Posts filed under “Young Readers”
Announcer. And now Malt-O-Cod, the only malt food drink flavored with real cod-liver oil, presents…
[Music: Theme, in and under for…]
Announcer. The Adventures of Sir Montague Blastoff, Interplanetary Space Dragoon!
Announcer. Today we find Sir Montague and Colonel Darling about to embark on what may be the most extraordinary adventure of their lives.
Sir Montague. I say, my dear, are you ready to embark on what may be the most extraordinary adventure of our lives?
Col. Darling. You know I’m always ready for anything when I’m with you, Monty.
Sir Montague. And that’s jolly decent of you, I must say. If our experiment succeeds today, there’ll be a bally great load of paperwork, and I can always rely on you to push a pen. It’s just through here—we’ve repurposed our temporal displacement chamber as a dimensional threshold overlap zone.
Col. Darling. How thrilling!
Sir Montague. Now, if the boffins have got their figures figured, ourselves from the alternate universe should be along any moment now.
Sir Montague (distant). I zay! There we are!
Col. Darling. Look, Monty! It’s us from the alternate universe, just like the scientists said!
Sir Montague. And we don’t look a bit different. So perhaps the alternate universe is exactly like ours, after all.—I say, you two, are you really us from the alternate universe?
Sir Montague (approaching). Jolly amusing goinzindenze. I was aboud do azg you the zame gwezdion.
Col. Darling. Alternate-universe you talks funny, Monty!
Col. Darling. I mighd zay the zame aboud you.
Sir Montague. Id abbears thad zome gonzonands thad are voized in our univerze are voizelezz in yours.
Sir Montague. A curious difference. Otherwise we seem quite identical.
Sir Montague (distant). Ooklay, Olonelcay! Erethay eway arehay!
Colonel Darling. Look, Monty! It’s another pair of usses!
Sir Montague. I say, are you two also from an alternate universe?
Col. Darling (approaching). Istenlay, Ontymay! Eythay eakspay Igpay Atinlay!
Sir Montague (distant). Howdy, y’all!
Col. Darling. Loog, Mondy! Dwo more uzzez!
Col. Darling. Gosh, Monty! There must be a lot more alternate universes than we thought!
Announcer. How many more alternate universes are waiting for our intrepid pair to discover? Will the repurposed temporal displacement chamber be big enough to handle all the Sir Montagues and Colonel Darlings meeting there? Don’t miss the next thrilling episode in the Adventures of Sir Montague Blastoff, Interplanetary Space Dragoon!
[Music: Theme, in and under for…]
Announcer. Kids, no matter how you say it, when you crave the rich, satisfying flavor of malt, together with the rich, satisfying flavor of cod-liver oil, there’s only one drink you want. All the others have been suppressed by the FDA. So remember that name: Malt-O-Cod, now with the pocket edition of Burnham’s English Dialect Dictionary in specially marked packages. Malt-O-Cod—the malt food drink that’s brain food!
[Music: In full, then out.]
From Dr. Boli’s Fables for Children
Who Are Too Old to Believe in Fables.
Once there was a woman who lived on a farm in the country, and she was just about like all the other farmers’ wives around her, neither more beautiful nor uglier, neither richer nor poorer, neither more nor less fortunate, and neither happier nor more discontented with her lot. This woman had a friend who was a fairy, which is more common in the country than city folk imagine, and when it came time for our farmer’s wife to give birth to her first child, she naturally invited her friend the fairy to her lying-in.
All went as well as could be expected, and the woman gave birth to a healthy baby girl.
Immediately the fairy snatched the child into her arms and said to the mother, “Choose now whether your daughter shall have beauty greater than any other woman’s, with wit and understanding greater than her beauty, and be the empress and autocrat of an immense country, but unhappy; or whether she shall be the ugliest creature in seven counties, with only so much intelligence as she needs to keep her from falling down a well, and with just enough in the way of possessions to keep body and soul together, but contented.”
The farmer’s wife, still recovering from her labor, answered slowly. “It is a hard decision. You say she would be empress with unlimited authority?”
“Unlimited,” the fairy answered.
“And the most beautiful woman on earth?”
“None would surpass her,” said the fairy.
“Just barely able to feed herself.”
“And to be contented she has to be ugly and poor, but to be exalted and beautiful she has to be miserable?”
