“Sit still, Floyd, the glasses are still warming up,” Dr. Edgar Euphonium said. The glasses in question were his latest invention, Z Ray Glasses. “You see, Gottfredson,” he had lectured me, “regular x ray glasses only perceive to the xth level, which stops at the skeletal structure. So you can view someone’s internal organs and bones, if you dig that sort of thing, but if we really want to get down to the nitty gritty dirt bandwidth, we need something more powerful. Hence, the Z Ray Glasses, which perceive all the way down to Level Zed, the omega of levels. Nobody’s seen that far before!”

“Huh,” I said. “So, why am I all dressed up?” He had insisted I dress in my Sunday best, and had also seated me at a stool in front of a beige backdrop. It was exactly like getting my school picture taken, except there would be no 8 X 10 glossies or wallet-sized photos for Grandma. At least, I hoped not. Dr. Euphonium had even adjusted my chin placement like a school photographer. He could be odd sometimes.

“This is an auspicious occasion, Floyd, my boy. A truly stunning discovery is being made. And I want you to look sharp when I document it for posterity.” So, there may be 8 X 10’s. “Ah! The Z Ray Glasses are warmed up.” He placed what appeared to be oversize novelty sunglasses on, then attached the thin black cord trailing from the stem to a small television. “Here goes nothing,” he said, staring at my torso. For some reason, I was offended by that remark.

The television immediately came to life, snow bursting and bars rolling up the screen. Dr. Euphonium adjusted the antenna until both ears were straight up. The picture cleared and we were treated to the most unusual sight. Tiny, bug-like figures were seated on chairs, reading the newspaper. The background was deep red. “Extraordinary!” Dr. Euphonium said. “Gottfredson, these are the miniscule germs inside your body. Judging by the color, I’d say they live in your bloodstream.”

“Are they reading a newspaper?” I asked. Before Dr. Euphonium could respond, one of them glanced out looking directly at the doctor.

“Psst, Merle,” it whispered to the other germ, apparently named Merle. He glanced up. The other germ pointed at Dr. Euphonium.

“They’ve spotted us!” Dr. Euphonium said. “This should be interesting.” The germ named Merle rose and addressed the doctor.

“Hey, pal!” he shouted, in a distinctly New York accent. “Do you mind?”

“It’s speaking to me, Floyd!” Dr. Euphonium said, “This is astonishing!”

“Hey, Mack,” Merle said, “I ain’t gonna ask you again. Don’t make me come out there.”

“Uh, Dr. Euphonium,” I said, “maybe you should turn it off.”

“Listen to the pip-squeak, or I’ll give you what for,” Merle said, shaking four of his six limbs. Dr. Euphonium quickly shut off the Z Ray Glasses.

“Incredible,” he said. “And yet, utterly freaky. Let us never speak of it again.”

“Agreed,” I said, “I’ll never bring it up again.”



“I thought I told you to dress for tree climbing,” Dr. Euphonium said. He himself was dressed in his usual lab coat and goggles as well as a pair of torn jeans and a faded green sweatshirt which said Property of the University of Genial Monsters Athletic Club. He also had knee and elbow pads on and cleats. I was in my usual brown corduroy trousers and red cowboy shirt. It was about as casual as I got, aside from pajamas. I shrugged. “Don’t shrug, Floyd, you know how much I hate the shoulder ear proximity already.”

“Sorry,” I said. Dr. Euphonium was basically a man-shaped bundle of quirks and contradictions. Foremost among them was his build. He was about six foot two and as thin as a single ply square of toilet paper. But as far as I could tell he never ate anything but junk food. He was always munching on brownies, potato chips, snickerdoodles, licorice, chocolate bars, cupcakes, you name it. Case in point, today he was shoveling fistfuls of caramel corn into his mouth.

“No matter, Gottfredson,” he said. “These clothes should do in a pinch.”

“Where is the tree we’re climbing anyway?” I couldn’t see any plant life in his backyard, aside from a lilac bush that was interspersed with disturbing stalks of blinking eyeballs. I wasn’t going anywhere near that.

“That’s the beauty part. It’s right here,” he replied, removing an acorn from his pocket. I laughed. “You laugh?” he said, looking askance.

“Stop looking askance, I didn’t mean it.”

“Even so,” he said, “you should know better than to question my experiments.”

This was patently false. Dr. Euphonium’s experiments, though entertaining, rarely went according to plan. I didn’t want to offend the doctor further, so I just said, “Please explain your latest experiment.”

“Gladly!” he said, turning on a dime. “It’s an Amazing Miracle Grow Formula, designed to work instantaneously. I take this beaker of the Amazing Miracle Grow Formula, apply it to the acorn and eureka! What was once a lowly seed fulfills its fertile destiny and blossoms into a mighty oak!”

I was intrigued, but skeptical. “How quickly are we talking here?” I asked, trying to sound more intrigued than skeptical. Dr. Euphonium beamed. Apparently, I’d succeeded.

