As a matter of fact, questions such as “Who are you?” have existed since the day of creation. Our Lord, after getting his hands dirty in the clay, molded the bearded muzzle of Adam, and when this little chump had hardly opened his eyes, he reached up to God’s nose, asking, “Who are you?” God did not answer. God has still not answered. Perhaps he was offended—or is still thinking about the question.
Thus, of course, expecting the legitimate question, “Who is this Lilli-Bunny anyway?” I present you with the following explanatory conversation, because readers indeed love books with a lot of conversation and pictures, and I don’t want to disappoint you from the first page.
– Who is this Lilli-Bunny? Is he that important to write or, even worse, read novels about? We have never heard of him. Did he kill fifty million people?
– But did he participate in any massacres?
– Did he invent the A-bomb?
– No, he did not.
– Did he drop an A-bomb? (One of those who dropped the A-bomb was recently declared a hero by Time Magazine.)
– No, Lilli-Bunny didn’t drop the A-bomb.
– Maybe Lilli-Bunny is the kind of bearded guy, like Karl Marx, that invents the kind of theory that makes a couple of continents almost strangle themselves?
– Well, would you excuse us, but this personality is unremarkable, because it is necessary to murder a certain number of souls in order to be considered a great hero or even a historically significant figure.
I’ll try to argue that Lilli-Bunny is an ordinary character with the virtues of anyone trying successfully to live a happy life, but you won’t listen. You’ll turn away. My novel will stomp into the corner sniveling.
You’ll go on with your life, through your uneventful working days between traffic jams and washing machines, proving my novel to be unimportant. Actually, you don’t realize that novels are guiding your lives. Look out at the street – do you see Harry Potters carrying their brooms, Raskolnikovs3 with their axes, Pickwicks sitting on the benches, Captains Nemos hiding silently somewhere in the city sewers? Each of us selects, subconsciously, a character from a novel read in one’s childhood, and this person hobbles through one’s life.
You might say that the present generation does not read any literature. They simply read new novels or watch the movies, which does the same simple trick. These books and movies rule our lives…
As a matter of fact, this is a novel for you. It will treat your anxieties, make your back pain go away and help you work healthy insight into your life (This is true, of course, only if you haven’t been so abused and neglected before you reached these lines that it is already too late to help you out. In that case, you will carry on with your miserable life, dragging Raskolnikov’s axes to kill old ladies for money. Or maybe you will play the role of an Idiot and feel sorry for Raskolnikovs and old ladies whispering to their own ears sweet fairy tales about their uniqueness. But murdering with an axe sounds so unique that it deserved to be included in the novel.)
Lilli-Bunny is a positive hero and does not fight with axes. Then why should you give precious minutes of your priceless existence to the reading of my book? Because the efforts of your teachers shouldn’t go in vain. Your English teacher, some Mrs. Watson, didn’t sleep at night reviewing your English papers. You are indeed the last generation that can still read! I do not mean inscriptions in graffiti on the walls; I mean text longer than a parking ticket.
Anyway, God forgot to give us instructions on how we are supposed to use ourselves. So we can be excused, at least, for reading those.
Lilli-Bunny might be you, but without the dog-eat-dog life, work that sucks, shrimpy wage, abuse and discrimination, burnt porridge, rubber love, clay conscience, spat soul, snotty childhood, wooden toys, finger in the glass of milk in kindergarten (so that the neighbor would not drink it), blots in your copybook, ice cream fallen to the pavement, slaps of bully schoolmates, Jules Verne ships that set sail without you, pathetic marriage, or pressure of “certain circumstances” that became fully-grown boneheads who smoke in your basement (not just tobacco), dysfunctional family, disrespectful grandchildren, measly old age, early death, solitude in the crowd, and also of course the Major Disappointment of Your Entire Life (what-so-ever you choose it to be) and other insignificant troubles…
Lilli-Bunny might be you if, of course, you add to your life a full scoop of sunny days, some semolina porridge with raspberry jam, a friendship with a teddy bear, some common sense, some sense of humor, some sharp-toothed satire, some merry laughter, some unrestrained laughter with hands swinging and feet stamping on the floor—“Ha! Ha! Ha!”
Lilli-Bunny was famous for his furry blue slippers. First, Lilli-Bunny met his right slipper. It hopped along the road singing a slipper-y song. Lilli-Bunny liked this funny guy and so gave him a cookie—Lilli-Bunny always carried one in his pocket just in case something like this should happen. So, Right Slipper followed Lilli-Bunny home and settled under Lilli-Bunny’s bed. Then it came out that Right Slipper had a Left brother. However, Left’s left-foot views were too liberal for everyone’s taste, which made it impossible for respectable Right Slipper to introduce his brother to Lilli-Bunny.
But at five o’clock tea, Lilli-Bunny showed his political indifference. He offered raspberry jam to those who sat to his right side and those on his left, without any discrimination. Moreover, he even sent some jam to Hamster Hamlet, an insignificant inhabitant of his house who lived in the basement near the furnace and didn’t care to show up for tea. Seeing such a pluralistic approach in Lilli-Bunny’s behavior, Right Slipper found the courage to introduce his Left brother, in spite of the leftist slogans Left was apt to spout: “Distribute the Wealth!” “Overthrow the Government!” “Reduce Gas Prices!” “Turn off the Light!” and even “Death to Global Warming!”
Left Slipper was invited to join the very next tea party, where he was pleased to make acquaintances with the merry company which lived in Lilli-Bunny’s cozy brick house: Lilli-Bear, Lilli-Kitty and Lilli-Jake, two cats (Lilli-Bunny usually carried an armful of cats, even though he had only two of them. His were pretty fat, or to be more exact, fat and pretty), two quite articulate little parrots with well-developed two to three word vocabularies with which they could fully enjoy their freedom of speech, and Hamster Hamlet, who has already been introduced to my honorable reader.
However, Hamster Hamlet soon departed from Lilli-Bunny’s house, because it turned out that he had solved the popular question, “to be or not to be?” in the most irresponsible way, amorally engaging himself in random relationships with numerous mice in the house.
Very soon, Lilli-Bunny started to notice the seemingly inexplicable appearance of mutant mice offspring with hamster ears and mouse-tails in his house.
Such an impact on the course of evolution quite upset Hamster Hamlet himself in such an unfortunate way that he placed the following ad in the local newspaper:
(Way cuter than average)
Looking for a new apartment
Won’t accept any offers from mutant mice.
And the telephone number
Hamster Hamlet had a telephone line of his own. He, frankly speaking, was a hamster-individualist. I am sorry, but Hamster Hamlet did not give me his consent to disclose here his number, because he doesn’t want to be disturbed during his winter hibernation that usually starts in mid-August and ends in mid-June. Though, in case of some sort of emergency, you may find it in the phone book under his name. But don’t look under the section “Rodents.” You must look under “Princes of Denmark.”
After acquiring such politically engaged slippers, Lilli-Bunny ceased to express any interest in politics. But it often occurred that Lilli-Bunny fell asleep while watching TV, putting his slippered feet right in front of the screen. While Lilli-Bunny took his nap, the slippers attentively watched all available political commentary and quietly discussed the current political climate (climate is very important because if it changes, some politicians will start sneezing and coughing, and might even need warmer cover-ups to cover their political ass—yep, you got me right , I was going to say “assets.”) Sometimes the slippers even debated different changes in the political system. You probably know that not all changes in the system are healthy. For example, changes in the gastrointestinal or cardiovascular system can turn deadly. Some democratic changes in the political system might be good for democracy itself, while changes in the systems of internal organs usually are considered a disturbing sign. Democracy between the systems of body organs may lead to some undesirable consequences if it gets too far—imagine that your liver passes a no-confidence vote against your head, or—excuse the medical details—your rectum impeaches your dignity. Sorry? Dignity is not an internal organ? Sometimes it is.
But debates among the elective organs are a good thing, for this means democracy is on the move. Democracy needs more physical activity, otherwise it gets obese and finishes up all the food in the nation’s fridge. But democracy shouldn’t move too fast, because it is not very young anymore, and its constitution sweats if it gets too heated.
