Handsome Joe Eats A Whole Pizza

…and was one full little hound

Life On The Magic Bus

Chapter 2, Part 4: The World’s Biggest Toilet Paper Rolls And Other Adventures

At last, toilet paper!
A legend dies!

Destination Sign: Where You Least Expect Us

Captain’s log, 4/17/2009, 1:45 pm

We slept in a bit this morning before driving for two hours to see the World’s Largest Toilet Paper Rolls.

Our first stop once we left Crater Lake was in the tiny town of Dufur, Oregon. It is there that you will find two establishments, across the road from one another, competing for the title of World’s Largest Toilet Paper Roll. I could barely contain my excitement. Grace & The Girls, not so much.

As told to us by Mrs. Emily Umbar and Mrs. Lenola Raspe, way back in 1960, their husbands Frank and Charlie (then both 20) began several good natured competitions, as friends often do. First there was “who can grow the biggest zucchini”, then “who has the fanciest workshop”. Eventually, around 1985 and the “who can build the biggest play area for the grandkids” competition, the testosterone level hit critical mass.

Both men decided that they would build a tourist attraction. Both men decided on building a humongous toilet paper roll. The first year, they got pretty hefty size rolls made, but a huge rainstorm soon destroyed them. That did not stop the two bathroom tissue gladiators, who used the next few months to build very tall, very narrow barns to protect their masterpieces.

Like I said a couple of days ago, the last time I saw these humongous rolls, you paid 50 cents per group to see them and they were 12 feet tall. Things have changed quite a bit over the years.

Nowadays, you pay a buck a head to see these enormous rolls, which stand 80 FEET HIGH and are wound pretty tightly (as are the men who made them, if you ask me) by special slow turning gas engines.

When we arrived today, both men were arguing about whose roll was actually the longest, an argument that has been going on for decades. The wives, who actually conduct the short tour, were sitting together having coffee. We ponied up our money and they showed us around. The whole thing took about 30 minutes, by which time the two 69 year old men were just shy of coming to blows. While Grace bought post cards and fridge magnets and a bumper sticker (no t-shirts available), I wandered over to the men and asked them if there wasn’t some way to measure the roll lengths. I figured they’d just do individual roll length times the number of rolls, but they had other ideas.

Before you could say “crazy motherfuckers”, they had their cars lined up on the highway with the ends of the rolls tied to the bumpers and odometer trip meters zeroed out. Next thing you know, they were off. Well, they were probably off years ago, but now they were heading down the highway.

I figured the wives would be pissed, but they were laughing too hard to do much more than hug me and refund all our money. Gasping for breath, Mrs. Umbar explained that the rolls were at least 3,000 miles long and that she and Mrs. Raspe were now going to take a week long vacation up at the Indian casino near Spokane, Washington.

I’m kind of bummed out that this legendary roadside attraction will be gone, but I’m hoping that some young person somewhere will take up the challenge and start a new giant toilet paper roll.

Tomorrow or the next day, we will stop was in Roosevelt, Washington to see “Uncle Ferdie’s Trained Squirrel Review”. It got high marks from Tourist Trap Monthly, so we are really looking forward too it.

Now, with lunch behind us, we are off to see the Historic House Of Mirrors.

Captain’s log out.

Chapter 2, Part 5: The World’s Biggest Toilet Paper Rolls And Other Adventures

Squirrels & Disaster
Wood & Whimsy

Diary entry for Grace Clay, 4/18/2009, 9:30 pm

Destination Sign: Terrapin Station

Dear Diary,

When I married Doc two years out of high school (and a year out of our training time at The Business), my wonderful mother in law, Gerry, gave me only a couple of pieces of advice. The first was “never go to bed mad at each other, even if it means staying up all night”. The other was “You’ve married my son, a Clay. Shit will happen and it will happen spectacularly. Just remember that years later, you’ll laugh at most of it”.

I’m thinking it will be 5-10 years before I laugh about, as Doc puts it, “The Great Squirrel Riot Of 2009”.

Like many of the spectacular disasters in our lives together (Ankara, 1974…the decision to try raising bison, 1984…buying Toad House Games, 1990), it started off as a seemingly good idea: Go see a bunch of trained squirrels do a show. How it played out was very different.

We pulled into the parking lot of “Uncle Ferdie’s Trained Squirrel Review”, which is housed in an old K Mart building. A sign outside said that over a million people had seen the show, which was in it’s third smash year. There was also a sign saying “free complimentary indoor dog park”, which seemed like a good idea at the time. We paid out $5.00 each and went in.

