Posts filed under “Young Readers”

THE ADVENTURES OF SIR MONTAGUE BLASTOFF, INTERPLANETARY SPACE DRAGOON.

ANNOUNCER. And now Malt-O-Cod, the only malt food drink flavored with real cod-liver oil, proudly presents…

(Music: Fanfare)

ANNOUNCER. The Adventures of Sir Montague Blastoff, Interplanetary Space Dragoon!

(Music: Theme, in and under for…)

ANNOUNCER. Tonight we find Sir Montague with Colonel Wilhelmina Darling in New York of 1836, with picturesque carriages and sumptuous costumes and other things that cost a lot less on radio than in the movies.

SIR MONTAGUE. Well, Colonel, here we are—thanks to our earlier perfection of time travel—in November of 1836, just in time to prevent the election of Martin Van Buren as President of the United States and assure a Whig victory.

COL. DARLING. But I still don’t see why we had to come all this way to interfere with a minor historical figure in one of those forgotten backwater countries that used to infest the earth before the Interplanetary High Commission sorted everything out.

SIR MONTAGUE. My dear Colonel, the misery wrought by the Panic of 1837 led to untold—

SIR MONTAGUE (distant). Oh, I say! There you are!

COL. DARLING (distant). Wilhelmina! Wait for us!

COL. DARLING. Look, Monty! It’s us!

SIR MONTAGUE. I say! Is this another hiccup with the machinery?

SIR MONTAGUE (approaching). Not at all. I came looking for you, actually. Jolly good thing I found you, too.  I’ve come to tell you to turn back before it’s too late. It turns out that the consequences of a Whig victory in 1836 were nothing short of appalling.

SIR MONTAGUE. Really?

SIR MONTAGUE. Indeed. The effect on contemporary interplanetary culture has been simply devastating.

COL. DARLING. Look at these uniforms we have to wear. Polyester velour!

COL. DARLING. Ew!

SIR MONTAGUE (distant). Just a moment there!

COL. DARLING. Look! It’s us again!

SIR MONTAGUE (approaching). Good thing we caught up with the four of you! It turns out that Martin Van Buren must be stopped after all. By a series of events too complicated to explain right now, his election led to a complete collapse of the Interplanetary Union shortly after the second pair of you left.

SIR MONTAGUE. My word! That’s awkward.

SIR MONTAGUE. It certainly is. So the mission is on again, eh?

SIR MONTAGUE (distant). Not quite, I’m afraid!

COL. DARLING. It’s two more of us!

SIR MONTAGUE (approaching). After a round of jolly complicated calculations by the boffins, we’ve discovered that it was actually the election of Richard M. Johnson as vice president in 1836 that led to all the troubles down the road, so to speak.

COL. DARLING. So we have to prevent Richard M. Johnson from being elected, but not Martin Van Buren?

COL. DARLING. Yes, to prevent polyester.

COL. DARLING. No, I’m afraid the polyester will happen anyway. The boffins couldn’t calculate a way around it.

COL. DARLING. But I hate polyester! It doesn’t breathe!

COL. DARLING. Actually, a few of us have taken to wearing a cotton-polyester blend. It’s against regulations, and who knows what would happen if we were caught, but—

SIR MONTAGUE (approaching). I say, do any of you fine ladies and gentlemen know which way it is to 1841?

COL. DARLING (approaching). Monty, I think you forgot to reset the temporal coordinates.

SIR MONTAGUE. Oh, that must be it. Sorry, everyone. Obviously Colonel Darling is correct; I simply forgot to reset the dial thingy after coming here to tell you all that it was John Tyler who had to be stopped, not Richard M. Johnson.

SIR MONTAGUE. But you haven’t told us anything of the sort.

SIR MONTAGUE. Really? Well, we should be along any moment now.

SIR MONTAGUE (distant). I say, everyone, wait just a minute! It’s not Johnson or Van Buren at all! It’s Tyler!

SIR MONTAGUE. Ah, there we are now.

SIR MONTAGUE (approaching). One pair of us has got to get to March of 1841 and slip President Harrison some penicillin.

COL. DARLING. We’ll go, won’t we, Monty?

COL. DARLING. No, don’t bother. We can take care of it.

COL. DARLING. Are you sure? I wouldn’t want to put you to any trouble.

COL. DARLING. If neither of you want to do it, I’m sure we could manage.

COL. DARLING. You actually look rather fetching in polyester velour.

COL. DARLING. Do you really think so? Don’t tell anyone, but it’s a cotton-polyester blend.

(Music: Theme, in and under for…)

NARRATOR. Will Sir Montague and Colonel Darling make it to 1841 in time to stop President Harrison from kicking the bucket? Don’t miss next week’s thrilling episode: Sir Montague Blastoff and Article 2, Section 1, Clause 6 of the United States Constitution! Until then, kids, remember to whine frequently until your parents bring home the Malt-O-Cod, the only malt food drink with the rich, satisfying flavor of real cod-liver oil. For a limited time only, you’ll find a little packet with more Malt-O-Cod in it inside each specially marked package of Malt-O-Cod. So remember that name, kids: Malt-O-Cod, the malt food drink that’s brain food.