Then the world’s tyrannies declare with disgust that democracy has got its constitution sweaty. Democracy promptly checks on its constitution and honestly confirms, “Yes, it is pretty wet. But this is reparable. But look at you, bloody tyrants! You keep your constitution dry, and it is entirely eaten up by moles!”
Then tyranny and democracy jump on each other and have a fight. And the rest of the world yawns while watching it on TV.
I always supported democracy and the ultimate authority of the majority in theory, though I never got a practical answer to what should be done if the majority is evil or gets things wrong. Perhaps democracy has some mysterious power to improve human nature, otherwise wild and brutal, and which only gets worse in a crowd. Probably I am wrong and democracy has never turned bad, or if it has, people try to forget such unfortunate occurrences. Let us forget it too, for it is better to forget unsolvable questions than try to solve them.
The only problem with the politically-engaged slippers popped up when Lilli-Bunny woke up and went to the bathroom. He was very sleepy, and by mistake, put the right slipper on his left foot and the left slipper on his right. This forced the slippers to change their political orientations almost immediately. This occurs fairly often in politics, but was tough for the slippers because they retained shreds of dignity, which isn’t quite true of politicians. To remain consistent in such confusion, the left slipper argued that he had gone so far to the left, that for the first time in his life, he had actually got things right, and the right slipper tried to convince himself and the others that since he had now traveled so far to the left, he had to adopt some leftist tactics. Don’t get heated, my dearest reader. This is a simple truth of political life. Changing one’s mind constantly is just one of the professional hazards of any political career.
But Lilli-Bunny was sleeping and not paying attention to all these political acrobatics. Once, he slept so deeply that he flipped over in his armchair. Thus, he pointed his slippers up at the ceiling. That was the real moment of national unity. By raising both up, Lilli-Bunny won the hearts of his slippers. They agreed to elect Lilli-Bunny as President.
They cast their ballots that way because, first, Lilli-Bunny treated everybody to raspberry jam, which made him very important, and second, he sometimes threw the slippers at his cats when they got too playful—and who, if not a real president, would do such a drastic thing in order to restore public order? You know, excessive playfulness might interfere with healthy sleeping, and this is unacceptable! Never wake society while it is sleeping. This may have serious consequences, especially to the one who wakes it up. And third, Lilli-Bunny was the owner of the house, and who, if not the owner, is supposed to be elected president? I mean, he owns the house. It is very important for democracy to confirm the real situation of society by electing the one who would rule anyway, even though he wasn’t elected. This practice adds more legitimacy to the government and therefore makes the loyal citizens feel better. Isn’t that what modern democracy is all about?
The slippers didn’t tell Lilli-Bunny about their decision, because they were afraid the knowledge would make him nervous and preoccupied with his new political career. The slippers knew such preoccupation could seriously damage not only the household of the politician himself, but also households of many fellow citizens. Nor did the slippers tell anyone else in the house about electing Lilli-Bunny for the office. The other inhabitants seemed not to care. But that was just okay, because in a normal society politics shouldn’t much interfere with household issues.
Now the slippers formed a coalition and began to run against Lilli-Bunny’s winter boots, which would compete with the slippers for the leader’s feet in December, or even as early as mid-November, if it snowed early that year.
Lilli-Bunny was always looking for a real friend, and finally he found him. This was Lilli-Bear. Lilli-Bear was a kind of teddy bear, but even more educated and polite. You might say that lilli-bears are not very talkative and tend to fall on one side. This is true. This Lilli-Bear also always fell on his side, trying to fit himself to benches, sofas, armchairs, or, generally speaking, to everything it was possible to lie down on with a reasonable degree of comfort and peace. But one couldn’t call him “not talkative” or “untalkable.” That just was not true. He kept silence here and there, now and then. But all of sudden he’d start talking, and God witness, it wasn’t easy to make him mute. At such moments, Lilli-Bear tried to say everything all at once, and one would think he heard a chorus of lilli-bears. So far, conventional science hasn’t found any reasonable explanation of how it is possible for one lilli-bear to sound like many, though this is not the only thing conventional science finds difficult to explain.
Lilli-Bear talked especially much if he sat on something wet. It also occurred in the pond or the bath. Then he became so chatty one could make friends with him as much as one wished. That’s why Lilli-Bear avoided towels after a bath—he didn’t want to lose his capability to complete the sentences that he might start once he was wet.
I must say, it was even worse when Lilli-Bear sat on something cold, like a bench lightly frosted with snow. Then he could go so far as to write verses of songs.
Here is one such song. Lilli-Bear wrote it for Lilli-Bunny with help from all the fellow inhabitants of the Lilli-Bunny house.
We love Lilli-Bunny and both of his slippers
And this nice household that we gladly possess
Because Lilli-Bunny is the one who can feed us,
Two parrots and an armful of cats.
He always works hard, but he never gets tired
He shoots any trouble, once and for all,
You can’t find a person who’s equally kind
Such goodness may save our world.
Keep walking with courage in your furry slippers,
And always with an armful of your stupid cats,
We cannot express our love any deeper,
We love you as much as it possibly gets!
Lilli-Bear looked at his poem and thought, “I like it, but if I can use French to speak of my love for Lilli-Bunny, why don’t I?” French is the best language for expressing love. Even if you order French fries in French, it sounds like erotic talk—Je voudrais. Listen to the sound of this word: v-u-u-d-r-e-e—the “r” sounds like the roaring of a sleepy tiger. Does it turn you on? Well, try it again, and eventually, you’ll get there.
Without distinctly knowing whether he should use French to express his love to Lilli-Bunny, Lilli-Bear decided to take the chance and wrote the following song:
Nous aimons beaucoup notre lapin
Et notre maison que nous possédons
Parce que notre lapin nous traite avec le bouillon
Et parfois il nous donne même du vin!
Il travaille toujours dur, mais il n’est jamais fatigué,
Et quand il travaille, c’est un plaisir à voir,
C’est vrai, depuis que ce vieux monde s’est créé,
Il n’y a pas pour lui de meilleur espoir!
Marchez avec le courage vers un meilleur l’avenir
Nous t’aimons et nous aimons tes chats
C’est si important encore pour devenir
Le meilleur lapin que le monde possédera.
Lilli-Bear didn’t quite know what this poem looked like because he didn’t exactly know French, but successful writing of the song in two languages encouraged Lilli-Bear. So he tried to write it in Russian, as well. He knew those nice guys who call themselves “new Russians” and speak Russian in New York and London exactly as they speak it in Moscow. They think if they speak Russian louder and slower, people will understand them. Anyway, Lilli-Bear wrote the poem in Russian, just to make his friend Lilli-Bunny prepared for such a pleasant invasion. It is so educational to live in the United States, Great Britain, or Canada in our day! You don’t need to travel the world to meet people from distant corners of the Earth. They are all here. You can save the money you’d spend on expensive tickets and tours. And you can calm your fear of falling victim to a terrorist attack while you are in the air. They are all here too!
And French is not that bad after all. Look at you, what you are going to say when we all have to learn Chinese? I already did. You don’t believe me? Well, here I go:
“Wo Schan Yao Chi” and “Wo Schan Yao He!” This means “I want to eat and drink.”
One of my friends told me that he knows how to say “Hello” and “Good-bye” in Chinese. We decided to act together in case the world turns all-Chinese soon. He will be my “public relations department.” He will say, in Chinese, “Hello” (just to make the conversation more polite), and I will say, “I want to eat and to drink,” and then he will say “Good-bye.” I think this is an excellent plan for survival. Don’t you think so? It is much easier than trying to make more children and teaching them to work hard, the only way Chinese know to work.
What was I talking about? Now I remember. Do you want to listen to the Russian song? Then here you go:
На свете есть Маськин в голубеньких тапках,
У Маськина много есть разных хлопот,
То кошек своих он таскает в охапках,
А то вдруг всем варит он вкусный компот.
Среди непонятностей внешнего мира
Наш Маськин понятен и нужен всегда,
Чтоб милые тапки ходили красиво,
Весь мир наш спасает его красота.
Шагайте же дружно, пушистые тапки,
Хватайтесь в охапки, дурные коты!
Мы Маськина любим свово без оглядки,
Ни дня не прожить без его доброты.