We checked The Girls into the park, which was very nice and full of dogs of all sizes. I had a momentary spot of concern over Lucy, who is smart, but possibly not 100% sane. I could see that she smelled the squirrels. The teenage park attendants promised me that they’d keep her busy playing.

Unfortunately, the teenage attendants did not secure one of the rear doors well enough. Lead by a certain 65 pound basset/coonhound mix, 28 dogs were soon heading down the connecting hallway toward a room full of assorted squirrels & chipmunks & kids & parents & grandparents. And let’s not forget Uncle Ferdie & Aunt Hazel, both of whom seemed like really nice folks.

You know the term “all hell broke loose”? Well, not including family gatherings, I now know what it looks like. Some red squirrels and chipmunks had just started performing a dance routing to “Kung Fu Fighting” when I heard the dogs barking a split second before the doors burst open.

Dogs were everywhere, as were terrified rodents, panicked parents and googly eyed kids. Chairs were knocked over, scenery went flying and I think Uncle Ferdie (who, despite an old sounding name only looked about 35) may have wet himself as a bull mastiff and three welsh corgis ran over him in pursuit of a fox squirrel. I saw Winker barking at an Asian squirrel that was on some lady’s head, Sasha chasing a ground squirrel and Lucy all over the place. A flying squirrel flew right past Doc, who was just a bit too calm considering the riot around him. But then, my sweetie is always calmest when the shit is hitting the fan, childbirthing with me excepted.

We made a hasty retreat back to the bus, where Doc used the loudspeaker to yell “Fooooooddddd Fooooorrrr Doooooggggssss!!!!”. Within moments, The Girls were on the bus. Then, as I put everyone in Doggie Lockdown, Doc got us back on the road and out of town. Fortunately, this bus has a “Cop Detection Unit” that let us know where the police cars were, so we could avoid them.

It’s too bad about the riot, which we heard on the radio took an hour to calm down, because the show was really cute and lots of fun. I’m glad I bought the bumper stickers, fridge magnets, DVD, t-shirts and hats before things went south.

A couple of hours later, after I had a good nap, we went to Woodenland. This is a big place housed in an old shoe store and it’s pretty much a little world of thousands of hand carved people and animals. The little towns and outdoor places are served by a model railroad and the whole place is very cute & whimsical. I told Doc that we should bring our grandchildren here someday, but he just said that we were many years away from being grandparents, despite our 28 year old son being married and trying to have kids. Talk about being in denial.

Ok, Diary, time for bed. Tomorrow we head west for more sightseeing, but hopefully no riots.

Grace

Chapter 2, Part 6: The World’s Biggest Toilet Paper Rolls And Other Adventures

Canine apologies begin

Things go wibbly wobbly

Destination Sign: Gotham City

Diary entry for Winker Sue Clay, 4/19/2009, 4:30 pm

Dear Diary,

I swear to Dog, I did not mean to take part in that squirrel chasing riot yesterday. I was trying to stop little Sasha and some other pups from joining in and then everybody was running and the smell of rodents was so strong and there was screaming and barking and…well, something snapped and I was answering the call of the wild. It was like being on some powerful rodent based drug.

Once we were back on the bus and fed and calmed down, I felt terrible. I apologized profusely to Mom & Dad, then went off to lay in my bed and be miserable. About a half hour later, Mom came in to talk with me. It went like this:

Mom: “Hi, sweetie. I want you to know that Daddy & I forgive you. We know you were just running on instinct, like Lucy & Sasha were.”

Me: “But Mom, Sasha is just a pup and Lucy is, well, Lucy. I’m 14 years old and have human smarts. I should have been able to control myself and not do such a stupid thing.”

Mom: “Oh, honey, being older and smarter doesn’t stop people from doing dumb stuff. Just look at Daddy or Uncle Kelly or Uncle Mike or Sam or…”

Me: “Mom, those are all MALES. I’m female and should be held to a higher standard.”

Mom: “Hmmm…yes, that’s true. But hey, what about me when I’m in a book store?”

I had no answer for that, since Mom has a singular lack of self control in bookstores. And ice cream parlors. And when she sees Dad in a well tailored suit. Talk about leg humping!

Anyway, she hugged me and said everything was ok. I spent the rest of the day reading “The Quantum Mechanic’s Handbook” and the latest General Dynamics parts catalog. After dinner, we all watched “Abbott & Costello Meet The Shadow” and “Abbott & Costello Meet Godzilla”, then went to bed.

