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When you finish determing how long you can say “GOOOOAAAALLLLL!!! THEN SETTLE DOWN TO THIS.


People who look at reality and stuff differently think the vulcanizing rubber process was discovered either by Thomas Hancock in the UK around 1850 or by Chucky Goodyear in the US around 1850. But if that were so then NINE ELEVENS would not be such a great novel around the date 09/11/0911.

As much as I am normally convinced that fiction and reality are one and the same, I have never enjoyed the idea as much as I did when I was writing NINE ELEVENS. Especially this chapter. Why? Because real or fiction, the goal is to tell a story that is an anthology of allegories.

The twin princes are visiting systems manager Phoenix in an agricultural field.

Pacall is speaking:
“WE soooo agree! I wonder if two twins have ever optimized life so twin-somely.”

“And winsomely,” rhymed Exall.

“Thence comely,” chimed Pacall. “And inventively. How many centuries did the Maya city states, not to mention the Ass-techs, TRY TO bounce that solid, heavy, tiny futbol around with their hips before we came along and made it a thick skinned yet ballooned and light weight kickable sphere?”

“Yes,” said Exall. “The game was totally missing the miracle of footwork. We have made a science of footwork. Futbol players who use the Twin ball are able to make full use of their legs, indeed their entire body. And of course the martial art aspect. For an entire millenium and more futbol has been essentially warrior training. But, how militarily advantageous is it to have to wear that heavy waist belt in order to hip shot the ball, keeping in mind that the ball is symbolic of an enemy’s skull? With our long range kicks we have a real two-fer because we can drive the kick accurately and hard enough to nearly take an enemy player’s head, or skull, off with the rubber skull of our Twin ball.”

“Indeed, replied Pacall. “I can vaguely remember those days of trying to hipshot that heavy ball through that tiny goal ring more than fifteen feet up the wall. That a goal was seldom made, to me, diminished the excitement of a successful act. Not that you need a lot of them to inspire a player, but, hey, a point with some degree of frequency certainly improves the game.”

“Well, Pacall, the capability of managing the ball was half the package. The other half was your idea to make the goal a tethered basket at either end of the field. And the assignment of one player whose primary function is to defend the goal basket, deflecting the incoming shots. That added the defensive capability and that thinking was so transferable to warfare.”

As they talked they each were foot working a ball. And head working as well. They could stand and dribble a ball vertically into the sky for two or three feet with a skill that would shame a head porter with a three foot stack of fruit on the pate plate.

Occasionally they would head or kick interchange their balls with one another. And occasionally they would direct their balls directly at one another so as to reflect the ball back exactly to the exact place the ball came from. Over the years they had become quite good at this.

Pacall said, “Who would ever think that all we have done for futbol we did with the ulterior motive of improving our commercial capabilities? Even the flatball hats we, I mean Phoenix, developed so we can do head shots.”

“Yes, Exall, but had we never been blown off course and out across the cannibal sea we never would have shipwrecked on that strange little island. And had we never shipwrecked on that strange little island Phoenix never would have saved us from the cannibals. And had we never brought Phoenix back with us, we would never have given him the management of our rubber industry. And had we never put him in charge of rubber he never would have discovered all the things about rubber that have made him so valuable including maximal elasticity and ballooning. I guess it is safe to say ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’ or ‘no guts no rewards’.”

“Speaking of which, I mean whom, Pacall, we are supposed to meet Phoenix in the nursery bogs.”

An hour later the Twins were approaching the bog that was used for testing plants, soil, animal reactions to plants, crop production projections. They whistled for Phoenix. A few seconds later they heard an identical whistle sound come back.

The bog contained rows of mounded soil which left a river of water between every pair of rows. The center row had a path of gravel down it for easy travel.

Phoenix was watching two of his helpers, one at either end of a long pole. They were six rows apart. Five rope lines were spaced along the pole each rope line over one of the five ditches of water. At the end of each rope line was a rubber boat about four feet long. The boats were pointed at each end and bent upward. Something like black bananas, plantains. With a helper at each end of the pole, a surprisingly large volume of beans or corn could be towed at harvest. Planting crops on the mounds kept the produce from getting soggy. The water between the rows made for easy produce transport. The water was forever. The planted areas got 160 inches of rain annually.

“Hello, my mythological twin hero friends. We’re testing a comparison of our boat method with the former basket harvest. I think we are going to get at least ten times the former harvest transport efficiency. As you can see and as we planned, the thin, light rubber boats are now ribbed with a heavier stronger rubber for stability, shape maintenance, and easy float.

“At the end of the field the boats get tied end to end and can be floated on to the waterway with intermediate loading unloading.