“It’s practically instantaneous,” he said. “The only catch is I’m not sure what the ratio of acorn to Amazing Miracle Grow Formula is, exactly. So I’m just winging it. Watch and learn, Gottfredson,” he said, through mouthfuls of caramel corn. He dropped the acorn in the backyard and splashed the entire beaker of slimy green liquid on it. “Now just sit back,” he said before he was interrupted by a loud crack and whoosh! Before our eyes, the acorn grew into a tree. Not just any tree, the biggest tree I’d ever seen. It was so tall, I couldn’t see the top.

“Behold!” Dr. Euphonium shouted. “The Amazing Miracle Grow Formula works instantaneously. And apparently six liters is way more than enough. Unless I’m breaking HOA code, this experiment is an unparalleled success.” I had to admit, it was exceptionally effective.

“Wow, this formula could have some incredible benefits to the agricultural industry.”

“Yes, Floyd, and the ladies love agricultural pioneers. You know how many girlfriends George Washington Carver had at once?” Dr. Euphonium had a sly grin on his face. “I’m so excited; can you hear my heart pounding?”

I did hear pounding, but I doubted it was his heart. It was more like the bass of a stereo turned up to a trillion, and it was coming from the tree. “Uh, Dr. Euphonium, is there something growing on this tree?” I nervously asked.

“I suppose it could be a giant acorn or branch barreling down at us,” he said, scratching his chin.

“Should we, you know, move?” I asked. Before he could respond, an enormous shadow loomed over us, and the face a gigantic squirrel peeped out from the branches. It chattered at us, a loud shivering sound that caused us to quake in our cleats and loafers, respectively. “What should we do?” I whispered.

“Don’t make any sudden moves, Floyd,” Dr. Euphonium said. “Squirrels aren’t predatory, even gigantic ones. But let’s not risk being chomped in twain by those ten foot teeth.”The squirrel locked eyes with Dr. Euphonium, scampering closer to us. I fought the urge to bolt from the spot. Dr. Euphonium reached into his bag of caramel corn. The squirrel’s gaze darted to the bag as it rustled. Dr. Euphonium froze. They had a brief staring contest that felt like it lasted a year. And then the squirrel snatched the snack from him, popped it in its mouth bag and all and scurried up the tree.

“Uh…” I said.

“My… my caramel corn,” Dr. Euphonium whispered plaintively. “He took my caramel corn.”

“Yeah, bummer. Look, I’m gonna go in case he comes back and wants to snatch me up next. See you later, Dr. Euphonium.” I speed walked out of the yard. As the gate swung shut, I could still hear Dr. Euphonium mourning the loss of his beloved bag of caramel corn.


“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.


When I arrived at Dr. Euphonium’s lab, he was sitting at the curb holding what looked like a dark blue water pistol and staring moonily into space. “Dr. Euphonium?” I said, trying to get his attention. I had to repeat his name twice more to rouse him from his reverie.

“Salutations!” he exclaimed, clasping me roughly to his person. “A good morrow to you, Floyd of Gottfredson, sire of Denise and Jerome.”

“Hi,” I said. He thankfully unleashed me. Then he put an arm around my shoulder.

“My most heartfelt thanks to you good sir, for being so extraordinarily agreeable on caucusing at my domicile.” He beamed, turning me to face him, hands on my cheeks. This was especially weird.

“Have you been drinking from unlabelled test tubes again?” I asked. The last time he’d done this, he was arrested for hijacking the unicorn on the carousel.

“Balderdash!” he replied. “It is simply the magnificence of my latest contrivance. My most current of contraptions is so exquisitely conceived; you shall find yourself twitterpated into exultations of sincere pleasure. This,” he said, gesturing with the water pistol, “ is the Prose Purpler. Guaranteed to enflower, enrich, and fortify your vocabulary tenfold, even twentyfold.”

“Neat,” I said. “So, it’s like a liquid Word a Day calendar.”

“Indubitably. Simply one spritzy squirt sends you into sumptuous sunrises of sentences.” He sighed and leaned against the mailbox. Then, as if he suddenly noticed it was there, he patted it on the head like a dog and continued. “This concoction was most heavenly inspired by a creature of profound beauty, an angel in the guise of a civil servant. She delivers the post post haste directly into the very heart of my very soul. She invades my dreams with odes of rapturous awe, my being is a flitting ball of pure incandescence, an orb of ecstasy.”

“Wait,” I said, putting two and two together. “You mean you have a thing for Sally the mail lady?”

“A thing, a thoroughly thought-entrancing thing. I am awash in her indifferent gaze, agape at her industrial gray attire, aflutter by her bifocal spectacles. I am dangerously smitten, Gottfredson, dangerously smitten.”

“Well, you’re in luck,” I said. “Here she comes now.” Sally the mail lady was rounding the block on her way to the mailbox.

“She’s, uh, coming, I mean, she’s uh… uh…” Dr. Euphonium panicked, wiping his sweaty palms on his lab coat. “The Prose Purpler has worn off! I need a refresher!” He sprayed himself maniacally, dousing his face and hair in the elixir.

Meanwhile, Sally approached the mailbox, her stare as vacant as always.
“Hey,” I said.

“Yeah,” she replied. She did a take as she spotted Dr. Euphonium, head dripping with Prose Purpler, staring intently at her. He began sputtering rapidly, like a detuned radio, then began babbling incoherently.

