Tom Mazanec

  It all started one summer day after a heavy thunderstorm.
I had just graduated from high school, and was living with at my big
sister's apartment since our folks died in an accident last winter.
After the storm the sky cleared beautifully, and we went out 
for a walk. Marsha was the one who spotted it first, floating in a 
large rain puddle.
   "John, look at that...thing." I seemed to remember a song about
someone picking up a "boom-da-boom" he saw floating somewhere, 
and coming to regret it. But Marsha had already picked it up. 
I came over to look. It was about the size of a golf ball, 
maybe a little smaller. The multicolored lights that 
spun on it's surface made it a little hard to see clearly.
   "It's a tsk-pt-clk." she said. "It says it's from another world, 
and it's a wishing machine." That's what she called it, a tsk-pt-clk.
Make a tsking sound with your tongue and teeth, then "kiss" the air,
and cluck your tongue from the roof of your mouth. "You mean it
washes clothes for little green men?" I asked. "No, it grants wishes.
It does whatever you tell it to. That's what it told me. It makes real
whatever you say."
   I looked at Marsha for a while. "Marshy, you're starting to
scare me." "Here, look at this!" she said, taking a pen from
her purse. "This pen is a pencil." And it was a pencil,
all of a sudden. There she was, pencil in one hand and
psychedelic golf ball in the other, open purse still slung over
her shoulder. She put the ex-pen pencil in the purse and took out a
lipstick tube. "And this is a carrot." she said. Sure enough, that's
just what it suddenly was.
   "Here, John. Take it and try it. But be careful. 
We could save the world or destroy it with this thing."
I took the thing as she handed it to me. It felt almost weightless,
and even crazier, I found myself thinking that it was a
tsk-pt-clk for altering reality, from a world orbiting as a 
giant moon, a blue and red banded gas giant looming...
but that's crazy! The only reason I'm thinking
this is because she told me all that crap! Marsha is normally more
sensible than to be playing jokes like this, even if she does read 
the National Enquirer when I read the Skeptical Enquirer. 
It *is* a great joke, I must admit. I just can't
figure out how she's doing it!
   "Marsha, there are no flying saucers, just as there are no 
bigfoots or ghosts."
I said. "John, you're holding the proof right in your hand! 
And you saw what happened! "Of course, I am too sensible to be taken 
in by this. "OK, I admit I don't know how you did this.
I'm sure you planted this doodad for us to find, but I don't know
how you did the quick change acts. The Amazing Randi would know, 
but I'm not so amazing.
And I don't know what kind of toy this is, or where you got it."
   "John, this is serious. The whole world is changed by that 'toy'."
That did it. "Marsh, this thing is going down the sewer. 
You've had your laugh, and now it's over. "Of course, I had no 
intention of disposing of the blasted gizmo...I wanted to find
out what it was! But I walked over to the sewer grate anyway. 
   "John, please!" This was getting weird. "Marsha, you're *really* 
starting to scare me." I said slowly and evenly. 
She really looked agitated. "John, I'm not kidding! That is
the real thing! You *know* it is!" 
"Marsha, look, I am getting quite tired of this nonsense. Cut it
out and let's start back home." 
   But she just came up to me and whispered "John, I swear
this is no joke. All right, maybe it's too dangerous for us to use
ourselves. But we have to take it to MUFON. 
They know how to deal with alien artifacts!"
   That was the last straw. "Marsha, if this piece of junk is 
an alien artifact, I am a mongoose!" instant of *falling*...
   And I find myself standing on all fours, on a strangely enlarged 
sewer grate, while the Christmas ornament from Melmak or Ork or 
Mobius or Remulak or wherever bounces around in front of me a 
moment and drops through one of the holes.
A second later I catch a "plink" over the sound of rushing water.
   OK, I'm a believer!

   At first it wasn't so bad. A mongoose is about as good a 
four-footed to be as any other. Sense of smell is great 
(although I did not appreciate that fact my first
quarter minute of mongoosehood, considering where I was). 
Colors look as good as they did before, and my paws were just 
good enough to use Marsha's Ouija board...
I never thought I would find a use for that piece of bunkum. 
Marsha told the neighbors that I had joined the Army, 
while explaining the "new" me by telling them that I had been sent 
by a friend from overseas, and I was quite a popular attraction.
