Four Different Stories

Four Different Stories

by Daniel Pinkwater


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"From [Daniel] Pinkwater we expect the pure wackiness of a mind given to bizarre bolts of imagination," declared Publishers Weekly. These four different stories — collected for the very first time — abound in hilarious situations and characters that will amuse young readers (and older ones too).
The Muffin Fiend. Someone has stolen all of Vienna, Austria's muffins, and the baffled police are forced to call upon their reliable consulting detective — Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who likes solving mysteries almost as much as composing great works of music!
Wingman. Donald Chen is the only Chinese student in his school, and to escape the inevitable bullying, he reads comic books on a bridge. There, he encounters the superhero Wingman, who shows him how a strong imagination can help weather hard times.
The Magic Goose. Seymour loves stories about magic, and he dreams of having marvelous adventures of his own. And that’s exactly what happens when he encounters a six-foot-tall talking goose, who takes him for an unforgettable ride.
Fat Men from Space. After a visit to the dentist, William discovers that he can pick up radio transmissions from outer space, where hungry aliens are plotting an invasion to snap up all of Earth's junk food.
"Pinkwater is the uniquest. And so are his books."  — Neil Gaiman. 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780486822600
Publisher: Dover Publications
Publication date: 08/15/2018
Pages: 144
Sales rank: 830,392
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range: 8 - 14 Years

About the Author

Daniel Pinkwater lives with his wife, the illustrator and novelist Jill Pinkwater, and several dogs and cats in a very old farmhouse in New York's Hudson River Valley. Pinkwater has written about 100 books, many of them good. Among his best-known books are Lizard Music (an ALA Notable Book), The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death, Fat Men from Space, Borgel, and the picture book The Big Orange Splot.

Read an Excerpt



Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a real person. He was a musician, a composer of music, and a genius. One of the reasons people think he was a genius was he was able to compose seriously good music when he was just a little kid. He was wildly popular, like a modern rock star ... this was in Europe, mostly in Vienna, Austria, in the 1700s. He is still pretty wildly popular today. This is mostly because he wrote even more seriously good music when he grew up. He is this author's favorite composer, hands down, no question about it, nobody else even comes close.

Mozart seems to have been a nice guy. He liked to tell stupid jokes and hang around with his friends. He also had pets: a horse, a dog, and a bird. When the bird died, he held a funeral for it ... this was when he was a grown-up. I got very excited when I found out Mozart's favorite dish was leberklossen (liver dumplings) because that was a favorite dish of mine when I lived down the street from Shaffer's restaurant in Hoboken, New Jersey, where it was served every Thursday. It's little patties of chopped liver in a chicken broth with bits of bacon and sauerkraut. Sounds disgusting, I know, but it's really good. You can trust Mozart ... and me. I'm a genius too.

Mozart wrote some beautiful operas with the usual dopey sort of stories operas have. I always thought I could have written some librettos (which is the term for stories for operas), which Mozart might have liked. After all, we had pets, stupid jokes, and liver dumplings in common. However, the fact that he died in 1791 made it impossible for us to work together. So I did the next best thing and gave him a role in a story. If he were alive to read the story, I like to think he would have composed music to go with it and it would have turned into an opera.

Maybe you are a musical genius and you are reading this. Maybe you would like to take a whack at composing that opera. Please be aware that if you perform it anywhere without my permission, I will sue you.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the great composer, was sitting in his office one morning, when a stranger appeared at his door.

"Herr Mozart, I want you to help me solve a mystery," the stranger said.

"Excellent!" said Mozart. "After composing great works of music, solving mysteries is my favorite activity."

"As you know," the stranger said, "Vienna is famous for pastries of all kinds."

"That is why I live in Vienna," said Mozart.

"You will be interested to know that there is a muffin fiend loose in the city," said the stranger.

"A muffin fiend?" asked Mozart.

"Exactly," said the stranger. "You do know what a muffin fiend is?"

"I used to know, but I forgot," Mozart said. "Tell me again."

"The muffin fiend is the most dangerous sort of criminal," said the stranger. "Muffin fiends can barely resist pastry in any form — but most especially, they are mad for muffins!"

"This is most interesting," said Mozart. "Tell me, who are you, and how is it that you know so much about these matters?"

"I am Inspector Charles LeChat of the French Police. I have followed the muffin fiend all the way from Paris."

"And why is this muffin fiend so dangerous?"

