Time, The Universe, And America...In a country a lot like our own, in a time a little bit like now, Bibi Brown is an ordinary young man with an extraordinary destiny. Bibi, the first male in twelve generations of Browns not to have taken his own life, has a furious crush on a beautiful nine-fingered woman and an unbearable urge to understand the meaning of Time, the Universe, and America. So Bibi begins his quest--careening through a world of bizarre cults, gravity-defying crones, and lunatics of every stripe--all for a chance to meet his long-lost uncle Otto, a legendary junk-dealer who lives on the Hope Valley Hubcap Ranch. Because in a world that is spinning a little too fast, and a little too wildly, Bibi's destiny is to find the essence of hope, the beauty of hubcaps, and the meaning of life in the Valley of the Hubcap King.
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December 31, 2001
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Excerpt from The Hope Valley Hubcap King by Sean Murphy
He was no more than a child when the unreality of the world began to impress itself on him. His earliest memories were of moments when perspective went out of kilter, and foreground and background shifted without warning. Once, during a picnic at the waterfront, his mother bent forward to pass a plate of quartered dill pickles, and the river behind her appeared to freeze in place, while its banks drifted upstream. Another time, as he ambled along a city sidewalk holding his father's hand, the cars seemed to glide to a halt, while the buildings coasted along behind as though on an unseen conveyor belt.
On one occasion he spent an entire afternoon staring into his reflection in a neighbor's fish pond. "My face, Daddy," he cried, as his parents finally led him away, "I could stick my hand through it. I could drink it!"
He'd wriggled about so much in the womb his mother finally complained to her obstetrician: "Doc, can't you give him tranquilizers or something My insides feel like a jungle gym!"
Once he learned to crawl he roamed the house ceaselessly, up and down stairs, in and out of closets, cabinets, the basement. A moment's inattention by his mother and he was gone; following a panicked search, she'd find him in the cellar, staring at a spider building its web, or a scrap of insulation that had come loose from the pipes and drifted to and fro with every draft. After he began to walk he struck off for wider territory. Out a window, through a door left ajar; once his father found him teetering at the edge of a bluff overlooking the river, face jutting into the wind like the figurehead on the prow of a ship.
A family friend remarked that the child had all the quickness and agility of a greyhound. The resemblance did not stop at that; for he was long and lean-limbed, with streamlined, forward-pointing features, and the way the hair swept back from his brow gave the impression of constant motion.
"And those eyes," the friend cooed. "So blue and round, like little moons. Tiny blue moons, I do declare!"
He'd been christened Frederick G. Brown II, but from the time of his birth he was known, for no reason anyone could ever ascertain, as Bibi.
"Pronounced BB," his mother explained to doctors, teachers, and anyone else who balked on seeing the name in print. "You know, like the gun."
One morning in his fifth year, Bibi was skating in his socks across the kitchen floor when he collided with a kettle of scalding water his mother was taking off the stove--an event that caused his already wide eyes to open wider than ever and which, his mother later claimed, caused their blue color to deepen permanently by several degrees. The child was left with a nasty burn on the back of his left wrist; and in the next days he did little but stare at it. It was as though by peering into his wound Bibi was seeing, for the first time, into himself. He gazed for hours into that translucent pink expanse, imagining the intricate workings of blood cells and capillaries, and wondering in his childish way: Is this all I am