(Music: In full, then out.)

SARKASTIKO.

Announcer. Malt-O-Cod, the only malt food drink flavored with real cod-liver oil, presents…

[Music: Laughing trombone.]

Announcer. The Adventures of Sarkastiko, the hero with the rapier wit!

[Music: Theme, in and under for…]

Announcer. Yes, Sarkastiko, armed only with his cutting repartee and an actual rapier, fights for justice and freedom on a daily basis, like that will help.

[Music: Theme fades.]

Announcer. As you recall, last week Sarkastiko had just found the secret lair of Professor Literal, when suddenly he was surrounded by henchmen, and…

Prof. Literal. Aha! Now you are in my power at last, Sarkastiko!

Sarkastiko. Yeah, it looks like I’ve got you right where I want you, doesn’t it?

Prof. Literal. I think you fail to understand the gravity of your situation. It is I who have you right where I want you. Your puny thin little sword is ineffectual against my henchmen armed with machine guns, hand grenades, and anti-tank weaponry.

Sarkastiko. I suppose you might have a tiny advantage in the weapons department.

Prof. Literal. I assure you, Sarkastiko, it is a very large advantage! You are completely helpless now, though I admit that your resistance was valiant.

Sarkastiko. Yeah, I really aced this one, didn’t I?

Prof. Literal. Not exactly. But you have fought bravely, and I respect that. I will therefore allow you to choose the manner of your own demise. How would you like to die?

Sarkastiko. Um…old age? Heh heh.

Prof. Literal. Oh! Very well, then. See you in seventy years or so. And no cheating and dying of cancer in the mean time.

Sarkastiko. Um…

Prof. Literal. Or getting hit by a streetcar. I hate that! I’ll be watching! And you should cut down on fatty foods. I want you to have your cholesterol checked.

Sarkastiko. Uh, okay.

Prof. Literal. Now bundle up. It’s chilly out there. The last thing we want is to have you catching pneumonia and depriving me of my ultimate victory when you’re a hundred and three or so. I shall very much enjoy watching your slow withering away into senility! Careful on the steps on the way out.

Sarkastiko. Um, right.

Announcer. And so once again Sarkastiko is saved by his razor-sharp wit, although at the cost of making this week’s episode a little shorter than we expected. Tune in next week for more of the Adventures of Sarkastiko, the hero with the rapier wit! And the actual rapier.

[Music: Theme, in and under for…]

Announcer. Kids, Sarkastiko knows that you’d never take advantage of your parents’ concern for your health. So it’s not like kids your age would ever try to get the Malt-O-Cod you crave by needling your moms and dads about the health benefits of your favorite malt food drink. But you should know that children who drink Malt-O-Cod have been shown to be 17% less likely to be attacked by killer bees. Not that you’d ever have any use for that information. So remember that name, kids: Malt-O-Cod, the malt food drink that’s brain food.

[Music: In full, then out.]

COMMON-SENSE MAN VERSUS THE DRAGON.

Announcer. Malt-O-Cod, the only malt food drink flavored with real cod-liver oil, presents…

[Music: Simple fanfare.]

Announcer. The Adventures of Common-Sense Man!

[Music: Theme, in and under for…]

Announcer. Common-Sense Man, standing up for all that is good, decent, and practical whenever it is threatened by dogmatism and theoreticism! In his strikingly comfortable khaki slacks and mid-blue polo shirt, Common-Sense Man drives his very practical Toyota Prius at the posted speed limit to arrive within a reasonable time whenever there is danger!

[Music: In full, then out.]

Announcer. As you recall, last week our hero was captured and taken to the underground lair of the Dragon, a fiendish villain bent on destroying the world by fire!

Dragon. So you see, Common-Sense Man, my plan is perfect. There is nothing you can do to stop me. With one press of this button, I shall set off a chain reaction in all the world’s nuclear arsenals, cleansing the earth in a storm of flame! Then the world shall know that I am [reverbthe Dragon.

Common-Sense Man. But how will you and your minions survive?

Dragon. Aha! I have thought of that! Here in this underground bunker, I shall be perfectly secure!

Common-Sense Man. But who’s going to generate your electricity?

Dragon. What?

Common-Sense Man. I mean, you use electricity for everything down here. Where will you get your power when everyone who works at Duquesne Light is dead?

Dragon. Well, I could—I could buy a generator.

Common-Sense Man. You mean the kind that runs on gasoline? Who’s going to refine your oil for you?

