Brad Sondahl's World of Literature

Oh simple comfort, thou the cat,
Contented just to lie,
And pour out your song,
To be our lullaby.

Poems on this page:
One Day, Not Too Far Away.
Will Willy Marry Mary?
The Thing that ate Bill Suggin's Garbage.
The Ancient Gardener.
Around the Mill Pond
Around Zero
The beginning of Spring
Elegy for Paracollege


Pottering about in the People's Car

Click to read excerpts from The Dorkelson's Tabloid Vacation on a separate page]): Humorous sci fi.:
A fun family adventure romp featuring kids, animals, mad veterinarians, and aliens.  Screwball comedy.

Click to read the whole script for Diner, A Musical by Brad and Althea Sondahl. You may want the guided musical tour of it first.

Shortcut to my list of good authors, at the bottom of the page.

One day, not too far away.
by Brad Sondahl
One day, not too far away,
I'm going to wake up, and I'm gonna say:
My bed is a mess, but I'll just go away,
And leave it to get made some other day.

One day, not too far away,
The dishes will be dirty, but I'll want to play.
They'll just have to get clean some other way.
'Cause I'm going to leave 'em, no matter what you say.

One day, not too far away,
My clothes will be all dirty, and I won't want to change.
They can get washed when I'm out in the rain.
And the same with the pile by the washroom drain.

One day, not too far away,
The house is a disaster, dust up to my knees,
I'll close the door behind me, as quiet as you please.
I'll probably be saved from some terrible disease...

Will Willy Marry Marry?
Milly, this is silly, and rather nilly willy,
But Milly, will ye marry me?
I really feel that Willy, it's he that makes you merry,
But will he make you marry him?-- Or me?

It's true I'd eyes for Mary, too long with her I tarried,
Really Milly you I long to see.
Mary she loves Willy, now the question--Will he?
Will Willy marry Mary or Milly?

Milly says, "Now, Billy, this really is a dilly--
Why did you harry Mary and love me?
If Willy marries Mary, this message to him carry--
'Is it, Willy, really Mary, and not me?

It's true I'd eyes for Billy, though he tended to be silly
Really, Willy, you I long to see.
And if Willy marries Mary, Billy marries Milly,
Though really I love you and he loves me...'"

And so silly rhymes triumph in the end...

by Brad Sondahl

March 99

This is a poem about overweening, and this is how it goes:
When I think some guy is overweening, I bop him in the nose.
The kind of guy deserves it writes overweening prose:
“hegemony”, “parsimony”, and “acrimonious  woes.”
I likes intellectuals, they’re good as any joes,
But give ‘em an inch, they takes a mile, so bop ‘em on the nose.
Underweeners might not use syllables more than three.
Underweeners are boring–take ‘em over your knee.
Weeners are the kind of folks that always says things right.
Give me two or three weeners, when you’re caught in a fight.
Weeners know how to turn a phrase, and how to spell it too.
Most the weeners that I know, can cook a tasty stew.
So now you’ve got your choices, three kinds in the world is enough,
Decide what kind of weener you’ll be, when you have to grow up.

The Thing That Ate Bill Suggin's Garbage
by Brad Sondahl

I never liked to wander over in Bill Suggin's yard,
Cause half the yard was garden, and Suggins could be hard
On kids, and dogs that drifted through,
Specially in Spring when the garden was new.
'Sides, he had a thing in a corner by our fence
A box sort of thing that didn't make sense,
With holes in the side so the thing could breathe.
Whatever was in there I never could see,
But he went out and fed it his garbage and leaves
I know 'cause I watched hidden up in our tree.
Now garbage is yucky--what kind of a thing
Eats eggshells and orange peels and grass that he brings?
My sister Annie--she's not afraid--that's cause she's two
And she doesn't yet read, about monsters and heroes that live in my books--
She doesn't yet know that the world's full of crooks!
So it happened one day we were climbing on the fence,
When Bill and wife Betty were out planting plants.
Annie wanted over, so Betty came near,
Lifted Annie over, and called her a dear.
And then for some reason--there wasn't any need--
Bill reached out and gave Annie one seed.
Annie went to the box and banged on the lid.
And Bill went and opened it, just for the kid!
She looked just a minute, then stuck in her hand
I thought she would lose it--maybe that was their plan!
Out came her hand, but the seed was now gone,
She smiled and toddled away on their lawn,
"You come on back home now," I said nervously,
"Let's play in the sandpile under the tree."
So Annie came back and I asked her as soon
As Betty had left her, what she was doin'
Sticking her hand in that thing that could eat
Potato peelings and old Cream of Wheat?
Annie can think as quick as a hawk,
But Annie's one flaw is--Annie can't talk.
I thought I'd never learn what's in that box.
A couple weeks later--I was drawing with chalk
On the wood of our fence, when I happened to gawk
At the box--for the thing was now perfectly clear
Escaping the box--but I no longer feared
It's just a pet vine Bill keeps in the box,
And a vine isn't scary--less it grows lots and lots.
Bill was out weeding, and I had to know,
"Is that your pet vine that you're trying to grow?"
Bill looked where I pointed, and a chuckle was handy...
"I believe that there vine belongs to Annie."
"Blue ribbon pumpkins from compost so rich."
And he turned to his hoe and weeded the ditch.

