Note to Reader: You will notice on the words that begin with the letters 'th' I have underlined these first two letters. This is your cue to pronounce the words a little differently for the purposes of the passage. For instance, 'thermometer' will be pronounced with a regular t sound as 'ta-thermometer' and 'thirsty' as 'ta-thirsty'. If I didn't underline the first two letters of these words beginning with 'th' as a cue throughout the passage it's only natural to read them as we always do. I believe by pronouncing the t sound in all the underlined words the passage will flow better, sound more t-ish (if that's an adjective!), and be funnier. For the most part when a 'th' word I already underlined the first time around was used again, especially common ones like the, though, then etc., I didn't bother underlining them and left them to be pronounced regularly with the 'th' sound. So enjoy!

CAN TONY SAVE THE WORLD?

INTRO

Here is a saga so touching you will be teary-eyed, so terrifying you will be trembling, and so trenchant you will have trouble tearing yourself away!

MEET TONY & TANYA

My name is Tony Tattaglia and I grew up in Taunton, MA with my tomboy friend Tanya Tatum from the next town over. We met because her tabby cat turned on my tomcat and when they'd take off together, we two toddlers were left alone. We became a tightknit twosome and would go outside and play tag or tetherball, jump on the trampoline, or even go tobogganing. We graduated from tricycles to bikes with training wheels to a tandem bicycle. We even shared toys like our spinning tops and tennis rackets.

We'd have a ton of fun trick-or-treating. Typically, I'd be a toreador or torero and pretend to tame a taurine beast (actually my terrier Toto) while she'd be a trapeze artist and twirl about or a tightrope walker and pretend to brave the high tension wire on her tiptoes in tights. With our booty of Twizzlers, Tootsie rolls, Turkish Taffy, and Heath toffee bars, it was a wonder we didn't get tummy aches or toothaches.

If we stayed indoors we might watch toons like Tom and Jerry, Tweety Bird, or the Tasmanian Devil or take care of our tropical fish, be they tetras or trunkfish. And since she was my truelove, I once traded my pet turtle, my turquoise taw (my top marble), and my tadpoles to Toby Tyler to get her this huge teddy bear he'd won at the Topsfield Fair.

Often we'd travel downtown to the tenpin bowling alley and then the five and ten for tutti-frutti ice cream and mint truffles. Sometimes we'd hear the school bell toll but run off and play truant and hide out beyond the tall trees and confide our secret thoughts. It's hard to put in simple terms but it was no tenuous relationship we tots shared. We trusted each other implicitly with a tacit understanding that neither would be a tattle-tale.

Tanya was also a topflight tutor who taught me the times table, a real toughie. It wasn't like we had a tiff but after we turned twelve we kinda lost touch and didn't keep tabs on each other as teenyboppers. So when the math advanced to trickier teasers like triangles, trapezoids, transversals, trigonometry, and abstruse theorems later on, I barely earned my high school tassel without her there teaching me. But you see as a tailback I tallied many touchdowns and at the triathlon won a few tournaments and since my high school traditionally had high fan turnout with thousands streaming through the turnstiles, I got noticed by talent scouts. It was Tulane that granted me full tuition despite my tepid transcript.

TONY'S CAREER PATH

For pocket money in my teenage and twentysomething years I went with a temp agency which tired of my high turnover rate and terminated me after six tries:

  • At the tannery my timecard showed too much tardiness but I was traumatized when one of the hides they told me to treat looked too much like Rin Tin Tin anyway.
  • When I kept complaining to the trashman of tendinitis around my triceps and tensors, he told me to buy a Total Gym and take a hike.
  • As a trainee for a contractor I couldn't handle a trowel or tenon saw and breathing turpentine and paint thinner made me trippy to boot.
  • As a toolmaker's apprentice I broke the tailstock and tappet arm on a treadle lathe and nearly tore off the tip of my thumb.
  • At the Herald Tribune my trial as a typesetter ended when the townsfolk complained that the typeface and print on the twentieth page was in Tibetan.
  • Lastly as a bank teller, I found it tiresome having to do everything in triplicate and besides, my till was always short of legal tender-maybe tens or twenties-not due to thievery but my troubles with math.

Having this type of track record and realizing I truly didn't have what it took to ace an NFL tryout like say Fran Tarkenton, Lawrence Taylor, or Andre Tippett, I vowed thenceforwards to try a different tack and become a top-secret agent/highly trained archaeologist.

THE STUDENT & HIS ESTEEMED MENTOR

At Tulane I met the tenured Professor of Archaeology Terry Thomas of Stoke-On-Trent, England. Sporting a habitually tousled toupee and donning his tawny tweed coat, bow tie, and trifocal tortoiseshell glasses, he'd summon me to teatime where he'd dispense truckloads of knowledge freely without tariff. He was the most trusted authority in the world not only on the traditions of ancient tribes but their trinkets be it a talisman, tiki doll, or terra cotta artifact. He authored textbooks considered to be touchstones in the field on ancient Troy and the Trojan horse, King Tut's tomb, and Toltec totem poles.

