|The Story||The Authors|
|As she drove over the bridge many of the barnacles and starfish that were
clinging to her car spontaneously popped off, springing themselves over the
side and falling back towards the ocean. Many of them stayed however. Long
pieces of seaweed stick to her to her radio antennae and windshield wipers
flapped in the wind. As the turtle led her North, it began to dawn on her that
her destination was Petaluma and the Taffy factory. She'd done a study there
years earlier on the harmonic frequencies produced by stretching taffy and what
affect it had on the mating habits of humans. The factory would be closed now
but as her mind began to recount her experiencees there she remembered that
there was a window high up with a broken latch she could climb through,
assuming they hadn't repaired it. Sure enough, as they reached Petaluma the
turtle gently glided to the familiar building, circling three times before
heading towards Petaluma creek, gliding along the surface of the water before
touching down and disappearing beneath it's wake. The factory was like a big
white warehouse with all the windows 10 or 12 feet off the ground. It was on an
industrial side street off the main drag. She parked her car, and looked around
in case she was being watched. The place seemed fairly desolate this late in
the evening. She went over to the chain link fence near the edge of the
building. The window she remembered was just in reach from the top of the
fence. Barring that she could try to get on the roof and get in through some of
the fairly large skylights. But that would be tough, as it was a long drop to
"Bark! Bark! Bark!"
She jumped back with a startle almost falling over. Her heart racing and a fresh boost of adrenaline shocking her nervous system with a minty rush of terror. Gaurd dogs. She forgot about the gaurd dogs. Luckily they were on the other side of the fence so all they do was bark at her. Oddly enough, when she looked directly at them they immediately calmed down, as if they recognized her (which was virtually impossible), they stopped barking, made a wimper or two, turned around and walked away. She was slightly puzzled but breathed a sigh of relief, took a bit of the chain link in her hands, and revisiting the expertise of her childhood, stuck her foot into the first little parallelogram and began scaling the fence. In no time at all she was up at the window. It was closed. She took out a pocket knife and was able to get a blade under just enough to give her some leverage, and voila, the window dwung outward. They hadn't repaired the latch. She got a leg up, hoisting herself up and over and into the building. This particular area happened to be a storage area just over the front offices. She brushed off her hands, went down the stairs and found herelf in an office overlooking the production area. Like any perpetual student/academic research type she always carried a bevy of "tools" with her. A bag of tricks as it were. Simple but essential things like journals, notebooks, pens and pencils, a paperback book and a periodical or two. There was a drinking fountain and a restroom towards the back of the room. So she took off her little satchel, threw it on a desk and went to "freshen up".
Vigo was an avid reader, and a very observant mouse. He read everything he could find. He also enjoyed listening to other people's conversations. Since he was a mouse he had a hard time contributing because no one took him seriously, and usually people reacted to him trying to contribute to a conversation by either running away screaming or trying to smash him with the nearest large object. He'd learned to fear most humans.
The other day in the lunch room he listened as one of the young interns at the
factory was talking about an article he'd just read in the latest issue of a
small hacker rag. He described a bug in the software used to control many of
the production steps and was boasting of the havoc he could wreak. He described
the method in a fair amount of detail, and Vigo understood every word.
He had been searching for his buddies for some time now.
He was looking around in all the usual places but he wasn't having any luck
yet. He'd been racking his brain for a way to deal with the scary beasts in the
salt tank. He was sure they spelled doom for him and his compadres. When
Evelyn's bag hit the counter, the top of a little magazine poked out, and a
thought solidified in Vigo's head like quickset plaster on a hot day.
"Hey let go of my noodle! It's my noodle and I want it all to myself!"
"Ah come on kleg, I want some of your noodle. Why can't you share it with me?"
Kleg looked at his noodle.
"Well gee omar. Ya you know I'd like to share my noodle with you, but I already told sylvia I'd share it with her. Sort of a deal we got going. She's got a great juicy hunk of tuna, and I got this here noodle. It's a pretty nice one don't ya think? Anyway I think she'd get kinda upset if she caught me sharing my noodle with anybody else.