“Yes, that is the alternative.”
“Well, what if, instead of an empress, she were, say, prime minister of a prosperous medium-sized republic? Would she still have to be unhappy?”
The fairy thought for a moment. “I suppose that, in return for a diminution of her autocratic powers, she might be allowed a few moments of happiness every so often. Not too much, you know, because prime minister is still a pretty big prize.”
“And suppose, say, she were not quite so beautiful: suppose, I mean, she were only the second-most-beautiful woman in the world, or possibly the third.”
“A few rays of happiness might shine into her life,” the fairy reluctantly admitted, “in return for the sacrifice of some of her beauty.”
“Or suppose I chose ugliness and poverty, but instead of absolute contentment, she always wished she had practiced the piano more assiduously. Would she have to be quite so unfortunate then?”
“A small but gnawing regret might gain a little less ugliness and a little more prosperity, I suppose,” said the fairy.
“Or suppose I chose beauty and prosperity, but, instead of prime minister, she were, say, a county commissioner, in a large and prosperous county of course.”
“I dare say the drop from prime minister to county commissioner would purchase several days of happiness.”
And so the conversation went, while the child patiently waited (for the issue of happiness or discontent for her had not yet been decided), until at last the mother and the fairy had reached an arrangement much less extreme than the one the fairy had originally proposed.
So the girl grew up into a woman, and she was not exceptionally beautiful, but not really what you would call ugly, and in spite of a receding chin could actually be quite attractive in certain lights; and she was not by any means rich, but not really poor either, and she was able to support herself and her family when it arrived; and she was not a great wit, but not stupid, and her intellect was adequate to most of the tasks demanded of it; and she had her share of misfortunes and disappointments, but she managed to get through them somehow, and her life was enlivened by moments of sincere delight. In short she was just like the rest of us; for it turns out that most mothers have fairies for friends, and they all end up making more or less the same deal.
From Dr. Boli’s Fables for Children Who Are Too Old to Believe in Fables.
Once there was a boy who had a keen pair of eyes and a particularly loud and piercing voice, so he was employed by a syndicate of sheep-owners to watch over their flock. “And if you see a wolf among the sheep,” the leader of the syndicate told him, “you shout ‘Wolf! Wolf!’ at the top of your lungs.”
The boy solemnly swore that he would keep a careful eye out and warn everyone the moment he saw a wolf, and he went to work watching the sheep with unflagging vigilance.
He had been watching most of the afternoon with nothing to report, when suddenly a wolf sprang out of the underbrush and, to his horror, began devouring one of the sheep.
“Wolf! Wolf!” the boy cried at the top of his lungs.
Immediately the leader of the syndicate came running.
“Look here, boy,” he said sternly, as the wolf continued his meal, “what are you trying to do? Do you want the whole village to think we don’t know how to take care of our sheep?”
“But the wolf is eating them!”
“That’s no excuse for such an unseemly ruckus. You ought to be ashamed of yourself.” And the leader of the syndicate turned and walked away, leaving the wolf to eat mutton until he was satisfied.
The next day the boy was in position again, and once again the wolf leaped out of the brush and began tearing a sheep to pieces.
“Wolf! Wolf!” the boy cried in his piercing soprano.
The leader of the syndicate came running even faster than he had the previous day.
“Now, what did I tell you?” he demanded angrily. “You’re making the whole village think there are wolves about! Do you think that makes them feel secure?”
“But the wolf is right there,” the boy explained.
“I don’t want to be bothered with details! Now, not another peep from you, or there will be serious consequences.” And he turned and stomped away angrily, once again leaving the wolf to eat sheep until he could eat no more.
The next day, the boy was in his place, and once again the wolf leaped out of the shrubbery and began gobbling up sheep.
The boy was not at all certain what to do. He seriously considered just letting the wolf go about his business unmolested. But in the end he remembered that he had sworn a solemn oath to watch over the sheep, and he did what he knew was his duty.
“Wolf! Wolf!” the boy cried.
This time the leader of the syndicate simply called the police and had the boy arrested, and he is now serving six years in juvenile detention for disturbing the peace.
The wolf, meanwhile, ate all the sheep at his leisure; but the members of the syndicate decided that they had never liked sheep very much and were better off without them.
Moral: A comfortable lie beats immoderate truth any old day.