The testator of the Thomas family will, his uncle Terence, had bequeathed him the family trusts along with countless ancient texts, triptychs, and thingamabobs which we studied. I gained my technical know-how as we deciphered transcriptions and worked out translations.

I was thankful for his letter of recommendation to a Mr. George Tenet in D.C. for I was quickly tapped for a CIA job with topmost security clearance. After successfully tackling many tough assignments, I was considered tops in my field. But one day in Taunton when I was looking for an old Ted Williams Topps trading card in a trunk in the attic, I came across a mysterious old thingamajig that required Terry Thomas' tutelage.

FROM WHENCE DID IT COME?

This question was tantalizing me, going ting-a-ling inside my brain with such incessant tintinnabulation that I felt I was in the throes of torturous tinnitus. What totally forgotten turn of events had resulted in the turnup of this object, a stone key?

Mama Tattaglia noticed I was taciturn and not my talkative self and said, "Eat Tony Eat! You always thinka better on a fulla tank!" So I treated myself to a tureen of tortellini soup with her turkey tetrazzini and for a topper, tortoni and tiramisu for dessert. It was all tastier than the trattoria's fare, and now that I was feeling less tense, the answer hit me like a thunderbolt! It somehow came from Tanya Tatum! Gee thanks ma!

FIND TANYA TATUM

Although it had been practically a throwaway item forgotten in a trunk, it was as if the key was now trying to tell me something terribly important. My impulse was to track down Terry Thomas but I knew he'd ask where in tarnation it was discovered so I had to find Tanya Tatum first. I was tipped off that Tanya was at Toby Tyler's Tavern (Hey poets! A trio of trochees!) toiling as a topless dancer under the stage name Tatiana in the trashy part of town where tipsy tattered tramps roam the streets lined with tumbledown tenements that should be teardowns.

Inside the pub were thugs of great moral turpitude with lots of tattoos who deserved long jail terms like the drug traffickers who openly transacted their business with transpotters. There were also not only transvestites there but transgender types, yea transsexuals...guys with gals' teats and gals with guys' testicles. The beat, whether thrash metal with no tonality in one room for techno in the other, thumped endlessly at fast tempo while everyone toked joints and got tanked on beer. With many high tare tuns stored below, the beer could be on tap 24/7. I'd always been a teetotaler practicing temperance, but since the tipplers tittered when I ordered my favorite tonic, Tab, I switched to a Tom Collins which still had them tee-heeing.

Amid all this tomfoolery which reminded me of a Toulouse-Lautrec tapestry I had seen during a trip to the museum as a teen, I noticed Tanya in a tightfitting tutu titillating the men for tips with her torch singing and terpsichorean specialty, tapdancing. She changed into other tacky outfits like a thong then a teddy for different routines but still playing the temptress teasing the men and shaking her tushy. Overly tactile touchy-feely types trawling for a tawdry tryst with a trollop would say, "How 'bout it Toots?" but Tanya would give 'em a big turndown.

Ah tempus fugit! Her goal had been to tour with a theater troupe and later hit Tinseltown and be the next Elizabeth Taylor. She would be highly touted in the tabloids as a versatile thespian who refused to be typecast, but alas, her life thus far was no tour-de-force. She was now in her thirties and her life was in a tailspin and going down the toilet. Anyhow, this time of travail hadn't taken a toll on her beauty as she still looked terrific with a thin waist, flowing tresses and not some topknot, and skin of the softest texture and cherubic tint. Backstage we had a tearful reunion but since it was too hard to talk over the tumult in the club, we had our tete-a-tete at the café nextdoor over hot toddy and teacakes. I was happy she was still the thoughtful, tenderhearted girl I always knew and hadn't turned into a tempestuous termagent like those ladies on the trolley every day.

I told her that over the years I had transitory trances of our treasured moments. I said, "Remember when you brought me tapioca and tofu when I got my tonsils out? Remember when we set up the telescope on the tripod out on my terrace to view the twinkling stars? Remember when we set up the teepee way out in the timothy grass and talked about traveling to Thailand to see a tiger and to the tropics to bring back a toucan? And remember when we'd play dress up, me in my teal tuxedo with the tailcoat but with a silly tam-o'-shanter, tricorn, trilby, or top hat and you in that gaudy taupe taffeta gown so long you really needed trainbearers?" Tingling all over, I confessed I was still her torchbearer. She replied after more tearstain filled tissues than from when she saw the tearjerking teledrama of Tristan and Isolde that she felt tainted and unworthy. I tenderly kissed her and gave her a tulip and told her nothing could tarnish her in my eyes.

I thanked God when I asked her about the key she said, "Holy Toledo, Tony! Don't you remember? You were with me in the tunnels at the old Tiverton mines when I found it. When Toby Tyler wouldn't trade me his trebly transistor radio for it, you took it in exchange for that Ted Williams card. You figured it might open a hidden treasure chest back in the tunnels."...Of Course! But later I tensed up and decided not to tempt fate twice and risk being trapped in a cave-in so I just tossed it in the trunk!

