The Invasion of Medicine Hat

     They arrived in Calgary before noon on Tuesday; soon Giles Seinkewicz,  Adrian Verrall, Lucian Rudman and the blue bouncing ball were making their  way to the contact who would drive them to Medicine Hat, a small city of  approximately 40,000 people about an hour's drive from Calgary.  As Giles  looked for his contact, Adrian milled around the vending machines, the ball  bounced by the video games, and Lucian decided to make a telephone call to  her brother.  "Hello, Constantine, We're in Calgary!"

      "So what's it like?"

      "It's like one really big airport.  We'll be in Medicine Hat before  two, and we should be home by Wednesday evening."

      "I don't understand why you're taking two days off from school,  especially with exams coming up, just to visit the Medicine Hat Progressive  Conservative Constituency Association, when you're not even a Tory."

      "Call it intuition.  Call it a crazy dare.  You just have to go on  these wild flings for you to really live."

      "Uh, Lucian, I'd like to ask you a question.  I'm trying to write a  story at the moment, but I'm stuck.  What would you do if you were faced  with an impenetrable grove of thorns?"

      "Simple.  I'd drop an H-bomb on it.  Bye."

      Lucian rejoined the others as Giles reappeared.  "Our contact will be  here in a couple of minutes.  He's just buying a paper."  The ball bounced  over to Giles, and started to go up and down very excitedly.

      "What's with this ball?"

      "You smell nice." said the ball, and started to sing from South  Pacific.  Just then the contact appeared; a forty year old notary and city  councilor with disrespectfully graying hair and immense sexual vigor.  He  stopped short and stared at the singing ball.  "What is that thing?"

      "It's a blue bouncing sentient ball." replied Lucian.  "What the hell  do you think it is?"

      "What's it doing here?"

      "The second verse of Some an Enchanted Evening.  Haven't you ever seen  South Pacific?"

      Adrian called the ball over to him and the five went to the notary's  car.  It was an uneventful drive, interrupted only by the ball telling a  story about four small little kittens who had their own china sets and  dresses and chess sets and aprons and their own balls of wool who knitted  themselves an entrance into the world of woolen unicorns, with red fleece  and darning needles for horns.  And all the kittens played and danced (which  consisted of them standing on their hind legs and then plopping down on the  soft woolen ground) and listened to the unicorns tell stories that gave  happy endings to "Jason and the Argonauts" and "Thesus and the Minotaur" and  after all the kittens got to look at all of Ariadne's children, wrapped in  tasteful black sheets, the kittens all went home to their snug little beds.   The notary wanted to talk about the state of the constituency association's  finances (rotten), but decided not to discuss the subject.  And so shortly  before two the quintet arrived in Medicine Hat.

      The notary drove up to one of Medicine Hat's smaller "malls," actually  just a supermarket with a number of offices attached to it (including the  notary's own) and the five got out.  Adrian firmly ordered the ball to  follow him and not pester his cousin.  Giles, in turn, talked to the notary  and one of his assistants who briefly discussed the problem.  Although the  local MP had won the riding by a margin of nearly three to one in the last  election, and Reform had come in third, recent polls indicated that they  would lose by two to one, and would be lucky to keep their deposit.  They  had included all the government's arguments in the MP's constituency letter,  but most people didn't even bother to read it, and just threw it away.  But  the major crisis right now was not the party's unpopularity, it was the  failure of nerve that was striking the association.  Some members of the  executive suggested that the MP publicly attack the prime minister and get a  name for himself in the news.  Others suggested that he publicly call for a  leadership convention, and still others suggested that he become an  independent and rejoin the party at some more propitious date.  So far the  MP was ready to trust the prime minister and believe that everything would  turn out all right by the time he called an election, and personally (and  somewhat obsequiously) the notary and his assistant agreed.  But there was  still the rest of the constituency association, and the longer the  dissension continued, the more likely it would enter the press, and ruin any  chance for re-election.  So the association had asked John Seinkewicz, as  one of the most respected of the Alberta Tory MPs, for his assistance, and  he had sent his son and his nephew to buck up their spirits.  The fact that  none of the four members of the delegation were conservative party members,  or even very conservative philosophically, did not deter Seinkewicz, for he  thought that was just what the Member of Parliament for Medicine Hat  deserved.

      Adrian and Lucian were roaming the halls; the two of them passed a  busy office where they saw a very strange sight.  In the office was a young  man with pale blonde hair down to his waist, wearing a leather vest and  extremely tight black pants.  He was carrying a large heavy guitar, linked  up in an extremely complicated way to a generator, and was prancing about,  singing very loudly and frantically thrusting his pelvis forwards.  "Who is  that guy, and what he's doing there?" the two of them asked passerbys.

      "Oh him?  He does insurance."

      Adrian and Lucian briefly pondered that strange comment, but they soon  turned their attention to other things.  Adrian noticed an extremely  beautiful blonde young woman standing smartly nearby, wearing only high  heels, a very short green skirt and a yellow wrap around her breasts.  All  Adrian could do was sit on a bench and drool, (very politely, of course).   Meanwhile the ball happily bounced up and down in tune to some Evangelical  Muzak coming from a Christian bookstore.  Lucian felt especially smug today,  and decided to go in for a laugh.  She took out the cigarette holder she had  inherited from her dead father and assembled a cigarette in it as she  approached the counter.

      "So this is a Christian bookstore?"

      "Oh yes si-si-Madam, it certainly is." answered the clerk.

      "With all the best Christian books in it?"

      "We certainly pride ourselves on that."

      "Good.  I want a copy of Paradise Lost."

      "Excuse me?"

      "You know, by Milton, the crazy guy with three wives who went blind  and denied the trinity?  That guy."

      "I'm sorry, we wouldn't happen to have a copy."

      "Nothing at all?"

      "Well do we have a book called The Futile Search for Paradise in our  Comparative Religions section.  Personally, I'd highly recommend it."

      "Is The Futile Search for Paradise written in seventeenth-century  English, in blank verse and iambic pentameter?"

      "Uh, no, it isn't."

      "And does it have the passage where Adam eats the apple because he  would rather die than see Eve condemned to death alone?"

      "I don't believe so."