Although no recordings of the old Captain Pleonasm radio serial have survived, a number of the original scripts were recently unearthed in the archives of the Northern Broadcasting Company.
ANNOUNCER. Malt-O-Cod, the delicious and nutritious malt food drink flavored with real cod-liver oil, presents…
(Music: Theme, up and under for…)
ANNOUNCER. The Thrilling and Exciting Adventures of Captain Pleonasm and His Faithful and Trustworthy Sidekick and Assistant, Interjection Boy! Featuring the musical stylings of James Levine and His All-Girl Orchestra.
(Music: In full, then fade.)
ANNOUNCER. As you recall, Captain Pleonasm and Interjection Boy had just foiled the serial phone prankster who bedeviled the offices of the Consolidated Electric Automation Corporation, and as a reward were being given a tour of the research department by the company’s chief scientist, Doctor Gertrude von Dribling.
CAPTAIN PLEONASM. This small machine or device seems to be a marvel of mechanical intricacy and complexity.
DR. VON DRIBLING. That’s a stapler. But over here we have a prototype of the world’s first four-dimensional printer, which not only prints objects in three dimensions but also takes time to do it.
INTERJECTION BOY. Great gabbling ganders, Doctor von Dribling! That’s amazing!
DR. VON DRIBLING. We’re very proud of it. And over here is our improved atonal player piano, which cannot be made to play a melody no matter what roll is loaded in the mechanism.
(Sound: Cacophonous jangling random piano.)
CAPATAIN PLEONASM (shouting): A remarkable and extraordinary instrument!
DR. VON DRIBLING (shouting). Very popular in conservatories!
(Sound: Piano stops.)
DR. VON DRIBLING. And here is—
CAPTAIN PLEONASM. What is in that room or chamber beyond the glass wall or partition there? And what is that curious and peculiar machine therein that resembles a six-foot thimble on wheels?
INTERJECTION BOY. Jeepers, Captain Pleonasm! Did you hear that brassy dissonant chord?
DR. VON DRIBLING. Ah! That is our literary automation department, where we are developing the latest in electrical editing technology. Come through this door and I’ll show you.
DR. VON DRIBLING. Here we are. In here we are creating the editor of the future. Never frustrated, never tired, and always completely dispassionate in its pursuit of efficiency in communication: we call it a Brevitron.
INTERJECTION BOY. Wobblin’ wallabies, Captain Pleonasm! There’s that brassy dissonant chord again.
DR. VON DRIBLING. Let me demonstrate it for you.
BREVITRON (tinny monotone voice). Active.
DR. VON DRIBLING. Brevitron, explain the principles of good style in speech and writing.
BREVITRON. Speak to the point. Use short sentences. Avoid needless repetition. Choose simple words. Passive voice is not recommended.
DR. VON DRIBLING. Hmmm… It may need a little adjustment there, but you see the principle.
CAPTAIN PLEONASM. It seems to me that these recommendations and suggestions, while well suited to children and young persons, may be too simplistic or unsophisticated for such speakers as have reached a state of adulthood and maturity, and whose——
(Sound: Electrical ZAP.)
BREVITRON. Avoid needless repetition.
INTERJECTION BOY. Jigglin’ jellyfish, Doctor von Dribling! What just happened?
DR. VON DRIBLING. The Brevitron is equipped with an up-to-date interrupto ray to assist it in improving the speech patterns of our clients.
CAPTAIN PLEONASM. It is a rather unpleasant feeling or sensation.
DR. VON DRIBLING. The tingling passes in a few minutes.
CAPTAIN PLEONASM. Nevertheless, an educated interlocutor might posit that—
BREVITRON. Choose simple words.
CAPTAIN PLEONASM. I mean that it might be asked wheth—
BREVITRON. Passive voice is not recommended.
DR. VON DRIBLING. I think the settings may be a little too sensitive, which of course is one of the adjustments we can make when we—
BREVITRON. Use short sentences.
INTERJECTION BOY. Great bouncing bobcats, Capt—
BREVITRON. Speak to the point.
CAPTAIN PLEONASM. This machine or de— (ZAP) would appear to be a menace or (ZAP) to the public and (ZAP) at large.
BREVITRON. Avoid needless repetition. Choose simple words.
DR. VON DRIBLING. It’s not supposed to act like that.
