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Friday, October 10, 2008

The Day That No One Died (5)

Read parts one, two, three, and four.
* * *

A quick run to the post office, packages mailed, and just enough time to make it back across town for lunch with Charlie Coulton. Daryl had become one of Charlie's biggest supporters in new media, and Charlie had become one of Darly most supportive musicians. Charlie's music had been featured on several episodes of Daryl's show, Average Joe Radio, and Daryl was hopeful that Charlie would feel compelled to repay in kind -- with a custom written intro that Daryl could use as the opening to every episode.

Charlie, a creature of habit and tradition, insisted that they always meet at the same table at the same restaurant as that first conversation. Thus, Daryl Campa was headed back to the Tumbleweed restaurant he once was responsible for operating. It had been nearly a year since Daryl had stepped out on his own, leaving the restaurant business -- and all traditional forms of employment -- behind him and embarked on his attempt to make a living as a new media professional. It had been a rocky road so far, but Daryl Campa did not give up easily.

As they were reported to have been on the highway, cars seemed to be increasingly numerous today, and Daryl was forced to park nearly a block from his old haunt and walk the final distance. Work up a little appetite, I guess, Daryl told himself as he hoofed it down the sidewalk and dodged between the traffic jammed cars to cross the street.

"Daryl, long time no see, buddy," greeted his old friend, Kraig Stall, who had ascended to the Tumbleweed throne upon Daryl's departure.

"It has been a bit, hasn't it?"

"What brings you in today?"

"Meeting with a friend," Daryl answered.

"Your music friend?"

"Charlie Coulton, yeah. He here yet?"

"Same table as always."

"Thanks. I'll talk to you later."

"Good seeing you, Daryl."

"You, too, Kraig."

* * *

Charlie Coulton stood from the table quietly, greeting Daryl as he approached. "Hello, Joe."

"Charlie, how goes it?"

"Same as ever. Just trying to get some new music out. Feel like that's the story of my life."

"No pressure, though. Right?"

"Not like it used to be, man. Have a seat, coffee's still hot."

Noticing that Charlie had taken the liberty of ordering a hot cup of coffee for him, Daryl slid into the seat across the table and took a satisfying sip of coffee.

"So what can I do for you today?" Charlie asked, getting right to business.

"Never one to beat around the bush, were you?"

"Waste of time."

"I was hoping I could persuade you to put together a little custom intro for me for the show."

"Music, lyrics, the whole gamut?"

"Whatever you can put together for me."

"Love to, Daryl."

"That easy?"

"That easy. The way I see it, we have a mutually beneficial relationship. You do for me, I do for you. Seems pretty simple to me."

"Yeah, I guess so. Kinda nice, isn't it?"

"You notice what's been going on around this town today?"

"Excuse me?" Daryl replied, taken aback by the sudden change of subject.

"Traffic. Crickets. Pigeons. How far away did you have to park to get here today?"

"Almost a block away."

"Exactly. And how did you get here today? Interstate?"

"No, I came across town. But I heard the loop was in gridlock."

"I've got a theory."

"A theory?"

"Yeah," Charlie explained. "About the gridlock. The traffic. The cars."

"Okay. I'll bite."

"Not yet. I need to think this one through a little more. Besides, it's still early. It may be nothing."

"You lost me somewhere."

"Never mind. So tell me, what do you have in mind for this intro?"

Glad to be back on track, Daryl popped open some notes he had brought with him, laying out what his ideas for the intro. "Just a couple of thoughts."

"No problem, man," Charlie said, swooping up the folder without a glance. "I'll put some things together and drop you a line, you can let me know what you think."

"Sure. I'm sure it'll be great."

"Gonna have a little lunch?" Charlie asked.

"Would you be offended if I took a rain check? I'm running a little behind on some errands today. Kind of had a nasty run in this morning with --" crickets. He didn't finish the sentence, remembering Charlie's sudden change of subject earlier. You notice what's been going on around this town today? Traffic. Crickets. Pigeons.

"With who?" Charlie asked, curious.

"Not who, really. More like what."

"Okay, with what."

"Nothing really," Daryl said, hoping to drop the subject.

"A nasty run in sounds like a little more than nothing."

"You wouldn't believe it."

"Try me."

Pausing, Daryl prayed silently for a way out.


"Crickets," Daryl said quietly.

* * *

With a day of meetings finally over, Daryl was more than ready to return home, crickets or not. It had felt like a much longer day than it should have felt. Just two brief meetings, really, plus an errand or two in between. Oh -- and lots of heavy, nearly unnavigable traffic from one side of town to the other -- had quickly added up to what turned out to be a very, very long day.
Or so Daryl felt, until he let himself into his house and saw that the clock on the wall reported that it was barely two o'clock in the afternoon. Wow, Daryl thought. Time sure flies.

Daryl dropped his keys and files on the table by the door, leaned back against the wall, and slid to a seat on the tiled floor entryway. Head in his hands, rubbing his eyes with the palms of his hands, Daryl reflected back on how this crazy day had begun.

Where did all those crickets come from? It didn't seem to add up. Or worse, maybe, it added up to too much. Too many. Crickets, that is. And even Charlie saw it. The crickets. The traffic. And what else was it he said?

Daryl racked his brain trying to figure out what else it had been that Charlie had mentioned. There had been an inexplicable increase, it seemed, in the number of crickets, the density of traffic, and pigeons, that's what he said.

Daryl stood quickly to his feet and opened the front door. Stepping out onto the sidewalk, he shaded his eyes and looked to the sky. It was a bright afternoon, not a cloud in the sky. The temperature was unseasonably warm, and yes, there does seem to be more pigeons than I remember. Scanning along the power lines across the street, Daryl tried to count the pigeons. Searching for just a small section of power line that wasn't heavily populated with pigeons, Daryl soon gave up on trying to count them all. What's the link? he asked himself.

Turning his face to the sky, screaming, "What. Is. The. Link?" drawing out the last syllable until his voice faded out, squinting his eyes at the sun. As he opened his eyes, his screams died away to the peals of a thousand wings, as loud as thunder. Pigeons took to the air, casting a collective shadow over the streets below. Seemingly blotting out the sun. Instinctively, Daryl ducked and threw his arms over his head for cover. Unnecessarily.
To be continued ...

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