Today we visited “The World Famous Haunted Motel” in Portland. It pretty much looked just like any other old run down motel that the new interstate passed by. I mean, yeah, it was the site of a grisly quadruple homicide back in 1961 and three people committed suicide there, but it wasn’t that special to look at or tour. Naturally, we saw no ghosts because ghosts do not exist. That didn’t stop a couple of folks on the tour from saying shit like “I can feel a presence!” or “Does this room feel cold to you?” Yeah, dummy, it’s cold because the air conditioner was just on!

The high point of the tour was right at the end when Daddy, who learned ventriloquism back when he was a kid, made it sound like a ghostly voice said “Ahhh! Fresh meat for me!” in the main murder room. He even said it in a Boris Karloff type voice, which was a nice touch. Even the fattest of the humans got out of the room really fast! Later, when she stopped giggling, Mom called Dad a goofball, which is true.

Our next stop in Portland was the “Museum of the Weird”. Why it was not world famous, I have no idea. It was a big Victorian house crammed full of exhibits of strange shit like UFO pics (I recognized a W’Kinzek scoutship and a Tultarin atmosphere sampler), bigfoot stuff, occult items and pretty much every other kind of strange thing that humans think is supernatural. It’s all a bunch of bullshit, but kind of fun to look at. Most of the humans there were just shy of full on batshit crazy, especially the guy who was just a little too interested in alien anal probes.

Mom bought the usual tourist stuff, then we had ice cream.

We left Portland after that and are on our way to Seattle now. We will be having dinner with a bunch of Dad’s gaming industry friends, including Uncle Spike & Auntie Mary who are out here on business. I just love those two.

Hold on, Diary. Shit is happening!

Ok, it has been an hour since my last bit up above and things are just calming down.

It seems that as we were driving along I-5, our interdimensional drive kicked in and we were shifted over to a rainy day on an Earth where this interstate freeway was new, around 1973.

This surprised everyone, including the Mom Unit who is very against any “time and space hopping bullshit”, as she puts it. The Dad Unit pulled off the road into a truck stop and called for Joe as he tried to calm Mom down with little success.

Joe showed up, apologizing profusely and saying that he had accidentally dropped a probability spanner onto a sub-unit control panel. He said it would reset in just a couple of minutes and we’d be home. Mom made many detailed threats on Joe’s health if it didn’t. Not sure if Joe even has a spleen that Mom could remove with a spoon, but DAMN!

Joe went off to check on things and Mom had become relatively calm when Lucy looked out a window and said “Hey, all of those truckers are apes!”. We all ran to the window and sure enough, it was some Planet of the Apes situation on that world. Needless to say, this did not sit well with Mom, although Dad said it was pretty cool. Mom gave him a Level 45 “look” and then he got very quiet, as did we all.

About a minute later, the bus made the odd sound it makes when shifting realities and we were at the same truck stop, but back here on our world. We left a few minutes later, after Mom laid down the law to Joe, Daddy and everyone within earshot. No more spacey wacey timey wimey shit OR ELSE. She did not elaborate on what the OR ELSE would entail, but then, she really didn’t need to. I imagine spleenectomies would be involved.

Ok, Diary, I’m off to go chat with Joe down in the shop. Will write more later.

Winker

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The Day I Saw A Duck Riding A Horse

…at a trot, even!

Life On The Magic Bus

Chapter 2, Part 1: The World’s Biggest Toilet Paper Rolls And Other Adventures

Enter Joe
Lucy chooses poorly

Diary entry for Winker Sue Clay, 4/15/2009, 3:15 pm

Dear Diary,

Man, am I ever glad we are finally leaving on this trip. The past 3 weeks since Dad brought home the bus have been a whirlwind of chaos, planning, selling stuff, buying stuff, re-planning and general getting ready to move onto the bus. We’ve all been crazy busy.

As you know, Diary, in the taking trips department, Mom is the getting what we need boss and Dad is the planning out the route boss. This usually works out well, the inevitable forgetting stuff and route changing notwithstanding.

Problem is, this trip also involves moving out of the house my parents have lived in for 30 years. There was much anguish about what to take and what to keep. Mom was in near meltdown mode about what books to take until Dad reminded her that the Library Room has every book ever written on Earth from the first book to December 31, 2035. That calmed Mom down really fast.

Anyway, Diary, things got sorted out and the house will be looked after by Uncle Louie and Auntie Karen until we come home in early November. I think Sam and Rani might be staying there for a couple of weeks, too. No word on if Poppy is going to come home for the summer.