"I will explain that — but first, may I suggest that we take some refreshment?"

"Of course," said Mozart. "I usually have something about this time of morning myself."

Mozart called to his wife. "Constanze! Please bring us some coffee and peach muffins."

"You may have coffee," said Frau Mozart, "but there are no peach muffins."

"No peach? In that case, we will have cherry muffins," said the composer.

"There are no cherry muffins," replied Frau Mozart. "Also no cheese muffins, no raisin muffins, no gooseberry muffins, no custard muffins, no chocolate seven-layer muffins — in fact there is not a single muffin of any description to be had in all of Vienna."

"Now I see why you are so anxious to stop this monster!" Mozart said.

"Indeed," said Inspector LeChat, "as we speak my beloved city of Paris is utterly muffinless."

"It is tragic," said Mozart, "and now it appears that Vienna has suffered the same fate."

"Herr Mozart, you are the greatest genius in Europe. Please say that you will help me stop this terrible muffin fiend."

"I am now engaged in writing an opera, The Magic Prune. Even so, I will put aside this important work and help you stop this awful criminal," said Mozart. "Have you tried all the usual things?"

"Yes. We have no record of any professional criminal with a taste for muffins — at least on this scale. All the places where a vast number of muffins might be hidden have been searched. All the roads have been watched, and spies in foreign ports have not been able to discover any large shipments, so we believe the fiend is not smuggling the muffins."

"Then he's eating them all?" asked Mozart.

"So I believe," said LeChat.

"Remarkable. And why do you think it is only one man?"

"I think it is one man because he has been seen by several witnesses," said the French policeman.

"He has been seen?"

"Yes. He has been seen at a number of muffin bakeries in Paris. He appears to be a nobleman, and sometimes gives his name as Don Pastrami. He orders huge quantities of muffins, and then ties the baker hand and foot, and usually locks him in a closet."

"Fascinating," said the great composer. "Let us employ logic here. A city the size of Vienna must produce many thousands of muffins each day. The greatest number of muffins ever consumed by a human within twenty-four hours is one thousand and three. I know this because it is my honor to have set that record."

"Even in Paris we have heard of your accomplishment."

"Since a great many more muffins than one thousand and three are disappearing, and since we have, for the moment, no choice but to assume that the so-called Don Pastrami is eating them all — it follows that Don Pastrami is not human," Mozart explained.

"He appeared to be human," said Inspector LeChat.

"So do a lot of people," said Mozart. "Come! There's no time to lose!"

"Where are we going?" asked the policeman.

"Why, to the great Municipal Muffin Bakery!" said the great composer.

The Municipal Muffin Bakery provided ovens for the poorer citizens of Vienna. Here those who could not afford to buy muffins could bake their own for a small fee.

When Mozart and Inspector LeChat arrived, a near-riot was in progress. An angry mob was arguing with the city official in charge of the ovens.

"Was ist los?" asked Mozart in the local dialect.

"Ah, Herr Mozart!" said the official. "The people are angry because they came this morning with their tins of muffin mix to be baked — and when the ovens were opened just now the muffins were gone!"

"We are too late!" shouted Inspector LeChat.

"Perhaps not," said Mozart. "Has anything else unusual happened?" he asked the official.

"Only this," the official replied, "there was a nobleman here earlier — one Don Pastrami. I thought it strange that a person of wealth, as he appeared to be, should come to bake his own muffins."

"Where is this Don Pastrami now?" asked Mozart.

"I cannot say," said the official. "He disappeared during the confusion."

Mozart, meanwhile, had been looking into the window of one of the many bakeshops that lined the streets of Vienna. It was utterly empty. Not a single Viennese muffin was to be seen. It was a depressing sight. All that remained were the price cards. Apple muffins 2 pfennigs. Blueberry muffins 3 pfennigs. Walnut muffins 4 pfennigs. Gorgonzola muffins 1 pfennig.

"To the Wienerwald, without delay!" shouted the great genius.

"To the Vienna Woods? Why?" asked the puzzled LeChat.

"Because that is where I expect to find the elusive Don Pastrami."

"But why the woods, and not the cellars of the town, or the waterfront, or some other place?"

"The muffin fiend will be in the woods because it is remote and isolated there. That is where we will find him — and some other surprising things as well. Inspector LeChat, summon a carriage!"

In the carriage Mozart unfolded to Inspector LeChat his amazing theory that the muffin fiend, sometimes known as Don Pastrami, was in fact not of this world. LeChat found the idea hard to grasp.