И может, звучим мы, как три подхалима,
И может, мы слишком хотим подхалить,
Однако наш Маськин, откуда вестимо,
Даёт нам прекрасно и весело жить.
“Wow,” said Lilli-Bear to himself. He always was saying wow to himself, just to make himself feel better. But he didn’t say “wow!” with an exclamation mark, as everybody else does. He said it with period in the end, like this: “wow.” Lilli-Bear was confident that wow with a period on the end sounded more convincing.
When Lilli-Bear read all three poems to the fellow inhabitants of Lilli-Bunny’s house, they made pale efforts in the beginning to applaud him; but these efforts were too hopeless to be persisted in. The inhabitants of Lilli-Bunny House didn’t know many languages. Only Lilli-Bunny clapped his hands loudly and kissed Lilli-Bear on the nose. Lilli-Bunny loved his friend, because only a real friend can write you a poem in three languages he doesn’t quite know.
The truth is you don’t have to know a language in order to use it. There are so many ways to express yourself without employing any language at all. Lilli-Bear had many other things that could do the same trick: giggling, clapping, coughing, sneezing, yawning, and even farting—Oh, I am sorry; I wasn’t supposed to say that. But too late. Lilli-Bunny’s left slipper likes to look over my shoulder at what I am writing, and when he saw the word “farting,” he went crazy, proclaiming a new slogan: “Freedom of Farting! Freedom of Farting!” and I didn’t have much way to stop him. Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god—How could I use such a vulgar slang in my noble piece of writing? Well, there’s still some hope that the editor will delete the whole passage. You know, deleting is much more creative than writing. Because when you write, you don’t have much choice what to write. You are just expressing your heart, exactly as Lilli-Bear did. But when someone has the power to delete—oh, that is a hell of a power! One might say that deleting is, in a way, more influential than writing. So, if you still can read all this, blame the editor, not me.
After so much linguistic effort from Lilli-Bear, how could Lilli-Bunny not consider him a best friend? He even gave Lilli-Bear a present: a ring, a cute little ringlet with writing on its inside: “For Love and Friendship.”
Lilli-Bear was so happy he put two sticks in the ground in his backyard and started to throw the ring, trying to get it on a stick. He labeled one stick “Luff,” and on the other, he wrote “Phrent-Sheep” (Lilli-Bear’s way of spelling the words “Love” and “Friendship”).
As a direct descendant of the Honorable Winnie the Pooh, and like all his descendants, Lilli-Bear suffered from slight difficulties in spelling.
Once I thought that spelling would die out by the next generation, but computers saved it with their “check spelling” option. Now we don’t have to remember the exact spelling even of simple words to get them right and be considered a well-educated person. Shakespeare didn’t have such a luxury. Poor thing! Once a computer does the spelling for me, I can allow myself to become a strong supporter of the conventional way of spelling.
Can you possibly imagine how many generations of teachers’ kicks and slaps the word “enough” carries on its bloody letters? Regretfully, teachers don’t beat up their students anymore (they found more elaborate ways to humiliate their students. We must admit that this constitutes substantial progress in the educational system), but it doesn’t make the word “enough” any less bloody. Its Old Germanic origin caused a lot of damage to young souls in their unhappy years of schooling, maybe even more damage than the German military machine did to Great Britain and the English-speaking world. Well, I guess we had enough with the word “enough.” We must let it rest in peace.
So Lilli-Bear always followed Lilli-Bunny and tried to fit himself on anything it was possible to lie down on. Lilli-Bunny kept telling Lilli-Bear, “You lay around too long,” or “you sit too long.” But Lilli-Bear didn’t argue. He always agreed saying, “right,” and then staying where he lay. When Lilli-Bunny baked pancakes for him, Lilli-Bear would lie down on a small gauzy bench that Lilli-Bunny put in the kitchen for him.
When the pancakes were ready, Lilli-Bear always started to philosophize. So specialists promptly dubbed this sort of philosophy “Kitchen Philosophy.”
Lilli-Bear’s Kitchen Philosophy:
- Pancakes are better than buns.
- Pancakes are better than buns, particularly because I ate all the buns yesterday, and I’m eating pancakes today. If I eat waffles, that means that they exist, whatever Descartes has to say. “I think, therefore I exist.” —Not true. Waffles do not need to think in order to exist.
- Nietzsche is an idiot.
That’s it. Lilli-Bear, of course, had new thoughts sometimes, especially if he was given semolina porridge with raspberry jam, but these thoughts were so short that Lilli-Bear wrote them with his spoon directly on the porridge, and porridge is not a very reliable material for preserving eternal ideas. So, humanity shall have to be satisfied with the three lines of Lilli-Bear’s Kitchen Philosophy that we have already respectfully presented.
As a matter of fact, it was Lilli-Kitty who first called Lilli-Bunny by his name. Before that, Lilli-Bunny was just an ordinary bunny without any special function in this world. Now we know that the main function of Lilli-Bunny is to find the way to live a happy life. But when Lilli-Bunny was just an ordinary bunny, this function was obscure and undefined.
At first, Lilli-Bunny started to argue. “I am not a Lilli-Bunny.” But Lilli-Kitty just ignored his objections and called Lilli-Bunny “Lilli-Bunny.” She often said,
- “Lilli-Bunny, let’s go shopping!” or
- “Where is Lilli-Bunny?” or
- “Lilli-Bunny, let’s draw pictures together!”
And eventually, Lilli-Bunny got used to his cute name. He ceased to grumble when she used it, and then judged it philosophically, “Well, I am Lilli-Bunny. But who is not?” Then he looked at himself at the mirror and noted with relief and satisfaction, “Everyone is a lilli-bunny.” If you don’t believe it, look at yourself in the mirror, and you will see that sometimes you are just a cute little lilli-bunny, no matter what you do in your official life.
Lilli-Kitty and Lilli-Bunny were friends. Lilli-Kitty even found her own funny pair of furry slippers, but hers were politically illiterate.
Lilli-Kitty liked to spend quality time with Lilli-Bunny. Each day, they took a small, fresh Piece of Time and treated it so kindly that Time did not want to depart and always remained to drink tea.
Lilli-Kitty knew how to do everything better than anyone else. She cooked scrumptious meals while Lilli-Bunny was occupied with training and educating his cats. As he trained them, he studied them in a scientific and philosophical way. This occupied much time. First of all, it was necessary to wait until they woke, and they slept most of the day; in fact they slept almost always. Unless, of course, they were busy taking dust baths in the backyard.
After some thought, Lilli-Bunny concluded they did this to ward off the fleas. Fleas attach themselves by their teeth to the cat’s skin. But when the cat bathes in the dust, the fleas’ noses fill up with it, making the fleas sneeze and fall off the cat.
This is why the cats were so clean, even though Lilli-Bunny’s cats were of low-class origins. No, I didn’t say that they were garbage cats. I said, “Low class.” Well, if you insist—they had some garbage-cat background on their résumés. But it was all in the past, and there is nothing wrong or humiliating in being a cat of garbage class. If you get a garbage cat clean and feed him well, he will be even better, happier, and healthier than some aristocratic or middle-class cats. You ought to love garbage cats! They are the true source of hegemony for any progressive reforms! They also are the only hope for nuclear-weapons-free future. You don’t agree again? Well. Please raise your hands who ever saw a garbage cat with a nuclear bomb in his paws. Now do you agree I am right? Well, if garbage cats get their paws on the nuclear bomb, there won’t be anyone around to ask my stupid questions or answer them, anyway.
When Lilli-Bunny was busy educating his cats, he had to sleep a lot, because he had to wait until they woke up. Lilli-Kitty managed Lilli-Bunny’s household when Lilli-Bunny was busy sleeping. Sometimes it took a lot of time, because when Lilli-Bunny was awake, the cats were sleeping, and when the cats were awake, Lilli-Bunny was sleeping.
