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Marnie Becomes Eclectic
by Andy Hollis and Jeffrey M. Mahr
©2000 Andy Hollis and Jeffrey M. Mahr -- all rights reserved

Marnie Collins stalked through the mall looking for something to cheer her up. She had just lost her job and she was spitting mad. Everyone knows "the customer is always right," but not when they expectorate on you. All over her best dress, too. She made a mental note to stop at the cleaners on the way home as she pushed her bifocals back up onto the bridge of her nose.

Usually she was a fairly relaxed and easy going gal, but right in the eye? Even then, Marnie had not hit the two hooligans, only grabbed them by their collars and tossed them out of the restaurant. They had acted outrageously and she had merely implemented store policy. How was she to know they were relatives of the owner. For that matter, why should it have made a difference?

A toddler stared at the young woman, while her mother was preoccupied with a window display. Marnie snarled at the little girl who's eyes went wide before she began crying and tugging on her mother's skirt. Feeling badly for the little girl and angry at herself for allowing her anger to get the best of her, Marnie bolted down the side corridor towards the food court only to stop dead in front of a wooden door.

Stepping back, she double-checked the signs to be sure she was in the proper hallway. She was, yet instead of a corridor leading to an assortment of fast food franchises there was a single store -- a store that seemed more appropriate on a side street, and a slightly seedy one at that. Looking up she read the name, "Spells 'R' Us."

"What the heck happened to the food court?" she muttered in confusion as she took yet another step back. As she usually did when she needed to think, Marnie opened her purse and took out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. She lit her smoke then backed up again, but this put her just far enough into the main corridor of the mall that she could see the child pointing in her direction.

Before the mother could look up and identify the person who had made her offspring cry, Marnie charged back down the side corridor and into the store to hide. Slamming the door behind her and leaning heavily against it, she took a needed drag on her cigarette.

"Please extinguish your cigarette Marnie. Smoking inside the store by customers is not permitted. It can damage some of the fragile goods we sell. You can place the butt in the gargoyle's mouth." Marnie followed the tall man's aged and wrinkled finger down to a rough hewn stone sculpture of a gargoyle, its toothy mouth gaping open.

With a shrug, she bent down and dropped the still smoldering butt toward the piece of stone and was surprised when the jaws snapped shut just inches from her fingers. She heard a loud gulp and then a thin, pointed, ruddy red tongue licked briefly at the closed lips before the mouth froze open again.

"What..? What was that?" Marnie took a sideways step away from the gargoyle.

"You like it? It's a gargoyle ashtray. Never needs to be emptied."

"What is this place?" Marnie readjusted her bifocals and rapidly examined the store. It wasn't dusty, but it seemed like it should be. There were racks and shelves strewn haphazardly about as if some crazed movers had brought them in and dropped them wherever it was convenient, then filled them to overflowing with the same abandon.

Marnie moved to the only clear space, by the counter the old man was standing behind.

Tell me how I can help you Marnie," he said with a slight smile on his face. "You can go to the food court later."

The old man shook a finger to silence her before she could ask how he knew her name and pointed to a sign on the wall at one edge of the counter that said, I'm a wizard. I know what you are thinking.

"Like I was saying Marnie, why don't you tell me how I can help you?"

Before reason reasserted itself, Marnie stepped up to the counter. "Wait a minute. If you know what I'm thinking, why do I have to tell you anything?"

With another sigh, the old man pointed to the sign again. This time, it said, "It is required for the magic to work?"


Another finger jerk toward the sign. This time it said, "Yes, magic. Now can we please get on with it?"

"Will it tell me how much I owe too?" Marnie sneered, but then noticed the old man's scowl. If this guy was really a magician of some sort, she really didn't want to get him too angry at her. "Sorry, I'm not usually that rude. It's just been a rotten day."

"So tell me about it." The old man brushed a long scraggly wisp of hair behind his shoulder, rested his elbows on the counter top and his head on his upturned hands. An eyebrow arched up inquiringly.

"Well, let's see," Marnie began to count on her fingers. "I lost my job for following company policy and ejecting two trouble makers who just happened to be related to the owner."

A second finger came up. "My ex-boss won't give me my last paycheck, even though it's illegal to do that, as an additional punishment for 'picking on his relatives.'"

A third finger popped up. "The rent is due tomorrow so I can expect to be homeless shortly. Do you want me to keep going?"

"No. I concede that's an impressive bad luck story. So now, tell me what you want."

Marne barely stopped to think about her answer. Something about this old geezer made her want to trust him, to believe that he could really solve her problems. "Then I'll skip the whole discussion of how poorly my attempts at an acting career have been going. I want what everyone wants. I want to be cherished and loved. I want to be pampered and cared for. I want to be on stage and in movies. I want to be -- what was that recruiting poster line? Oh, yeah. I want to be all that I can be." As she spoke, Marnie slowly crumpled in on herself and at the end of her speech a little girl blinked past her tears at the old man pleadingly. As she watched, the old man's eyes began to fill also.

"Gottcha!" she jumped up grinning. "I certainly made you feel for me didn't I. See, I really am a good actress."

"You mean the tears? Yes, I felt for your predicament, but you weren't really acting were you?"

"Waddya mean? Of course I was acting. Only the name was the truth. I didn't lose any job, Daddy owns the whole chain. And Daddy is certainly not going to kick his only daughter out onto the street. This was just a role I've been playing. It's called character acting." As she spoke, her accent changed as did her appearance. The clothes were the same, but instead of a woebegone loser, there was now a supremely confident woman looking down her nose at the doddering old fool before her.

