by ROY LeBAY
The Thrilling Conclusion! (Chapter
and approached the despondant musician. After a moment of hushed conversation,
she turned back to the audience. "Don't worry folks, he's fine! Please
stay in your seats, as it'll only take a moment to wire up a new string,
so thanks for your patience!"
The response from
the mob-to-be sounded like an auditorium full of students enjoying a pep
rally, only to be told to return to class for a pop quiz. By now, the
pool was completely dark, and all of the main spotlights were on the player.
He proceeded to again play the first 2 notes of the score. Suddenly, a
strobe light pulsed its harsh, strident light on the musician, even as
the spotlights simultaneously disappeared. From behind the man arose an
immense white-splotched form, with its' remaining black bulk seeming to
swallow up the available light. In 3 stop-motion-like blinks, the unlucky
musician disappeared into a cavernous gullet lined by thumb-sized teeth
with a grotesque SLURP!
Only a few screams
escaped the stunned witnesses in the audience. They watched tensely in
silence as the whale partially beached itself, and presented its' immense
tail to the audience. Meanwhile, the strobelight had been replaced by
a wide-beam spotlight on the whale. The huge tail came down with 3 seismic
slams--on the cello, reducing it to splinters. The killer whale then pulled
out into the water, only to return to beach itself head first--2 feet
away from the still-spinning microphone stand. The ponderous jaws opened,
revealing an empty gullet,--and spoke. "Well, SOMEBODY had to do
it!" Incredulous gasps rose from the audience, and then the jaws
closed, and parted again--disgorging a soaked man in a black tux. The
man stood as he ducked out from under the jaws, and disgustedly flung
saliva off his sleeves as he reached for the microphone. "Bleagh!"
He turned partially away to glare at the whale. "Everyone's a critic!"
The man turned back to the audience. "So, what did you think? We
thought you might enjoy something unique--something that could only happen
thanks to the magic of Circe's Funhouse! Come on, be brutal! Anthony and
I are paid with applause, although I myself could do without the fish!"
followed. He turned with the mike back to the whale. "Are you hearing
crickets too?" Andrew nodded enthusiastically. The musician shook
his head as he walked over to his now empty cello case. "I'd hoped
that it wouldn't come to this, but even the best actors need their cue!"
He opened the case, and held it chest-high for everyone to see. Flourescent
green neon tubes spelled out APPLAUSE! within the case. Circe (bless her)
started clapping. The applause was picked up by 20--then 80 people, and
then the rest of the crowd followed suit with a roar that could've challenged
the best booming waves off of S. California's coast. I stood stock still
for a minute or 2, enjoying the 'rush' as Wyly absorbed his final 'course'
from the audience. I made a standard bow, directed the rest of the applause
towards Andrew, and then made my way to the side alley.
The sound of the
applause had already tapered off, as Andrew the Orca commenced his 'swan
song' performance. We stepped into 1 of the dressing rooms, and faced
a convenient mirror--returning to our coyote form. "Well, it was
a half of a victory at the very least. Did you enjoy your meal Wyly?"
Wyly's reflection grinned. "It was like caviar, double fudge ripple
peanut butter ice cream, and sweet and sour buffalo wings all in a row!
It was fantastic!" His grin faltered. "Now, what's all this
nonsense about a 'half victory?'" I shrugged my shoulders and glanced
in the direction of the audience. "Do you remember the complete silence
once we'd finished our bit? If it weren't for Circe starting them off
with her applause, we would've bombed. I know the idea was for you to
feed, and we accomplished that, but at this rate--there won't be any requests
for repeat performances out in the world! This could be tougher than I
Wyly cocked his head,
raised an eyebrow, and commenced to clean the wax out of our ears. "Am
I hearing you right? It sounded like authentic applause to me! The entire
audience--to a man, were clapping and cheering! Besides, like we pointed
out to them, it was something new; and it takes a few moments for people
to absorb and appreciate anything. As far as I'm concerned, we had true
applause the moment the laughter started!" I slowly nodded, and reflected
on my own grin in the mirror. "I suppose that's true. Plus, I had
the experience of transforming into a Remora fish and clinging to Andrew's
upper jaw! Still, I won't trust any audience fully until we find 1 outside
the Funhouse's influence." Wyly paused in the middle of changing
out of the tux. "What's that supposed to mean?" "You've
seen it before. With Circe's magic and beauty, any man would almost instantly
bend to her slightest whim--including applause. Remember tha seal transformation
we saw yesterday? The guy stayed after the show to watch the seals a little
longer, and Circe suggested to him that he clap to cause the seals to
continue their tricks. He kept clapping all the way through his transformation.
It could have happened just like that!"
