Back in my San Francisco years, from 1995 to 2002, I was involved in one of the most enjoyable, productive, developmental, edutaining, and even ultimately transformative creative ventures of my life: White Noise Radio Theatre, a sketch group formed with my longtime artistic partner, Les Milton. We started out, in the days before podcasts dammit! doing longform audio comedy which we put out on cassette and eventually CD and even our own weekly radio show on KUSF. Or was it KSFU? Either way, when making well-produced, scifi-inflected comedy albums without a reputation didn’t immediately lead to jobs and success beyond our wildest dreams, we started adapting the material for the stage and performing at whatever micro-venue or comedy establishment would have us. We made a lot of great friends and had a lot of fun and got a minor rep around town and one of those tiny shows did actually lead to gainful employment–our first paid writing gigs!–with a dotcom animation startup during the early days of the first SF internet boom. It was the most exciting year of my life to that point, and regardless of whether I’m “living the dream” or not, it changed my life in ways that were entirely unexpected and pretty amazing.
One of our more ambitious audio efforts was the ongoing saga of Dr. Frank Bucket, a quantum metaphysicist with an obsessive interest in interdimensional travel. In one of our longer pieces, Frank opened a dimensional doorway to the 6th dimension–“The Dimension Next Door.” Eventually, this was meant to lead to the establishment of a sort of bordertown between the two worlds, a place called PortalTown that sat on the edge of our dimension and the next. The script I’m reproducing below was intended to be the next chapter in that saga, but for a million and a half reasons, it never got recorded. So lap it up!
Bubba: I tell ya, Billy. Ain’t no danged holes in that fence. Jed’n me, we done mended ever one not but six months gone.
Billy: Six month, Bubba. Lot’n go on in six month. You forget. We got timberwolves. Brown bears. All sortsa critters. Not to mention trespassers’n troublemakers traipsin through. All that traffic kin undo’n awful lotta mendin.
Bubba: Next time, I’m puttin in razorwire. No ornery varmint on four legs’re two gonna wanna mess with that.
Billy: If we ever get that doggone insurance money, we oughta think about electrifyin the whole—hot tamales, lookee that!
Bubba: It’s a goddamn–!
Billy: Shh! Look like we got squatters, Bubba.
Bubba:What we gone do, Billy?
Billy: Scare hell out of em, one thing.
Bubba: They’s on our proppity. We kin kill em if we feel like.
Billy: Good point. That do look like an awful nice trailer.
Bubba: Yeah, careful we don’t shoot it up too much.
Bubba: Hey, you in there. Come out with your hands high. No funny stuff. We’re armed for bear and ain’t afraid to cut loose. This here’s private land. Come on out and maybe we can agree on what ya owe us!
Billy: Maybe they ain’t home.
Bubba: Ya reckon it’s abandoned?
Billy: Nah. Who’d leave a thing like that. Ain’t even stripped.
Bubba: It’s even got a satellite dish.
Billy: Kinda small one, though. Can’t get too many channels.
Bubba: Still beat basic cable.
Billy: Maybe they stepped out to hunt up some grub.
Bubba: Maybe so. C’mon.
Billy: What’re ya doin?
Bubba: Tryin to kick the door in. What ya think?
Billy: It opens out. See?
Bubba: Oh. Whooee.
Bubba: I see it.
Billy: I’ll be born again!
Bubba: Computers, radio, celphone.
Billy: TVs, metal detectors, fishin gear…
Bubba: Handguns, rifles, a butterfly net…
Billy: Toaster oven, blender, fridge…
Bubba: Cereal, soup, tea. A reg’lar Roman holiday.
Billy: Meat, eggs, Pepsi…
Billy: Gimme one.
Bubba: What if they come back?
Billy: So what? They owes us a beer. At least.
Bubba: Sure nuff.
Billy: What’s that noise?
Bubba: That what? Hummin or somethin?
Billy: Or gurglin or whatever. They leave the shower runnin?
Bubba: Maybe it’s the AC. Or some kinda…generator.
