The Pooka Problem
by ROY LeBAY

Chapter 4

I turned my attention back to Circe. "No,...I'm good." I allowed myself a small smile. "It's nice to know that I'm not the only one without full control of the weirdness around me." Circe was growing impatient, & for some reason, somewhat irritated. "Yes, well, call it!" How do you address the unknown? I knew that you certainly start by insulting it! Well, it's inside the Funhouse, it's never been seen, & it's causing trouble. I stepped back into the clearing, cleared my throat, & called forth in as much of a theatric tone as I could muster. "Phantom of the Funhouse! Please reveal yourself to us now, that you may be recognized for your brilliant work!" Instantly, a rich, amused voice came from my immediate left. "You mean, like this?" I whipped my head around in time to see a green, transparent figure make a theatrical gesture of it's own, & then fade from view. The image only lasted a few seconds, but I had my doubts that it was in its' true form. I quickly turned to Circe. "Please tell me you saw & heard that!" Circe & her sisters shook their heads, & Circe pressed me for details. "So, what did it look like? Did it say why it's causing alll the trouble?" I shook my head. "No, it didn't give an explanation. It was green & transparent, & looked like...well..." Circe's patience had worn thin--being so close to an answer to this puzzle. "Well what? What did it look like?"

"It looked just like Lon Chaney ripping the mask off his face in the Phantom of the Opera. This guy has quite a sense of humor!" Circe paused to reflect for a moment. "That's true. While the park was still running, a few funny 'accidents' did happen. The best one was a helium leak into one of the main bathrooms. Also, a few dozen hollow balls from the ball pit fell through the netting into a cotton candy spinning machine. A crowd of children was laughing & screaming while they were catching & eating fuzzy, half edible footballs! Try asking it what it is, & what it wants." I nodded & tried again. "Uh,...Phantom? We're very curious about you. Please tell us who..?" The same voice interrupted me, from the right this time, but the source of the voice stayed invisible.

"I'll tell them everything, but first, I need a proper introduction; of course! I'll give you a few hints. It all started w/ the mud puddle. You & I are a very strange family. You're both my father, & my brother, although I'm definitely the better looking one of the bunch! If you 'll look for a double meaning in this riddle, you'll have my Title to introduce. Feel free to ponder while I belt out a few lines of 'I'm My Own Grandpa!'" The voice started in w/ the lyrics from the Dr. Demento show. Unfortunately, for such a rich speaking voice, it's singing voice resembled a banshee wailing past a mouthful of rusty washers. It was hard enough to concentrate on the riddle as it was. "Stop! Please! I need quiet if I'm to introduce you!" To my surprise, he stopped. Let's see, a brother & a father in a double meaning? It started w/ a mud..? "Oh, no..!" I whispered, "The character!" A delighted chuckle behind me expelled any doubt. "That's right! So be a proud parent, & introduce your son!" I glanced pointedly at the panoramic view of destruction. "I don't see anything to be proud of at the moment, but I'll introduce you if it means getting answers. Circe!" She had been watching quietly as I apparently talked to myself for 5 minutes. She now stepped forward, quizzically staring in the direction I'd been speaking. "I'm afraid I know who it is, & he says he'll answer all your questions if I give him a proper introduction, so if you have a plan..." She nodded, & stepped back expectantly, as a satisfied smile brightened her face. At last, she had a chance to get rid of this pest! I cleared my throat, & began. "Folks! A full, & proper introduction is needed for this mystery character. But first; let me just say, I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry. It seems a character meant for print alone, a half-formed figment of my imagination, has somehow found a life of its' own. And w/ that, ladies & gentlemen, please put your hands & paws together for the one; & I hope the only--Wyly Tale Mudd!"

