For Truly Virtual Web Art Museum at LastPlace.com

September 14, 2015

 

PY'S BUNGALOW

 

 

a tale by Duane L. Ostler

 

                A couple emerged from the main house, and walked casually down a side path that had been pointed out to them. They were smiling and holding hands, and seemed completely content with the world. The beautiful jungle growth of Hawaii's big island surrounded them, shrouding them in a perfect wall of green. The coqui frogs chirped happily as they walked along, keeping time with their footsteps.

                The woman--named Mabel--suddenly turned to her husband and asked, "Are you glad you came?"

                "You bet!" replied Bert, her husband, without any hesitation. "I've long heard that Py gives swinging parties at his place on the big island--and now I've finally been able to come to one!" He smiled at his wife, then shook his head and laughed. "What a party!" Then he added with a smile, "And what a host! For an old guy, that Py can sure disco!"

                "He sure can!" agreed Mabel. "And he's pretty good at it too!" Then she smirked. "Unlike some OTHER people I know--people who try to join him in his dance, but look more like a staggering walrus than a disco dancer!"

                The man shrugged, completely unruffled. "Can I help it if I've never discoed before?" he said casually. Then he gave her a knowing look. "And it didn't exactly seem like you knew what you were doing either, when you joined us on the dance floor! You looked more like a flamingo trying to get rid of the hiccups by jiggling!"

                Mabel giggled as the couple rounded a sudden bend in the path, leaving the main house behind them. Gazing at the jungle undergrowth she suddenly changed the subject. "I wonder why Py was so anxious for us to come out and see his bungalow?" she asked curiously.

                "Beats me," Bert said with a shrug. "Maybe he thought our dancing was scaring people, so he wanted to get us out of his house."

                Mabel shook her head. "I don't think so. After all, some of the other people Py invited danced almost as bad as we did. No … I think there was some other reason. He seemed very mysterious about it."

                "Naw, it's probably just like he said," replied Bert. "We don't get away from Oahu very often, and he wanted us to get a real feel for the big island. And the way he described his bungalow, it's guaranteed to be truly big islandish!"

                Rounding another bend, the couple suddenly found themselves staring at a brightly painted building, with garish red and blue colors that stood out in stark contrast with the wild, jungle undergrowth surrounding it. A row of garden gnomes lined a nearby fence, and bright flowers swam in dizzying patterns around the edges of the bungalow.

                "Wow!" said Bert, sucking in his breath. "It's every bit as rustic and unique as Py said it would be."

                "It's absolutely charming!" agreed Mabel with a happy smile. She stared in wonder at the bungalow, and was about to say more when a man suddenly staggered out from behind the building. His hair was tousled, his shirt was untucked, and he had a frenzied look in his eye as if he had just seen a ghost. He was followed by a woman who was holding her head and moaning in distress.

                Looking up, the tousled man saw Bert and Mabel gaping at him in amazement. He then immediately barked, "DON'T GO IN!" He staggered swayingly toward them while Bert and Mabel stared at him with wide eyes. "Whatever you do, DON'T GO IN THE BUNGALOW!" he screeched.

                Bert gulped, wondering if a hasty retreat might be the best course of action, since the man was obviously over the edge. "Why shouldn't we go in?" he suddenly blurted, not knowing what else to say.

                The tousled man collapsed suddenly, then struggled to rise to his feet. "You'll be sorry if you do!" he panted. "You'll be sorry!" Then he grabbed the still-moaning woman's hand and pulled her along the path which led away from the bungalow. "Gotta get out of here! Gotta get out!!" he yelled. In a matter of seconds they were out of sight around the bend in the path. Bert and Mabel could hear their retreating footsteps on the volcanic gravel.

                "That was weird!" said Bert, looking curiously at the jungle where the maniac couple had disappeared. "Why would that guy warn us to stay out of the bungalow?"

                Mabel was stroking her chin. "That IS strange. Py told us to go on in, and look around! And Py's just an old, harmless disco dentist! I can't imagine him putting something dangerous in his bungalow, then telling his guests to go look inside!"

