THIRD PERSON NARRATIVE
Once upon a time, a boy sat in his room, typing on the computer. His brother entered and asked, "What are you doing?"
"Beginning a story," Ferb replied.
His brother, Phineas, peered at the screen and commented, "It appears to be about us, and in real-time no less."
Ferb realized that his control of third person narrative would ironically remove the need to further vocalize. Then he continued typing, until he reached the period at the end of this sentence.
"You are indeed taking self-referentialism to a height," Phineas said. "But readers crave adventure and romance. Like a swashbuckling intergalactic epic starring you and - say for example - Isabella."
Ferb smiled at his brother's astonishing naivette regarding affairs of the heart.
"Lost me there, bro," Phineas replied. He absent-mindedly aimed a forefinger toward a nostril - but, gasping at the screen, he quickly dropped his hand.
"Uh, Ferb, I'm sure readers aren't interested in my every physical mannerism."
Quietly, pensively, they pondered what next to write.
"Ferb!" Phineas suddenly exclaimed. "I know what we're going to do today! We'll write a story about us writing a story, but to make it more interesting, we'll open an alternating plot line involving a fantastic tale of Perry as - say for example - a private-eye!"
Their expressions mutually became puzzled as they searched around. Phineas uttered and Ferb transcribed:
"Hey, where is Perry?"
M: Carl, is the auto-transcriber running?
C: Yes sir.
M: Then where is - oh, Agent P! Sorry about the hard landing! Carl, I've told you, when you move the chute, move the chair also!
C: Sir, but later you told me to pick up your dry cleaning and you said you would take care of the chair.
M: Carl! Never speak truth to power!
C: Sorry, sir.
M: Agent P, if you're done rubbing your posterior, notice that my words appear on your screen as I speak.
C: My words too!
M: Nobody cares.
M: Yes, Agent P, although it doesn't translate your words, assuming they are words, it does phonetically transcribe your verbalizations.
P: Rrrrrr, rrrrr-rrrrr-rrrr! RRR-rrrrr, rrrr-rrrrr-rr -
M: You can play with it later. Anyhoo, Doof has been visiting a fan fiction site, and we fear the worst. Not that fan fiction is the worst -
C: It's a mixed bag.
M: Are you talking about my stories, Carl?
C: My reviews are always intended to encourage, sir!
M: Once again - Anyhoo. Agent P, the wrist device that plopped on the floor where your chair should have been will transcribe Doof's monological musings to our computers for analysis. Good luck, Agent P!
C: Now that he's saluted and blasted off, I'll just save the transcription file to - oops!
C: Heh, I may have inadvertently redirected the transcription file stream to Agent P's home address.
Candace stood in the hall, speaking on her phone: "So here's the deepest darkest secret about Jeremy and me that no one must ever know . . . call you back!"
She stormed into the room. "Just what are you scalawags conniving at?"
"Ferb's writing a story about what we're doing as we do it," Phineas said. "See, he's typing my very words even as I speak!"
Candace scrolled and skimmed. "Delete those seventeen pages of my conversation with Stacy between 'no one must ever know' and 'call you back.'"
Ferb hi-lighted the passage, clicked Edit, then Delete. He then inserted an ellipsis.
Candace scowled. "E-whatsis?"
"Dots," Phineas said.
"And delete where it says I scowled just now."
Ferb hesitated, feeling he couldn't sacrifice journalistic integrity even for a beloved sibling.
Candace scowled again. "Oh, never mind. So what's that second chapter about, with the 'M' and 'C' and 'Agent P?'"
"We're not sure," Phineas replied. "We were about to write a second story line involving Perry and suddenly this transcript pasted itself into our open document. It must have come over the internet somehow."
Candace was about to scowl again, but spotted Ferb reaching for the 's' key. She folded her arms and sighed.
"Well, I'm not sure this is bustworthy, but I don't have anything else on at the moment, so guess I'll give it a shot."
To the hallway she bellowed:
"MOM! PHINEAS AND FERB ARE VIOLATING LITERARY CONVENTION! AND FERB, I AM NOT BELLOWING!"
Ah, [REDACTED] the [REDACTED], what an unexpected surprise! And by unexpected, I mean you caught me in an embarrassing mannerism.
Flickety-flick! Sit by the computer, [REDACTED] the [REDACTED].
Not to be snooty, but today's trap is 100% recycled material.
I'll adjust the cushion. Comfy?
