The Pooka Problem
by ROY LeBAY

Chapter 7

I found something vaguely unsettling about this lack of reaction. It was like waiting for a comatose patient to blink--or scream, or something! I looked up at the waiting mascots, & motioned for Rocky to come over. As he walked over, I pulled up another chair & said, "It's time for you to come through on your end of the deal Rocky! You're sitting in the middle." He snorted, & turned to me as he seated himself. "I really don't think this is necessary anymore..."

Circe still hadn't so much as twitched. "I have no idea how she'll react, & seeing her blow up once was more than enough!" If nothing happens, you'll have nothing to worry about." Circe suddenly blinked, & gave a slight start when she recognized Rocky beside her. She shook her head, & motioned him out of the seat. "That...explains a lot." She seemed to consider & organize her words carefully. "You must have picked up a spark of my magic from the full-body tackle, & that's why our magic couldn't effect you or Wyly. Safety first--amongst sisters, after all!" (Nature favors the hidden flaw). "Now that we know this, we can disperse Wyly, & you can go without fear of repercussion."

I disagreed, & was about to suggest another possibility, when I discovered that Wyly had already taken over. Wyly had resumed his/our coyote form, & silently stood up. We walked to the center of the clearing, & a blindfold materialized over our eyes. I could feel that same grin stretch across my snout again, & my arms crossed behind my back--as Wyly issued the command. "YOU MAY FIRE WHEN READY!"

I couldn't speak or move, nor could I figure why he would sacrifice himself. This was hardly a survival trait I'd given him! Several sudden flashes of prismic light penetrated the blindfold, & a familiar sensation of static touched my chest, legs, & back. Where the 'bolts' had hit, they raised the surrounding fur, causing an irresistable tickling sensation. To my surprise, I found that I had burst out laughing! I reached up, & pulled the blindfold away--uncertain as to what I would find. The first thing I noticed was an odd taste in my mouth, & that Wyly's snout was gone. I bent forward to examine the rest of my body. Everything looked human again, so I focused on the odd taste. Oh dear,...a large stogie was clenched in my teeth. Was this a parting gift from Wyly? I turned to Circe & her sisters to ask what had happened, but before I could say anything..."I *LOVE* IT WHEN A PLAN COMES TOGETHER!" I had no doubt that I was wearing the face of the late George Peppard! Wyly spread his arms apart, & focused on Circe. "Sorry lady! I used up your spark early on, & I've been feeding myself ever since. I'm a perpetual pest now!"

Circe actually paled as she watched Wyly walk towards her--back in his coyote form. Her mascots ran to form a living barrier in front of her, & tensed to repel the approaching pooka. Wyly shook his head & stepped back. "Relax folks! I promised I wouldn't hurt anyone, & I'm good for my verbal contracts!" He started walking towards the exit, & called back over his houlder. "I'm a little hurt that you didn't want my advice Circe. I really wanted to help! Now that Roy & I are one, & his virtues are mine--I'm a new & improved model! I'm mostly harmless now, unless I see a good reason to be otherwise. Since you were going to let Roy leave anyways, I'm going as well. It's time to spread my 'unlimited potential' to the rest of the world, which may well leave YOU, & your 'culling the herds' of men methods OBSOLETE!"

I managed to bring Wyly to a screeching halt, & took a few steps back towards the group. I held my hands up to ward off any attack, & said, "Hold it folks, it's me again. Wyly was bluffing in effort to get away without accepting responsibility! Circe, I'm sorry if he frightened you, but you have to consider that the 2 of us are a newborn in this form. I imagine it will take us both some time to adjust." Circe recovered quickly, & allowed me to come before her once more. "Neither of you have to worry about accepting responsibility." (If more than 1 person is responsible for a miscalculation, no one will be at fault). "It was a quirk of an incredible chance that brought this about, & I apologize for it. My sisters & I have done all we can to restore you, but we can do no more. I have no idea what you'll do in the outside world, but..." I held up my furred hand to interrupt her. "Stop! My 'son' has to learn, & I'll be with him every step of the way--literally! Wyly? You've taken grief & a slew of other emotions from these nice folks. Are you prepared to give them something in return?"