“Present sari. My present you on the other hand see. Considerably month. Your eye the sky like the star which shines seems the way. Your smile seems like Milky Way method. Like Sunday that produces your surface. That is true solar system of beauty. Method you say with your track/truck which desires vis-a-vis the astronaut of the craving which and as for me as for me the possible your atmosphere that day of thing which floats, exactly AM that can catch and makes.”

Sally and I stared at the Doctor, who seemed just as confused by his words as we were. “You mind if I…” Sally mumbled as she placed the mail in the box. She turned and gave Dr. Euphonium another quizzical look, then said, “Later.” I waved as she left.

“Nice try, Romeo, but I think you overdid it on the word juice,” I said. “I gotta get back home and clean the garage anyway. Later.” As I walked home, I could hear Dr. Euphonium protesting in the same broken English.

“Floyd! Waiting! I must be helped. My prose went to puce from purple. I think of that I use the many liquids. Of are feeling and Floyd which understand the sari thought? Floyd!”


Dear Journal, today began as any ordinary day begins anymore, with a frantic call from Dr. Edgar Euphonium. “Come to the lab, Gottfredson, post-haste! I’ve finally hit the jackpot!” he shouted through the receiver. He then hung up, without so much as a hello from my end of the line. It makes me wonder if he’s ever dialed incorrectly in the past and not realized it, screaming at complete strangers about his latest invention. What these strangers don’t know is that they’re missing out.
Dr. Euphonium doesn’t have the world’s greatest track record. Sure, his inventions have pretty much all worked, but they’ve also pretty much all backfired on him in one way or another, always spectacularly. He’s a tireless optimist, though, and he never stops creating. His philosophy: If life gives you lemons, make lemonade, though his lemonade would probably burst into flames or give you x-ray taste buds or something.
I rushed over to his lab, which is about ten blocks from my house. It looks like it used to be a barn or a small schoolhouse, and he knocked out most of the walls and installed all sorts of computers and Tesla coils and fancy equipment straight out of old science fiction movies. His front door is a massive wooden slab, with a miniscule knocker at my eye level. I’m about four-foot ten, average height for a ten-year old, which leads me to believe it was installed for me specifically. However, it is tiny. I honestly don’t know how he’s able to hear it, but every time I tap it against that enormous door he flings it open within seconds and says, “Come in, Floyd, you’re late!” This time, he did not answer the door, but I could hear his muffled, “Come in Floyd, you’re late,” through the nearby window.
I entered the lab, but couldn’t find Dr. Euphonium anywhere. The layout of the lab is pretty open, and aside from a bathroom there were no other rooms he could have been hiding in. I sincerely hoped he hadn’t called me from the bathroom. Then I heard snickering. I darted my eyes around the lab, but there was no sign of the doctor. He wasn’t behind his grandfather clock/time machine, nor was he at his Sewmaster 3000 which he had used to make his Traveling Sales Pants. Then he giggled again.
I looked up. “Hello down there, Gottfredson!” he said, floating in the air. His head was nearly touching the ceiling. “My latest invention was inspired by Mary Poppins. ‘I love to laugh, loud and long and clear’” he added in a serviceable Ed Wynn impression.
“How did you get up there?” I asked. There were no strings I could see or jet packs.
“I’m glad you asked, my boy! These,” he said, pointing to his feet, “are my Elevitator Shoes! Part Elevator Shoe, part Levitator Shoe! They’re activated by the magnetic field in the Earth’s core. And they’re so much fun!” He giggled again. They did look like fun, but also dangerous.
“So can you turn them off or something?” I asked.
“No, no, that’s the best part, they’re all natural, all magnetized! Silly magnets, who cares how they work, they are a laugh riot!” He was giggling again. It was getting annoying.
“So, then, how do you get down?” I asked.
“Simple, Gottfredson, you just remove the shoes.”
“But wouldn’t you fall?”
“Of course, that goes without saying.”
“But wouldn’t you break your neck?”
“Of course, that- oh, I see what you’re getting at. There is a small flaw in the design,” he understated. Small flaw, I thought, how does he expect to get down? This question he answered with another question. “Floyd, my boy, can you fetch me the ladder?” I sighed.
“Sure, where do you keep it?” I asked.
“Um, I meant your ladder. I’ll wait here.” Apparently, Dr. Euphonium didn’t feel the need to keep household tools in his lab. He was always borrowing my father’s wrenches and drills and things. I left the lab to get the ladder.
I had completely forgotten that today was New Comic Book day, though and I had to stop at the comic shop first to get my latest issue of Ventriloquest, the ongoing adventures of a dummy trying to find his voice. And it turned out they had a whole bunch of back issues of Dixieland Horse I didn’t have, so I bought those and a grape soda. It was such a nice day; I found a shady spot and read them all. My afternoon was filled with fizzy grape goodness and the hilarious tales of a horse singing her way through the early 20th Century. I’d never felt so relaxed in my life. After that I came home and had goulash for dinner. Yum!
And that was my day, pretty uneventful for the most part, aside from- oh shoot, the ladder!