This is exactly the same situation we have in our society. When the Best People of the Nation are awake, the society is sleeping. The Best People of the Nation don’t want to wake the society, because it may have disturbing consequences. So the Best People don’t know what to do with themselves and just take it easy and smoke pot. Eventually, they fall asleep. Then the society wakes up and finds that the Best People of the Nation are sleeping. So society lights a joint, because it really has nothing to do without the Best People of The Nation leading everyone to a better future. Society doesn’t want to wake the Best People of the Nation, because it knows that while they are awake they may disagree with the current values of the society, and it may suffer some inconvenience, like a civil war. So society covers the feet of the Best People with warm blankets and puts pillows on their faces, not because it wants to suffocate them, but to prevent them from waking suddenly, when society is not quite prepared. Then society finishes the joint that it took from the cold hands of the Best People of the Nation. Society eventually gets stunned and falls asleep. The Best People somehow manage to remove the pillows from their faces and wake up anyway, and so on and on and on, in rounds.
Well, what goes around comes around. The Best People of the Nation actually never meet their society in person. Pot makes both of them a little bit hippy and less ambitious with time. You might ask, what society am I talking about? Doesn’t matter. They are all the same. You might argue: What about China? They are very ambitious and active lately. Oh, that’s because they are antipodes and smoke anti-pot. Obviously anti-pot makes people less hippy and more ambitious.
I have to confess that I never tried to smoke pot. Probably because I am not a Best Person of any Nation, nor do I fill a real part in any society.
Lilli-Kitty was very cute and handy. She went fishing, and drew naturmorts with fruits (it is very economic to draw naturmorts with fruits. You buy one apple and draw it a couple of times, so you get a whole bunch of apples in the picture. You just have to make sure Lilli-Bear doesn’t eat your apple by mistake before you have drawn it at least once).
Lilli-Kitty also made sure there were no quarrels of any sort in the house. Sometimes everybody would sit around the table and have tea. One such time, Lilli-Bear asked Lilli-Kitty, “How are you doing?”
“Doing what?” asked Lilli-Kitty and burst into tears. Then she said, “Here we go; it all started again!”
“What started again?” asked Lilli-Bear.
“Everyone is shouting,” said Lilli-Kitty, starting to shout.
But Lilli Bear said, “Wow.” Yes, “wow,” with a period in the end, and Lilli-Kitty felt better.
“You ask how I am doing? I am okay. Thank you,” Lilli-Kitty told Lilli-Bear in a calm voice.
Lilli-Kitty had many shadow-like friends. They came and went, and never took their hats off.
They usually joined dinner. Lilli-Bunny watched them closely, trying to discern whether the newcomers were good or bad. Then Lilli-Bear told them his kitchen philosophy, and tried to teach them to say “wow” with a period in the end. They seldom got it right; they said “wow?” or “wow;” or—
When Lilli-Bunny found that one of them was more bad than good, he didn’t give the person any more jam, because jam usually affects the head, and all good and bad comes from this part of the body, even when you think it comes from another part.
Lilli-Kitty’s friends never took off their hats, because hats helped them find their heads. And the head is a very important part of the body, if you know how to use it. For example, you can use it for eating or sneezing. When Lilli-Bunny tried to take their hats off, they didn’t let him and this caused a lot of confusion, and added to their shadowy nature. But eventually they all said, “wow.” the right way, and became quite welcome in the house.
Lilli-Jake was a nice guy who looked like a little bear, even smaller than Lilli-Bear. He possessed many unique things: binoculars, small cute bells, locks, bolts, sand clocks and even a sand thermometer. Yes, a sand thermometer. Lilli-Bear made it for him as a birthday present. It worked the following way: if the sand was warm, the weather was hot, and if the sand was cold, it meant the weather was cold. Lilli-Jake also had a small portable Angry Face Generator, but he sold it. That wasn’t very smart, because he sold it cheap, and angry faces are now in high demand. But the advantage was that he could not make angry faces anymore.
Encouraged by his first commercial success (no matter how insignificant was the profit), Lilli-Jake decided to start his own company.
He called it Brain Company, Ltd. Every time Lilli-Jake had a problem to solve, his Brain Company went into action. Small, smart boys jumped out of his head and asked, “Okay, what is the problem?” These micro-lilli-jakes could solve any problem.
Lilli-Jake liked to be a just person, and always made sure there were no injustices in Lilli-House. He always gave the cats enough food, in even parts. So the cats grew fat, looked like barrels, and slept even more than usual. Once, he gave one cat a snack, but decided it was unjust not to give the same snack to the other cat. But when he gave some to the second cat, he realized that the first cat had gotten less. He continued to feed the cats until the bag with the snacks was half-empty. Then he activated his Brain Company, and the little boys jumped out and said, “There is nothing to think about, you must feed the cats until the bag is empty.”
Isn’t this what we have with social services? They try hard to be as just as possible, and end up with empty bags. So, what are we to do? Maybe think a little bit more than Lilli-Jake’s Brain Company did.
Look at our society:
The government apparatus, bulky and ineffective, spends on itself the larger part of what it collects in taxes. The state does not love to advertise how much it spends on itself; official numbers usually hide it under the obscure title “Other Spending.” Why is government so inefficient? Since the state does not experience the competition that exists in the world of business, there are no external mechanisms to force the state to reexamine its role in the life of society.
This can be remedied. First, the majority of state works must be transferred to private firms under strict control and on a competitive basis, exposing state functions to the positive influence of competition. This will increase effectiveness and reduce the cost of services and systems for which the state presently bears responsibility. This practice does exist, but is not widespread.
Second, basic concepts of the economic life of the society should be reexamined. For example, taxation. What part of his or her income does the active member of the middle class return to the state in the form of taxes? Income tax, real estate tax, sales tax—it seems you can’t make or spend a dollar without paying the state. Overall, taxes in many countries exceed 40%, and in some, they reach 60-70%.
The legitimate question arises: why, exactly, must taxes constitute 60% of the household budget, rather than 80%? Or why not 100%? It could be necessary to make taxes 120%—on each dollar earned, you return a dollar to the state and pay the remaining twenty cents for the privilege of living in the country.
You say that people cannot survive in that manner. You are correct. You think exactly as the government thinks. In essence, the state withdraws as much money from each household budget as is possible to take from the population and leave people willing to work and keep silent. But then state leaders loudly report their great achievement, the reduction of a tax by one or two percent, and expect everyone to applaud it. And the masses do applaud, electing the reformers to another term.
Politicians forget that the state is nothing but an institution created by its inhabitants to advance their common interests. Turning to Rousseau, we read “Chacun de nous met en commun sa personne et toute sa puissance sous la supreme direction de la volonte generale; et nous recevons en corps chaque membre comme partie indivisible du tout,”  which means, “Each of us shares his person and all his power to the supreme direction of the general will; and we become like indivisible part[s] of the whole.”
What can we expect in return from the state, if not fulfillment of our desires and protection of our interests? But see how this is not achieved in practice.
I don’t think there is a conspiracy of the state against its people. The problem is ineffective organization of the system.
Computers, relatively new to this world, can make most systems more efficient. But we still use them more like printing machines than intelligent partners.
Moreover, the state, which once took upon itself responsibility for social welfare, has shifted this responsibility to the employer, forcing employers to pay, in addition to high wages, whose larger part goes to taxes, “social taxes,” like retirement, health insurance, and unemployment.
Consequently, the work force becomes expensive and drives up product and service prices. Most of the population, already paying high taxes, sinks into debt trying to pay the 18-22% rate on credit cards.
The question arises: how does the state use the money it gathers?
One source of major spending is government contribution to the creation of workplaces. The state tries to fight unemployment because it is generally accepted that in modern society all healthy persons must work. This needs to be reexamined. In today’s society, and especially in the future, it may not be wise to require each person to work the way work is defined today.
The creation of workplaces, often used as a main criterion when evaluating governmental performance, should not be. The majority of the created workplaces produce nothing useful; however, their creation requires enormous spending. For instance, must we force single parents to work? Allowing them, if they wish, to stay home and care for their kids by paying them for this important work would save government and business money and improve childcare.
Modern computers and robotic systems are thousands of times more efficient than humans are at most tasks. More money should be spent on the development of automated systems that will replace inefficient human labor and let people stay home with their families, leave big cities, and raise their kids.