A knock on the door interrupted us, and I cracked the door slightly to
reveal the polar bear mascot. "Yes?" "Roy? There are a
few people on the stage floor who would like to speak to you." I
grunted as I struggled with the collar of my 'monkey suit.' "Thanks,
I'll be out in a minute as soon as I'm
done changing!" I closed the door, and started to change into our
'off hour' clothes. Simply choosing something that felt comfortable with
our new body had only been 1/3 of our final decision. Wyly, of couse,
had wanted to wear something that would attract attention. I was more
concerned with comfort, and I have at least a slight sense of a matching
'I'm-not-colorblind' style (really, I'm not; and I've got decent night
vision too). Fortunately, Wyly had unwittingly provided an inspiration
in style the second time I'd seen him before we'd physically joined. The
result looked like a 3-way pileup between the 1930s, the '50s, and the
I pulled on a long-sleeved
emerald green polyester shirt, and tucked it into a bright-white pair
of bell-bottomed slacks (thank-you, Mr. Travolta) that were held up by
a pair of yellow 'Have A Nice Day' smiley-face suspenders. At my waist
I wore a modified handcuff holster, which held an slightly oversized ornate
silver and gold pocket watch; complete with watch chain and fob. I slid
a ACME Co. leather vest over the shirt, allowing enough looseness even
for a gesturing, emotional Italian (Wyly wanted space to move our arms
to attact attention). Emblazioned on the side of the vest was a lounging
Wile E. Coyote, dressed up in early '50s gangster clothes. I hefted my
cane, with a sterling silver pouncing coyote handle, and various desert
animals carved along its' shaft. Careful! Its' got a hare trigger! (I
might explain later). The final touch was a white straw hat, with a green
band. It was the typical type that you might see in political rallies.
In fact, the complete outfit resembled: a typical carnival barker, a traveling
snake-oil salesman, or a member of a barbershop quartet. In human form,
i wore wingtips, and as a coyote--I went barefoot. We'd be just another
face in the crowd in Vegas or Hollywood (I'm guessing we'll fix *that*
Ensemble complete, I stepped out, and scanned the stage floor for the
visitors in question. Two men in casual clothes were engaged in a lively
conversation, while a woman in mostly white business attire stood stiffly
to 1 side, all only a few feet from the whale pool. I swaggered over to
greet them, twirling my cane as I went. "Howdy folks! How can you
help me today? Was there something wrong with the performance?" Their
conversation ended abruptly as they were suddenly forced to take in my
drastic change in appearance, and answer my odd questions at the same
time. Before they could blurt out any kind of response, I made a point
of giving each of them a hearty handshake--complete with joy buzzer. The
2 men grinned as they wrung their hands, but the woman gave no sign of
having felt it as she stepped forward to address me--flipping back her
shoulder-length platinum blond hair when it briefly blinded her. "Mister
LeBay?" I bobbed my head as I jerked my thumb in the direction of
the park entry. "That's me! However, I leave that name at the entry.
While I'm here on the grounds, please call me Wyly! And you are..?"
By way of response, she bent down to open a leather attache case at her
feet. I crouched down to peer into its' dark recesses, then angled my
head up to grin at her. "Do you always keep your name in a bag?"
One of the men beside me snorted with barely repressed laughter as a slight
blush crept into the woman's face. "I'm sorry, this is the first
time I've done this." She offered a small, nervous
smile as she handed me a handful of pamphlets. "I'm Laura Egress,
and I've just been hired to recruit entertainment for Pearly Shores Seaside
Spectacular, which opens in a month. I wanted to see what the competition
was drawing the crowds in with." I smiled knowingly. "And you're
wondering if my Performance, and my fellow aquatic animal actors were
available for your park to borrow?"
She hesitated, then nodded. "Yes, but just for the first month of
the grand opening. Are you...under contract here?" I shook my head
as I turned her by the shoulder to face the now empty pool behind her.
"I'M not, but the wet wonders you saw me working with are another
story. They have a contract of sorts with their teacher, Circe--who also
happens to be the owner of the entire Funhouse, and its' related attractions.
If you want the animals as well, you'll have to speak with her. She's
extremely attached to all of them. I, on the other hand, she would be
ecstatic to get rid of!" Laura continued to stare at the empty
pool, lost in thought. "There's no harm in asking for the loan of
the animals. I myself will be available for *anything* in about a week.
Personally, I've given a free sample of my services to Circe's Funhouse
as a troubleshooter, and Circe will verify that I'm very...'thorough.'
If her unique entertainment can't be rented out to you, my services for
troubleshooting measures will always be available, and in a pinch; I could
always throw a few acts together! Would you like to speak to Circe now?"
She turned back to me with a hopeful smile. "I think that's what
I should've done in the 1st place! Where will I find her?" I caught
the attention of an otter mascot closing up the snack bar. As he walked
over, I gestured to Laura. "This young lady would like to speak to
Circe on a matter of business. Could
you please escort her?" He nodded, and started to lead her away.