It was an ancient gardener

It was an ancient gardener that stoppeth one in three.
"Have you any use," he said, "for giant zucchini?
I  left for just  the weekend, days not more than three.
When I came back home again, no garden could I see.
You can make them into relish, cook in tomato sauce.
The truth I don't embellish--Help! or my yard is lost!
Please sir, one for you sir, or maybe two or three sir.
The one that's slung around my neck is just a sample--What the heck!
Get a truck and back right in. When you unload, come back again!

Around the mill pond
In the weaning of the day,
In the last bit of starlight,
When the night creatures eyes dim to slits,
When the dewdrops leave a dark trail wherever you go,
Then is the world for the early birds and worms,
Then is the time for walking in the woods,
And listening to the song of the morning.
And as I walked the verge of millpond,
Saw the heron flee my tread,
Saw the hen grebe haul her babies,
Upon her waterproof back,
Upon the lake the first bright spangles,
Of dawn appeared, and I looked to the sky
Of pink and orange, to catch the sun's first rays.
The sun's too bright, I think,
The subtle beauty of the dawn,
Struck down by solar splendor,
Struck into shadows by the piercing red globe,
My eyes adjust to daylight now,
My heart in turn yields its way,
To the glories of the day,
To the glories of the day.
Around Zero
Winter Solstice, 1998
It's so crisp each step I take
Can crunch the grass and make it break
Its coat of glass and shattered life
Footsteps in the frost.

It's so cold I am amazed
At astronauts who out in space
Encounter cold that's so profound,
None on the ground to be found.
Thank goodness for electric suits,
Space heaters, and moon boots.

Meanwhile I, in my own frontier,
Encounter hoarfrost on my beard,
I'm old but not that wizened yet,
But getting wiser by the minute.
At least the brave ones out in space
Do not have the wind in their face...

When strolling around zero,
Walk into the wind,
Wind-on-back heroes,
Return home again.

The beginning of Spring
I have caught the beginning of Spring in my mouth--
It's the last snowflake of winter.
The trees are tired of standing about--
They want to dance in the warm breeze.
The birds sing choruses I can't begin--
To young ones hid so I can't see.
The flowers are peeping out of their beds--
Glad the last snowflake is safe in my head,
A flower or two seems to wink reassuring
It's not more of winter--it's spring.

The fearless bulbs poke out their buds,
Through verge of snow and muddy tread,
The cows walk by with last year's cuds,
Heedless of the flower bed,
The bees still sip on last year's flowers,
Awaiting return of color once more,
And I am waiting for the power,
To fight the weeds on the garden floor.

Elegy for Paracollege
(Paracollege is a part of St. Olaf College dedicated to tutorial based learning, discontinued a couple years ago)

In the margins of the green,
Ghosts will beat their tambourines,
Seeking out the orange brick dust,
And scattered bits of rust,
That turn the passing of the years,
Into deep subconscious fears.
And the tutors and tutees,
May fall down on bended knees,
But their begging will not please
The powers that be.

And the token of Old Main,
Is all that will remain,
Of color, except the stains,
Of iron on the lime--
Homogeneity time,
Walk the straight and narrow line,
And play from strength.

The alumni grouse and quibble
But among them not a nibble,
Of a Skoglund to bankroll the ride,
Besides they're all a bit eccentric,
And their rhyme schemes are concentric,
To beg themselves, they have too much pride.

An institution cannot love,
It cannot even hate,
But here's a tear for the children
Who were born too late...