“Bhat are be doig here?” I asked. My speech impediment was caused by the fact that I was plugging my nose. I was plugging my nose because it stank to high heaven. It stank to high heaven because we were on a farm.
“Unplug your nose, Gottfredson, you sound like a congested bumblebee,” Dr. Edgar Euphonium said. “And we’re here to test my latest invention.” He gestured to the field of horses before us.
“You invented a horse?” I asked.
“Don’t be a jabbernowl, Floyd. You can’t improve upon the design of a horse. I mean, I suppose you could add a seat belt and perhaps a deodorizing spray for the smell. Softer hooves, less menacing teeth. And a sidecar! But other than that, I wouldn’t change a thing.”
I was confused and tired and getting annoyed by the smell. It was six in the morning and there was a chill in the air. My loafers were damp with dew and my straw boater wasn’t doing much to protect my ears. The coffee in my travel mug was lukewarm and I really just really, really wanted to be back in bed. I’d stayed up late last night listening to tapes of The Jack Benny Program, and around eleven I received a Paper Airplane Telegram from Dr. Euphonium to meet at Old Man Tabey’s field. Technically, he wanted to meet at dawn. Technically, he was lucky to get me at six.
“Floyd, my boy, I’ve been observing these horses for some time now. Trying to tap into that elusive equine majesty. After weeks of study, I haven’t been able to tap into that, per se, but I have made an astounding discovery. Did you know that horses whisper?”
“Don’t you mean whinny?” I asked.
“Nay, Gottfredson, they whisper. And yes, ‘nay’ was a clever pun.”
“Well, clever is being generous,” I said. “What do you mean, they whisper?” The doctor was getting that ‘I’m glad you asked, Floyd’ look in his eyes.
“I’m glad you asked, Floyd,” he predictably said. “I observed one morning the mouths of the horses moving, as if in conversation. At first, I thought I must’ve been seeing things. But then, the next morning I saw it again. And the next day and the next day and the next day and the…”
“I got it,” I said.
“I tried to read their lips,” he continued, “but without getting closer, all I could decipher was the word ‘watermelon’ repeated over and over. But all that will change with my latest invention, the Horse Whisper Translator!”
Now, this was intriguing. Animals had always been an interest to me, from my pet cat Harpo to the penguins in the zoo. I’d read a book once that suggested some animals were even smarter than people. I wasn’t sure about that theory, but after growing up with the Muppets and Looney Tunes, who didn’t want to see real live talking animals? “What is it?” I asked.
“It’s a bit complex, but basically I aim this modified Walkman at them and press the rewind button, and the sound travels straight from the horse’s mouth to the modified Walkman, into these ear buds and voila!”
“Why the rewind button?” I asked.
“Hey, who’s the scientist here?” Dr. Euphonium snapped. “I get to choose the activation button, and I choose the rewind button. Yours is not to reason why, Gottfredson! Why don’t you ask a more meaningful question like, how does the Horse Whisper Translator work, exactly?”
“Okay, how does the Horse Whisper Translator work, exactly?”
“Oh, that’s technotronic twaddle; you don’t want to know that. Now! Behold! Bewatch! Belisten to the Horse Whisper Translator!” We popped in an ear bud each and Dr. Euphonium (over) dramatically pressed the rewind button. There was a shushing whir of the Walkman in reverse mode. And nothing else.
“Did you press the rewind button?” I asked.
“Not only did I press it, I (over)dramatically pressed it,” he replied. We waited.
“I’m not hearing anything,” I said.
“That’s because they’re not saying anything,” he said. We waited.
“I’m cold,” I mumbled.
“Did you hear that? The horses are cold!”
“That was me.”
“Oh. Pipe down, Floyd.” Dr. Euphonium aimed the Walkman closer to the horses. Just then, one of them, a brown horse, trotted over to another one, also brown, and whispered into his ear. “Floyd, they’re whispering, look! Listen!” The Horse Whisper Translator began whirring louder and through the ear buds the horse’s voice crackled through.
“Look Morris,” he said. “Dr. Doofus is back.”
“Yeah, Frank,” the other said. “I can smell him from here.”
“Smell me?” the doctor said. “They must mean my cologne, Eau de Table Periodique.”
“You hear that, Morris? He chooses to smell like that. What a maroon!”
“Such a reddish purple fellow, indeed,” the horse named Frank agreed. “Next he’ll say his hair is supposed to look like that.”
“My hair is supposed to look like that,” Dr. Euphonium said.
“Told you,” said Frank.
“And what about the whole wearing socks and sandals thing?” Morris said, chuckling.
Dr. Euphonium fumed, “I have a fungal condition about my toes.” He was either blushing or getting angry. Either way, his face was beet red.
“A fungal condition about my toes? Who talks like that?” Frank said.
“Dr. Doofus the maroon, that’s who!” Morris replied. Dr. Euphonium huffed and snapped off the Horse Whisper Translator.
“I’ve heard enough, the invention is clearly faulty.” He said, and removed our ear buds. I stifled a laugh.
“It sounded clear as crystal to me.”
“It’s faulty, I say! Faulty, faulty, faulty!” he shouted, stalking off. I didn’t know about the doctor, but I felt better and more awake. The horses and I had a good laugh at his expense. I couldn’t wait for his next invention.