OUR CHILDHOOD ADVENTURE IN THE MINES

Tanya and I were traipsing though the woods one day way back when we reached a tract of abandoned land with a 'No Trespassing' sign. Being curious tykes, we couldn't resist the temptation to traverse onward instead of taking off. We found a trapdoor that led to a network of old mining tunnels which used to yield titanium or taconite. Being resourceful like Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer and Becky, as we explored by torchlight we left a trail of Twinkie crumbs behind so we could easily trace our way back through all the twists and turns. On the way back Tanya tripped and apparently when she fell she heard the tingy sound of her torch touching something (the key) which she picked up and threw in her tote bag.

TANYA SEEKS CHANGE

Back at the café she tugged at me begging I let her be a tagalong on my missions so she could leave that tedious grind and taskmaster Toby and get a tabula rasa. I said that it was too dangerous but figured tit for tat I owed her so hired her as my trusty secretary since I was a lousy typist and stunk at telecomputing and I knew she'd never be a turncoat and tittle-tattle about my missions.

FIND TERRY THOMAS!

I used the café's touchtone telephone (cell phones sound so tinny) and beeped Terry Thomas' satellite pager. When he called back and said Tulane was on break and he was at Stoke-On-Trent, I raced my Gran Torino to the airport. There I hopped a turbojet plane to England where as soon as I hit the tarmac I didn't tarry but grabbed a tram for the thoroughfare then a taxicab for the turnpike to the Thomas manor. When I pulled the key from my tenchcoat and told him how I found it in Taunton, Terry Thomas was thunderstruck!

He spoke with trepidation, "This confirms my old thesis trashed by my turgid colleagues as trifling theoretical tripe about a set of four keys known in mythical terminology as the "Tetrad of Terror"! I never broached this touchy subject with anyone afterwards since the taunting heaped upon me by those twits was so stressful I developed tachycardia with my heart beating triple time and a twitchy condition not quite Tourette's but a nervous tic nonetheless. So before I undertake the task of relating this epic tale in albeit truncated form, well...to tell you the truth I'm now a tad dizzy so help me over to the teakwood desk in the study and pull up the trivet full of tarts and tea which I find very therapeutic.

A HIDDEN HISTORY

No mere treacle, this is a grimly painted tableau that'll leave you thoroughly terror-stricken. More fantastic than even J.R.R. Tolkein's Lord of the Rings trilogy, you can heighten the eerie tone if you wish by playing the "Theme From the Exorcist" featuring tubular bells throughout.

A forgotten war had transpired between the humans and the magical creatures where you couldn't even begin to tabulate the carnage and which made the Reign of Terror look like a Tupperware party. Luckily, a truce was reached and a peace treaty signed between us and the great elf king Tiridades stipulating that their territory was to remain in the deep forests and below the ground wherefore they trotted off disappearing into legend.

Recently, a testimonial dinner was held for the latest Tiridadean king Tertullianus. He typified the wise trustworthy ruler and transcended all the tribal differences in the diverse magical kingdom. You see there were not only elves but trolls, titans, troglodytes, tooth fairies, and even Post-Triassic dinosaurs and more but I don't want to go off on a tangent and will cover them later.

The toastmaster beamed, "Raise thy tankards and say thank-you all. Let's pay tribute to our temperate and tolerant king Tertullianus, a template for topnotch leadership under which the kingdom has thrived and remained free of turmoil." All toasted except the evil thane, his nephew Titus, who traduced all with a truculent tirade shouting, "Mere twaddle emanates from the tongue of this toady. Tertullianus, you tool of the treehugging peaceniks, I am tired of twiddling my thumbs while reduced to this trivial subterranean existence imposed by an outdated treaty. Uttering trite truisms of peace you are a traitor to our true destiny to rule the humans. The hatred of me and my troops towards them has never thawed. Are my tarty remarks tantamount to treason by a treacherous troublemaker? Nay, I have throngs of thousands in thrall to me so I declare myself the trueborn king and hereby sieze the throne! ATTACK!

THE SCOURGE OF TITUS

With that command Titus' mighty tiers of teeming hordes, no timorous tin soldiers, swooped down and trounced their foes in the magical kingdom torturing them without a tinge of remorse. More ruthless than Tamerlane and Torquemada combined, Titus not only slew Tertullianus with a tipstaff but slaughtered his trustees and even his food tester for good measure. The lawless tyrant then dissolved the tribunal, looted the treasury, and trammeled the freedoms of all tribesmen. Amid tumbling towers, toppled temples, and tipped over trilliths, the opposition was mercilessly tromped. Titus' forces dumped tipcarts and tumbrels full of corpses into trenches and just tamped down the turf while shedding nary a teardrop and even made tallow out of some.

