Today is Dr. Seuss’s birthday, so in his honor I’ll recall one of the many times I’ve ripped him off by doing a weak parody of his timeless work.
In this case, the original act of larceny occurred in the summer of 2013 when New York City commuters were astonished to find dead shark riding a New York Subway.
This idea of a Straphanger Shark was, I thought, almost Seussian. The master, however, would have gone bigger – much bigger.
I realize now that I never finished that earlier version, so this time it has an ending, if not a moral.
We were heading for home on the subway one day
We were too tired to speak. There was nothing to say
It was Sally and me at the back of a train
that smelled fishy and dank, but we didn’t complain.
The car clattered and rattled and squeaked on its track.
The lights flickered a bit. It got bright and then black.
And then darker than pitch. Clearly something was wrong.
While the squeaking we’d heard transformed into a song.
“What’s that noise?” Sally shouted. The deafening trill
became loud as a whistle and two times as shrill.
And then all of it stopped – both the train and the sound!
When we got off the floor we both looked all around.
Peering deep in the tunnel – the source of the din –
we saw two giant eyeballs there, peering back in.
“Don’t be scared” said a voice. “I am harmless,” it joked.
“You’re too late,” I replied, for my trousers were soaked.
“I am sorry for that.” He was big. He was pale.
“You can just call me Moby. The Whale on the Rail.
“He should not be down here,” stammered Sally, to me.
“Because whales belong down in the depths of the sea.”
“That is true,” said the whale. His breath stank of dead fish.
“But as long as I’m here, we can do what you wish.”
“There are games for commuters and whales we can play.”
“If you have a sharp knife and a sea bass to flay.”
“We do not have a knife,” I replied, in a peep.
“That is not a good game. You go back to the deep.”
But the Whale on the Rail only blinked at us twice.
Then he said, “Maybe some other game would be nice.”
“How ’bout ‘Where’s Your Blowhole?’ he said. “That is fun.”
“Not for us,” shot back Sally. “Because we don’t have one.”
“So you think,” said the whale. At his voice, the car shook.
“But you always find one in the last place you look.”
“The conductor is coming,” I said. “Swim away.”
But the Whale only smiled. “I would much rather play.
At that moment, the subway door opened up wide,
and a grizzled man step-clumped his peg-leg inside.
The whale’s eyeballs grew bigger – as large as the moon
at the site of this man and his ten-foot harpoon.
As the beast turned to flee, the conductor’s remark
was succinct – “This is more than a simple dead shark.
It’s the demon I’ve chased for a decade or more!”
As he hurled his harpoon out the subway car door.
When that missile hit home the rope wriggled about,
and entangled his leg as it quickly played out.
“Call me Ahab”, he said, as the line became tight.
He shot into the dark and was soon out of sight.
But we heard him exclaim as he bounced down the rails,
“The New York City Subway – it’s no place for whales!”
Recommend a book you’ve read recently.