Did I mention that Lucy & Sasha are smart now? Lucy is about as smart as your average 18 year old human, which fits in with her decision making skills. Sasha is very smart and may well be thinking of Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein as “a bit dim” someday.

As for their voices, Lucy chose one that sounds kind of like a cross between Whoopi Goldberg and Bette Davis. Sasha’s voice sounds just like Emma Watson, but Americanized.

The only other thing worth reporting is that we all got to meet Joe, our quantum mechanic who lives “below deck” in the engine room of the bus. He’s a pretty much human looking (but NOT human smelling) guy and not much of a talker. He assured the Mom Unit that we will not be going off willy nilly into space & time, which was something she had absolutely forbidden. Dad and I were a bit bummed by that, but as Dad said later, “Her will be done…or else”. I’ve spent a bit of time wandering around the unrestricted areas of the “repair shop” as Joe calls it. It’s pretty interesting down there, all high tech and stuff. Joe even let me borrow a couple of old parts catalogs and a repair manual to read.

Ooh! Late breaking news, Diary! It seems that Lucy decided to go poking around in the Warehouse and turned loose a robotic turkey that proceeded to chase her all over the bus. From what Sasha told me (when she wasn’t laughing hysterically) that roboturkey managed to stay just close enough behind Lucy to peck her on the tail every so often. Dad and Mom were trying to stop both of them and finally succeeded when Dad clocked the robot with a cast iron frying pan and Mom threw a blanket over Lucy. Sasha says that Dad gave Lucy a tranquilizer and she’s sacked out now. That will teach her not to go nosing around in rooms that are on the “No Dogs!” list.

Never a dull moment around here, eh, Diary?

Winker

Chapter 2, Part 2: The World’s Biggest Toilet Paper Rolls And Other Adventures

The Captain logs!
Grace scores points

Destination Sign: The Cobalt Club

Captain’s log, 4/15/2009, 9:30 pm

Hot damn, I’ve always wanted to say that! This vocal diary recorder is the bomb! And this driver’s chair is damned comfy.

Anyway, we have just pulled onto Interstate 5, heading north. Left the house about 8:30 pm after more goodbyes with neighbors and eating some great pie made by several of them. As I speak, The Girls are all off playing and Grace is puttering around in the kitchen. Our cruising speed will be 70 miles an hour and I’ve got AC/DC cranked up on the stereo. It’s only two hours until our first roadside attraction stop, but we’ll be waiting there until they open up at 9:00 am. Have I mentioned how comfortable our bed is? Well, it is. Best night’s sleep I’ve had since about 1985 in the old UltraCon hotel.

It’s kind of interesting how quickly Grace & I got used to…HOLY FUCK! That asshole must be doing 100 miles an hour! Oh yeah, here go the cops, hot on his ass. Two CHP and a couple of county sheriff’s cars. High speed chase, baby!

Anyway, like I was saying, it’s kind of interesting how quickly Grace & I got used to having smart dogs that can talk. I guess they aren’t that different from kids, except that Sam & Poppy yelled at each other a lot more and we don’t have to pay for the dogs to attend college. It also helps that Lucy & Winker are mature girls and even Sasha is about at the 8 year old level. We got to skip the terrible twos and the whole “Why?” period.

So, getting back to this trip, our plan is to go up both I-5 and, in places, old highway 99 to the Canadian border, then down the Pacific Coast to San Diego. After that, we’ll see where we go next, although the fact that it will be the start of convention season pretty much means driving back and forth across the country. I’m scheduled to be at 5 cons for sure and I’d like to hit at least 3 more, including this new “DogCon” that they’re holding down in Texas.

Of course, the big thrill for me is getting to visit all of the roadside attractions! We have around 50 on our list and we’ll be checking out at least a dozen more that may or may not be closed. I saw maybe two thirds of these places when I was a kid, and some on family trips when the kids were small, but I haven’t seen any of them in the last 20 years. I’m particularly psyched for the World’s Largest Toilet Paper Roll. Actually, that’s Rolls, because there are two of them across the road from each other. I saw them last in 1978, when Grace and I got out of the intelligence biz and were traveling around in my old ’65 Impala. Back then, the rolls were about 12 feet tall. I’ve heard they are twice that now.

Think of that. TWO bigass rolls of toilet paper just sitting there in the eastern Oregon prairie. I mean, I’ve seen the Pyramids, the Eiffel Tower (and pushed a KGB agent off of it), the Great Wall of China and a hundred other places, but TWO huge rolls of toilet paper? That right there is way cool!