Whereas Tertullianus had used a tripartite system where decisions were made by a triumvirate of him and his two top-level political tacticians, Titus preferred a totalitarian regime. Influenced by the Trilateral Commission, that secretive think tank, he believed in a New World Order...but with Titus at the tiptop! He threatened the rest of the magical creatures by dropping leaflets, political tracts with excerpts from his macabre "Titus' Treatise on War" to intimidate the townspeople (townsthings?) making them truckle to his will.

THE TETRAD OF TERROR (i.e. THE FOUR KEYS)

To get the world above teeter-tottering on the brink of annihilation so he could take it more quickly from the humans, the tenacious Titus lusted for the "Tetrad of Terror". Deep in the mountains of Timbuktu was a cache of thermonuclear warheads on missles with vast trajectory, advanced terrestrial guidance systems, and great throw weight and perhaps a trillion times more destructive than any Tomahawk, Trident, or Triton missile we'd ever built. These technological horrors able to blow us beyond the troposphere contained some unknown mixture of tritium and thorium and other things lethal to only humans.

Developed during the ancient war by master technician and royal turnkey (glorified locksmith) Tortuga for Tiridades, they were mercifully unneeded due to the truce and were transported to Timbuktu. The weapons were tidily tucked away within a towering impenetrable rock fortress featuring four doors, one for each key of the tertrad, each with a different tamperproof lock. A thoroughgoing analysis determined that the only possible method of trapanation which might bore a thumbhole through the rock (not tellurian but alien..a meteorite) was the use of some special torpedos...which were inside anyway! Even the laws of plate tectonics didn't apply since the indestructible alien rock had the tensile strength to withstand any earth tremor----therein the keys were key (Oh the tautology!)

While Titus was still a teenager, Tortuga had a disturbing vision of his torrid rise to power when he would be thirtysomething. So Tortuga fled Timbuktu once Titus rose to power some twenty years later to hide his "Tetrad of Terror" scattering the keys far and wide so Titus could never wrap his tendrils around them. Terry Thomas had brilliantly retraced the turnkey Tortuga's steps and tendered the theory that one key had gone to Taunton, one to Tipperary, one to Toronto, and one to Tahiti and none back to Timbuktu.

TERRY THOMAS' SURPRISE (IN HIS OWN WORDS)

"Now my Uncle Terence according to his travelogue was down in Tralee when he ran into an Irish tinker who among his teakettles and tinwork had a strange key he'd dug up from a towpath in Tipperary. Terence bought it for a tuppence and soon became intrigued by its toughness. Though lightweight, whether you whacked it on a tabletop or smashed down on it with a triphammer, it wouldn't chip! He died shortly thereafter from trichinosis having gotten a tapeworm from some bad tautog in Truro, MA complicated by trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) he contacted later from a tsetse fly (no mere tachina fly) out in Tanzania. Once I inherited it, I saw on the telly a program on the forgotten Tiridadean kings which mentioned the mythical "Tetrad of Terror" and after toilsome research I pinpointed Timbuktu and made the connection to Terence's key and wrote my thesis."

I BETTER CALL THE BOSS!

I called Tenet in D.C. who after listening told me, "OK. I'll give you straight talk here, no technobabble. We now do believe Terry Thomas' "Tetrad of Terror" is a reality. By some twist of fate you have the Taunton and Tipperary keys. Please turn them over for safekeeping to our man Thompson who's leaving Trafalgar Square now to retrieve them. Your target now is to track down the Toronto and Tahiti keys to complete the tetrad immediately!

THE ROOTS OF THE PROFESSOR'S DETERMINATION

It was more than just thirst for knowledge that motivated Terry Thomas to keep track of the keys. He recalled all too well when the world was on the threshold of falling to the tyrannical Nazis who were thwarted in a titanic eventually triumphant struggle for the Allies. At the war's terminus after all the thrilling ovations and ticker-tape parades he staunchly vowed to keep his trained eye on transparent tricksters like Titus whose frightening troops consisted of not only elves like himself but...

  • Ten foot trolls wielding truncheons
  • Titans of even more tremendous size (up to twenty feet or thereabouts) bearing tridents
  • Troglodytes who could transmogrify into triceratops or tyrannosaurus rex with huge tusks (would a thesaurus then be a large book or tome?)
  • Tooth fairies who were bloodsuckers like ticks and were tinier than Tom Thumb, no higher than toadstools
  • Thunderbirds trained to attack and tear you to pieces

But while I'm talking about Terry Thomas I must digress and impart a trifold tale and thereby declare my admiration tinctured with love for my pal who as a British trooper barely twenty-one kept tempting fate...

TERRY'S WARTIME EXPLOITS

First he was told to take out a Japanese oil tanker with an old surplus triplane. So he hit the throttle and pretending he was just trapshooting with Uncle Terence to make the situation less tense, flew toward it and Thwack! sunk the tanker so it hit bottom with a thunderous thud to play with the tarpon and tuna.