Circe shook her head violently. I ignored her. Wyly hesitantly spoke up. "Like...what? I--we really don't have any money..." "Stop stalling! You gathered magic from their emotions & attention, & you should be able to help rebuild the Funhouse with it!" He cringed, & spoke at barely a whisper. "Yes, I could, but I didn't really gather enough to be of much help. I'm sorry!"

He was being strangely hesitant--he was hiding something! "What could you do with what little you have?" He couldn't have spent a fortnight here just for a few crumbs! "I suppose I have enough to raise a few tent poles, but..." Finally, I could get a little action out of him! "That's good enough! Let's get started. Just..." Wyly sadly shook his head. "I *like* to show off, but what little magic I have left is all that keeps me from fading away! All of the shape shifting I've done since you returned here drained almost everything I had! If I use the last of it, I'll die!" THAT gave me reason to pause. "You, or we?!" "Just me,...I think. Until I had joined with you, the concept of 'budgeting' wasn't in my vocabulary. Besides, I thought--I hoped that once you had a chance to know me, you wouldn't want me to disappear! I certainly wouldn't want to loose you either! Together we shore up each others' deficiencies. I can help you with your confidence & less procrastination, & you can help me with my missing morals! Just imagine what we can do together once I've had a full meal--everyone will eventually benefit!"

I considered this new development carefully, but however I looked at it, the word newborn kept coming to mind. Wyly was simply a 2 week old life trying to survive, & had yet to be given a chance to find his true potential. I also knew that with his character traits, he was incapable of outright lying, although he was proficient in stretching & bending the truth to no end! It might be a scam to get us both out of the carnival, but since Wyly & I couldn't be touched by the magic here...I reached my decision.

"Wyly, whether or not what you're telling me is true, I want you to know that I have no intention of harming; or dispersing you. You must, however, respect & follow my moral decisions. The last thing I need is guilt & embarrassment enough for 2 people! Now, we *will* be staying at the Funhouse to physically help rebuild it until it's again open to the public." I turned my full attention to Circe. "And there's nothing you can do to stop us!" She rolled her eyes, & sighed. "I suppose you're right. Besides, we could always use an extra pair of hands with the rebuilding. So, aside from room & board, is there anything else I could get for you? You *might* have saved my life after all!"

I clasped my hands together in faux prayer, & gave her my best, pleading, Bambi-eyed expression. "Heavy medication?" I asked hopefully. Wyly immediately pushed in as well. "Yeah, please! something tells me that 'morals' are going to be something of a headache! Perchance you have something in Max-pack size?" Circe struggled to keep a straight face, but finally surrendered to a melodious round of laughter, shaking her head as it ended.

"Sorry. All we have here are a few 'special' recreational drugs for certain fair goers." She glanced in the direction of the waiting trucks. "No time like the present. You can start by helping to unload the trucks."

The transformees started moving towards the parking lot, but I had 1 more question before I joined them. "Circe, out of idle curiosity--If Wyly had never come into existence, would I still have been transformed? And if so, into what?" Circe seemed to consider for a moment, then turned to me with a
grin. "Yes. From what I've heard, you're so full of it, I could have used you by the dairy barn!" "What?! Who told you that?" She gestured toward the departing crowd. Rocky grinned sheepishly & raised a paw. "Guilty!" He laughed. I told him I'd join him in a minute. Circe & her sisters were heading deeper into the Funhouse as I turned to view my reflection again. I now had a suspicion that I wanted to investigate. "Wyly, you don't have enough juice to keep me in human form anymore, do you?" Our reflection grinned.

"Not yet! Keep in mind, however, that any attention & emotion *you* happen to garner will feed me as well! Why do you ask?" I shrugged & sighed. "I still have responsibilities to work, & my landlord. My parents will also want to know where I can be reached, especially with that wedding coming up.
Speaking of 'marriages', lets keep your last name of Mudd silent for now. I'm sure you'll be called much worse later! How long do you suppose it will take to be able to show my human face in public, even for a short time?"

