Wednesday, July 24, 2013

"The Zax": An Alternate Ending to a Dr. Seuss Story

[I have a deal with my students: if they work hard, they get a "treat" at the end of class. The treat is me reading aloud an original short story.

A few days ago, Eric mentioned the Dr. Seuss story "The Zax." He started brainstorming alternate solutions. Daniel chimed in. I also had a few ideas. Our discussion gave me an idea for a new ending to the classic tale.

Coming up with a plot wasn't hard, though it was the first time I've consciously tried the "try/fail" cycle. Making it rhyme was harder, and keeping a syncopated trip-uh-let rhythm throughout was downright tricksy.

I quote the original story in Courier font. My additions are in a different font. A little preachy, perhaps, but hopefully good enough for my class. It lacks Seussian illustrations, alas.

I don't think this violates a copyright because I give credit to the author, I am using this for educational purposes, and I don't make a profit from this website. (No ads.)

Thanks to all the people who made helpful suggestions on Facebook.

I just wish I could draw...]

One day, making tracks in the prairie of Prax,
Came a North-Going Zax and a South-Going Zax.
And it happened that both of them came to a place
Where they bumped. There they stood. Foot to foot. Face to face.
“Look here, now!” the North-Going Zax said. “I say!
You are blocking my path. You are right in my way.
I’m a North-Going Zax and I always go north.
Get out of my way, now, and let me go forth!”
“Who’s in whose way?” snapped the South-Going Zax.
“I always go south, making south-going tracks.
So you’re in MY way! And I ask you to move
And let me go south in my south-going groove.”
Then the North-Going Zax puffed his chest up with pride.
“I never,” he said, “take a step to one side.
And I’ll prove to you that I won’t change my ways
If I have to keep standing here fifty-nine days!”
“And I’ll prove to YOU,” yelled the South-Going Zax,
“That I can stand here in the prairie of Prax
For fifty-nine years! For I live by a rule
That I learned as a boy back in South-Going School.
Never budge! That’s my rule. Never budge in the least!
Not an inch to the west! Not an inch to the east!
I’ll stay here, not budging! I can and I will
If it makes you and me and the whole world stand still!”

Well, this was a problem, the Zax could both see,
‘Cause after an hour, they both had to pee.
The North-Going Zax dug a hole in the ground
And said “I need privacy. Please turn around.”
The South-Going Zax answered, “I’ll never budge!
To turn around, I’d need to step. That would fudge
My most solemn oath about south-going tracks:
No east steps, no west steps, and no turning backs!”
“Your grammar is bad,” snarled the North-Zax. “Now please--
At least close your eyes while I go. And don’t sneeze.”
“Your rules are ridiculous!” South snapped. “But fine.
I’ll follow them now if you’ll then follow mine.
When my turn to pee comes, I ask that you sit
And cover your ears while you wait. And don’t spit.”
“I can’t spit!” cried North. “For I must now conserve
What water I have. You have some kind of nerve!
But as to the sitting—I guess it’s okay.
Unusual, true, but not out of my way.”

More hours went by and they both tried to think.
Their backpacks were empty. No food. And no drink.
Their thirst grew and grew, and their hunger did, too.
And fin’ly the North-Going Zax said, “Hey, you—
Perhaps there are options that we could still try.
For instance, I don’t suppose that you can fly?”
“Alas, no,” sighed South.  “If I could, would I walk
Across the whole world while the humans just gawk
At me as I pass? No sirree, I would not!
And speaking of humans, I think that I spot
Some small ones approaching. Some shortish young kids.”
Then North cried out “Children! Help! Do you take bids?”

The youngsters approached and the North Zax leaned in.
“I’ll pay you,” he whispered, face lit with a grin,
“To run home and fetch me a magnet that’s strong
And point it at South here so that he turns wrong.
You see, in Zax noses are iron deposits—“
The kids interrupted. “We’ll look in our closets!”
And off they all scrambled. Except for one boy
Who held up a small business ledger-like toy.
“Excuse me, sir,” queried the youngling, “But how
Will payment take place? Cash or check? Magic cow?”
“Well, I’m heading north,” said the North-Going Zax
“And figure that I could just fit, in my packs
A letter to Santa, plus some kind of treat.
Delivered by hand, it would be quite a feat!
I’m sure Santa’d look on the sender with favor
And spoil you rotten with gifts you could savor—“
The kid took off running, and shouted, “Hey, folks!
The business deal’s off! It’s all just a big hoax!”
The South-Going Zax smiled. “It wouldn’t have worked.
You can’t hack my head.  I’m immune.” And he smirked.

But one little girl came back, not with a magnet
(Instead she had with her some kind of a cragnit). *
“I think,” whispered she, “That you might want to try
To dig yourselves out.” But South started to cry
“I won’t crawl through there!” he exclaimed. “Why…there’s pee
Directly beneath us. That’s ick! Gross! Ewww! Eeeee!”

But then he just froze. And that South-Going Zax,
Though he hadn’t been moving, stopped dead in his tracks.
“Now THAT’S an idea!” he shouted. “My head!
It’s brilliant! I’ll simply go OVER instead!
Crouch down, sir!”  he ordered the North-Going Zax.
“And I’ll save us both from this Prairie of Prax.
“Crouch down, sir, and I’ll simply step over you.
And then we can be on our ways. Please, sir, do.”

The North-Going Zax paused. He felt quite suspicious.
But hunger and thirst gnawed, with vigor most vicious.
“All right, then,” he sighed. “I suppose it’s okay.
Neither sitting nor crouching are out of my way.
But after we each reach our poles, sir, we may
Just possibly switch our directions one day.
‘Cause if I don’t stay at the north pole, well, then
I’ll have to head south. And we might meet again.
So if we should bump, foot to foot, face to face
Somewhere in Australia, swear that you’ll place
Yourself on the bottom next time.” “It’s a deal!”
The South-Going Zax shouted out with great zeal.

The world didn’t stand still. The world grew, as it should,
And a highway came through in the spot where they’d stood.
But every five years, on the Prairie of Prax
You might see a pair of good-natured old Zax
Who meet, stop, and chat. They say “How was your trip?”
And “How was the pole?” And “I need a new hip
From all of this walking.” And then one kneels down
While number two asks, “It’s my turn?” with a frown.
“I thought it was your turn, but let us not start
To argue anew. It’s not good for your heart.”
And “Next time, let’s pivot. We’ll try something new
And sideways-step past one another.” “Let’s do!”

Now, what is the moral? When problems arise,
Stop, think, use your brain. Problem-solve. Compromise.
And that is a lesson that we could all learn:
It’s just more efficient when each takes a turn.

*[I made up the word "cragnit" which is very true to the Spirit of Seuss. Imagine a post-hole digger/shovel/tunneling machine, drawn in yet further Seussian style. --Gail]

[Original ending]
Of course the world didn't stand still. The world grew.
In a couple of years, the new highway came through
And they built it right over those two stubborn Zax
And left them there, standing un-budged in their tracks.


Jon said...

Well done. I was myself picturing something more passive like getting somebody/something else to come along and knock the other out of the way.

I have to wonder, though, why they kept meeting. Once they reached the poles, it would have been easy enough for each to turn left or right by some random number of degrees and then never meet again.

Carolyn said...

I do agree that the stepping over each other solution is so much more elegant!