WHO'S CRAZY NOW?
Towering humanoids emerged from an emerald ball of light into the Flynn-Fletcher home.
Candace bumped her head. "Ouch! Why's the ceiling so low?" Then she grinned at her twitching tail. "Busted!"
As she crawled kitchenward, Phineas called: "Candace - wait!"
Looming behind her mother, Candace shouted: "Mom! Mom! Phineas and Ferb built a portable interstellar portal generator to Alpha Centauri!"
"That's nice, dear." Mom continued scrubbing a pot.
"Mom, I'm ten feet tall and blue!"
"If I turn around and you're not, will you agree to do something for me?"
"Well, you are pale."
Now gaping upward at her mother, Candace shrieked, "NOOOOOO!"
Phineas and Ferb, also having resumed human form, entered the kitchen.
"Hi boys," Mom said. "How was Alpha Centauri?"
"Actually, it was a moon in the Alpha system," Phineas replied. "And fun."
Candace clenched Phineas face-to-face. "You didn't mention how we changed back!"
"When we first stepped through the portal and the avatar effect was automatically triggered, I tried to explain the technical details. But you said too much exposition slows narrative pace."
"Augh! Creative writing class has little real-life application!"
The children froze.
Mom spoke softly into the phone, "We'll be there. Thanks, bye." Hanging up, she said, "Candace, you said you'd do anything. Well, you're seeing a psychiatrist."
Candace unclenched her brother. "But psychiatrists are for emotionally troubled people!"
His windpipe no longer choked, Phineas asked, "Hey, where's Perry?"
Mom smiled. "I hope you didn't leave him at Alpha Centauri."
Six eyes widened.
Not being in the Alpha Centauri system, Perry the Platypus entered his underground lair.
"Agent P!" Major Monogram exclaimed from the screen. "Momentarily, you appeared to be six feet tall and blue. But now you're once again two feet tall and, uh, blue."
"Rrrrr!" said Perry.
"Your hat looked incongruous, like a thimble instead of a, uh, hat."
"Okay, okay, here's the deal. Doofenshmirtz came down with sniffles and doesn't have anything planned. But if we stretch out this briefing for five minutes, agency regulations require we receive full mission premium pay. So, uh, whatchya doin'?"
Before Perry could reply, lights flashed and alarms sounded. Frowning, Monogram shouted, "What's happening, Carl?"
"A security breach, sir!" Carl said. "But the monitors don't show - wait, there is an intruder. It's - Doofenshmirtz!"
"But according to our stakeout, Doofenshmirtz hasn't left his building!"
"That's true, but my statement is also true."
"Oh, a riddle! Well, let me think - " Staring, Monogram gasped. "Carl, you've been shrunk!" He faced Perry. "Agent P, help, I'm about to be - "
In a blinding halo, Monogram dwindled from sight.
Vanessa Doofenshmirtz appeared, waving a shrinkinator pistol.
"Hey. Subbing for Dad. I'll explain at the lab. Could you give me a head start? Twenty minutes, okay? Gotta make stops." She snapped a pair of forceps. "And catch some mini-dudes."
With steely determination, Perry immediately leaped into working a crossword puzzle for the next twenty minutes.
Candace lay flopped across her bed, phone squashed to ear, staring vacantly through the photograph of Jeremy taped on the ceiling to the uncaring, recently-visited interstellar void.
"Stacy, will Jeremy date me after I'm lobotomized?"
"Candace, they don't do lobotomies anymore."
"What about straight jackets?"
"Hmm, that they still do. But relax. Lots of normal people go to psychiatrists. You'll do fine if you just be yourself."
"You mean, talk about fighting dinosaurs and being Queen of Mars."
After a long silence, Stacy said, "This is where we segue into a philosophical discussion about the fine line between deception and discretion."
"I was ten feet tall, right behind her. How could the bust possibly fail?"
"You took too long. You should have just picked her up and spun her around."
"Now you tell me."