Dragon. Um, I.… Okay, smarty-pants,  I’ll go solar! Ha! Didn’t see that coming, did you? I’ll go solar, and then I won’t need Duquesne Light or a generator!

Common-Sense Man. But solar panels need to be replaced every so often. Can you make a solar cell? Did you remember to pick a photoelectric engineer as one of your minions? And batteries wear out even faster than solar cells. Can you make a rechargeable battery out of stuff you have lying around the lair?

Dragon. Well, gee, you kind of take the fun out of everything. I mean, if that’s the way it’s going to be, I might as well go back to managing the Burger Yurt.

Common-Sense Man. Well, now, that’s a very good idea. There are lots of opportunities for practical evil in the fast-food business.

Dragon. Yes. Yes! I could do something really evil with the Burger Yurt! I could… I could put a timer on drive-through transactions, but not on counter sales, and measure employee performance by the timer, so that the entire drive-through line will be cleared before a single walk-in customer is served! That’s evil, isn’t it?

Common-Sense Man. At least it’s not very nice. It’s a good first step. And it’s very practical.

Dragon. Hoho! I see it all now! Nuclear annihilation is for sissies! The real playground of evil is food service!

Announcer. And so once again Common-Sense Man saves the earth from destruction, although at the cost of a certain amount of inconvenience to the lunch crowd. Tune in again next time for more thrilling and edifying adventures of Common-Sense Man!

[Music: Theme, in and under for…]

Announcer. Kids, one thing Common-Sense Man knows is that you can’t start the day without a good breakfast. That’s why he always starts the morning with a great big glass of Malt-O-Cod, the only malt food drink with the delicious flavor of one hundred per cent real cod-liver oil. Then he eats some eggs, toast, and fruit, because the FDA wants us to tell you that. So remember, kids, tell your parents it’s just good common sense to stock up on Malt-O-Cod today!

[Music: In full, then out.]

HOW THE GIRAFFE GOT HIS NECK.

Does that not sound like a splendid subject for a fable? But we are not going to hear it. Instead, we are going to hear the story of How the Leopard Got His Spots. This is a literary technique known as bait and switch.

In his youth, the Leopard was known for his wild and reckless behavior. It was a frequent subject of hand-wringing and head-shaking among the other animals of the jungle.

“He has no thought for the future,” said the wise old Elephant. “He never considers the consequences of his actions.”

“He drives like a maniac,” added the Okapi. “I mean, he would if we had cars.”

“Something ought to be done to teach him some responsibility,” said the Musk Ox, who had come south for the jungle climate on the advice of his doctor.

“I shall teach him responsibility,” the Lion declared. All eyes turned toward the wise and magnanimous king of the beasts. “I shall teach him by giving him a kind of responsibility which will engage his pride, his amour-propre as it were.” The animals were always particularly impressed when the Lion threw a little French into casual conversation, although in fact the only French words the Lion knew were “amour” and “propre.” “He will be given a responsibility essential to the well-being of all, and the consequences of failure will be shame and embarrassment.”

“A wise decision,” the animals all agreed, and there was scattered polite applause.

So the Lion summoned the Leopard into the royal presence.

“What’s cookin’, pops?” the Leopard asked with a jocularity that had all the other animals cringing.

“I have a very important mission for you,” the Lion told him with imperturbable good cheer.

“Solid!” replied the Leopard, who was always “hep” to the latest “jive.”

“You must carry this tray on your back to the Chimpanzee, who lives on the other side of the valley,” the Lion explained. “On it are six open bottles of ink, which the Chimpanzee will use to write his quarterly report. As I am sure you are aware, without quarterly reports the entire machinery of government grinds to a halt. Yours is therefore a mission of the utmost importance, and it requires extreme steadiness and careful concentration. One thoughtless step, and your splendid yellow coat will be ruined. Can you do it?”

“I won’t let you down, pops,” the Leopard assured him.

So the Elephant used her trunk to lower the tray carefully onto the Leopard’s back, and the Leopard set out for the other side of the valley, treading the well-worn jungle track as carefully as he could.

He had been walking only a few minutes when he met the Hyena, who was rolling on the ground laughing uncontrollably.

“Oh—oh—oh!” gasped the Hyena. “I just heard the funniest joke! I must tell it to you!”

“Oh, man, I love a good joke!—But no; no, I have an important responsibility now, and I must not fail. If I laughed too hard, the ink would surely spill all over me, and everyone would know that I had failed. You must excuse me; I will hear your joke when I am done.”

So the Leopard walked carefully onward, even though he really wanted to hear the Hyena’s joke.

It was not long before he met the Cheetah along the way.

“I just learned this solid new dance,” she told him, bouncing up and down with excitement. “Won’t you please dance it with me?”

“Oh, man, I love to dance with you!—But no; no, I have an important responsibility now, and I must not fail. If I danced with you, the ink would spill all over me, and everyone would know I had failed. You must excuse me; I will dance with you when I am done.”