      "Then it's not really the book I'm looking for, is it?"

      "But it does tell you all sorts of things about all these New Age  cults and how they are doing the work of the Devil."

      "That will be wonderful.  When I go take my English exam and they ask  me about the rhythmic structures of Milton's poetry I can write for thirty  minutes on Shirley MacLaine."

       "I think some of our books are very critical of Harold Bloom."

       "Oooh, that does sound tempting.  Never mind, I'll ask for something  else.  Do you have The Brothers Karamazov?"

      "Why would that be here, sir?"

      "It is the foremost Christian novel of the nineteenth century.  I  thought it would be here in a Christian bookstore."

      "Really?  Perhaps you could check the bookstore near Blackmore Street  to find it."

      "I don't really have that much time.  Would you have anything by  François Mauriac?"

      "I've never heard of her."

      "She's a him, but never mind.  Do you have A Handful of Dust, or Scoop  or Brideshead Revisited or any of the other works by Evelyn Waugh?"

      "I've never heard of her, either, sir."

      "She's a him as well.  I particularly wondered if you had any of the  toys.  I'm very keen about the big fat bouncing Evelyn Waugh doll, and I  particularly like the Anthony Blanche doll where you pull the string and he  says `I'd like to stick you full of p-p-pins like a p-p-pin cushion.'"

      "I'm afraid we don't sell toys here."

      "Perfectly understandable.  Do you have Graham Greene?"

      "I think I've heard of him."

      "So do you have anything by him?"

      "Not a single book, sir."

      "Alright, and you don't have anything by Henry Green?"

      "I can't remember if we do."

      "Well don't take too much trouble.  Perhaps you have some poetry.  Do  you have anything by Czeslaw Milosz?"

      "How do you spell that?"


      "No, we haven't anything by her."

      "She's a him."

      "Sorry, I thought that one of them might be a woman."

      "Never mind.  Do you have any of the short stories of Flannery  O'Connor?"

      "No, we have nothing by him."

      "Miss O'Connor was a her.  How about something by Morley Callaghan?"

      "And who would he be, sir?"

      "Callaghan is the greatest Catholic novelist this country has ever  produced."

      "Ah, that might explain the problem.  We don't have those sort of  books here; this isn't a Catholic bookstore."

      "I know, it's only a Christian one.  So you have no Pascal?"


      "Paul Claudel?"

      "No Frenchmen whatsoever."

      "Do you have books with Michelangelo's paintings in them?"

      "Art isn't our strong point."

      "No Cardinal Newman?"

      "I don't think so, sir."

      "What about G.K. Chesterton?"

      "You mean the author of the Father Brown series?"

      "Yes, I do."

      "The writer of The Man Who was Thursday?"


      "One of the greatest Christian apologists of this century, and a bold  and scintillating critic?"

      "Yes, that's the one.  Do you have anything by him?"

      "Not as such."

      "Well, you must have some books by the greatest Christian poet of this  century, T.S. Eliot, author of The Waste Land, Murder in the Cathedral,  Notes on the Definition of Culture, and The Idea of a Christian Society?"

      "Aren't they out of print?"

      "What, The Idea of a Christian Society?"

      "No, I meant everything he wrote.  We don't have anything by him.  I'm  very sorry."

      "What poetry do you have?"

      "Poetry isn't really one of our strong points."

      "Do you have any novels?"

      "Why, yes we do sir." and the clerk got up and got a novel called  Truth and Passion, about a young woman who in the last century emigrated  from a war-torn Europe to find love and salvation in America.

      "Terrific.  Just what I always needed.  Pulp Romance fiction with all  the sex scenes left out."

      "Oh, but there are some very interesting euphemisms on page 351, which  I'm sure you'll enjoy."

      "I think not.  What other novels do you have?  Do you have science  fiction books?"

      The clerk retrieved a book called The Millennium.  It was a sequel to  another book that had been all sold out.  It took place just after the final  defeat of the anti-christ and when Lucian opened it the world was being  divided into the damned and the saved.  Lucian saw an illustration of a  saved Jewess trying to save her damned husband by bribing an angel with all  her money.

      "I think not." said Lucian, putting the book away.

      "May I suggest our advice books?"

      "Such as?"

      "How to use the power of Christ to beat your drug addiction."

      "I'm not addicted to drugs."

      "Well, perhaps you could give a book to your girlfriend on how to be a  real feminine and Christian women."

      "I'm single, actually."

      "Perhaps you could try one of our books on the joys of Christian  love."  The clerk leaned over and retrieved it from a nearby shelf, then  gave it to Lucian.

      "This is a sex manual, isn't it?"

      "Well, that's the bluntest way of putting it.  Actually it's very  controversial in our community."

      "And why that would be?"

      "Because it allows oral sex."

      "Ooo-that must be shocking."

      "Well, you could look at our biblical commentaries."

      "They don't really say me, somehow."

      "Perhaps you could read all our books on apologetics."

      "I don't really think so."

      "Perhaps you're more of a musical person.  Could I suggest some of our  Christian tapes."

      "That might be a good idea.  Do you have Handel's Messiah?"

      "No.  I was actually thinking more of the music we've been listening  to for the past few minutes."

      "That's supposed to be music?  I thought that was just the air  conditioner."

      "Well do we have some good gospel tapes." but before Lucian could make  another smug comment Adrian and the notary's colleague came in and told her  that the meeting was about to begin.  Lucian said goodbye and thanked the  clerk profusely for her patience, and the three left with the bouncing ball.

      "Does anybody in the party own that bookstore?" Lucian asked the  notary's colleague.

      "No, I don't think so."

      "So no-one would be terribly annoyed if I snuck back here in the  middle of the night and spray-painted over the doors  ONLY COMPLETE PRATS  COME HERE?"

      "Well, actually, I think..." but just then the notary came out and  told the trio to wait just another five minutes.  Adrian decided the best  way to spend that time would be to try to get the young blonde woman to  sleep with him.  He stuttered some opening lines and Lucian soon overheard.

      "Adrian, do you have no sense of class?  I mean when you want to screw  a whore you have to possess a certain amount of style.  Poor Adrian, do you  have any idea at all of how to go about these things?  I mean, your complete  and total incompetence in this regard is almost charming."

