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

ONCE THERE WAS a crane who thought he was better than everybody else.

He thought he was better than all the other birds, because he was a crane, and cranes are tall and majestic. He thought he was better than all the other cranes, too, because he was smarter and more handsome, and because he had a better name: he was called Franklin Pierce Jones, whereas all the other cranes had very ordinary names like Harriet or Ichabod.

And because Franklin Pierce Jones insisted that he was better than everybody else, the other cranes began to believe that he really was better. If you repeat something often enough and with enough conviction, you can usually make it true.

There was, however, one skeptical crane, by the name of Alexandra, who refused to admit that Franklin Pierce Jones was better than absolutely everybody. “You may be better than the other birds,” she said, “and you may even be better than I am. But you’re not as good as people, because they wear clothes and use pocket calculators.”

At this challenge the color rose in Franklin Pierce Jones’ cheeks, although no one but him knew it because his face was covered with feathers. “I most certainly am in every way equal to people, and I’ll prove it to you,” he declared in a voice so loud that all the other cranes stopped what they were doing and listened. “I’ll wear clothes like a person, walk into the town, and do all the things people do. They won’t even be able to tell the difference.”

So that was exactly what Franklin Pierce Jones did. From a clothesline nearby he procured a pair of shorts, a white shirt, a very smart necktie, and a dark blue jacket that fitted him admirably. For a hat he wore a tasteful baby’s bonnet. Then he walked into town.

When he passed near a school, he fell among a group of children who had just finished their classes for the day.

“Look at that pointy nose!” one impolite little boy shouted, and a small group of children soon gathered around the crane as he attempted to make his way through the town.

“And he’s got skinny legs like a bird!” a little girl added, much to the delight of the other children.

“Bird-legs! Bird-legs!” the children began to chant, and soon they were all doing it. “Bird-legs! Bird-legs!”

“Did your mommy make you wear that tie?” one little boy demanded, yanking the end of Franklin Pierce Jones’ tie so it untied and fell on the ground.

“And did she put this cute little bonnet on your head?” another asked, snapping the elastic that held the bonnet in place.

“Is that a nose or a hose?” a little girl asked, and all the children laughed in a mean and very impolite way.

By this time Franklin Pierce Jones had definitely had enough, so he slipped off his jacket with one shrug, spread his wings, and took off, leaving all the children on the ground astonished.

His friend Alexandra was waiting for him when he got back, and all the other cranes were not far away.

“So did you prove that you’re equal to people?” Alexandra asked with a triumphant smirk, seeing that Franklin Pierce Jones’ clothes were mostly missing.

“No, I did not,” said Franklin Pierce Jones, and Alexandra could not keep herself from smirking even more triumphantly.

“I proved that I’m far better than people,” Franklin Pierce Jones continued. “The miserable ill-mannered creatures may be bipeds like us, but they are utterly lacking in the finer sensibilities. My experiences during my expedition prove, if any proof were needed, that I am indeed a superior being.”

All the other cranes nodded sagely, and even Alexandra had to admit the justice of his claim. Franklin Pierce Jones’ reputation was now secure.

MORAL: Travel is broadening, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s pleasant.