Pottering About in the People's Car.
By Bradley H. Sondahl
(Now published in the Book Bugtales)

    One of my earliest associations with the people's car (VW Beetle) was driving in a sporty fastback VWwith my worldwide collegiate brother, to trade it in for a functional car. This particular Bug reportedly had the "steering box" rusted out, a condition which was, if even possible, expensive to correct. The result of this problem was that the car could not turn left, except for minor amounts to keep it on the road. My brother had located a dealer 30 miles away which would give him a good trade-in (it being a Bug, after all), sight unseen. So he asked me to go along to help him ride shotgun on all the right hand turns necessary to get to the dealer. I do not remember the ride--some things must be left to the imagination. But I remember laughing hysterically with relief as we drove home in his new vehicle.

    The scene now changes to 1975, and my post-college entry into the car world. After a brief fling with a Rambler (made briefer by the transmission dying shortly after buying it), I purchased a 65 VW Bug from the snot nosed next door neighbor kid, who had rejuvenated it as a junior high shop project. I also dutifully purchased the VW Repair Book for the Compleat Idiot (a predecessor to Dos for Dummys, no doubt), intent on learning mechanics as an adjunct to being a poor but honest professional potter. This handbook was an invaluable resource, except that it always called for smoking a cigarette while waiting for this or that, and as a nonsmoker, I felt out of my league. The book's reputation was a bit besmirched later, when I took the car in for professional care, and commented to the mechanic that I used the book for my repairs. "Yeah," he said, "we've gotten a lot of business from that book..."
    Now one thing about pottery, is that in dealing with clay, we're talking really heavy, man. Clay is typically purchased by the ton, and the finished work is delightful, but not light. Eventually I broke down and got a pickup, but first I needed to earn the money for that option. So I would haul clay materials roughly 750 lbs at a time (estimating how many gravitationally challenged people could theoretically fit in a bug...), and I would haul all the shelves on the roof, and cram it full of pottery to go to art fairs. Anyway, this heaviness property of pottery was to cause me grief several times. It was on the way to a big art fair that I heard a thunk, and felt a loss of power. You may laugh--ha! How can you feel a loss of power in a 40 HP Volkswagen? I assure you, it is possible. Suddenly my top speed was 40, instead of the 62 or so theoretically possible. Needing to get to the fair, I Kept Going. After the fair, Needing to Get Home, I Drove it Home. The Idiot's Guide recommended a compression check, and one of the pistons showed No Pressure. It also recommended shining in a flashlight, and looking at it while cranking the engine. I did this, and saw the end of the piston stationary at the end of the cylinder.
    For those of you who are seriously mechanically challenged, like me, the piston is like a big roundish chunk of aluminum which goes back and forth at odd moments in the close confines of its friendly cylinder. It is connected to its buddy, the rod, which hooks into a bunch of other complicated gadgets. No, wait. Let's get personal here (but not too personal). Imagine if your head was stuck in a sewer pipe, going up and down. Yucch! In this instance your neck would be the equivalent of the "rod." Okay, so when I took the engine apart, the piston had split in half, dutifully leaving the part connected to the rod in place, still dutifully going up and down the cylinder, so that I could get where I needed to, instead of "throwing a rod." In our illustration, this is your baseball cap sticking further in the sewer pipe, leaving your head still connected to your neck, free to continue on its merry way. Hmmm.
    Speaking of "throwing a rod," a funny thing or two happened when, a year or so later, my wife and I were moving from Minnesota to Oregon. We had obtained the certified Okey pickup truck, with all our earthly possessions in the back. Well, not quite all. We decided to tow our VW as a trailer, filled with stuff, and got the local blacksmith to make a sturdy steel tube and chain arrangement to hook onto the VW bumper. On the day we left, somehow one of us managed to leave the Bug securely in first gear (for the purpose of marital reconciliation, the perpetrator shall remain anonymous). Twenty miles later, some telltale smoke alerted us to the fact that the rear tires had pretty much quit turning. In fact, the transmission (to laypeople, that is the thing which makes a big hump in the middle of VW floorboards) held, and the engine "threw a rod." This was bad, but not terrible. After all, a friend had donated a matching engine to us from a VW van, and we had it along in back of the truck. So we continued on our way. The VW would wobble back and forth a bit as we cruised along, steadily straining at the bit, one might say. The technical term for this is metal fatigue. Two hundred miles into the journey, we accelerated away from a stop light in Fargo N. D., and the VW stayed behind. The bumper had become, technically, "disconnected." We had not yet heard the chorus of voices telling us, "You can't tow a Beetle by the bumper."
    Incidentally, this bumper was the classic, in your face bumper, not the namby pamby metal bandaid strip which replaced it in later models. When it broke off, two tough strips of metal remained facing forward. We secured the chains to these, and continued on. (I believe this was the same trip in which our Golden Retriever managed to find a major vein of horse manure at a western rest stop which lacked running water. She rode in the VW for the rest of the journey, and took her chances with the Bug on any more metal fatigue.)
    Getting back to our story, we ended up in Chelan, Washington, still poor and honest, and still doing art fairs with the VW bug. (I think the truck had developed a brake problem, as in, no brakes). We had a streak of luck, and qualified for an art fair run for rich Nuclear workers from the Tricities. (Yes, I had qualms about making money from radioactivity, but they weren't serious) The only thing between us and financial success was McNeil Canyon. At the bottom, where we started, was the Columbia River. To get to the top was to climb over 2000 feet at a steep rate of ascent. The car was packed, almost to the running boards (those cute but dysfunctional features) with pots, and the roof loaded with display shelving. You all know the unique whine of the VW engine--I believe it is the song of the Rings, or Nibelungen or something. By the time I crested the canyon, the engine was making a new variation on the song. The Idiot's Manual referred to it as the "Rod-throwing Song." It is something like the Death Throes of the Valkyrie. Once again, I Needed to Get There. And the car kept going. And I Needed to Get Home. And the car kept going. And we made big nuclear radiated money from the art fair, and set off for Spokane to buy a new car.
    Have you ever heard of the Judas Cows that led the cattle yearly on the Texas Trails to the Railyards (and a future of Slaughterhouses?) They got to return to lead other cows on their death march... Our VW was Not That Sort of Animal. It "threw a rod" on the way to our trading it in (revenge for my brother's car karma, perhaps). Even its death was graceful, though. It died rolling down a hill, and stopped by a potato warehouse, from whence we called a wrecker. We sold it to the wrecker for enough to buy bus tickets to Spokane, and the wrecker even drove us to the bus station. The Beetle era was ending, although I don't doubt that our VW was rejuvenated several times before its true final rest. The Beetles were so interchangeable, you know... Kind of the epitome of reinCARnation, you might say...