Several times little boys even brought snakes 
(a little boy can *always* find a snake!) for me to kill. 
I suppose I could have said something worse. But then a young man
came and asked to see Marsha's pet mongoose. 
I put on a little show of my agility for him, 
but somehow he did not seem pleased. 
   "Mongooses are against the law in this country. 
Even zoos aren't allowed to keep that particular species!" 
Marsha was startled by this news. My pelt bristled
quite a bit too! "Why? What could a little mongoose do?" 
"That is the law. They are destructive to wildlife and you will not 
get away with this!" he said and left.
Needless to say, he did not leave us happy campers. Marsha told the
neighbors that I had died suddenly, 
and we started work on planning what we were going to do next.
   But it seems we had not planned fast enough. Only the next day came
the sudden banging on the door.
   "Richard Gordon, game warden! I have a search warrant!" 
Marsha grabbed me and unceremoniously stuffed me in a 
kitchen cabinet. "Coming!" she cried out. "Be quiet and don't move."
she whispered to me, as she closed the door. I noticed
that my tongue seemed to have turned into cotton. 
I was awkwardly wedged into the tiny space, 
with spice containers and sauce jars crowding me and my tail
looped over my back. The door opened and Mr. Gordon said 
"I understand you have a mongoose here.
I have an order from Fish and Wildlife to take possession of it and
immediately destroy it. If you resist, you will be subject to fine 
and imprisonment."
   I found myself shivering in the dark. Fortunately, 
there was no cage or anything else like that...
Marsha was quite good about that, although after what I did I
would hardly have blamed her. "It was only a ferret. 
I was just kidding about it being a mongoose."
Marsha said, sounding quite believable. 
"It died yesterday and I just couldn't stand to bury it, 
I had them take it out in this morning's garbage." Boy, can
she think fast!
   "Nevertheless, I will still have to search the apartment."
   You do not realize how twitchy a critter a mongoose is until you
become one.
With what's on my mind, I was even twitchier than normal. 
I took a deep sniff of the object directly under my nose, 
to see if I could identify it and distract myself.
Bad idea. It's a pepper shaker, and some of the pepper dust on 
the cap gets in my nostrils. I considered rubbing my nose to relieve 
the sneezy itching, but if I use my paw I might lose my 
precarious balance, and the only thing near enough to my 
nose to rub it on without bowling-pinning half a dozen objects 
is the top of that stupid pepper shaker. 
I made do by clenching my teeth.
   "Of course, I understand." Marsha says. I heard vague noises as 
they went through the apartment, such as doors opening and 
furniture being moved. I waited, my guts twisting into knots. 
Marsha seemed very patient with the apartment being gone over with
a fine tooth comb. I wished she could hurry him up...
I understood that she did not dare rush him and 
make him suspicious, but I felt liable to sneeze at any moment
and the fact that she was not pushing him on was DRIVING ME CRAZY.
   "Well, all right. You'll have to sign some papers here...
and here...and here. The guy who tipped us must not have 
known his zoology. Sorry for the intrusion."
   "That's perfectly all right. You're just doing your job."
   "Good day, Miss. I'll be on my way."
   The apartment door opens and...
   ...the cabinet door was knocked open as spices and sauces went
clattering to the floor. "WHAT THE HELL-" the man's voice cries. 
"It's that stupid cabinet. It's always dropping things like that." 
Marsha's voice rapidly came closer, and the cabinet door 
*slammed* shut. 
   "Do you want me to help you put all that stuff back?"
   "No! I'll do it myself. I put everything in it's own place. 
I'll have to get a spice rack or have that cabinet fixed, though. 
This *does* get tiresome."
I heard some muttering from the agent about "Munsters" and 
"Addams family", and then the apartment door shut. 
A long wait...
   "Do you know what you almost did!?" hissed Marsha as she opened 
the cabinet door. "I *told* you to be quiet and not move! 
Do you *want* to be killed?" 
I looked as humble as I could. I know I was shaking like...
whatever shakes a *lot*.
She looked at me and then softened. She picked me up and hugged me. 
"All right, all right."
We will have to do something ASAP...move to where mongooses are legal,
Maybe I'll Ouija to Marsha that I sneezed, 'tho I'll never tell 
her *why* if I don't
want her to hold it over me for the rest of my life. 
And if you ever find that tsk-pt-clk, be careful what you say, OK?