Where have all the armadillos gone?
The Lawrentian, February 3, 1978.
The desert air was still as the old man sat in rheumy-eyed contemplation. "Ali-Ak Basim?.... Ali-Ak... now that's a name I've not heard for a long time... a long time."
"Then you know him?" asked the young man seated near him.
"Of course I know him. He's ME!"
"Then this bottle of Cadavracoll belongs to YOU! I've been looking all over the galaxy for you."
"Well, I don't remember ever owning any Cadavracol... But let me see it." He twisted open the battered bottle of frothing liquid and took as deep a breath as he dared. The swirling mists that arose from the slimy effervescence enveloped them both in a pernicious cloud of multiphasic, transubtantative stench.
Ali-Ak Basim inhaled calmly, savoring the unexpected pleasure of feeling his living lung tissue becoming embalmed. His young counterpart gasped and chocked. Inner peace of that sort held little fascination for him. He felt as if he were dying. He WAS dying. He was... suddenly there came the sound of feet running across the sand.
Flat feet. Five pair of flat feet. And then he heard singing. It grew louder-it split into three-then four-then five part harmony. He felt as if he had a barbershop quintet in his head, trying to shave its way out. Fighting for consciousness, trying to retain some personal sanctimony, he called out for aid.
"Ali-Ak!" he cried, "Help! Help me!"
"Trust your feelings. Plug your nose. Hold your ears. Shut your mouth," Ali-Ak Basim replied sagely. "It will get worse before it gets better>"
Ali-Ak Basim was true to his word. It got worse. Perforating the putrid, perdifious profundity cam Pope Pontius Page the One Quarteenth, wielding his incense burner like a Boy Scout practicing semaphore.
"Ecce Thunnus! In Hoc Telephonio Vinces!" he cried as his incendiary vessel belched forth acrid clouds of carbon monoxide. Ali-AkBasim raised his aged hands.
"Stop schnuttering in Latin, you Holiness. I've brought them." His eminence was his usual razor-sharp self.
"Brought who?" he inquired.
"The Six who are as Five. The Nine who are one-hundred ninety two. The One who is all, and the All who are none." Pope Pontius Page looked perplexed. Nonetheless he managed to ask the one question which penetrated to the heart of the dilemma.
"Huh?" he stammered, struggling to avoid delivering knockout blows to the nearby melody boys with his deadly incense burner.
"Be careful with that thing!" Ali-Ak's young cohort cried, awakening out of his stupor only to find the pungent projectile whizzing just inches away from his nostrils. Ali-Ak Basim and his five flatfoot melody boys drew back, half in fear and half in disgust. And suddenly, inexplicably, the found themselves floating high above Kaukauna.
"Hey! What happened?" belched Pope Pontious Page the One Quarteenth.
"What happened" intoned the melody boys in perfect harmony despite their confusion.
"I believe we are about to experience that most existential of phenomena, the free-fall into what appears, from this altitude, to be a rather large deposit of bovine fecal matter."
"You don't mean..." gasped Ali-Ak's young accomplice.
"You don't mean..." burbled His Holiness, pinching his nostrils.
"You don't mean..." sang the melody boys, striking a minor chord.
"Yes, I am afraid so," replied Ali-Ak Basim gravely. "Cow dung."
They were keenly aware that the Kaukauna Manuer Works was now rushing toward them with greater and greater velocity, and that it was in fact about to strike them with solipsistic, cataclysmic, odoriferous force.
Then it was over. The Five flatfoot Melody Boys, Ali-Ak Basim, the young lad, and the thoroughly confused Pope Pontius Page the Obe Quarteenth were afloat in a sea of organic material, trying to maintain their buoyancy.
"Why did this have to happen?" asked the youngster. "What will my aunt and uncle say when I get home?"
"Why did it happen? Because it was meant to happen," replied Ali-Ak Basim. "Some force stronger than ourselves has called us to be brought together in this fashion. We must discover what we are meant to do."
They debated, discussed, digressed, and declaimed amid the defecation for minutes that seemed like hours. Finally a consensus was reached.
"The time has come to unveil our true identities and purpose," bellowed the Five flatfoot melody boys. "Trivia!"
"Trivia?" whispered the youth.
"Trivia? Non ego sum stultus..." said His Eminence.
"Yes, you Holiness, I am afraid you are... and Trivia must be," declared Ali-Ak.
"Must be what?" asked the Pope, incisively.
"Must be. It is, therefore it must have been, and will be, ever in our image, at least for this year," answered Basim.
Ali-Ak Basim, with these historic words, called together the first Meeting of the Masters, amid the flagrant fragrance of the Kaukauna Manure Works. And just who are these paragons of perplexity?
Heading up the rear at the top of page two and a half is Norbert Q. Plotz, part-time otolaryntologisy and currently employed as a telephone pole in Darboy. Plotz represents the epitome of noveau-drecch thought in Western Theology. Engaged for a return bout with the trivia Strain (also catalogued as the Hortonville Flu) is well-known neo-existentialist and jacks player Philosopher (Phil) Stone, the country's foremost authority on the geology of common hand soaps. Three year victim-veteran R.F.D. Dilberton has made the perilous trip to Appleton against all odds from scenic Omro where he has been trapped beneath the ice of the Fox River since December 12 when he dove after a particularly interesting specimen of carp.
Newcomers to Trivial Studies this year include Dr. Humboldt Sammler, Chairman of the Committee on Social Drinking at the University of Urbane-Champagne. Among Dr. Sammlers more recent publications is his demographic analysis of acne transmission as a function of subway travel in cities north of Hoboken. Trivia '78's Director of Public Debations is the well known Rabbi Mikial S. Sigmandevich, whose renowned chain of franchised synagogues are suspected by Campus Police of operating an underwater laetrile smuggling ring. Iwhore Yalubudivchyat! (which translates into "I have eels in my underwear") has joined Trivia as the only alternative to Chemistry 67 or work at the Physical Plant. At a recent political convention, Iwhore was quoted as saying, "Unibus time-out fatal trap at line 360. Program lost-Sorry."
Adding an international flavor to trivia '78 will be Milo (The Killer) Weed, private investigator from Cleveland, Ohio and partly full-time hack journalist. Asked to comment on the proclivity of computer software, Weed replied, "I don't know, but then again, I don't really know her all that well. That aside, Vyenta Olyblatz (also known as the Albanian Midget) arrived this year only to find a rather severe shortage of bedroom facilities in the Appleton area. No need to worry, though. Ms. Olyblatz has taken up residence inside a variable capacitor in the WLFM transmitter, where she plans to remain until a cure for apathy can be found.
Finally, Carlton W. Dorkwelder, prize winning door-to-door Geritol Salesperson for the twentieth year in a row, has assured us that Trivia '78 is, as we all suspected, "100 percent organic, nothing artificial added." As a result, the WLFM studios have received, courtesy of Dorkwelder, a letter of condemnation from Good Slumkeeping Magazine, which he also sells door-to-door.
As a group, Ali-Ak Basim and his five flatfoot melody boys are a relatively diverse group; their only common interest is a surprisingly insatiable desire to stomp on cockroaches (Rabbi, with those pointed shoes of his, is especially tough in the corners). They assure all interested parties that "Trivia '78 will be the best Trivia contest that Lawrence has had since 1977."