Most cartoonists eventually try their hands at writing children’s books. I’m not sure why this should be, other than that cartoonists happen to have the requisite skills of children’s writing. Specifically, we’re just okay at writing, just okay at art, and not very good at writing something longer than a few sentences.
Every now and then I get the bug. I have a major complaint with children’s book writing, which is this: there seems to be an implicit idea that the point of kids’ books is to play to the level of the child, rather than to improve the child’s intelligence or creativity. So, with that in mind, usually when I write something like this, it’s geektastic. In fact, it’s so geektastic, nobody would ever want to publish it, and I probably wouldn’t include it in a hypothetical portfolio of my work. As Gertrude Stein was reported to say in A Moveable Feast, it is “inaccrochable.” The word translates as “unhangable,” referring to a painting that, though perhaps good, an artist would never show in a gallery, and a buyer could never hang on her wall.
However, Stein lived before the Internet, where that which is inaccrochable is quite possible tres bloggable.
So, with all those caveats out of the way, here’s the first of hopefully many inaccrochables to be posted here. Enjoy, and feel free to critique! Doing everything stupidly is the first step toward doing everything slightly less stupidly, which is the essential difference between amateur and professional.
Polly Tope and the Blob
“Outrageous!” barked the gelatinous blob. “Scandalous!”
Polly Tope turned around with a serious look on her face. In her 4 years of existence, she had found the serious face to be particularly useful against both outrage and scandal.
The blob continued in its burbly warble. “You’re late! You’re late and you’re getting later all the time!”
“Seriouser and seriouser,” thought Polly as she narrowed her eyes still narrower and pursed her lips still pursier. “How can I be late? I’m here, just as your invitation said!”
“You most certainly are NOT!” blubbered the blob. ”You are only here in four dimensions!”Polly gaped at the angry colloid as she checked her invitation. Indeed, it read that she should come to the cave by the beach at 34.4 degrees North Latitude and 119.7 degrees West Longitude at 3pm on the surface of the Earth. Polly looked at her watch and then furtively checked the ground to verify that it was not, perhaps, the surface of Mars or Neptune. It was not. She then noted to herself that, as the blob was in front of her at this very moment, it had no right to tell her she was getting later all the time.
In an entirely serious tone, Polly related the facts to the blob.
“Bah!” chuggered the blob. “You are only here in FOUR DIMENSIONS!”
“What?” coughed Polly, beginning to drift from confusion to conniption.
“There are 5 dimensions! 4 for space and one for time! You were asked to be at a particular place and time and you are not!”
“I am!” shouted Polly.
Polly was sure she was at the right place in space because she could see the gelatinous blob quite clearly. And, she was sure she was at the right place in time because if she were in the past, she’d be younger, and if she were in the future, she’d be a famous astronaut. As she was beginning to question this piece of logic, the blob began squirbing from its pudding-like mouth.”4! 4 SPACE DIMENSIONS!” it squirbed. “There are 4! Left-right, back-forth, up-down, snurf-antisnurf!”
Polly was entirely familiar with the first 3, but she found her brain devoid of facts on the topic of snurf.
“SNURF!” snurfed the blob as it wobbled up and down.
As far as Polly knew, you only needed 4 pieces of information to find anything else in the universe: how far it was in front or behind of you, how far it was left or right of you, how far it was up or down of you, and when you were supposed to meet it.
What to bring to the occasion was also important, though not essential.
Polly thought over the many events, occurrences, and happenings in her life and concluded that she had never once needed more than these 4 things to find anyone. As long as she and her friend also had those 4 samenesses, they could find each other. Of course, if any one sameness was off, you might miss your friend entirely.
For instance, if you went to the pier 10 million years too early, your friend wouldn’t have been born yet and neither would you. This would pose a logistical nightmare for a breakfast get-together. Or, if you were at the proper time, proper distance forth, proper distance left, but at the wrong distance up, you might find yourself deep under Earth’s surface while your friend waited impatiently and his tea got cold.
Polly was satisfied that she understood the universe perfectly well. She placed her clenched fists at her sides and put on the seriousest face she’d ever worn.
“Now see here, my gelatinous sir,” shouted Polly quite seriously, “I’ve never needed more than 4 things to find anyone, and I’m not about to start needing 5!”
The blob raised up on its hindblobs and plopped open its mouth to shout back. Then, quite suddenly, it paused. As much as is possible for a blob of goo, it looked thoughtful.
“You mean to tell me,” it bombinated, “that this is a 4-dimensional universe?”
“I believe so,” said Polly, deftly switching to her polite face.
“My goodness,” bibbled the blob. “Where I come from, we have 5. You have to know 5 things to find anyone. You could be at the right place in time, leftness, forthness, and upness, but have the wrong snurfness, and find yourself in the middle of Saturn’s hypervolume! BWA HWA HWA HWA HWA!”
Polly smiled politely and nodded as the blob chortled wildly.
“Well,” it squelched, “I must apologize. I thought you were several billion kilometers antisnurf of here!”
“I wouldn’t dream of it!” said Polly as she smiled sincerely. She was glad the angry ball of jelly was now a happy ball of jelly. This being the case, she opened her picnic basket and offered it a hard-boiled egg.
“I’m sorry,” lolled the blob, “but I must be going. I only had a few minutes to spend with you, and I’m afraid I’ve wasted them in confusion.”
Polly politely made a sad face, though she was secretly happy that the eggs would now be all hers.
“Sorry to hear that,” she said, eyeing the snack already.
“Quite all right. But, I must hurry. My friend exists in a 6-dimensional universe where they have 2 dimensions of time. They have time (future, past, and present), AND tome (fotore, post, and prosont).
“My goodness” whispered Polly. “It must be very difficult to locate birthdays.”
“It takes weeks and wooks,” wumbled the blob. “Weeks and wooks.”
The blob put on its protective headgear, squunched down, then leapt high into the sky. It rose higher and higher until it was well out of sight.
Polly put on her serious face once more as she thought about what a strange lunch date it had been. She picked up the hard-boiled egg and rubbed a fingertip along its smooth ellipsoid surface. She broke it in half and smiled. On each inner surface was a pretty yellow 2-dimensional circle.