Along about now, the Zom received an invitation from their cousins in the southern parts, the Palangea, who were planning a fiesta. The only trouble was, the Zom didn't know how to get to the southern parts: they needed the TrailMaster to lead them down, so they built a bridge to get the TrailMaster out of Spanakopitos's winterized property. Lacking the engineering skill of the Spanakopiti, their bridge was a primitive one, to be sure--they merely felled two trees and lay boards across them--but it served as well as a small and temporary bridge needed to.

The TrailMaster was ready to leave, having had enough of solitude and contemplation. His horse, of course, went with him. With the horse gone, there would be no spilled grain and hence no mice in the barn, so Wise Old returned to the Crow 'n Bear, with CawCawJoe following closely behind.

Fiesta in mind, the Zom were in a gregarious mood. They invited Spanakopitus and Spanakopitae to come with them to visit their cousins, the Palangea. Upon hearing this, Spanakopitae was beside herself with excitement, but Spanakopitus was skeptical; nevertheless, he chartered a plane for the trip so he could at least travel first class.

(And Spanakopitus could well afford the indulgence. Let there be no doubt that Spanakopitus has money chambers. Two, at least: one for greenbacks and one for gold. No one but he knows where they are, exactly, and that is as it should be.)

In an expansive mood, he invited all the Zom and the TrailMaster to share the plane. Both Polarises went along on the trip, for it was known that the Palangea enjoy dogs, having lots of them themselves. But Bang!opolis was specifically excluded.

The Zom, of course, took along lots of their fine brandy to share with the Palangea. Kinkajou went with them, and when they all arrived in Palangealand, he was seen merrily swinging from the tops of the coconut palms.

Fiesta was in full swing. For four days, there were mariachi serenades, marches through the streets, bull riding in the arena, free food and beer, and dancing in the square till way early in the morning. Amid all the frolicking and revelry, someone offered Kinkajou a coconut with rum in it, whereupon he got tipsy and fell into a mariachi tuba, but---fflooooot---he was poofed out again, and the parade went on unabashed.

But there was one who had been left behind. Bang!opolis, angry at having been excluded from this grand to-do, rode his Cosmic Harley down and was soon seen playing the trumpet with the mariachi. For this diversion, he was put on report with the Flocculators for having abandoned winter. In fact, Bang!opolis got reported to the chief Flocculator, Magnolia, whose name sounds like "Magnolia Thunderpussy." (No, no, it's not what you think. Pussy is spelled P-u-c-c-i. She's Italian.)

Magnolia and the subordinate Flocculators called him back sternly, but Bang!opolis didn't hear them: he was now intent on riding the bull. Part of this was derring-do, part was bravado, for Spanakopitus and Spanakopitae were in the audience, Spanakopitus wearing the fine straw hat his wife had bought him to protect his head from the sun. Bang!opolis climbed on the bull being held tight in the chute, keeping one eye on Spanakopitus as he raked his heels down the bull's flanks.

And then the chute was raised and the crowd let out a cheer as the bull came boiling out, bucking and swapping ends, and suddenly Bang!opolis was flying through the air, clutching and grabbing, his feet churning till the ground quite violently came up to meet him. There he lay in a heap in the dust, his ears ringing and his eyes spinning.

"Oh, poor fool," said Spanakopitus. Quickly climbing down the rickety grandstand, he gently picked up the crumpled Bang!opolis, carefully dusted him off, put his own straw hat on the dusty, battered head, and helped him out of the arena.

Pride makes fools of us all, thought Spanakopitus ruefully.

16: The Enigma