Since you've already noticed my fan fiction on the screen, let's segue to backstory.
Long ago, I was a writer for a television show. My boss was hard-nosed and hard-driving and attracted to women with hard last names. I did well because the show was a cartoon, and as you can well guess, all I had to do was transcribe my life experiences.
Then the unthinkable - I ran out of backstories! You see, [REDACTED] the [REDACTED], a television series production schedule is a soulless beast that eats all your ideas, until soon you are nothing more than a quivering, derivative husk. Good times.
Yet now, thanks to your incessant thwarting, I have new backstories which I am adapting into fan fiction. My ex-boss, like all showrunners, secretly monitors fan fiction websites for ideas, and I'm hoping he'll read my story and rehire me.
You ask, why not go through an agent? Shrinkinators can't shrink agent commissions.
Oh, this enormous machine with the intimidating needle aimed at your head?
BEHOLD! The idea-extractinator!
Since the episode format requires two alternating plot lines, the idea-extractinator will somewhat-invasively probe your mind for ideas that I can pass as my own.
Hey, your wristwatch flashes when I talk!
"It's done it again!" Phineas exclaimed. "Where is this coming from?"
Together the boys blinked at the screen. Candace leaned closer.
"What's with the [REDACTED] the [REDACTED]?" she asked.
Ferb conjectured that it might indicate they were viewing an officially-classified document.
"Hmm," Phineas said. "Then this newly-inserted batch of text apparently transcribes a classic confrontation between a secret agent and his supervillain nemesis."
"Who is scheming to be a cartoon show writer?" Candace asked.
"Thus our hero is trapped, about to have his mind probed!"
A viable hypothesis, Ferb reflected, yet still did not explain why the transcript was downloading directly into their story.
"Because otherwise there's no dramatic tension," Candace said. "I mean, the A plot line is just us in this room, talking."
"Dialogue is stimulating," Phineas said, "when it expresses character conflict."
Candace scow -
"Do you have to mention my every physical mannerism?"
"He's getting better at omitting nonessential detail."
Candace squinted -
"Ferb, I'm not near-sighted!"
Okay, how about:
Unscowlingly, Candace gazed unsquintingly out the window.
"Mom's gardening with her headphones on. We'll have to bring the bust to her or it ain't happenin'. But if we go outside, how will Ferb be able to keep writing?"
With alacrity, Ferb drilled holes into the laptop, inserted bolts, spot-welded metal rings to the bolts, and clipped a strap slung over his shoulder so that the keyboard hung horizontally in front of his chest as he stood and continued typing.
"What does 'alacrity' mean?"
What am I missing here? The -inator is humming, your situation is hopeless, my scheme is unstoppable. Oh, I remember, I have to pick up Vanessa later, after 'Thwart-N-Curse.'
Thank you, Norm. [REDACTED] the [REDACTED], would you like a muffin too? They're pretty good now that Norm uses blueberries instead of cogs.
Speaking of Vanessa, since teens are a major viewing demographic, you're probably wondering why I don't simply ask her for TV show ideas. Well, it's a comedy show, and as every teenage boy knows, teenage girls have no absolutely no sense of humor.
Did I ever tell you the backstory about - yes, yes I did.
None. At. All.
Oh, I just noticed! Your wrist-thingy not only flashes when I speak, it flashes with each word. Observe! Just. Like. This.
That's cool, [REDACTED] the [REDACTED]. Secret agents have such neat gadgets. I'm jealous. Sometimes I almost wish I could trade places with you. Today not so much, given the potential for brain damage from high-voltage neuroscanning equipment. But you don't know how often I wish you were the one who had to build an original contraption every day, and all I had to do was destroy it.
No, I'm not bitter.
By the way, I'll let you decide. Is writing for television inherently evil, or do I still need to tie this in with ruling the Tri-State Area?
Hey, it flashed brighter when I said that!
TRI! STATE! AREA!
"MOM! MOM! MOM!"
Linda Flynn-Fletcher, with slight trepedition, removed her headphones as she looked up from the flower bed and asked, "What is it now, Candace?"
Candace made a flourishing gesture toward the laptop. "Phineas and Ferb are writing a story!"
"Candace, what's wrong with that? You're not going to come up with something lame, are you, like claiming that it violates literary convention?"
Candace looked away. "Uh, I, well - why don't you read it and you'll see it's not right." Her eyes went frighteningly wide. "It's . . . un-NNN-conventional-LLL!"