                "Weird," repeated Bert, stepping toward the bungalow. "Doesn't make sense. But I agree with you. Py wouldn't knowingly send us into danger. He's a bit of a nut, but I wouldn't say he's dangerous."

                Suddenly Mabel took a step back. "Maybe we shouldn't go in," she said, her voice raised. "Maybe some jungle creature snuck inside, that Py isn't aware of."

                "Nonsense!" said Bert, pulling Mabel's hand as he took another step toward the bungalow. "There are no dangerous creatures in Hawaii! In fact, the scariest things in these islands are the tourists!"

                "But that man seemed SO insistent!" said Mabel, still trying to hold back.

                Bert just shrugged. "Probably just a fruitcake. You get all kinds in the islands. Or maybe Py hired him to act like he did, just to make the bungalow seem more scary and interesting!" Without further words, he mounted the steps and pushed open the door, stepping into the bungalow. With a great deal of reluctance, his wife followed him.

                "You see!" cried Bert, waving his arm toward the room they had just entered. "There's nothing in here at all! Not even any furniture! In fact, other than that mirror on the wall over there, this place is completely empty!"

                Which was true. The interior of the bungalow was completely devoid of furniture, other than a cracked mirror which adorned one wall. It was a small room they had entered, which oddly enough seemed even smaller due to the absence of furniture. Some places look bigger when they are full of couches and chairs.

                "This is really odd," said Mabel, stepping into the center of the room. "There's nothing in here at all!" She turned to look at Bert. "Doesn't that seem a bit strange to you?"

                "Sure," agreed her husband. "It's strange, but not dangerous." He meandered over to look out the open back window. "Got a great view from in here. It's such a great little house, I wonder why he hasn't put any furniture in it? He's got more than enough chairs and tables in his main house."

                Mabel suddenly turned toward the door. "Let's get out of here!" she said. "This place gives me the creeps!"

                Bert laughed. "You're letting that loony dude's warning play tricks with your mind!" he said. "Like I said before, I bet Py hired him just to scare people and make them more curious and interested in this place. After all, there's not much to see here, so Py had to liven this place up somehow."

                Mabel shook her head doubtfully. "I don't know …" she said noncommittally. "This place still gives me the creeps. Even the coqui frogs aren't chirping anywhere nearby."

                Burt shrugged again, then turned to look at himself in the mirror. He smoothed back his hair, then winked at his image in the glass. "You handsome dude, you!" he said softly to himself. Then turning toward Mabel, he said, "So, who cares about coqui frogs?"

                Mabel stared back at him with eyes that grew wider by the second. Soon her eyes looked so big it was a wonder they didn't fall out of her head and go bouncing and rolling across the floor.

                Then she screamed. It was a long, piercing scream, enough to shatter the eardrums.

                "YOUR FACE!" she cried, gesticulating wildly with her finger. Then she staggered back toward the door. "YOUR FACE!!" she repeated insanely, her pointing finger wavering even more wildly.

                Bert smiled uncertainly. "Come on, Mabel, stopping hamming it up! Are you trying to scare me or something?"

                "But YOUR FACE!" she screamed again. Her own face had gone so completely white, she looked like a Hawaiian ghost.

                "What's the matter with my face?" said Bert casually turning back around toward the mirror. "You're always saying how handsome it is, and--"

                He stopped cold as he saw his reflection in the glass. For a moment he was completely speechless. Then he suddenly exploded in a voice like thunder. "MY FACE!!!"

                Mabel had put her hands over her eyes, and was moaning softly. "Your handsome, rugged face!" she sobbed. "It's ruined! Now it looks exactly like the face of … the face of …"

                "Of Py!" cried Bert in horrified amazement.

                And it was true. Staring back at him from the glass was not the marginally handsome face Bert had been accustomed to see in the mirror for the last 35 years of his life. Rather, it was the [INSERT YOUR OWN DESCRIPTION OF YOUR FACE] image of their host Py! Even down to the drooping eyelids, it was an exact, carbon copy of their zany host who they had left behind in the main house only minutes before.

