Way, way, WAY
Behind Back Bay,
In an old part of Boston
That the mayor doesn't know,
In an old vacant lot
That the Board of Health forgot ..
Is a spot
Where PEOPLE never go.
In this tall-weed jungle
With a night-patrol of cats,
In the bottom of a trash barrel
Lived a family of rats.
Father was the biggest rat,
And Mother was the meek one.
So Father chose their cosy home
When they set out to seek one.
When the children came along -
Seven, squealing, pink and strong . . .
Father boasted, "A FINE home!
We can see the State House dome.
It isn't EVERY little kid
Can look beneath his own home lid
And see a noble sight like THAT!
. . ..I'M A VERY CLEVER RAT!"
Of the children, six grew well . . .
Sharp of nibble, keen of smell..
But the seventh, shy and small,
Wasn't like the rest at all.
Little Reuben shook with dread
Every time his father said,
"That TIMID one is not like ME . . .
Some MOUSE in Mother's family tree
Must be to blame for THAT one.
He's not MY kind of rat son!"
All his father's unkind squealings
Hurt poor little Reuben's feelings,
But he tried as best he could
To act as Father said he should.
He tried to eat his garbage scraps.
He learned to steal the cheese from traps.
But there is no denying that
Reuben WASN'T a good rat.
He hadn't any friends to speak of,
Or death-defying deeds to squeak of.
Then one night before he ate,
Reuben washed his little plate.
He smoothed his fur and washed his feet.
He made himself look clean and neat.
He brushed his teeth and scrubbed his face,
Then sat down in his usual place.
In came Father, big and brown.
He looked Reuben up and down.
He thumped his tail hard on the floor,
And squealed a TERRIBLE rat roar.
"You've WASHED yourself!
How could you DARE?
Go and rumple up your hair!
It's clear you'll never meet my terms . . .
Why, you can't even carry GERMS!
You shame the name . . . I'm through,
With trying to make a rat of you!"
Reuben squeaked, "I only mean
To grow up being kind and clean!"
"What do you mean . . .
KIND AND CLEAN?. . .
Whatever kind of rat
Father roared, eyes gleaming black.
OF THIS TRASH BARREL
While Reuben's mother softly cried,
He slithered down the barrel's side.
The night was dark, so still and grim
His shadow even frightened him.
He tried to see the State House dome
To give him courage leaving home.
He couldn't see a thing but eyes
That glowed and stared in mild surprise.
He heard the sound of scurrying things
On furry feet or whirring wings.
He heard noises he'd not dreamed of.
Shapes were not quite what they seemed of . . .
And auto wheels,
And ladies' squeals,
And fire trucks.
Barking dogs on every street
SNAPPING at his flying feet.
Finally, to escape their snarls,
Reuben swam the river Charles.
Cambridge, on the other side,
Was where Reuben sat and dried..
Though no rat was ever wetter,
It was quiet. He felt better.
After all that he'd been through,
He rat-napped for an hour or two.
When he woke the sun was high.
He felt rested. He was dry.
He brushed his whiskers smooth, and then
He started on his way again.
A popcorn box off Harvard Square
Hid Reuben while he sniffed the air.
He was pleased. He liked the looks
Of nice clean people carrying books,
Hurrying by to college classes,
Wearing great big, horn-rimmed glasses.
Reuben felt a sudden yearning
To be part of all that learning.
He had fun imagining that
He might be a HARVARD RAT!
Then a studious looking man,
Thinking up a super plan,
Didn't watch for just a minute
And kicked the box with Reuben in it.
Before he knew it, quick as SCAT,
The man caught Reuben in his hat.
Pleased, the man said, "What a BREAK! ..
Finding this fine rat to take
Home with me to test my rocket!"
. . . So, he popped him in his pocket.
Reuben got a little stiff
Wrapped up in a handkerchief.
But he soon was taken out,
Looked at, stroked, and talked about.
He couldn't keep from feeling proud,
Mixing with that learned crowd.
Professor I.M. Smart, the man
Who had the super rocket plan,
Worked with Rueben, watched his ways.
Then trained him hard for days and days.
He said, "They've passed the speed of sound,
But now, at last, I think I've found
A way to leave this earthly ground
And turn the rocket age around.
A faster missile no one knows . . .
IT SHOULD BE BACK BEFORE IT GOES!"
The professor finally had
Reuben on the launching pad.
He blasted off in clouds of smoke
And thrilled the T.V. watching folk.
He looped the loop to Mars, and then,
Did figure 8's to Earth again.
But, best of all, his speed was more
Than anyone had gone before.
He passed the very speed of light,
Arriving back THE PREVIOUS NIGHT!
He landed safely on a dime . . .
And all in LESS THAN ZERO TIME!
The cheering crowds told Reuben that
He was a famous ASTRO-RAT!
In the trash barrel, for the news,
Reuben's father gave his views,
"It is not surprising that
my son became a famous rat.
I saw at once this youngster had
The makings of a handsome lad.
With COURAGE. STRENGTH, and GALLANTRY.
. . . He could not fail, because, you see,
HE'S ALWAYS BEEN SO MUCH LIKE ME!"'
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