Every April Fools' Day, the tricksters of legend meet at Bulfinche's Pub to see who has pulled the best prank. No prank is too big or small, and no target is safe. This year they receive word from the future that the US military is about to nuke Faerie. They try to get help but no one believes them, thinking it is part of a prank. Now it's up to a handful of trickers and a bartender to save the world.
Happy Fools' Day.
The patrons of Bulfinche's Pub speak out on Fools' Day:
"The Greatest Book Of This Or Any Other Millennium." -MURPHY'S MOM
"I Laughed, I Cried, I Felt Human Again. Not that that's a compliment by any stretch of the imagination." -COYOTE, Native American Trickster god
"More Fun Than A Barrel Of Humans. Even one going over Niagara Falls." -SUN WUKONG, The Monkey King
"A Truly Amazing Book. This is the novel that all literature has been working toward for centuries. Kinda makes you want to cry when you think about it." -HEX, cursed magi
"Slick... Entertaining."– Paul Di Filippo, Asimov's
"Humor, outrageous adventures, and some clever plot twists."– Don D'Ammassa, Science Fiction Chronicle
"Join Hex, Paddy, and the gang in their race to undo the future in Patrick Thomas' Fools' Day, part if his comic Murphy's Lore series."– Publisher's Weekly
The gathering loomed, stood on one foot leaning against the wall and tried to look cool. "They" were on their way, leaving behind hearth, home and the kitchen sink. They traveled from the four corners of the Universe, where most of them had at some point been forced to sit in punishment, wear a cosmic dunce cap and then go to bed without any desert.
Every year the Tricksters gather. The last year had passed like gas, but quickly excused itself. If I had my way, we would have shut off the lights and pretended nobody was home. Sadly, this wouldn't work, as they would have stood outside on the front steps and insisted on constantly ringing the bell. Or worse, walked around the place and started looking in the windows.
It's been said that the whole of the journey is not merely the destination but also the road taken. With these guys, the road would be taken, literally, then hidden, sold to the highest bidder, never to be seen by its friends or family ever again.
-John Murphy, Bartender at Bulfinche's Pub
The little hand on the clock was on seven and the big hand had just passed the twelve. Both my hands were resting on the bar top. Except for Fred pacing in the corner, I was looking out over an empty pub. I had gotten up early for nothing. Nobody had shown yet. Somehow, even the ordinary people walking by on the Manhattan streets outside knew to avoid us today. Or it could be the fact that most people don't start drinking this early on a work morning.
If only they knew, the time of day wouldn't matter and I probably wouldn't be able to handle all the business.
I had always heard the saying that all the world loves a fool. If that were true, love should have been thick in the air, but instead all I smelt were Fred's hooves. That particular aroma was laced with the lingering stench of fear and paranoia.
Justified emotions, considering who was on their way here. Not exactly A-list people. I doubt most of them even made a Z-list. Some of them don't technically qualify as people, but each of them is an expert, a master of their craft. Individually, each could do more damage than a tornado. Together, the havoc they could wreak made brave men tremble and sane people leave town.
Sadly, I fall in neither the sane nor brave category. The only reason I was still around was I drew the short straw and got stuck working today. My name's Murphy and I tend bar here at Bulfinche's Pub, a little place at the end of the rainbow.
Three hundred and sixty four days out of the year I wouldn't trade my job for the pot of gold my boss used to buy the place. Today is April 1st , the one day I'd give up my post for a third class bus ticket to parts unknown. Except for Fred and me, the entire staff, even Hercules, demigod and bouncer, had fled Manhattan. Nobody was foolish enough to leave a forwarding address. Our regulars knew enough not to come within a mile of the place today. Many had gone into hiding.
Why should April Fools' Day strike such fear into mortal hearts? I can answer that in three words: The Trickster Guild. Every Fools' Day they gather together and for the last few decades Bulfinche's has hosted the event. Normally a party, even the wild ones we throw, wouldn't be cause for alarm.
Fools' Day is no mere party. Sure, the beer flows like wine, but drunkenness is a side affect, not the main event. The competition for the guild's highest honor is. Winner gets the title of the year's Lord High Trickster, better known as the High Yuk. Plus a year's supply of ear wax. It was a side effect from a prank years ago and they just keep passing it around.