                "It can't be!" cried Bert, rubbing his hands over the rough contours of his/Py's face. "It just CAN'T BE!"

                "I knew we shouldn't have come in here!" cried Mabel. "That man's warning was true! There IS something awful about this place!"

                Bert paid no attention to her. "My handsome, rugged face--is gone!" he yelled. "How can it be?" He turned crazed eyes on his wife. "Am I doomed to go through the rest of my life looking like THIS?"

                "Let's get out of here!" cried his wife, grabbing his hand and yanking him toward the door. But the couple was stopped in their tracks by the sudden descent from the ceiling of an unexpected object. It was not a spider or bird or coqui frog as one might expect on the big island. Rather, it was a spinning, brilliantly shining disco ball made completely of tiny mirrors!

                Instant disco music filled the tiny contours of the bungalow. The tune was a boppy little ditty, common in the heyday of disco, but long since forgotten. The spinning disco/mirror ball cast glimmering, ever-moving lights all across the interior of the bungalow. It was enough to make even a trained ballerina dancer so dizzy they wouldn't be able to walk straight.

                "This CANNOT be happening!" cried Mabel, dodging to get around the disco/mirror ball which was blocking her path. But as she rushed forward, she felt Bert's hand slip out of her grasp. Turning angrily, she was about to bark at him for stupidly staying behind. But the instant she saw him, her angry words died in her throat.

                Bert was twitching. Actually, only one of his legs was twitching, while the other remained perfectly still. Both of his arms were starting to twirl as well. He looked like a cockroach that has just been stepped on, and is gasping out its dying breath. But to trained disco dancers, he looked like something else. He looked like he was "getting in the groove!"

                "Bert!" screamed Mabel, the frenzy in her voice temporarily drowning out the music. "You're DANCING!"

                "I know," blasted Bert, his face red in anger. "I can't seem to help it! My legs and feet are moving by themselves, and I can't control them! And I can't stop this blasted twitching either! It's getting wilder by the second!"

                And it was true. Bert suddenly jumped straight up into the air, in a graceful disco dive. Then he swayed dizzyingly around the interior of the bungalow, keeping perfect time to the music. His feet and arms moved at incredible speeds, in perfect disco cadence. Even his twitching head was keeping the beat, while at the same time his head twitches made his eyeballs bobble around like crazy. If not for the crazy eyes and the scowl of angry disbelief on his face, he would have looked like the world champion disco dancer.

                "Bert, you've never danced that good in your life!" cried Mabel, apparently not realizing how she had just slandered him. "You can't disco!"

                "I know!" yelled Bert as he maneuvered across the floor in perfect disco style. Then he caught her in his arms and swung her around like she was a mere bag of potatoes.

                "Bert!" she screamed piercingly. "Stop! You're making me dizzy!"

                "You think YOU'RE dizzy!" growled Bert, as he let go of her hand and sent her spinning with a crash into the wall. "Try being ME for a minute!" Bert had closed his eyes, and his face was ashen. But even though he couldn't see where he was going, he was dancing across the floor like a disco master, moving his arms and legs so fast they were just a disco-perfect blur.

                "Oh, no!" screeched Mabel, her eyes opening even wider than before, as she stared at something new that had just appeared. "Not THAT!" She pointed a wavering finger at the bottom of Bert's pants in horrified amazement.

                Bert's eyes snapped open and he stared at her, while continuing his perfect, breath-taking disco dance across the floor. "What are you talking about?" he snapped. "And why are you pointing at my pants?"

                "You've sprouted BELL BOTTOMS!" cried Mabel in abject terror. "Your pants just bloomed at the bottom, and suddenly they were bell bottoms!"

                Bert closed his eyes again. "NO!" he cried in agony. "Not THAT! Anything but THAT! My face may be ruined for life--but for the love of money, NOT BELL BOTTOMS!"