You say people sitting at home will die of boredom. But doing hard, inefficient work (like regulating traffic on the construction site of a new highway) eight hours a day is not thrilling, either. Yet in the opinion of today’s nations, such people are in their place.
But the state is less criticized for inefficient projects employing thousands of people than high unemployment rates. So the government tries hard to create jobs, when we just need to improve the efficiency of our systems in respect to a new era of artificial intelligence.
Sorry, I forgot that I am writing a funny story. Sorry for not being funny in this chapter.
Lilli-Jake was always excited about being a king and having a lot of money. But the two rarely come together in our day. Once, Lilli-Jake proclaimed himself king, but he ran out of funds almost the same day, and had to respectfully take the paper crown off his head.
Such a pity it is that the kings are disappearing. Of course, I am not a supporter of absolute monarchy, but at least we would have a nice crowned head to print on our stamps.
Lilli-Bunny adored animals. Every kind of animal: big and small, fat and skinny, furry and not very furry. It was easy to amuse Lilli-Bunny by telling him a story about them. That is why Lilli-Bear read illustrated journals about different animals. Sometimes, when Lilli-Bunny came to the kitchen, Lilli-Bear lay down on his bench and retold the stories. He told how bird’s eggs hatch, how whales breathe, how elephants take their baths—Lilli-Bunny liked these stories and listened happily. That is how Lilli-Bunny came to think he needed a pet. At the time, he didn’t have any pets in the Lilli-House, and he dreamt of having a whole menagerie—cow, horse, piglets, dogs, sheep, geese, and many others.
But Lilli-Bear didn’t want to share Lilli-Bunny’s love and attention with anyone, so he said to Lilli-Bunny that it was enough to have his slippers for pets.
Lilli-Bunny was so upset that Lilli-Bear wouldn’t let him keep any pets or farm animals he almost started to cry. Then Lilli-Bear agreed to let a cat in the house, because Lilli-Bear loved Lilli-Bunny a lot and didn’t like to see his friend upset.
Lilli-Bunny brought a small kitten to the house. The kitty’s yellow-orange fur shone like gold, so they called him Golden Cat.
Lilli-Bear liked this cat a lot, and started to play with him and talk to him. Lilli-Bear even helped Lilli-Bunny educate the cat.
The opportunity to make friends with cats exists only when they are small. Then they are still playful and active, they jump and race around the house, showing their vitality. Only after growing up did the Golden Cat discover his philosophical nature. He sank into philosophical thoughts, sharing them rarely. For the most part, he spent his time sleeping in different poses. One could name this occupation “sleepy tourism” or “tourist sleep.” During a single day, it was possible to see Golden Cat sleeping on all the tables, all the chairs, all the beds, and all the armchairs, to say nothing of such exotic tourist places as the piano cover and the basket with the clean laundry. Lilli-Bunny studied how Golden Cat changed the place of his sleep over twenty-four hours. As a young sprout moves its timid head in the direction of the sun, Golden Cat began the morning in the solar speck of light on the floor in the bedroom, then passed with it into the corridor, drawing room, and so forth. Lilli-Bear’s Encyclopedia for Lilli-Bears revealed that the process of catosynthesis, in which many cats are constantly occupied, caused Golden Cat’s need for the sun. Its namesake, photosynthesis, forms nutrients and oxygen, useful for the surroundings. But from catosynthesis, nothing, not even the cat itself, is formed. You ask what, then, is catosynthesis good for? Simple: for the sake of the process itself. Try to imagine—you lay in the sun, you catosynthesize, you wave your tail—it is good, isn’t it? The philosophical thoughts of Golden Cat revolved around themselves. They descended to the depths, for a long time, they hovered in the air. They lengthened, deepened, and passed into no less philosophical dreams. But no one in Lilli-House could write down one single cat thought. Nor could anyone decipher them. Despite this, everyone in the house considered Golden Cat the wisest of them; and even Lilli-Bear, known in his lilli-bear circles as a great poet and philosopher, considered Golden Cat no more or less than his teacher. These were golden days for the Golden Cat. No one dragged him around in an armful of other cats; no one called him a foolish cat.
This all ended when a new cat appeared in the house. Her name was Basia. She was the complete opposite of Golden Cat. She was genuinely stupid, forgetful, fussy, importunate, unbalanced. She skipped everywhere like a real fool, and always aimed her bites at Golden Cat’s head, rear parts, paws, and tail. Golden Cat was almost hospitalized with the diagnosis “injured by a cat” when he fell down the stairs, unexpectedly attacked by stupid Basia.
Golden Cat’s philosophical thoughts began to grow dim. He became nervous and took aspirin for his headache. He was so upset, frustrated, and confused, that he mistakenly urinated on Lilli-Bunny’s bed.
Golden Cat felt as ill as he had when the snake bit him. He had prepared to die, until Lilli-Bear read in his encyclopedia that the snake was not venomous. Then Golden Cat recovered.
Imaginary illnesses often strike us. You may watch a television special about the chicken flu, and then begin to sneeze like a bird!
Thus, Basia bothered Golden Cat so much that he became quite wicked, and did not call for help when Basia tried to squeeze under the sofa with a yellow air balloon, which obviously couldn’t fit, tied around her neck.
Imagine yourself a stupid cat trying hard to get under the sofa, but the air balloon doesn’t let you, and its rope almost suffocates you. When Basia fell silent because she almost died, Golden Cat at last felt pity for her and called Lilli-Bunny, who helped Basia pull free.
Lilli-Bear and Lilli-Jake let the balloon rise into the sky and tried to shoot it with arrows. But the balloon was not a fool and flew to the heights, where it met a sparrow and complained to him of Lilli-Bear and Lilli-Jake. So the sparrow deliberately deposited its droppings on the poor guys, completely free of charge, thereby following the tradition of mutual assistance, which unites all pilots (as Sparrow and Air Balloon undoubtedly were).
Air Balloon continued its flight to the north and finished its transient days in a settlement close to the North Pole. It served as a simple rubber rag, with which the local friend of icy fields and polar bears sealed his bottle of firewater, acquired on the unemployment assistance the good people from the south pay him so he can over imbibe and die before global warming melts his icehouse.
When Basia reached the second of her nine cat lives, she started to respect Golden Cat. She ceased to disturb him and calmed down. This is what happens to a creature of God close to unavoidable death on the rope of an air balloon which won’t fit under the sofa, as it spends the last of its strength, choking, trying hard to squeeze under, and almost gets suffocated.
We all often try to fit under sofas with ropes around our necks. We struggle through the crack that our air balloons won’t fit and pray that the All Mighty will send us Golden Cat, who will call Lilli-Bunny, who will free us from the loop in which we caught ourselves. Then we will be good. Likely, it is not possible to become good without this exceptional adventure.
Despite all that, the status of the cats in Lilli-House lowered. Now Lilli-Bunny dragged them around in armfuls and called them stupid cats. Golden Cat decided to brush up on his French and leave this nightmare. He planned to move to Paris, to the Institute of Pasteur where he, long ago, was offered a place: Head of the Laboratory of Catosynthesis. He knew only the cat language known to linguists as Catish. So he opened his Catish-French dictionary, but yawning began to overcome him while he was reading the third letter. On the fourth letter, the yawning strengthened and passed into murmur. When Golden Cat awoke the next day, he discovered that instead of the dictionary, he was sleeping on an instruction book, How to Ride a Bicycle. Golden Cat didn’t want to ride a bicycle. So he remained at Lilli-House, but firmly decided that if Lilli-Bunny brought a third cat to the house, he (Golden Cat) would indeed learn French, or leave to live with the Friend of the Ice Fields that lived near the North Pole. Golden Cat knew this Friend was a kind person, though not quite by nature, but mostly from excessive consumption of firewater.
Monsieur Silvouplaît appeared in Lilli-House quite suddenly, but not uninvited. Lilli-Bear greatly respected Silvouplaît, a Frenchman famous for his good manners, ultra-modern views, and excellent education. Lilli-Bear had read his book, in which was written, “Why good manners and ultra-modern views will save all of us,” and became very impressed with Silvouplaît’s erudition.