Billy: Yeah. S’comin from down here. Help me move this.
Bubba: It’s like a…
Billy: Some kinda trapdoor.
Bubba: The storm cellar. Heh.
Billy: Yeah. Canned peaches and jug wine. Hee.
Bubba: Open it.
Billy: Ho-lee mother a mine.
Bubba: What? Is? It?
Billy: Jesus Jumpin Bean. I think it’s a volcano.
Bubba: A huh?
Billy: Don’t it look like that boilin lava?
Bubba: It’s the middle a the world!
Billy: But we ain’t nowheres near it.
Bubba: Maybe it’s gettin bigger.
Billy: If it is it’s fixin to blow.
Bubba: Don’t seem all that hot.
Billy: No. It don’t
Bubba: Give it a poke.
Bubba: What? Ya scared?
Billy: Me, too.
Bubba: Hand me somethin.
Bubba: A stick or…
Billy: How bout this broom?
Billy: Whoa. Can’t even see the end.
Bubba: Me, neither. Oops.
Billy: Where’d it go?
Bubba: Dropped it.
Billy: Yeah, but…
Bubba: It just sorta…
Bubba: …it up…
Billy: Yeah. Bet it’s some a that toxical waste. Ya know, nukuler. Ya think they’re dumpin on our land? It’s like a radioactive septic tank. Here. Gimme one a them fishin poles.
Bubba: Ya gonna cast?
Billy: Somethin. (after a minute) I…I got a bite!
Bubba: Lookit it take that line.
Billy: Help me, Bubba.
Bubba: S’gone, Billy.
Billy: Yike. Got the rod, too.
Bubba: Think there’s somethin…somethin in there…
Billy: Like somethin livin?
Billy: Could be. Know what I think?
Billy: Think we got us some kinda…energy source.
Bubba: How ya figger?
Billy: What else acts like this? Big glowin light, suckin stuff up and vaporatin it? The sun! We done struck a gusher, brother. A solar power deposit.
Bubba: Billy, how come ya never gradumated high school?
Billy: They wouldn’ lemme.
Bubba: Yeah, cause ya done flunked ever subject. And science, that’s the one ya flunked hardest of em all. Sun’s hot, ya dimwit. Hotter’n Texas in August. Hotter’n a million zillion Texas Augusts. Ya said yerself, this guck ain’t hot.
Billy: It looks hot.
Bubba: But it don’t give off no heat.
Billy: It melted the broom. And the rod.
Bubba: We don’t know that. Looked more like when ya drop a rock in a pond. Just sorta sank away. Even rippled a little.
Billy: Either way, Bubba. It’s a goldmine.
Bubba: Oh, so now it’s gold, huh?
Billy: Is to us. Unexplained phenomena. Worth a fortune. Worth a mint. An’ it’s all ours.
Bubba: What about the folks whose trailer we’re in?
Billy: Hey, just cause they parked on it don’t mean they got claim. It’s our proppity.
Bubba: It’s Grammy’s proppity. But never mind. I’m just sayin, all this equipment, all this stuff, maybe they’s some kinda scientifical types. Maybe they from the college.
Billy: So what if they are?
Bubba: So, maybe they know what this…whatever…is.
Billy: So what if they do?
Bubba: So maybe they can tell us what it is.
Billy: So what if they can?
Bubba: So maybe…dammit, this is gettin exasperatin! Don’t you even wanna know what we got here?
Billy: I just wanna know what it’s worth.
Bubba: Well, the two could kinda go hand in hand.
Billy: How so?
Bubba: Well, who’s gonna pay for somethin they don’t know what it is?
Billy: Curiosity seekers. Ain’t ya never heard a the Thing? In New Mexico?
Bubba: “It has a thousand eyes!”
Billy: No one knows what that is either.
Bubba: I thought it was papier mache.
Billy: The hell you say! Blasphemer! Yer problem, Bubba. You don’ believe in nothin.
Bubba: And you believe in everthing. Like that “UFO” ya shot down over near the ol’ grain silo.
