Alice In Rhodie-land Spring
(newly discovered and unpublished fragments)
Basil Vaerlen, San Francisco, Calif.
A young toad (Bufo americanus) - as any knowledgeable person would have recognized - sat in the middle of the Rhododendron Dell, croaking his young heart out.
"Breck-ek-ek-ek, Co-ax! Co-ax!" he croaked in classic Greek. And then switching to American-English, he added: "Dammit! That's hard on the throat!"
"Then why do you do it?" Alice asked.
"It's because I'm lonesome," the toad said simply. And large crocodile tears (if he'll pardon the expression) coursed down his warty cheeks. "I yearn for companionship. Do you know what it is to yearn . . .?"
A Pink Pearl leaned over Alice's shoulder and murmured: "It's a lone toad that has no yearning, my dear!"
"Somehow," Alice said, "that doesn't sound right."
"Though why he lets it bother him," Pink Pearl continued, "I'll never understand . . . when he has all of us beautiful things to contemplate!"
"That's not the same thing at all" the toad shouted. "Why, you might as well say that if you have a ponticum you have an Annual Show! Or, why strive for a yellow truss when dandelions are so much easier to raise! Or...."
"Toity-toity, temper!"Pink Pearl snickered; and then she confided to Alice: "It's so much fun, stirring up the natives!"
"Didn't you ever," the Toad continued, "yearn for another Pink Pearl?" "Heavens to little pink lapponicums, no!" Pink Pearl snorted. "We wouldn't want too much of a good thing, now would we? I'm a thing of beauty . . ." " . . . and an annoy forever!" the toad said quietly.
" . . . and as far as I'm concerned, enough is enough; and too much is more than a-plenty!" She turned on the toad and said pointedly: "Now why don't you just go about your business of catching and eating bugs - - - as any self-respecting toad should do. You wouldn't have time, then, for all of this fol-de-rol about being lonesome. I'm a-Freud you don't know how to sublimate . . . "
"One's only Jung once," the toad said and glanced at Alice to see if she got the pun. "Why don't you snicker, girl? That was supposed to be funny ..."
Alice changed the subject quickly. "While I was going through the Dell a while ago, I heard the Jolly Green Gardener singing a song which somehow didn't make sense to me. It had such strange words in it. Perhaps you could explain it to me."
"If there's anything I'm good at - besides yearning, that is! - " said the toad, "it's explaining things."
"I can explain a thing or two," said Pink Pearl archly, "if it comes to that.
So sing out, sweet child."
"Oh shut up," said the toad, "and let the child sing!"
Alice cleared her throat and sang the song as well as she could recall it:
'Twas hooker and the kingdon-wards
Did trek and tramble on the rocks;
When sheriff gave the ludlow words
That hendersoned the cox.
Come to the Dell, oh bosky one;
Pollen the trusses, now it's May!
Plant the seed: when all is done,
Throw the duds away.
Long time he did a chemic dance
And sprayed the bushes, top to toe;
And wondered if by any chance
The little bugs would go.
And has thou slain the brachyrhine,
That grubbled all the frentic roots?
Thou shalt have threeples with your wine,
And sniggles with your boots!
Alice stopped expectantly.
"Are you quite sure," Pink Pearl ventured, "That you you heard it right?"
"Hm-m-m," the toad mused. "Why, my dear, it's clear as custard. It's a good thing that I have a smattering of anicent Greek, or I'd never have figured it out. To begin with, take: 'To trek and tramble'. Always start with the easy ones, I always say. Now that's: 'to travel in an ambling manner'."
"Thank goodness," Pink Pearl sniffed, "I've never trambled . . . " "The most interesting thing," the toad hurried on, "is: 'to gruble'. One might think it a sort of slithering along, but you couldn't be wronger! It's the act of de-grubbing. You've degrubbed, haven't you? That's something everyone has done . . . or they just haven't lived! So that's no problem . . . now, let's just hurry right along. Take 'threeple' . . . "
"No thank you," Alice said. "I'd rather not be any more confused than I am now. I'm sure I'll never be called upon to have them with my wine! Besides, I'm too young to have wine, anyway . . . "
"And quite right, dear child," Pink Pearl retorted. "And I'm ashamed of you, toad, for suggesting such a thing. The mere suggestion that a child should have wine ... with or without threeples ... goes beyond the laws of common decency, upon which this great country was founded; if not actually against the laws! There's too much permissiveness now-a-days! Wine . . . and threeples on top of that . . . well, I never!"
"Thank you both, kindly," Alice said; "but I think I'll just go back and have the Jolly Green Gardener sing it to me again. I'm sure that I missed something. And besides, I can always ask him to explain the hard parts. And even if he can't, the tune was lovely .."
As she headed back down the path, she heard the toad singing plaintively: "Breck-ek-ek-ek, Co-ax! Co-ax!"
And Pink Pearl saying disdainfully: "Oh shut up; and go chase a bug!"
The year has ended: through the grounds
The Song of Spring benignly sounds. Bugs and such begin to stir.
Each little Him seeks little Her
Intent on making progeny .. .
Which is, perhaps, as it should be:
Except that all such dissipation
Contributes to defoliation
Of our choice plants! Ye Gods, above!
Must we pay dearly for such love?
The Gardner, with murderous rage
(Be he Young or bent with Age)
Leaps to the fray with frantic fits
And scares the bugs out of their wits!
He loves to fight the rising tide
Of insects with this bug-icide:
The exercise, also, is quite
Enough to whet his appetite;
And proves, no doubt, the saying's sound:
It's Love that makes the world go round!