I was at home, minding my own business, watching Abbott & Costello Meet the Swamp Monster, eating Hawaiian pizza and enjoying the solitude when there was a knock at the door. Of course. No one else at home, a perfect day for lazing around the house, plus it was getting to my favorite part of the movie, so I really didn’t want any distractions. I decided to ignore it. Not very polite, sure, but I just wasn’t in the mood for company.
Unfortunately, whoever was at the door knew the meaning of persistence. I sat very still on the couch, pizza slice in hand, trying to act as non-existent as possible, so the solicitor would move on. No dice. After another minute of constant knocking, I decided it wasn’t worth the effort and answered the door.
What greeted me was a pair of jeans. No one inside them. Just a pair of blue jeans standing upright, with a pink flower embroidered on the right front pocket and a brown belt with the letters “TSP” on a big brass buckle. This was odd enough. Then the waistband bent toward me and began moving in a mouth-like motion. Creepy! And the voice of a teenage girl issued forth, saying, “Um, hello good sir, like, I’m trying to go to college?” I panicked and slammed the door. Maybe something hallucinogenic had been added to my Hawaiian pizza. Maybe it was a bad dream. Or maybe it was the likeliest explanation of all. This was confirmed by the sound of laughter behind me.
“How did you get in here?” I asked Dr. Edgar Euphonium.
“I was going to test out my new Matter Transference Footie Pajamas, which allow the wearer to walk through walls, but preliminary testing has been inconclusive and goggle-smashing. So I snuck in through the window.” He gestured to the living room where the front window was wide open, and a vase of Mom’s sunflowers was overturned and spilling onto the carpet. “I’ll clean that up.”
“I take it the Nightmare Jeans are yours?” I said, pointing at the door. I looked through the peephole, and saw the jeans were still standing there, looking bored. It was hard to describe, but the way the knees were bent and leaning to the side gave them the appearance that they wanted to be somewhere else. That we could agree on.
“Gottfredson, please, they’re not Nightmare Jeans. They’re Traveling Sales Pants. I got the idea from my protégé, Dr. Gertrude Steinway and her crooning galoshes .” He was beaming again, which was never a good sign.
“So, what, they sing?” I asked. I was eyeing the rec room impatiently, Abbott and Costello were about to do their classic Seaweed/See Weed routine, and my pizza was getting cold.
“No, no, no, my boy. Well, perhaps, but they have been designed to travel door to door, get this, selling pants. They literally sell themselves! Ingenious, no? Allow me to demonstrate,” he said, and before I could protest, he flung the door open. The pants appeared to be staring at the siding of my house. Dr. Euphonium cleared his throat theatrically, and they immediately stiffened up and turned to him.
“Um, hello good sir, like, I’m trying to go to college? And I’m selling jeans like myself door to door, so that I can, um, pay for it? I’m made of high-quality denim and come in, like, a variety of sizes and colors?” Everything the jeans said sounded like a question, like they weren’t entirely sure what they were saying was fact. I suppose there’s something teenagery and angstful about it, but it just annoyed me.
“Why, I’d be happy to buy some pants from you, my dear,” Dr. Euphonium said. “What are you, Floyd, a child’s medium?”
“I don’t want talking pants,” I said, backing away from the threshold. “Unless you’ve got something in tweed with no pleated fronts.”
“Are you infirm in the coconut, my boy? Talking pants will make you the hit of the fifth grade! Of course, they wouldn’t talk while you’re wearing them, that would be uncouth.”
“Um, hi? Would you like, like to like, buy some pants or what?” The jeans were getting impatient. I wondered what pressing engagement they were running late for- a pants pressing, perhaps? Or maybe they had a classic movie and pizza awaiting them, too?
“Of course, my dear lady-trousers! Mark me down for as many as you can sell,” Dr. Euphonium told the jeans, then turned to me and said, “I’m not certain how she’ll respond! Isn’t this fun? Like improv! Prepare for a ‘yes, and.’”
“Wow, mister, thanks! I’ll put you down for 96,000 pairs of pants.”
“Fabulous! I can’t wait to- how many?”
“And Dr. E, you’d better get started sewing, cuz like, that’s a lot of pants, and I promise twenty-four hour delivery. Gotta go!” And with that, the pants skipped off down the street, in the direction of the Sufficient Springs Shopping Center.
“Mother of Pearl! I didn’t realize I’d have to actually make more pants. 96,000 in twenty-four hours…” He made some calculations in his head. “Carry the three, divide by the hypotenuse… I’d better be off, Floyd; I’ve got my work cut out for me.” And with that, Dr. Edgar Euphonium left, once more through the living room window. “I’ll clean that later,” he said as he shut the window behind him. I shrugged. I didn’t mind cleaning up the spilled water and putting the vase back.
I just wasn’t looking forward to the nightmares of Traveling Sales Pants.