      Lucian walked up to the woman, smiled sweetly and for the first time  since she had lit her cigarette Lucian breathed deeply and exhaled into the  prostitute's face.  She then returned to Adrian as the others got ready to  go to the meeting that was taking place in another set of offices across the  street.  Unnoticed to all six of them, the prostitute was following them.

      As they crossed the street and entered the second set of offices,  Giles and the others could not help noticing that in the offices of  "Creighton Insurance" there was a young studious bespectacled men, very  conservatively dressed, who was banging on one of the largest drum sets  Giles had ever seen, right in the middle of the office.  The notary ushered  the group into the waiting room of a chiropractor who was normally closed  Tuesday afternoons anyway.

      This was where the meeting was supposed to take place in a couple of  hours, when all the members could finish work, but in the meantime the three  of them were supposed to convince the skeptical chiropractor of the need to  have faith in the policies of the Federal party.  This was going to be  tricky, and Giles wanted to take a few minutes to explain to Lucian and his  cousin about the situation and try to find some way to bluff a response.   This task however, was made much more difficult by a number of fatal  distractions.  First off, even though neither he nor any of his immediate  ancestors had ever been south of the southern border of South Dakota, the  chiropractor spoke with a very bad Louisiana accent, and Lucian, and even  Adrian, would break into giggles when they heard his impatient demands.   Second, the ball decided to go happily bouncing over the entire room,  causing everyone great embarrassment, and when the chiropractor demanded  more information, the ball tried to mollify him by singing "My Favorite  things."  And to make things wore the ball kept snuggling very close to  Giles, tickling him and ruining his concentration, until Adrian very firmly  told the ball to behave.

      But it was the third distraction that was to prove the most fateful.   Giles had finally agree to present a position that would attempt to overcome  all of the objections, but when it Adrian's turn to speak, his mind went  blank.  Giles tried to prompt him, but all he could do was sputter.  But  before Lucian could take his place, Adrian said one word:  "Insurance."

      "Sorry?" asked the now extremely nervous notary.

      "Insurance.  I need to take out some insurance.  For my life, my  possessions, my car, if I had a car, you know, other things.  Do you know  where I can find an insurance agent in Medicine Hat?"

      The chiropractor broke in.  "We don't take too kindly to having  insurance agents doing ahwr insurance in this town, mister."

      "Then who does your insurance?"

      "Decadent rock stars who smoke mayor-ri-wanna and come from deep  southern states where they talk with these funny southern axe-scents that  some of us keep picking up."

      Giles, Adrian and Lucian all stared at each other.  Then Lucian asked  the obvious question.  "All right.  Why do you have bad rock musicians doing  your insurance, instead of real insurance agents?"

      The chiropractor spoke in the lowest, most sinister voice his  Louisiana accent could muster, which was not very low nor very sinister.   "Because some of these insurance agents are really dangerous.  And though  it's true that the rock stars regularly have loud boisterous parties, bring  in dangerous and highly addictive drugs into the community, worship the  devil, flash their private parts at you when you try to renew your  annuities, impregnate our good daughters with their bastards, cause several  pointless deaths by drunk driving, and while it's especially true that their  roadies force us to pay twice as much for sex as our homegrown girls, and  that the rock stars don't even know how to play music all that well, it  would better to have them than those really dangerous and sneaky insurance  agents, especially those that the left-lib media in Ottawa and on the CBC  and in The Globe and Mail, consider to be really good and oh-so clever and  artsy-fartsy artistic."

      Lucian was momentarily puzzled.  "Oh.  Do you mean Wallace Stevens?"

      At these words the three members of the Medicine Hat Progressive  Conservative Constituency Association turned totally white.  Suddenly a  dwarf who had spent the previous five hours handing out Jehovah Witness's  tracts appeared in the door and asked "Did someone mention Wallace Stevens?"

      The notary jumped up in evident panic.  "No! No! No! No, no-one said  it all.  You didn't hear anything of the kind."

      "I thought what I heard was very clear and distinctive."

      "No.  What this young man"--he was referring to Lucian-- "said what  that he wanted to eat a walrus slowly."

      "What?!" asked Giles, incredulous.

      "Yes.  As soon as this meeting is over we'll take you to a special  restaurant that serves nothing but walruses.  They're quite delicious  actually, they've got loads of rich juicy fat all over them, though it hard  to swallow them because they keep moving around off the table."

      "You mean you don't kill them before you eat them?" asked Adrian.

      "But that would be cruel.  No, we'll take you to a really neat  restaurant, and after you've eaten a couple of pounds of fine fresh walrus  they'll let you swim with them in their nice big pool.  So you see, all he  said was that he wanted to eat a walrus slowly, and nothing about Wallace  Stevens.  Oh shit!"

      "No," said the chiropractor, "he didn't say what you think he said.   He said, he really said," and the chiropractor dashed out into the hall and  shouted at the top of voice "Hey Jack Preston, the notary, said that he  wants to sexually abuse all the little boys he can get his hands on."

      There was a moment of awkward silence, then reassuring shouts from  down the hall:  "All right," "OK" "Tell Jack he can come over tonight."   "So," said the chiropractor, "there's nothing to be excited about.  And  no-one ever mentioned what we are not supposed to mention."

      "But didn't the notary just mention Wallace Stevens?" asked the  bouncing blue ball innocently.

      "So what's this about Wallace Stevens?" asked the dwarf.

      "Yes.  We've been hearing all sorts of rumors." added the prostitute,  who just stepped into the office.

      "Most distressing rumors about you mentioning Wallace Stevens," said a  forty year old female florist who was covered in plastic roses and ugly  linoleum wrap.

      "Who's this Wallace Stevens that everyone's so wrapped up about?"  asked Adrian.

      "He's a major American poet, 1879-1955, and also a life-long insurance  agent.  He writes poetry with complex imagery and strange rhythms that  shouldn't be read by decent folk."