Vigo turned the corner to see his two friends playing tug of war over a ramen noodle dropped on the floor during the lunch hour.
"Allright Klegg I guess it's ok with me if you give her the noodle."
"Hey! Psssst! Guys you gotta get a load of what's going down by the salt tank."
Vigo relayed what he'd seen earlier in vivid detail and explained how they were all certainly doomed unless they did someting about it. He went on to tell them he had a plan, buthe needed their help, and he lead them to the desk with Evelyn's pack.
Vigo grabbed the corner of the little periodical in his mouth and pushed backward with his little mousy feet trying to drag it out of the pouch. Although it was a small magazine, only 5 x 8, it was very heavy and massive for a mouse, and he couldn't get it to budge. He stood back and looked over to find Fleg and Omar looking at him with blank stares.
"What are guys looking at? Give me a mouth with this!"
They scurried over and each grabbed the edge in their mouth.
"Ok, on the squeak of three."
Squeek! Squeek! Pull!
They pulled on the magazine furiously trying to scurry backwards. The magazine began to move. Gently sliding out of the pouch about 2 inches.
"Cheddar Cheese! I think it's going to work, but we'll have to give it a couple of tries. Ok on my count. We'll pull and breath, pull and breath, got it?
Ok here we go.
Squeek! Squeek! Pull!
Squeek! Squeek! Pull!
"Wait!" shouted Omar.
He was sweating and hyperventillating. "Can...[huh..weaze]...we...[huh..weaze]..take a brake?"
"Take a break?", asked an incredulous Vigo. "We've only been pulling for 7 seconds and you want to take a break?"
Omar was out of breath, looked miserable, and didn't respond.
"Pull yourself together Omar. We can probably get it in one more pull and then we'll be done. Your fellow mice are depending on you."
Omar nodded, took his edge in his mouth and got ready.
"Ok one last pull! Here we go! Squeek! Squeek! Pull!"
They pulled and pulled and finally the magazine came all the way out of the book pouch. Omar fell over huffing and puffing.
Vigo and Kleg slapped paws and yelled "Asiago! Dude!"
"Ok Omar rest up. This'll be good for you. Get you into shape. Since you're the heaviest mouse we're going to need you for the next stage. Don't worry it'll be mostly standing around and jumping."
Omar gave a worried smile. Vigo and Kleg got to work finding the table of contents. "Ok Kleg, you remember how it works? It'll be just like those comic books we used to read. We start at the edge opposite the staples, lift up the cover, put our noses underneath, and then run forward pushing with our noses until the page is almost vertical, then we'll push up with our hands, and jump forward to try to get the page to flip over. When it does, we'll continue on just enough to flatten it. Omar that's when you come in. You have to sit on the page wherever it lands to keep it flat while we work on turning the next page.
"Uhuh." nodded Omar in recognition.
"Ready Kleg?", asked Vigo.
"The first page is the hardest. Here we go."
Working together, the little mice were able to turn over the cover of the magazine, exposing the contents. Omar sat dutifully on the flipped over cover so as to keep it from flopping back. Vigo jumped back and beggan to read over the contents.
"Let's see we got The Argentinian phone system...naw that's not it, How to hack a virtual pet...yick that sounds awful....spying on Yahoo....nope....How to hack Microsloth Taffy Works. Gorgonzola! That's it!"
"What page is it on?", asked Kleg.
Vigo followed the dots to the right hand margin and read the number.
"35?! Smoked Gouda! That's a lot of pages to turn."
"No problem. We'll get into a rhythm. Just doing our turn for mouse kind." remarked Kleg with a wry smile, full pun intended. He enojoyed a good challenge.
"Allright, let's get to it then."
Both Kleg and Vigo were very fit mice and they immediately set themselves to the task of pushing pages over one by one. Omar dutifully got up with the turning of each page and sat down on it to keep it from flopping back. The middle of the magazine was page 30. They new from experience when they saw the staples in the middle. They were ina rythm and had reached their second wind long ago. By this time the pages didn't have any tendency to flip one way or the other so Omar's job was unnecessary. He'd already figured this out and had dissapeared into the book bag searching for crumbs. Finally they reached page 35.