So the Leopard walked carefully onward, even though he really wanted to dance with the Cheetah, who had a bit of a reputation as a wild girl.

It was not long before he met the Grey Parrot, who never had anything good to say.

“Aw, your mother sells inferior foreign-made footwear in a discount department store,” the Grey Parrot said with a beaky sneer.

“Oh, man, I’d love to chase that bird!” the Leopard said to himself. “But no; no, I have an important responsibility now, and I must not fail. If I chased him, the ink would spill all over me, and everyone would know I had failed. There will be time to chase the Parrot when I am done.”

At last the Leopard came to the Chimpanzee, who relieved him of the tray of ink, thanked him profusely, and wrote him a receipt to take back to the Lion. The Lion congratulated the Leopard on a job well done, and hoped he understood now how good it felt to take personal responsibility for something important.

“I sure do,” said the Leopard. “I’m going out to celebrate right now!”

So the Leopard ran around the corner to the tattoo parlor. “I feel like celebrating,” he said. “I want something really wild. Something like what the Cheetah’s got.” And the tattooist gave him what he wanted. And that is the story of how the Leopard got his spots, which made quite a change in his appearance. The next time he passed by, the Giraffe was so surprised that he stretched his neck way out to get a better look, and it stuck that way. So it seems we did hear the story of how the Giraffe got his neck after all.

 

THE DUCK.

From Dr. Boli’s Fables for Children Who Are Too Old to Believe in Fables.

seventh-anniversary-horseman

In its first run, this was one of Dr. Boli’s most popular articles. It accumulated a long chain of comments, which are worth reading if you are a connoisseur of Internet comments.


ONCE TWO SCIENTISTS—it hardly matters what sort—were walking before dinner beside a pleasant pond with their friend, a reporter for the Dispatch, when they happened to notice a bird standing beside the water.

“I am a skeptic,” said the first scientist. “I demand convincing evidence before I make an assertion. But I believe I can identify that bird, beyond all reasonable doubt, as a duck.” The journalist nodded silently at this assertion.

“I also am a skeptic,” said the second, “but evidently of a more refined sort, for I demand a much higher standard of evidence than you do. I see no irrefutable evidence to back up your assertion that this object before us is even a bird, let alone positively identifying it as a duck.” The journalist raised his eyebrow sagely.

“But what of the feathers?” the first scientist demanded. “Surely you must have noticed the feathers, which are the veritable hallmark, so to speak, of a bird.”

“I have seen nearly identical feathers on a feather duster,” the second replied. “At present the evidence is not strong enough to say whether the object before us is a member of the avian genus Anas or a common household implement.” The journalist held his chin and pondered this revelation.

But this object has two legs, and walks upon the ground,” the first scientist objected.

So indeed do many members of the genus Homo, including our own species,” the second replied, and the journalist smiled a knowing smile.

But this creature has webbed feet,” the first scientist pointed out, his voice rising slightly.

My cousin Albrecht has webbed feet,” the second replied. “You are making my case for me by presenting not one but two compelling pieces of evidence that this object is in fact a member of the genus Homo, and very likely my cousin Albrecht.” The journalist looked up, as though he were carefully weighing the argument.

But it has a broad and flat bill,” the first scientist said.

The platypus has a broad and flat bill,” the second pointed out, “and so has a baseball cap. Since we have much evidence that suggests the object is a member of the genus Homo, and some that suggests it belongs to the genus Ornithorhynchus, it seems reasonable to suppose, as a provisional hypothesis, that the object is a mammal, and with somewhat less certainty we may identify it as my cousin Albrecht wearing a baseball cap.” The journalist, unable to suppress his instincts any longer, produced a long, narrow notebook and began to scribble furiously.

But it has feathers!” the first scientist shouted. “It has feathers, and two legs, and webbed feet, and a broad flat bill, and it says ‘quack,’ and—look—it’s gone into the pond now, and it’s floating on the water. It’s a duck!”

Each one of those observations is susceptible of a different explanation,” the second scientist responded calmly. “Where is your compelling evidence?”

The first scientist slapped his forehead. Then, calming himself, he turned to his friend the reporter. “Since we seem unable to reach a conclusion,” he said, “would you be kind enough to favor us with your opinion?”

Reputable scientists disagree,” said the journalist. “There is a debate. The question is far from settled. The truth probably lies between the two extremes of duck and not-duck.

So the two scientists both stomped away in dudgeon and hostility, and the journalist, unable by himself to decide where to eat dinner, starved to death.

THE ADVENTURES OF BACKSTORY MAN AND ANGST BOY.

seventh-anniversary-horsemanIn honor of the seventh anniversary of his Magazine’s appearance on the World-Wide Web, Dr. Boli is reprinting a few notable items from the past seven years.

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 Adventures of Backstory Man and Angst Boy!

