The Upside Down World News

"If the world is upside down the way it is now, wouldn't we have to turn it over to get it to stand up straight?" - Eduardo Galeano

Picnic on Air

A Novel By Benjamin Dangl

The Premise:

In Picnic on Air disaster strikes when Paraguay begins to export zoomba, a highly addictive, laughter inducing fruit to Europe. After a month of distribution via a Jesuit Mafia, the fruit has whole countries laughing hysterically, incapacitated by their convulsive addictions. Economies collapse, governments fall apart and parents sell their children for more fruit. Harmholdt Rhineschloggen, a reckless orphan in his twenties, is jobless, heartbroken and drunk when the Head Dress Collective, an eclectic group of liminal thinkers in Romania, calls upon him to find an antidote to stop the zoomba epidemic from taking over the world. When Harmholdt wakes up in India with the equivalent of seven cents in his pocket and the address of a stranger, he is reluctant to take on the Head Dress Collectives task. However, in his travels across India and into South America, he gains an enthusiasm for this unlikely quest. He steals livestock, sells human organs, begs on the shores of the Ganges River, all the while trying to escape the wiles of a sexy Paraguayan spy and her midget henchmen.

Check out an excerpt below:

Chapter One

An accordion exhaled, a violin scratched one clear note, a tuba belched the rhythm and one lone rooster crowed. The band shook through the crowd as people dipped to the music. The party had begun. Bottles of wine were poured into deep mugs. Tables trembled under towering cakes, bowls of fruit, giant roasts and piles of mashed potatoes. The band danced around the bonfire, then into the fountain and out again as children shot fireworks from the roof and into the crowd. Dogs howled and lawn sprinklers sprayed. People grunted with the band, shoving the air with their elbows and peeling off clothes as neighbors arrived with more wine. Soon the town's siren sounded off - someone had let the animals out of the local zoo. Monkeys and giraffes wandered into the party, dancing with the ecstatic men and women. Someone climbed on top of a drunken lion while an elephant snorted through the tables of food. People danced on rooftops as more cars arrived until the whole Romanian town, under the stars and to the wailing thump of the band, emptied into the dance. Wine bottles were thrown into the air and smashed against walls. Couples began making love on the lawn, in the bushes and on the tables that were still standing. Chairs and debris were hurled into a rising bonfire that roared into a thousand sparks flying through the air. As the sun rose, one final firework shot off, gave a fitful report and landed in Harmholdt Rhineschloggen s lap, waking him.

He was still drunk when he opened his eyes to find himself in a metal chair on the beach, surrounded by a herd of pigs. He sighed as one pig wandered up to him, peed directly onto his hi-top velcro shoes, then trotted off. Our unlikely hero was having a false start to the morning. There was a distinct taste of vomit in his mouth, and when he reached up to touch a bruise on his forehead he realized that his left hand was handcuffed to the arm of the chair. Dragging the chair to the shoreline, he knelt down and took a few sips from the salty water. After a feeble gargle he stumbled to the town s main park, with the chair scraping along behind him. The pigs followed. Harmholdt sat down and scratched his balls. He swept the oily red hair from his forehead and stroked his beard as his bathrobe flapped idly in the wind. Harmholdt was a man of medium height and had a constant expression on his face of someone who was farting pleasantly while being struck by lightning.

One of the pigs dropped a moldy roll at his feet. He picked it up, inserted it into his mouth and gazed at the cool morning. An old woman pushed a creaking cart down the street, while a flock of birds tore from a rooftop like confetti. Harmholdt s wandering eyes came to rest on the town s clock tower. He looked down at his handcuffs, then up to the minute hand. It was 5:10 am. In a sobering epiphany, he realized the minute hand could be of use to him, but only for the next twenty minutes. He had to move fast. Impeded by the chair s dead weight, Harmholdt scrambled up the clock s face. The pigs watched as he hoisted the chair over the rusted minute hand and desperately begin to saw at his handcuffs. He clung to the clockn s face while the sound of metal grating against metal echoed across the park. By 5:30 the minute hand was no longer on his side.

Police arrived and the pigs, suddenly protective, could hold them off for only so long.

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Cover By Louis Munroe