      Suddenly the dwarf ripped off the ugly jacket that he had been  wearing, cast the Jehovah witness's pamphlets to the ground, and removed his  ugly pants to reveal--a six foot tall insurance agent wearing a double  breasted suit.  With cold practical movements the florist dashed aside her  plastic roses and ugly linoleum wrap to reveal--another six foot tall  insurance agent wearing a double breasted suit.  The prostitute seductively  slipped off her green skirt, and removed her yellow wrap and revealed  herself to be completely naked--except for the double- breasted suit she  wore as a member of the insurance profession.  Ominously, threatening, the  three moved closer to the seven people trapped in the chiropractor's office.

      "Hey!" said Adrian.  "Where did those guitar cases come from?"

      The insurance agents gave a short patented sinister laugh and  carefully opened their guitar cases.  "All right men," their leader said:   "on the count of three!  Three!  Two!  One!  Altogether!  Owl Clover!"

      The three Medicine Hat tories shrieked the screams of the damned, but  that did not mean they had lost their nerve.  "Quick!" said the  chiropractor.  "I'll fend them off with my golf clubs, while you escape  through the back windows!"  Before Giles and the others could wonder why  they should be bothering, the notary and his assistant were pushing them  through the window before the chiropractor succumbed at the thirtieth line.

      "Come on!  We've got to warn the rest of the town!"

      But the infiltration that Lucian Rudman had accidentally summoned was  now a full fledged invasion.  The would-be conquerors had already destroyed  the telephone lines, jammed the television systems and had taken over the  radio station in a lightning-like blitz.  Soon phalanxes of insurance agents  were running rampant all over the city, shouting out "The Emperor of Ice  Cream," "The Monocle of Mon Oncle," and "The Worms at Heaven's Gate."  They  crashed into the newspaper offices and forced it to mass produce one hundred  thousand copies of their manifesto as well as "The Man with the Blue  Guitar."  They crashed over the streets, forcing decent prostitutes and  drug-dealers into hiding, and stormed the police station.  With their  bullet-proof suits and their ungodly poems they soon vanquished the helpless  men.  The phalanxes soon burst into the schools, which were near closing  time, anyway, but still, and they crashed into choir practices, started  knocking down hockey teams at the local skating rinks, burst out of vases at  tea parties, and started subverting hot tubs.  They smashed their way into  the local libraries, and held the staff hostage as they wantonly destroyed  all the Sidney Sheldon and Stephen King novels they could get their hands  on.  They looted television and radio shops, and soon radios were found all  over the city blaring out "Sunday Morning" as loud as possible.  They  ransacked drug stores, ate their paperbacks and bound and gagged the staff  of the Christian bookstore.  A special revenge was visited on the rock stars  who had taken over the insurance business.  To the blond rock star playing  the guitar seven insurance agents burst into the office and mercilessly read  "A High-Toned Old Christian Woman" twenty-three times before he died from  internal bleeding.  To the fool who was playing the drums they covered him  in tar, then put him on trial for not knowing basic points of Symbolist  poetry.  His final fate was too gruesome to record, but we'll mention it  anyway:  his body was found near the city limits, with an enormous smile on  his face, his stomach stuffed with peacock's feathers and a confession of  total musical incompetence tied to his ankles.  The phalanxes systematically  and sadistically hunted down the roadies and all the "horizontal  collaborators" of the ersatz insurance men; the lucky ones were stripped  naked, had their hair shaved off and were forced to listen to hours of  Wallace Stevens symposiums that had been formed on an impromptu basis at the  local college.  The unlucky ones were varnished and used as weather-vanes.   The invaders were merciless; they read poetry to attractive widows in their  bathtubs, and the widows drowned themselves to escape this horrible torture.    They spent the previous three days constructing a skylight over the  chambers of the city council, so that they could crash through it at just  the right moment.  They burst out of elevators, out of pizza boxes, out of  mailboxes and sofa cushions, out of air conditioning ducts, manholes,  ventilation systems, furnaces, and drainage systems.  They were everywhere,  and they were invincible.

      Resistance was useless, though that did not stop the city folk from  trying to stop them.  After Giles, Adrian, Lucian, the ball, the notary and  the notary's assistant escaped, the notary tried to raise the alarm.  But  with the telephone lines down, with the police forces immobilized, and the  city council taken hostage in the very first blows, there was little they  could do.  Desperately, the notary ran through a gauntlet of phalanxes to  get to some of the suburbs, and the others followed him with little  enthusiasm.  Some poor fools tried to escape Medicine Hat by car and bus,  but the insurance agents had already blocked the main roads.  But in the  suburbs the agents were slow to come, so there was enough time for the  notary to raise up a small, very small, army of men with their strictly  regulated rifles and shotguns.  They stood their ground and opened fire on  the advancing phalanx of insurance agents.  But they could not penetrate the  bullet-proof suits and they had to retreat.  They used walkie-talkies to  communicate with other impromptu resistance groups around the city, and a  crude resistance was created.  But treachery was a constant problem; the  cell at Blackmore bookstore surrendered almost immediately and others were  quickly overwhelmed.  The situation seemed hopeless.

      So, at around eleven that evening, the mayor of Medicine Hat, (who had  been boldly liberated by a group of resisters using a brinks truck disguised  like an ice-cream van), appeared at the headquarters that the invaders had  set up.  He was accompanied by Lucian, as they approached what had been the  Municipal Centre.  But now, the Wallace Stevenites had diabolically  surrounded it with giant tall billboards, so it looked like a enormous  tower, surrounded by billowing clouds of evil smelling smoke (the invaders  had spent the past three hours burning rock and roll records).  Pigeons and  Seagulls with eagles wings taped to them circled ominously, if extremely  awkwardly, around the building, while a scantily clad female accountant kept  repeating "The Raven" for atmospheric effect.  Inside, virtually naked harem  girls served coffee (very black, little milk or cream, and absolutely no  sugar) to the leaders.  The mayor and Lucian were directed across rows of  guards calculating liability rates and directed to the leader who was  sitting on what was once the mayor's chair, but was now an elaborate and  gaudy throne.  Since they couldn't find any gold to decorate the chair, the  insurance agents had used macaroni, and they had raised a levy on mood rings  in order to get the emeralds.  Stones from driveways all over the city had  been confiscated, then coloured red with lipstick to be used as rubies, but  in the centre of the binding of the grand copy of the complete works of  Wallace Stevens was a pearl of great price.  Chairs were brought for the  guests and the meeting began.

