Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Undercover Dada Pt. 2

Three days later, I tried to put Mackenzie's disturbing anecdote out of my mind as I joined Crucified Slug at their headquarters for a last-minute briefing.

"Counts his days, shines them on his bed post phallus," Mr Cheese told the gang, "thoughts sticking like lime-covered branches at sunset." These words - an abbreviation version of the Crucified Slug manifesto which prescribes the destruction of bourgeois art and culture through a combination of irrational aesthetic and bank robbing - were greeted with a round of buttock-applause. Mr Cheese then then assigned roles to each gang member.

Mr Wiggles and I were to drive the two getaway vehicles, respectively a 1974 Volkswagen convertible and an unwieldy three-person push bike. Messrs Dribbledrop and Wainscoting were responsible for disabling security staff and cameras, while Mr Barnyard Clown was in charge of retrieving the booty from the bank's safe deposit boxes, with the assistance of Mr Hootnanny, whom I was led to believe was some kind of apprentice. For his own part, Mr Cheese was to act as ringmaster and general font of absurdist hilarity, or, as he put it,

"Doodle plum pudding, Frank Sinatra on the beanstalk, where's the midges, Kevin?"

All gang members were armed with automatic weapons, but each also carried an alternative, Dadaist weapon: phallic fruit or vegetables, large cuts of meat, or German dictionaries with half the words blotted out with purple ink.

We drove/rode in mini-convoy to the bank, located in a small office building in the CBD, where the gang - myself included - donned rubber masks modeled after our own faces, before the five members of the raiding party stormed through the bank's revolving door, brandishing their firearms and/or other weapons as personal taste dictated.

Through the window, Mr Wiggles and I watched the team go to work, beating guards with dictionaries and turnips, and forcing customers to the floor by licking their foreheads. Mr Cheese began spray-painting the walls with random words, while Mr Wainscoting entertained himself by covering a male teller's knee with lipstick. Another teller was forced to kneel with her backside pressed against the window.

"Elle a chaud au cul, eh?" said Mr Wiggles, nudging me with a plastic hand on a stick he seemed to have brought along for just such an eventuality.

Four minutes later, the robbery had been effected, and we made our escape, weaving down side-streets and alleys to avoid being spotted - although I knew, of course, that the police would not strike until we reached the hide-out, so as to catch the whole gang red-handed.

"Bindi gamma kraken," said Mr Cheese, when I arrived at HQ with Messrs Wainscoting and Dribbledrop. I returned the compliment, and slumped to the floor, exhausted from the effort of peddling. Mr Cheese stood on one leg in a corner, grinning madly, while Mr Barnyard Clown recited a poem in honour of our achievement.

"My little slug buried
In crucified taste
Wet fingers married
In days of dark waste
This pitch-brittle liar
Begotten in haste
My little slug buried
In crucified taste"

A cheer went up, but was cut short by the sound of approaching sirens.

"Holy shit!" cried Mr Cheese, momentarily slipping into the bourgeois mode of discourse. "The cops!"

Suddenly, all was chaos. I stood with arms raised while the members of Crucified Slug bolted around the room, scooping up armloads of jewelry and gold, before taking flight out the back door. I could hear the police breaking down the front door, glass shattering, raised voices. I wanted to be identified and removed from that dingy lair as quickly as possible. There was apparently some sort of stand-off in the entrance hall, Hugo holding Special Ops at bay to improve his friends' chances of freedom.

"He's got a...a...what is that?" I heard somebody shout.

"Put down the cabana, old man," said somebody else. "Nobody has to get hurt."

There was a moment of silence, then a single shot rang out, followed by a thud as Hugo hit the floor. I tensed, waiting for my fellow officers to enter the room, guns at the ready. Just as the door handle was being rattled, the world suddenly dropped away from beneath me.

***

I found myself in darkness, with the sound of running feet above me. There was a flash of magnesium; I stared by match-light at the smiling face of Mr Cheese.

"Vertical slums in the odd metal king, hm?" he asked. I told him no, I hadn't noticed I was standing on a trapdoor.

"Gill," he said, laughing, "udders with a flange in the great sty pie."

My heart skipped a beat. He knew. My cover was blown. I tried to stand, but Mr Cheese held me down, murmuring absurdities into my ear, absurdities that I hadn't the will to translate. In a spasm of animal fear, I lashed out, catching him on the side of the head, but he struck back, knocking me cold.

I woke to find I could barely breathe. My mouth was stuffed with something soft and peculiarly avian, and I had a moment of panic as I recalled Mackenzie's horrific tale of the unfortunate Barry. The other accoutrements seemed to be in place, too. Thick cardboard cylinders were fastened around my arms and legs, and in the dim light I could just make out the frills of the pink tutu I had been dressed in. Yes, there was even a Belgian waffle stapled to my shoulder. I struggled to right myself, but I had been tied down. Fear gripped me; I knew nothing save that I wished to be free.

Soon, Mr Cheese emerged from the darkness, bearing a platter of grotesque devices. Behind him, the members of Crucified Slug, all of whom had apparently evaded capture, stood with their rubber masks affixed. They began to chant, an atonal wail of animal noises and nonsense words, while Mr Cheese walked ever nearer with his collection of tools.

When he raised them to the light, and their cutting edges glinted, I began screaming through the dead bird, thrashing against my tethers like a madman.

"Shhh," said Mr Cheese, putting his lips close to mine. "Green dollar, monkey shines children in the September showers, Veronica." He began repeating this, again and again, as he selected an instrument for use on my prone body. I must have heard this phrase several thousand times over the next few days, before I was freed to whatever kind of existence is left me, if any. The doctor tells me our cryptographers have managed to translate the sentence. It means, "Office skylight blueberry, put your coats on high-beam, nanna," which in turn means "Red folders in the towel-dry dove, eat rodent meal," which in turn means "Half-baked diskette rolled over pizza in the apse, mother Johnson," which in turn means...

Note: The account continues for a further fifty pages, detailing translation of translation of translation until the point at which Detective X was relieved of his writing implements. The phrase "Green dollar, monkey shines children in the September showers, Veronica" is, according to cryptographers, merely the surface code of a series which may have a final solution but which may in fact prove to be an infinite absurdity. The most recently determined translation (at some three thousand removes from the original message), is "There the giant ping-pong grazes in the sunshine, baldy". The search for the phrase's ultimate meaning continues.

So too does the search for Crucified Slug. The gang quickly bounced back from their brush with capture, and are believed to have been responsible for a number of recent robberies, including one in which a security guard named R. Mutt was beaten to death with a replica of Marcel Duchamp's Fountain.

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