"Wait a minute!" They both turned back. "I have your number
on the pamphlets, but here's my card, just in case!" It read, LeBAY
and TALE, TALE OF TROUBLE INC., TRICKS and TROUBLESHOOTING--then the phone
number. She thanked me as she took it, and hurried on her way to meet
Circe. I turned to the 2 remaining gentlemen. "So! Who's my next
A tall and slender black-haired man stepped up who vaguely resembled Dean
Cain, except for a broken nose and a scar under his right eye. He waved
his hand before my eyes as I watched a business card 'magically' appear
in it. "A true pleasure to meet you Wyly! To shame your stage name,
I'm Thaddeus (Tad) Strangge, and I own a string of public magicians' clubs
throughout California and Nevada. Now, I've seen people swallow things
without a trace before, but never a man swallowed by and disappear into
a whale like that! I can't help but ask--HOW?!" I grinned as I pressed
his card between my palms, and then slowly opened them. With Wyly's help,
in place of his card were 52 of my own. "As a late, great magician
used to say, "It's Maaagic!" "Pick a card, any card!"
I fanned out the cards for him. He gingerly selected 1, and jerked back
with a start as it burst into flame! I threw the whole handful into the
air, and each 1 burst into flame--disintigrating like shooting stars before
they hit the ground.
He grinned as he placed his hands on his hips. "So, after all that,
where's your calling card?" I scratched the tip of my left ear. "Check
behind yours!" His hand automatically slapped his left ear, and came
away with a card. He glanced at the card, and nodded as a wry grin curled
1 corner of his mouth. "Not bad! Listen, we've got a meeting to get
to, but I just wanted you to know that you're welcome at all of my clubs.
We'd love to have you perform a few tricks, or just hang out in the audience!"
I held up my hand to restrain them for a moment. "Wait a moment!
Who's your friend?" The man beside Tad stepped forward, his face
beaming. It wasn't intentional. He was permanently inflicted with a rosy
nose and cheeks (thanks to the condition of Rosacea) that almost matched
his short, curly red hair. His being slightly overweight completed his
appearanceas an off-season, beardless Santa with 'Striking Red' hair dye.
"Blarney B.' Golly!" He gave me an affectionate slap on the
shoulder that could've split a 2x4. "Excuse me?" Was he introducing
himself, or critiquing our name choices? "Since you both like mysteriously
memorable names, I thought I'd get in on the fun! Blarney's fine. Tad's
clubs and mine are often side-by-side, a Tad O' Blarney as it were, and
together we're the last stand in clean public entertainment! We usually
get together and brainstorm to help each others' business. I own a number
of stand-up comedy clubs that are only just getting by." I couldn't
believe my luck, and I told him why. "Oh, happy day! By chance, just
this week I started to consider getting in on the power of public entertainment.
Would you have enough fun and attention to spare if I were to stop by
to give and take a few laughs?" Blarney laughed, and pointed at Tad.
"Absolutely! You know, you're party to a funny coincidence. Tad and
I have been called the Chance Brothers--Slim and Fat, because luck seems
to be the only thing that keeps our collective clubs afloat! I don't have
a card, so just call his club, and they'll give you what they need. Say,
what time have you got?"
I pulled out my pocket watch, and sprang the cover open for them to see.
The instant I'd opened it, I realized that I'd forgotten this 'trick-ticks'
main purpose. An intense flash of white light instantly blinded both Tad
and Blarney. They staggered back blinking, and after a full minute, they'd
recovered. Tad shouted, "What the heck was that?!" "Why
am I still seeing the word 'sucker'?" questioned Blarney with a puzzled
squint. I could only shake my head. "Jeeze, sorry about that guys,
it really was an accident! This watch and cane are a couple of specialized
props I've just had made--part of my shtick as it were. I accidentally
set the watch off by opening it the wrong way. See, look here." I
held the watchcase open for them to inspect. "The inside of the case
is highly reflective, and at it's center is a small charge of old-fashioned
flash powder. The word 'sucker' is hinged and outlined in black over the
inner curve of the case, and it shows up as a negative after-image on
your retinas after the flash. Since I'm also aspiring to moonlight as
a door-to-door snakeoil salesman supreme, these props posses new, and
sorely needed tricks of my trade. Would you forgive me of this gentlemen?"
The Chance Brothers considered the watch for a moment, glanced at each
other, and then simultaneously burst into laughter. "That's a fantastic
gag! You've got to show up at my comedy clubs now, that is, if you expect
me to forgive you!" "That goes ditto for me as well! With that
outfit, plus a few of those tricks, all you'll need is a mustache to twirl!
O.K., now we really have to go!"
The pair waved goodbye as they power-walked towards the exit. I watched
them go, grinning even as I reset my watch. "Wyly?"
"You were right."
"I'm actually looking forward to those 'interesting times!'"
"I told you so!"
I could go on about
Wyly's antics, and my efforts to keep up, But that--is another story!
thanks goes to Myron Comus (especially for finding space for this monster!),
Socks the Cat, Odis Holcomb, and especially Pohl Anderson--father of St.
Klutzus from Operation Luna. Feel free to use any of the other characters
as long as proper recognition is given. Any Questions? Comments? Or Criticisms?
Email me at: email@example.com
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