Lilli-Bear also knew Monsieur Silvouplaît had very special acquaintances. Silvouplaît knew personally Monsieur Almost-Napoleon, who was the manager of a sausage factory, Monsieur New-Robespierre (an associate of Madam Guillotine), and Monsieur Not-quite-Balzac—a very well known modern writer. All these gentlemen were good friends of Monsieur Silvouplaît, the historian and geographer. Lilli-Bear dreamed of being introduced to this circle of true intellectuals, and wrote an invitation letter to Monsieur Silvouplaît.
Invitational letter of Lilli-Bear
Dear Monsieur Silvouplaît,
Please come to visit me at our Lilli-House. We’ll have for dinner, salad Olivier.
I don’t like books where the writers mention good food, but never give the recipe to cook it. I am not like this. I always give the recipe if I mention something delicious (that is, delicious, according to my humble opinion).
The French cook Olivier, who in 1860 opened the prestigious restaurant Hermitage, in Moscow, introduced salad Olivier. The contemporary version differs considerably from the original, but this does not diminish some persons’ love for this salad. In Lilli-House, it was cooked slightly differently from the official recipe. You will need the following ingredients:
1 pound boiled potatoes
2 average-size salt cucumbers
1 glass of canned or frozen peas
1 average onion, finely diced
1 boiled carrot
7 ½ ounces of mayonnaise mixed with sour cream
2 hard-boiled eggs
6 large black olives
8 twigs of parsley
Cut crabsticks, potatoes, and cucumbers into small cubes. Mix crab, potatoes, cucumbers, eggs, carrot, green peas, and cut onion. Add salt to taste and the mayonnaise with sour cream. Mix, but do not choke, vegetables. Cool before serving. Garnish with olives and parsley.
Nothing special, but Lilli-Bear liked it a lot.
Lilli-Bear re-read his letter and put it into the envelope. Then he tried to attach the stamp with the queen on it. When he licked the stamp, the queen was not happy, because Lilli-Bear licked the wrong side of the stamp. The queen scratched the licked place. Lilli-Bear apologized and licked the backside, and the queen smiled. The queen and Lilli-Bear liked each other very much.
In truth, Lilli-Bear had a slight problem with sending letters because he didn’t like to lick the backsides of the great people printed on stamps. He tried to lick their backsides a couple of times, but always felt nausea. So he started wetting stamps with water. The great persons on the stamps complained to the special place where such complaints are taken care of. So Lilli-Bear was asked to start licking, as everybody else does. Lilli-Bear chose stamps with the queen, because he thought that if he had to lick the—stamp, let it be the stamp with the queen.
Whose backsides haven’t we licked in the long history since the dawn of the postal service era? I think the stamp was a great discovery. In times of old, not all people were allowed to lick the backsides of great persons, but with the development of democracy and liberty, everyone now has equal right to lick the backside of any great person he wishes, if, of course, the personage’s portrait is printed on a stamp.
Monsieur Silvouplaît was glad to receive the invitation of Lilli-Bear, because he knew of the latter’s philosophical work (published under the title Kitchen Phylosophy) and wanted to meet in person this distinguished thinker of our time. Lilli-Bear had also mentioned the salad in the letter, and this made Monsieur Silvouplaît accept the invitation all the more gladly.
That is why no one was surprised in Lilli-House, when one day, Monsieur Silvouplaît showed up at the front door. He said:
Please pay for taxi…”
Lilli-Bunny ran out to pay the taxi driver. But the number on the bill couldn’t be the fee—it was so large! Lilli-Bunny thought it indicated the date, or perhaps the phone number, Alas! It was the bill.
The taxi driver politely explained that Monsieur Silvouplaît had, along the way, dropped in to Quebecestan to visit his friends, purchased fresh waffles with maple syrup for Lilli-Bear, then detoured into Algeria and acquired some fresh fruit, and finally visited an atoll in the Pacific Ocean, where his friend the ambassador was being treated for radiation sickness (which was first diagnosed as the sort of disease he might get from his local lover, then as manic-depression. But when nuclear testing in the atoll increased in frequency and the ambassadress, who did not like to sleep with the light on, began to complain that the ambassador shone too brightly at night and burnt the mattress in two places, the doctors recognized it as radiation sickness.)
At the atoll, Monsieur Silvouplaît, the sick ambassador, and the taxi driver, Jacques Agauche—which in French means “Jacques to the left”—ate the waffles and fruits intended for Lilli-Bear. Jacques Agauche taxied on back into Algeria and Quebecestan in order to supplement his passengers’ reserves of fruits and waffles, which Monsieur Silvouplaît, by mistake, ate again right before his arrival at the home of Lilli-Bear. Furthermore, Jacques Agauche, in contrast to his partner, Philippe Adroit (Philippe to the right), always turned to the left. This is why the taxi stayed so long in the lush regions of Algeria and Paris, and the taxi counter ticked all the time. Lilli-Bunny paid for the taxi on credit, because he could not refuse his hospitality to the educated friend of Lilli-Bear.
Monsieur Silvouplaît ran in circles around the house in search of a tube with which to call his wife. Common telephones, in the opinion of Monsieur Silvouplaît, so strongly distorted his pronunciation—making him sound insufficiently educated—that he rejected them as a device for talking. But Monsieur Silvouplaît found it necessary to call his wife, Madame Silvouplaît, who always worried when her husband gadded somewhere and did not stay, as he usually did, with his mistress, with whom Madame Silvouplaît was good friends. Lilli-Bear gave Monsieur Silvouplaît his telescope, taking out the glass and the bird’s nest where two parrots were enjoying their second honeymoon observing the stars. Monsieur Silvouplaît used the tube to speak with his wife, for he didn’t live very far away—at least not so far as it might seem if you looked at the taxi bill.
At last, they all sat for dinner, and Lilli-Bear began his polite conversation.
- “Monsieur Silvouplaît, do you think good manners and ultra-modern views really can save our world?” asked Lilli-Bear.
- “Yes, of course. My friends Monsieur Almost-Napoleon, Monsieur New-Robespierre, and Monsieur Not-quite-Balzac tried to teach everyone good manners, and they almost always succeeded.”
- “But I think that, for example, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery did more to promote your culture in the rest of the world than all of your revolutions and armies,” said Lilli-Bunny. “Is it that hard to follow simple rules in life, so everyone will be happy?”
- “What rules?” intruded Left Slipper.
- “Just simple ones: Do in your life what you really like to do, but make sure that this doesn’t bother others. Don’t change your beliefs so often that you are considered unreliable and inconsistent, and don’t be dogmatic, insisting on something that is obviously proven wrong. Try to love people and animals, even if they hurt you sometimes. Don’t work too much and remember to rest, but don’t be too lazy. Not only don’t kill anyone, but also try not to hurt anyone, by force or even by words. Don’t be a pig around food and love affairs. Don’t lie, at least most of the time. Don’t take what doesn’t belong to you. If you possess something, share it with others without hurting yourself or your loved ones. Respect God, whether you believe in him, or not. That is pretty much it,” Lilli-Bunny answered calmly.
- “Isn’t that what the Ten Commandments are about? They are so old and out-dated,” said Monsieur Silvouplaît.
- “If at least once in history, people would honestly follow these simple rules, everyone would be happy,” argued Lilli-Bear.
- “But happiness is just the chemistry of our brains. Take a pill and you are happy,” said Monsieur Silvouplaît with a smile. He obviously was on some sort of pills.
- “This is true,” said Right Slipper, “most of the time, people in the modern world need pills to escape the hell of depression. But if people would follow these simple rules, everyone would be happy, even without pills.”
- “You have a very special culture, and people would gain a lot if they could listen to you, but for some reason, they don’t,” said Lilli-Kitty to Silvouplaît.
- “Yes, we need more books like The Little Prince; they really show how cute and kind is your simple truth,” said Lilli-Jake.
- “But our best modern writer, Not-quite-Balzac, says—” began Monsieur Silvouplaît, but Lilli-Bunny interrupted him.
- “Are you sure the kids can hear what your best writer says?”
- “No, I am not sure,” said Monsieur Silvouplaît.
- “This is the problem. The best writer of our time says things that not only children, but also adults are not supposed to hear. I read a joke about women on the first page of his new book, and I felt like I’d sunk in a barrel of dirt,” admitted Lilli-Bear.