“Ah-ha! There you are, Gottfredson, come in, come in, you’re late enough as it is.” Dr. Edgar Euphonium gripped my arm tightly and yanked me into his laboratory. I removed my pocket watch just in time to see the minute hand land on the twelve.
“No, I’m just in time, you said to meet you at four o’clock. Here I am and it is just now four.” I prided myself on my punctuality, so I was a little offended by the doctor’s insinuation. He scoffed as he dragged me hurriedly through the lab.
“Floyd, my boy, whether you’re late, or on time, or even five minutes early is pointless, because you see, time is relative. At least it is with my latest invention.” He stopped and removed his opaque goggles, which, incidentally, I could never understand how he could see through. I however, could see through him. He was trying to coax me into guessing what his latest invention was. With Dr. Euphonium, it was always a guessing game; he couldn’t just come out and tell me what it was. Sure, I enjoyed the U.N. Cola, which allowed the drinker to burp in seven hundred languages, and the x-ray ear muffs had proven useful when we found that bunny trapped in the walls. But this was frustratingly infantile. I was the kid here, why was he playing the games? He was grinning from ear to ear, waiting for me to take the bait. Resistance was futile.
“I’ll bite,” I said, “what is your latest invention?” He immediately ran to the back of his lab, past the illuminated jars of lightning and long tables of oohing sentient cheese to a tall, thin object covered by a quilt.
“Behold!” he shouted, gesturing to the object. His bright red hair always seemed to stand up when he made these sorts of proclamations, and the combination of his skinny six foot frame and long white lab coat made him look like a living exclamation point. “I give you my latest invention,” he said, dramatically removing the quilt.
“It’s a grandfather clock,” I said, since it was clearly just that.
“It’s a time machine,” Dr. Euphonium corrected me.
“Right, a grandfather clock. It tells time.” If this was a joke, I wasn’t laughing. The doctor had called me away from a fresh pot of coffee and a new stack of library books on notorious flightless birds, benevolently haunted caves and the bowling scores of Renaissance painters. Yeah, I know, I’m a weird kid, but I find this stuff fascinating. All my classmates call me Old Man, on account of the fact that I wear a corduroy blazer, tweed pants and a deerstalker and I’d rather drink coffee and read old books than play kickball or video games. Dr. Euphonium gets me, though, which is why I usually come running when he calls me with news of his latest invention. They rarely performed properly, but they were at least entertaining.
“Floyd,” he said, putting an arm around me, “don’t be a mooncalf. This is more than a mere grandfather clock. It not only tells time and is in its own way grandfatherly, it can travel forward, backward, over, under, between, betwixt, around and through time! My boy, it baffles science! I should know, for I am both baffled and a scientist. I invented it with these be-rubber gloved hands, and I could not tell you why it actually works, but by gum, it works like a well-oiled machine. A well-oiled time machine, in fact.”
He could tell I was skeptical, so he opened the cabinet, and where there would normally be a pendulum there was nothing. The walls, however, were lined with fluorescent tubes that flashed red and blue intermittently. “Okay, I’m intrigued,” I said. “How does it work?” Dr. Euphonium grinned broadly and raised his eyebrows. His smiles could be disconcertingly toothy, like an enthused shark.
“Why tell you, when I can show you!” he said. He grabbed hold of my arm again and shoved me into the cabinet. I struggled against his grip.
“You want me to climb in there and be zapped back in time all by myself?”
“Of course not, Gottfredson. Scooch over.” And with that, he crammed himself into the grandfather clock with me. My face was squashed against two of the lights, and my cheek felt like it was getting singed. I adjusted myself as best I could as the doctor tried shutting the door. On the fifth try it latched. I was now much closer to Dr. Euphonium than I was comfortable with, and discovered he smelled primarily of sweat, motor oil and lemon zest. At least the lemon zest was pleasant.
“Look up, Floyd, look up!” I tried, but to do so involved maneuvering my head around his elbow, which jutted outward like a bent tree branch. My deerstalker made it difficult to see as well, but eventually I situated myself so I could look up.
“Huh,” I said. “There’s a calculator in the ceiling.”
“No, no, no! Well, yes. It was a calculator. Now, it’s the main control panel of the time machine. Just punch in a date and whoosh! Now, I’ll just input the coordinates and we’ll be- oof!” Dr. Euphonium was struggling to free his arm to reach the calculator, excuse me, the main control panel of the time machine. Consequently, he was jamming his elbow into my ear. Shifting his body weight to the left he was able to wriggle his other arm free, which flailed upward and slapped the control panel violently. Instantly, the clock began to rumble and shake, and the fluorescent lights were flashing much quicker and brighter. “Oops,” he mumbled.
The lights were flashing faster and faster now, and as I shut my eyes I could feel the clock shoot upward. I braced myself for impact with the lab’s roof, but no crash came. We just shot upwards like a rocket. Even though the quarters were so cramped, I could feel myself moving up and down, almost like I was spinning. Finally, the clock settled and stopped moving completely. When I opened my eyes, the lights were dark and I was upside down. Dr. Euphonium had somehow remained in his original position, but his face was distressingly gob-smacked. “Uh,” he said, “I don’t know where we are, exactly.”
“What does the calculator say?” I asked.
“Six point three three three three three three three three three three three three.”
I hesitated a moment before asking, “Is that an actual year?”
“Ah-ha! Excellent question, my boy! That I do not know the answer to.”
“You mean, we could be someplace outside of time?” I asked, trying not to panic.
“Not outside of time, just around it. More to the side, really. I’d guess the upper-left quadrant. Obviously, we won’t know anything until we take a look, will we?” And with that, he flung the cabinet door open.
I, of course, was the first to stumble out. The ground was smooth and black, like obsidian. It stretched out as far as I could see, unblemished and untouched by any landscape. There were glowing green discs floating in elevated intervals every so often. Above, the sky was pale pink, like dusk, except at the horizon where a luminous red square appeared to be slowly sinking into the ground. All in all, it looked very much like an ancient and cheap computer game.
“Hmm,” I heard Dr. Euphonium say at my side. He had a puzzled expression on his face. “Not nearly as impressive as one would have hoped. Still, the time machine works. Let’s get to exploring, shall we?”
I prepared to protest, but it was no use. He was already heading off into the horizon. I sighed and trotted behind him. By the time I caught up, Dr. Euphonium had reached the end of the world. “Hmm,” he said in the same tone. “It just sort of ends.” The ground did indeed stop, and underneath the red square sun sank into inky blackness. He pulled a pair of high-powered binoculars from his lab coat and looked downward. “Hmm,” he said, this time a little more curiously. “What on Earth is that?”
I looked down, but I could see nothing but black. Not even the glowing square illuminated the depths. But Dr. Euphonium could see something. He whistled twice. “What is it?” I asked.
“Something is moving down there, but I can’t quite get a good look at it. Perhaps I can get its attention.” He pulled out a nickel and dropped it into the black. It whooshed downward, but the sound of its descent began to get louder and louder. There was a loud clink behind us and we both whirled back to see the nickel, now fifteen feet tall, roll down a set of the glowing green discs and continue rolling away, just barely missing a collision with the time machine. I watched it roll further and further away until it disappeared. “That was unexpected,” the doctor said. “I wouldn’t have anticipAAAAAAAAAAAH!”
I turned quickly and saw what had startled him so. A creature with what appeared to be a flamingo head, falcon wings and the torso and tentacles of a giant squid was floating in front of us. “So that’s what that was,” Dr. Euphonium said. “And me without my camera. I always forget my camera. I know exactly where it is, too.”
The creature regarded us curiously, with a cocked head, and then shot out an enormous tongue, snatching the deerstalker right off my head.
“Hey!” I said. That was my favorite hat! At least Mom would be pleased, she hated that thing. The creature burped as it swallowed the hat whole and made a gagging face. Apparently the deerstalker was not tasty in the slightest. It eyed me angrily and bared its sharp teeth.
“Floyd, now might be a good time to run,” Dr. Euphonium said. I didn’t respond, just took off toward the clock. Dr. Euphonium quickly outpaced me and flung the cabinet door open. How does he do that, I thought. All he eats is junk food! Meanwhile, the creature was reaching its long tentacles out at me, and every so often grabbing hold of my shoulder or ankle. I was able to squirm out of their grasp, and soon leapt into the cabinet. Dr. Euphonium hopped in after me. He freed his arm carefully and input the date to take us home, while the clock was buffeted by the creature’s poundings.
“Ah-ha!” he shouted as the lights in the cabinet began flashing incessantly again. We rocketed upward and I felt myself floating once more. This time, the trip was much quicker and we settled and stopped within seconds. “Whew!” the doctor gasped. “What fun!”
“What fun?!?” I shouted. “We were nearly killed by some mutant squidbird, we just about destroyed the time machine, and we would’ve been stranded to the left side of time!” I was fuming. All I had wanted was a pot of coffee and my library books, maybe a donut or two. I stomped out of the lab past the table of tsking sentient cheeses. Dr. Euphonium chuckled.
“See you next week?” he shouted. “My latest invention should be done by then.”
“See you next week,” I shouted back, slamming the lab door behind me.
I had to see it, didn’t I?

