July 2, 2005 8:38 PM

Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark is "holy fuck"

And I'm not kidding


In his bedroom Luckman relaxed, set the ax down with a clank, smoothed his hair, opened the door, and stepped out. "Hi. What's happening?"
Arctor said, "I drove by the Maylar Microdot Corporation Building."
"You're shitting me."
"And," Arctor said, "they were taking an inventory. But one of the employees evidently had tracked the inventory outdoors on the heel of his shoe. So they were all outside there in the Maylar Microdot Corporation parking lot with a pair of tweezers and lots and lots of magnifying glasses. And a little paper bag."
"Any reward?" Luckman said, yawning and beating with his palm on his flat, hard gut.
"They had a reward they were offering," Arctor said. "But they lost that too. It was a little tiny penny."
Luckman said, "You see very many events of this nature as you're driving along?"
"Only in Orange County," Arctor said.
"How large is the Maylar Microdot Corporation building?"
"About an inch high," Arctor said.
"How much would you estimate it weighs?"
"Including the employees?"
Fred sent the tape spinning ahead at fast wind. When an hour had passed, according to the meter, he halted it momentarily.
"--about ten pounds," Arctor was saying.
"Well, how can you tell then, when you pass by it, if it's only an inch high and only weighs ten pounds?"
Arctor, now sitting on the couch with his feet up, said, "They have a big sign."
Jesus! Fred thought, and again sent the tape ahead. He halted it at only ten minutes elapsed real time, on a hunch.
"--what's the sign look like?" Luckman was saying. He sat on the floor, cleaning a boxful of grass.
"Neon and like that? Colors? I wonder if I've seen it. Is it conspicuous?"
"Here, I'll show it to you," Arctor said, reaching into his shirt pocket. "I brought it home with me."
Again Fred sent the tape at fast forward.
"--you know how you could smuggle microdots into a country without them knowing?" Luckman was saying.
"Just about any way you wanted," Arctor said, leaning back, smoking a joint. The air was cloudy.
"No, I mean a way they'd never flash on," Luckman said. "It was Barris who suggested this to me one day, confidentially; I wasn't supposed to tell anyone, because he's putting it in his book."
"What book? Common Household Dope and--"
"No. Simple Ways to Smuggle Objects into the U.S. and out, Depending on Which Way You're Going. You smuggle it in with a shipment of dope. Like with heroin. The microdots are down inside the packets. Nobody'd notice, they're so small. They won't--"
"But then some junkie'd shoot up a hit of half smack and half microdots."
"Well, then, he'd be the fuckingest educated junkied you ever did see."
"Depending on what was on the microdots."
"Barris had his other way to smuggle dope across the border. You know how the customs guy, they ask you to declare what you have? And you can't say dope because--"
"Okay, how?"
"Well, see, you take a huge block of hash and carve it in the shape of a man. Then you hollow out a section and put a wind-up motor like a clockworks in it, and a little cassette tape, and you stand in line with it, and then just before it goes through customs you wind up the key and it walks up to the customs man, who says to it, 'Do you have anything to declare?' and the block of hash says, 'No, I don't', and keeps on walking. Until it runs down on the other side of the border."
"You cold put a solar-type battery in it instead of a spring and it could keep walking for years. Forever."
"What's the use of that? It'd finally reach either the Pacific or the Atlantic. In fact, it'd walk off the edge of the Earth, like--"
"Imagine an Eskimo village, and a six-foot-high block of hash worth about-- how much would that be worth?"
"About a billion dollars."
"More. Two billion."
"These Eskimos are chewing hides and carving bone spears, and this block of hash worth two billion dollars comes walking through the snow saying over and over, 'No, I don't.'"
"They'd wonder what it meant by that."
"They'd be puzzled forever. There'd be legends."
"Can you imagine telling your grandkids, 'I saw with my own eyes the six-foot-high block of hash appear out of the blinding fog and walk past, that way, worth two billion dollars, saying "No, I don't."' His grandchildren would have him committed."
"No, see, legends build. After a few centuries they'd be saying, 'In my forefathers' time one day a ninety-foot-high block of extremely good quality Afghanistan hash worth eight trillion dollars came at us dripping fire and screaming, "Die, Eskimo dogs!" and we fought and fought with it, using our spears, and finally killed it.'"
"The kids wouldn't believe that either."
"Kids never believe anything any more."
"It's a downer to tell anything to a kid. I once had a kid ask me, 'What was it like to see the first automobile?' Shit, man, I was born in 1962."
"Christ," Arctor said, "I once had a guy I knew burned out on acid ask me that. He was twenty-seven years old. I was only three years older than him. He didn't know anything any more. Later on he dropped some more hits of acid -- or what he was sold as acid -- and after that he peed on the floor and crapped on the floor, and when you said something to him like, 'How are you, Don?', he just repeated it after you, like a bird. 'How are you, Don?'"
Silence, then. Between the two joint-smoking men in the cloudy living room. A long, somber silence.
"Bob, you know something..." Luckman said at last. "I used to be the same age as everyone else."
"I think so was I," Arctor said.
"I don't know what did it."
"Sure, Luckman," Arctor said. "You know what did it to all of us."
"Well, let's not talk about it." He continued inhaling noisily, his long face sallow in the dim midday sun.