By John McDonnell
Things slowly settled into a pattern at the Murphy house. Larry watched a lot of TV with Edna, Murphy spent most of his time at the bar, and Willow explored the higher levels of body piercing and tattooing with her boyfriend Horst.
Dolores was the only one who didn’t seem happy with her life. She felt a restlessness, a discontent. The fizz had gone out of her days.
“You need a craft,” Edna said. “That’s what’s always kept me going. Learn how to make something pointless and tacky, and you’ll feel better.”
“But I don’t like crafts,” Dolores said.
“Neither do I, dear,” Edna said. “But they keep us from listening to the voices in our head.”
Dolores thought maybe she was right. Maybe a busy mind would keep her from thinking about how dissatisfied she was with, oh, the entire last 20 years of her life.
“What type of crafting should I take up?” she asked Larry one night.
“How about a miniature proton beam collider?” Larry said. “You could make one that would fit on a keychain. You never know when you’re going to need to smash a few protons together. I think people would love it.”
There was a prolonged silence while Dolores stared at him.
“What?” Larry said. “You don’t like that one? Okay, then how about a subatomic--”
“Okay, let’s see,” Larry said, scratching his head. Which, by the way, was hairy. He had come down for breakfast this morning in the form of a chimpanzee, and he was scratching himself a lot today and pooching out his lips.
“How about stuffed animals?” Larry said, wrinkling up his face and scratching hard. “Everybody loves them. You could make them cute and cuddly, and give them names like ‘Smoochy’ and ‘Cutiepie’ and ‘Huggums’.
“That might work,” Dolores said. She went to work immediately, and in no time the house was filled with a collection of cute, cuddly animals stuffed almost to bursting, and all of them complete with full biographies of their lives, written by Edna. The biographies were very long and went on tangents to discuss 1950s TV trivia and recipes for stuffed olives and mince pie, and although Dolores didn’t know how that would appeal to 8 year old girls, she didn’t have the heart to tell Edna to edit them.
Dolores set up a Web site to sell the animals and it was a big success. Before long Dolores had a staff of illegal alien workers in her basement sewing stuffing into the animals, and the money was pouring in. The most popular stuffed animal was a wombat named Huggsie, and the kids just loved it.
Then one day there was a knock at the door. Dolores opened it to find an official looking man in a black suit, wearing sunglasses, who said, “Is this the headquarters of the Huggsie operation?”
“Who wants to know?” Dolores said, eyeing him suspiciously.
“My name is Edwin Kibosh, and I represent the Walt Frisby company,” the man said. “Your Huggsie the Wombat doll is a copy of our Cuddles the Sloth product, and this is a cease and desist order. You must stop production at once,” he said, handing a sheaf of papers to Dolores, “or we will be forced to burn your house to the ground and destroy your family down to the tenth generation.”
“This is outrageous,” Dolores spluttered.
“Quite true,” Larry said, coming downstairs in a tweed jacket, bifocals, and a pipe, looking very much the professor. “Wombats are completely unlike Sloths. For one thing, wombats are marsupials, crepuscular and nocturnal, found in southeast Australia and Tasmania, while Sloths are arboreal mammals who live in South America. They both have extraordinarily slow metabolisms, however. Did you know that it takes a wombat 14 days to digest its food? They also have distinctive cubic droppings. Now the sloth’s droppings--”
“That’s enough Larry!” Dolores said.
“Sorry,” Larry said.
“I repeat,” the Walt Frisby lawyer said. “You must stop making the wombats at once, or my company will be forced to --”
There was a shimmering in the air, and he disappeared.
Dolores turned to Larry, who was studying the weave pattern in a nearby set of drapes.
“Larry,” she said. “Would you by any chance know what happened to that man?”
“Me?” Larry said. “Just because I’ve had a passing familiarity with discontinuities in the space-time continuum, that’s no reason--”
“Bring him back, Larry.”
There was another shimmering, and Mr. Kibosh reappeared, his tie askew and his sunglasses sitting at a jaunty angle on his head. His hair was standing straight up, and he had the look of a man who had seen a charging mastodon head on.
“We’ll stop making the wombats, Mr. Kibosh,” Dolores said.
“That won’t be necessary,” Mr. Kibosh said, trying to stop the tremor in his voice. “N-not necessary, n-not nohow.”
He left abruptly, and Dolores turned to Larry.
“Larry coughed and tugged at his beard . “What?” he said. “I’ll be in my room solving Waring’s Prime Number Conjecture. I’ll be down for dinner.”
Dolores just smiled.
Copyright John McDonnell, 2010. All rights reserved.