CAPTAIN PLEONASM. Perhaps its algorithms or (ZAP) may be (ZAP) of a sudden (ZAP) or adjust— (ZAP)
BREVITRON (droning continuously throughout). Avoid needless repetition. Use short sentences. Choose simple words. Speak to the point. Passive voice is not recommended.
CAPTAIN PLEONASM. Flee and (ZAP), Interjection Boy! (ZAP) and retreat to the security and (ZAP) of the outer chamber or (ZAP)!
INTERJECTION BOY. Gallopin’ (ZAP), Captain Pleonasm!
(Sound: Brevitron zapping and making pronouncements, confused footsteps; then door slamming and silence.)
DR. VON DRIBLING (breathless). My apologies, Captain Pleonasm. Something about the way you talk seems to have affected the programming.
INTERJECTION BOY. Mutterin’ meerkats, Doctor von Dribling! Can that thing get out of there?
DR. VON DRIBLING. It shouldn’t be strong enough to break through the Plexiglas by itself.
INTERJECTION BOY Golly! It’s got arms! I didn’t know there were arms inside that tin can.
DR. VON DRIBLING. Naturally we gave it extensible arms, so that it could manipulate a red pencil.
CAPTAIN PLEONASM. It has removed three casters or wheels from that shelf, and it appears to be attaching them to that metal plate or panel. In your opinion, Doctor von Dribling, based on your considered judgment, what is it doing?
DR. VON DRIBLING. I don’t know. Now it appears to be bolting that large cylinder onto the wheeled panel.
INTERJECTION BOY. Holy kippered herring in mustard sauce, Captain Pleonasm! It’s building another Brevitron!
ANNOUNCER. Will Captain Pleonasm be able to save the world from a plague of Brevitrons? Will the tingling sensation in his chest and larynx ever go away? Don’t miss next week’s riveting episode of the Thrilling and Exciting Adventures of Captain Pleonasm and His Faithful and Trustworthy Sidekick and Assistant, Interjection Boy!
(Music: Theme, in and under for…)
ANNOUNCER. Kids, when it comes to the rich, satisfying flavor of Malt-O-Cod, you can’t use too many words. It’s delicious, nutritious, and—never mind what you hear from those goons at the FDA—not a bit pernicious. Don’t forget to whine and fuss until your parents buy you Malt-O-Cod, the malt food drink that’s brain food.
(Music: in full, then out.)
UNSCRAMBLE THE LETTERS to find the secret word, and of course if you want to cheat you may use the clues provided.
1. Health resorts for the well-to-do.
SSAP = _ _ _ _
2. Hapless fools; usually preceded by “poor.”
SSAP = _ _ _ _
3. A gap between peaks, affording travelers a route through the mountains.
SSAP = _ _ _ _
4. Venomous snakes, of which Cleopatra was rather too fond.
SSAP = _ _ _ _
ANNOUNCER. And now Malt-O-Cod, the only malt food drink flavored with real cod-liver oil, proudly presents…
ANNOUNCER. The Adventures of Sir Montague Blastoff, Interplanetary Space Dragoon!
(Music: Theme, in and under for…)
ANNOUNCER. Tonight we find Sir Montague busy at his desk with some paperwork, when suddenly a very flustered Colonel Wilhelmina Darling rushes into the room.
COL. DARLING. Monty! Oh, Monty! I’m really freaked out.
SIR MONTAGUE. Language, colonel! Now, what seems to be the trouble?
COL. DARLING. Well, I found this big book—more of a binder actually—with the funniest title. It’s called “Show Bible.” And I thought, “Is that a Bible you show to people for some reason?” But I took a look in it, and it’s not like I remember the Bible, although there are some, um, begats. No, it’s about us, Monty!
SIR MONTAGUE. You mean, you and—and me?
COL. DARLING. Everyone in the station! Like right here, on this page, there’s a whole section about the station master. And it says he’s a career bureaucrat, and he likes Swiss cheese but hates rye bread, and the “season finale,” whatever that is, will reveal that he’s been in the pay of the Wombat People since he arrived. Is a “season finale” some sort of truth serum?
SIR MONTAGUE. In a way, my dear. You might say so.
COL. DARLING. And here it says that the janitor has been sweeping muffin wrappers under the rug for seventeen years. Is that why the carpet is so…squishy? And it says old Mrs. Feeble who runs the commissary always thickens the sausage gravy with sawdust on biscuit mornings. Wouldn’t that disqualify her if it got out?