"Page 35!", yelled Kleg.
Vigo exclaimed "Camembert!" They slapped paws and layed back in the crease of the magazine to catch their breath.
As they lay there recuperating from their aerobic workout Kleg looked around.
"Hey what happened to Omar?" he said.
Vigo perked up glancing right and left. Omar was no where in sight. He felt a sense of panic begin to well in his chest as he was depending on Omar for the next phase of their mission. They heard a muffled scream coming from inside Dr. Phibes' rumpled book bag. The folds of material showed signs of movement. The screaming grew louder and out ran a frantic crying Omar shaking his head and balling like a baby.
Kleg and Vigo ran over to him.
"Omar what happened to you?" asked Kleg.
"Waaahaaaha! I don't know. I was sniffing around, and Waaahaahaa there was this big metal canister and I thought it might be some aerosol cheese so I went up and sniffed at the nozzle and suddenly my nose and eyes started to burn."
Kleg and Vigo looked at each other.
"Did it have a label or any pictures on the side?" asked Vigo.
Omar's crying had begun to subside. Vigo knew that Omar didn't know how to read but he had taught Omar the letters of the alphabet.
"It had a picture of a person being sprayed by the can, and the letters M A C E on it. I was sure it was a yummy treat. sniff sniff."
How to hack MicroSloth TaffyWorks.
Vigo was begining to feel a sense of urgency not knowing when the human would return. Omar had recovered from his sobbing flirtation with tear gas. Luckily Dr. Phibes had thrown her bag near the CRT and keyboard of one of the factory computers so the copy of 2600 lay close to the target of it's contents. Vigo explained to Omar that this next part would be like a game. All he had to do for this next part was remember the letters of the alphabet that Vigo had taught him, and when prompted, jump onto a given letter and then immediately hop off.
"Sounds easy enough", muttered Omar.
Vigo stood on the magazine overlooking the article. Kleg stood close to the keyboard to direct Omar on where to jump. "Ok it says here the first thing we have to is gain access by logging on." Vigo had spent a lot of time hearing people talk about computers and ocassionally he'd watch people from the rafters as they typed. He was fascinated by the machines and had a loose knowledge of how they worked, but had never actually operated one. He wasn't heavy enough to get the keys to compress. Omar was sufficiently hefty however. Vigo hoped that Omar wouldn't pass out after a few keystrokes. "I've heard people talk about this before. It's what could probably be called 'passive social engineering' in hacker lingo. The idea is that most people's usernames are their real names, and most people pick bad paswords that are easy to guess. So let's try logging on as the secratary. Her name's Mary."
The huge computer screen loomed in front of them like a drive in movie theatre.
As Omar sttod on the edge of the keyboard he had become mesmerized by the screen saver of a ball bouncing around on the screen. Kleg directed Omar to jump on the space bar and then hop off. Omar complied and the screen came to life displaying a login prompt. They felt a rush of excitement.
"Ok Omar jump on the letters m a r y, but remember, don't pause on any of them. Just jump on and then jump off. When you're done with the y then go jump on the return key."
"Which letter is that?", asked Omar.
"Oh that's not a letter. It's the big key over here.", explained Kleg. Omar complied and began jumping.
"It worked!" yelled Kleg. "It's asking for a password!"
"Holy swiss! We're in business! Try mary again." smiled Vigo. Omar went to work. He was getting a little tired running around jumping on the keys.
"Uh oh. Denied access."
"Are we almost done?" asked Omar.
Vigo responded, "Well it depends how good we are guessing. It could be short or it could be an eternity, which we don't have."
"Ok think! What would Mary's password be?" Vigo was thinking out loud.
Kleg piped up "I know, try lupo!"
"How do you spell it?" asked Omar, embarassed at having to ask.
