In the kingdom of Whatsis, on the Island of Ooze,
Lived a gaggle of Spendits of two different hues.
Each Spendit was feathered, each Spendit was plump,
Each walked with a kind of galumpety-lump.
They all looked alike, although it is true
Some Spendits were Red, and others were Blue.
But regardless of color, they all loved to eat
The fruit of the jubjub: It was juicy and sweet —
Like an orbulus orange, but tastier yet
And filling, and wholesome, and wetter than wet
And it gave them a case of the all-over yummies
As soon as a bite of it tickled their tummies.
The jubjub had grown on the Island of Ooze
For centuries — Eons! — Millennia! — choose
Your own measure then times it times ten;
The tree had grown giantish even back then.
And none of the Spendits, who were all rather small
Had ever seen anything close to it all.
But the Spendits did not merely eat the fruit — no!
They took jubjub twigs and arranged them just so
Into houses and stables with jubjub-leaf roofs,
And they used jubjub seeds to make goomfa-la-goofs
Which they slowly paraded 'round Jubjub Tree Park,
Which they'd paved, as you've guessed, with jubjub tree bark.
And everything oozlered on for a while,
With the Spendits all living in comfortable style
And the jubjub providing for every need;
Life in Whatsis was good, all the Spendits agreed.
Not a thing in the kingdom would now be amiss
If the Spendits had simply left it like this.
But oh no! — for you see, the Spendits grew greedy
And the Spendits with needs grew even more needy
And the ones who had plenty felt they deserved even more
So all of the Spendits Spent more than before.
Who started it off, no one ever quite knew —
Though they all blamed each other, as Spendits will do.
First little by little, then a lot by a lot
The Spendits began Spending more jub than they got.
An extra leaf here or a bit of fruit there —
Why, no one would miss it! Why, no one would care!
The tree was so big and the Spendits so bitty
That to not help themselves seemed almost a pity.
And besides, the jubjub had so many fine uses!
They Spent it for carpet, and fleeces and flooces,
And wingdigs, and wackmeres, and snorples and sneetches,
And fabric for jerkins and waistcoats and breeches.
They used it for tires and hung it as art —
Everything on the island had some jubjub part.
Then one day a small Spendit named Melody Monk
Was alarmed to discover the jubjub had shrunk.
It couldn't be possible! Yet it was so:
The nine-hundred steps that it took her to go
From Branch A to Branch B took eight sixty-three —
And since SHE was the same size, it must be the tree.
Then soon other Spendits began to take note —
So they made measurements, which they carefully wrote
In jubjub-leaf ledgers, so they could compare
How much jubjub there WASN'T with what USED to be there.
"Our jubjub is shrinking!" they cried in dismay
As they hacked off more pieces and dragged them away.
They formed a commission to study the tree,
And built it an office — then two, and then three —
And they staffed them with scholars, and clerics, and clerks
Who stayed up all night reading mystical works
So the blue-ribbon panel could answer the riddle
Of what could be making their giant tree little.
They studied two decades, then three, and then four,
While the Spendits kept Spending the same as before
And the jubjub kept shrinking, 'til one day they found
The top of the tree just an inch off the ground.
The leaves and the branches were all gone, it was true —
Which left them with only one thing left to do.
The top of a tree is not NEARLY as big
As the part underground — so they started to dig.
They brought in a giant jub-powered steam shovel
To dig out the roots, while back up above-l
The Spendits kept Spending jubjub for whatever
Seemed useful, or needed, or fancy or clever.
But once in a while they would pause and look down
At the hole that was growing below them, and frown,
And argue about which of them was to blame
For the gash in the ground — for it seemed quite a shame
That right in the middle of Ooze there should be
Such a black deficit where there once stood a tree.
"Our children!" they cried, in a voice like a moan
"There will be no more jubjub when they are all grown
If we keep digging like this! We must stop it right now!"
The problem, of course, was they didn't know how.
They'd gotten so used to their jub-Spending ways
That anything else left them lost in a daze.
"This is YOUR fault!" said some of the Reds to the Blues.
"You and your snork-snackered bar-bufaloos,
"Your fancy-dress gowns and your jewel-covered glasses
"Have left nothing left for the Red Spendit masses!
"Why, none of us Reds would have cause for complaint
"If you greedy Blues had just shown some restraint!"
"Oh, it IS?" said the Blues, as they drew themselves up.
"What about your wumbulus flupper-de-flup?
"Your mingulous gomers and two-decker kleetches?
"Your hair bows and bracelets and lace-covered breeches?
"Your Ooze Day Parades and your cakings and ices?
"You Reds are the Spendits to blame for this crisis!"
So there they all stood, pointing fingers and yelling
While below them the black hole kept growing and swelling.
And then at the moment of greatest confusion
The panel announced it had reached a conclusion:
The Kingdom of Whatsis was bound for disaster.
The Spendits all nodded, then Spent even faster.
The last that was heard, from fifteen miles below ground
Was a very faint, kind of a grubulous sound.
The Spendits had all fallen in, don't you see,
In the hole they had made of their glorious tree —
And many years later they're bickering yet
Over who is to blame for their national debt.
But nobody else cares — no one even remembers
The kingdom of Whatsis or its big-Spending members,
Who could have been spared a horrible fate
If someone had only stood up to relate —
In the midst of their jubjub consumption and gigging —
The First Rule of Holes: When you're in one, quit digging.
A. Barton Hinkle is a columnist at the Richmond Times-Dispatch. This article originally appeared at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
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