The Pooka Problem
by ROY LeBAY

Chapter 1

It all started out simply enough, but as we all know, things rarely stay simple. I was holding down a full time security graveyard shift, & I wasn't taking any classes, so I had no homework to keep me awake. So, as so many others have done, I tried my hand at writing. I'm an avid sci-fi & fantasy reader, so I tried to create a unique character along these lines to build a story around. This proved difficult. Thus, I decided I needed a familiar name to start with--one so old, it was new again. I considered the new Star Trek Enterprise series, then shuffled farther back with Voyager & TNG. After watching a few of the orig. S.T. reruns, I found the name I wanted. Mudd. Harcourt Fenton Mudd, who was a loveable, mostly harmless confidence man, & a thorn in J.T. Kirk's side. I wondered why he had only appeared in 2 episodes--his potential seemed unlimited! I wasn't the only one, for Mudd made several more appearances in both comics & novels. The opportunity to introduce an ancestor of Mudd to the Enterprise series crew was ideal. I instantly started developing the needed character traits. He (sorry ladies) needed: a rich voice, a bizarre, opportunistic thought process unique to the Mudd gene, a seemingly insane collection of physical antics to keep everyone on their toes, & the occasional need to be the instigator--but only for fun! I created his crew as well, each of whom had interesting possibilities. I had seen The Sting, but knew little else about real confidence men, so research was required. I highly recommend P.T. Barnums auto., & Drake's Fortune by Richard Rayner (heh, my first shameless plugs! :^) I read other books on the subject, and all were very entertaining.

While considering the core essence of confidence men, by a lucky coincidence, I remembered a framed poster I have on my apt. wall that I'd bought a few years ago. Both hilarious & true, it lists 55 of the collected Murphy's Laws. I realized that the first law as improvised by any wily, opportunistic optimist would read: 'Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong--so take advantage of it!' Murphy WAS an optimist (as stated by the poster), & my Mudd would take his rules & lessons to heart! Since I started writing this story, I've found 2 new books of the collected Murphy. Picture it. The 2 books carefully enshrined beneath the poster, with hundreds of votive candles on each side. Incense is provided in the form of tightly rolled $1.00 bills--ah, the smell of money! Rising above it all is the hypnotic, meditative chant of--a southwestern auctioneer in the middle of a raging verbal wildfire. That's it, just picture it. In reality, my den--excuse me, my apt. room--is already a firetrap, & just looking for any excuse. The chanting wouldn't go over well w/ my roommate, seeing as I listen to a wide variety of music, from Aretha Franklin to the Squirrel Nut Zippers, & my preffered vol. wears on his last nerve. As far as the incense goes...ARE YOU NUTS!? Sorry. Excuse me. I'm on something of a budget. So where's Circe's Funhouse, the pooka, the cotton candy, & the transformations? Hold your..er...I'm getting there!

I worked up a basic plot outline, & used my reactions as a model for Mudd's reactions, but really boogered up (excuse me, exaggerated) the reactions & the important confidence skills. Such skills required: the need for attention, intimate understanding of non-verbal communication, presence, a personable way to influence all types of people, & of course; he must ooze confidence from every pore--& orifice--of his being. The other human traits such as: morals, patience, worries, fear, & responsibility, etc.; I would flesh these in later as I developed more of the story. One constant throughout Mudd's character would be his energy level. His energy would be squarely between critical mass & China Syndrome. This idea was based on an old Tonight Show rerun. Johnny had walked on stage, rocked back on his heels as he grinned up at the house lights, & said, "You can turn off the lights, I glow in the dark!" Unfortunately, at this point I hit a serious snag. Between my odd sleeping hours, graveyard shifts, & a seemingly possessed VCR, I knew very little about the personalities of the Enterprise series crew. If I was lucky, I had seen 1 show every 2 months--not enough to gauge their various emotional reactions. I stopped writing for a few weeks to reconsider the entire story idea. At that time I realized I also needed a unique or unusual first & middle name for the new Mudd as well. I mean, how do you compete w/ Harcourt Fenton for Pete's Sake!?

