The Pooka Problem
by ROY LeBAY

Chapter 8

The next morning, I recieved the expected glares, plus a few suggestions: voice lessons, and something about a muzzle. I must have apologized more times that morning than I had in a decade! Wyly had once again been good to his word--to a point. As he'd promised, the preplanned noise hadn't awakened me--he did, to warn me beforehand! I actually felt him feeding off the resulting annoyance. It started out as a delicious chill that rippled up from my spine, and culminated in my head, as an unusually pleasant brain freeze. We agreed that this magic was to be held in reserve until the repairs were completed, unless we found a better meal. After a large number of jobs had been completed that evening, I had a late visit from Circe and a couple of her associates. I made certain that neither Wyly nor myself mentioned the faint, artfully hidden bags under her eyes when she introduced the calico and the kangaroo. "Roy and Wyly, you might have glimpsed these 2 miracle workers earlier, but I wanted you to meet them in person. This is Patches, my computer and otherwise electrical troubleshooter, and this is Axel; my hardware handy'roo troubleshooter." I stepped forward and shook paws with both of them. "Nice to meet the both of you. I've seen your excelent work in cleaning up after Wyly! So, are you here to quiz Wyly about all the Funhouse's weak points?"

They both frowned slightly as they turned their heads in unison to face Circe. She sighed, and shook her head. "Actually, I wanted the both of you to see that we don't need Wyly's brand of troubleshooting. The odds of anything like what he pointed out happening are astronomical. Between my magic, and the help of these 2 troubleshooters, we can handle anything that stands even a slightly better chance of happening. No offense, but I'm afraid that my sisters and I agreed to cut Wyly off at the pass in this respect, in case he were to use it as an excuse to stay longer." I nodded in understanding. "I agree completely. It's just not cost effective to plan against such odds. However, we're still staying to help until the repairs are complete!"

Wyly made his appearance, as I knew he would. "I understand as well, just as long as you understand the difference between a troubleshooter..." He slid a sideways glance at Patches and Axel. "...And a PET!" All 3 mouths opened at once to voice both their outrage and defense, but Wyly cut them off. "And by PET, I mean Product Endurance Tester! You know, like the old Samsonite luggage commercial with the gorilla?" Their mouths snapped shut. Patches and Axel simply shook their heads as they grinned wryly, while Circe rubbed the bridge of her nose in a hopeless attempt to avoid an oncoming migraine.

"My skills, however, would still come in handy when planning future attractions, and I have a constantly growing # of ideas that would help you draw in the crowds! Frankly though, as far as my feeding goes, your Funhouse just doesn't draw enough people for my taste; so I planned to leave anyways!" Circe briefly, yet angrily interrupted. "That's because..!" And then she quickly slapped a hand over her mouth as her eyes widdened. She'd barely stopped herself in time from accidentally giving a reason for Wyly to linger! Wyly hadn't even noticed the interruption. "I can still help you however, as a free scout out in the world. While your magic can't effect me, I can carry your magical items with me! I mean simple things, such as: enchanted Get Out of Jail Free cards for prisoners, the New Life Fountain of Youth Health Spa gift certificates for seniors, and of course, the ever popular Free, 100% Guaranteed Cure for Male-Pattern Baldness, or Double Your Money Back!"

Circe cocked her head and grinned. "Isn't that a little redundant, not to mention oxymoronic?" "Sure it is! But if you were to prey on the weakness of vanity (like I would), those key words in the same sentence would bring in droves of men! Of course, the word 'free' is yours to modify." Circe looked down to seemingly study her sandles for a moment, and then looked up with a grin that did Wyly's heart good. "Those are some...interesting possibilities! I'll get back to you later on that! All right, Axel and Patches--you're with me." The trio turned, and started walking towards the section that was to be repaired the next day.

The repairs continued at first light. While I had only glimpsed Circe once or twice that day, I'd seen the evidence of her magic at work. The work crew hadn't reached them yet, but the collapsed bleachers in the water park had been completely reassembled, complete with Wyly-proof modifications. I spoke to Wyly only occasionally that day, much to the amusement of my fellow workers. I didn't mind, as their attention fed him, but I insisted that we had to practice silent mental communication for when we returned to the public. The next few days passed in a similar fashion, until the majority of the park was ready to be opened to the public. It was Monday when the park opened, and the majority of the transformees resumed their posts to greet the public. I found myself wandering aimlessly, as the remaining repairs could only be completed after closing time. I ended up joining the audience in the water park, and found myself eyeing the considerable crowd speculatively, just out of sight of the audience. Wyly 'spoke up' using the mental link we'd finally perfected. "You know, compared to the pickings I've had lately, this crowd would be a banquet!" I nodded and turned to watch the Orca show. "I know, but whatever you do, you have to do it without scaring the crowd away! The only reasonable way for you to feed here would be to have a part in the show. Now, let's watch and find our opening!"

The Orca, Andrew--was performing flawlessly. There were the usual jumps, loops, bareback riding; and 'annointing' the audience in the first 8 rows. I've got to admit, the Orca Singing Sensation was an unexpected, and fantastic hook! "Something's missing." I murmured. The show needed something traditional, with a touch of the unexpected. Wyly completed the thought. "That's just what I was thinking! It needs: nostalgia, annoyance, impatience, shock, and laughter!"