"Candace!" Mom hollered from downstairs. "Let's go!"
Candace sighed. "The death knell of my social reputation is tolling. See you later, Stac. I mean, if I'm not thrown into a padded cell."
"I'll come visit."
"You're a true friend."
A moment later, Candace was escorted by her mother out to the car, where her father and Phineas and Ferb awaited.
As Candace slipped next to her brothers, she growled, "Isn't this humiliating enough without them along to gloat?"
"We're just dropping off you and your mother," Dad replied. "Then Phineas gets to go to a dental appointment."
"All the cool equipment!" Phineas gushed. "X-rays! Drills! Spit-sinks!"
Candace slammed the door. "And I'm the crazy one."
Perry's kick knocked down the laboratory door. Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz, wearing a bathrobe and panda slippers, shuffled from the shadows.
"Hello, Perry the Platypus," Doofenshmirtz said. He rubbed his reddened nose with tissues. "As you can see, I caught a chill last night hovering over the ocean, insulting whales."
Perry looked around, puzzled.
"Vanessa called, she's running behind. Considering how much I had to beg for her to do this, I'm not complaining."
Vanessa stormed in, plopped shopping bags on the table, and handed her father a box of cough drops. "You wouldn't believe the line at Lab Coat Emporium."
She slipped on the lab coat, then grimaced in the glare of a camera flash.
"I have dreamed of this day!"
She held up a jar, within which a shrunken Major Monogram and Carl were gasping. "Probably should have punched holes in the lid."
She emptied the jar into a ten-gallon aquarium tank. Monogram sipped at the water bottle, while Carl trotted onto the hamster wheel.
"Vanessa, invading enemy headquarters is a violation of protocol."
"Translation, you could never do it."
"Aren't you forgetting someone?"
"No." Vanessa pressed a remote. Instantly, Perry was engulfed in a swarm of clamps. Vanessa refitted his freshly-stomped hat. "Gizmo escapes NOT!"
Her father inspected the trap. "Why clamp the beak? He doesn't even talk!"
"Dad, you're supposed to be resting!"
"Where's your -inator?"
Watching her stalk away, her father said to the immobilized Perry, "Doing well for a first time, don't you think?"
While her mother flipped magazines in the reception room, Candace was led into an office. She shivered at the earth tones as the receptionist departed.
"Remember to speak typical-teenish," Candace murmured. "Dates si! Time warps no!"
The man who entered was tall and brown-haired, and wore a bluish-gray suit and a reddish-red tie.
"Hi," he said. "I'm Doctor Norman."
Candace's eyes almost popped. "You look just like a giiiii . . . ."
"You were going to say, 'giant robot,' weren't you? For some reason, I get that a lot. Please sit down, Candace. Please relax."
Candace sank into the chair, but being Candace, relaxation was out of the question.
Dr. Norman furrowed his eyebrows over his writing pad. "I'm reviewing the notes of what your mother said over the phone. Quite an imagination here."
"Yeah. That's right. Just imagination. Heh heh."
Candace cringed as Dr. Norman scribbled.
"So you do understand that the roller coaster, the brobots, your brothers' journey through your esophagus - it's all imaginary."
Candace tittered. "Well, you'd think I was crazy to actually believe all that!"
"I'm wondering why your mother worries that you do. It's not psychologically healthy for parents to stifle the imaginations of their children."
"Well, she doesn't really stifle - "
"Please excuse me."
As he stepped out, Candace noticed the view through the window, which overlooked the park.
"There are those rappers from when squirrels jumped into my pants. Well, that omen is clear. It's the nut house for Candy."
Inside the tank, Carl continued to jog furiously on the wheel while Major Monogram sat in the corner, scowling as Doofenshmirtz tapped on the glass.
"See how the little intern runs and runs," Doofenshmirtz said to Perry. "Where is he going? What is he running from? These are mysteries which scientists who study interns for years have yet to fathom."
"Dad!" Vanessa yelled from the other room. "Don't tap the glass!"
