Mid-February, Postwar West Germany, 1959
Screams of laughter echoed off the cold concrete of the abandoned bunker. Mama would blow a gasket if she knew Uschi was sitting at an illicit fire with that ne’er-do-well Herman, and drinking warm pilsner. Uschi was enthralled with Herman’s pompadoured hair, his pointy shoes, and his overall slickness. Mama said he would bring her to no good end, but Uschi didn’t care. She was nineteen, almost twenty, and Mama didn’t know everything! Sitting here holding Herman’s hand felt just fine. The beer and Hermans silly renditions of the Schmaltz the grownups listened to were going to her head, it looked like Herman was melting… and his eyes were… bulging outwards…
Late November, Outside Oldenburger Atommüll Und Biologischabfälle Anlage #3 1959
Uschi wept inconsolably as she read the letter again. Herman had been sent to live with his uncle across the ocean in Amerika. Mama had had him sent far away, bribing Herman’s father with a small piece of land, and Herman’s uncle with some of the carefully hoarded gold. Mama told her that no good would ever come from him, and had forced Uschi to work at the horrible waste dump. As she cried her way homeward along the path by the grimy facility, a fit of sneezing overtook her. Each sneeze seemed to want to pop her eyes right out of her head. Uschi sat down hard. In a final violent paroxysm, Uschi sneezed a large globule of glowing phlegm onto the ground.
As Uschi sat on the ground rubbing her aching nose, the loogey began to quiver and shake. Uschi watched speechless as a bright purple something wiggled it’s way free. It lay there for a moment, then a plume of bright green feathers unfurled from it’s backside. Two protrusions at the front quickly followed. The little columns turned bright green at the tips, as well. The feathers on it’s back began to wave, and quickly the bright green turned to a vivid yellow. The wee beastie was no larger than a One Mark coin.
Early March, Wilhelmshaven, 1963
Uschi huddled in the darkness, listening to the machinery and shouts of men as they loaded the freighter. There was a series of loud clanks, and her cramped crate was being hoisted into the cavernous hold of the ship. After few moments of being jostled into place, silence descended. An interminable time later, Uschi heard the six big Daimler diesels coughing to life one after another, filling her world with a monotonous blatting. An almost imperceptible rocking told her they were under way! Soon she would be holding Herman once more, and Mama could curse all she wanted.
Uschi undid the latch securing the lid from the inside, and peeked out into the hold. It was dark, except for the red glow of the night lamps, and deserted. She quietly crept out of the crate, and retrieved her knapsack. As she opened her pack, her pet (who she had named Blippi) scooted out and turned its eyestalks on her reproachfully. “It’s dark and smelly in there!”, whispered the bright purple beast, now grown to the size of a medium dog. “Why did I have to be in your pack when we were hiding to begin with?”
“If they did find us, I didn’t want to have to explain you”
“If they did find us, they would have found me, too, wouldn’t they?”
“Shut up, Blippi.”
The two had made their way to the door leading to the rest of the vessel. Uschi pressed her ear against it, listening hard. Not hearing anything, she tried the handle, and found it unlocked. “Come on, Blippi! Let’s get us some fresh air!” Following signs, the pair crept through the seemingly empty ship, and finally stood before a hatch. Steeling her nerve, Uschi again found the door unlocked, opened it, and walked out onto the little observation platform.
The sun shone gloriously in a clear blue sky. Below her, and stretching to the horizon, Uschi could see cloudtops of the purest white. Between the clouds, she could see tiny sparkles of sunlight reflected off the ocean far below. The air smelled clean and beautiful after so many hours cooped in a crate. Uschi imagined the air where Herman was, in fact, the air in all of Amerika, smelled just as sweet.
Lyndhurst, NJ, March 13, 1963
The diesels shut down, and a sudden silence filled the hold. They were here! Uschi quickly gathered up Blippi, and scrambled back into her crate. She latched the lid from the inside. She sat in her crate, shivering with anticipation. An interminable while later, there was a series of loud clanks as her crate was secured, and lowered onto the bed of a waiting truck. After a short jaunt, her crate was deposited in a warehouse. Uschi huddled in the darkness, listening to the machinery and shouts of men as they filled the warehouse with more crates from the Zeppelin.
After a few hours, the warehouse became quiet. Uschi cautiously peeked out of her hiding crate. Seeing no one around, she crept out of the crate and grabbed her backpack. She made her way to a door with a glowing red EXIT sign above it, and taking a deep breath, stepped into the cold New Jersey air. A quick glance showed no one around. Uschi ran into the night.
An almost full moon bathed the world in silver as Blippy stopped at a game trail crossing the road he had been following through the forest for the past few hours. The twin ruts could only be called a road because the map said so. That same map said the stream that was his immediate destination would be just off to the west. A stream would certainly be a relief after a day of creeping through the sweltering underbrush. Several times he had seen and heard skittering in the undergrowth, flicking rapidly away. He had found the road just as the sun was setting. With the sunset, the cacophony of tree dwellers abated somewhat, but was still an ever present background noise. With a sigh, Blippy turned west along the game trail, off the road and back into the underbrush. Mosquitos, and other unnamed biters, soon found every exposed piece of skin.
Blippy could hear the stream for several minutes before he could see it. The trail wound past another huge tree, and Blippy burst out of the undergrowth and into the relatively cool air of the boulder strewn stream bed.
Quickly stripping off his uniform, he stuffed it into his battered backpack – the very same backpack mom had stuffed him in when she came to America to find dad. He put the backpack back on, and let himself flow. In the space of less than a minute, his head, arms and legs seemed to melt into his body. As his skin changed to a bright purple, a bouquet of bright yellow blades sprung out near one end. Two columns, each a little smaller than his regular arms, exuded from the other end. Their tips were bright yellow, as well. The backpack hung securely between the stalks.
Another moment passed. The purple and yellow began to fade, being replaced by a mottled pattern of grey, green, and brown. Very soon, he looked like nothing more than just another largish, flattish, moss covered boulder among thousands, with a large fern growing on one end. Two broken branches poked up from under the other end, with a battered backpack tangled within.
With surprising speed and silence, the mossy boulder moved upstream.
Downtown San Francisco, Summer, 1986
With the flick of a switch, Blippy turned off motorcycle, and kicked down the stand. He pulled the package he was delivering out of the bike’s saddlebag, and headed towards The Sharper Image. He cut quite the figure as he strode through the lunch time crowds, with his knee-high boots, ripped jeans, blue streaked hair, and studded denim and leather. He crossed the walkway bridging the plaza below, and pushed open the doors.
After getting a signature, and a return package from the store manager, he turned and strutted back out to the street. As he passed the flower stand on the other side of the bridge, he glanced in, and nearly tripped over his own feet: there was the most beautiful girl in the world, bent over and arranging bouquets of roses in a bucket. Blippy’s heart started hammering, and his head suddenly felt light. He couldn’t get enough air. He couldn’t move. All he could do was stand there swaying with his mouth agape.
The girl finished arranging the roses, and continued puttering about in the small shop as Blippy watched, fascinated and flabbergasted. He had no idea how long he stood there rooted in place, growing ever warmer. When the girl finally noticed him staring at her, she smiled radiantly. Blippy’s world turned to white flame. He fainted.