Oh, hello sweetie! Ooh, cupcakes and cocoa for the driver? You get 1,000 Wife points for this. Redeemable for…well, I know you’ll think of something. What? Set the auto-pilot and come on into the bus? Let me slam down these tasty treats first!

Captain’s log out.

Chapter 2, Part 3: The World’s Biggest Toilet Paper Rolls And Other Adventures

Sasha gets excited
The Mom Unit renews a tradition

Destination Sign: Azkaban Prison

Diary entry for Sasha Jane Clay, 4/16/2009, 8:30 pm

Dear Diary,

Winker said I should start writing stuff in you, so I’m gonna start now. I’ll try not to write boring stuff.

Last night, we watched “The Princess Bride” with Mommy while Daddy was getting everything ready for us to leave on our trip. It’s a good movie! I liked the sword fighting. Mommy said that she once had a sword duel with a woman in Argentina, which is in South America. I think the lady’s name was “Neo Nazi Bitch”.

Anyway, after the movie, me and Winker and Lucy went to play in the Shoe room and Daddy got the bus on the road. I love the Shoe Room and we played in there for about an hour. Lucy got her head stuck in a cowboy boot twice. Winker said that was not unusual for Lucy, ‘cos Lucy makes poor choices when she gets excited.

After the Shoe Room, we went to the Meadow Room for our late night peeing and pooping, then we all went to bed. I had a dream about a room full of hamburgers. It was nice, but when I woke up this morning I was very hungry!

Did I mention how much I like taking trips? We have only gone on a couple of short ones since I was adopted, but they were fun. At DunDraCon, everybody petted me and stuff!

Anyway, after breakfast, we went to see a place called the “World Famous Tin Can House”, right near Corning, California. It’s a big house all made of tin cans. The guy who lives there is old and smells like beer and stinky feet. He showed us around and said that the house was started in 1929 by his grandpa who was broke ‘cos of the Depression. I thought you could take pills for depression?

Anyway, his grandpa got cans from all over and filled them with dirt, then stuck them together like bricks until he had a big old house in 1933. After that, people came to see it for a nickel each and the grandpa made lots of money.

It was an interesting place with lots of smells and mice that Lucy tried to chase. Before we left, Mommy bought a couple of t-shirts and a bumper sticker. Daddy says that is a tradition with Mommy on trips and explains why they have 15 storage totes full of t-shirts and why the fridge in the farm house is covered with magnets from all over the place. Daddy said that his old car had so many bumper stickers and decals, he can’t remember what color it was.

Mommy called Daddy a very funny man, NOT.

After the can house, which Daddy said smelled like somebody went to the can in it, we drove to see a bigfoot museum. We all made jokes about Daddy’s feet ‘cos they are so big. Hahaha.

The bigfoot place had pictures and footprint casts and stuff, but Winker says there are no bigfoots and the guy running the place is probably crazy as a drunken raccoon, which Lucy says is pretty damned crazy. I have only met one raccoon and she was not drunk or crazy. She was kind of grouchy, though.

We stopped for lunch in a town called Weed, which made Mommy & Daddy chuckle, but I don’t know why. We ate hot dogs and french fries and milkshakes. After that, us dogs and Mommy took naps while Daddy drove us to the “World Famous Oregon Dinosaur Land”. Daddy says that there are a whole lot of World Famous roadside places.

The dinosaur place has been shut down for about 20 years and is all overgrown and stuff. There is a big chain link fence around it, but Daddy has a pair of bolt cutters and we got through the rear gate easy peasy. There are 36 dinosaurs there, all made of concrete and stuff. We saw them all by walking on the old trail. Daddy was very excited to be there. Mommy says that is because all human men are really 6 year old boys most of the time, ‘cept when they are horny teenagers.

Winker says the dinosaurs aren’t accurately portrayed, but I think they were fun to look at. Lucy was mostly wanting to chase the wild animals living there and Diary, there were LOTS of them! There must have been about a zillion squirrels and chipmunks!

After we left the dinosaur park, we headed to Crater Lake to spend the night. I smelled bears! Lucy wanted to go chase a bear, but Daddy said she was crazy and he kept her on the bus.

We ate fish tacos for dinner and now we are gonna watch “Harry Potter and the Wandering Wand”, ‘cos we have movies that other people don’t have. After that, I’m gonna pee and poop and go to sleep.

Good night, Diary.

