“Oog,” said Carol, dreamily.
“Oog what?” Janette propounded.
“Over There,” added Carol, pointing Over There. “The Transformerica Perambulid Tower. It’s molting.”
Janette shaded her eyes to look. “Melting, rather, I should think,” she was of the opinion.
Carol shrugged. “One and the same. Machts nichts. —Have another Caviar Cracker,” she suggestified, spreading such a one on a lump of Cheese(TM).
Janette, still peering at the Tower of which she’d been so fond since girlhood, said nothing, but had another Caviar Cracker.
“The Caviar Crackers aren’t ripe yet,” Carol offered—an obvious gambit, but one which Janette had unforeseen.
Startled, Janette glimpsed away from the devolving structure and bit heartily of a Cheese(TM) lump. “Whose side are you on, anyway?” she queried, via full mouth.
Below the terrace which the ladies inhabified, the entire city spread itself out like a wet picnic blanket, checkered red and white as far as the eye could look. Carol, paying no attention to her friend’s discomfiture, tried another tack: “Sanfra Nabisco is ours for the taking, Janette. We two could rule it together, as far as the eye can look. One day, this could all be ours.”
“One hour, we could all be dazed,” observed Janette, rallying. “There are a million million million stories in the dirty city, counting the cockroaches, and one day we could be one of them.”
“—or two of them,” she hastened to add, as Carol’s brow thickened. “If you’d prefer it that way, dearest.”
Carol’s frown grew wide and contained multitudes. “No, no, it’s not that,” she opined; “but rather the Tower, don’t you know. Like a giant Caviar Cracker, splitting down its midst. Just like last week.” A low chord, as from a mighty organ, grew out of the fog-dampened streets below, setting the women’s hearts in sympathetic vibration; they shivered to its timbres.
And the glass balcony on which they sat began to shiver and sliver and slide as well, down into the glassy canyon below, whence none returned.
“Yelp!” yodeled Janette, gathering to her feet, watching the street through absolving clear splinters below.
“Yelp! likewise!” echoed Carol, gathering to her the Crackers and Cheese(TM). “Mayhaps we’d better part of valor to insideward.”
And they did. It was weeks before the terrace grew back; by that time Janette had departed to live in the Transformica Polymer. Carol had taken up with a young woman newly-arrived from Mizzulpi, a goldhead who had no use for Tower-watching and no time for Cracker consumption. One day Carol crumpled the last of the Cracker crumbs amid the gargoyle pigeons, and shut the sliding door to the Terrace forever.
“Or at least,” she was heard to think, “until next time.”
I wrote this sometime around 1990, and published it in our APA, SWAPA.
David Randall once wrote a delightful story, serialized in SWAPA, called “Jessica and the Foozlewhopper.” It was rife with SWIL in-jokes, but mostly worked as a story even without those.
I loved the story’s style, which was largely whimsical (with some very sad serious bits) and which took great delight in playing with words but avoided standardized Douglas Adams-style silliness. The opening chapter included this phrase, as part of a deliriously lyrical description of a distorted alternate California: “The Crystal Terraces of Sanfra Nabisco, where gentle ladies nibble Caviar Crackers!” That aside blossomed (or maybe imploded) in my head into the above piece almost by itself; I like to think this piece is set in roughly the same universe (by which I mean both physical universe and stylistic universe) as “Foozlewhopper.”
Stylistic inspiration for this piece also comes from a similarly delightful piece by Mykle Hansen, “The Voyage of the Fluffy Death,” about two brothers sailing their beds/pirate ships. However, neither David nor Mykle are to blame for the results.