Next he had to blow up a truss bridge in the German mountains just as a transport train passed over. Though according to the cargo manifest the trainload was merely ladies' tampons, tungsten lamps, typewriters, and textiles like tartan, tiffany, toile, and twill, it was really .22 guns, and though the stickers on the chemical barrels read 'trichlorethylene' (simple degreasing fluid) it was rally 'trinitrotoluene' (TNT!). Well he sent the choo-choo toodle-oo off the tracks and down the ravine so it didn't complete its transalpine trek to the supply lines.

Lastly he had to get his transceiver behind enemy lines and transmit their position and race back. It wasn't like the Germans would go tick-tacking away and send a telegram over the telegraph or a telex over the teletype with this info or post it on a community tackboard. So his nerves wouldn't be so taut, Terry imagined he was a sprinter back with his coach Uncle Terence who was telling him to get his tuckus off his tuffet, put on his tracksuit, and train for the track meet or he'd quit being his timekeeper.

So not once or twice but thrice Terry figured, "It's a tossup whether they'll be playing taps at my tombstone or I'll wind up in triage," but he made it without needing a tourniquet or a transfusion but merely two tablets of Tylenol for his throbbing temples.

OFF FOR THE THIRD KEY

My tipster in Toronto informed me that during the soil testing phase of the construction of some tony townhouses and triplexes by none other than telecommunications trailblazer Ted Turner, a strange key had turned up which he'd brought back to his trendy office in Atlanta. I called him on Tuesday the twelfth and we scheduled to meet Thursday the fourtennth in Atlanta which was great since the thirteenth would have triggered my triskadekaphobia!

Once there I complimented him on his handsome transoms and mentioned I loved how he'd dove into his treasure-trove of old movie titles stretching from early talkies to Technicolor classics to telecast on his television stations like TBS, TNT, and TCM. The tycoon had many of the trappings of wealth, owning hefty price tag items such as a home like the Taj Mahal, Rolex timepieces, and twenty-four karat gold tiepins. While I'm not much of a toff, with my fanciest togs being my tricolor turtlenecks, he could afford tailor-made three-piece suits, topcoats to die for, and the latest trendsetting fashions from Tommy Hilfiger.

Once despite having no real training like say Chuck Tanner he had the temerity to name himself temporary manager of his Braves baseball team going 0-1 before throwing in the towel and transferring the reins. When I told him Jeff Treadway, Terry Pendleton, and Andres Thomas had been my favorite players, he was tickled pink. With great teamwork he and his crew had won the trophy at the '77 America's Cup yachting tourney. And no tightwad, he gave generously to telethons while I'm too thrifty to give much. I gave my regards to his telegenic wife who had sold more exercise tapes than the Tae Bo guy and then delivered my tidings.

He was quite tractable and didn't consider my tetrad story tommyrot. He made the keys a threesome agreeing it would be tragic if this temperamental Titus character had them. Even though his Turner Broadcasting had merged with Time-Warner, Ted still liked to keep busy. So since he had a teleconference scheduled on business topics including hostile takeovers, trustbusting, and taxation, we parted but made tentative plans for a tee time sometime on the links!

NEXT STOP: TAHITI

I met up with Thompson whom Tenant had sent up from Tallahassee to retrieve the key at a tearoom near the airport and I was off for Tahiti! Terry's studies actually pointed to Tavloo, a remote island near Tahiti considered taboo to the locals. I scoured every tourist trap and teahouse but couldn't find anyone among the tradespeople or tribespeople willing to take me except for Tak Tung the tracker. He explained that any Tahitian who dared tread onto Tavloo had died tragically. There were documented cases of thickset sailors, hardy tars all, dying from tumors and toxemia despite having been vaccinated transdermally for tetanus, typhoid, typhus, tuberculosis, and many other terrible afflictions and given tablespoons of tetracycline too. There was also a tendency in some to develop itchy tinea in their toes which would soon shrivel up as if from thalidomide followed by massive thrombosis and disease near the thymus and thyroid. According to Tak Tung the sole survivor, the trick was to stick to the timberland side of Tavloo. I pulled out my topographical map from my toolkit and saw that was the side Terry had plotted.

When I saw Tak Tung's taxiplane, a beat-up timeworn twopenny deathtrap, I opted for his boat for transportation. I had always dreamt of tootling along the ocean and its tributaries in an ancient trireme or a sleek trimaran but his craft had broken tholepins and taffrail and had termite-infested timber both topside and below held together by rusted twelvepenny nails. As a tradeoff he did power it with a decent thermodynamically engineered high torque turbocharged engine.

TROUBLE AT SEA-NOT SMOOTH SAILING

When we embarked, the sky appeared tranquil but soon enough thunderclouds appeared above, a telltale sign of a tempest brewing. A thunderstorm brought a torrential downpour and wind as the boat tilted about topsy-turvy bouncing thisaway and thataway on the tumultuous sea. We could see through the turbid mist that worse than any typhoon, the tidal wave of tsunami was headed our way. As we braced for the thrashing it looked like my taxing and tortuous quest was at an end and I might never see terra firma again. This wasn't like when you get thundershowers at the ballpark and can just roll out the tarpaulin till the testy skies end their little temper tantrum.