"Oh yeah. l u p o.....wait! you have to do mary first!" he said as Omar was aiming to jump on the L. Poor Omar, thought Kleg. He's a good guy, just a little thick in the head, and the midsection.
Welcome to Taffy Systems Inc.
Current directory is c:\
"Muenster! We're in!" yelled Kleg. "Good job Omar."
Omar smiled. It was all coming together. In the interim Vigo had read over the article and confirmed the things he'd heard discussed by the intern earlier. Only now he could see all the details of his plan laid out before him and he knew success was imminent. Vigo explained the next step. "Ok as a regular user we don't have enough priveleges to run the TaffyWorks software in control mode. However, the datatype for the command line arguments is a char so if we start the software with a really long first argument we can cause a buffer overflow which should cause the program to crash, dropping us into a root shell with special access priveleges. And then if we start the program from that shell we can run it with full system priveleges and use it to control the temperature of the salt tank." Vigo was talking very excitedly and it all sounded like gibberish to Omar. To him it sounded like he was watching star trek from underneath the couch in the break room and Commander Data was expounding on and on about tachion beams.
...Meanwhile, our struggling hero Monty, flanked by half a dozen of San Francisco's finest, coming within range of the Taffy Factory, all found their noses suddenly roiling fragrantly with odors of manifold taffies... Bobo Blueberry (mmmmmm) Superlicious Strawberry (yummmmmmmmmm) Bombastic Banana (ooh) Cantankerous Canteloupe (ah) Wheat-tastic Wheatgrass (fortified with 17 vitamins and minerals)... these aromas and more, a whole olfactory cornucopia of the fruitabulous and the tropicalageous, wrapped the rescue party in their sticky fingers of etheral taffessence and led them by their uncomplaining noses in a conga line up the hill towards the looming, prisonlike gates of the Taffy Factory.
Whatever it was that made Vigo and company lapse so often into sweet florid rhyme must have been hidden among the seductive odors of taffy, as well (like a sharply-endowed bee hidden within the folds of a fragrant flower) — for poetry is first and foremost a viral form, straddling the organic and the memetic as it does, and in its natural state (seen all too rarely these days outside the Taffy factory) as a contagion it is almost without peer, adapting itself, it it will, to a nearly infinite variety of systemic abberations, complexities and glitches... An inherent capacity for adaption which has brought essentially every strain of it to a dead halt, time and again, with the lifespan ranging from as little as five years to, in rare cases, as many as one hundred...
Anyway, the effect of all this on matters which concern us is as follows: Monty (who hadn't said a word in hours, so belabored was he by the delusion that glum silence would afford him a stronger, more 'masculine' affect in the policemen's burly company) suddenly looked up and remarked:
"Not e'en a famed poet like C.P. Cavafy
Could write lines as sweet as the fragrance of taffy..."
The six policemen looked up as one, and in the instinctive Terrier reaction of cops the world over to the utterance of verses, their eyes went red and their jaws set into growls and they went for their billy-clubs. And then a strange thing happened...
"This prospect of taffy — hark! It sweetens my pout!
My fillings are itching to be becoaxed out," declaimed Officer Gasparian, with a princely flourish of his stout, meaty arm;
"Its odor assails me with ticklings diverse!" countered Lieutenant O'Malley with an ingenious curtsey followed by a nimble two-step;
How artful the torture, how sweet is this curse!
To taste of such pleasures is not sup enow!
I'll bathe in it! Dress in it! Taffy! And how!
Of taffy, for myself, I'll fashion my queen!
I'll sire taffy children! In a taffy tureen!
And when I've transcended joy, sorrow, and pride,
I'll rise up to heaven to be taffyfied!
"Jesus Christ, Hinenuitepo!" Joselito admonished. "Keep it down! We're in enough trouble as it is."
"E kore toku iwi e hangu, ka whai kupu ano ratau!!!(My people will not be quiet, they will have something to say!!!)" Hinenuitepo's voice boomed and shook the rafters. Muffy paused overhead but seeing that the two women were still encased in their taffy bindings, he resumed his circling over the saltwater tanks, waiting for the lobsters to regain their strength.