The criteria is simple. The Trickster who pulls off the best prank between the first stroke of noon on March 31st and the last stroke of midnight on the 1st , New York time, wins.
Last year's winning scam, courtesy of Hermes, put NORAD on DEFCON 2, convinced that an invasion of alien spacecraft had already begun. Peacetime is DEFCON 5, war is DEFCON 1. Hermes tried to explain the details, but things like radar shadows escape me. On a more daily basis, Hermes seems to be constantly amused by stealing my wallet.
I hate mornings as a whole, but Paddy Moran, my boss, insisted I be up and around before the break of dawn to greet his brethren and serve them drinks and breakfast. As our cook, Demeter, had taken Shellie, Nellie and Brian–Paddy's adopted kids–and headed for the hills of Connecticut last night, the meal fare was a cold buffet of meats, fruits and baked goods.
Everything looked delicious, but I wasn't biting or otherwise ingesting anything I hadn't made myself. Just because the prize was for the greatest prank, doesn't mean little pranks like doctoring the food would be forgone. It was bad enough Hermes had replaced my shower soap with the kind that turns black when it makes contact with water. I won't even mention the Preparation H in my toothpaste tube. Did a heck of a job on my plaque build up though, and my gingivitis is almost gone.
Normally we run a breakfast program for the homeless and hungry, overseen by Father Mike Ryann and Rebecca, who is homeless herself. For their own safety, today it was moved up the street to Father Mike's parish, Our Lady Of The Lake.
The TV over the bar was tuned to an all-news channel. I figured maybe some of this year's pranks would be showing up. So far, nada. Then again, the NOARD incident was never made public, unless you count a distorted version put out by one supermarket tabloid.
There was nothing to do but wait and wonder.
The world was created in six days, each lasting from a few hours to a few trillion years. God looked out upon his handiwork and saw that it was good, mostly. Satisfied, he sat down to rest in the chair I prepared for him with the inflated ox's stomach. The sound that bellowed forth echoed across all creation. God blushed. That was the first thunder. And the first whoopie cushion.
-Coyote, Native American trickster god
Jeremy didn't know what to make of the Coyote in the bathroom. He was fairly sure that they didn't allow pets in the Capitol. Well, maybe seeing eye dogs, but the young boy didn't see any blind person with the canine. On top of that, the Coyote was acting unlike any other animal Jeremy had ever seen before. He was going up to each toilet in the bathroom, dropping a roll of toilet paper into it and going up on his front paws and flushing so the roll of toilet paper clogged the commode. But, it was when the Coyote looked up at him and spoke that Jeremy knew this was no ordinary dog.
"Excuse me," asked the Coyote, "Do you need to use the toilet?"
"Yes," said the eight-year-old Jeremy timidly.
Both his parents and his teachers had taught him not to talk to strangers, and while he didn't know the Coyote, something about the situation seemed to demand his reply.
"Well, then you had better go now, because this is the last working toilet in the building," said the Coyote.
"Why? Are all the toilets broken?" asked Jeremy.
"You might say that," said the Coyote with a most unusual expression for a canine. He was smiling.
"Why are they all broken?" asked Jeremy, as he went into the stall and took care of the business that he needed to. Normally, he couldn't go in front of anyone else, but the Coyote didn't seem to be like a real person.
"My fault," admitted the Coyote, introducing himself. "I've made sure none of the toilets in the building work. It's very important for the next stage of my plan."
"What plan?" asked Jeremy, as he zipped up and flushed.
"Well you see, a little boy, not much younger than yourself, recently said a prayer to me to help him. As I don't get many prayers anymore, I take the few I do get very seriously. It seems that today the House of Representatives is voting on a bill that, if passed, will kick him and his tribe off of their reservation. The same land the government forced them onto over 100 years ago, they now want to take back. When the government gave it to his people, they thought it was only desert, but ten months ago they found oil. So the government figures they can take back the land and move them to another desolate parcel. While the land the reservation is on may be barren and not exactly the prettiest piece of land in the world, for him it's home. He doesn't want to leave it. So in desperation, he said a prayer to me. I plan to help him."
Jeremy was a bright boy and while he managed to get past the idea of a talking coyote, he couldn't see the logic in his actions.