"Well, you've come to the right place Marnie and this one is a freebie." With that the old man plucked a small velvet blue sack from behind the counter, withdrew a pinch of a glowing orange powder and blew it in Marnie's face. "Next time -- if there is a next time, Marnie -- try to remember that honesty is a very good policy -- especially with wizards."

Marnie coughed once and disappeared with a faint pop of displaced air. With a grunt of annoyance the old man turned back to the small television set below the sign. "We'll chalk that one up to community good will," he muttered.

Marnie blinked, and shook herself a few times. She went so far as to pinch her right arm, but she was still sitting in her silver Jaguar convertible inside her own garage. But how did she get here so quickly? I must have been dreaming about the store and the old guy, she thought. Yet, there were traces of orange powder on her blouse that could only have been from whatever that old man had blown at her.

Making a mental note to call her lawyer first thing in the morning to sue the old man for all that he was worth -- and then some -- she crossed the living room and walked down the corridor to her private wing. She stormed into her office and checked the answering machine. A second later she hit the speed dial button and waited for her agent to answer the phone. "Why were there no messages for me when I got in?"

"Because, my girl, I had no news to give you. The producers are still deciding things, and right now your type isn't in."

"What do you mean my type?" she asked with sugar dripping from her voice.

"No one is using rich bitches this year, and you, Marnie have been typecast."

"That's the most outrageous thing you've ever said to me. I ought to have Daddy buy your agency and fire you." Marnie was serious now.

"Your father is too smart a man not to know what you are. But, my dear girl, you seem to have forgotten that I resigned as your agent months ago and I meant every word. Get the laser surgery to lose those glasses, and go to some cattle calls for commercials. You may get lucky."

"Commercials? I am a serious actress."

"But one who has no talent for acting. Good day, Marnie." The man hung up the phone.

Marnie screamed into the dead receiver and went to redial the number but screamed again when she saw long, black hairs growing from the back of her hand.

Dropping the phone, Marnie ran into the bathroom, took out her razor and got rid of the offending follicles. She took a deep breath and went in search of the yellow pages. She knew a dozen agencies that would be thrilled to represent her.

"Commercials -- for a star of my talent, indeed." She dialed a number and waited for the answer, then left her name and private number on the girl's answering machine.

Still fuming, Marnie stalked over to the bookcase and turned on the TV. The first thing she saw was an ad for a fast food chain. Father and son go to the counter, son wonders if he is too old for a happy meal. Son looks at little kid eating a cheeseburger then asks his dad for a Big Mac®.

Marnie snickered. Cute kid, but no talent at all. She was so far above commercials it...

"Shit," Marnie shouted as she looked down to see her chest begin to deflate. In seconds, her bust line was gone and she raised her blouse to see her bra hanging empty on her rapidly shrinking chest. Her clothes began falling off her now skinny frame. Half tripping on the skirt and pulling the blouse off over her head, Marnie ran for the bathroom and stared at a small boy in the mirror. The same kid that had been in the commercial.

Ripping off the last of her clothes, she sighed for a second to find out that the change had not affected her gender. Still a girl, but a she now looked like a very realistic tomboy. She laughed for a second with the thought that her Daddy had always wanted a little boy, and now he almost had one. But... how would she change back? TV commercials had never affected her like this before. She looked back in the mirror, but saw no further changes. This was crazy! She thought, and remembered the orange powder. That old man! Ooh, was he going to pay for this.

Marnie stormed back to her office, straight for the phone only to turn and spot a commercial staring the world's most famous bear.

"Only you can prevent forest fires," the voice over said.

With a strangled grunt, Marnie dropped to all fours as her body gained hundreds of pounds of fat and muscle in moments. Black to brown fur covered the bear from the shoulder to her toes, only her head remained unchanged.

Three frogs sat on a lily pad croaking out "Budweiser" on the air. The tomboy bear shot her tongue out several feet from her jaws before snapping it back into her mouth. Marnie reared up on her hind legs, knocked the TV remote off her desk and dropped down to press the off switch. Not used to her new weight, the girl stepped on the remote and crunched into splinters.

"Today, at three, "Wild Discovery" takes you to the Pacific Northwest to examine the life cycle of those incredible salmon, and stay tuned for "Fangs!" Today's episode studies the mountain rattlesnake..."

Marnie tried to walk to the TV but her back legs felt funny as they fused into a salmon's tail. Two inch fangs grew from her upper jaw and dripped on the carpet. Sensing fish, the bear tried to chase her own tail for a quick meal until at last, the girl fell to sleep, exhausted by the changes.

The girl shrank considerably as the image of a scorpion turned her forelimbs into segmented claws. While a tarantula crawled over a tree limb, she grew four extra limbs, two per side. Next her tail lengthened to match the great white's on the screen.

Waking, Marnie scuttled over to the TV to jab the power switch with a claw. The last thing she saw was the face of a leopard hiding in the bushes. Her own face quickly grew in fur then pushed out into a cat's muzzle. Her hair remained the same shaggy cut worn by the boy while her ears stayed human. She turned again at the sound of the door opening behind her.

"Marnie?" Mr. Collins asked, then backed out of the room. "What in the name of God is that?" He peeked in the door as the creature began mewling almost as if it was trying to talk. Collins kept his eyes on the animal as he pulled out his cell phone and dialed for help.

"I don't know what the damned thing is," he yelled into the receiver. "Something Marnie brought home as a pet, but my daughter isn't here now and this -- this creature -- is. It looks like a cross between a big cat, a bear and a shark – I kid you not. Once we get this thing in a cage and on display we'll make a fortune."

Marnie finally relaxed at her father's words, emitting a quiet growling purr. She was going to be in show business -- at last.

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