"Look," said Joselito in his most soothing voice. "All I'm saying here is that we are higher powers. It's our job to help these women to help themselves." Hinenuitepo nodded agreement and without hesitation he touched Pata 'down there'. Pata's eyes flew open and she started to giggle but choked on the banana taffy gag in her mouth. She looked around and became very frightened. Joselito removed the gags from Pata and Barbara's mouths.
"Listen, you two need to get out of here before something extraordinarily bad happens." Joselito instructed.
"Well what are waiting for?" Barbara demanded. "Get us out of here."
"I can't do that." said Joselito.
"Because that would enabling you."
"What?!" cried Barbara. "Enabling us? To what? To live? Isn't that the idea?"
"No, no. You can't go through life being rescued all the time. It makes you a victim." Joselito explained.
"Hello! What would call being tied up in taffy? If this isn't being victimized, than I don't know the meaning of the word."
"Listen, we don't have time to debate this. You have to get out of here."
"We are tied up in taffy, how the hell are we supposed to escape?" Barbara was begining to regret taking Joselito on as her higher power.
"It's taffy! It's edible!" Joselito rolled his eyes.
"Your saying we should eat our way out? Are you trying to make me sick?" Barbara whined.
Hinenuitepo looked at Pata and they both shook their heads in disgust. Pata's higher power waved his great powerful hand over her and the taffy fell away and she was free.
"See! Her higher power helped her!" Barbara whined again. Joselito shot Hinenuitepo piercing glance.
"He's got a God complex!" Joselito said.
"You are seriously going to make me chew my way out of here?"
"It'll be good for you."
Hinenuitepo had had enough by now. He scooped up Pata and flew her out of the factory to the safety of her Nob Hill apartment.
"Joselito," hissed Barbara, "you — above all other avatars and customer service representatives of Masculinity on this earthly plane and the nine planes of ethereality — are by the clearest and truest and best representation of WHY I FUCKING HATE MEN!"
Joselito, ignoring the sharp, painful ringing in his ear, clucked his tongue at her. "Jealousy. How redeeming. How it warms the cockles of my heart to see how well all those fifty-minute-hour years, all those thousands of dollars spent on psychotherapy have done you by. Tut-tut-tut. Bad girl."
"You let that bitch rescue Pata and left me here! You abandoned me! Just like my father!"
Joselito (typically) ignored her hysterical tone and continued on in the calm tones, measured cadences and fusty affect of a lecturer in Claude Levi-Strauss' Theory on 'Newly Emergent Patterns in Underwater Basket-Weaving Among the Rwalawana Tribespeople of New Guinea.' "Pata is a pagan. She's allowed to be rescued by Hinenuitepo as often as they both see fit. Neither she nor her Higher Power are bound by the fundamentals and tenets of a Judeo-Christian heritage, i.e. redemption through suffering. As your Higher Power, it is my job to act as your conscience, and to assure that you do not shirk your share of suffering, Barbara, for as we have been taught, it is suffering, the great collective wail of humanity, which holds the fabric of time and space together. In the case of Pata, however, although we have applied the term 'Higher Power' to Hinenuitepo's role in her life, this is in fact a Western simplification for the sake of maintaining the novelistic flow (not to mention allowing Hinenuitepo to join the other Higher Powers for cocktails at the Limbo Room), and their relationship is more aptly defined using the terms Possessed and Possessor. Hinenuitepo is an elemental spirit, and her sharply, four armed, shark-finned figure denotes the force of Death among the indigenous peoples of Oceania, not to mention filling their children with night-terrors and the chill of fear. And fear, as we know..."
But Barbara was too busy gobbling taffy at that point to hear him.