"But what good is clogging toilets going to be in helping the boy keep his home?" asked Jeremy.
"It is not the clogging of the toilets in and of itself. That is part of the greater plan. You see, that particular bill is the next one up for vote. I've arranged a little spell which will have some unsettling consequences for anyone who decides to vote for it. A moment after anyone thinks to vote yes, their intestines will be thrown into an uproar and control of their bowels will no longer be their own."
"You mean they'll get diarrhea?" asked Jeremy.
The Coyote laughed. "Closer to dysentery. It will be so bad that, if they don't find a bathroom, they will cover themselves in their own feces. I've made sure that there is not a bathroom to be found."
"But won't their insides eventually run out of food to turn into poop?" asked Jeremy as he watched the Coyote put the roll of toilet paper into the last working toilet and push the plunger.
"Nope, part of the spell makes sure there is always something in the bowels for them to lose. Care to come with me to watch the festivities?" asked the Coyote.
"I don't know, I'm supposed to get back to my class. My teacher is waiting outside the door for me. She couldn't come in because this is the men's room," said Jeremy.
"You're here on a field trip to learn how government works, correct?" asked the Coyote.
"Well then, this is the perfect opportunity to see your government in action and to get an idea of how things really work. See, in order to get anything done you need to have something to hold over the heads of the people in charge of the law. Sometimes it is public opinion, sometimes it's a large donation. This time it will be something a little bit more personal."
Coyote convinced the boy to join him and together they snuck past his teacher and into the observation gallery overlooking the chamber of the House of Representatives.
"But how will they know to change their vote?" asked Jeremy, as five congressmen left the floor in a rush to find restrooms. These were the ones who actually bothered to think about the vote before it happened.
"Simple, I circulated a memo yesterday to all the members of Congress. Sadly, today that memo has disappeared from all their desks and they will never be able to find any proof that it existed. But, I made sure every one of them read it. Sooner or later they will catch on, and then this will no longer be a problem," said Coyote.
On the legislative floor below them the votes were beginning to be called for. The representatives who were pro-bill were, one by one, fleeing the legislative floor before they could cast a vote. Soon the Congressmen and women, who were leaving in search of a bathroom, became a stampede. They very soon learned there were no working toilets to be found.
"How come that one older congressman voted yes with no problem?" asked Jeremy.
The Coyote looked closely at the older man. "Ah. He's already wearing an adult diaper. He has this kind of problem on a regular basis. Should be fun to watch him sit down."
By now the hallowed halls of congress were stinking like a backed-up outhouse. Jeremy's teacher, who finally figured out he had left the bathroom, ran toward him. The woman was in obvious distress, not even noticing Coyote's presence.
"Jeremy, come quickly. We have to leave now. The other kids are already headed for the bus," she said frantically, grabbing his hand and pulling him toward the exit.
"Why?" asked Jeremy, cracking a smile and winking at Coyote.
"The reason's not important. Just move it."
"Wait, I forgot something," Jeremy said pulling his hand free and running back to Coyote. "Looks like it's working."
"Yep," said Coyote.
"Look, if I pray to you, could you help me out?" asked Jeremy.
"With what?" asked Coyote.
"A couple of bullies and getting out of a math test."
"Sure. I have to be in New York later today, but I can help you in a few days, if you like," said Coyote.
"Great! How do I call you?" asked Jeremy, as his teacher grabbed him again.
"Jeremy, leave that mutt alone," she ordered, covering Jeremy's eyes as the representative from their home district let loose all over himself. She let go with her other hand to pinch her nose closed in an effort to block out the stench.
"Just say my name three times," said Coyote.
"What?" said the teacher.
"It was the Coyote," said Jeremy.
"This is no time for joking. Follow me," she said. Jeremy stood back long enough to finish his conversation.
"Coyote?" Jeremy whispered.
"You got it."
"Thanks. Bye," said Jeremy succumbing to his teacher's superior force and being pulled away. The teacher again covered his eyes as she ran him past a gaggle of recently browned Congresspeople.
One woman was crying out, "Somebody help us. Call a doctor. Please!" It was the same congresswoman that the tribe had asked for help in the first place. Coyote gave her the same answer she gave them.
"Shit happens. Get used to it."