A Spooky Letter From Dr. Edgar Euphonium

Dear Mark,

I hope this letter finds you well. Did you perchance attend the Homecoming festivities at the Old Alma Mater? Alas, I was indisposed due to the matters I will elucidate below. Nevertheless, go Smilin’ Sasquatch!

I fear my handwriting may be shaky, and at times illegible due to the events of the past week. But I felt I must tell someone what I have gone through, and thought you would be curious. Though the past few days have been quite bone-chilling, I shall pull out all the stops, as it were, to relate the story as accurately as possible.

About two weeks ago I received a call from Leslie Lamplighter, whose great-grandfather Lyle allegedly haunts the Lamplighter Estate. Sadly, Leslie’s father had recently passed, and as it turned out, he had left her the mansion in his will. Not wanting to live in a haunted house (understandably) and unable to sell it while haunted (also understandably), she had contacted me in the in the hopes that I could assist in convincing her great-grandfather’s spirit to leave. As you might recall, I had great success with an invention of mine called the Spirit-O-Phone, a large mobile telephone roughly the size of a brick set to paranormal frequencies with an infrared monocle attachment, allowing me to speak to and see ghosts. This, coupled with my natural powers of persuasion had led me to convincing the spirit of Ben Franklin to stop haunting a craft store bearing his name. Leslie practically begged me to attempt the same tactic on Lyle Lamplighter. Normally, I am not given to performing favors, especially involving my Spirit-O-Phone (which, frankly, gives me the shivers), but her earnestness and a brown paper bag full of Scotcheroos won me over.