SIR MONTAGUE. I’m sure it’s against regulations somehow.
COL. DARLING. And it says…
SIR MONTAGUE. But, I say, old girl, you don’t really believe any of that, do you?
COL. DARLING. Well, I don’t know.
SIR MONTAGUE. Why, we’ve known these people for years. This book you’ve found must be full of the most egregious bally nonsense.
COL. DARLING. Do you think so?
SIR MONTAGUE. Well, for example, let’s see what it says about you.
COL. DARLING. Um… You don’t have to…
SIR MONTAGUE. Let’s see… Wilhelmina Darling… Colonel, 58th Interplanetary Space Dragoons… Nineteen and ravishingly beautiful… Well, look here, it says that before you were captured by the Ant-Lion People, you were working as a ten-cents-a-dance girl in a tawdry ballroom in one of the less desirable neighborhoods on Triton. Now, we know that can’t be true, can it?
COL. DARLING. Um, no. Of course not.
SIR MONTAGUE. Of course not. You’re a highly trained military professional. So, you see, clearly this is someone’s rather sad attempt at a practical joke, or perhaps a plot by one of our many enemies to undermine our confidence. But we shan’t fall for it, shall we?
COL. DARLING. No. No, we, um, shan’t.
SIR MONTAGUE. So if, hypothetically, there were a section on me, and if there were—hypothetically—some absolute rubbish in it about my growing up in Hoboken and learning my accent from reruns of Are You Being Served, why, you wouldn’t believe it at all, would you?
COL. DARLING. No. Not a word of it. I mean, just like you don’t believe the thing about the Dance-a-Topia Ballroom. Or, I mean, whatever the name of it was.
SIR MONTAGUE. Splendid! Glad we cleared that up, old girl. Now give us a hand with this paperwork. Was it before or after 5 p.m. when we fell into the clutches of the Marmoset Men?
(Music: Theme, in and under for…)
ANNOUNCER. And so, once again, Sir Montague and Colonel Darling are victorious over the forces of angst. Don’t miss next week’s exciting episode: Sir Montague Blastoff Requisitions a Requisition Form! Till then, kids, don’t listen to anything you hear about shipments of Malt-O-Cod being seized by the FDA. There are still plenty of shipments they didn’t get, and there will be no shortage at your local grocery store. Always remember to beg your parents for the rich, satisfying flavor of Malt-O-Cod every morning. It’s the malt food drink that’s brain food—Malt-O-Cod!
(Music: In full, then out.)
“Oh, please don’t make me wear the hood, Grandmother!” she cried piteously.
Once upon a time there was a little girl who was terribly embarrassed by her family. Her late father had been the leader of a motorcycle gang called the Riding Hoods; and because his little girl always blushed when the subject was mentioned, which amused the other gang members greatly, she was always called Little Red Riding Hood, which of course embarrassed her all the more. To make her embarrassment complete, her grandmother, who fenced all the loot the gang members had stolen, made her a red hood, which she was forced to wear in public, solely because the cheap visual pun amused her cruel grandmother and her crueler associates.
One day her grandmother told her to go to Krzrnski’s Cafe, where the gang liked to gather, and pick up a basket of stolen muffins. “And don’t forget to put on your hood before you go,” the cruel old woman added.
Little Red Riding Hood fell on her knees. “Oh, please don’t make me wear the hood, Grandmother!” she cried piteously.
“What nonsense,” her grandmother responded. “Of course you must wear the hood. Otherwise the gang will have nothing to laugh at, and then they might burn down McKeesport again.”
So Little Red Riding Hood went off on her miserable way. How the gang laughed at her in her hideous red hood! But there was nothing she could do. She took the basket and turned around without a word.
On her way back, she met a wolf.
“Good morning, dear young lady,“ said the very polite wolf. “Where are you going so early, and do you need help removing that hideous excrescence that seems to have landed on your head?”
“Alas,” said the little girl, “and also alack, if I may be so bold; for it is a hood that my cruel and wicked grandmother forces me to wear, solely to humiliate me.”
“Where are you going so early, and do you need help removing that hideous excrescence that seems to have landed on your head?”
“You have a cruel and wicked grandmother?” the wolf asked.