Doofenshmirtz looked slantwise. "I'm not!"
"Vanessa, it's a waste to keep this pair as hostages. They're only bureaucratic overhead. Perry does all the work. And I won't be changing the bedding. This isn't going to be like your hamster."
The lab filled with rumbling. Vanessa pushed a draped trolley whose top brushed the ceiling.
"Well, it's big," her father said.
"It's called - "
"Back story first."
"Right. Okay, there's Monica, she's Lacey's cousin. She's visiting and she won't leave Johnny alone. So I'm gonna give her zits. Anyhow, behold. The Zitinator."
She whisked off the covering. The device was black and insectoid.
Her father stroked his chin as he circled. "That's it, just zits?" He tilted toward Perry. "I don't mind, but it's somewhat beneath his thwartworthiness standards."
"How about I give every teenage girl in Danville zits?"
"That has possibilities. Evil is all about taking personal grudges to the next level."
"I'll get an amp."
He called: "You didn't say 'behold' loud enough to trigger the sound system."
"I'm not doing that."
Phineas snapped open the casing, exchanged capacitors, and held the dental drill to his ear as he pressed the stud.
"Much sweeter now."
"PUT THAT DOWN!" The dentist snatched the drill away and said, "Phineas, can't we just have a routine routine check-up for once?"
"I thought you liked the upgrades I made to your x-ray machine."
"Until government agents confiscated it. Don't touch anything today, okay?"
Phineas shrugged. The dentist peered into Phineas's mouth, which suddenly began to glow.
"Phineas, please turn off your mouth lights. I prefer to use my own lamp."
Phineas's mouth went dark. Pulling the lamp over, the dentist began working.
"So," Phineas said. "How goes the implementation of that new enameling process?"
"Not bad, we're - say, how are you able to talk so clearly with my hands in your mouth?"
Phineas held up a small box, from which his voice emanated: "My brother Ferb invented this dental-patient-to-english translation device. Isn't it cool?"
The dentist seized the box and slammed it on the tray. An instant later, he flinched back in horror.
"You have tiny bugs crawling over your teeth!"
"Those are nanobots. I haven't had to brush in weeks. Plus, they leave my breath minty fresh!"
The dentist sat still and blinked. Then he reached for the intercom.
"We're going to need the nitrous oxide."
"The patient is requesting general anesthetic?" the assistant asked. "For just a check-up?"
"The patient isn't asking to be put under. I need him to be put under."
Dr. Norman returned with Mom and slipped behind his desk. "Well, Mrs. Flynn - "
"Fletcher," Mom said.
"Mrs. Fletcher - "
Dr. Norman wrote on his pad: CONFUSED IDENTITY.
He forced a smile. "Candace has been telling me about your response to her imagination, and I'm afraid I see a problem."
"Well, yes. I have to rush home every time she tells one of her stories."
He wrote: OVERREACTS.
"Is that because you consider imagination to be dangerous?"
"Are you saying that you do?"
Dr. Norman breathed deeply. "Perhaps your home environment is not ideal for Candace at this time, given her emotional sensitivity."
"What are you talking about? And what are you writing?" Mom snatched the pad and scanned. "How dare you say these things about my daughter!"
"Mrs. Flynn-Fletcher-Flynn, you don't - "
A nurse knocked and entered with a tray bearing a water pitcher and cup. "Doctor Norman, the sedative is ready."
"SEDATIVE! You're not giving my daughter medication on a first visit!" Glaring, Mom sprang to her feet. "And here Charlene recommended you! Come on, Candace, we're leaving!"
"Mom," Candace said weakly, "I may have misrepresented - "
"Candace, you might need counseling, but no quack is sticking a needle in you! Oooh, I am so boiling!"
Mom spied the cup, grabbed it and gulped.
Dr. Norman paled enough to make Candace look tanned. "The sedative was for another patient. And, uh, oral."
"Yes," Mom said, wobbling and smiling vacantly. "Yes I am."
