The Cadillac engine roared with naked abandon behind the driver. It was the familiar rumble of the seven-liter-plus workhorse, but its power was unleashed on a propellor instead of a bulky automatic transmission. At the airboat’s prow, the tracker kept an eye on the reeds that protruded in clumps from the murky water. Barely audible on the comm link were the strains of some forgotten psychedelic blues. A promising glint along the mangroves gave hope they had found the downed satellite. It turned out to be the stare of a brooding twelve-foot alligator, unwilling to leave the scene. The search continued.
The keypad beeped softly as the astronomer keyed in the coordinates. It was deepest darkest night on the altiplano, the stars above an unfamiliar configuration for those born to northern skies. The physicist tapped their pencil against their favorite clipboard (the metal one), the coffee-stained papers clipped to it showing the revised calculations for the Hole In The Sky. Over the tinny intercom, hacked because both had forgotten to bring a speaker, a particularly ironic song choice began to play, making them instinctively share a knowing glance.
The specialist carefully manipulated the waldoes linked to the robotic arms in the front of the submersible. The pilot peered out of the top dome, the glare of the spotlights illuminating the complex structure of the oil rig but the visibility of this part of the Gulf of Mexico not allowing much to be seen past the first couple tangles of girders. A single wire tethered the craft to the surface, its sole purpose safely delivering the radio signal carrying its obscure music and coded instructions past fathoms of seawater. The robot arms clasped the watertight bale of Oaxacan tamales tightly. The mission was only half over.
The driver felt the leads tremble under their hands. The navigator clung resolutely to the sled, keeping an eye on the white horizon of the Wexford hills as they put some miles between themselves and the Monongahela. The only sound besides the rushing skids on the snow and the panting of the dogs was a faint crackle of song leaking from the driver’s earpiece. The heist had been a success; behind them, a net filled with silver Mylar balloons trailed and bobbed in the generated midnight wind.
I’m not going to deny the synesthetic appeal of songs with words about pictures, but there is something additionally poignant about the mood created that seems to stand out. The images called forth serve a variety of purposes, from the reminiscent to the hedonistic, but just like your family album, the whole thing works out because it has to.
The thin Nebraska ice crackled ominously as one of the occupants of the well-appointed tent leaned back on their recliner. They peered at their line, descending into the near-freezing water and vibrating sympathetically to the sounds of the radio. The other ice-fisher threw a log on the fire, pausing in recognition at the song before smiling and turning it up.
The vessel floated silently across the Mississippi, as silently as a hovercraft possibly could, which was not very silently at all. The two occupants of the walnut-paneled bridge listened intently to the sounds of the radio above the drone of the fans, one of them spinning the wheel with wild abandon, the other plotting an imaginary course over river and land using a nubby pencil and printed map. The sextant lay unused, for it was, after all, night.
It was a jam-packed evening, and we even got to fit in a request for Mission of Burma for Generoso and Lily, listening over the satcom from their armored zeppelin thrumming over the Iowa cornfields. Also: the world needs more Franklin Bruno.
The usual random process of Lacking Selection has yielded a playlist that will trigger recognition in Nick Lowe fans, without actually playing any Nick Lowe. It also yielded a set in the second hour that went from “Fantastic” to “Impossible”.