[Sketch for The Motor Chums and the Great Gusher, written 29 January 2007]
here are no rising suns in the dead of night.” The Arab spoke softly, as though unable to articulate the vague notions that formed his thoughts.
“That’s so,” agreed Ned.
“But irrelevant,” snapped Harry.
“And it is not the answer to the question we asked,” observed T. Bone Lawrence. “As you may recall, O dog of the desert, we are seeking the distance to the Oasis of Gumbo.”
“Gumbo is not the answer,” said the Arab. “The answer is not here. You are the measure of the infinite. You are the one who puts in motion. You are the one who seeks. There is no answer here.”
“Gurk,” remarked the good-natured Dick, seizing the Arab playfully by the throat and shaking him vigorously like a terrier with a rat.
“Dish yeah camel stinks to high heb’n,” Ersatz added, chuckling casually as if to relieve the tension.
Heat waves shimmered before their eyes, rippling the landscape ahead of them as though seen in an ancient mirror. Sweat ran down their faces. Thirst turned their throats to sandpaper and their tongues to fur. There was no future except in the foot of space directly in front of them, and no past except the fading memories of cool drafts and ice water.
“Well, there’s one good thing, anyway,” Ned said. “We must have lost The Runt for good and all. There’s no way he could be hiding here among the camels and all.”
“You shoodn ub said dat!” shrieked Ersatz. It was an unnerving sound amongst the sand dunes. “Dat’s askin foah trubble!”
“Sambo’s right,” agreed T-Bone. “A conditional positive beats four aces any day.”
There was no sound now but the gurgling of the Arab as Dick continued grasp him by the throat. And then the chums noticed a strange development occurring. The Arab seemed to grow longer, and to shrink in bulk. Something dropped from him—and Dick found himself clutching nothing but a flimsy headscarf. The Arab had somehow slid from him! And directly below—
“It’s The Runt!” said Tom bitterly. “The goddamn Runt!”
“So he didn’t drown in the Pacific after all,” muttered Ned. “It’s a rum show, as the pirate said about the Bikini Follies.”