“This is not to mention the reduction in the number of snake bites since the produce picker is never wading in the water. When a bite occurs the injured can occupy a boat and be floated away to the make shift medic stations for post antidote care.

“And do not forget. These boats make great single occupant canoes.”

“Phoenix,” said Pacall. “I have no doubt you are the most creatively productive member of this city state’s fifty thousand people.”

“You are too kind, Pacall. Let me give these helpers some instructions. Go up to my shop. Donau will serve you some chocolate. Then I will join you.”

Within minutes the three of them were sharing a cool, delicious, invigorating chocolate drink.

“Phoenix, you never cease to amaze and to please,” said Exall.

“Because success and focus go together like the rubber tree and the morning glory vine, Exall,” said Phoenix. “Yes, the rubber harvest boats are original. I have buyers acquiring additional rubber. I have estimates on the number of boats our city state will use, the number our city state annex will use, and the number we expect to be sold or bartered at each market going down the coast.”

“Speaking of original,” said Pacall. “Do you have something else to show us when we finish our chocolate?”

“YES, I DO,” Phoenix said slowly and distinctly and with a very affirmative grin.

The three talked. The subject was the same as always. They talked about when they had first met. But as always “when they had met” opened a door to some question; some consideration; perhaps some reality that existed because they met that would not have existed otherwise; what some shared knowledge made possible, maybe a discovery that would enable a better understanding of the geography of their world; maybe they would kindle an idea about why Venus behaved differently than the other planets. But, always it began with when they had met.

When they had met they had narrowly escaped disaster. When they had met they had produced a unique, impossible coincidence. And an indestructable friendship. Just ‘cuz.

Phoenix had always been the challenger. If a mountain even looked like it needed someone to surmount its rugged aspects, Phoenix was immediately climbing up and over its final edge and standing tall, looking out over the surrounding terrain to confirm to himself that, yes, the panorama was worth the work. Of course his strong desire sometimes clouded adequate planning. But, just as often he so wanted to succeed in the challenge that his planning was much more than adequate.

He reasoned though that if one did not bear the scars of confronting the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune then the probability was high that not enough challenges had been made or had not been made with sufficient intensity.

Yes, he was sufficiently self absorbed to run into a brick wall because his concentration was distracted with a “well, how many other humans had done this?”

Like, how many other guys started out in central Europe in the tenth century and ranged through as many lands and languages as he had? How many had crossed the Atlantic Ocean and lived to tell? No matter that no one knew or had ever heard his primary language. When he got there. Or, if he should get back. And he knew no one else’s language well enough to teach a history, a world trade, or geography lesson about his travels. And he had no time, anyhow. A new interest, curiosity, or encounter would occur any moment and off he would go again.

He knew once one understood something of language there were tricks to understanding and to appearing to be able to express himself in the language he had heard. A lot of hearing was observing expression and gestures and a lot of speaking was using his hands, shoulders, facial expressions, and inflection. Watching for content, emotion, a tone that would indicate significance.

He had learned some things about language. He had learned, for example, that the value of a person could be determined by how they treated their language. If they treated their language or languages with respect and care, with considerate and skillful use, then their power to think and reason and enjoy the elements of life would be expanded immensely.

For Phoenix, a hackneyed word or phrase, a weak metaphor used but without fresh intention to the conversation at hand divided Phoenix’s world into those he wanted to be around and those he did not.

Phoenix had learned some things about systems as well. One of his greatest joys was analyzing how something worked or analyzing how he had handled a task or project. He watched these replays with an interest and devotion.

Phoenix observed that people had different approaches to their television experience. Television of course has a simple etymology. It could be parsed into two terms. Tele means far. Vision is the capacity to see. So television means to see far. Like stars and stuff. And that is what everyone had the pleasure of doing freely every night.

*** soon, more or less

“And now, Phoenix, will you show us your new new thing?” asked Pacall.

Phoenix pointed to a plant raft that was held vertical from a branch by a rope. “Watch the plant raft.”

As the Twins watched the plant raft, Phoenix moved back and away. He raised a slingshot and fired an obsidian disk which flew straight and true and thumped into the plant raft.

“If the plant raft were a battle enemy it would be seriously wounded now,” he said. Donau had arrived and was handing slingshots to the Twins. “This is what can be done with the latest rubber I’m making. The effective range is three times that of the blowguns. The bullets can deliver the deadly poison like the blowguns. I am still working on an optimal bullet. It is also effective and accurate to launch a line into a tree or across a river.”

Pacall said, “and it is far more refined and useful and accurate than a sling. I think your new new thing is a great great thing. Hey,”