      "I am here," said the mayor, "to begin negotiations for our  surrender."

      "That is a wise decision," remarked the leader.  "You have few  resources left to you, and we do not take a lenient view of those who  obstruct our plans.  Our demands are very simple:  all power will be seceded  to us and the executive which we have formed to govern the city.  That  executive shall not include myself, for I will soon be far away continuing  our conquests.  However, in order to mollify local traditions, you shall be  appointed the representative of the community's concerns and communicate to  them our desires."

      "And what are your desires?"

      "We have decided that Medicine Hat will be the ideal town for us to  make a movie with a cast of thousands--the life of Wallace Stevens!  You  shall set up battalions of slave laborers and force them to serve as the  extras as we make the life of this bold, exciting insurance agent.  As part  of our program, the poems of Wallace Stevens will be broadcast all over the  city twenty-four hours a day."

      "Twenty-four hours a day?  Can't we compromise?"

      "What sort of compromise are you asking for?"

      "Well, couldn't we start with something simpler.  Like Longfellow and  the Song of Hiawatha?"

      The leader roared his head back and laughed a moderately sadistic and  triumphant laugh.  "No.  You've got to be kidding."

      "But there must be some Canadian content.  Couldn't we have something  by W.O. Mitchell?"

      "You should be grateful that we are allowing you to wrap fish in W.O.  Mitchell.  No, there shall be no compromise."

      "But our people couldn't take Wallace Stevens twenty-four hours a day.    Please, have mercy!"

      "Be silent!  And tell the soldiers who are fighting foolishly on your  behalf that if all resistance is not stopped by two o'clock next morning, we  will resort to drastic measures."

      "No, you can't, please give us some more time."

      "Silence wretch!  Either everyone surrenders or we start reading  Faulkner out loud."

      "No, for heaven's sake, please, no Faulkner.  We can't have our  children exposed to that."

      "It must be done.  We are working on a very tight schedule.  By two  o'clock we are supposed to have Medicine Hat completely secure, so that we  can launch our next assault."

      "What next assault?" asked Lucian.

      "Why, our assault on the rest of the province, of course.  We are  working on a very tight timetable:  today, Medicine Hat! tomorrow, Alberta!  the day after that, Canada! and the Friday before the weekend, the World!   Once we begin our push, nothing shall stop us and we will not accept any  delays.  Soon the whole planet will be under our thumb, and Medicine Hat  will play a special part in our New World Order.  After we have made the  life of Wallace Stevens, we will begin on a 35-hour adaptation of An  American Tragedy, then go on to making the movie version of Absalom!  Absalom!, and then we will make the greatest movie adaptation of them all!   The definitive version of Moby Dick!"

      "How can you do a version of Moby Dick, when we're several hundred  miles from the ocean?"

      "We'll improvise.  But you should be grateful, soon to be ex-mayor.   After all, at least we're American."

      The mayor was defiant.  "The America I used to know was a country with  lower taxes, cheaper goods, more conservative politicians, better country  music, more evangelists and a military that bombs annoying brown and yellow  people in the name of freedom.  Your America sounds like a literate country,  full of great artists with challenging ideas.  Notwithstanding the violent  coup you've just launched, it sounds like a liberal and democratic country  as well.  I don't think I like this America very much."

      "Quiet.  Even though we've ransacked your city, caused countless pain  and suffering, and are about to destroy all your NHL videos, we are the  hardly the worst we could happen to you.  Imagine what would have happened  if this woman here had mentioned the other great creative artist who worked  as an insurance agent. The consequences would have been so devastating, even  I would have been shocked.  But if we are thwarted in any way I shall not  hesitate to summon his name.  Do you understand?"

      This threat broke down the mayor's resistance very quickly.  "Of  course, sir, you're quite right sir, I shall leave here at once and try to  convince my men to surrender as quickly as possible."  The guards sent the  two of them outside of the tower and they raced back to where the resistance  was located.  As they were going there, Lucian asked "Who's this second name  everybody is so worried about?"

      "His name cannot be mentioned under any circumstances.  Let it merely  be said that his initials are the first and last letters of a very common  expletive, and let it also be said that singing mice, people who starve who  themselves to death for money, and insurance agents who wake up and find  themselves turned into centipedes are not welcome in the city limits."  And  the mayor rushed on without saying another word.

      Back at the base Giles was trying to shoo the extremely affectionate  blue bouncing ball away from him.  He would have found this extremely easier  if Adrian had not been knocked unconscious by a rifle butt for asking a  resister out for a date at the height of the fighting.  Lucian whistled the  ball to come over to her, while the mayor detailed the truly desperate  situation they were facing.

      "We have less than two hours before those fiends attack the rest of  the province.  If there was only some way we could warn them.  Does anybody  here have some ideas?"

      One voice spoke up.  "If we set the city on fire, all the surrounding  villages would notice and they would notify Calgary."

      "That wouldn't work!" said another voice.  "All the people in the  villages are tucked away in their nice little beds, and they wouldn't notice  anything until the morning, and by then it would be too late."

      "If only we could launch a satellite."

      "Why?  Do we have one?"

      "No, we don't.  That's why I wished we had one."

      "How about an airplane?"

      "We're too far away from the airfields.  Why don't we make up a hot  air balloon?"

      "How long would it take to make one?"

      "Let's see.  We'd secretly have to find canvas for the sack, and we'd  have to find someone who could weave a gondola, and of course, we'd have to  get a lot of fuel secretly.  I think we can have one in the air in about a  week's time."

      "But we don't have a week!  I've got an idea.  We'll put arsenic in  all the city's drinking water, and we'll poison the invaders before they  leave."

      "We'll also end up poisoning ourselves."

      "Well it doesn't really matter, since we don't have any arsenic  either.  Perhaps we could use mass hallucinogens to confuse the invaders."

      "Oh!  Do you know where we could get some?"

      "I haven't the slightest idea.  But perhaps we all pretended we were  suffering from hallucinations..."

      "Perhaps I could recommend something." interrupted Lucian.

      "What can a boy with a high-pitched voice give us?" asked the person  who had suggested burning the town down.