I was helping my parents prepare for a weekend trip, & I was moving in to watch their doxy. Their previous Dachshund had been taught to sniff out & find paper money. Seriously! If you want to learn how to teach your dog this skill, look for Money Dog by Joseph Two Dogs. (What? I'm not getting paid for this? Well, crap!). Preparation completed, dad grabbed me by the shoulders and said, "Roy! I'm signing us both up as official members of the Cherokee Nation!" This was new."Uh,...okay, but what does this mean?" "It means, we have an ancestor on the Governments' Indian Registry Lists, & no matter how far back he is; we qualify to be registered as Cherokees! We don't qualify for money or land from the gov., but you and I could recieve free schooling in Okalahoma & a few other states!" In other words, he found a hobby in minor detective research. He pulled out a stack of papers about 5" thick, containing copies from an old diary, a copy from a few pages of the published LeBay family history, & 100s of names. He pointed out a highlighted name, our 1st officially recognized ancestor on the list--Percy Wyly Fields. Click! I heard everything dad told me after that, but in my mind, the dynamo gears were already spinning. Due warning: you're about to witness my thought process in action. No one has been injured as yet, but don't try this at home. On the plus side, it's kept my family in a constant state of puzzlement for over a decade. Then again...do what you feel like doing! Hmm, Wyly--it's not unique, but it is unusual. The fact that he's my ancestor, & the spelling is different should keep the WB off my back about Wile E. Coyote. Hmm, Coyote: a trickster (con canine) of Native American folk tales & mythology. Tale? Why not? The name Tale is fairly common in the various forms of fiction, but why knock classic nostalgia? I hereby christen this character Wyly Tale Mudd!

I not only had a name, but I had found an alternate road and incarnation for Wyly from sci-fi to fantasy. This required only a minor change in character--from man to humanoid coyote, & some new traits. This also meant placing the Enterprise version on ice. Not that I minded, since writing with a working idea is what I wanted, & needed to stay awake. There were a few choice sections I wanted to keep & adapt to the fantasy story. One such section is the following collection of exerpts from the original Enterprise version. Wyly & his father had to pick up various black market parts from locations all over the world, to be used in their biggest con yet. Wyly realized that this could well be their last road trip on Earth, so why not pick up some good luck charms on the way, since they might need all the luck they could get! Imagine (and only imagine) Wyly rolling around buck-naked over a huge patch of four-leaf clovers (those poor goats were scarred for life). Picture him conning the shoes off of a descendant of the horse Secretariat. Choke as he 'accidentally' swallows a chunk of the Blarney Stone (this too shall pass). Now wish him luck as he touches more than a bulls' horns at the Running of the Bulls (how was I to know these cuffs would be caught by the horns?).

I still had to make up a fantasy story outline, but first things first. I still needed to flesh in Wyly's character traits, because he still had only the exaggerated confidence mans' sneaky strengths, but no specific balancing human-like traits. I usually carry a small notebook or a sticky pad around with me--to jot down any sudden ideas. I made a note on the pad of what I had for Wyly's traits thus far, plus a few other things I wanted to think about, & sat myself in front of the T.V. I clicked the television on, set the vol. on low, & let my mind wander. I wasn't really 'watching'. After all, if you've seen one commercial, you've seen them all. One ad, however, caught my ear first. "Come on down to Circe's Funhouse, a unique & magical circus & carnival for people and children of all ages! This wonderful place can provide a much needed change from your routine, & perhaps the new life you were meant for, even if only for the weekend!"

Circe's Funhouse? An odd name, maybe it's a fantasy convention? No, a glance at the images revealed rides, restaurants, countless animals, the usual costumed mascots, & a unique Greek theme. Seeing as the Funhouse was only a half hour from my job sight, on a lark I decided to visit the attraction. I could skip the usual pre-graveyard shift nap as long as I had enough sugar and caffeine--things all theme parks provide. I grabbed my pad, in case I might find some inspiration there, & headed out.

Onward to Chapter 2

Return to "The Funhouse - As Seen By Others"