"Not of this world? You mean he's dead? A ghost? A spirit?"

"No," said Mozart.

"Ah, I see," said the Frenchman. "By not of this world you mean not of the old world, comprised of Europe, Asia, and Africa. You mean to suggest that the muffin fiend is from the new world, meaning North or South America."

"No, no — that's not it," said Mozart. "By saying that the muffin fiend is not of this world, I do not mean that he is not of the world of the living, nor do I mean that he is from any unfamiliar part of this planet. I mean that he is an extraterrestrial."

"Extraterrestrial? Does that mean that he has extra toes?"

"It means that he comes not from Earth."

"Not from Earth?"


"From not Earth?"

"I assure you."

"Then from where?"

"From another planet."

"There are other planets?"

"Oh, be quiet, you poorly informed French policeman!" said Mozart impatiently. "We've arrived in the Wienerwald."

There was nothing out of the ordinary to be seen in the woods. The usual birds and animals were in evidence, and trees of course, and the odd peasant — but no muffin fiend.

"We have to trap him," said Mozart, who then removed a tiny violin from the pocket of his coat.

"Oh, do you know the muffin fiend?" Inspector LeChat asked the odd peasant.

"I never heard of him," the peasant replied.

"Well? Where is Don Pastrami?" Inspector LeChat asked Mozart.

"I used to play this when I was a very small boy," Mozart said. Then producing a tiny bow, Mozart began to play.

"What is this music?" asked LeChat.

"It is the music of the spheres," said Mozart. "It is cosmic music."

"It doesn't sound funny to me," said LeChat.

"Cosmic, not comic!" Mozart shouted. "This music will bring the extraterrestrial to us."

Mozart tuned up.

No one turned up.

Mozart fiddled.

Nothing happened.

LeChat listened.

No one appeared.

"I don't think he's coming."

"He's coming," said Mozart, strumming.

"I think he's going."

"He's not going," said Mozart, bowing.

Then a being was seen, hiding behind one tree and then another, coming closer and closer to the tuneful Wolfgang.

Then, when the flitful figure was behind the nearest tree, Mozart put down his tiny violin and baritoned, "Don Pastrami! I've come to get you!"

"You'll never get me!" sang Don Pastrami.

"You are the awful muffin fiend!"

Don Pastrami sang, "I am!"

Mozart: "Why did you take the muffins?"

Don Pastrami: "I did it. I felt like it. That's all."

Mozart: "You must have had a reason."

Don Pastrami: "I didn't have a reason. Go away."

Mozart: "Tell me. Tell me why you took the muffins."

Don Pastrami: "No!"

Mozart: "Tell me!"

Don Pastrami: "No!"

Mozart: "Tell!"

Don Pastrami: "No!"

Mozart: "Tell!"

Don Pastrami: "No!"

Mozart: "Tell! Tell!"

Don Pastrami: "No! No!"

Mozart: "At least shake hands to show that you're not chicken."

Don Pastrami: "O.K." (Don Pastrami shakes hands with Mozart.) "Hey! What is this? I cannot get loose!"

Mozart: "It's Viennese jiujitsu — now will you confess?"

Don Pastrami: "What choice do I have?

In the powerful grip of Mozart (who had mighty fingers from practicing the piano every day) the miserable Don Pastrami confessed: "I come from a far distant planet in a solar system you never heard of," the apprehended Pastrami said.

"As I suspected!" said the excited genius. "But there is something else — something about your voice. I've heard that voice before."

"For a time I was an opera singer. I used the name Apollo Grosso-Fortissimo."

"Apollo Grosso-Fortissimo! The greatest operatic tenor ever to live, up to and including most of the eighteenth century!" Mozart exclaimed. "You are my fave! Why did you quit singing?"

"The singing was only a way to earn money to buy muffins. But soon I needed many more muffins, and had to resort to stealing them."

"Such a muffin monkey! How can you eat so many?"

"I do not eat them Signor Mozart."



"Not eat?"

"Not one even."

"So, what do with um?"

"Keep um."

"Keep um all?"

"Every one of um."

"For why do you keep um?"

"Keep um for fuel."

"For fuel?"


"Fuel for keep warm?"

"No, Fuel for go home."

"Go home?"

"Go home. Don Pastrami go home!"

"Amazing," said Mozart.