Sasha

Satire. Humor. Not trying to make a claim on anybody’s intellectual properties. It’s what we are all about here at Life On The Magic Bus. So put away your lawyers and shit because our asses are covered by the laws regarding satire. No human, alien, critter, robot, primordial ooze or Lovecraftian horror is being mentioned here with anything except good old satirical intent. Really.

The Totally Crazy, Yet Very Lovable Story Of Mostly Purple Patty And The Budgies That Chased Grandma

…co-starring her best buddy, Herman Yankdoodle

As most of you know, I started a dedicated story blog for “Life On The Magic Bus”. Sadly, it got almost no traffic, so I’m closing it up and porting all of the chapters over here. They’ll appear 3-4 at a time for a few days. After that, I’ll try to post new chapters every week or so. I’ll also be getting new Doclopedia entries up.

Life On The Magic Bus

Chapter 1, Part 1: The Bus

Doc gets a bus
Grace has her doubts

Grace Clay was just about to succumb to the warm spring sun and doze off in her chair on the front porch when the dogs, Sasha & Lucy, started barking and ran toward the front gate.

“Is that the Dad Unit, girls?”, Grace asked the basset hound and the basset/coonhound mix. It was a redundant question, because they had a special bark for Doc, her husband. Her husband who had left three days ago to look at a used school bus that could be converted into “a hippie RV”. Her husband, who later sent her a text that he was “in a poker game with four British rubes” in an effort to win said bus. It was, he had assured her, “the coolest bus you will ever see”. She took this with a grain of salt because Doc could sometimes get a touch hyperbolic. Actually, he was very often hyperbolic.

(Narrator: Grace left out manic and excitable.)

Now she could hear the sound of the bus coming over the small hill between the house and the road. It wasn’t nearly as loud as you might expect a big school bus to be. Then it crested the hill and pulled up in front of the house and she found out why.

It was a short bus, painted up in a tie dye design and sporting a digital destination sign above the front window that read “Middle Earth” in flashing green letters. It looked like it was in perfect shape, but…

…it was a SHORT BUS! Taking a deep breath, Grace got up and began walking toward the gate. She would be having words with Doc, oh yes.

Lucy and Sasha watched the bus roll up.

“Dang,” said the older dog to the pup, “That bus is a whole lot smaller than I expected. How are we all going to fit in that?”

Sasha, who agreed that it looked too small, said “Maybe Daddy was thinking about towing a trailer or something. Whatever, Mom doesn’t look pleased.”

The not very pleased Mom Unit stood at the gate with her hands on her hips and a stern look on her face.

(Narrator: AKA the Universal Sign of an Upset Wife/Mother.)

A few seconds later, the bus door, which looked like a regular front door, opened and a small ramp extended down to the ground. Grace had to admit that was a nice touch.

“I was wondering how my short legs would manage to get on the bus. Ten points to House Dad”, Sasha said. Lucy nodded agreement.

Doc stepped off the bus with a big smile on his face, He was wearing a blue t-shirt that had “Crazy Old Fart” printed on it and a red bandana with little white stars. He blue jeans were faded nearly white. He was, as usual, barefoot.

(Narrator: Doc has size 12EEEE feet. They tend to destroy shoes after a couple of months. Therefore, he often just goes without shoes altogether. He claims to be part hobbit.)

Upon seeing that Grace was less than amused, he greeted her with a big hug and kiss, then said, “Hello, My Sweet Little Thirteen Lined Ground Squirrel Of Love! My keen husbandly senses tell me that you are not totally happy.”

(Narrator: Yes, he really does call her things like that.)

Grace stepped back half a pace. She would not succumb to his rascally charm. “That is a short bus. It’s way too small for…”

“Now, baby, just let me explain and show you the inside.”

“Don’t you now baby me, mister! How the hell are both of us and three dogs supposed to live in that for months at a time?” She was now giving Doc “The Look”, which all husbands & children know only too well. However, after nearly 40 years of marriage, Doc had built up something of an immunity.

(Narrator: Also, he liked living dangerously.)

Doc kept smiling. “Just give me a chance, My Sweet Little Chocolate Chip Cookie Of Sweetness? Would I mess up something important?”

“You got us both shot in Prague. THAT was important.”

“Aww, Grace, those were mere flesh wounds. We don’t even have scars from them anymore. Besides, we ended up blowing Kalyakov and those other bastards up, so it was all good. Just take a look inside, ok? If you don’t like it, I sell the bus tomorrow. Hell, it’s not like I spent any money on it. Those Brits sucked at Texas Hold ‘Em.”

She looked at him, but her expression was softening.

