With the family safely ensconced in their new, ultra-secluded home (the address of which was made known only to the schoolbus driver, the grocery delivery guy, the mailman, the paperboy, the gardener, a few chaffeurs and a dozen assorted family friends), Mia Shanley could get back to doing what she did best: foiling the plots of SimNationâ€™s most detestable villains.
Upon realizing that she wasnâ€™t getting any younger, and that there would always be bad guys around, Mia decided to take on a sidekick to whom she could pass on her super-secrets. She put the following ad in the Sunday paper:
â€œGrammanator seeks capable and fearless cohort to assist in the fighting of crime. Apply at my super-secret hideout â€“ IF you can find itâ€¦â€
Within days, Mia had found a suitable sidekick: a young man by the name of Amadeo. Besides being frightfully handsome, Amadeo was fit as a fiddle, well-versed in the ways of villains (â€œIâ€™ve read all of Marcel Shanleyâ€™s crime novels,â€ he said with pride), and properly worshipful.
â€œYouâ€™re an angel in bulletproof, waterproof, flameproof armor! You should be calledâ€¦â€˜The Captivatorâ€™!â€
Mia was amused by Amadeoâ€™s adulation but didnâ€™t let it go to her head.
â€œDonâ€™t worry, youâ€™re hired!â€ she told the youth. â€œNow if youâ€™ll excuse me, I have a birthday party to attend.â€
Her baby granddaughter Ginger was about to become a toddler, and she didnâ€™t want to miss it. In fact, it was tradition for her to help the baby blow out the candles on the cake. Amadeo followed along like a puppy and observed the happy family ritual.
The next day, while Professor Day was teaching his smart-milk-enhanced daughter how to talk, Sierra came home in tears. Juan was nearby surfing the internet, but he paid no attention.
â€œWell, what on earth is the matter?â€ Thomas asked.
Sierra attempted to dry her eyes with her armbands but only succeeded in smudging her mascara.
â€œIâ€™ve been fired!â€ she cried. â€œThe Goobi Goombas wanted me to raise their village elder from the dead, but all I had was this funny sort of telephone I ordered late one night after watching an informercial. I didnâ€™t know if it would work â€“ I never had the chance to try it. But they insisted! So I summoned up the Grim Reaper, and what do you know? He asked me for money! I should have known it would be some scam. Well, the Goombas could only scrape together a few coins, so thatâ€™s what I offered the Reaper. He took it, laughing all the while, and then POOF! The village elder appeared, onlyâ€¦â€
Sierra paused and shuddered. Thomas looked anxiously between her and Ginger, hoping the child wasnâ€™t going to be scarred for life by this little story.
â€œOnly what?â€ he pressed.
â€œHe came back as a ZOMBIE!â€ At this, Sierra began sobbing again. â€œThey fired me on the spot!â€
â€œNow Iâ€™ll never be a Cult Leader!â€
â€œGinger,â€ Thomas said to his daughter, â€œletâ€™s go play with your rabbit.â€
The orange-haired toddler complied and crawled off to the new nursery wing, sparing a glance at the crying lady in the beads and body paint. Thomas got her settled with the rabbit, pulling the bunnyâ€™s ear a few times to make Ginger laugh, then rushed off to comfort Sierra.
Ginger played away, oblivious to the strangeness of the family into which she had been born.
â€œTell me about the rabbits, George! Waitâ€¦Iâ€™m having a dÃ©jÃ vuâ€¦â€
Later that evening, everything went back to normal â€“ well, relatively normal. Sierra washed off the body paint and smeary mascara, put on her pajamas, and spent some time entertaining her little daughter.
â€œWhoa! A little scary there, Momâ€¦â€
Delaney was having better luck than Sierra career-wise and returned home from work one night smiling contentedly â€“ she had been promoted to Visionary, the very top of the artistic heap.
â€œI work 15 hours a week, make lots of moolah, ride in a limo, and sit around being artsy-fartsy all day. YES!â€
On this particular day, Delaney was met by her daughter Ruby, who had jubilantly raced out to greet her.
â€œGuess what!â€ she exclaimed. â€œDad sold his first book!â€
Delaney looked befuddled. â€œHe wrote a book?â€
â€œYep! A book about pranks! Itâ€™s called â€˜Shan-anigansâ€™.â€
â€œWhat??â€ Delaney blinked, then let out an exasperated sigh and marched off toward the house.
It was true. At dinner that night, Juan told everyone else the news.
â€œI thought to myself, â€˜what does the world need right now? What is everyone longing for?â€™ And then it came to me in a blinding flash of light â€“ they want UTTER HUMILIATION!â€
Mia ignored him and concentrated on her meal, but Sierra and Thomas stared at him incredulously.
â€œYou expect to sell that trash?â€ Sierra asked.
â€œSell it?â€ Juan laughed. â€œI expect people to live it! My publisher thinks itâ€™ll be a phenomenon. And they gave me a huge advance. Donâ€™t tell Marcel, but I think itâ€™s more than he ever got for those pulp novels of his.â€
Juan tore into his hamburger, completely oblivious to the ferocity of Sierraâ€™s glare.
â€œAnyway,â€ he continued with his mouth full of food, â€œI was thinking of having a pool party tomorrow night. To celebrate my grand entry into the world of literature.â€
Across the table, the professor nearly choked on his burger.
(continued on Page 2)