Billy: How was I to know Honest Bob’s ad blimp got loose from the car lot? Sides, this ain’t the same. You see it yer own self, an you can’t ‘splain it neither.
Bubba: But I want an explanation. I believe there is one an’ I wanna hear it.
Billy: Fine. So we’ll sit here and we’ll wait. And when these squatter folk get back, we’ll get ya yer explanation, and in the meanwhile I’ll start figgerin how to spend my share.
Bubba: What ya doin now?
Billy: I’m goin fishin…
Billy: Help me out here, Bubba! It’s a live one! My God! Must be a fifty pounder!
Bubba: Fifty? Hell! It’s a hunnerd if it’s…Whoa!
Billy: What the…is it…?
Bubba: It’s a…
Billy: Shoot it!
Bubba: No, Billy! It’s a man!
Frank: Thank you, gentlemen. I can’t thank you enough.
Billy: Who the hell’re you?
Billy: He’s comin to.
Bubba: Doctor? Doc? You alright?
Frank: (coughing) Oh God! Where the…home. I’m home. I made it. Where’d you cracker angels come from? God or special ops? Warrior souls come to my rescue from some honkytonk Valhalla or Appalachian Olympus? The pantheon did love to indulge in interfamily inbreeding.
Billy: What’s he sayin, Bubba?
Bubba: I think he’s delirious. Doc, where…where’d ya come from?
Frank: The other side, my simple saviour.
Bubba: What were ya doin in there?
Frank: Exploring the new frontier. Doing what those wetnaps at the Bureau were always too afraid to do. Granted, I only went over by accident, but once I was in, I was committed 125% to making the most of my journey.
Billy: He’s a true loon, Bubba. Goofed on some.
Bubba: Seems so.
Billy: I say we shoot him.
Frank: You guys want a beer?
Bubba: SURE!Frank: I could’ve sworn I had a beer. Oh, well. Sure build up a powerful thirst, dimensional hopscotching. Lots to see and do, but don’t drink the water. Who’s got a smoke?
Bubba: Here ya go.
Frank: Great. I brought something back. Want to see?
Bubba: Back from where?
Frank: The other side. The 6th dimension. Where I’ve been for…when are we?
Frank: Tuesday what?
Frank: No. Month. Year. Specifics.
Bubba: Oh, uh. March. 21. 01.
Frank: Fantastic! No time at all! Almost. Seemed like a whole trimester.
Bubba: Doc, maybe ya kin answer…
Frank: Can I trust you boys?
Bubba: Sure, doc.
Frank: Look. At. This.
Bubba: What in the deepfried hogfat is that?
Frank: An entity. A living, breathing specimen from a dimension so vast we are barely more than its square root.
Billy: You mean…
Bubba: …that thing…
Frank: Yes. This little wriggling spore, this huge-pored, million-orbed, fully poseable tetrapod with the varicolored reptilious skin sheen and the nearly uncountable attenuated tentacles and the ever-bristling ganglia dangling from its soft mossy blue underbelly has travelled back with me across the selfsame expanse which permitted me entrance to his indigenous nether regions.
Billy: So that thing comes from what? Underwater?
Frank: Oh, nothing so mundane nor pedestrian, my halfwit hillbilly heroes. As I’ve been trying to relate in the most dumbed-down layperson’s terms to which I can descend in such a tremendous historic moment, this here bugger comes from a world not entirely our own.
Billy: Another planet, ya mean?
Bubba: Like Mars?
Frank: More like Uranus. Through the sphincter-hole of space-time. From the swollen colon of eternally expanding superconsciousness.
Bubba: Ya had me then ya lost me there, Doc.
Frank: Ok. Fine. Mars. If that’s what you can grasp, that’s where we’ll stay. Think of this little guy as your first personal contact with a real live Martian. Not much resemblance to the usual extraterrestrial celebrities flashing their lipless grins from the tabloid stands at the Fiesta Mart, eh, boys?
Billy: There more a these things in there?
Frank: Many, many more. Much bigger. Much grander. And more dangerous. That’s why we’re going to need to close the lid.