(Music: In full, then fade for…)

ANNOUNCER. As you recall, in our last episode, Backstory Man and Angst Boy had agreed to meet Doctor Lethargicus to discuss his demand for world domination beginning with a nationwide speed limit of fifteen miles per hour. But as they waited for Doctor Lethargicus to appear, suddenly a hidden panel swung open, and…

ANGST BOY. Now what are we going to do? We’re trapped in Doctor Lethargicus’ Web of Inactivity, and we can’t move our arms and legs! It’s like a metaphor for my adolescent life.

BACKSTORY MAN. This is all my fault. I was distracted by memories (which somehow appeared to me in sepia tones) of the time long ago when Doctor Lethargicus was just plain little Herbie, my long-lost younger brother.

ANGST BOY. But I should have known it was a trap! Oh, how can I call myself a sidekick when I can’t protect my mentor from even the most obvious nefarious plots?

BACKSTORY MAN. No, don’t blame yourself, Angst Boy. It is I who must shoulder the blame on this occasion. I have failed you, just as I failed young Herbie when he was your age. If only I had warned him about the dangers of reading Ayn Rand! But no, I thought it was merely a phase he would grow out of.

ANGST BOY. But sooner or later we have to fail, don’t we? I mean, is it even possible to go out heroing all the time without eventually meeting the villain you can’t defeat? And if it’s not possible, then why do we do it? Isn’t our whole body of work meaningless because of this one failure? Doesn’t the whole world know that eventually we have to fail? And is that why none of the cheerleaders at school will ever pay any attention to me?

BACKSTORY MAN. You remind me so much of Herbie when he was your age. He said just the same thing after he saved me from that speeding freight train when I was home from college and he was only sixteen. At least he said the part about the cheerleaders. I don’t remember the rest of what he said.

ANGST BOY. Then this is it. We might as well give up and admit that we’ll never live up to the standard that’s expected of us as heroes.

BACKSTORY MAN. No, Angst Boy. Never give up. That was the last thing my mother said to me before my parents mysteriously disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle, leaving me with no clue as to their whereabouts except monthly postcards with pictures of sand dollars and seagulls on them. And in honor of that last wish, I have taken a solemn oath never to give up on anything.

ANGST BOY. Aren’t you the one who doesn’t have a driver’s license because you said the test was too hard?

BACKSTORY MAN. Never give up on anything important. That’s my motto. It has to be important.

ANGST BOY. And here I am, sidekick to a hero who can’t drive. Is this what I was supposed to be by the time I was sixteen?

ANNOUNCER. Will Backstory Man and Angst Boy be stuck forever in Doctor Lethargicus’ Web of Inactivity? Will next week’s episode be stretched out with ultimately meaningless dialogue? Tune in next week at this same time to the Adventures of Backstory Man and Angst Boy!

(Music: Theme, up and under for…)

ANNOUNCER. Kids, have you had your Malt-O-Cod today? Your parents must be awfully negligent if they don’t make sure you’re well supplied with the rich, satisfying flavor of Malt-O-Cod every morning. Perhaps you ought to report them to the authorities. Visit the Malt-O-Cod Web site for the addresses of child protective services organizations in your area. And tell them Backstory Man and Angst Boy sent you!

(Music: In full, then out.)

THE LITTLE DUTCH BOY WHO SAVED HOLLAND.

From Dr. Boli’s Fables for Children Who Are Too Old to Believe in Fables.

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In honor of the seventh anniversary of his Magazine’s appearance on the World-Wide Web, Dr. Boli is reprinting a few notable items from the past seven years.

Once there was a little Dutch boy who discovered a leak in the dike.

What should he do? From a single leak, a terrible breach might grow. The whole country could be flooded, and everyone he knew would drown.

So he did the only thing he could think of. He stuck his finger in the dike, and the leak stopped.

Of course, now he was stuck. He couldn’t move, because as soon as he did, the leak would start again.

So he stood there for quite some time. He was rather tired, and his finger felt a bit numb from the effort of holding back the North Sea, but he knew he was doing his duty.

At last the Burgomaster happened to pass by.

“Young man,” he said with a certain amount of sternness, “why are you poking your finger in the dike?”

“I am stopping a leak,” the boy explained. “I saw the dike leaking, so I stuck my finger in the hole.”

“Heroic boy!” the Burgomaster exclaimed. “You shall be rewarded! Meanwhile, keep your finger there while I call the Burghers together.”

So the Burgomaster called a meeting of the Burghers, and they agreed that the boy had heroically saved Holland.

“And now,” the Burgomaster asked, “what shall we do about the leak?”

“It seems to me,” one of the Burghers replied, “that private enterprise has already found an admirable solution to the problem. The boy has stuck his finger in the dike, and the leak has stopped. You might describe it as voluntary self-regulation. There is no need for expensive government action.”