                If Mabel had thought she'd reached the limits of her endurance, she was about to be surprised again. For in the next instant, Bert started to do something he had never done before in his life. Or rather, it was something he had never done before SUCCESSFULLY.

                He started to sing! His nasal voice belted out in perfect time to the blaring music, mouthing lyrics that only true disco lovers would appreciate. And incredibly, his singing was not in its normal off-key style, but sounded melodious and perfectly in tune!

                "Bert!" Mabel cried in agony. "Oh, Bert, I love you, but I just can't take it anymore! You sound like one of the Bee Gees!" Then without another word she jumped out the open back window, while holding her hand over her mouth.

                "Mabel!" sang Bert desperately as he cavorted wildly across the floor in perfect disco beat. Then in his perfect Bee Gee blended voice, he sang, "Mabel, oh Mabel! Please don't leave me, oh Mabel!" As his perfect disco dance continued, he flexed his muscles and strove with himself, trying to get himself to stop. And finally, using every ounce of will power he possessed, he flung himself across the room and out the window after his wife.

                "Keep away from me with those bell bottoms!" screeched Mabel wildly, lurching away from Bert as he landed with a thud on the ground next to her. But then she stopped and stared at where her husband was trying to pick himself up off the ground.

                "BERT!" she screeched, shattering his ear drums once more. "You're normal again! Oh, glory be! You're normal! It's you! And the bell bottoms are GONE!"

                As Bert shakily swayed to his feet, he looked down at his hands and feet. The bell bottoms had truly disappeared, and his feet and legs had stopped twitching! Could it be true! Had he escaped this awful, disco horror!

                "My face!" he suddenly cried, rubbing both hands all over his head. It certainly felt like his old face, and no longer like the wrinkled mug of Py. He suddenly turned to race back into the bungalow. "I've got to look in that mirror!"

                "Are you crazy!" screamed Mabel, grabbing his hand. "You're not going back in THERE, are you?"

                Turning, Bert just stared at her. Then he ran a shaking hand through his hair. "You're right!" he agreed firmly. "I am NOT going back in that cursed place. But my face! Does it still look like the face of Py?"

                "NO!" cried Mabel, suddenly leaning forward and showering his face with kisses. "If it did, would I be doing this?" Bert smiled happily. "I've got my old face back!" he said in an insanely happy voice. "And the twitching and music have stopped! And I've stopped singing! And best of all--the bell bottoms are completely gone!"

                The couple embraced, relief washing over both of them like a drenching rain. Then suddenly Bert turned to go. "We've got to get out of here, or all that insanity might come back!" He took a step forward, then ran painfully into a wooden post sticking up out of the ground that he had not noticed before. On the top of the post was a plate of Chinese fortune cookies, and a little sign that said, "All who have entered the bungalow must take one of these."

                Mabel and Bert stared at the cookies for a minute, then turned to look at each other. Each had the same look of horrified worry in their eyes. "Do I dare take one of those?" whispered Bert, voicing the question that was in each of their minds.

                They continued to stare at the plate of cookies for a minute. Then slowly, as if being pulled by a magnet, Bert's hand reached out toward the cookies on top of the post.

                "No, don't!" cried Mabel, slapping his hand away. "Who knows what might happen?"

                "But I've got to know!" replied Bert. "The sign says that if you've been in the bungalow, you have to take one. Maybe if I DON'T, terrible things will happen!"

                "And maybe terrible things will happen if you DO!" cried Mabel. But as she watched in fascinated horror, Bert slowly reached out again, and took one of the cookies. He broke it open, tossing the cookie fragments into the bushes for the bugs to eat. There was NO WAY he was going to eat that cookie, after what he'd just been through in the bungalow. All he wanted was to see the fortune that was crumpled up inside.

                Slowly Bert unrolled the paper from the cookie, then held it up with shaking hands. And as each of them read its cryptic message, they let out a collective gasp of horror. It read as follows:

                "If you don't want what just happened in the bungalow to return, you MUST go to Py's dental office on Oahu within the next 3 months and have him pull one of your teeth. If you fail to do so, the terrors of the bungalow will return to you forever!"