“Did you cheat?”

A look of mock surprise came over him.

“Why, my dear, I am shocked and saddened that you would think that I might stoop to cheating to win this fine bus off those fellows. And I only had to cheat a little. They really did suck at poker. Who the hell stays in when the other guy has aces showing? Now come on and bring The Girls. Y’all are gonna see some really cool shit.”

(Narrator: Yes, The Girls is always capitalized. I have no idea why. I told you he was strange.)

Grace and the dogs followed Doc up the ramp and into the cab of the bus. Grace noticed that the dashboard had more gauges and readouts than most buses. The driver’s seat looked more like a big comfy recliner than a regular bus driver’s seat.

A second door, which was bright blue and seemed to be made of some kind of metal embossed with a big question mark, lead into the rest of the bus. Doc opened it and stepped through, with the others following him.

When we use the phrase “jaw dropping”, we do not mean that jaws actually hit the floor, but the jaws of Grace, Lucy & Sasha certainly tried. In addition, all of their eyes opened wider than any previous time in their lives.

The bus was bigger…WAY bigger…on the inside.

Chapter 1, Part 2: The Bus

Grace is boggled
Doc gives a tour

The Cheshire Cat would have been impressed by the smile on Doc’s face as he watched his wife of 37 years try to form words to express her surprise. It was a pretty rare thing for Grace to be without something to say about something he had done. He rather enjoyed it.

The room they were standing in was at least 90 feet on a side. The walls were lined with book cases and flat panel television screens and shelves. Two hallways lead off to the left and right. There was an elevator in the rear that lead up to a mezzanine level. Grace was pretty sure the elevator was an exact copy of the one in the Bradbury Building in Los Angeles. She had to remind herself to breath.

(Narrator: The elevator in question and the interior of the Bradbury Building have been used in about a zillion movies and television shows. You’ve all seen it. Google it if you don’t believe me.)

On one side of the elevator there was an adult sized spiral playground slide, on the other, a gleaming brass firehouse pole. The room was furnished with about a dozen sofas, at least that many recliners and plenty of coffee & end tables. There were two door on the rear wall. One was labeled “Chocolate Closet” and the other “SmartBot Central”. The room had a hardwood floor. It smelled lightly of gardenias and pizza.

In Canine, Lucy could only say “Hommina hommina hommina!”

Sasha could only say “WOW!

Doc put his arm around Grace’s waist and chuckled.

“This is the living room. Up there are the 12 bedrooms, each with it’s own bathroom. You like?”

“Holy shit!”, was all that she could say. Then, she said it three more times, once each in Spanish, German and Mandarin.

(Narrator: Between them, Grace & Doc know about two dozen languages.)

Shaking off her stunned state, Lucy looked around, nearly as amazed as Mom was. As boggled as she was by what she saw, she was even more boggled by the things she smelled. More than a few of them were totally unknown to her.

“Curl my tail and call me Porky, this is a totally strange deal right here.” The hound dog had to sit down to try and take this all in. Her younger sister, however, was running forward to leap onto a sofa.

“Oh heck yes!”, Sasha barked as she landed on the very soft and comfy sofa. “Miles and miles of wonderful well padded furniture for us to sleep on!” She flopped over on her back and began wriggling in joy. Doc walked over and rubbed her tummy.

“Well, it looks like Sasha approves of things. Now come on, My Sweet Little Dumbstruck Cherub Of Cuteness, and let me show you all of the other rooms.”

Grace blinked at him. “There are more rooms? How is all of this even possible?”

(Narrator: Yes, I was waiting for somebody to ask that, too.)

As he took her hand, Doc shrugged and said “Far as I can tell, it’s some goofy quantum physics shit. Made my eyes cross to listen to the Brit with the long assed scarf describe it, even when the one with the fez tried to simplify things. I figure, if it works, it works.”

(Narrator: Doc tends to take a pretty casual view of practical science.)

When they started down the aptly named Left Hallway…

(Narrator: Which was only on their left once they were facing the front of the bus. Port/Starboard for you old salts.)

…they saw that it stretched at least 100 feet and had five doors on each side and one at the end. To make a long story short, they saw…

The Kitchen/Dining Room, both halves of which were five star restaurant quality.

The Pantry, that under other circumstances would have been called a small supermarket.

The Movie Room, which could seat up to 100 people in comfy recliners, each of which had a built in drink dispenser on the right and a snack dispenser on the left.

The Slide Room, where there were long connected slides on the floor, ceiling and all four walls. Doc showed them how it worked and soon he and Sasha were sliding around at high speed in gravity defying directions.