So the Burghers voted to award the boy a Certificate of Good Citizenship, which the Burgomaster was delighted to be able to present to him the next day.

“Thank you,” the boy said politely, “but I still have my finger in this dike.”

“And we appreciate that,” the Burgomaster replied. “I may confidently speak for the whole Council of Burghers in saying that your heroic action is universally admired.”

So the boy stood there with his finger in the dike for a few more days.

It was not long, however, before another leak sprang in the dike, a little bit farther down the way.

“What shall we do?” the Burgomaster asked the Burghers. “There is another leak.”

“As private enterprise has so admirably solved the previous problem,” one of the Burghers responded, “the solution to this new leak is obvious. We need only persuade another heroic boy to stick his finger in it.”

So they went into the local school and found another boy who, after much persuasion, was willing to stick his finger in the dike.

It was, however, only a few days later that two more leaks appeared. This time it was much harder to persuade boys to stick their fingers in the holes; and when, a week later, half a dozen more leaks appeared, no volunteers were to be found.

“What shall we do?” the Burgomaster asked the Council. “Private enterprise seems no longer to be adequate. We may have to repair the dike itself this time.”

“Nonsense,” said one of the Burghers. “The solution that worked before will work again. We must simply force private enterprise into action.”

So the Council visited the school and dragged a number of young boys by the ears to the dike, where they were forced to plug the leaks with their fingers.

But the dike, which was old and poorly maintained, continued to spring new leaks here and there, so that it was all the Burghers could do to find more boys to plug up the leaks with their fingers. At last the Burghers compelled every little boy in the Low Countries to stick his finger in a hole. All economic activity came to a halt, as it is well known that young boys are the leading consumers of skates and cheese, on which the economy of Holland depended at that time.

“What shall we do?” the Burgomaster asked the Council. “We have run out of heroic little boys. At this rate, we may have to plug the leaks with our own fingers.”

“That would be moderately inconvenient,” one of the Burghers remarked.

So the Council voted to remove the North Sea by digging a new seabed somewhere in Germany; and they voted themselves a number of solid gold spades, befitting their dignity, for the purpose. And if you go to suburban Wilhelmshaven right now, and look into the field to your right as you drive westward on the Friedenstrasse, you will see a number of Dutch burghers very busy with their spades, trying to dig a new bed for the North Sea. It is lucky for them that the people of Wilhelmshaven have mistaken the burghers for a party of archaeologists looking for ancient Saxon remains, which has allowed them to continue the work uninterrupted.

 

THE MONKEYS AND THE BOAT.

From Dr. Boli’s Fables for Children Who Are Too Old to Believe in Fables.

seventh-anniversary-horseman

In honor of the seventh anniversary of his Magazine’s appearance on the World-Wide Web, Dr. Boli is reprinting a few notable items from the past seven years.

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Once there was a small island in the middle of a great river, and on this little island lived a tribe of monkeys. At first they lived very happily, for the island produced fruit in abundance. But as time went on, the monkeys multiplied faster than the fruit did, so that the whole tribe was hungry and miserable.

Now, one day it happened that the monkeys saw a boat full of intrepid explorers drifting down the river. They had never seen a boat before, and they were filled with wonder; but they were clever monkeys, and soon grasped the purpose of the thing.

“Behold,” said one especially bright young monkey: “those odd but obviously intelligent bald monkeys have hit on the simple and obvious solution to our food problem. If we were to build such a floating island as they have, we could all float downstream to a place of abundance, where we need never be hungry again.”

All the monkeys agreed that this was a capital idea—all but one, that is. She was an old grump who had never had a good idea in her life, and she never had a kind word for anybody.

“It’ll never work,” she said in a loud and grating screech. “No one can build a floating island.”

Here the chief of the monkeys spoke up. He was a wise and kindly monkey, always ready to acknowledge and reward a good idea when he heard one.

“On the contrary,” said the chief, “we have just seen it done: the bald monkeys have done it, and done it successfully. I decree, therefore, that a floating island shall be built, and that all monkeys of the tribe shall contribute to the building of it.”

All the monkeys cheered—all except the old grump.

“You’re all fools!” she screeched. “You’ll all drown in the river. No one can build a floating island.”

The others ignored her, for they had become accustomed to her outbursts and had learned to ignore them.

Immediately the whole tribe set to work. Some used sharp rocks to cut down small saplings; some cut the saplings into equal lengths; some gathered strong vines to lash them together. Everyone worked merrily—everyone, that is, except the old grump, who refused to have anything to do with the project. “You’ll all drown,” she told anyone who would listen, and anyone who would not listen as well. “No one can build a floating island.” The other monkeys began to find her quite annoying, but the wise and kindly chief advised them merely to ignore her and keep working. Success, he said, would be the best retort.

With all the monkeys working, a large raft quickly took shape; and when they pushed it into the water and saw that it floated, the whole tribe cried out with a triumphant cheer.