We suddenly became aware of a woman seating herself beside us. "Seeing all these people with their attention on someone else must drive you absolutely crazy!" It was Absinthe. "What does it feel like, not being able to feed on so much?" Wyly leaned close, and whispered in her ear. "Do you like cinnamon rolls?" She nodded enthusiastically. "Of course! They're magically fat-free and then some anyways!"

Wyly signaled to one of the roving vendors, who carry a much wider variety than your average stadium events. He picked out a cinnamon roll, and placed it directly under her nose, where she reached out to accept it. Wyly jerked it away--just out of her reach. "Wait, let me tell you a tale first. Years ago, Roy used to visit Quartzite, Arizona once a year for a big event. One of the vendors there sold enormous, fresh cinnamon rolls. These things were a meal in themselves, and weighed 3/4 of a pound each!" He waved the roll before her. "Imagine a roll that big, coated with molten brown sugar and cinnamon, bursting with plump raisins and huge walnuts. You could see exactly that as you watched the last satisfied customer walk away from the order window. Roy had copied a neat trick from his mother regarding this item of delicious desire. He would ask for the scrapings off the pan to be put on top of the roll he'd ordered, after the half cup of sweet, creamy frosting had been smeared into place. They usually gave it to him,and from there he would walk slowly back along the waiting line to find a seat on which to enjoy his triumph. Admiring 'Oohs!' and 'Ahhs!' from the hungry, waiting customers followed him to his seat. Moments later, cries of disapointment and disbelief could be heard from the front of the line, when it was discovered that he'd recieved *all* of the spare scrapings from that particular tray!

The glances of hungry admiration quickly degenerated into green-eyed envy, plus more than a few serious requests to buy the roll for 3 times its' cost. He ignored all of this, of course, (personally, I'd hate to waste such potential) and usually relocated to a seat a little further away." Wyly waved the roll in front of Absinthe again. "Are you picturing this?" She nodded slowly, her eyes about as wide as they could go. "Good!" He used a little magic, and suddenly--the roll was transformed into exactly what he'd described. The change was so fast, and the roll was so big, that it actually bumped the tip of Absinthe's nose; leaving a smear of frosting. She gasped, and reached up for the roll. Wyly snatched it away--demolishing it in 3 bites! Her mouth still gaped like a fish even as he gave her a frosting-smeared vulpine grin. "If you were me, THAT'S what it would feel like!" Absinthe closed her mouth, and turned to look straight ahead, while her hands clutched her knees in the white-knuckled agony of a denied craving. "I'm sorry," she whispered. I thought Wyly had done enough, and with his help, I materialized an identical cinnamon roll. "There's no need to be, Wyly was only answering your question. Obviously, it's hard to put something like that into words alone! Here." I handed her the roll. "While you enjoy that, I'd like to run an idea past you for our next 'meal'. It involves this Orca Show, and of course, Circe's pproval!"

She nodded as she slowly, (but not quite daintily) dismembered the roll as I outlined my plan. The next day, the Orca Show opened to a crowd of between 375 to 400 people. Circe and her aquatic transformees went through their normal routines for the show, with only a few tricks and splashes cut out. From what I understood, they usually change their routines slightly every few weeks anyways. Before Andrew the Orca was to finish up what was normally his closing 'swan song' (yes, complete with swans), a figure dressed in orchestral finery walked out before the audience. Aside from the clothing, and a wild shock of brown hair, he appeared to be only a nondescript man carrying a cello. He stopped a few feet away from the pool, pulled up a mike stand, and proceeded to set up his cello as he faced the audience. The day was closing into its' twilight hour, so thus, the required spotlights and such were in use.

As the man finished tuning his cello, first 1 spotlight--then 2, and 3 focused on him; and all the while the lights illuminating the Orca pool imperceptibly started to dim. The cello player raised his stick, and the murmurs of the audience quieted. He slowly commenced to play only 2 notes, which were immediately followed by general laughter from the crowd. Everyone had recognized it--the attack theme from 'Jaws'! After all, it's the first thing you think of when faced with a giant man-eating fish (mammal, in this case), and it's tradition! TRADITION! Sorry, I love that line! The figure looked up to acknowledge the laughter with a wide grin, then turned back, and worked his way towards finishing the score. He'd almost finished when he suddenly hit an outrageously sour note, immediately followed by a few giggles from the hecklers. He stopped, shook his head, and raised his hand to the crowd. "Sorry folks, that didn't feel quite right. I'll try it again!"

The harried cello player proceeded to do just that. Unfortunately, he had only run through two thirds of the piece when he massacred another note, this one sounding exponentially worse than the first slip-up. Unnoticed by the audience, the main pool lights continued to dim even as their boos and cat calls doubled in volume. He merely shook his head again and started over. He was only a one quarter of the way through when a sharp TWANG! announced a broken string. Scattered applause responded, which was picked up and carried throughout the audience to the cries of, "Thank God! Yesss!! They could make a mint selling ear plugs here!"

Next - the thrilling conclusion to 'The Pooka Problem'!

Return to "The Funhouse - As Seen By Others"