"Then let's see-EEE!" Mom put on her glasses and Ferb knelt. A few minutes later, she pointed to the second paragraph of this chapter and said, "I wouldn't have used that word there."
"'Trepidation?'" Phineas asked.
She paged back a section and added: "Also, Ferb, it's unfair to assert that all teenage girls lack a sense of humor. Goodness, when I was a teenager, nothing ever got me upset."
"Actually," Phineas said, "Ferb didn't write that part."
"Did you write it, Phineas?"
"Well, I know Candace didn't write it - although in her case - "
Mom giggled. "You walked right into that one. Well, who did write it?"
"It just appeared on the computer," Phineas replied.
"You mean the words magically appeared, just like 'poof.'"
"Exactly," Phineas replied. Seeing his brother pointing emphatically as the screen flickered, he nodded to the laptop and said, "Just like this."
[REDACTED] the [REDACTED], don't click away from my story! And pay attention while I'm expositioning! I swear, sometimes you make me feel like my whole life is just a slapstick B Plot to you.
Put your arm back underneath the clamp and I'll tighten the grip. There, that should hold you! I think I can confidently say now that unless I turn my back for one second, escape is impossible.
Where were we? Oh yes, justifying this scheme in terms of ruling the Tri-State Area. I suppose we must.
Hmm, do you recall that earlier this summer I made a pitch to a television executive about an idea for a 1970s detective show? You must remember - I had you bound, we went to a science fiction and fantasy convention, there was mindless mayhem, yada yada, you got away and I got thwarted. Again.
Anyhow, I explained to you at the time how that TV show would enable me to seize power over the Tri-State Area. So whatever I said then, applies now.
No, I didn't forget what I said then.
All right, the details are a bit fuzzy. But not because I'm getting old!
It's because I'm working on a handheld forgetinator, and for some reason I can never remember which end the beam shoots from.
Oh, you want to see the forgetinator? I think it's behind me on the mantlepiece. I'll just turn for one second. Nope, it's -
[REDACTED] the [REDACTED], how did you escape!
As the members of the Flynn-Fletcher family read the latest transmission together, Isabella entered the yard with Baljeet and Buford, and said, "Hi Phineas, whatchya doing?"
"Belatedly adding supporting characters," Phineas said. "And look, here comes Dad with a cameo!"
Lawrence Fletcher entered the yard, swinging a black amulet with a profile silhouetted in white. Of course.
"Lawrence," Mom said. "We need your expert opinion about this computer."
He squinted - being in fact nearsighted - and replied, "Well, I don't think it would fetch much at auction."
"It's not an antique, dear."
"I was only joking, darling. Goodness, an antique computer would hiss steam to the rumbling clack of gears and relays, and with mechanical components being so much larger than microelectronics, it would require the dimensions of at least a city block!"
"Ferb, he knows what we're going to do tomorrow!"
Yes, Ferb wrote. Yes he does.
"Seriously," Isabella said. "What are you guys doing today?"
"We're writing a story," Phineas said.
"Perhaps I could help," Baljeet said. "I write stories too."
"What kind of stories?"
"Well, mainly fan fiction."
Buford mumbled, "Didn't see that coming."
Candace gaped over the fence. "Hey, why is that building smoking and flashing?"
Phineas climbed atop his brother's shoulders (which makes t6ping th8xs d8ffviculghgggggggtt) and peered. "You mean the building that looks vaguely like Ferb's head and frequently shoots beams of high energy into our yard?"
"The plot thickens!" Baljeet exclaimed.
Buford sighed. "The dialogue bloats."
Hold it right there! I am absolutely certain that trap was inescapable! [REDACTED] the [REDACTED], this time I demand an explanation as to how you escaped!
A karate stance is not an explanation. Now go over to the board and show me how you escaped.
Use the black marker, the blue is a little dry.
Okay, the Archemedian lever principle. Uh-huh.
Newtonian physics, Second and Third Laws of Motion. Uh-huh, uh-huh.
Einsteinian equations for transformation of space-time coordinates, okay-okay.
What the - ? Whoa! You can't do that! That's a violation of the Laws of Physics!
Don't try to out-Hawking me. That integration of scalar variables cannot occur in Riemann Space, and anyhow, I refuse to believe a mammalian body can twist like that.
I'll demonstrate. I'll slip into the trap - ugh, no more muffins for today! Okay, I'm in. Now, I'll just follow your diagram on the board. Put my right foot here, my left foot there. Shake it all around . . . .