Lamplighter House is a vast, foreboding estate, very much in the tradition of the haunted houses before it. Viny weeds punctuated with thorns across their skin choked the immense front yard of any grass or flowers, and what from a distance appeared to be a metallic lattice on the gate turned out to be dew-spotted cobwebs. I entered with trepidation, scientifically curious but otherwise petrified. The cracks in the sidewalk leading up to the dilapidated porch seemed to spell out words of warning in some ancient, forgotten language. The porch itself looked held together by a combination of sheer will and the negligence of gravity to do its job. Surprisingly, when I set foot on it, it held my weight (which is no small feat, given my love for sweets.) Looking up at the two-story monstrosity, I could see no sign of life, nor light coming from any of the half-dozen windows facing the front. Yet, when at last I summoned the courage to open the dark, knotty front door, the interior was filled with an otherworldly, blueish glow. I carefully crossed the threshold and sat my rucksack down, reassessing the contents. I had the obligatory Spirit-O-Phone, a Badminton racket for self-defense (the closest thing I had to a weapon), a journal and my beloved Scotcheroos. I decided not to procrastinate further, and removed the Spirit-O-Phone.

It was at that moment that a strong gust of wind rushed at me from down the main staircase ahead and to the right of me. I steadied myself in an effort not to be blown out the front door and staggered to the left, where the Main Room was located. This room was gigantic, with walls stretching many, many feet above me, and a chandelier the size (and oddly, shape) of a water buffalo affixed to the center of the ceiling. I powered up the Spirit-O-Phone and looked around me. The room was bare, save for a portrait hanging on the furthest wall, of Lyle Lamplighter himself. He was a grim fellow, standing in front of a nondescript background in a black three-piece suit, scowling. He was bald, and, though the portrait appeared to have been made in the late-eighteenth century, he was wearing dark sunglasses. He was holding a cane topped with a skull. Staring at the portrait, I began to feel uneasy, like I was experiencing vertigo. The room seemed to be moving, and to my horror, when I looked down, it was. The grain of the hardwood floor was ebbing and flowing like the tide, and at places whirling like rapids. I found myself transfixed by the movement, and before I knew what was happening, I fell forward into the floor. That’s right, into the floor. As I was sucked into the liquid floorboards, I lost consciousness, but was dimly aware of floating, as well as a sinking sensation.

I came to in the cellar, covered in dirt (I hope it was dirt.) I got up and dusted myself off, and began to assess my surroundings. There was a rickety stairwell to my left, and no sign of life or afterlife, so I made my way toward the stairs. As I stepped down, however, the stairs gave way instantaneously, and I was forced to run up the quickly disintegrating stairs, pushing myself through the door, which splintered under the faintest touch. I was now in the kitchen, whose black and white tile floor comforted me (little to no chance of liquefying.) However, just as I was summoning my courage, the refrigerator directly in front me opened with a bang, and what should I see within it but a dark, swirling vortex. Figuring this was where Lyle Lamplighter lived, I made my way slowly toward it, cursing myself for leaving my rucksack in the front entryway. Instinctively, I looked to my right and there, rummaging through my rucksack, was the ghost of Lyle Lamplighter, just as he appeared in his portrait, though probably only five-foot four in real afterlife. I shouted into my Spirit-O-Phone, “Lyle Lamplighter!” He turned quickly, surprised by my presence, and my ability to see him. “Please,” I continued, “end your reign of terror over this house! There is nothing left here for you! What is it that you seek? What is it that I can provide?” He began to slowly walk toward me. I felt a chill run down my spine as the entire house became as cold as an ice cream sandwich. He looked at me, forlorn, and as he grew nearer, I noticed he was holding something in his left hand. Then he got so close we were nearly touching and he whispered something to me as he held the object up for me to see. What he said, and what he showed me petrified me. And after he spoke this one word, he turned and entered the swirling vortex in the refrigerator, closing the door behind him. Immediately, the temperature in the room rose, and any evidence of supernatural activity vanished. Lyle Lamplighter was gone for good, having found what he had been hunting (and haunting) for all this time. And what was that, you ask? What was the object in his left hand, and the single word he whispered to me as he left this world?

The object was a brown paper bag.

The word was, “Scotcheroos.”

My beloved Scotcheroos! I had finally rid the Lamplighter House of its resident ghost, but at the cost of my beloved Scotcheroos! Sure, Leslie made me another batch, but it just wasn’t the same. She has also renovated the house and now it is a lovely home for her and her seventeen birds, who love to perch on the Water Buffalo Chandelier in the Main Room. Still, I lie awake nights, thinking about that rushing wind. Thinking about that hardwood floor sea. Thinking about those disintegrating stairs. Thinking about that swirling vortex in the refrigerator.

But mostly, thinking about those delicious Scotcheroos.

I remain,

Dr. Edgar Euphonium