A select list of important books and authors
Practically all of these are good family read aloud books. (Which I've done with my family an hour a day for 15 years.)

Joan Aiken, from The Wolves of Willoughby onwards. All though she gets even too outlandish for me in her later books.  Her "adult" romances are a bit thick.

Most all of P.G. Wodehouse. Especially Bertie and Jeeves, and the Blandings Castle gang..

Stella Gibbons wrote a marvelously funny satire of English manor novels in 1928, called Cold Comfort Farm.

The Douglas Adams Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series is appropriately famous.

A final English author is Terry Pratchett, whose wildly funny and clever Discworld series and, for younger readers the Bromeliad trilogy, have earned him just acclaim as a best seller in Great Britain.

Sid Fleischman The McBroom books are great for younger listeners, all of his novels are highly entertaining family reads.

The Witches of Karres by James Schmitz  (Science fiction--one great book that encompassed several Star Trek plots.   Also the sci fi novels of Andre Norton and Clifford Simak, and Lloyd Biggle.. And how about A.E. Van Vogt's  The Weapon Shops of Issher?

The Mouse and His Child, and Emmett Otter's Jugband Christmas by Russell Hoban (Children's books for grownups)

Treasures of the Snow by Patricia St. John (like Heidi, which is also notable, by Johanna Spyri)

The Princess and Curdie, The Princess and the Goblins by George MacDonald. Christian fantasy, inspired C.S. Lewis.

Daniel Pinkwater (All of his juvenile novels) He so cool! Click on his name to visit his almost official page (after you're done here, of course).
Author of  The Snarkout Boys and The Avocado of Death, and Lizard Music

Pat Hutchins The House that Sailed Away, The Mona Lisa Mystery,  The Curse of the Egyptian Mummy .Hilarious absurdities for younger readers.

In a similar vein, The Pirates' Mixed Up Voyage, and The Blood and Thunder Adventure on Hurricane Mountain by Margaret Mahy.

Donald Westlake's Dortmunder Crime Comedy novels. Crime seldom pays, but was never funnier.

Tony Hillerman's excellent mysteries, set in modern Navajo country..  Nevada Barr's clever plots set in our National Parks.  Linda Barnes blues loving Carlotta Carlyle mysteries are very good. Gregory MacDonald wrote some finely crafted novels on Fletch and Flynn...
Don't miss the classic noire novels of Ross MacDonald,  Raymond Chandler, and Dashiell Hammett...