerations were pure theory once more. As my appointment with Mr Lennox was drawing close, I had no option but to tell Hudie what was happening. He was as astounded by the threat of melanoma as I was myself, but with his unquenchable optimism, which somehow co-exists with his infinite capacity for worry, he decided that the spot would turn out to be harmless.
Well, I hoped so, too, I said, wondering whether we were kidding each other. Friday came and at midday I was back in Harley Street once more. Mr Lennox seemed strikingly young; not just the way policemen grow more and more youthful as we glide into middle age but absurdly young and slight, with the air of a bright, old-fashioned, short-back-and-sides sixth former.
Was he old enough. But as we shook hands I noticed that in fact he was older than his schoolboyish features suggested: a little lined, dry and tired, and distinctly undernourished. Because he had a shy smile and his suit looked slightly shabby and his stance was gauche - in brief because he looked the exact opposite of the elegant and divinely assured Dr Colville -I immediately took to him.
I told him the story so far. He, too, asked if I had ever lived in the tropics, and confirmed that excessive sunshine was the main identifiable cause of melanoma. May I have a look at your leg? I removed my tights and lay down on the couch. Mr Lennox contemplated my right shin. The room was so quiet that every now and then the silence seemed to sizzle for a moment, like oil hitting a hot frying pan.
I was beginning to feel hot, too. Or else it may be something that has lain dormant for a while and is now becoming active. I'll only feel secure if you tell me the facts as they are. So I'd like to do the biopsy as soon as possible, and then, if we're faced with a malignancy, we'll deal with that immediately.
As Dr Colville has no doubt explained to you. The couch had become unpleasantly hot. I realised that it. But what disturbed me more than the heat was that Mr Lennox was talking down at me from above, standing over my supine body in the classical pose of pagan priest surveying sacrificial victim, parent inspecting baby or magician about to saw the lady in half, and I felt with passion and urgency that that was not the position in which I wished to discuss my future, my chances of health or disease.
Did the apparently meek and mild Mr Lennox have an unconscious power complex, was he trying to turn me into a dependent patient when I was still neither? Thi s couch is really too hot. I did not have the guts to say that I preferred to make decisions standing on my feet rather than lying on my back. It was then that Mr Lennox first gave me his special look which I was to experience several times in the weeks to come: a level, not unfriendly look of patience mixed with resignation, the gaze of a weary teacher faced with a stupid or troublesome pupil who would have to be subdued before long.
Would you mind sitting on that chair for a moment. Why must we rush things? Both you. Surely it can't be that urgent? The n he said, 'No, it's not that urgent. But once there's the slightest suspicion of something being not quite right, it's best to act at once.
How long do you need to finish your script? It would be done under local anaesthetic, Mr Lennox said, and I would be able to go home under my own steam, but then I would have to stay at hom e for a few days and put my leg up. In that case, I asked, why had Dr Colville bee n so sure that I was suffering from melanoma?
Mr Lennox smiled and shrugged. But not always. Mr Lennox may not have intended to support me against Dr Colville, but that was the effect of his bland comment.
He was a nice, reasonable, unpompous man who m I could trust. I rushed into the midday busyness of the world, feeling reassured and optimistic. I was walking very fast, without strain or effort; I had no aches or pains, and every part of my body was functioning well.
Surely if I had anything as serious as melanoma, I would feel less fit? I made the same point two days later, on Advent Sunday, to my friend Catherine, over dinner in South Kensington. She had been my closest friend for a dozen years or more, and I often felt that ever since our first. Catherine was a psychotherapist, much involved in the training of counsellors. She and her companion Johnhimself a psychotherapist, also ran a series of highly original workshops on self-discovery which, I knew from personal experience, acted like a blend of balm and dynamite on a weary psyche.
Catherine was small and pretty and as brighteyed and fearless as a robin. I loved her for her warmth and wisdom and for her finely honed mind that never missed a trick, a nuance or, above all, a meaning; and I cherished just as much her irreverent sense of the absurd and her delicious sense of humour. Catherine was a woman for all seasons, equally interested in bookshops and dress shops, fond of good food and drink, capable of child-like enjoyment. But she also possessed a quality of stillness and depth which I privately thought of as her Himalayan streak: it was present all the time, like a quiet, meditative note sounding behind the bright R.I.P.
- D.I.S* Alongside Sheen (2) - Trouble Again (Cassette). Over the years we had shared countless meals and bottles of humble wine all over the affordable restaurants of South Kensington. We had talked endlessly about problems both personal and planetary and had laughed a great deal. We had also cursed and sometimes even cried a little into the plonk when things had become too painful.
That evening, on Advent Sunday, I told Catherine what was going on. Like Hudie, like myself, she also took an optimistic view of the biopsy's likely outcome, and only wanted to know how I felt about this strange development. Fine, I said truthfully; in balance, waiting, not afraid, in fact mobbling which was our word for the way in which a well-made mobile recovers its shape and balance after any disturbance. Besides, I added, I was not the type of personality wh o was likely to get cancer, was I?
Som e time before, when I had. But remember how long it took you to begin to express your anger. Sometimes I think you're still not sure how to let it out, after repressing it all your life. If only I could draw - perhaps drawing the scene would exorcise it.