Vanessa slapped the zitinator casing shut. "Ready to go. Now to - Dad! Why is Perry's tail free?"
Her father looked at Perry's tail, gasped and staggered theatrically. "How did that happen?"
"You unscrewed the clamp."
"How could you accuse me of such a thing!"
"The screwdriver is in your hand."
"But Vanessa! Perry the Platypus is my nemesis. Why would I help him escape?"
"Because you've got self-defeating tendencies."
"Where do you get such silly notions?"
"From that shrink Mom makes you see."
"For your information, I see Doctor Norman of my own free choice!"
"And so that Mom will write you an alimony check." She frowned at the bare table. "Where's the trap remote?"
Her father shrugged. Vanessa scrutinized him from head to foot - and scowled at the box by his heel. "Dad, so help me, if you try to kick it over to Perry - "
"Vanessa, really - "
As if by accident, his foot swung backward and kicked the remote toward Perry. The box slid within inches of swatting distance of Perry's tail. Vanessa lunged and intercepted.
"Dad, just sit over there and - PUT DOWN THAT BLOW TORCH!"
"What blow torch?" he asked, while behind his back he used it to cut Perry free.
Vanessa leveled her shrinkinator. "Don't make me do this, Dad!"
"You wouldn't shrink your own father!"
She gave a hard smile. "Try me."
Mom giggled. "My nostrils are singing! Only my mouth sang when I was a pop star!"
Dr. Norman peered over his pad. "So you also were a pop star."
"You don't think I could be a pop star? You're like that boy I dated. He invented fifth dimensional sound and destroyed a drive-in."
Dr. Norman flipped through the pages. "Before or after the shipwreck?"
"The shipwreck was this summer. We escaped pink lava."
"Well, Linda - "
"Call me Lindana."
"You said to call you Linda."
He wrote: MULTIPLE PERSONALITY DISORDER.
She walked to the window and held her arms out.
"What are you doing?"
"Waiting for steak."
"You think steak will just fall from the sky?"
"No, you have to wish for it."
Candace entered, phone in hand.
"I called Dad and told him about the accident. How is she?"
"She's woozy from the sedative, but it's mild, so don't worry about that. But Candace, I'm afraid I have bad news. Your mother is clinically delusional."
"Well, for example, she claims she was the reason Love Handel re-united."
"Candace, I understand your covering for her - "
"Mom is perfectly sane! She's the sanest person in the world! She - "
"I hear voices," Mom said.
Dr. Norman and Candace traded glances.
"What are the voices telling you?" Dr. Norman quietly asked.
Mom stared wild-eyed at the park.
"They're coming!" she whispered. "To get inside us!"
Dr. Norman wrote furiously.
Shrunken-Doofenshmirtz tumbled onto the bedding and glared through the tank glass at his daughter as she stooped and grinned.
"Dad, for your own good. Now, relax."
"Vanessa, I am your father!"
She lowered a shrunken recliner. "Your favorite chair, with pillows and blankets."
"Unshrink me now or suffer unimaginable consequences!"
She placed a shrunken cup on the armrest. "Hot chocolate."
"Where's the marshmallow?"
"I didn't forget." She set an unshrunk marshmallow on top of the cup, dwarfing it. "Enjoy the show."
He climbed into the chair, swigged hot chocolate and glared at the others. "At least I know this is even more humiliating for you two."
Monogram snorted. "Doof, I'm middle-aged and married. I get cut down to size all the time."
Perplexed, Doofenshmirtz pointed to Carl. "Well, he's young and not married."
"Yeah, and this is like a teenage boy's fantasy."
"He is looking at my daughter, and fantasizing? Intern, face the wall!"
Carl continued running, facing the center of the room and Vanessa Doofenshmirtz.
"Intern, you hear me? Two words. Coco. Nut."
Carl froze, slowly turned, and ran facing the wall.
Monogram squinted. "Am I missing a subtext?"