      "Could I have some charcoal and milk of magnesia?" requested Lucian.   Fortunately the resisters had just been holding a cocktail party a few  minutes before Lucian and the mayor had returned, so there was a lot of it  about.  Lucian formed a large mixture and drank it to the last drop.

      "Perhaps I could recommend something." she tried again.

      "Oh, yes, that's much more encouraging."

      "Perhaps I could recommend something.  The crucial factor in the  victory of the invaders has been their indomitable sense of unity.  To be  more precise, their rhythm.  I thought that if we could create some  counter-rhythm we could unsettle them enough to defeat them.  If the mayor  had some of the larger groups surrender, enough attackers would move away  from the citadel and surrounding areas, so that a small commando group could  take over the radio station and a somewhat larger group could smuggle itself  into their headquarters.  The element of surprise will be enough to overcome  them, while the radio station could warn surrounding towns and play the  special counter-rhythm."

      "Why, that's brilliant!" said the notary.

      "I know.  Now all we need to do is get a special counter-rhythm and  have everyone be ready to play it at the right time.  For this purpose I  suggest we get some jazz."

      "Jazz?" asked one resister.

      "You know, it's that black music where the musicians don't do any  talking.  Surely you've heard of it."

      "Oh we've heard of it.  We've really heard of it, we've certainly  heard of it, uh-uh we've definitely heard of it."

      "So why don't we round up some jazz records and get a move on?  We've  got less than two hours you know."

      "Uh, well, there's a slight problem with that."


      "You see, when we got the rock and roll musicians to do our insurance  for us, they requested that we hand in all our jazz records to them and that  no jazz be played within the city limits, ever.  Since none of us  particularly cared for jazz, we didn't have any problem with that."

      "Fine.  We can't use classical music, because that's the background  music they use to read the poems on the radio station.  We can't use gospel  music because they also use it is as the  background music for the poems.   We can't use country music because first of all, I hate it, and secondly,  it's not very reliable in hand to hand combat.  Perhaps we could think up a  mantra or something.  I've got something:  Wallace Stevens was disingenuous  in supporting Mussolini's invasion of Abyssinia.  Wallace Stevens was  disingenuous in supporting Mussolini's invasion of Abyssinia.  How's that  for an idea?"

      "It doesn't have much of a beat." said the notary.

      "It doesn't have any beat." said Giles.

      "What's Abyssinia?" asked one resister.

      "Is invading Abyssinia and being disingenuous about it a bad thing?"  asked another one.

      "Back in the thirties, the predecessors to the NDP were rather  slippery themselves on whether we should confront Mussolini." commented yet  another one.

      "O.K, we'll skip the bloody mantra.  But we've got to think of  something up extraordinarily quickly.  Anybody got any ideas?"

      "Yes," asked the resister who had recommended arson as the solution to  invasion, as well as the solution to women in the workplace, fluoridation,  congested traffic and the greenhouse effect.  "How are we going to prevent  the leader from uttering the name of the other insurance agent who we must  under no circumstances ever mention on pain of death and literacy?"

      "Oh, do you mean..." asked a just revived Adrian before he was whacked  unconscious again by the rifle-butt.

      "We will have to make sure we gag him quickly once we enter the  citadel.  But the key thing we must do is to prevent the invasion of the  rest of the province.  In order to stop us from thwarting him, the leader  will order Faulkner to be read to us.  When that happens, I want you not to  panic but to think to yourselves If Faulkner were a Canadian he would  probably vote for the Progressive Conservative Party."

      "If Faulkner were a Canadian he would probably vote for the  Progressive Conservative Party.' chanted the resisters in unison.

      Thirty-five minutes later the mayor returned to the invader's  headquarters, announcing that the largest contingent of resisters, who had  barricaded themselves in a high school auditorium, were ready to give up  their weapons and end resistance on promises of safe conduct back to their  homes.  The leader sent a special squad of his best men to march over there  and receive the surrender.  Five minutes later, a lady with large amounts of  facial hair and a rather low voice came up to the tower, and announced  herself.

      "Avon calling!"

      She was admitted and in the next forty minutes twenty-six other Avon  ladies with large amounts of facial hair and rather low voices were allowed  entrance into the tower, where preparations for the next big push were being  made.  In less than an hour, airplanes from secret bases in Montana would  swoop out of the skies and pick up the agents and drop them all over the  province.  By dawn (which was around quarter to eight in many parts of the  province) there would be infiltrators in every town and city, and a few  hours afterwards, after destroying the Albertan telephone and radio  communications system they would begin their attack.  Naturally preparations  for the vital moment were frantic; and there was no time to pay attention to  the twenty-seven Avon ladies who had entered the tower.  But some of the  insurance agents were suspicious and one of them went so far to ask the  leader whether it was not odd and suspicious and conceivably highly  dangerous that there were so many Avon ladies so near the crucial climax  when the best guards were away.

      "Nonsense," said the leader.  "Everyone knows that these people are  harmless.  Why the only way they could be dangerous was if the resistance  cunningly sneaked into a 24-hour laundry and stole twenty-seven uniforms.   And everybody knows that's ridiculous; after all, all night long, only seven  24-hour laundries have been attacked."

      Meanwhile at the radio station, there was only a skeleton crew,  constantly rereading "Sketch of the Ultimate Politician," while scantily  clad harem girls swept the floor, wiped the windows, and served them coffee  (very black, with little milk or cream, and absolutely no sugar).  So they  did not notice Lucian, Giles, Adrian and the blue bouncing ball subtly enter  the building armed with mops and chloroform.  But they were noticed when  they entered the control room.

      "Who are you?" asked one of the broadcasters.

      "We're the new cleaning ladies." said Lucian.

      "But you're not wearing the special uniform of transparent cloth.  And  come to think of it, aren't you all men?"

      "I'm not." said the blue bouncing ball, who bounced over to the  broadcaster.  "I would like to know how I can learn more about Wallace  Stevens and listen to more of his great poetry."

      "Oh, well, you see..." and the broadcaster started talking about the  poet's childhood, his education, his sexual proclivities, life in the great  big insurance companies of the world, how he started to write poetry, and  his political opinions, before Adrian sneaked behind him and chloroformed  him with his mop.

