“Hello?” I said, tentatively stepping into the pitch black laboratory of Dr. Edgar Euphonium. The door swung shut behind me and I was enveloped in darkness. I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. I wasn’t holding it up to my face, but if I had been, it surely wouldn’t be visible.
There was the deathly stench of burning and the familiar sub-smell of processed cheese. “Dr. Euphonium?” I called out. I feared the worst. His sentient cheese had imploded and taken him with it. That would explain the smell and absence of light. As it turned out, I was wrong. This was not the worst scenario.
“Ladies and Gottfredson!” a familiar voice exclaimed. “Welcome to Doc Euphonie’s Pizza Parlor, a family fun restaurant just for kids! And now, the main attraction, the star mascot, everyone’s favorite Italian funnyman, Walter Walrus!” A spotlight was thrown on the stage now at the far end of the lab. From its luminescence, I could see checkered tablecloths covered the tables used for Dr. Euphonium’s experiments. There was a long pause. “Yes, here he is, folks, Walter Walrus!” Nothing happened. “Oh, for the love of- Walter! Walter, have you shut yourself down again?” From behind the curtain, an animatronic walrus head in a top hat peeked out.
“N-n-no, Doc Euphonie,” he stammered in an accent both robotic and Italian.
“Then, what’s the rumpus, robot? You missed your cue.” Dr. Euphonium strode past the tables to the stage. “Hello, Floyd,” he said as he passed me. “Welcome to Doc Euphonie’s Pizza Parlor, a family fun restaurant just for kids.” He flipped on the lights. Now I could all the tables had the same checkered tablecloth and portions of the lab had been designated as a kitchen and a play area, with video games, skee ball and bouncy houses.
“Doc Euphonie’s Pizza Parlor?” I asked.
“That’s right, a family fun restaurant just for kids. See, Gottfredson, you’re young and there are certain things you don’t understand. Like scientific experimentation doesn’t pay what it used to. Back in the seventies, it was a different story. I was but a young potion slinger, and the world was my genetically enhanced oyster. We were speaking with gorillas and splicing peanut butter into chocolate. And we were funded for it. These days, it’s much more difficult to make moolah in the Not-Quite-Mad-But Still-Pretty-Unusual Sciences. Which is why I’m branching out. My latest moneymaking venture is a kid-themed pizza parlor, complete with animatronic entertainment. Here, try a slice of pizza.” He unearthed a slice from his lab coat. I hesitantly took a bite, then quickly spit it out.
“Yuck! It’s like a cereal box dipped in tomato water and scorched beyond recognition.”
“Thank you,” Dr. Euphonium said. “I studied the cuisine at these kid friendly restaurants and tried to recreate the flavor as closely as I could. Still needs to be burnt more. But that’s not my biggest issue. I seem to have invented the only animatronic entertainer with severe stage fright. See if you can help me coax him out. Here he is, folks, Walter Walrus!” We both cheered and clapped loudly, hoping to convince the robot to come out. We chanted his name over and over until finally, tentatively, he stepped from behind the curtain.
Walter wore a tux and tails along with his top hat, and bore a vacant smile, which, even though he was cybertronic, you could tell it hid panic and fear. “Hello, kids,” he said in a goofy voice. “My name’s Walter Walrus, and I’m hear to joke tell with, tell with joke, tell you jokes with you, okay?”
I shot a concerned glance at the Doctor, but he was busy cheering on Walter. “All right. Here are some jokes. What do you get when you cross a goat with an owl? Give up? You get a nanohoo, a hootynanny. Okay, next joke. How does a bull stop, get stopped by charge card, from.. How do you stop a bull from charging? Take its card away.”
This was getting embarrassing. But Dr. Euphonium didn’t stop him. Walter continued. “What has four wheels and flies? I don’t know…” he said, as if setting up a killer punchline. Said punchline never materialized. “ Um, what’s the difference, um…”
“Thank you, Walter, that will be enough,” Dr. Euphonium said. Walter hurriedly whispered his thank you and good night and rushed off the stage tripping over himself in the process. I glared at Dr. Euphonium.
“What? Okay, he’s no Bob Hope, but he’s getting better.”
“Getting better?” I said. “Getting better? You mean he was worse before?”
“Listen, Floyd, I’m trying here. Okay, I happened to miss the classes on Animatronic Mammalia at the University of Genial Monsters. He’s the best I could do.”
“I don’t know,” I said, “you can get away with inedible pizza but you need better entertainment. And the play area is pathetic.” I pointed to the play area, where it was revealed the bouncy houses were actually bouncy efficiencies, skee ball turned out to be skee rectangular object and the video games had names like Long Division Challenge, Donkey Pong and Job Interview Simulator IV.
“I know, I wanted to get classic Job Interview Simulator, but I couldn’t find a copy.” He sighed. “You’re right, of course. Looks like it’s back to the drawing board. Tell your friends Doc Euphonie’s Pizza Parlor is closed until further notice.” And I did. They all responded the same way.

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