Above the immense room, the roof unshuttered. Vanessa flipped a lever and the zitinator hummed to life. The elevating antenna radiated epidermically-irritating waves across the city with a deafening throb. She threw up her hands and laughed.
"It is working! It is functioning properly!"
Between marshmallow chews, her father nodded. "Here I feared she wouldn't get into it."
Dr. Norman assured Candace's father: "A sedative merely relaxes inhibitions. She is expressing her true self."
Candace's mother yelled outside, "Hungry! Waiting!"
"Mister Fletcher, has your wife manifested an obsession about things falling from the sky?"
Dad fidgeted. "There was one small incident."
"Actually, just a mere, trifling . . . robot."
"Dad!" Candace cried.
"Candace," Dr. Norman said. "Could you wait outside?"
"Perhaps check your brothers," Dad said.
"Phineas, of course!"
Candace raced to the car. Phineas met her with a glazed smile.
"Is this real?" he asked dreamily.
"What's with him?" Candace asked Ferb.
Ferb made a valve-twisting motion with one hand, masked his mouth with the other, and drooped his eyelids.
"NOOOO! Good pantomime, by the way. Ferb! You've got to build something quick so I can prove that Mom isn't crazy!"
With blinding speed, Ferb wrapped dental floss around a toothbrush - and made a yo-yo walk-the-dog.
Candace's jaw went slack. "That's all - from someone who could build Rome in a day?"
Ferb blinked. "If it's Rome you want, I'll need a lot more floss."
Candace shook Phineas. "Phineas, think of something!"
Phineas stared. "Cranberries."
"Huh?" Candace screamed at the mirror. "The worst break-out ever! I'm being punished because I betrayed Mom!"
Phineas pointed across the street. "That girl betrayed Mom. And that one too. Poor Mom."
"Phineas, they'll take Mom away! I need Awesome, now!"
Phineas folded his arms. "You didn't answer my question."
"Is this real?"
"Then let's do this thing."
"I AM DOING THIS THING!"
Vanessa laughed maniacally and hunched as she washed her hands, preying-mantis-like.
"Soon every girl in Danville will have zits. Then the Tri-State Area. And then - THE WORLD!"
"Vanessa!" Her father tapped the glass.
"Dad, I told you not to do that!"
"Vanessa! The world is too much to bite off in one try."
She wagged her finger. "See how I neutralized your nemesis, succeeding where you have failed!"
"Are you making fun of my accent?"
Vanessa tossed off another sinister laugh.
Monogram and Carl joined Doofenshmirtz.
"One parent to another," Monogram said. "You need to set boundaries."
Doofenshmirtz sighed. "She's not mature enough to handle her own evil scheme."
"Yeah," Carl said. "But she's totally pwned you."
Doofenshmirtz reddened and quivered. Then he repositioned the wheel and motioned to Carl.
"Intern! Run! Face the room this time!"
Bewildered, Carl mounted the wheel and scurried.
"Faster!" Doofenshmirtz clapped. "COCO-COCO!"
The wheel spokes vanished in the blur of Carl's nervous energy. Doofenshmirtz clutched the half-eaten marshmallow with both hands and slammed it into the spinning rim. He was catapulted out of the tank, across the room - and directly onto the trap's remote control.
Freed from clamps, Perry somersaulted and slapped on his hat. Vanessa whirled and laughed as the zitinator crescendoed.
"You can't stop it, Perry the Platypus! I didn't make a self-destruct button!"
Perry walked to the wall and yanked the power cord. The zitinator's whine died.
"Okay, there's that. But - TASTE SHRINK!"
Candace marched into the office, where Mom stood between burly orderlies.
"You're not taking Mom!"
"Candace," Dr. Norman said soothingly, "she's just going to the hospital for observation."
"No, you're going somewhere!"
Candace raised her hand, which gripped a device.
An orderly gasped. "She's got a gun!"
"What, you think I'm crazy?"
She pressed a button. A gleaming ball of emerald light grew in the room's midst. While the adults gaped mindlessly, Candace pushed Dr. Norman into the light.
