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.