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Operation Arrow
Part 2 - Maneuvers
by Amy Kenneley

Mandy double-checked her agenda for the day. The morning sun was flooding though the office window, turning her tawny hair into a golden halo, but she felt less than angelic. Sue, her PR secretary had just informed her that Bill, the scheduled walk-around for the theme park, had called in sick.

"Oh, great! 200 kids touring in an hour and they always look forward to having Grr-Illa take them around. Sue, are you---"

"Oh no! Not me! You know I get claustrophobic in that monkey get-up"

"Gorilla"

"Whatever. I hope my job doesn't depend on turning you down," Sue blithely mentioned, although she knew she was Mandy's right-hand assistant and had never feared being down-sized.

Mandy gave her a long look, then eyed the gorilla costume hanging in the props closet across from her desk.

Too late to find a sub. "Guess it's me, then." Mandy climbed bravely into the heavy, black-haired gorilla suit. She began to tick off reminders to Sue who, Mandy remembered, was going to be sitting in air-conditioned comfort, while in a few minutes her boss was not.

"There's some guy coming around today to do sketches of the park for the boss. First I heard of it was this morning-must be some brainstorm he came up with overnight. Guy's name is..Marty, no Matthew Hummell, no Hubbell, I think. Just tell him to roam around where he wants to, I haven't time for him."

"Sure thing. By the way, the repair trench for the underground pipes is still open by the Safari Compound, so Operations says to keep the kiddies clear of it."

"Okay, after the Sand Pit I'll detour them past the Safari Compound and move instead to the Water Works"

Mandy nodded by the doorway, the gorilla head under her arm.

"Mmm, tres chic" Sue quipped.

"I'm roasting already. Oh well, part of the job" Mandy said as she clumped out the door on furry feet.

The Sketch Artist

Matt Hubbell knelt on the central commons grass and concentrated on the cartoon bird's-eye sketch of the park layout. He was grateful for his dad's friendship with a park trustee, who had been gently pressured into recommending a set of sketches to be incorporated into a calendar.

A few days here and he would have a nice fee, maybe put it towards a sailing trip up to Nova Scotia to do some seascapes; maybe even get in some fishing. He riffled through the rough charcoal sketches critically. The buildings were accurate, but ordinary.

Something was missing. A large group of school children passed him, and began to run towards the nearby sand sculpture activity area. As the children began to pour buckets of water into the sand and create a variety of sculptures, Matt realized that the reactions of people to the park was what was needed to give each scene life.

Humming to himself, he decided to shadow the children from place to place, remaining as unobtrusive as possible. Catching those unposed expressions of the kids would make the scenes come alive.

One thing he would not include in his sketches, he decided, was the tacky phony gorilla ambling along with the teachers and chaperones, skipping and hopping between them and the children.

Grr-Illa had adjusted his/her stride to the children's steps, and inside the hot suit, Mandy was certain she had perfected a passable imitation of the shuffling gait of the primate. She waved at the children with her furry hand, fending off the sticky-fingered students who tried to poke her mask.

The Safari Compound was ahead, and Matt took a shortcut to position himself so he could see the students as they arrived. He climbed the large tree at the entrance. Hidden in the leafy branches, he began to sketch the background from this new perspective, but the students failed to arrive. Matt, having made the effort to situate himself, decided he would perch there for a while and continue drawing.

Below him, a couple trudged down the path and paused beneath the large tree.

"Boy, I'm bushed" Al Shuttleworth wiped his forehead and took a deep breath.

"We've seen everything from north to south and east to west, but still no sign of Mandy-and where is that Matt, did he get here or not?"

Joan pulled a hanky from her straw purse and fanned her face.

"We agreed to keep hands off this meeting, remember? We were going to let things take their own course-and now you're hedging, Al."

Al was about to respond, but as he looked past Joan he began to chuckle. "Heh, heh...here comes someone else who is hedging on that agreement, too" and he pointed with his finger to the approaching Hubbells.

Burt and Violet Hubbell greeted the Shuttleworths, their fellow conspirators. "Beautiful day, isn't it? Let's go to the park for an outing, Vi-- I says to her, didn't I?" Violet gave a sheepish grin and Burt looked innocently around, rocking back and forth on his feet.

"Perfect day for an outing, that's what we thought, too," Al said, a smile playing around his lips.

"Seen our Matt yet?" Burt asked Al.

"No, and we haven't seen Mandy, either."

Violet frowned. "I wonder if something has gone wrong? Didn't she get the message to escort Matt around?" As the two couples stood together, a security guard walked quickly towards them, stopped, and looked around.

"Excuse me, folks, but one of the teachers reported a suspicious person following a children's tour. Have you noticed anybody suspicious?"

Burt answered for all of them. "No, officer, but if we do, we'll certainly report the creep"

An object dropped down just then, falling at the feet of the guard. He bent down and picked up a charcoal sketching pencil. He looked up into the tree, then shouted, "Hey, you! I see you up there! Come down right now, you have some explaining to do!"

From his perch, Matt peered through the branches into five upturned faces staring at him. He descended abruptly, dropping the last few feet from the trunk.

"Hi, Mom, Dad," he said, brushing himself off. "What are you doing here?"

The officer turned to the Hubbells. "You know this guy?"

"Of course, he's our son" Burt replied. "But surely you don't think that HE is the..uh..."

"I think creep is the word you're looking for," Al supplied.

"Oh no, officer, we can certainly vouch for him" Burt continued.

The officer looked the Hubbells over-she in a violent purple sundress with a yellow plastic sun umbrella, he in a flowered pair of Bermuda shorts, plaid knee socks and black dress shoes.

The security guard made some notes on his pad. "And is there someone who will vouch for you two?" he asked dryly.

Al Shuttleworth backed up a step. "Don't look at me, we just came to watch"

"Yes," Joan went on brightly, "We were just going to have a peek!"

The guard peered at them, too, and noted "Watch" and "Peek" on his notepad.

Matt had begun pacing in agitation, and his mother gasped and whispered, "Oh dear, your jeans are ripped in the seat, honey." Matt looked behind, and quickly clasped his arms behind him, grinning foolishly.

"Indecent Exposure" the guard said, writing in his pad.

"Now wait a minute, sir," Matt protested, "I have a right to be here. I've been commissioned to do some sketches for the park."

"Could I see your visitor's pass, then?"

"Was I supposed to have a pass? Matt asked.

"Yes, if you're legit. Miss Shuttleworth has to issue you a pass" the guard persisted.

"Well, I never saw her," Matt shrugged his shoulders innocently.

"Oh, perfect!" Joan groaned, "We set this whole thing up and she misses him!"

"And we're practically arrested because she wasn't around," Violet turned to Joan in an aggrieved voice. "I thought we were getting a reliable girl for our boy?"

"Well, how's he going to woo her from up in a tree?" Joan retorted.

They stopped suddenly, both couples looking uneasily at one another. Matt frowned at the whole situation and asked, "What's this stuff about meeting and wooing...what's going on here?"

"That's what I'd like to know," the guard said. "There's some pret-ty funny stuff here with this "watching" and "peeking" and pants-tearing going on."

"And that's what I'd like to know, too" came a muffled voice from behind the group. They all turned to stare at Grr-Illa, whose mouth was not moving, but who had just spoken anyway.

"Is that YOU, Mandy?" Joan asked.

Next, Part 3: MONKEY SHINES


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