Terror-struck, I felt it was time to pray though I wasn't very theocentric having not been to church since my teens. I expressed sorrow for my transgressions and being too tightfisted to tithe and give that tenth of my money. I testified that I didn't remember about the Trinity (the triune god), the transsubstantiation of communion, the Transfiguration of Jesus, all the Ten Commandments, or even which Testament they appeared in. I remembered being told of the Tempter who comes like a thief in the night to get a toehold on your soul so he can then sink his tentacles in. I remembered about the tribulation period when an unholy troika would torment the earth and that one of the evil triad, the Beast, would commit travesty at the holy tabernacle at the rebuilt Temple of Solomon but then all three would get thrown into the lake of fire. It was all tidbits but it did show I had faith, belief in something not tactual and not entirely tangible.

I had always left it to the theologians to have their talkathons and debate how Taoism and Tantric Yoga and Transcendental Meditation, and the Torah which includes the Talmud, and the teachings of the Theosophical Society like transmigration of the soul meshed with the tenets of Christianity. I looked up and miraculously, terns were flying above and the rain only trickling as the storm tapered off. Yet it had transported us back near Tahiti our starting point. Thereupon I reluctantly hopped on Tak Tung's taxiplane.

Soon after takeoff however, I noticed it was held together by a combination of thumbscrews (no worse...thumbtacks!), twine, tape, and tinfoil all covered up by touchup paint and could've use some tack welding in spots. When we hit turbulence instead of a tailwind I went into a tizzy and flipped the toggle switch marked "EJECT" and bailed. I got a little tangled in my parachute and in the fall I tweaked my talus bone and felt a twinge in my tibia and tarsus but I was OK. I landed in a jungle swamp and could barely trudge through the muck which soaked my trousers and rose up to my thighs, but there was Tak Tung making like a tugboat and pulling me out with his towrope!

He said, "Hey, having gone toe-to-toe with tornados and twisters, I'm no tenderfoot pilot, so that landing was just a tenny-weeny teensy-weensy tussle." Now Tak Tung was no tyro as a tracker either but intuitively knew the right turnoff when a trail transected so he was the lead and I was the tailender. After I thanked him for making like a towboat and rescuing me with his towrope, we proceeded and made like Tarzan in that jungle. After having trodden across varied terrain like rocky tors and glacial tarns we came to a thistly, thorny thicket. There we found the remains of Tortuga the elf with this tablature with a tricky anagram which I was able to transpose...

TORTUGA SPEAKS

"I tested out some of the high-tech material from Timbuktu on the other side of Tavloo. It is still very potent so I'm glad I hid the "Tetrad of Terror" from that tinderbox Titus. Trust me, magical creatures are immune. Whether I downed a teaspoon or took it transcutaneously or traveled beyond the timberland, I was fine. But I did have a bum ticker in need of a transplant and my match, my identical twin, is alive and in Timbuktu pretending he's me, posing as the turnkey like nothing was stolen. I just got too tubby and should've stayed trim doing tai chi or practicing tae kwon do and avoided trans-fats and triglycerides." I took out my transponder (like what you wave at a tollbooth instead of digging for a token) and telemetrically located Tortuga's fourth key beyond a trailhead.

THE TETRAD IS COMPLETE - WHAT'S NEXT?

I personally brought the fourth key to Tenet and got word that Titus had indeed gone to the fortress at Timbuktu in search of the "Tetrad of Terror". He preferred to have the thermonuclear arsenal as a trump card, a timesaver in the war against humankind whom he knew would be a tougher foe than the more timid magical creatures he'd subdued.

He was teed off, yea enraged, when he learned of the real Tortuga's flight and his theft and scattering of the keys. Since the imposter twin wouldn't talk prior to his death by torture, Titus had no strong threads to follow to find the keys.

Everyone so far had been so tightlipped like Trappist monks that my superiors felt Titus had no knowledge of the "Tetrad of Terror" saga 'Post-Tortuga at Timbuktu' meaning chances were good he was unaware of the people involved- Tony Tattaglia, Tanya Tatum, Terry Thomas, Uncle Terence, Ted Turner, Tak Tung, or Tenet or Thompson for that matter- and the places involved- Taunton, Tipperary, Toronto, and Tavloo near Tahiti.

We felt that Titus...

A) ...aware that his advance with his troops in tow had broken the truce, knew that temporizing could be costly allowing the shocked humans time to transition to war and possibly stem the tide, so was likely to stage a quick terrorist attack somewhere.

B) ...having by now heard troublsome reports of thieving tooth fairies near Transylvania being poisoned by some toxic brew being tried out by the gypsies there who were tired of their pesky food raids, might make a trip there himself.

SEARCH FOR THE GYPSIES- ANOTHER MISSION!

