Monday, December 3, 2012

All Hail Kah-Pey; 1 of 5

All Hail Kah-Pey!

By Nathaniel Hellerstein

5391 words

            The ancient Tortoiselander pushed back his propeller beanie and scratched his head. “Show you Mount Kah-Pey? Well, mister, that’s rather hard to do nowadays…” He thought a moment, then came to a decision. “I’ll do what I can. Come this way, and I shall explain the difficulty.”
            So the ancient Tortoiselander ambled slowly along the dusty track, telling his story with many a pause and a digression. I had no choice but to follow and listen.

            *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

            It all happened a long time ago, back when I was a young sprout. I hadn’t even been initiated yet; so you know that I am telling you the straight truth.
            I remember it as clear as if it happened yesterday. It was January 20, 2376; the very first day of the sign of Aquarius, on the very first year of the Aquarian Age. Quite an omen…
            It wasn’t as if we hadn’t been warned. There had been underground rumblings for weeks. Dogs howled, goats run away, chickens laid square eggs, caapi vines pulled up their roots and ambled down the road. The Kah-pists even declared an emergency holiday. Clearly something big was going to happen.
            So who should show up at our commune’s front gate but Uncle Ted himself!
I left the video monitor and ran to tell Brother Tom. He told Sister Jenny Shark, and she told uncle-cubed Sam; so that fierce old man picked up his can and limped to the front gate.
Once there, Sam glared at Uncle Ted awhile. Finally he snapped, “What are you doing here in stodgy old Tortoiseland? Right now a bright boy like you could be making tons of money by smiling for the camera at the tip of the Pimple! Or better yet, you could be slaving in a hot cubicle, concocting lies for crooks and preachers!”
Uncle Ted said, “I wanted to spend the holiday with you.”
“A sound rationale,” Sam conceded. “And the real reason?”
“Well… I had a bad feeling…”
My uncle’s uncle’s uncle said, “Come on in.” He stood aside. “It’s good to know that you do have a brain in your head.”
*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

“Wait a minute,” I interrupted, “I don’t dig this ‘in medias res’ jazz. Why don’t you fill me in on some background?”
“In good time, sonny, in good time,” said the ancient Tortoiselander. “It’s a long way to Kah-Pey.”
“Where is it, by the way?” I looked around. “They called Kah-Pey the biggest crag on the continent, but I don’t even see a tall hill!”
“Well, Kah-Pey isn’t very tall anymore.”
“What, it’s grown shorter?
“You might say that.”
A detumescent mountain? I wondered, but all I said was, “How disappointing. And I don’t get it. Please explain.”
“In good time, sonny, in good time.”

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

            We called our commune “Terrapin Station”. After all, we were Tortoiselanders; and what’s more, most of our founding members were Dead Heads. That’s a music cult, sonny. Every year Brother Tom attended the local festival to record new files. I rarely listened to them; I wasn’t much into religion.
            There had also been a few Wobblies amongst our founders; so naturally Terrapin Station was an anarcho-syndicalist collective. It was registered as a patriarchy; which meant, said Sam, that Sister Jenny was the one who made all the real decisions.
            By the way, the name “Kah-Pey” has nothing to do with the caapi vine, which grew all over the commune grounds. I found out why many years later, when they initiated me.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *
            “Aha!” I interrupted. “So you were all into drugs!”
            The ancient Tortoiselander snapped, “Nonsense, mister! We never used drugs!”
            “Never, ever?”
            “No dangerous psychoactive substances, ever,” he insisted. “Alcohol, tobacco, caffeine and aspirin strictly forbidden!”
            “You call those dangerous psychoactive substances?”
            “Well, they are! And we didn’t allow them! We only liked safe psychoactive substances! It was one of the few rules that we at Terrapin Station ever nearly agreed to!”
            “ ‘Nearly’?”
            The ancient Tortoiselander sighed. “Well,” he admitted, “there was Sister Jenny Shark, of course. Truth to tell, she drank like a fish. But she was the only exception, which is pretty good, don’t you think?”
            “What other rules did you have?”
            “Right Livelihood. No exploitation, even of outsiders!”
            “Oh. And how did Jenny Shark interpret this rule?”
            “She took a night job as a professional dominatrix. Yes, she spanked rich old fools for a living! That’s how she paid for our new sound system.”
            I commented, “I sense a pattern emerging here.”
            “And most important of all,” the ancient Tortoiselander intoned, “we at Terrapin Station strictly adhered to the Absolute Pacifist Passive Non-Violence Creed; and so, no guns, no weapons, no implements of dee-struction. Ever.
            “And was Jenny Shark an exception there too?”
            The ancient Tortoiselander sighed. “Well,” he admitted, “it was mostly thanks to her shotgun that we were never bothered by crooks or taxmen. So we figure that it was worth it.”
            “It sounds like all your rules were made to be broken.”
            “That’s how we did things at Terrapin Station!”

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

            Little things like that set Tortoiseland apart from crazy Hareland. We certainly wouldn’t have built Mount Kah-Pey!
            But then, what else would you expect from a bunch of Neo-Conservatives? We Tortoiselanders were much more sensible; we were Paleo-Radicals. It made for a quieter life; that’s what my uncle-cubed always said.
            Well, actually, Sam wasn’t really my uncle’s uncle’s uncle. He was really my adoptive uncle, cubed. Sam was adoptive uncle to Joe, who was adoptive uncle to Ted, who as adoptive uncle to me, you see? Our commune was an old Tortoiseland family.
            Which makes you wonder just why Ted ran away from home! And went to Mount Kah-Pey! And worked there as a video computer tech! And joined the Reactionary Party!

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

I asked, “A rebellious youth joins the Reactionary party?”
“What else? Those guys wanted to change things! They wanted class struggle! New technologies! And a sexual revolution!”
“Troublemakers,” I grumbled.
“Well, they were more honest than the Neo-Conservatives, but only because they were more desperate. Ted eventually dropped out, much to uncle-cubed’s relief,” said the ancient Tortoiselander. “Now, Sam was a staunch Paleo-Radical; as had been his uncle, and his uncle’s uncle before him.”
“A family tradition,” I noted.
The ancient Tortoiselander nodded. “And you know what? Even Sam had a brief fling with the Reactionaries when he was young and foolish!”
Exasperated, I said, “I think that what you call ‘Radical’ is, in fact, conservative; and what you call ‘Conservative’ is, in fact, radical.”
The ancient Tortoiselander stopped dead in his tracks. He reached up and tapped his beanie propeller into a blur. He stared at me, and he said, “How strange! That’s exactly what I told Sam!”

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