When I chewed up that last piece of gum, I was determined to blow it right, so it wouldn't pop all over my face like it always seemed to do.

I blew the bubble slowly, but big like Shadow had asked. Then I carefully tried to suck it back in so that it would burst inside my mouth.

But Shadow leaned over and popped it.

"You don't have to stick it on your nose -- that's just for safekeeping. But it doesn't work right unless it gets all over you," Shadow explained as we were pulling off the gum in that soupy timeless place we sometimes seemed to go while YODELing, and which Shadow had informed me was Eternity.

I stuck the gum on my nose and we jumped through the window.

We landed in a dusty oval room with walls made of glass. I looked around and my eyes were wide with excitement.

The first thing I saw was a round disk-like spaceship.

"It's just like in the movies," I chortled.

Shadow was standing by the window, staring out, as I walked around the room gawking at the displays.

"Where are we?" I asked, without looking at Shadow. I saw jet packs and a Time-Splitter clock and a portable toilet stall with weird dials and knobs.

"At the Inter-Galactic YODEL Museum, of course," Shadow mumbled absently.

I saw a display with 18 different flavors of Time-Space-ODU gum. I saw fancy cars and planes.

"They stay in one place," Shadow informed me from across the room, pointing to the long, thin plane, and the souped-up Rolls Royce car next to it. "Time and space flow past," Shadow explained.

I walked slowly, gazing at all the different YODEL devices. "This is great," I laughed. "Which one should we take?"

"Take?" Shadow chuckled. "This is a museum, silly. They're not really there. They're just holograms."

They looked so real, I almost didn't believe Shadow. I tried to climb up the ladder to the space ship, but of course, I walked right through it.

"Wow," I exclaimed and went over to see what Shadow was so preoccupied with.

Outside there were shiny new YODELcars of every size and shape imaginable. Most of them were bright and polished, and glistened in the sunlight. I was impressed.

"That's just the packaging," Shadow snickered as I pointed at the shiny metallic shapes that looked like beautifully streamlined flying machines. "Inside there's usually just a pair of YODELslippers, or a YODELtv with electrodes, or a barstool that spins through ODUs when you have a bit too much to drink. The packaging's just for show. You know, advertising hype."

"Oh," I nodded. "And who's that over there?" I asked, pointing to a man with a black moustache that curled in a bow about 6 feet wide, and beneath the mammoth moustache was a gleaming neon-white smile that stretched at least half that distance. I blinked because the teeth were pretty bright, as you can imagine.

But I figured out who he was before Shadow had a chance to answer. A little old couple came over and he was all over them like a leach, and his smile burned in their faces. But they had thick sunglasses and earmuffs on, and they weren't listening to a word he was saying.

The old man handed the salesman a slip of paper, and the salesman looked at it and tore it up, and his smile dimmed a couple notches on the brightness scale, to, I don't know, say a small atomic blast.

The customers shrugged and the old lady pulled the old man's arm and they turned away. The smiling salesman looked down at his shoes, then dashed after them, and the smile was gone and there were tears in his eyes.

All this I took in before Shadow said, "That's a salesman, and I think he's having just a bad enough day that we should be able to make a good deal here."

Shadow pulled me out through the door and we were standing on the lot.

The salesman was just finishing up with his customers. I nudged Shadow and whispered with my hand cupped over my mouth, "What are we going to pay with?"

"I was thinking we could hire ourselves out as salesmen. I don't mind saying, I'm a pretty smooth talker, and I think I can get some good sales for him."

"But we've got to find Mary!" I reminded him.

"That's no problem. We make the deal, get a certain number of sales, then YODEL back to a minute after we make the deal, and we're off without losing any time at all."

I wasn't too sure I liked the idea. But I didn't get much of a chance to worry about it.

When the salesman finished and turned to us, his eyes lit up, and he reached in his back pocket and pulled out a piece of paper.

He held the page up to our faces and compared. "Hey, my brother's been looking for you!" he sneered, and he pulled out a portable phone and started dialing.

"Oh yeah?" I shrugged. "Who's your brother?"

Fortunately, Shadow was a lot quicker than me, and he grabbed my hand and pulled me away. He snatched the gum off my nose and started chewing.

"I sure hope you didn't chew all the bubble out of this!" he muttered as he got it good and moist.

He blew a small bubble and we YODELed to Eternity. Then after we peeled the gum off us, he stuck it on his nose, and I have to say I started laughing because a shadow with a piece of gum on its nose is a fairly funny sight.