A large splash was suddenly heard from behind a nearby row of tents. Apparently fresh from the dunking booth, a dripping, translucent figure sprinted around the corner. A collective gasp from the crowd assured me that could at least partially see it, thanks to the water. To their eyes, it looked like a roughly human form impressed on a loose sheet of Plastic Wrap, drenched in corn syrup. It swung around a lamppost as it came around the corner, & skidded to a stop in front of me in a passable parody of 'Singin' in the Rain.' Circe & her sisters stepped forward, each brandishing wands that were aimed at the dripping figure before us. Before I could say anything, however, the figure did as all dogs will do; once out of the water--it shook. The sequential splatters pelted everyone within 15 feet. Delighted w/ the surprise & disgust he'd caused, Wyly grinned as he turned his attention toward me. Circe & her sisters, meanwhile, had recovered from their unexpected shower; & redirected their wands on Wyly. Impossibly, his grin widened even further as he turned back to watch the Circe clan. They took up a 3-point stance around him--each one about 6 feet away. Circe nodded to her sisters & shouted, "NOW!" All 3 thrust their wands towards the rapidly drying figure, & yet...nothing happened. I found my voice & pointed this out. While Circe's sisters were obviously in a state of shock, for some reason--I was only mildly dissapointed. Circe, however, had only turned a hard glare in my direction that needed no translation--KEEP TALKING! Wyly simply snorted, & shook his head in disdain as he turned his attention back to me. It, excuse me, he--looked very much like the the park 'mascots'. The main difference was that he was definitely *not* wearing a funhouse uniform. Instead he wore a straw hat (the typical political election type), a long-sleeved shirt topped w/ a loose vest, & Travolta-esque bell-bottom slacks. He was about 5"5' tall, & his most disturbing featureat the moment was his maniacal grin. Imagine a tight-lipped doggy 'grin'--w/ no teeth showing, & the lips' corners reaching from ear to ear. Wyly very much resembled a humanoid German Shepard, except for a few subtle differences. His snout was narrower, & his dark & light color patterns were all wrong. Besides, I couldn't tell what color his fur would be, seeing as how he was entirely luminous green. His fur was a little longer as well, standing out in a wiry fashion. Wyly was, however, w/out a doubt--the quintessential coyote man.

He gave me that same grin, & opened his arms wide. "Brother! I've missed you so! Give me a hug!" I instinctively jumped back several feet, fearfully watching his 'paws'. "No thanks, I've seen what those paws can do!" Wyly flattened his ears back, & cocked his head at me curiously. "Oh, come on--you know I haven't hurt anyone, & I just needed something to keep my hands busy! Hug?" He opened his arms again. I shook my head in exasperation, & turned to Circe. "I'll play the part of his mouthpiece in a minute, but right now he's being...difficult." Circe nodded & pulled up a chair that 1 of the mascots had offered her. Meanwhile, Wyly was oddly distracted, w/ all of his attention directed on the Squirrel ride. He suddenly turned his attention, along w/ a sly grin--back to me. He gestured to the roller coaster. "Did you ever wonder what 1 loose nut could do to a 'coaster? Are you even curious?" Wyly had wandered over to the ride, & was comparing himself to the required height chart. I had an ugly suspicion of where this was going. "Wyly, please don't. Don't destroy anything else!" This pleading demand brought Circe's group to a startled, standing attention, as they poised themselves to run from ground zero--wherever it might be!

He was straddling the rails in front of the first car when I'd said this. He glaced back to me, & grinned. "Let's make a deal. All I want is one hug--for you to hug me just as I am now, once. If you do, I give you my word that I'll never again damage anything myself, & I'll certainly never physically hurt you; or anyone else. It's an easy decision. So,...hug?" So far, this character of mine was operating true to form, w/the deal of blackmail! My 'boy' was growing up fast. Still, it was just a hug, but it might be a little... embarrassing? Embarrassing?! I glanced around. I was surrounded by: 3 enchantresses, 12 men transformed into animals, & walled in by a demolished carnival on all sides. Embarrassment was the least of my worries!

I turned back to Wyly. "You'll answer all of our questions?" He nodded enthusiastically. "That's right! Ready?" I nodded, & motioned him towards me, away from the 'coaster. Wyly smirked as he approached me in the center of the clearing, while his features shifted into a well-known face from the past. "And now, for a really big shew!" I sighed, & matched his smirk. "You're a little late!" I spread my arms wide, indicating the ruined carnival. "You've already brought down the 'house!" I glanced over my shoulder at Circe's perplexed entourage. "We'll be w/ you in a moment folks--we're just making a phantom Kodak moment!" My arms were still wide open when Wyly closed in. His grin was back--the kind of grin that frightened little old ladies & children, but was simply infectious to all those who weren't intimidated by it. We embraced, or tried to.

Onward to Chapter 5

Return to "The Funhouse - As Seen By Others"