VIRTUES & VICES
No one likes to be left out.
Once upon a time there were three little boys. And these little boys, like many, perhaps even most little boys, were not very good at anything they tried.
In baseball they, "Threw like girl." In dodge ball they were always hit. In tag they were always "it." In hide-'n-go-seek, no one sought for them.
They were out. Out of everything.
One day, a cloudy day, as I recall, the boys happened upon a large cardboard box. Now to you and me that box would not be so large, but to three small boys, it was a very large box.
"Let's see if we can fit in the box," one of the brighter of the little boys said.
"Ok,"replied one of the other boys, the outspoken one.
So that's what they did. And, to their great pleasure, they all three did indeed fit into the box. In fact, it was so large that they wondered if maybe, if they all squeezed together, they could even fit a small puppy in with them.
"Do you have a small puppy?" one of the boys queried, to no one in particular.
"No, I don't have a puppy," replied another. "Do you have a puppy?"
"I asked you first. Remember?" Responded the first of the inquirers.
"Oh, yeah," remembered the second inquirer. "Do you have a puppy?"
"Nope," replied the outspoken one.
"No puppy. But at least we have room for a puppy."
All this to say; it was a very large box for three small boys to find.
"I have an idea!" exclaimed the first of the small boys, who obviously was rising to his place as leader of the three outcast boys.
"What?" inquired the second, obviously suited best to be a follower.
The outspoken little boy said nothing. He was obviously the intellectual of the three.
"Let's make a clubhouse out of this box."
"Good idea,"said the second in command. He had already learned that it was good policy to massage the ego of the one who had elected himself to be in charge.
"Can't. No room," the outspoken one spoke out.
"There's room for a puppy," replied one of the other boys. I'll let you decide which one it was.
"Who's going to be in our club," inquired boy number two, careful not to usurp the authority of the one in authority.
"No room," said the intellectual child. "Just for a puppy."
"He's right, said the obvious leader. "So we'll just have us three in the club, and no more."
"The Three Musketeers," boy number two hollered.
Boy number one, who had the foresight to bring into the box with him a stick, held it high in the air like a sword. "One for one, and all for all," he exclaimed!
Then the three studied the hole the sword-stick had poked in the top of their box.
"Hope it don't rain," ventured the intellectual child.
"We need rules," said one.
"And signs," responded another.
The outspoken one said nothing. He had already begun to scribble on a piece of cardboard with a crayon he always carried with him for just such a momentous moment.
"Write, keep out."
"And, that means you."
"And, no girls allowed."
"For sure. And make that the biggest one."
"Yeah, only puppies. No cats, only puppies."
"No girl puppies though. Only boy puppies."
"We have that covered with the no girls sign."
"How will we know if it's a girl puppy or a boy puppy?" quizzed the second in command.
"Boy puppies have longer ears than girl puppies," informed the intellectual child.
So the clubhouse was finished. And what a magnificent clubhouse it was! There was not a finer cardboard clubhouse on that entire block. And certainly not one which advertised for one small puppy.
"It's not fair," said the gathering children of the neighborhood. "Why should they have their own clubhouse, and not let us in?"
"I wish I was born a boy so I could join, and get to go in that big box."
"It's just not fair."
So said all the children of the neighborhood.
Baseball games were suspended. Hop scotch squares sat idle on sidewalks. And jump ropes hung limp at little girls sides as all watched and glared at the forbidding keep out signs taped threateningly on all sides of the cardboard clubhouse.
"Let's kick it in," menaced one of the bigger boys standing outside jealously admiring the magnificent structure.
"Naw," replied one of the more sensitive of the spectators. "I got a better idea. Let's go find a box and start our own club."
"Good idea," responded another. "And we won't let any one in. Not even puppies!"
"That's no fair," exclaimed the girl with the jump rope laying limp at her side. "Why can't we join too?"
"That's ok," conjectured the girl with the large stick of sidewalk chalk in her hand. "I know where there's an even bigger box. We can use it and start our own clubhouse."
"And paint it blue."
"And no boys allowed."
"Only us girls."
"Right. And no puppies."
"Kittens only. Right. No boys or puppies."
On that neighborhood block now stood a number of large cardboard boxes, one painted a magnificent pink that emitted an occasional meow. All structures dedicated to individualist isolationism and each having the certainty that they are the truly superior one, and that all others were merely imitations.
"What do you want to do?" inquired one of the little boys nestled uncomfortably in their cardboard clubhouse.
"I don't know. What do you want to do?"
"I don't care. What do you want to do?"
"I know. And it's dripping on my head from that hole you poked in the roof with that stupid stick of yours."
"Don't call me, stupid, stupid. You're the stupid one."
"I didn't call you stupid, stupid. I called the stick stupid."
"You can't call my stick stupid, stupid. You're stick is the stupid one, stupid."
And the cardboard clubhouse did, as all cardboard does, what cardboard is intended to do, especially when the weather changes for the worse.