The Little Green Men Controlling the Weather
Gonzo marveled at the wasteland of mufflers, car doors with the windows smashed out of them, and dirty, peeled strips of tread strewn about the landscape on the way to the ranch. The area looked less for keeping cattle and more for keeping explosives, or at least for testing them out. A more welcome sight were the live oaks and humble patches of grass livening up the direct exterior of the ranch house.
Gonzo parked where the ranch house cast long shadows on the yard and studied the exterior from the driver's seat. The outer walls were made of an old, smooth brick painted white, a sharp contrast to the dark, aged planks and shingles of its roof and dormers. Whatever was inside was too dark from outside for Gonzo to make out.
Calhoun was waiting for Gonzo, leaned up against the door of an off-white pony car from a good thirty years prior. "You make it here okay?" he asked, smirking.
"Yeah, yeah," Gonzo muttered, emerging from the van doors. "Big place you've got, man. Do you live here by yourself?"
"Yeah, I stay here sometimes. You want the tour?"
Gonzo followed Calhoun down a short few stair steps into the ground and through a white door around the side of the ranch house. The space was clearly unfinished; rubber-topped tables sat against exposed studs, the floor was bare concrete, and the ranch house's water heater stood plain as day in the back of the room. The smell of metal and must permeated the room.
"I work on some smaller stuff in here," Calhoun explained. "No cars, obviously."
Parts littered the tables. Transistors, resistors of many colors, capacitors of various flavors, solenoids. Parts in bins. Vintage oscilloscopes were stacked three high at the opposite end from the door. Heat shrink tubing, spare multimeters, and rolls of solder braid hung above the workspace.
That's when Gonzo's eyes hit it. A mechanical beast draped in a blue-and-pink marquee hummed and clacked to life on the opposite wall. The ridged design cues, the raised manufacturer's badge, the coin mechanism, the icy blue selector buttons, A through K and 1 through 10—it all looked to be in phenomenal condition. Gonzo couldn't help but stare.
Three 7" single jackets sat in the warm yellow lightboxes up top. "Light My Fire", "Kodachrome", and dead in the center, staring back at Gonzo—"Rocky Mountain High".
"Like the jukebox?"
"That's sick, man. Where'd you get it?"
Calhoun wandered over to the side of the machine and leaned on the glass top, through which the record nameplates were visible. "Came from a restaurant out in Winchester. The guy had been trying to sell it for...five years, six years? Only 400 of these beautiful machines were made, and he stuffed it in a storage locker. Dirty, corroded, abused...no records either. Really, he should've been paying me."
The coyote leaned over and poked at a few of the selector buttons, reveling in their spiky clickiness. "But...you give it enough time, the right parts, lots of oil, and the service manual..."
A warm, chiming, reverberating guitar, followed by a forlorn, womanly voice Gonzo didn't recognize, emanated from the speakers.
"You get something to listen to."
To show it off further, Calhoun lifted up the glass top, squeaking it back into its locked position. A strange, skeletal box of joints, bolts, motors, and plates sat on a track deep in the depths of the machine. Gonzo could see the record spinning upright inside the box, and the music sounded as loud and vibrant as it would've the day it left the factory.
The glass top came back down. "But you didn't come to see the jukebox."
"Oh, right, yeah."