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Operation Arrow
Part 3 - Monkey Shines
by Amy Kenneley

Mandy pulled off her gorilla head and shook her damp hair, breathing deeply of the fresh air. She wiped her perspiring face with the hairy arm, further smearing her makeup into raccoon circles of mascara around her eyes."I think I know how this mix-up happened-- I don't think this man is the one someone reported, the uh..."

"Creep" her father volunteered. Burt glared at Al.

The security guard touched his cap brim, shrugged his shoulders, and walked slowly away.

Mandy turned to Matt. "I'm Miranda Shuttleworth. I'm sorry to have missed you this morning, but I had to fill in for the children's tour. I apologize for the mix-up." She held out her furry paw, and Matt, without thinking, shook it.

"Snappy dresser, your daughter," Burt side-mouthed to Al.

"At least she's working instead of playing Tarzan in the trees," Al threw back at him.

"Seems to me she's the one dressed for that part," Violet said in a waspish tone.

"At least she's dressed!" Joan snapped, looking pointedly at Matt's gaping seat.

The Shuttleworths and the Hubbells glared at one another.

"The deal's off," Al growled.

"You better believe it is...thank God we found out before it was too late!" Burt responded.

"And to think that we fell for this door-to-door salesman peddling his son!" Joan said to Al.

"I knew anyone who had to advertise for a son-in-law must be desperate!" Burt responded.

The Real Deal

"Hey, wait a minute!" "Hold on right there!" Both Mandy and Matt spoke together.

"Just what kind of ad are you talking about?" Mandy frowned at her parents.

"Oh, a little idea we had to get you a boyfriend, Mandy-but believe me," Al went on hurriedly.

"That was a mistake, so pay no attention to all this" He waved his arm at everyone. Mandy was almost speechless. "You put an ad in the paper for ME?"

"No, no, not for you, for parents who wanted their son to get a girl"

Now it was Matt's turn to glare at his parents. "You went girl-hunting for me?"

"Oh, it was just a little ploy, dear," Violet consoled him. "We just thought we'd give it a try. Oh, it was such a lovely picture, the one we took when we vacationed last year in Cancun, you remember?" Violet cooed brightly at him.

Mandy glared at her own parents again. "I can't believe you'd peddle me in the paper like...a used sofa or a ...second hand car!"

"Oh, you were on the internet, too" Joan assured her.

Now it was Matt's turn to scold. He pointed to his parents and then Mandy. "Don't you think I can find my own girls without trying to fix me up with...Gorilla Girl here?" With that, he began to laugh looking at Mandy with her smeared makeup and limp hair.

Mandy began to back away from all of them, clutching her gorilla head. "Oh, I'm furious with all of you! I certainly don't need to be spoon-fed my boyfriends by anyone. If I wanted a date, it certainly wouldn't be with someone who hangs around in a tree like a...a..."

"Like an ape?" Matt finished, his eyes twinkling.

Mandy continued to back away from them, sputtering. Matt looked beyond her and shouted "Hey, stop!"

"No stopping until I'm away from all of you! I'm a free and independent woman and-" She abruptly disappeared as she fell backward into the repair trench.

They all ran towards the ditch where Mandy had fallen, but Matt sprinted ahead of them all and jumped down into the mud.

Mandy lay sprawled on her back in the trench, her eyes closed. Matt knelt beside her, lifting her shoulders and head carefully into his arms.

"Is she all right?" Joan asked. The Hubbells and Shuttleworths had forgotten their animosities and looked down apprehensively from the edge.

"I think so-just got the wind knocked out of her," Matt reassured them. He turned back to her. Mandy's eyelids began to flutter and she opened her mouth in a deep sigh.

"Are you all right?" Matt asked her.

Then she moaned, "Oh, leave me alone," and turned to bury her head deeper into the costume.

Matt gave the parents a reassuring nod that he would take charge and suggested, "Why don't we meet you in the cafeteria later?"

"I'll take your sketch pad for you, dear" Violet offered, and the four faces looked back one more time before they disappeared.

Al and Burt and Vi and Joan looked sheepishly at one another as they walked side by side up the path. Violet broke the silence with a giggle. "Maybe...." she began.

"-it's working after all!" Joan finished for her, and the women laughed together.

"It isn't the way we planned..." Al mused to Burt.

"No, it's even better!" Burt snorted, and they all went arm and arm and arm and arm to the cafeteria.

The Arrow Finds Its Mark

Matt turned back to Mandy as they left. "Do you think you can get up now?"

He carefully raised her to a sitting position, keeping his arms snugly around her at the same time.

Mandy gave him a wry grin. "I'm fine-only my pride has been damaged, I guess." Matt rose and pulled at her hands. "Upsy-Daisy! he grunted, then "Boy! you weigh a ton!"

"Do not!" Mandy protested. "It's this darn suit" She groaned as she surveyed the ruined costume. "Oh, what a mess!"

Matt crawled over to the far corner of the ditch to retrieve the gorilla head in the mud, and Mandy began to chuckle, then laugh wildly.

"What's so funny?" he asked, but Mandy could only shake her head as tears ran down her eyes.

He put his hands on her shoulders as she rocked with laughter. "Look, I know this has all been a really stupid day, but my folks are really nice when you get to know them. I bet yours are too. Believe me, this has been as embarrassing for me as it has been for you, but-" Mandy continued to laugh as he progressed through his little speech. "What the heck is so funny?" he demanded then.

"Your...your underwear!" she gasped out finally. "Really! Little red sailboats?" and she howled again.

Matt grinned good-naturedly as the "butt" of the joke, and Mandy finally composed herself.

" Well, maybe my dad was right then," Matt gave her a crooked grin, his eyes smiling down at her. "How so?"

"Maybe it does pay to advertise," He chuckled at his own joke." How would you like to go sailing tomorrow?" he asked abruptly.

"Me?"

"Of course! Our folks went to so much trouble to get us to meet, it would be a shame to let such an unusual introduction go to waste."

Mandy gave a delighted smile. "Okay, sounds like fun, but only on one condition" she raised a mocking warning finger. "Work me into one of your sketches so I can be immortalized"

"No problem' he assured her as he jumped up to the edge of the trench and reached down to give her his hand. "Only I have a condition, too."

"What's that?" she asked as she rose upwards at his pull and stepped on the grass and then was caught by Matt. "You've got to wear the suit!" He grinned a wicked grin.

She threw her head back and gave a low laugh. Together they walked up the path, Matt's hand slipping tentatively around Mandy's furry paw and giving it a warm squeeze.

The first maneuvers of Operation Arrow were over.


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