Billy: Oh no.
Frank: Oh yes. We can’t risk any unchecked, uninvited crossovers. I’m pushing the continuum envelope as it is.
Billy: Uh uh, Doc. This here’s my proppity. Ours. And that’s my hole. And that stuff in it, all that goop, and whatever else, they’re ours, too. Includin that thing ya got there.
Frank: This? Him? Or…er, her? Oh no. I need this. For research. I can regain my credibility with this. Restore my scientific reputation. This…being, my pride and joy, represents the culmination of my life’s work, and a guaranteed Nobel Prize.
Bubba: I tole ya he’s a science type guy.
Billy: Sorry, Doc, but that freak a nature is money in the bank. They ain’t got nothin like it down at Sam’s Serpent Farm. And you say more where it come from, which means this here gunk pit’s a reg’lar Comstock Lode of freakshow backstock. Me and Bubba here, we been waitin our whole lives to squeeze a dime outta this acreage, and we can’t just let the golden goose fly over without leavin us some eggs. Fact, we gotta bring er down, bag the whole goose. So, (he cocks his shotgun) I suggest ya hand over that li’l squidgy and just back away.
Frank: Look, you two cowpokers have no idea what you’re screwing with here. I’ve spent my whole life tracking high weirdness, and I’m half-cracked off the fumes from my alchemistry set, okay? But you rubes, you backwater snake handlers, you’re barely living in 3D. You’re not prepared to deal with this. This is serious biz. This little shriveler probably has a mothermonster wondering right now why her youngest fungus didn’t come home for din-din, and if she finds her way across and ends up in your dooryard, you can rest assured the carnage won’t end at the chicken coop!
Billy: I’m givin ya one last chance to scramble, Dr. Bizzaro, fore I blow yer chub to Jupiter’s moons. How bout it?
Bubba: Billy, don’t! Maybe he’s…!
Billy: Don’t cross me, Bubba! I see my chance, I’m takin it!
Bubba: But Billy…
Billy: I know what I’m doin!
Frank: No. You don’t.
Billy: Gimme that jellyfish, fruitbowl!
Billy: You like it so much in there, go back!
Billy: I warned ya, Bubba! Ya gonna take his side, go on then!
Billy: Now who’s pretty durn smart?
MUCH LATER STILL
Sam: What the hell is it, Billy?
Billy: Question a the day, Sambo.
Sam: Well, doncha know?
Billy: It’s a…well, it’s Venusian, I reckon. Or even further.
Sam: Where’d ya get it?
Billy: Outta somethin crashed-landed on my proppity.
Sam: Bob lose his ad-blimp again? Always wonnered what was pilotin that thing.
Billy: Very funny, Sam.
Sam: Prolly sold used spaceships back on its homeworld, huh?
Billy: Keep it up, Sam. I can take it somewhere’s else.
Sam: Well, what ya want fer it?
Billy: I dunno. Reckon it’s worth a few grand, at least. No tellin what the media’ll pay. Let ya have it fer five hunnerd.
Sam: There ain’t five hunnerd dollars wortha nuthin in this whole damn county since the saccharine plant closed up. You know that.
Billy: Well, what can ya gimme?
Sam: Twenty-five bucks.
Billy: Twenty-five? Jar’s worth more’n that!
Sam: Shoulda clean out the pickle brine fore ya put it in there.
Billy: That’s its own juices, Sam. I swear. Atmospherical fluids. Keep itself lubed.
Sam: Uh huh.
Billy: Twenty-five. No good.
Sam: Best I kin do. You might do better in Fayettesville or Rinkeley.
Billy: Too far. Ain’t got the gas. Tell ya what, how bout I let ya keep it here, an when ya see it start turnin a profit fer ya, we sixty-thirty til ya decide ya just gotta buy me out.
Sam: 60-40, ya mean.
Billy: Oh, ya sure do drive a hard bargain, Sammy. But alright. Ya gotta do all yer own advertisin, though. I ain’t no shuckin, jivin bigtime salesman-like.