                Bert and Mabel stared at each other in horror. "How awful!" cried Mabel.

                "This is insane!" barked Bert angrily, as he wadded up the paper. "And anyway, I thought Py was retired, and was no longer doing dental work."

                "He IS retired," replied Mabel. "But I heard he still pulls teeth in his Oahu office!"

                They stared at each other some more. Then Bert said angrily. "I'm not going to do it! I utterly refuse! Nothing can force me to do it!"

                In reply Mabel only opened her eyes wider and wider, then pointed at his face with a shaking finger. "It's starting to come back! Your face! YOUR FACE!"

                "Ok! I'll do it! I'LL DO IT!" screamed Bert, his face turning white. "Even though all my teeth are perfectly ok and I don't need one pulled--I'll do it!"

                Mabel's face lit up in an insanely happy smile. "It's gone! Your face is back to normal! The image of Py that was starting to come completely disappeared!"

                Shakily the two hugged each other again. Then they turned to leave. As they emerged from the back of the bungalow, with Bert's hair disheveled and his shirt tail hanging out, they were surprised to see another couple from the party coming toward the bungalow along the path. The new couple were smiling and laughing as if they didn't have a care in the world. Upon seeing Bert and Mabel, they stopped short to stare at them.

                " DON'T GO IN!" Bert yelled insanely while he staggered swayingly toward them. As the new couple stared at him with ever widening eyes Bert repeated, "Whatever you do, DON'T GO IN THE BUNGALOW!" His voice was screeching wildly, as if it had turned into the voice of a little girl.

                The man they were facing gulped, and it was obvious he was wondering if a hasty retreat might be the best course of action, since Bert was obviously over the edge. "Why shouldn't we go in?" he suddenly blurted, since he apparently didn't know what else to say.

                Bert collapsed suddenly, then struggled to rise to his feet. "You'll be sorry if you do!" he panted. "You'll be sorry!" Then he grabbed Mabel's hand and pulled her along the path which led away from the bungalow. "Gotta get out of here!" Bert yelled wildly. "Gotta get out!!" In a matter of seconds they were out of sight around the bend in the path, and the new couple heard their retreating footsteps on the volcanic gravel. Then they turned to look at each other, each wondering the same thing.

                Should they go in the bungalow?

 

                It was night. The "wild party" at Py's main house was finally over. All of the guests had caught their connecting flights back to Oahu either from Kona or Hilo. Shadows covered the ground around the main house and the bungalow. The main house was a mess, due to the wild reveling of the partiers. But a lone figure had departed from the front door and was headed down the path toward the bungalow. His mission was far more important than cleaning up the messy remains of a party. He had something to take care of which was of grave importance--and which had something to do with the mysterious paper sack he carried in his hands.

                The coqui frogs were out in force, making a noise so loud that even a passing jet could hardly be heard over the din. The flowers nodded gently at the man as he walked rapidly by, as if to wish him well on his short journey. As the bungalow came in sight, the bright red and blue of its exterior was muted by the shadows of eventide. The man quietly approached the bungalow, which was completely dark.

                Cautiously, the man stepped into the empty room of the bungalow. He glanced around at the darkened room, then padded gently over to the cracked mirror. Smiling at himself, he smoothed out his hair and then with a wink said quietly, "You handsome dude, you!" Smiling back from the glass was none other than the image of Py! Only this time, it was the real Py, in the flesh.

                Turning, Py called out gently into the night: "Binkertell! Oh, Binkertell! Where are you?" It would seem the man has lost his senses, calling for someone in an obviously empty room.

                But hark! A tiny glow appeared on the windowsill! With a smile, Py approached, holding out the sack which he shook gently. A rattling sound emanated from the sack, indicating a number of small objects inside.

                "I brought them!" Py said triumphantly. "I have 62 this time! In just one month!"

