The Boy With a Tail

The trouble with tails, I’ve noted in whales Is they stay on the scene far too long.

So, when they dive to escape, the tail never fails To show where they are when they’ve gone.

Now it’s perfectly clear on his or her rear People have no appendage or growth,

Which may be the reason they haven’t a peer Among animals, vegetables, or both.

That’s not to say tails don’t have a way Of coming in handy at times.

They’re unequalled for hanging from trees all the day When relaxing in tropical climes.

But a tail on a bus would cause such a fuss That it wouldn’t be worth all the trouble.

It would frighten some folks and what’s even worse, They’d probably make you pay double.

Now a boy I once heard, though I can’t give my word, Was born with a caudal appendage.

It wasn’t that long, unless I am wrong, But it drew an enormous assemblage

Of those who would walk several miles for a shock And a few with a studious bent

Who wanted a gawk at the mysterious dock* (*An old word that means tail or rump.)

Including an odd-looking gent.

With his bright red-striped pants, you could see at a glance That he wasn’t an everyday fellow.

He walked with a step that was more like a dance In a jacket of shocking bright yellow.

“You know that I’ve come”, he told the boy’s mom, “To offer a great deal of money.

I am willing to pay a really huge sum For your boy with the backside that’s funny.

We’ll show him at fairs, present him to mayors And mayhap the odd duchess or count

But we will not allow the briefest of stares Without cash in the required amount.”

So Mom made a meal, and they talked over a deal, Which they sealed with the shaking of hands,

And the man paid her off with bills that he peeled From a roll held by two rubber bands.

And then off they went, the boy and the gent And the tail followed up in the rear.

They walked till they came to a huge circus tent And the poor boy was shaking with fear.

He spent that first night all huddled in fright In a box that they said was his bed.

And he kept himself carefully hidden from sight With a blanket pulled over his head.

And the very next day, they were off on their way And they travelled to cities and towns.

To see the boy’s tail, there were hundreds who’d pay, Even great ladies in gowns.

And the long-rumped lad became very sad At each gathering of curious viewers.

His depression became quite exceptionally bad At a convention of malt-beverage brewers.

He was fed as a rule with a very thin gruel And a tin cup of odd-colored water,

Served by a girl who was ugly and cruel, The circus gent’s hideous daughter.

His only real friend had a similar end, A monkey called Georgie McDuff.

The simian friend was glad to extend His hand when the going got rough.

As often it did for the elongated kid Especially with the holiday crowd.

There were days when he thought he’d never get rid Of revellers nasty and loud.

But he found from the first that the nights were the worst With the lions and tigers all roaring.

And he knew that his life truly was cursed When he heard all the elephants snoring.

He was in a real funk when Georgie the monk Suggested they try to escape.

And so the pair hid in a large steamer trunk Where Aldo the magician kept his cape.

He was to leave on a train for a long tour of Spain And they thought that they might tag along.

The plan, said the monk, was really quite plain, And certainly couldn’t go wrong.

There was never a doubt till the boy gave a shout When the trunk lid was shut with a slam,

For a piece of his tail had been hanging out And there went their effort to scram.

But then in a dream, the boy hatched a scheme Of how he could go from that place

He’d read a few books on a relevant theme, Discussing a similar case.

How jailbirds in jails for robbing the mails Slipped quietly over the wall,

Though few of that ilk had to bother with tails, But the principle’s the same, after all.

So he started to read to see what he’d need To accomplish his vanishing act.

He read up on Latin and all about speed And an interesting philosophical tract.

And he read about toads and the Colossus of Rhodes And he picked up an inkling or two

Of what are the optimal amperage loads Of a tetrahedral colphyc kazoo

But learn as he might, and he studied each night, It wasn’t what he wanted to know.

Even the fundamental rules about flight Failed to assist him to go.

And then one fine day as he studied away, While languishing there in his cage,

Two men came to see his tail on display And both of them looked very sage.

They were having a chat about this thing and that Mathematics and science and stuff.

And the one who was wearing the big floppy hat Pronounced that the problem was tough.

As they stood very near, the boy had his ear Tuned in to all that they said.

“I’ll solve your problem, it’s really quite clear I’ve worked it all out in my head.”

“What’s that”, they retorted, and the boy then reported The answer that he’d figured out.

He gave them the details, which he had all sorted. “He’s got it”, they cried, “there’s no doubt”.

For the rest of the day, they chatted away, The way those with brains often do,

About dividing and adding and taking away And how much is ninety times two.

They wanted to know how a boy built just so Knew all about so many things.

For example, about just how far down is low, And why does a sparrow have wings.

“They’re things that I’ve read and stored in my head”, The boy told the curious pair.

“I’ve got seven languages that for years have been dead All filed very neatly in there.

But while I discovered how a hummingbird hovered And the optimum shape for a spear,

The one thing I wanted, I never uncovered, And that’s how to get the heck out of here.”

“Aha”, said the two, “that’s clearly not true, For brains are today’s fashion rage.

There’s no way a person as brainy as you Can stay here locked up in a cage.”

And so money changed hands from elasticized bands And the boy was set free once again.

They bought baskets of fruit from three market stands To eat as they road on the train.

They went to a place with a wide-open space Where the boy could just wander all day

With the sun and the wind and the rain on his face, And the sweet smell of newly mown hay.

And if the going got rough, the monkey McDuff Whose freedom was part of the deal

Made jokes and turned cartwheels and such silly stuff And even cooked up the odd meal.

Banane au gratin, flambéed in a pan Was the primate chef’s specialité.

He got the recipe from a gorilla called Stan To impress a baboon known as Fay.

Each day without fail, the boy with the tail Would read through a volume or two.

And answer the questions that came in the mail About all of the subjects he knew.

The young fellow’s name took on quite a fame, Far more than he’d had with his tail,

And the crowds came to see him, but it wasn’t the same As it was in the circus-tent jail.

Experts who knew and a few pundits, too, Sought advice from the boy with the brain.

They wanted to know just how many was few And how you got hair from a drain.

It continued that way on every weekday And weekends he’d use for a rest.

Then a kid came around and asked him to play, And he found that he liked that the best.

And things were complete when a girl found him sweet And even thought his tail kind of cute.

But the thing that he thought was really a treat Was the fact that she found him astute.

And the moral of this, for master or miss Is whatever fate’s messenger brings,

You’ve got the same chance for a smack or a kiss For a tail’s not the ending of things.


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