So I, Tony Tattaglia, and Tak Tung the tracker were sent along to the Transylvanian forest to search out the gypsies and their toxic powder. We rode up to a trailside inn with our fleet thoroughbreds who'd won trifectas and left them tethered at the trough while we stopped for a toot. A townsman there said there were no real throughways and just vague trails beyond this point. As a former teamster who'd driven tractor-trailers in his day, he told us we'd never get enough traction in the muck for tires if we decided to take a truck and since the best means of transit was walking, he'd tend to our horses.

Out there we didn't need a thermometer to tell us the temperature was pretty chilly. Since you couldn't just turn up the thermostat and make it toasty, you had to brave the sometimes tundra-like weather. I had remembered my tank top and tee shirt yet had forgotten my thermal underwear and thermos of hot chocolate. In my haste I had also forgotten toiletries like my toothbrush and tube of toothpaste so I scraped off any tartar with a toothpick. When it got nicer, I listened to the turtledoves tunefully trilling amongst the twigs in the treetops. It reminded me of less trying times with Tanya when we'd sit under the tamarack to hear the tanagers twitter or under the tupelo to hear the tufted titmouse tweet while the thrushes thrummed along.

THE PARTY IN THE FOREST

It was very timely when we spotted the gypsies wearing their turbans and donning tunics and togas since we had only a thimbleful of tap water left and were thirsty. While we all seem to live by a timetable, this carefree bunch was a throwback, merry troubadours living for today and not tomorrow. A transient group, they lived in tents and put their trunks on trundles and simply translocated their camp from town to town as they entertained.

Instead of copping a major 'tude they gave us the royal treatment inviting us to a bash better than any tailgate party. They rolled out the tablecloth, tinware and terrycloth towelettes, fired up the tandoors, and set out a feast of perfectly tenderized steak tartare, shrimp tempura, fried taters, and even yummy tabouleh. While some tooted horns like tubas, trombones, and trumpets, others danced the tarantella while others shook tambourines and timbrels or banged drums be they timbales, tablas, tabors, or tom-toms. When the tunesmiths wanted to get noisier they struck timpani drums and gonged a tam-tam. It was no Tchaikovsky tocatta but it was like nothing I'd ever heard recently or on my tape deck or turntable growing up.

They staged a very theatrical threepenny opera about a tsarina wearing a tiara of translucent topaz of great troy weight being held prisoner high in a turret until the tsar in his royal armor complete with tabard and tasset climbed the trellis and rescued her. The woman sang in a quavering tremolo like a theremin while the fellow sang in a tenor of rich timbre.

THE GYPSY LEADER GETS DOWN TO BUSINESS

Finally their leader Tamara stood forward and said she had known from her tarot cards that we were coming and it was her destiny to transfer her formula to us to defeat Titus. She felt she could tail the enemy with a new magical technique better than any telephoto lens whereby she first zoomed in on Titus' camp telepathically. Then her eyes became transfixed and she went into a trance then transformed herself into a tigress and teleported herself there to spy!

MEMORIES OF ELSEWHERE

While she was gone I thought of how this Transylvania experience reminded me of Tijuana where on the outskirts was a farming village with thatch roof homes. I wasn't sure if they were tenant farmers or titleholders and the land was theirs, but they called me Señor (don't forget the tilde) Antonio. I didn't mind helping them with their topsoiling, tilling, threshing, and other taskwork until I was threadbare and toilworn. They didn't have tractors to do the work but just themselves. I mused, "I bet right now they're trading tomatoes (and tomatillos), tayberries, and tangerines (and tangelos) they've gathered to the fishing village for trout and tilefish caught that day with nets or fishing tackle like trotlines."

My favorite taqueria in the world was Tito's in Tijuana where I'd get takeout since the tableware was kinda spotty especially on the fork tines. I'd order up tamales, tostadas, and tacos with tapas and tortilla chips for appetizers. I might have tamarind nectar to drink but later tequila when it was time to tango to the Tex Mex band.

TAMARA IS BACK

Tamara returned quickly and said tersely, "There was a tragedy in Tijuana worse than any technothriller." She clutched a tau cross for strength and continued, "Titus and his troops trampled Tijuana and all neighboring townships reducing everything to tumbleweeds in his first step to terrorize the human world. The farmers set up tripwires which did tamper with Titus' speed of advance but not enough for a turnaround. Alas, their position wasn't tenable and they were torn apart by strange beasts." Now if you tell it thirdhand please stress that my Tijuanian friends were not tremulous but intrepid like Teutonic Knights or Knights Templar.

PERFECTING THE FORMULA

She summoned us to her tent where in front there was a tatami that read, "Tamara's...Wipe your tootsies!" Inside was a teak trestle table with a tub of tannish powder. She said, "I know we have a tight timescale with our human world on tenterhooks, but we need tonight to test if my reformulated toxic powder is terminal to all tooth fairies and not just some. Understand that Titus alone has a special trait of transmutancy and therefore will be immune. I am certain he will try to develop an antitoxin with his transmutant blood to protect his troops.