Where in tarnation was the dead dog during all this commotion? the astute reader may find his or her impatient self asking before squatting down to urinate beteen two parked cars as per time-honored New York City etiquette... And a fine toothy question that would indeed be. (Good kitty-kitty-kitty) — the reader's attentions are therefore directed towards the mudflap-festooned doors of Loading Dock C — wherefrom all things taffyluscious and taffrageous were loaded into trucks and onto the backs of mule-trains and elephants camels both bactrian and dromedary, to be delivered to the expectantly (not to say expectorantly) salivating mouths of a nation (nay, a world!) of sugar-addicted taffyfolk — but where today, as the dead dog had just become rather painfully aware, the arose the rioteous voices of a crowd of grown men loudly declaiming and extemporizing, in rhyming cuplets and quatrains, on the elusive natures of Beauty, or Truth, of Tragedy and Comedy, of Loves sacred and Loves profane, of the Gods and the Grape and the o'erbrimming Ocean, great Mother of us all...
The saucy virtues of my belov'd mistress, spake the voice of Monty,
Cause me no small measure of erotic distress
For she, so gript by Venus' fleshly powers
Hath shared herself with John, Karl, Steve and (zounds!) even Kenny Bauers!
Inside, the first in a series of impatient, pained growls emerged from the dead dog's cracked lips. Outside, Monty and the policemen (all now wearing togas, with their hair styled and cut ala the Socratic Method) cheered wildly, drunk on the taffy fumes, as their orgy of poetastery continued.
The end results of these, her lusty compunctions,
Is my afflication with a wide array of erotic dysfunctions
Alas! Just as the winged Eumenides pursued Orestes
So too do merciless crablice wreak their vengeance on my testes!
And as if this painful morning-drip were not enough dejection
My Circe hath bereft me of my pow'rs of erection...
Oh, it's just another day, chimed in the policemen
For the scribblers of sundry rhymes!
Heartbreak and madness and syph-i-lis
And the ver-i-tas fruit of the vine!
Who else but we can combine the
Apollonion Dionysian and Mercurial
While wearing silk shirts drenched in lavender water
with languors best described as Arthurial?
|From deep within the confines of their collective ancestral memories sprang forth a cadre of winged Cherubs who crowned them with laurel wreathes and poured forth the sweet nectar of Bacchus into large gilded goblets that had no stems. (The entire draught must be consumed ere the goblet can be put down) Two more of the cherubs brought forth a lyre which he proceeded to pluck to the accompaniament of another playing the double flute. Words and wine flew freely in the Taffylicious fumes.|
|So pastoral, so divine a mix of agape and eros, so out of the secret daydreams of a committed Classics major was this scene, that those mischevious children of Pan, the goat-legged satyrs and fauns which hide in the cracks and corners of things and never ever ever come out to play anymore (for fear of being captured and forced to guest-star anomalously on some future episode of The X-Files or, worse, Suddenly Susan...) and all their friends and familiars, hamadryads, saucy nymphs, brownies and goblins and those quaint talking moles indigenous to the children's literature of the British Isles, all came hopping and skipping and piping from under the hedges and beneath the undulating grasses, even the Teddy Bears left off from their famous picnic and came wriggling forward, and thus it was that representatives of the whole diverse fauna of the woodlands came to surround Monty and the policemen-turned-poets with an enormous daisy-chain and to regard them with huge, round eyes spinning and glowing with fairy-dust and good cheer.|
From deep on the other side of the loading dock Muffy began to growl. The high
pitched singing of the quartet of dancing driads were boring a messy hole into
the center of his brain pan. he began to float haphazardly around the room
bumping into the walls and shaking his head with deep neck broken crackles in
an effort to dislodge the high pitched squeal from within his ears. The growl
rose in pitch and intensity to become a howl.
Back in the taffy tanks the lobsters were awakened from their refreshing slumber and as one they began to rise anew from the tanks.
Nearly but not quite free from her delicious bonds Barbara let out a little whimper.(She was busy trying to gnaw her way through the goofy grape flavor that bound her ankles. Thankful at least that her weekly yoga classes were fnally coming in handy for something other than giving her good posture and several as yet unexplored levels of tantric bliss)
|Meanwhile, inside the giant salt-water tank, things were beginning to heat up for the still-recovering lobsters.|