"You said it, buster," said Don Pastrami.

"What do you think of all this?" Mozart asked Charles LeChat.

"By the bells of Notre Dame! It amazes!" said the Frenchman.

The extraterrestrial Don Pastrami led the composer and the policeman through the forest. In a clearing they found an enormous machine. "My spaceship," said Don Pastrami.

"I don't understand," said LeChat.

"This is your ship?" asked Mozart.


"And the muffins?"

"Are inside." Don Pastrami led Mozart to the side of the ship and opened a little door.

"Ach, du Lieber!" Mozart exclaimed. "This thing is practically full of muffins!"

"They will power the spacecraft for my journey home," said Don Pastrami. "Rocket fuel on my planet is in solid form and very similar to the muffins of Earth."

"Do you have enough of these muffins to reach your planet?" Mozart asked.

"With the muffins I have stolen today, I have enough," said the former Apollo Grosso-Fortissimo.

"Then go," said Mozart.

"Wait!" shouted LeChat. "He is a criminal."

"If he remains on Earth, he will only steal more muffins," said Mozart. "Let's give him a pass."

"I don't know. This goes against the code of a French policeman," said Inspector LeChat.

"Be a sport," Mozart said, "and I'll dedicate a concerto to you."

"Well — seeing that it's you who's asking," Charles LeChat said.

"I'm going," said the visitor from space. "Nice planet. I had a good time."

"Drive carefully," said Mozart.

Don Pastrami climbed into his spacecraft, which took off impressively.

"This has been my strangest case," said Inspector Charles LeChat. "Now let's go get some Viennese cooking."

"I'd like to, but I have to go home and work on the Requiem," Mozart said.

"Do that later," said the French policeman. "For now come to a restaurant with me."

"Well, all right," said Mozart. "I am feeling hungry after solving this mystery."

"Good man," said LeChat. "Incidentally, how did you know that the man we sought was an extraterrestrial?"

"Remember when we were back at the Municipal Muffin Bakery?"


"Remember when I looked in the bakeshop window?"


"And there were only price cards — and all the muffins were gone?"

"Yes, yes?"

"And even the Gorgonzola muffins were gone?"

"Yes, I do remember that."

"That is when I knew the man we were after was not an inhabitant of this world."

"How did you know that?" the detective asked the great genius.

"I knew that because no one on Earth would eat a Gorgonzola muffin."




A neighbor of mine was a Chinese-American guy, who unsurprisingly had connections in the Chinese community in New York City. Thus he was on hand when a Chinese restaurant that had gone out of business was being broken up and he brought home a booth. This was, in my opinion, then and now, a brilliant thing to do.

There was a Formica table, pink in color, and two upholstered bench seats, just like you'd find in restaurants. He also brought home one of those napkin dispensers, some thick, chipped teacups, and little stainless steel teapots and sugar bowls. He set the booth up in his back room, hung a light over the table, and it was just like sitting in some diner or Chinese greasy chopstick restaurant.

Now he could sit in the booth, drinking tea, without having to take the subway or go anywhere. If he wanted to, he could cook Chinese food, which he knew how to do, and eat it in his booth. If he didn't feel like cooking, he could call out for Chinese food to be delivered and eat that in his booth. Sometimes he would invite me to come up to his apartment and sit in his booth with him.

Sitting in the booth, my neighbor told me stories about growing up in Washington Heights, which is part of New York City, living in back of his father's laundry, and about kids climbing the structure of the George Washington Bridge. I found these stories very interesting, and my neighbor agreed to take me for a tour of his old neighborhood, show me his old school, the family laundry, which was still there, and even show me kids climbing up into the girders of the George Washington Bridge. I brought my camera along, a 35mm Miranda, which took quite good pictures.

Then I wrote the story. In the story, A) everything is true; B) some things are true; or C) nothing is true. I am saying no more. I've given you a pretty good hint.

At school he was Donald Chen, but at home he was Chen Chi-Wing or Ah-Wing. Although he was born in New York, he didn't know any English before he went to school. He had been going to school for a while now, and he knew English. Sometimes he wasn't sure if he was Donald or Wing. He was sure that it was cold at home in winter and cold at school. He was sure he was the poorest kid in class. He was sure he was the only Chinese kid in Public School 132.


Excerpted from "Four Different Stories"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Daniel Pinkwater.
Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


The Muffin Fiend


The Magic Goose

Fat Men from Space

Customer Reviews