“Hand over the pelican!” Oona Phlegming demanded. Her gun, a pistol disguised as a salami which was disguised as a lady’s sun hat, was pointed at Fred Herring’s chest. In the distance, a wolf howled. A baby cried. A dress shirt was ironed. A pudding was digested. And a Lincoln Town Car was parallel parked successfully. All the while, Oona Phlegming, Fred Herring, and the pelican were caught in a Mexican stand-off, complete with jumping beans. Until Fred Herring shattered the silence like a majestic lion opening an antique store.

“Okay,” Fred Herring said. He lifted the pelican, which crowed like a rooster and flapped its wings rapidly like a hummingbird (clearly attempting to mask its very pelicanity), and held it out to Oona Phlegming. “You win,” he said. “Take it,” he said also. Oona Phlegming tried to read Fred Herring’s expression through her 3D X-Ray shaded flip-top spectacles. Was he bluffing? Was he not bluffing? Was he bluffing by not bluffing, a double bluff? Or was he not bluffing by bluffing about not bluffing about bluffing, thereupon rebluffing and debluffing at the same time, a maneuver known as the reverse double dog rebluff double bluff and a half combo. Oona Phlegming continued pointing the pistol disguised as a salami disguised as a lady’s sun hat at Fred Herring’s chest, staring at the middle of his forehead. A peachy pink sea of skin slightly blemished by furrows returned her stare. She blinked. The forehead did not.

Fred Herring shifted from foot to foot, then from kidney to kidney. His mind was a blank slate, like a slate with nothing on it. Not even an unfinished game of Hangman. His gaze was steely, his listening was aluminumy, his sniff was zinc oxidey. Oona Phlegming was stymied. What was the game here? They had been chasing each other from continent to continent and time zone to time zone, across the wings of airplanes and the belly buttons of zeppelins, from soup to nuts and from salad to screwdriver. They’d tossed everything from horseshoes to hand grenades, salads to cookies, basketballs to much smaller basketballs. All to obtain this very pelican. A pelican said to hold the secret to the Sonic Sh-Boom bomb. The greatest threat to mankind ever conceived, an explosive designed to release a noxious chemical gas that smells like sour milk, the inside of unplugged mini-fridges and the farts of reanimated Elizabethans, and has a gag worthy Dreamsicle aftertaste. And then it explodes and kills everyone and everything. It was a terrorist plot dubbed Operation Double Whammy. The blueprints were hidden in the cavernous beak of this pelican, stashed when a Sylvanian spy was glimpsed poring over them on a pier, the Pore Pier. The pelican had passed through many hands, feet, tentacles and claws to keep the Sonic Sh-Boom bomb blueprints from leaking like a punctured balloon animal. And now, on the roof of the Vampire Stake Building in the Sylvanian capital of Trentino, Fred Herring was just handing it over like a half-eaten muffin or a half-worn pair of bicycle shorts. It seemed almost too easy. There had to be a catch.

But, what the heck. Oona Phlegming snatched the pelican away from Fred Herring, who pivoted and vamoosed as soon as it was in her grasp. See ya nara, Oona Phlegming thought, smiling widely. At last, the pelican was hers! This was the greatest day in her entire espionage career. She would get assuredly get a medal for this. The Gold Medal, awarded to national heroes and dipped in chocolate. White chocolate! She may even get a kiss from the Magistrate, if the other operatives had retrieved his lips from the infamous Face Snatchers of Farflungsabad. She didn’t notice the fuse that was quickly burning its way to the pelican’s tail feathers until it was too late. Five seconds and a furious flurry of feathers later, a stunned and sautéed Oona Phlegming whispered from the corner of her mouth, “I’ll get you for this, Fred Herring. I’ll get you for this.”

But Fred Herring was already halfway across the globe already. Already playing the game of cat and mouse, already playing the game of hide and seek, already playing the game of Strunk and White. Already. Already.


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