My mother in her beautiful pink silk dressing-gown standing in the bedroom door, absolutely furious, eyes flashing, telling off somebody outside, and I sitting in my little white bed and thinking, I must never lose my temper, I must never get angry like this because it's ugly and dangerous.
And how I kept that vow over the years! It's astounding. I'm not so sure. Except you never see me when I let rip. We ate well. The wine was not bad and we toasted the start of Advent, just as we habitually remembered solstices and equinoxes, feasts and festivals whose symbolism felt relevant.
On the way home I pondered Advent and saw it as a solitary bright candle floating in unfathomable darkness, utterly alone but unabashed. I could accept that; but what sort of Christmas was it floating towards?
Ohgo step by step, cross it when you reach it. At homealone in my still, sheltering little. Back at work I finished my script and then told my bosses what was happening.
They were concerned but optimistic and strongly supportive. We agreed that for the time being I would - officially - be away with 'flu. If all went well, we would never have to amend that story. Preparing for the biopsy was rather like organising a short business trip, dovetailing small arrangements. Every now and then I listened inwardly, as it were, questioning my body as to whether it was well or ill, running well or running down, but there was no reply except for a general sense of well-being.
It was at that bleak moment in early December,' the day before the biopsy, that a clump of April-flowering perennial daisies in my garden suddenly produced a single, perfect, golden-yellow bloom, shaped like a small sun and radiating like on e in the winter gloom. It looked heroic and unseasonal, and it made me think of The Secret of the Golden Flower, the ancient Chinese text on the quest for spiritual immortality. It was through Jung's commentary on the Taoist text that I first became acquainted with it during one of my periodic immersions in Jung' s writings.
But the Golden Flower must be a universal archetypal symbol, because I had repeatedly caught glimpses of it in dreams and fantasies, always acting as a saving or redeeming entity, able to light up darkness or lead one out of some deadly maze. Among my personal choice of numinous symbols the Golden Flower came first. And now it was right there, in my small, catatonic garden, surging from a dormant clump of muddy leaves that would hardly stir for another four months.
That flower, I decided, was a good omen. On the 6th December around noo n I presented myself at the small hospital near Leicester Square where Mr Lennox was to perform the biopsy. After a brief bout of administration I ended up in a small room where a.
While I changed into paper gown and slippers, she talked glowingly about Mr Lennox. You couldn't be in better hands. In the small operating theatre Mr Lennox, gowned and capped in bright green, hailed me as if I had arrived at some fun-packed disco party. He looked relaxed, cheerful, almost rakish, a man in his element, exercising his skill and enjoying it.
I took a deep breath and lay down on the table. Throughout the operation we chatted brightly, mainly about broadcasting and favourite programmes. I was in great form, almost manic, entertaining Mr Lennox and the two nurses as if that had been the sole purpose of my presence.
As I felt no pain, it was easy to pretend that nothing important was happening, nothing more ominous than tackling an ingrowing toenail. And then it was all over. I was being bandaged, packaged, helped up and allowed to go home.
Mr Lennox handed me some painkillers for later use. At hom e I made myself comfortable on the long sofa near the telephone, right leg propped up on the sofa's back, a pile of books and fruit within reach. Hudie rang, then Catherine, then my deputy boss. I reassured them and then resumed my silent rest. How odd, I thought, to be at hom e early on a Wednesday afternoon instead of being at work, whe n Lam not even ill. Th e following afternoon around teatime Mr Lennox. Have plenty of rest and don't even touch the bandage.
I'll ring you about the hospital arrangements within a day or two. Depends on how you get on. But i f s a pleasant hospital, with allday visiting. So it was cancer. The carefully balanced inner pattern of the past ten days suddenly shattered, as if a kaleidoscope had been hit with a sledgehammer.
I could no longer maintain my mood of non-committal interest, expecting the threat of serious disease to vanish. No w I knew it would not, could not, do that. Even so, I was utterly astonished at the thought of having a malignant process, the worst of all diseases, silently working away inside my apparently healthy body, without producing the smallest symptom.
Surely you did not get cancer unless you were debilitated, unwell, suffering from a multitude of symptoms, or perhaps deeply unhappy? Yet I was not any of these things. I closed my eyes and considered my life, looking for psychosomatic cancer clues and finding none. On the whole I found I was happier than I had been for a long time. My relationship with Hudie was the best and most lasting attachment of my life. My small house near the Thames was my first hom e that was entirely to my liking, chosen and shaped by me with no interference nor need to compromise.
I had exceptional friends. I had a good job, stimulating bosses and colleagues and ample responsibility. Sometimes the fiendish commuting and more than full-time pressures felt heavy and irksome and I longed for more freedom and space, yet I could not think of any jo b I would have preferred. Besides, I was already planning my next career: early retirement, a return to freelance writing, combined with counselling in which I had recently trained.
All in all, I thought, this was a good and vigorous pattern, not a negative and miserable one, and I recalled the late Sir Heneage Ogilvy's dictum, 'The happy man doesn't get cancer,' which had so shocked his medical colleagues and which made so much sense if one thought of body and mind as inseparable parts of a whole.
None of which helped me.
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