In Which I Am Tasked In The Pet Store


I was just getting some rabbit food at the pet store, but I paused to watch the guinea pigs, because they’re always soothing and fun. Someone was there with a little kid, and she was pointing out and naming the animals to him. “There are some rats,” she said, “fancy rats.” And the kid asked, “Why?”

And I understand the kid was just at that age where “why” is the response to any question, including “would you like this extra chocolate we happened to have hanging around?” But I also feel like I’ve been given the responsibility of writing a charming, slightly twee children’s book explaining why some animals are rats.

And I gotta say, I’m not the person to ask that. The best I can come up with, and this is after literally dozens of minutes thinking about it, is that there are some animals who just did awesomely well in Mouse College, and they went on to earn their Masters of Rodent Arts. But they got ultimately sound advice to not go on to a doctorate in Possum Studies or something like that, so that’s left them as well-equipped and highly trained rats prowling around the world and adding to it that charming Halloween touch and also those great pictures online where one’s looking right at you with big, sweet, innocent eyes and grabbing a hindpaw with both front paws. Anyway, this is why my nieces refer to me as “Silly Uncle Joseph”. I’m sorry.

Robert Benchley: The Editor’s Drawer


[ I offer here another piece from Robert Benchley’s Of All Things, as I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t have the time to prepare something wholly my own. Please don’t tell Mr Benchley. But this offers a neat send-up of the sorts of cute little kid anecdotes that I assume still line the pages of magazines I don’t read because I think they carry items like what this parodies. ]

LITTLE Bobby, aged five, saying his prayers, had come to that most critical of diplomatic crises : the naming of relatives to be blessed.

“Why don’t I ask God to bless Aunt Mabel?” he queried, looking up with a roguish twinkle in his blue eyes.

“But you do, Bobby,” answered his mother.

“So I do,” was his prompt reply.


LITTLE Willy, aged seven, was asked by his teacher to define the word “confuse.”

“ ` Confuse’ is what my daddy says when he looks at his watch,” said Willy. The teacher never asked that question again. At least, not of Willy.


LITTLE Gertrude, aged three, was saying her prayers. “Is God everywhere ?” she asked.

“Yes, dear, everywhere,” answered her mother.

“Everywhere?” she persisted.

“Yes, dear, everywhere,” repeated her mother, all unsuspecting.

“Then He must be like Uncle Ned,” said the
little tot.

“Why, Gertrude, what makes you say that?”

“Because I heard Daddy say that Uncle Ned was everywhere,” was the astounding reply.

Robert Benchley: Holt! Who Goes There?


Since I’m not having any luck finding out who Goran Topalovic is or why I should know his name let me repost another classic piece by Robert Benchley, who wrote so many classic pieces. This one’s on the raising of infants and it shows its age more than the one about Portland cement does, and the ending is not the strongest. But there’s an ending at all, which makes the essay easier to finish reading.


“…children sleeping out of doors in the country are likely to be kissed by wandering cows and things. This should never be permitted under any circumstances.”


The reliance of young mothers on Dr. Emmett Holt’s “The Care and Feeding of Children,” has become a national custom. Especially during the early infancy of the first baby does the son rise and set by what “Holt says.” But there are several questions which come to mind which are not included in the handy questionnaire arranged by the noted child-specialist, and as he is probably too busy to answer them himself, we have compiled an appendix which he may incorporate in the next edition of his book, if he cares to. Of course, if he doesn’t care to it isn’t compulsory.

Continue reading “Robert Benchley: Holt! Who Goes There?”