HEY! I'm out!
That. Was. Unbelievable!
But something didn't feel quite proper. Let me check your math.
First equation, correct.
Second equation, right.
Third equation - hold on! You divided by zero! Shame, [REDACTED] the [REDACTED]! Shame!
Back in the trap, NOW!
AUGHHHH! The blinding flashes! ACKHHHH, the smoke!
Norm, why are you trying to light the barbeque charcoal with a megawatt laser?
Yes, I know you can't find them.
Because I hid them.
Because I don't want you playing with them.
Candace frowned. She -
"There you go again!" Candace said. "First scowling, now frowning! Ferb, you make me sound like I'm in a bad mood all the time!"
"Well," Mom said, "technically you are frowning, dear."
"But it seems wrong to just use the word all by itself. It's so bare, so - so - "
"Lacking in nuance?" Phineas asked.
"Exactly. Ferb, when it comes to writing about me, I want you to be more nuancey!"
"Is that a word?" Irving asked.
"Sorry, Irving," Phineas said. "We're nearing the end of the second act, and it's too late to introduce minor characters. You'll have to leave."
"Couldn't I just fade into the background?"
"Okay, but you can't have any role in plot resolution."
"How about exposition?"
Phineas glared. "That's my job!"
"You know, it's a bit of a stretch, but what if my character provides comic relief?"
Candace continued frowning with style, grace, and winsomeness.
"Ferb, even I think that's laying it on too thick. But as I was about to say, don't you guys think it's weird that we saw smoke and flashes and just then the story refers to smoke and flashes? What if, whatever is written on your computer, comes true?"
"Candace!" Mom exclaimed with style and grace. "That's absurd!"
"Try it," Candace said. "Ferb, I want you to write, 'Jeremy entered the yard.'"
Jeremy entered the yard.
Nothing happened. Antsy, Ferb moved the cursor to delete the previous line -
"Wait for it!"
Guess what, [REDACTED] the [REDACTED], I found the handheld forgetinator! It was in the refrigerator, of all places. I'll bet there's a plausible explanation for that, but for some reason I've forgotten.
You'd like to see how it works? Quite simple, really. You aim one of these two diametrically opposing identical ends at - oh, you little scamp!
You hoped that I would aim the wrong end and stun myself! Well, it will take much more than that to foil the evil genius of Dr. Heinz Doo . . . Doo . . . fenshmirtz.
Heh, almost forgot my name. Guess I have been accidentaly forgetinating myself a bit much lately. I should label which end is which.
Oh, there is a label!
No, it's a note: 'Label the ends.'
Anyhoo, onto the evil-most portion of our day. I'm turning on the idea-extractinator - though why I have to tell you that while you can see me doing it is a mystery - and focusing on your skull.
I'll set it to the lowest setting and watch the screen. And again, you can plainly see me so there's really no reason to describe what I'm doing, but for some reason I'm chatty today.
Oooh, the screen is already alight with your idea for a television cartoon show.
I see: a backyard.
And two boys.
They're building something, and it's huge.
It's a . . . roller coaster.
[REDACTED] the [REDACTED], come on! I need a marketable pitch!
A man entered the yard. He was bearded, middle-aged, and not Jeremy.
"Best-selling post-modern author and furniture designer Douglas Copelund!" Phineas exclaimed.
Copelund raised an eyebrow and said, "Aren't you a little young to know who I am?"
"Yes, yes I am. Dad was reading Kpod last summer and we asked him to read it aloud to us for a bedtime story. He skipped a lot of pages and said 'bleep!' a lot."
Mom rose to her feet, clutching the spade. "I hope you don't plan on bleeping here."
Phineas intervened: "So, Mister Copelund, what brings you to our yard - or, as you Canadians say, demesne?"
"I'm guest-of-honoring a post-modern renaissance faire in Danville and got a message from a 'Buford' that my services as the world's most self-referential novelist were urgently needed."
"That won't be necessary," Baljeet said, glaring stylelessly and gracelessly at Buford. "You see, I too am a published writer and am giving them all the expert advice they require."
Copelund shrugged. "At least I got to make an appearance in someone else's story for once."
"About that," Phineas said. "We may have to alter your name to avoid litigation."
Copelund shrugged again and departed, passing Jeremy.
"You're late," Candace said.
"Uh, okay," Jeremy said. "So what's happening?"
"Filler," Buford replied, yawning. "Is the B Plot here yet? Let's face it, it's the sole reason we exist at this point."