                The glow on the windowsill had grown increasingly brighter. Peering down at it, Py saw the tiny image of a fairy! Its delicate wings were so thin they were completely see-throughish. The puny figure stretched its arms and wings, then said in a shrill, tiny voice that could hardly be heard: "62! That's not many at all! I need lots more than that!"

                Py's smile faded a bit, but not completely. "Oh, come on! I thought you said the quota of teeth you have to give the tooth fairy was 50 a month! I've given you more than that!"

                "50 a month is the MINIMUM the old bag wants from us each month," responded the fairy Binkertell grumpily. "Most of her tooth-gathering fairy minions bring in far more than that! For me to bring in only 62 will make it look like I've been on vacation most of the month!"

                Py laughed, then spread his hands wide. "Well, haven't you?" He looked around at the empty interior of the bungalow. "All you do is laze around in here all day! The only time you ever do any work is when I have my once-a-month party, and send people your way. And I KNOW it's not hard at all for you to use your fairy magic to give them my face, and make them sprout bell bottoms, and then start to dance and sing disco! That's easy-breezy stuff for you!"

                "It's still work," said Binkertell blandly, walking over to peek in the paper sack Py had put on the windowsill. "I was at it for almost 6 hours today! That ain't easy! I'm completely worn out!"

                Py laughed again. "Six hours a month--that's all you work! I'd say that's a pretty easy life for a fairy that's supposed to be busy every night gathering teeth from under kids' pillows all over the world."

                Binkertell smiled happily. "I suppose you have something there. Our arrangement has spared me those horrid, exhausting nights of creeping into kids' bedrooms and nearly getting crushed when the roll over in bed while I'm taking their tooth. Now all I do is scare your silly guests into thinking they'll permanently become YOU unless you let them pull one of their teeth! I guess 62 isn't so bad after all."

                Py glanced curiously into the sack full of teeth on the windowsill. "I still don't understand how you think you can get away with this for long," he said. "After all, ANYONE can see these are not kids' baby teeth in this bag, but are full grown, adult teeth!"

                "The old windbag tooth fairy never bothers to look at the actual teeth that get brought in," said Binkertell happily as she flexed her wings. "In fact, no one at the tooth collection center does. I could do this for years, and no one would know." She reached into the bag and patted one of the teeth, which was bigger than her entire arm.

                Suddenly Binkertell looked curiously up at Py. "So, with all the money you're making from pulling teeth that you actually don't need to pull, are you going to finally get some furniture for this place?"

                "I thought you said it was easier to scare people if it was empty!" replied Py. "Besides, it's hard to disco when you have to dodge a lot of furniture. I should know, since that's what I've been doing for the last six hours during the party at the main house!"

                Binkertell yawned again. "Just a thought," she replied. "If you don't want any furniture, that's fine with me." While Py stood looking down at her, she suddenly gave him a mischievous look. "I think I can come up with a way to motivate you to pull more than 62 teeth in a month--so I can show up at the fairy tooth collection center with so many teeth, the old bat will think I've really done my tooth collecting job well!"

                "Oh?" said Py curiously, an uneasy feeling suddenly coming into the pit of his stomach. "What type of motivation are you talking about?"

                "Well," said Binkertell slowly, with only partly concealed glee, "some of the people at your party had faces more troubling than yours, and hobbies more unusual than disco. I was thinking that maybe--unless you happen to pull more than 62 teeth in a month--I might change your face a bit. If you had to permanently have your face look like someone else, and also had to take up a hobby you couldn't stop yourself from doing--like maybe basket weaving, or something--I'm sure that would make a big difference in your tooth-pulling efforts!"

                Py gaped at Binkertell in abject horror. "You wouldn’t!" he exclaimed.

                "Oh, wouldn’t I?" said Binkertell casually. Then, without another word, she magically reduced the paper sack full of teeth to tiny size (to make it easier for her to carry), and zipped out the open window and into the night, on her way to deliver her monthly tooth quota …  

 

 

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