      "I was finding that very interesting." complained the ball, but the  others had already burst into the station and knocked out the broadcasters.   They artfully covered up the change of power by running on the radio a five  minute commercial on the utility of tune-ups, and then they had to confront  the harem girls who preferred the increased wage rates and the lack of  sexual harassment.  But then Lucian started giving out orders.  "Ball, I  want you to bounce around and not get in anybody's way.  Giles, I want you  to radio the surrounding cities and tell them to get prepared.  I will help  tie up the broadcasters as quickly as possible.  Adrian, I want you to keep  reciting the poem 'The worms at Heaven's Gate.'"

      "Why 'The Worms at Heaven's Gate.'"

      "Because it's a very good poem, and I like it very much."  And the  four started working, with the ball singing the prisoners into a very deep  sleep, and Lucian securing them with the hardest bonds and the largest gags  she could get.  Giles, however, was having considerable trouble trying to  convince any of the other towns that Medicine Hat had been ransacked by a  legion of poetry- wielding insurance agents.  And just then a message came  from the tower:  it was a routine call asking for the radio station to  repeat the secret code message.

      "The Secret Code?" asked Adrian, desperately stalling while Lucian had  to untie and reawaken one of the agents.  "You haven't changed it recently?"

      "Not for the past three hours.  Why do you ask such an odd question?   There is no reason not for you to know it."

      "Well, I'm just a little new here."

      "What do you mean you're new?  The skeleton crew was picked out hours  ago on grounds of endurance and intelligence.  Why would there be any  replacement?"

      "One of the broadcasters just came down with cancer."


      "Cancer?  Did I say cancer?  I really meant AIDS."


      "Try appendicitis, you moron." shouted Lucian from across the room.

      "Sorry, I really meant appendicitis.  It was very sudden and I was  called to replace him."

      "Why wasn't I informed of this immediately?"

      "Because...because...because it only started five minutes ago, and I  just got here, and I was just about to call you with the news when you  interrupted, so you there was no time at all for me to telephone you, and  it's not because resisters came into the building and knocked out all the  broadcasters."

      "Ah.  Can I speak to one of your superiors?"

      "Umm, none of them are here at the moment.  Uh, they're all in the  bathroom, helping the broadcaster who had appendicitis.  And they are also  suffering from acute constipation."

      "Pardon me, but I desperately need the proper code."

      Only then did the singing blue ball hear this.  "Oh the code?   TSESU-36.  Sorry about all that."

      "No problem at all," said the messenger in tones that suggested he  considered it a very serious problem indeed.  "You will know that we are  changing codes half an hour from now.  Of course that will be in your  special radio booklet."

      "And where that would be?" asked Adrian.

      "In the special secret hiding place of course.  Everybody knows that."  and the messenger signed off.

      The three humans and one bouncing ball looked at each other.  "Did you  think we fooled them?" asked Adrian.

      "Not bloody likely," said Lucian, "but they're too busy to send a  squad over here and figure out what's going on.  Still the faster we warn  the outside world of the imminent invasion and race the hell out of this  building, the better.  How's it coming along Giles?  Making any progress?"

      "None whatsoever.  Nobody believes a word I'm saying, and some of them  say that if I keep calling they're going to get the police.  What's even  worse is that they don't really mean it."

      "All right then.  We'll have to try Plan B.  I didn't want to go  through with this, but we have no choice.  Adrian, how much time before two  o'clock?"

      "Less than fifteen minutes."

      Lucian used her walkie-talkie to contact the mayor.  "We've got the  radio station, but we can't reach the outside world.  Plan B is in effect.   How may men do we have in the tower?"


      "O.K.  Tell them to put Plan B in effect in forty-seven seconds."   Lucian clicked the radio off, then turned to the bouncing ball, as she  extracted a tape from her breast pocket.  "Ball, can you teleport both of us  into the tower?"


      "Good.  Adrian, put this tape into the tape deck player.  Once you  start it you have thirty seconds for you and Giles to clear the radio  station and run for your lives.  Ball, when I give the word, you'll beep the  two of us into the tower.  Everybody got that?"

      They did, and Adrian put the tape in, started it, and fled with Giles  from the radio station building with ten seconds to spare.  Lucian made a  final countdown:  ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two,  one...

      "OK, Ball, beep us into the tower!"

      And so the blue bouncing ball did and Lucian arrived just in time to  see twenty-seven rugged men kick up their high heels and lift up their Avon  skirts and burst into a rousing chorus of "You Light up My Life."  The shock  was devastating; stern, hardened insurance agents broke into mindless panic,  as papers scattered all over the room and plans came to a screeching pause.   A reserve group of shock troops was called in, but before they could sweep  aside the chorus line with a firm rendition of "Sunday Morning," they were  scattered by the full thrust of "You Light Up My Life" on the city's radio  stations.  With radios all over the city blaring out the deadly music, local  squads and patrols were dazed and confused.  The leader quickly regained his  sense of proportion and ordered the committee for Medicine Hat to break out  the Faulkner, but a special set of seven Avon agents repulsed them with  Lucian's mantra.  The sound of machine gun fire filled the air, although  none were allowed within city limits.  The invaders tried to conserve enough  energy to get ready for the transports that would take them to the rest of  Alberta, but the blue bouncing ball caused too much chaos by scattering  papers, upsetting inkwells and ruining files with its bouncing.  Those who  were not stunned by the chorus line, or confused by the bouncing ball, were  dispersed by Lucian who used a very convenient hose to spray them with  coffee with sugar.  Just in time, Adrian and Giles appeared, and helped to  mop things up, as the former city council chambers started to burst into  flame for no good reason

      "Well everything seems to be going well." said Giles.  "Particularly  those men in those Avon Lady suits."

      "Yes," agreed Adrian.  "I wonder what you would look like in one of  those, Lucian."

      "Don't be silly Adrian, I wouldn't be caught dead in one of those."   Then everybody realized something vitally important. "Where's the leader?   He's by far the most dangerous of them all!"  And then Lucian vaguely  remembered the leader racing up around a spiral staircase that had been  built especially for him to race up around in situations like this.  "He's  that way!" she shouted and dashed off in pursuit.