“Yes, a cruel and wicked grandmother who lives at Number 1301 Long Way, right at the intersection with Short Cut. She makes my life miserable every day, and every day I wish that I could somehow be free from her clutches!”
“How very sad for you,” the wolf said sympathetically, writing something down in a pocket memorandum book. “But tell me: you wouldn’t happen to have any old beef bones or pork fat in that basket, would you? Because if you have been wondering how to get rid of any food scraps, I run a very efficient service.”
“You’re not going to eat me, are you?” Little Red Riding Hood asked nervously.
“Oh, certainly not! That is a common misconception. In fact a domestic dog, statistically speaking, is much more likely to attack you than a wolf. Wolves have attacked very few humans, and in almost every case they have mistaken the human for a garbage can. You are more likely to be savaged by a chipmunk. I have a wealth of facts and figures that I might share with you if you so desired, especially if you happened to have any old scraps of pork fat to be disposed of.”
“Alas,” said the poor little girl, “I have nothing but a few stolen muffins, which I must take to Grandmother’s house to be fenced.”
“But muffins are the perfect food for wolves!” cried the wolf with obvious glee. “Muffins provide vital nutrition for the active wolf lifestyle. Oh, if I could only have a muffin right now!”
“Well, here,” said Little Red Riding Hood, producing a cranberry muffin from the basket. “You’re the only one who’s been nice to me all week, so I don’t see why you shouldn’t have a muffin.”
“Oh, thank you!” the wolf said, and he devoured the muffin in two chomps, paper and all. “I won’t forget this, sweet little girl. You have made a wolf very happy.”
So Little Red Riding Hood and the wolf parted, and the little girl ambled along Long Way, dreading the moment she would reach No. 1301 and have to face her cruel and wicked grandmother again. And what if the gang members had told her grandmother how many muffins they had stolen? Would she count them? Would she notice the one missing? Oh, how horrible the punishment would be if she did! The last time something had been missing from the basket, her grandmother had made her wear pink bunny slippers for a month.
At last, Little Red Riding Hood reached her grandmother’s cottage. Timidly, she knocked on the door.
“Come in,” said an unusually hoarse voice.
Slowly the little girl opened the door and peered into the dim cottage. “I brought the muffins,” she said, trying to control the nervous quaver in her voice.
Timidly, she knocked on the door.
“Oh, thank you,” said a hoarse falsetto voice from the bedroom. “Please bring them in here, as I have a slight chill.”
Little Red Riding Hood stopped in her tracks. “But my grandmother never says ‘thank you,’” she said to herself. “And she certainly never says ‘please.’”
Cautiously and suspiciously she walked into the little bedroom, where a lump in the bed, bundled in blankets and wearing her grandmother’s bonnet, was barely visible in the dim light.
“Grandmother?” Little Red Riding Hood asked uncertainly.
“Grandmother?” Little Red Riding Hood asked uncertainly.
“Surprise!” said the wolf, sitting up and flinging off the old lady’s bonnet with a happy smile.
“My friend the wolf!” Little Red Riding Hood cried with delight. “But what happened to my cruel grandmother?”
“She took a—um—an early retirement package,” the wolf said.
“You mean my wicked grandmother is gone at last?”
“Yes, I have made sure she was, um, well taken care of, at the cost of a certain blip in the statistics. May I have a muffin?”
“Hooray!” cried Little Red Riding Hood, and she immediately tore the ugly red hood from her head and flushed it down the toilet.
Thus Little Red Riding Hood and her wolf lived happily ever after; and one by one, as they came to the house to see what had become of Grandmother, the members of the Riding Hoods took early retirement packages.
ANNIVERSARY WEEK.—In honor of the eighth anniversary of his Celebrated Magazine on the World-Wide Web, Dr. Boli is reprinting some of the most notable articles, stories, poems, and advertisements of the past eight years.
In olden times, our forefathers huddled around the fire and told the story of Why the Osprey Has No Xylophone. Now our forefathers are all dead, and serve them right. And this is the story they told:—
Many moons ago—Io, and Europa, and Charon, and Titan, and Ganymede, and Phobos, and Triton, and Callisto, and Oberon, and Tethys ago—the osprey was king of all the birds. At that remote time the avian world was governed as a constitutional monarchy, and the osprey’s duties were confined to opening shopping centers, signing letters of commendation, and posing for portraits on currency, which, in the days before printing, naturally took up most of a reigning monarch’s schedule.