Sam: Sure ya trust me?
Billy: Got to, Sam. Grammy won’t let me keep it in the house. Been keepin it in the trunk, but that ol bluetick hound damn near tore out the back seat tryin to get at it.
Sam: Okay, Billy. I’ll keep it round here with my snakes and we’ll see what gets on. Say, where’s Bubba been up to?
Billy: Dunno. Ain’t seen hide ner hair of him in nearly a week. Figger he’s got himself a dirty lil secret in the next town or one over, holed up makin a bedspring-n-headboard jamboree.
Sam: Sound like our Bubba.
Billy: Yuh huh. See ya, Sam.
Sam: See ya, Billy. Hmm. Say, little guy. What the hell are ya? And what’ll ya eat?
EVEN MORE LATERER
Rube1:Ya seen that thing Sam’s got over to the Snake Farm?
Rube2: Yeah, what the hell is that thing?
Rube3: Ya’ll mean that alien baby or some?
Rube4: Oh, that ain’t nothin but a octopus fetus in some pepper juice, hon.
Rube1: Uh-uh, girl. That thing’s alive!
Rube4: Don’t be silly. It’s some sorta puppet. He’s got a wire inside makes it wiggle like it’s really movin.
Rube1: No, I’m tellin ya. It taps on the glass.
Rube3: It looks so sad.
Rube1: Don’t it?
Rube2: I think it’s disgustin.
Rube4: I’m with you.
Rube3: Whatever it is.
Huck: Hey, Tom, whatcha doin?
Tom: Goin down the Snake Farm to see the ET baby.
Huck: Ah, you believe all that stuff?
Tom: Why not?
Huck: Well, my pa say’s all that UFO stuff’s dumb. It’s just a liberal media plot to shake our faith and convert folks away from our lord and savior Jesus Christ.
Tom: So, what the hell else is goin on around this stupid ol town?
Huck: Yeah. Ya got a point there.
THIS THING JUST KEEPS GOING
Guy: Check it out. Snake Farm. Ha.
Girl: Wow, I remember going to one of these when I was a kid. On a road trip with my folks. I wonder if this is it? Nah. That was in Alabama or somewhere.
Guy: Should we?
Girl: Sure. Besides, I’m starved.
Sam: How do, folks?
Guy: How much to check out the snakes?
Sam: Five buck a head.
Guy: Kinda hefty.
Sam: Only King Cobra in captivity for the next 500 mile.
Guy: Break a twenty?
Sam: Might not have ta. For ten buck more, ya get to see what few hum eyes have yet beheld.
Girl: Uh oh.
Guy: I smell gimmick.
Girl: How much would you pay to feel really ripped off? Well, that’s still too low!
Sam: Ok, you city folk with yer hep-falutin ways and yer sniggerin to yerselves. Who needs yer smoggy dollars?
Guy: Oh, we didn’t mean anything, mister.
Girl: We just been in the car too long.
Guy: Show us the thing.
Girl: Please, we wanna see it.
Sam: Follow me.
Guy: Oh my God.
Guy: …is it…?
Guy: …sort of…
Guy: …in a…
Guy: ….weird is right…
Girl: …it’s waving…
Girl: Can we take pictures?
Guy: Here’s another fiver.
Sam: Alright then.
Girl: Wow, thanks mister.
Sam: Ya’ll go sellin any of them pictures, ya’ll best send me a bill or two.
Guy: Heh. You got it.
Keys: Sir, you should see this.
Sir: What is it?
Keys: A couple of college kids dropped these off at an Eckerd’s in Denton for developing.
Sir: How’d we get em?
Keys: We’ve got agents all over the area. It just happened to be one of our posts.
Sir: Is that what I think it is?
Keys: We’re having a pixanalysis done as we speak. We should know inside the hour.
Sir: If it is, we might not have that much time.
STILL AT IT
a car pulls slowly into a gravel drive; the car comes to a stop, the motor dies, two doors open, shut, two sets of footsteps crunch gravel
T: You sure this is the place, Neddy?