Breathlessly they squin - gazed at the laptop. With style and grace.
[REDACTED] the [REDACTED], I'm turning up the idea-extractinator a notch. You may experience a slight tingling. That's just your brain cells being fried.
Don't worry, it won't hurt much. More precisely, you won't be able to tell that it hurts much.
Sniff, sniff! Why am I saying 'Sniff' as I sniff? Never mind, I smell smoke. Norm, is that the barbeque?
Yes, I didn't want you using the laser.
Yes, I know you can't barbeque without fire.
Yes, I am repeating everything you say just to make fun of you.
All right, I'll get them. They're right over by - [REDACTED] the [REDACTED]! You escaped!
And you caused the smoke. That's the last time I make a trap out of old newspapers and leave matches within tail reach.
[REDACTED] the [REDACTED], don't you dare touch the self-des - oh, you are so predictable!
Behold, my blast-inator. Taste blast!
Hmm, you're tasting whipped cream. I put weapons in the refrigerator and leave out a can of whipped cream, and it's the biggest lampshade hanging ever because I keep shooting myself with the handheld forgetinator.
Where is - oh, held in my hand. Ha, I'll just stun you!
Or will I be stunning myself?
Well, let's get it over with.
Durrrrrrr - durrrrrrr - durrrrrrr -
Norm, what do you mean, I said I'd get you the matches? Why do you need matches?
Barbeque? Lunch isn't for another - whoa, look at the time!
Curse that [REDACTED] the [REDACTED], he's running late!
Jeremy finished reading and said, "So you don't know where the secret agent transcript comes from?"
"It raises many questions," Phineas said. "For example, what is 'lampshade hanging?'"
"It's a trope that writers use," Buford replied. "It means calling attention to an implausible story element merely to gloss over it."
They all stared at him.
"Exactly. Come, Baljeet. We have to do some lamp-underwear hanging of our own."
Jeremy scrutinized the Flynn-Fletcher house and asked, "You have a wi-fi router, right?"
"Sure," Candace said. "Why?"
"Early in the story, a file stream was misdirected to the agent's home internet address. That the file is streaming through your home's router indicates the agent is a member of your family."
"Wow, Jeremy," Candace cooed. "I didn't expect super detective logic from you!"
So hangeth another lampshade, Ferb wrote.
"One problem," Phineas said. "Our entire family is here. Dad, Mom, Candace, Ferb, Me, and - " His eyes widened. "Oh!"
"The agent doesn't talk, he has a tail, and is referred to as mammalian, not human," Jeremy said lampshadingly. "Agent P stands for Perry and [REDACTED] the [REDACTED] for Perry the Platypus."
"It's all so ridiculous!" Mom said. "Who would ever think a platypus is a secret agent?"
"Exactly!" Buford shouted from far away.
Phineas scratched his head. "Why does this suddenly seem familiar?"
Ferb, Candace, and Isabella scratched their heads too.
Irving said unfadingly: "Guys, I hope this doesn't count as plot resolving, but - something's flying toward us!"
Perry's hang glider swooped atop the tree. He released the straps and removed his hat. He emerged from the branches and plopped onto the grass.
He met the gazes of all the humans and froze.
Phineas knelt, ran a finger under Perry's chin, and said: "Whipped cream. Oh there you are - Agent P."
Perry raised the forgetinator.
"Just a moment!" Phineas cried.
Lowering his arms and taking a breath, he continued:
"Turns out that when we rediscovered your secret identity just now, it brought back all the subconscious memories from the last time. So we're cool with it and, Perry, I just wanted to say that we're all proud of the wonderful job you do in protecting the Tri-State Area."
Perry looked at his feet and blushed.
"Anyhow, to preserve your secret identity, you'll need to erase a story from Ferb's laptop. But you'll want to save a copy for yourself. I think you'll enjoy reading it and, if you like, writing this last scene."
"That's all. Maybe someday we can - OOF! Isabella, again?"
Jeremy nudged Candace: "You mentioned a 'deepest darkest secret.'"
Candace nudged Jeremy: "Forget I said that."
Perry aimed and Phineas exclaimed: "Everybody - say 'Dur!'"
"DURRRRRR - DURRRRR - "
Stacy walked into a yard full of blank grins.
"I don't want to know," she said, and walked out.
Perry considered pursuit. Then he shrugged. She really hadn't seen anything that related to his secret identity. And besides, he had a story to finish.