- “That is definitely not a common opinion in our circles,” said Monsieur Silvouplaît, yawning.
- “I think that humankind is just a teenager, and it will grow up soon, into a nice mature person,” said Lilli-Bunny.
- “You are so weird,” Monsieur Silvouplaît broke in. “How do all of you survive in the modern world? You are such idealists—”
- “Sometimes it’s better to be a happy idealist than a depressed egoist,” answered Left Slipper, ending the conversation.
The fact that someone speaks with a weird accent and doesn’t want to fight a war we started, doesn’t mean he’s bad, or that he’s not worth our love and attention. Yes, we are all imperfect. But try to stick to the rules that Lilli-Bunny mentioned, no matter how old and outdated they look, and we will all be all right one day.
In our day, nothing can be done in the business world if you don’t play golf. Lilli-Bunny was not a businessman, but wanted to keep up with the times. He decided to take up this noble pastime, but didn’t quite know how.
So Lilli-Bunny examined pictures in a book about rich people and noted the things required for the game of golf: special sticks and little balls, larger than pigeon eggs but smaller than chicken eggs. The main thing, of course, is a rich partner—a gentleman with a cigar and a very cynical appearance. A green lawn with small holes is necessary, as well.
Lilli-Bunny decided to begin with the lawn. But the lawn in Lilli-Bunny’s backyard was a torn-up mess of dirt and uprooted grass—eaten by moles.
Lilli-Bunny decided to fight them, but the moles did not want to fight. They surrendered immediately, but did not cease to damage the lawn.
So Lilli-Bunny put on his blue slippers and went to the mole supervisor. You think I made a mistake saying “supervisor”? Should I have said “the mole king”? No, I said it correctly. Moles, in spite of their blindness, are very clear-sighted people. They knew from the newspapers thrown by tourists that, topside, it long ago fell out of fashion to be called a “king.” It is trendy, now, to be called a “supervisor.” Upon learning this, the mole king appointed himself supervisor of the mole country and removed the royal crown from his head. He placed it under the royal throne, to be stored there until kings become fashionable again.
Lilli-Bunny arrived at the court of the mole supervisor. He said, in a strict tone of voice, that if the moles continued to spoil the lawn, then he, Lilli-Bunny, would all at once cease to love them and call them “cute and pretty.” Their status, in his classification of the animal world, would fall from that of cute animals he liked a lot to the one he gave the mice, whom he didn’t quite like because of their naked tails and high, impulsive unpredictability.
When a mouse ran about the Lilli-House, Lilli-Bunny always panicked and asked the cats to help him catch it. But the cats were too lazy to do their job. Each time, Lilli-Bunny had to catch the mouse, put it in a jar, and drive at least three miles from the house. Then he would release the mouse and give her a sandwich with caviar as compensation for the inconvenience. Each time, Mouse sold the caviar to the Russian Mafia and peacefully returned to the house in a brand-new Mercedes toy car.
It was getting dark and raining, the air filling with the evening serenades of frogs, but Lilli-Bunny and the mole supervisor still sat on the hill and argued about Lilli-Bunny’s lawn.
Finally, they agreed that if Lilli-Bunny gave the supervisor of moles a pair of old sunglasses, the moles would cease to eat the lawn. Sunglasses were extremely necessary to mole supervisors, who wore them in order to look not-blind among the blind. Who, seeing the mole in the sunglasses, would think him blind? Why, everyone simply thinks the gentleman is on vacation. To be considered not-blind in a blind kingdom is an excellent way to maintain royal power and legitimacy of the leadership. The mighty of the mole kingdom based their great traditions on the ancient values of the mole kings, who never disgraced their beds with black eye bandages of the sort we steal from airplanes and put on before sleeping so the morning light does not bother our eyes, eyes that have seen so much.
Thus, to be considered sighted among the blind, honored by national tradition, gives more than just the foundation for being called a supervisor or any new-fashioned word indicating royal power: President, Prime Minister, General Secretary—
Lilli-Bunny gave the mole supervisor his old, but by mole standards, quite new-fashioned sunglasses. The mole supervisor of royal blood settled the glasses on, and all the other moles left to eat the lawns of the neighbors, whispering excitedly to one another of their super-sighted ruler, with whom they could proudly enter the third millennium, now that he had destroyed the discriminatory image of the blind mole.
Moles are not blind! They simply do not stare too much. They dig and do their simple mole work—eating lawns. Never point your finger at someone for being blind! If you do, he will find the means to make you blind, too.
So, having effected, by his Sunglasses Pact, a full-scale revolution of mole public self-image, Lilli-Bunny went to buy a golf stick and a set of little white balls.
As it differed slightly from conventional golf, the game he played was named Lilli-Bunny’s Golf. It is similar to conventional golf, but prior to the beginning of each game, it is compulsory to produce a full-scale revolution of public self-image in some society of the blind. In the mole society, there appeared the ruling party, “Sighted Moles.” They can, in truth, see as well as you see in darkness.
Lilli-Bunny’s Golf doesn’t include a cynical partner with a cigar, though…
When Lilly-Bunny was a baby, he didn’t have a car. He did have a little pocket, where he kept the shiny stones, cockleshells, and other baby’s treasures he collected. But when he began to grow up, the pocket wasn’t sufficient for its purpose. So Lilli-Bear bought a utility bag for his friend. But the bag got older, and when bags get older, they suffer from holes. All Lilli-Bunny’s treasures started to vanish through the holes in the utility bag. Lilli-Bunny brought a briefcase, which temporarily satisfied his needs. But it was necessary to keep books and workbooks in the briefcase, in addition to treasures, since Lilli-Bunny, at the same time he collected pebbles, went to school for lilli-bunnies, to become a well-educated Lilli-Bunny. So Lilli-Bunny bought himself an enormous travel bag. It held articles of Lilli-Bunny’s daily life. Since the bag became very heavy, Lilli-Bunny fitted it with small wheels. In time, he added a steering wheel, motor, carburetor, and car body, then signal lights, headlights, exhaust pipe, whistle, doors, windows, and everything else which is required in a modern car-bag. True, it was necessary to remove the old bag from this construction, as it dragged under the wheels and slowed their motion. So Lilli-Bunny got a car.
At first Car was very young and naïve, and thought she was a cow, and drove onto the lawn to eat fresh grass. However, she and Lilli-Bunny agreed that Car was not a cow, and her need to eat fresh grass was eliminated.
Later Lilli-Bunny painted his cow, I mean car, a beautiful Bordeaux red to give her a cheerful look. Lilli-Bunny planned to paint chamomile flowers on, but for some reason did not.
Lilli-Bunny often drove his bag, I mean cow, I mean car to the store to shop. Surprisingly, the economic situation of the country where the lilli-bunnies lived was not as bad as it could be. So Lilli-Bunny bought a lot. The machine groaned, but never resisted. For this, Lilli-Bunny treated her to fresh carrots and sometimes an orange.
Then it turned out that Lilli-Bunny’s car didn’t quite know the traffic rules and was bad at some maneuvers. So Lilli-Bunny sent her to ballet school to develop her rhythm and help her learn important motions, such as backward and forward. Lilli-Bunny even fitted her with a short ballerina skirt and special ballet slippers. The car, after ballet school, became very elegant and mobile. She knew how to park backwards, sideways, and (a little) forwards.
Lilli-Bunny and his car were good friends. They went to shows together. Once, Lilli-Bunny took his car to the circus. There they bought ice cream and sat in the first row. The performance started, horses rushed, and whirls of sawdust splashed Lilli-Bunny and his car. But they were happy! Lilli-Bunny giggled; the car giggled. As they left, an elephant was shown to them, large, and apparently eating a lot. Then they climbed up on the elephant, and the guy in the cylinder took an instant photo—Lilli-Bunny with his car on the elephant! What could be better?
Lilli-Bunny and his car had many adventures. They discovered new countries, continents, stores, and gas stations. Once, they even made it across the Atlantic Ocean. But, frankly speaking, it wasn’t the real Atlantic Ocean, just a huge puddle on Lilli-Bunny’s driveway. They bravely crossed it.