Dr. Norman blinked. "Where - where are we?"
"Alpha Centauri system. Note unearthly sky. Two suns, gas giant, multiple moons. Large dinosaur-like flying creature. Duck!"
They dropped barely in time as the claws swooped by. Dr. Norman stared open-mouthed as the creature flapped away. Then he yelped at his hands.
"You're also ten feet tall and have a tail."
"But - how!"
"To explain is to slow narrative pace. And please hold all fainting to the end of the tour."
Moments later, they returned to the office.
"I'm still blue!" Dr. Norman cried.
"It wears off. Sheesh, don't fuss!"
Mom giggled. "Candace, you're ten feet tall! I must be hallucinating from the medication."
Candace sighed. "Yes, Mom. You finally see something my brothers caused, and you're already in a delirium."
They shimmered back to normal. No longer blue, Dr. Norman turned red.
"Get out of my office! You people are too crazy for a psychiatrist! And that's coming from one who has a patient who wrestles a platypus!"
Vanessa's shrinkinator fired. Perry leaped from the beam. A sofa shriveled. She fired again. Perry back-flipped - and was cornered.
"I'll take that, young lady!"
A giant robot hand snatched the pistol. Norm flipped a switch on the barrel and fired twice across the room. Doofenshmirtz, Monogram, and Carl returned to normal.
Doofenshmirtz snapped his phone shut. "Norm, what took you so long?"
"Cakes don't ice themselves! Also, Doctor Norman personally called to cancel today's session."
"Figures. The one time I have something to talk about to that quack."
"Say, he sounds exactly like me. Also, there's the similarity of our names. Am I missing a subtext?"
"Come on, Carl," Monogram said. "Our work here is done."
"What work, sir?" Carl asked. "All we did was run in circles and mope in a corner."
From the balcony, the Doofenshmirtzes watched their nemesis and his bureaucratic overhead parachute away.
The elder Doofenshmirtz raised a clipboard. "Alas, I must deduct points for not cursing Perry."
Vanessa doffed the lab coat. "Dad, it was kind of fun, and though I got carried away - "
"I don't have what it takes to be an evil scientist." She touched his shoulder softly. "For one thing, I'm not evil."
"Pity, I liked your -inator aesthetics."
"Well, I need a portfolio for art school, so I could design your casings. That's not being evil, just appearing evil."
He examined her all-black, form-fitting outfit with a father's eye.
"Which you excel at."
On the ride homeward, Phineas's expression lighted. "Ferb, I know what we're going to do today! We'll love all humanity!"
"Then you won't need my help to get in trouble," Candace said.
"Dad, I love you."
"And I you, Phineas."
"Mom, I love you."
"Me too, Phineas. Watch out for squirrels. Candace, I'm sorry, I only wanted you to go there because I worry about you. But if you can turn ten feet tall, you can take care of yourself. And watch out for squirrels."
"Thanks, Mom. Dad, didn't you notice the ten-foot-blue part?"
"Candace, I'm British. After we lost our empire, nothing fazes us anymore."
They parked in front. Phineas greeted: "There you are, Perry! So you were on boring old Earth the whole time."
"Who wants snacks?" Dad asked.
"I do! I do!" Mom said, following Phineas and Ferb.
"Candace!" Stacy waved. "The diagnosis?"
"I'm overqualified to be a psychiatric patient. Wow, you've got bad zits too."
"Every girl in town does." Stacy frowned. "Except you."
Candace felt her face. "The avatar effect must have cleared my skin!"
"Sign me up for that."
"Then let's use this before it dances away." Candace extended the interstellar portal generator, but just then Jeremy approached.
"Gals, what's up?"
"Hi Jeremy," Candace said. "We're going to Alpha Centauri to clear Stacy's zits. Want to come?"
"Sure!" Jeremy smiled. "You know, hearing that from anyone else, I'd think she was crazy."
"Ha!" Candace activated the portal. "Who's crazy now?"