N: Better be, Topper.
T: Sure better. We’ve been to three goddamn trailer parks already. I can’t stand much more. Stink of white trash makes me sick.
N: I hear ya, brother. Rather be huffin CS gas myself.
knocking on a screen door
OB: Can I help you boys?
T: Maybe. We’re lookin for someone.
OB: I ain’t seen a soul. Not in ages.
N: Would you mind looking at a picture?
OB: Told ya. I ain’t seen no one. And I mean it. I’m blinder’n a Chinese cab driver.
T: You’re the manager here. Is that right?
OB: Yep. True enough.
N: And you rent to people sight unseen.
OB: Got to. I go by voices. That’s how to tell if you can trust em. Eyes lie. It’s all in the voices.
N: You ever heard this man, ma’am?
plays recording of Frank Bucket
OB: Oh, sure. That’s Frankie.
OB: Yep. Nice fella. Kept to hisself. No trouble, no women or wild parties. Some strange sounds outta his trailer, time to time. Like that music the kids love so much, that e-lectronica. But no trouble. Didn’t stay long, though. Not even his full month. Shame. Don’t get many like him. No kids or pets. No domestic squabbles. I like all kinds, don’t get me wrong, but…well, how straight can he be, really? I mean, ya’ll’re here. What’re ya’ll, bounty hunters?
blah blah blah
N: Well, here it is. Right where they said.
T: Yep. And wide open, too. Can only hope we’re the first one’s here.
THIS THING IS EPIC!
KEYS: We’ve picked something up on the transfax.
SIR: What is it?
KEYS: Hard to say. Came through pretty garbled.
SIR: One of ours?
KEYS: Who else has the codes?
SIR: No telling at this point.
T: I remember about fifteen years ago, I was working cleaning up crime scenes in Ocala, Florida. Dead of summer. Trailer park, kinda like this one. Kinda like they all are, I guess. This guy’d died, I don’t remember how. Heart attack. Maybe. Anyway, it was like two, three weeks before anyone found him, and damn. He’d…I never say another one quite like this. He’d melted. Into the chair. The floor. Everything. Right in front of the TV. Just a puddle of human goo, kinda clumpy. Ooze in shoes. Y’know?
N: Uh huh.
T: Don’t know what made me think about it.
N: Me neither. Let’s go.
Keys: It’s taken a little longer than anticipated to get an exact trace on the Portal loci, but we’ve finally got a lock on the general vicinity, and are currently conducting a full aerial combover. The next phase will involve a countywide groundsweep until we put down a site-specific zero-pin.
Sir: Can’t you just look it up?
Keys: Uh, the spec-code has proven thus far indecipherable, sir. The original encryptor is since deceased and he left no notes, records, or evident indications or instructions for decoded sequencing.
Sir: God, this is one troubled son’s worried mother of a department.
SIR: What’ve we got, Keys?
KEYS: Take a look for yourself, sir.
SIR: Looks like a portal.
KEYS: Sure enough. We’ve established a temporary containment field. We’re waiting for word on whether to close it or…
KEYS: Or send someone in.
SIR: Who reported it?
KEYS: Couple of farmboys. Some of their sheep went missing and they came out to look for holes in their fence.
SIR: Where are they?
KEYS: We’ve got one of them in the debriefing module.
SIR: And the other?
KEYS: Well, sir, it seems that one of them, uh, went through.
SIR: On purpose?
KEYS: Does it matter?
SIR: Guess not. What’s the story on the mobile home?
KEYS: Property of one Frank Bucket, UFD.
SIR: Bucket. Figures.
KEYS: You know him, sir?
SIR: One of ours. Used to be. On his lonesome, more or less, since he went over the wall at the monkey house.
KEYS: No sign of him, sir. Just these goggles. Found em at the lip of the portal.
SIR: So our redneck’s not the only one gone touring without a visa.
KEYS: So it would seem. What’s our move, sir?
SIR: Call TransOps. Tell em to get a team ready.
KEYS: You mean…
SIR: We’re going over.