“And now,” said the chief when the cheering had died down, “we have but to float to our new home, where there will be fruit in abundance for all.” Then he turned to the old grump. “But you, old one, shall not accompany us. Since you took no part in the effort of the whole tribe, you shall not share in its success.”

The monkeys all nodded and murmured their approval at the chief’s wise and just decision.

“For the rest of us, let us leap to our floating island and float to the land of plenty!”

With a mighty cheer, all the monkeys leapt at once to the raft they had constructed. Immediately it broke apart and sank under their weight, and the monkeys were carried away by the swift current and never heard from again.

The old grump, however, had the island to herself, with all the fruit she could want, and she lived out the rest of her days in peace and plenty.

MORAL: There’s a reason why so many grumps are old.

HOW THE RACCOON GOT HIS MASK.

raccoon

Back in the old days, when hardy pioneers lived in log cabins built from logs they had hewn themselves from trees they had painstakingly assembled from toothpicks, people used to love to tell the story of How the Raccoon Got His Mask. They hated like anything to hear it, but they loved to tell it. And this is how it went:

The raccoon was the most elegant creature in the forest, and he used to strut along the bank of the creek all day, first one way and then the other, but never both at once, saying, “Look at me, I’m hardly elegant at all.” He said that because he was fishing for compliments. So one day the vole, who in those days was eight feet tall, came along and said, “I agree that you are hardly elegant at all. And do you know why that is?”

“No,” answered the raccoon, who was more than a little annoyed that the vole had agreed with him instead of paying him the compliment he had expected.

“It is because you are not wearing a tiara,” the vole explained. “Everyone who is truly elegant wears a tiara.”

“Wouldn’t I look a bit silly with a tiara?” asked the raccoon.

“Or cufflinks,” the vole added. “Cufflinks are very elegant, especially if you have cuffs.”

“I don’t have cuffs,” the raccoon said.

“You know what else is elegant?” the vole continued. “Proposition 47 in Book I of Euclid. That is a seriously elegant demonstration.”

“But can I wear it?” asked the raccoon.

“Well, I have seen the figure silkscreened on a T-shirt,” the vole responded. “But then one must admit that T-shirts with printed figures on them are not very elegant, and where does that leave us?”

“Where indeed?” the raccoon agreed.

“I think it leaves us back at the tiara,” said the vole; and, bidding the raccoon good day, he lumbered off into the forest, accidentally knocking over a few saplings as he went.

The raccoon still thought he would look perfectly ridiculous with a tiara. But later that day, he happened to pass the opossum’s annual spring-cleaning yard sale, and on the front table was a rather dashing black mask, and the opossum only wanted a quarter for it, so the raccoon figured, hey, why not? And that, dear, children, is the story of How the Raccoon Got His Mask.

SOLO RIDER.

ANNOUNCER. Malt-O-Cod, the only malt food drink flavored with real cod-liver oil, presents…

(Music: “Night Ride” by Sibelius.)

The Adventures of Solo Rider and his faithful Indian sidekick, Dharmavarapu! Galloping on his fiery white horse at the speed of sound, Solo Rider opposes wickedness wherever it threatens the innocent!

(Music: In full, then fade.)

(Sound: Shattering glass.)

DHARMAVARAPU. I say, old bean, it looks like a spot of bother over at that saloon.

SOLO RIDER. You mean the Lazy I down yonder?

DHARMAVARAPU. Well, that’s a jolly good first guess, but I meant this one over here, where the sheriff’s deputy just flew through the window.

SOLO RIDER. Oh.

DHARMAVARAPU. What do you say we act like good decent citizens and all that sort of rot and see if there’s anything we can do?

SOLO RIDER. Yes. Yes, for I am the Solo Rider, and I have sworn a solemn oath to right wrongs wherever wrongs are…um…wrong.

DHARMAVARAPU. Of course you have, old chap. My point exactly. Hitch your horse here—I’ll just tie up Bartholomew like this, and we’ll go inside.

(Sound: Swinging doors; ragtime piano.)

SOLO RIDER. Which one of you is the lawbreaker oppressing the innocent citizens of this bedraggled Western village?

DHARMAVARAPU. My money’s on the largish fellow with the black hat and the big revolver.

LAWBREAKER. Wall, I reckon yer Injun pal’s got it right, stranger. Waldo Lawbreaker’s the name, and I came here to get some good oppressin’ done afore the Christmas shoppin’ season.

SOLO RIDER. Desist at once, for I am the Solo Rider, and this is my faithful Indian companion Dharmavarapu, who never leaves my side, and we have sworn to oppose lawbreakers whenever they oppress the innocent!

LAWBEAKER. So how can you be a Solo Rider if’n you always go around with a faithful Injun companion?

SOLO RIDER. Beg pardon…?

LAWBREAKER. I mean, there’s two of you all the time, right? So you ain’t never ridin’ solo, right?

