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“What is that thing, anyway?” asks MacGuffin’s subway seatmate, as he careens miserably through the tunnel with the enormous crate wedged against him.

“The stuff nightmares are made of,” says MacGuffin. Ape, with Tangerine rocks itself over to better compress his toe.

“How much you want for it?”

MacGuffin lights up. “A dollar.”

“Would you take,” says his seatmate with cunning, “eighty cents?”

MacGuffin returns from lunch to find it back in his office, of course. Beagle’s mouth is mightily pursed.

“Why won’t you keep it?” he asks.

“It doesn’t work,” says his former seatmate, hand extended for his money back.


MacGuffin climbs back in at 5:05, slides around the crate, exchanges a scowl with Beagle and takes the 170 home. He prepares a supper (sausage and hominy), views a brief pornographic video followed by a series of sitcoms from the previous decade, and falls asleep with a cat on his feet. He wakes up the next morning and screams because the crate’s in his bedroom.

While his heart rate jerks back to normal, he examines it: it’s garnered one new sticker, emblazoned “Prev. Rr. [TFT Fwd.] 55.”

In his hasty exit, he hits the beautiful but deadly woman in the face.


MacGuffin finds himself, that day, using his paperweights for their intended purpose.

“Think you’re pretty funny, don’t you, MacGuffin?” asks a large man, sliding into his office.

“No,” says MacGuffin.

The large man leans out and grasps at the desk. MacGuffin uses a painter’s pole to push his platform just out of reach. At length, the large man gives up.

“Next time, MacGuffin,” he says, a little red-faced, and leaves.

On the way out he bumps into the next threatening large man, and they spend an awkward but entertaining minute trying to get through the door at the same time.


The crate is encrusted with angry stickers; the bits of original labelling that MacGuffin can read say “Ap it r in.” Its presence in his office is an engineered marvel, given that its bulk is a good two feet wider than the door in any direction. Its footprint is also larger than the available floorspace when his desk is in place, which is perhaps why someone has thoughtfully moved said desk onto the window-washer’s platform creaking back and forth outside.

“Beagle,” he says, “have I won or lost some sort of contest?”

His secretary, with utter absorption, files his nails.


Ape, with Tangerine arrives in London with tags marking it as passenger luggage from the nonexistent China Moon. An overenthusiastic cargo master misdirects it onto a train bound for Cornwall. Before reaching that destination it is seized, marked as salvage, fraudulently claimed, transferred, seized again, rejected, quarantined and finally shelved in the physical equivalent of “I’ll think about that on Tuesday:” a warehouse in tax distraint. All this before the statue is even uncrated.

It is not until the complex and unhappy responsibilities befalling one Mr. P. F. MacGuffin cause him to retrieve Ape, with Tangerine that our story properly begins.