      The leader and a quartet of acolytes were on the top floor of the  tower, desperately gathering up crucial documents in the hope that they  could escape and plot their evil in some other Alberta town.  Lucian easily  dispersed the acolytes by turning up a radio at high volume and throwing it  at them, but the leader was made of sterner stuff.  He smashed it with one  blow of The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens.  He then moved to a strange  device; it was a gigantic mechanical spring that was supposed to have shot  off seven agents at a time right into the open cockpit of the planes flying  overhead.  The leader no longer had the men who would be there to operate  the device, but everything had been carefully synchronized so that the  spring would eject at least once automatically.  He was now standing on the  spring.

      "You have done very well.  I must honestly say that I could not have  expected this.  But all you have done is to delay our final push for an hour  or so.  For above in the planes overhead is a crucial hallucinogenic gas,  which when dropped on Medicine Hat will fill its denizens with all the  imagery of The Great Man's poetry.  My men will be unaffected, while a  precious few will be so amazed by it, they will become our willing agents  and join us in our crusade.  But the vast majority of they city will be  destroyed; Medicine Hat will be devastated, but we shall rule to conquer.   All I have to do is give the order to drop.  So, so long, hasta la auf  weidernshen baby!"

      But before the spring could go off Lucian rushed over to the leader  and attempted to pull him off.  As the seconds counted down before the  spring sprung into action the two wrestled, struggled, and fought over  Utilitarian ethics to the death.  Lucian had no success in getting the  leader off the spring, but fortunately it didn't matter, as for some reason  that was never adequately explained, there were a large number of cable and  wires and ropes hanging over the launch site.  So when the spring did go  off, instead of the two landing in the nice warm cockpit of a fighter plane,  the cables dragged them down to the top of the tower.  The two disentangled  themselves from the wires and themselves and saw the planes overhead  suddenly explode (which conveniently and completely destroyed the  hallucinogenic gas).  They were being devoured by the flames, then quietly  chewed by the flames, then politely had their faces wiped with a good napkin  by the flames, and then pleasantly digested by the flames.  The fighter  pilots all parachuted out in multi-coloured rainbow parachutes while above  them fireworks started exploding and the eternal notes of "You Light up My  Life" could be heard all over Medicine Hat.  The invasion had been defeated!

      "No!  I refuse to believe I've been defeated!"  As the flames  flickered around the top of the tower, as hordes of angry Medicine Hattians  climbed up to reach him, there was a desperate gleam in his eyes and a  mild-mannered one in his ears.  "You realize this is your last chance to  surrender." he said.

      "And what if we don't?" responded Lucian with cheap defiance.  "What  else can you do?"

      "Do you know what would happen if I jumped from the top of this  tower?"

      Lucian pondered the problem for a minute.  "You would probably crash  through the glass windows of the municipal recreation centre and land safely  in the swimming pool below, which is available all year around for the  citizens of Medicine Hat.  From there you could make your escape for a few  minutes until we caught you trying to get through the locked doors."

      "A few seconds are all I need!  I warned you that we Americans were a  lesser evil.  You would have preferred our rule to the name of the other.   All I need are the few seconds to name that name that cannot be said.   Against his power, there is no escape, no evasion, no defense.  You could  have been ruled for eternity by a decent conservative American Protestant,  whose only problem is a willful ignorance of Europe, but who wasn't  megalomaniacal at all.  But now you will see the darker dreams that Europe  can produce."  The leader leaped off the tower.  "Sooo Loooong Suuucker!"  and crashed through the windows of the Medicine Hat Municipal Recreation  Centre.

      "Nooo Youuuu Doooon't." yelled Lucian leaping right after him.  They  crashed into the shallow end of the pool and wrestled for a few frantic  seconds.  But the leader soon managed to escape from Lucian's arms and got  out of the pool.  He dashed around the edge, when he heard people coming  into the building.  Desperate for a few more seconds, he raced to the ladder  over the deep end, followed right behind by Lucian.  The two struggled near  the top of the ladder before the leader pushed her right off.  Fortunately,  Adrian was right under her, so she wasn't hurt.  But now the leader was at  the ladder's summit and raced to the end of the diving board.  As the room  filled with people he sneered at them in triumph.  "You poor fools!  Now  there is nothing you can do to stop me from saying the name of Fr..."

      "Hi there!" said the blue bouncing ball that had just materialized  right there on the diving board beside him.  The leader was so utterly  surprised that he lost his balance, and fell right into the water.  Since he  didn't know how to swim, he almost drowned before the townspeople pulled him  out, gagged him, and mailed him parcel post back to Indiana.

      There were some brief moments of euphoria and for their work in saving  the town, Giles, Adrian and Lucian were briefly noticed while the key of the  city was given to the mayor's brother in- law.  Shops opened for a three  o'clock in the morning madness sale, and made enormous profits.  Restaurants  offered "all you can eat sauerkraut" specials, while the Christian bookstore  offered all the C.S. Lewis you can bear specials as well.  But there was a  considerable clean-up problem to take care of, not the least of which were  the twenty-seven dancing Avon ladies who couldn't be stopped from singing  "You Light up My Life."  (It was so bad that Giles had to release some of  the Wallace Stevenites to shut them up.)  There was also, of course, the  problem of trying to find rock and roll musicians as talentless and  irresponsible as the ones that had just been murdered.  Giles suggested that  they get some jazz musicians, but the city council feared that if they used  them everybody might get a good sense of rhythm, with devastating social  consequences to follow.  There were of course bodies to be buried, fires to  be put out, extremely expensive advanced fighter-planes to be picked up,  billboards to be removed from around the city council chambers, and scantily  clad harem girls who wanted their wages renegotiated or they wouldn't serve  any sort of coffee (or even tea) whatsoever.  But the most important problem  of all for Giles and the others was that several members of the Medicine Hat  Progressive Conservative Constituency Association were either dead or  severely injured.  This meant that there could hardly be a meeting for Giles  and the others to address, so he and the other three returned to Calgary the  first thing next morning, and were back in Ottawa by early evening.

Next: Conspiracy and Matrimony

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