Shadow didn't think it was very funny, and he glared at me before he pulled me through the window, just as the Time-Catcher appeared, waving his net at us.

Then we were gone, and Shadow tossed the gum back through the window before it slammed shut and disappeared. But before it did, I heard the gum hit the Time-Catcher square between the eyes and he grunted as he hit the ground and the net fell over his head.

Shadow pulled my hand. "Come on, George, we don't have much time before that Time-Catcher tracks us down."

I looked around and saw that we were in a junkyard with garbage piled high in mounds all around us.

"And what are we doing here with all this junk?" I inquired as Shadow began scrounging around in one of the piles.

"It's not just junk. This is a YODELcar Junkyard. We should be able to piece together some parts to create a working YODEL device."

I wasn't too sure. It looked like a lot of junk to me.

"Sure," Shadow assured me. "People are always junking perfectly good stuff to get the latest models. We would have had our choice of tons of near-factory perfect merchandise to choose from, if those blasted Time-Keepers didn't send junked YODEL devices through a Time-Shredder first. But we'll just use some good old know how, and put this together with that..."

Looking a little closer, I discovered some of the hunks of junk were actually kind of interesting looking. I sat down and started fitting some pieces together.

Meanwhile, Shadow was lecturing me on the history and finer points of YODELing.

"YODELING is a wonderful convenience that may never be totally understood. Some YODELers bring you to a window that leads to Eternity, then another window that leads to some other dimension, like YODELgum. Although YODELgum is kind of unpredictable. Sometimes the window opens directly to where you want to go, without stopping in Eternity. It's all how you blow the bubble."

"Uh, huh," I muttered politely.

"Then, there are other YODELers that bring you straight to another place and time, without stopping in Eternity, or going through windows. And, in fact, some people don't need a YODELer to YODEL. YODEL Yogis can YODEL anywhere they want to at any time. Legend has it that some Yogis are actually at every place in every known universe at once."

I honestly wasn't paying attention to what he was saying. I had already heard most of it before, and besides, I was having too much fun. This was better than being a kid playing with Lego blocks. I noticed Shadow had paused, and I quickly threw in a "Really?". It seemed to satisfy him, because he continued on.

"Of course, there is quite a difference between a YODELer and a Time-Travelling device. The early Time-Splitters, for example, could only travel linearly into the past or future. The newer models, of course, can YODEL to any dimension or reality. Or at least to most reaches in the Objective Reality."

"Sounds exciting," I muttered as I put the finishing touches on my masterpiece.

I had put together a giant 16-port saucer space ship. It had bright shiny control panels and 17-oversized cabins, a dining room with a cathedral ceiling, recreational facilities, a sauna, quadraphonic sound emanating from 3-speed laser rays...

"What is that supposed to be?" Shadow choked.

"It's a space ship," I said defensively.

"Uh, huh. Maybe for a kiddie display. George that pile of junk would stand out like a sore thumb. The Time-Catcher would find us in no time flat. We need something a little more discreet. Untraceable."

"Oh, yeah!" I retorted. "Let's see what you put together."

Shadow handed me a baseball cap with a pair of sunglasses and headphone attached.

"Pretty nice, huh?" he boasted, and I noticed the headphones were connected to another cap-set in his other hand.

"Not only is it remarkably functional," he bubbled as I held the contraption curiously and looked it over, "but it looks exceptionally cool, too!"

He put his cap on and turned to me.

"You flip the cap backwards to YODEL," he instructed. "And the glasses..." He put them on as cool as a shadow could, and suddenly I couldn't see him. "Well these reflective lenses aren't only hip, but they make you invisible, to boot!"

Shadow took off the glasses and reappeared. He had the headphones over his ears and he was snapping his fingers like a real hip cat.

"Must be some great tune," I thought, and I put my set on.


"Yuk!" I groaned, but Shadow was pointing behind us. I spun around and saw the Time-Catcher waving his net wildly as he stumbled over a mountain of junk. He stopped at my spaceship and started banging on the door. "Come out, or I'll huff and I'll puff..." he roared.

Shadow yanked me back into the shadows. "Glasses on. Turn your cap backwards," Shadow whispered.

When I did it, we were suddenly shooting through that white cloudy stuff of Eternity that I was getting so used to seeing.

But the lousy muzak was driving me crazy.

I Need a Set of Wheels
( Chapter 31- MP3 song demo by Lyndon DeRobertis)


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