The joy thing is shaped like a fuzzy barrel: white, fluffy, and stout. A cowboy hat is canted on its head. A trenchcoat flutters about it. Its deelyboppers wobble.
“. . . it is an embarrassment to Washington,” seethes Cabinet Member Steve, “that such a thing should represent us. In the minds of the world, it is an American symbol, an American thing, because it chooses to fight for us. We are disgraced.”
“Perhaps,” says the President, folding his hands, “we can shoot it into the sun.”
“If we only could!” cries Cabinet Member Steve.
This is the hoary, dusty temple of the crocodile god. Susannah sprawls on its altar. Seventy worshippers in robes surround her, chanting profound and foul spells. The doors are great stone slabs, marred by weather. The walls are rimed with vines. The leader of the cultists lifts his knife and catches the light with it, his eyes growing sterner as he readies himself to bring it down.
The doors slam open wide. Beyond them is the evening sky, the forest ground, the fading sun. In them, wrapped in a numinous limning of gossamer light, the joy thing stands.
“It’s not nice to stab people without permission,” says the joy thing.
Its trenchcoat flutters in a strange and sudden wind.
The head cultist looks up. He snarls behind his hood. He says, “It is godly and sacred, however. If you happen to worship the crocodile god. Which I do.”
The joy thing unlimbers its hat. The head cultist’s hands clench around the knife. The joy thing hurls the hat. It spins through the air and raps the knife from the head cultist’s hand.
Then cries the joy thing, “Alasta pampilenen!”
The heat of joy and brightness fills the room, and the chaunts that were chaunted to the crocodile god are chaunted no more.
The Embassy for Things stands beside the Canadian Embassy. Reporters seethe outside its door. The necessity thing comes out.
“Ambassador,” cries one reporter, “do you have a statement on the joy thing affair?”
The necessity thing’s voice has the sound of scratching chalk. “We do not consider the allegations against the joy thing substantive, but we are cooperating fully with Washington’s investigation. We have taken America’s request for a withdrawal of the joy thing’s diplomatic immunity under consideration.”
The great Nazi airship drifts ponderously across the sky. Its sides are blazoned with the symbols of the Reich. Its belly is swollen great with bombs.
The pilots are kicked back in their seats. One is halfway through a joke. “The second says, ‘The queen, she is impenetrable!’ And the third shakes his head vigorously. ‘No, no! That’s not it! She is impregnable!'”
This is translated from the German for your benefit, as the pilots laugh.
There is a thump. The joy thing has fallen from a biplane onto the window in front of them. It is hanging on to its hat with one hand and to a hook imbedded firmly in the glass with another. It smiles to them.
“When people ask you to be a Nazi,” it says, “just say no!”
There is a long frozen moment. Then, suddenly, both pilots are on their feet.
“Emergency! Emergency!” they shout in translated German. “It’s the joy thing!”
Joy and brightness wash over them.
The explosion of the zeppelin can be seen for more than one hundred and fifty miles. The pilots and the passengers drift down on their parachutes like so much tiny soot.
“What will happen to it?” asks the necessity thing.
Agent Pullet shrugs. “Its adventuring will be . . . curtailed.”
One thuggee is strangling Mr. Jenkins. The other is strangling his omelette. Thuggees like strangling things.
“Please,” whispers Mr. Jenkins. “Please, I have a family.”
“Ha ha,” laughs the thuggee. “We will send them your head!”
“And these hashed browns,” says the other thuggee. “I don’t like Denny’s hashed browns at all.”
“Please,” says Mr. Jenkins. Then his eyes close and he sags back.
A waitress approaches. She is carrying a silver tray. On the tray is the joy thing.
“Kali save us!” cry the thuggees, strangling cords falling from their hands.
“You shouldn’t play with your food,” declares the joy thing. “Alasta pampilenen!”
The food at that Denny’s is surprisingly good, even today.
“I don’t understand,” says the joy thing.
“You are requested,” the lawyer thing says, “to appear before the secret tribunal in seven days. If you don’t, you will be hunted down, locked in a box, and thrown in a volcano, in accordance with the terms of the Compassion and Conscience Legislation.”
“Helltrousers,” the joy thing slowly blasphemes.
The kitten is drowning. It is sinking beneath the quicksand and drowning.
“Take my hand!” shouts Angus. But the kitten can’t hear him, doesn’t understand, or possibly just doesn’t have the strength.
Angus lets out a little more line. He inches closer to the kitten. His line snaps. Angus and the kitten go down.
There is a silence.
Then they are rising, the three of them, Angus, kitten, and joy thing alike, rising through the quicksand and muck. The joy thing has puffed into a giant fuzzy ball, increasing its buoyancy. They cling to its fur.
“Sure is a good thing you were swimming around in that quicksand,” Angus says. “This kitten and I might have been goners!”
“Don’t play in quicksand,” the joy thing says.
Then it turns. It walks away.
“Hey!” says Angus. “Hey! Are you okay? You didn’t do that, um, that alasta thing.”
The joy thing is gone.
“I have done only good,” says the joy thing. “I have sought only justice. It is not my fault that my public image is not suitable for your cause.”
“In these days,” says Agent Pullet, gently and heavily, “a thing is not a thing, but what others see in it. You will be fired from a cannon into the heart of the sun, in accordance with provision 81 of the CCL.”
“Fudgeweasels,” swears the joy thing, unable to find the words to convey the immensity of its feelings, scatology and blasphemy alike deserting it in this moment of its greatest need.
They load the joy thing into the cannon.
They swivel the cannon to face the sun.
“The sun isn’t a toy,” says the joy thing. “Don’t shoot things into it!”
The cannon fires, and that is the end.
Sometimes, when the sun is shining, remember the joy thing. It is still up there. Its deelyboppers are aflame. Its fur is burning. It is not alive and so it cannot die, and it loves you.
It would wish you well.