SOLO RIDER. I don’t get you.

DHARMAVARAPU. Please don’t puzzle him with numbers, there’s a good fellow. It interferes with his digestion, and then I’m the one who has to deal with the consequences.

LAWBREAKER. Wall, what’s he doin’ here with that dang fool mask on, anyway? What’s it made of? Construction paper?

SOLO RIDER. My regular mask is in the laundry. Now desist from your depredations, oppressor, or prepare to suffer the consequences.

LAWBREAKER. Mighty fancy gun you got there, stranger. But I got one fancier.

SOLO RIDER. Then you leave me no choice.

LAWBREAKER. Well, you done asked for it.

(Sound: Gunfire, automatic weapons, cannons, rockets, taxi horns, etc. Piano stops.)

SOLO RIDER. Your barrage was ineffectual, Lawbreaker. You missed me.

LAWBREAKER. You didn’t do no better, ya crazy masked coot. You couldn’t hit the side of a barn with that thing. Look at all the junk you shot up.

SOLO RIDER. Mere collateral damage in the fight against injustice.

LAWBREAKER. Wall, I ain’t payin’ fer that throw pillow. Say, is that a silver bullet?

SOLO RIDER. Yes, a silver bullet, the signature of Solo Rider wherever lawbreakers oppress the innocent.

DHARMAVARAPU. It’s really just chrome-plated. —(To Solo Rider.) Well, honestly, old top, one can’t just lie to the fellow.

MRS. LAWBREAKER (entering). Waldo! Waldo, is that you playin’ with guns again?

LAWBREAKER. Well, gee, maw, I…

MRS. LAWBREAKER. I cain’t leave you alone fer three minutes while I buy me a new bonnet fer Cyber Monday. Look how you shot up this saloon. Didn’t I tell you not to be so careless?

LAWBREAKER. Aw, maw, it wasn’t just me that…

MRS. LAWBREAKER. I don’t want none o’ your lip. You’re comin’ back to Buchanan Station with me right this instant.

LAWBREAKER (receding). Ow! Maw, that hurts my ear!

DHARMAVARAPU. Well, there’s not much more for us to do here, is there? Leave a dime on the bar for the throw pillow, and we’ll get going.

(Sound: Swinging doors.)

SOLO RIDER. And so injustice and oppression are defeated once again.

DHARMAVARAPU. Yes, of course. Good show, old chap, but I think you’re supposed to get on the horse the other way.

SOLO RIDER. Oh.

(Sound: Galloping hooves approaching.)

DHARMAVARAPU. I say, old bean, it looks like a posse headed this way.

SOLO RIDER. Where? I see no kitty cat.

DHARMAVARAPU. No, posse, from the infinitive of possum, meaning…

(Sound: Hooves come to a stop.)

SHERIFF. Say, have you fellows seen a big fellow, goes by the name of Waldo, travels with a lady he says is his mother? He’s wanted for throwing deputies through windows in five states and half a territory.

DHARMAVARAPU. Certainly, my good man. I believe you’ll find the lad and his aged companion meandering along the highway in the direction of Buchanan Station.

SHERIFF. Sorry, stranger, I don’t speak Apache.

DHARMAVARAPU. Oh, blimey. Um, “Ugh, him go thataway”?

SHERIFF. Oh! Thankee, pardner. Much obliged. Say, for an Injun, you’re mighty white. Come on, boys! Head him off at the pass! If we can find a pass.

(Sound: Galloping hooves.)

DHARMAVARAPU. And now, old bean, what would you say to a well-deserved rest in Carson City?

SOLO RIDER. You mean the place with the malt shop? I want a triple chocolate malted with quadruple whipped cream. Hi-ho, Chromeplate! Away! …I said hi-ho. Hi-ho? Come on! Stupid horse.

DHARMAVARAPU. Not like that, old sport. You have to give him a little poke like this.

(Sound: Whinny, galloping hooves receding.)

SOLO RIDER (receding into distance). Jeez Louise! Slow down, Chromeplate! Chromeplate! For the love of Mike, slow down! I’ll give you an apple!

DHARMAVARAPU. And for this I went to Cambridge. Well, come along, Bartholomew, my lad. Let’s trot. We’ll catch up with him in Carson City.

(Music: “Night Ride,” in and under for…)

ANNOUNCER. When you’ve been riding the dusty trail all day, nothing perks you up like the rich, satisfying flavor of Malt-O-Cod, the only malt food drink flavored with real cod-liver oil. Kids, don’t let imitators fool you. You can buy cheaper drinks made from the livers of cheaper fish, but only Malt-O-Cod is made from real barley malt and the very cream of the North Atlantic cod fisheries. Tell your parents you’ll throw a tantrum unless they bring you genuine Malt-O-Cod, the malt food drink that’s brain food.

(Music: In full, then out.)