One day the osprey told his prime minister, an ambitious young herring gull, “I should like to have a tulip.”
“Get it yourself,” replied the prime minister, who was positively mad with power.
So the osprey set out on an epic quest for a tulip. He traveled to the ends of the earth, slew monsters, ate at dreadful fast-food joints, and endured such hardships as no king before or since has ever endured. At length he came to a plateau in Anatolia that was carpeted from end to end with tulips, but he decided that tulips weren’t all they were cracked up to be and flew home disappointed.
On his return, he discovered that his throne had been declared vacant, and the former prime minister was now ruling as General Secretary of the People’s Revolutionary Council. “We don’t need kings anymore,” he explained. “But we do have an opening for a new registrar of deeds.”
Having tried out that position for a month, however, the osprey decided that if he never registered another deed it would be just peachy. He therefore went into business for himself selling collectible porcelain figurines to pigeons, who have an insatiable appetite for that sort of thing. Eventually he retired to a trailer park outside Sarasota, where as far as anyone knows he still resides today. And that, dear children, is why the osprey has no xylophone, but has a marimba instead.
ANNIVERSARY WEEK.—In honor of the forthcoming eighth anniversary of his Celebrated Magazine on the World-Wide Web, Dr. Boli is reprinting some of the most notable articles, stories, poems, and advertisements of the past eight years.
No. 317.—A Brigantine.
Not so long ago by radiocarbon dating, my friend Ned and I spent a summer by Lake Erie. The constantly shifting aspects of water and shore stimulated our imaginations, and the knowledge that the very scenes before us had formed the setting against which the magnificent deeds of Commodore Perry were enacted, filled our youthful fancies with a desire to emulate his great feats of naval prowess. Indeed, so filled were we with youthful bravado that we imagined ourselves surpassing the great commander, and carving out a great northern empire around the great northern waters. For this purpose we required a brig similar to Commodore Perry’s Niagara.
It was clear to us that, unlike our simple dog-cart (No. 18) and our simple time-machine (No. 241), this was a project that would require a great deal of preparation and dedicated work. But that did not dampen our enthusiasm, for we reflected that we had the whole summer to accomplish our task, and we had never yet encountered an obstacle which we could not overcome by hard work and imagination.
First we needed a great quantity of wood. My uncle, with whom we were staying, had no such materials handy; but luckily his neighbors were away for the summer, and thus would not be needing their house.
For three weeks, Ned and I were up at sunrise every morning with our hammers and saws. We used the roof trusses to form the skeleton of our ship. Having no design or plans other than our memories of the Niagara and other ships we had seen, we naturally made many mistakes and had to do some of the work twice; but by the middle of July we had finished the construction. We had decided to rig our ship as a brigantine rather than a brig, mostly because we found the polysyllabic name more impressive. All that was left, then, was to add sails, for which we made use of our neighbors’ best linens, and to seal the hull against the intrusion of water. We recalled that Noah had sealed the Ark with bitumen, but the local hardware store had run out of bitumen, and was not expecting any more until October. We had come too far, however, to be inconvenienced by a minor setback; and it was Ned who hit on the idea of substituting chewing gum for bitumen. How our jaws ached when we had finished! But our efforts were not in vain: our ship was water-tight and ready to launch. In honor of our hero, we christened our brigantine the Commodore Perry.
Now all we needed was a crew. For this we decided to resort to the old English custom of impressment, which seemed to us the most effective method of assembling a large crew in a short time. We visited a number of disreputable saloons in the east end of town, and, bribing a few of the rowdiest characters there with strong liquor, soon assembled an efficient press gang which did the rest of our work for us. By the next morning we had a large though somewhat baffled crew, and were ready to set sail.
We armed our ship with cannons made from pickle barrels we had found in my uncle’s storeroom and set out on our first adventure, which we had determined should be the conquest of Canada. This we accomplished in short order, as it transpired that the Canadian Great Lakes fleet was disorganized and ill-prepared for an attack from the south. We set up a puppet government in Welland, which was close enough that we could sail home for dinner at my uncle’s house every night, and for a few weeks ruled as absolute dictators. All too soon, however, the autumn was upon us, and we had to go back to our homes and school, filled with the memories of a summer brimming with adventure.