So they left trays of tartlets, tortes, and turnovers for the tooth fairies with a sweet tooth, trays of Tabasco, teriyaki, and tartar sauces for those into tangy toppings, and thirdly, trays of tarragon, thyme, tahini, and turmeric for those whose tastes ran to seasonings. In the morning thousands of tooth fairies lay dead. Tamara, confident she had the right level of toxicity, grabbed her tongs and tweezers for the large and small things respectively and started tossing stuff into her cauldron. I hope Tamara's tort lawyer doesn't sue me for trillions for trademark infringement but my toxicology report showed it was a tenfold recipe concocted thusly:

  • Tailbone of tapir
  • Toenails of tortoise
  • Talon of tercel
  • Trachea of terrapin
  • Tongue of toad
  • Tailfin of toadfish
  • Toxin of tarantula (from her terrarium)
  • Tuber of taro root
  • Taproot of turnip
  • Thighbone of thornbill

THE HUMANS STRIKE BACK

Tons of powder was made and sprayed on Titus' troops. The trolls, titans, and troglodytes, and of course pesky tooth fairies dropped like flies as did the beasts...the triceratops, tyrannosaurus rex, and thunderbirds (bad for them but a treat for taxidermists everywhere!). Those who took to the deep forests or went subterranean again survived, but Titus, transmutant like Tamara said, lived and still had to be terminated. Tamara's spying revealed he'd arrived in Transylvania in cognito to talk to the tooth fairies who hadn't eaten from the trays to trace the origin of the toxic powder to better create his antitoxin.

BATTLE ROYALE: TONY VS. TITUS

Titus the elf was disguised as a tradesman to mix in with the townies back at a teashop next to the trailside inn, but at three foot ten, the tiny tyrant stuck out from his tablemates. Besides that, he matched a thumbnail sketch and an old tintype I had of him and I noticed elf thumbprints on his tumbler. Perhaps a bit telepathic (some say telesthetic), he turned when I entered and queried tauntingly, "You turd! Are you going to try and take me out with that tommy gun?" I replied, "Well twerp, I didn't come here to play tiddlywinks or tic-tac-toe or watch Teletubbies on the overhead TV."

After he telekinetically flung a steaming teapot from the teapoy to knock my weapon loose, he tackled me. He pounded my brain on the tile floor with such blunt trauma to my temporal lobe and thalamus that thenceforward my theta rhythm has been off. I said, "Don't think me tactless but I believe your testoserone level is too high though your thiamine is probably OK. Cut down on red meats like T-bone steak and tenderloin." He then twirled me around so fast no tachometer could measure the RPMs and smashed me down so hard that thenceforth I've always needed thermotherapy.

I said defiantly, "I notice you have tobacco stains on your teeth so you ought to cut down on the Tareytons with so much tar and nicotine." He then started choking my throat tighter than a turnbuckle. I saw my life flashing by me like a tachistoscope (tachyon speed for you techies!).

I said gasping, "I don't want to seem thickheaded but...P.U! We should call time out while you apply some talcum powder." He then delivered a thuncerclap of a blow to the testes but I was prepared for that...

TONY'S FOOTBALL LESSON

This opposing tackle once went for the takedown on me coming off a broken T-formation. I had easily caught a pass with perfect topspin and held the ball tightly to avoid a takeaway while staying within the touchline when he tagged me right where I go tinkle. It had been a tie game 'til the fourth quarter when we capitalized on a few touchbacks and got a twofer on a safety for the tiebreaker then a trey on a field goal and with the game timer tick-tocking down to zero, the sore loser was ticked off. Tut-tut! It was not a ticky-tacky foul and tsk tsk! I wound up in tertiary care where they told me to always wear a thick cup and be like my teammates.

BACK TO THE FIGHT!

I cracked, "I wish the telemarketers had mailed me that treadmill I ordered on time because then I wouldn't be all tuckered out and feel such torpor." I loosened his throttlehold a bit and went for the thorax, the upper part of the torso, and thrust a stake into his heart. Tamara you see had told me how to kill Titus the transmutant...part elf and part...Transylvanian vampire! Touché!

CONCLUSION

With the specter of Titus and his monsters gone, it was quite a turnabout for the humans. I (Tony) and Tanya were trothed and though it's only the first trimester, she feels we may be blessed twofold with twins or threefold with triplets. It was rumored Tak Tung had become a triggerman for the deadly Asian tongs, but I knew that was mere twaddle and that he'd found wealth as a taipan and chief troubleshooter for transnational Texaco out there. Terry Thomas was just over for Thanksgiving and said he'd received ten million dollars for outliving his pals from his troopship in a tontine. Tally Ho! So he was living out his twilight years tending his topiary gardens at Stoke-On-Trent if not vacationing at his timeshare in Tampa getting a tan and developing a twang or at Lake Titicaca (not a typo!). Ta-ta!

THE END

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