"A part of my grand name that's seen, but not heard?! I suppose I could live with that. Now, back to your last question. That all depends on *our* public! Listen, I have a plan, & I'll use it tonight. It ought to be a great midnight snack, & get us a few steps ahead in the magic department!" Wyly
rubbed his palms together in anticipation. "What about your promise not to injure anyone, or damage anything? We can still be physically thrown out, you know!" I wasn't especially anxious to dive into any of Wyly's ideas right away. "Relax! I promised, remember? This audio annoyance I have planned will only last about 5 minutes anyways. It won't even wake you up! When it's over, you can blame me entirely, & promise that I'll never do it again; & I won't." Hmm. We *did* need a head start on magic to get out in public again--even if only temporarily. It's not like anyone trusted Wyly yet anyways. "Oh, all right! I have a feeling that the repercussions from this will be feeding you well into the next morning anyways! Now, let's get started helping with the trucks." I heard no more from Wyly for most of the evening. We finished unloading the trucks & made a respectable dent in the repairs when we cut out at 7:30pm. Most of the lights weren't working yet anyways.

The general staff & I had a late diner at the same outdoor buffet I'd visited weeks earlier. I shared a little about myself, but mostly caught them up on recent events in the world since they'd joined the Funhouse. Circe & her sisters weren't there--apparently enjoying their meals in private comfort. Rocky offered to let me bunk with him for the night, until my own room was set up. I thanked him, but said I'd rather stay outside for the night, as the weather was mild; & I didn't want to disturb him with our 'talking to ourselves.' Circe & her sisters had stayed up till 11:30, discussing the possibilities of redesigning the Funhouse while they were rebuilding.

By 11:50, Circe was settling into a sound sleep, when a oddly echoing sound from the direction of the kennel caused her to crack one eye open. The sound resolved itself into a familiar voice. "ALL RIGHT BROTHERS, WAIL ALONG WITH WYLY! AND AH ONE..!" Both eyes shot open. "He wouldn't--he COULDN'T!" "...AND AH TWO, AND AH THREE! AARRROOOOHH!" A cacophany of yips & howls made every glass pane & goblet in the castle tremble in revulsion, & the assault seemed to go on forever. Yells, growls, & roars were starting to answer in protest from the occupied castle rooms. Circe silently cursed as she prepared to pull herself out of bed, when suddenly (only 5 min. later)--it stopped. A sheepish, hesitant voice was heard a moment later. "Er...sorry folks! Wyly got away from me, said something about a midnight snack. I've got his word that this won't happen again, & we're already as good as in the doghouse anyways, so...goodnight folks!"

Circe paused in her efforts to get up, & listened patiently. No further noises came, & the other castle residents had settled down as well. The subject of Wyly had come up between her sisters & herself earlier that evening. As a pooka alone, Wyly had at least been dependably disruptive, but when mixed with Roy's humanity; the general consensus was that the 2 made for 1 unpredictable wild card. As such, he would most likely be asked to leave as soon as the repairs were completed, if not sooner. Unable to return to her slumber, Circe rose, walked to her mantle; & picked up a small chunk of driftwood. She returned to her bed, & silently contemplated the piece of flotsam. It was all that remained of the last 'wild card' she had encountered, torn from the ruins of Odysseus' beached ship. Odysseus had been given immunity from her magic by the gods themselves. As a result, she lost Odysseus & his crew--who would have been better off staying with her from what she'd heard afterwards. In the long run, she'd considered herself much more successful in her 'quest' , thanks to Odysseus' word of mouth; & the help of a few well-respected storytellers. Circe sighed, & placed the
memento on her nightstand. If tonight was any indication, wild cards not withstanding--this was going to be a long week.

Onward to Chapter 8

Return to "The Funhouse - As Seen By Others"