(Narrator: At this point, both Grace and Lucy had to have a sit down for a few minutes.)

The Wardrobe Room, which was larger than their farmhouse and had a dizzying array of clothing, from shoes to hats.

The Greenhouse, a huge structure that was lit by the light of two suns.

(Narrator: At this point, both Grace and Doc had to have a sit down for a few minutes.)

The Library, possibly the largest room on the bus. Four stories high and it went on until it was lost in the distance.

(Narrator: Grace, an avid reader since age 4, squeed at the sight of this. Doc immediately gained 1.5 million Husband Points)

The Pool, Olympic sized and heated.

The Gym, which had exercise equipment for both humans and dogs.

The Game Room, which had thousands of games of all sorts, from tabletop RPGs to video and computer games. There was also a pool table and a few pinball machines.

The Meadow Room, wherein there was in fact a five acre meadow with stout fencing, clover, flowers, shrubs, a few shade trees and assorted small wildlife.

(Narrator: Everybody had to have a sit down in this room.)

After settling their nerves in the Meadow Room, they checked out the Right Hallway, which had fewer rooms.

The Warehouse, while not as large as the Library, was still humongous and full of all sizes of crates. Doc wondered aloud if the Ark of the Covenant might not be in here somewhere. For whatever reason, Grace did not find that amusing.

The Room of Relaxation, which only allowed one person through the door at a time and presented a different room to each one.

The Museum, containing various items from the lives of Doc & Grace, including holograms made from family photos. Several items in the room were things Doc & Grace has thought lost or destroyed, such as their highly customized 1970 Corvette convertible.

And finally, The Shoe Room. As they stopped at the slightly open door to this room, all Grace had to say was “What the hell?”

Doc opened the door and there was, as advertised, a 40 X 40 foot room filled with large piles of shoes of all types. New shoes, old shoes, men’s, women’s & children’s shoes. Some of the piles were six or seven feet tall.

“Well, there’s something you don’t see every day. Look at all those shoes.”

(Narrator: Among other things, Doc is known for his use of understatement just when you expect his hyperbole.)

Grace was about to point out that a room full of shoes was pretty underwhelming in this place, but was interrupted by Winker popping out from beneath the nearest pile of shoes and shouting “Oh man, do I ever LOVE this bus!”

In English. That all of them heard. Through a small round device on her collar.

Chapter 1, Part 3: The Bus

Winker speaks
Drinks are poured

Stunned only for a moment, because she was a former spy, Grace whirled around and grabbed Doc by the shirt, jerking him close and saying in a low voice, “You will explain this right now or it will be Karachi all over again.”

Wide eyed, Doc quietly said, “The bus makes dogs and other critters smart and she’s wearing a Multiversal Translator. Her thoughts, if she chooses, are translated into English or whatever language is needed. We hear her voice in our heads.”

“That’s right, Mom, I’m smart now,” Winker said. Her voice sounded like Sigourney Weaver. “Well, I was always smart for a dog, but now, I’m smart for a human.”

Sasha looked at Lucy and said, in Canine, “This is the coolest thing EVER! We’ll be able to TALK!”

Lucy nodded. “I may never leave this bus.”

Grace let go of Doc and started back toward the living room. Everyone else followed her. She sat down on a sofa and Winker jumped up next to her.

“I know this is a shock, Mom, but before this goes any further, let me finally say to you in a way you will understand that I love you, mom. You have been a great mother since you started bottle feeding me at two weeks old. Heck, you’re the only real mother I remember.”

Grace blinked a couple of times, then burst into tears and hugged Winker tightly. This went on for a couple of minutes.

(Narrator: Despite them both being worldly and all, Grace and Doc are also big old sentimental softies.)

Doc walked over to a bookcase, pressed inwardly on a copy of “How To Train Your Bartender” and then stepped behind the full service bar that extended out from the wall as the wall itself slid up into…somewhere.

Quick as a wink, he had mixed up or poured five drinks and carried them over to the assembled females.

“Sweetheart, a whiskey sour for you. Winker, a beef broth martini, shaken, not stirred, with two olives. Lucy, spring water with a dash of pureed liver and a twist of jerky. Sasha, goat milk and peanut butter in a highball glass. For me, a glass of 12 year old private reserve scotch. And now a toast. To humans, dogs, love and the Magic Bus!”

They all toasted, then took a good long drink

“So,” Winker asked after they finished their drinks, “where are we going to go first?”