They were great travelers, but not everything was bright on the shores of the Atlantic. On one side were frogs with spots and on the other were frogs without spots. I don’t have to explain to my honorable reader that such a difference is sufficient reason for a long military conflict. So fighting there was between the two nations of frogs. The armed forces of the spotted frogs hurled loud, irritating cries to annoy the frogs without spots. The cats got nervous and kept Lilli-Bunny awake at night. But the real nightmare started when the frogs without spots retaliated. They sounded their voices, and soon there were waves of attacks from both sides. The din was so ear shattering that it seemed a huge power station was working beside the house.
Lilli-Bunny called in the council: his cats, Lilli-Bear, Lilli-Kitty, Lilli-Jake, and Car. Car was sent as an envoy to the spotted frogs, Lilli-Bear was sent to the frogs without spots, and the cats weren’t sent anywhere because they were lazy and wouldn’t go anyway, especially as it was wet outside. Lilli-Bunny’s car didn’t care whether it was wet outside or not. Wet weather was pleasant for her, because the sun didn’t shine too brightly, and her tires didn’t get too hot.
Lilli-Bunny’s envoys came in sight of the battle as it reached its peak. The head of the spotted frogs croaked so loudly that the moose in the neighbor’s bush got a headache and asked his wife to get him some painkiller. So she quickly placed a compress on his antlers.
Thus, the conflict spread beyond the shores of the Lilli-Atlantic and began to affect the whole region. Lilli-Bunny’s envoys attempted negotiations while he retired to the kitchen to cook jam and ponder our world.
I quote here a short list of Lilli-Bunny’s thoughts on this grand subject. The full list can be found in the 28th volume of The Complete Works of Lilli-Bunny, located in a big, old chest in his attic. Here you can also find Lilli-Bunny’s commentary regarding his own thoughts. We recommend that you become acquainted with the full index of his “second thoughts” and additional comments regarding the methods of cooking jam and proposed improvements to the jam industry.
To return to his global philosophy:
Thought 1: If everything is quiet in the world, you should not make noise, because this can make the cats nervous. Then they won’t let anyone fall asleep.
Thought 2: If something in the world is not quiet, you should tell the world to turn on its side. Sing him a lullaby, and all will eventually quiet.
Thought 3: To achieve world peace: if the world asks for something else, don’t give it to him right away. Ask him to wash his ears first, clean his room, and promise not to say the words he learned from the bad neighbor boys anymore.
Those three thoughts Charles Dickens wanted to use in his extraordinary work, The Tails of Two Cities. But unfortunately, Lilli-Bunny wasn’t born yet, and Charles Dickens had to be satisfied with his own thoughts. Even great minds as Dickens’ aren’t perfect.
So the envoy Lilli-Bear, using his umbrella, painted spots on the frogs without spots. And Lilli-Bunny’s car explained to the spotted frogs that all frogs are brothers and sisters, and tied bows onto them to mark the true spotted frogs for scientific purposes. Then all the frogs, none of whom realized the significance of the bows, went quiet and went to sleep. Soon, Lilli-Bunny, his car, and the two cats went home and had tea with jam. They were very happy to enjoy the silence.
Lilli-Bunny’s car liked the silence and the jam, because if you treat your car with love and attention, it becomes your real friend.
One day, a fox entered Lilli-Bunny’s backyard. As the fox was very skinny, Lilli-Bunny first thought the animal was a dog. Lilli-Bunny liked dogs: well-bred dogs, stray dogs, large dogs, small dogs, and even Baskerville dogs. He stepped forward to pet this one.
But, as Lilli-Bunny quickly saw, it wasn’t a dog. It was a fox, and Lilli-Bunny didn’t exactly like foxes. He didn’t like their attitudes, their immoral behavior, and the fact that they resembled politicians and corporate executives (who, as everyone knows, are cut from the same dough). The fox that intruded into Lilli-Bunny’s backyard was very pushy, and gave one the impression that he was going to settle. This monster put his ugly tail between the iron fence pickets and began to sniff around, especially where Lilli-Bunny and his cats used to sit near the fire and sing funny songs just to cheer themselves through the long nights.
Lilli-Bunny got very angry and tried to shoot the fox with the mop that happened to be in his hands, but the fox paid no attention to Lilli-Bunny’s attempts. Then Lilli-Bunny got his fox fur coat from the closet and waved it like a flag in front of the fox’s nose. Lilli-Bunny hoped, in this way, he could show his unfriendly intentions towards this particular fox and foxes in general. In our day, it is not a big deal for a middle-class bunny to have a fox fur coat, and no fox can really feel safe any more, because our generation is the first to live, not only in a dog-eat-dog society, but also in a bunny-eat-fox society, and even a nobody-cares-who-is-eating-whom society.
The fox paid no attention, though; it continued to sniff the empty bowl where the porridge had been, the bowl Lilli-Bear used when he relaxed in the pond in Lilli-Bunny’s backyard. Lilli-Bear liked to sit in this pond as millionaires sit in their swimming pools, but instead of martinis with olives, he liked to have thick porridge with cinnamon, which Lilli-Bunny usually cooked for him and served to him in the pond.
Lilli-Bunny guessed the fox might be rabid. To rule out this worrying possibility, he asked the fox specific questions about the government, voting rights, and the political situation in the country where they both resided. The fox did not answer, so Lilli-Bunny concluded the fox was not rabid. Lilli-Bunny took his fox fur coat back to the closet and complained to his cats about the fox’s irritating behavior. The cats immediately implemented their “Plan B”: they went to their litter boxes and dropped their “dirty bombs,” which left very slight chance of the intruder’s survival.
Lilli-Bunny was counting on the fact that Lilli-Bear always left his huge towel with the picture of a leopard out. He never used the towels after bathing, but Lilli-Bunny always put a fresh one out anyway, in case Lilli-Bear ever needed to employ the “stop thinking” tactics used in modern psychology. Lilli-Bunny thought that if the fox saw the picture of the leopard and smelled the presence of large cats in the vicinity, it might make her leave. Alas, it didn’t work out this way. The fox put on her gas mask and continued exploring Lilli-Bunny’s backyard.
“This is war,” thought Lilli-Bunny. He ran inside the house and found his old Boy Scout bugle, and began bugling. The fox took out her notebook and began to map the battlefield. Then Lilli-Bunny took his firecrackers, sneaked up to the fox while she was focused on mapping, and lit one off right next to the fox’s ear. Later, in her memoir My Military Career, the fox admitted that Lilli-Bunny’s action stunned her. She experienced slight deafness for the rest of her life, especially when her fellow foxes asked to borrow money. At the moment, though, the fox showed no sign of confusion.
Lilli-Bunny declared a ceasefire, and issued an ultimatum: that if the fox would not cease and desist all military actions and leave Lilli-Bunny’s yard immediately, Lilli-Bunny would unilaterally cease his own military activities and go to sleep. The fox could continue sitting in the backyard until morning, when the dew on the leaves would make the fox get her paws and tail wet, and she probably end up with rheumatism. Can you imagine a fox with rheumatism? They need to chase hares, stupid jumpy creatures that foxes feed on between elections and annual shareholder’s meetings, but you can’t chase a hare while suffering from rheumatism, can you?
The fox left immediately. Who’s to say that peace negotiations aren’t efficient? You just need to add some peaceful threats to the talks. Then you will get favorable results.
Lilli-Bunny checked on his backyard every day. Someone had to be stealing parts of it. When he bought the house long ago, the backyard was huge; now it looked much smaller.
This often happens to objects in the material world. A house that once seemed huge, in time appears small. Not to mention one’s salary—it constantly shrinks in our eyes, causing many troubles.
Each morning, Lilli-Bunny strode out, hoping to catch the backyard thief. But one morning was different. The backyard was actually bigger, and burning heat rippled the air. Lilli-Bunny was puzzled, until he remembered that things grow bigger when they get hot.
He retreated to the cool of the house and switched on his TV. They were showing India, where it was also very hot. “This warming really is global,” said Lilli-Bunny. Then he went to check to see how well his fox fur coat was doing. He found it was doing just fine.
Lilli-Bunny was training the coat for winter. It already knew two commands: “come here” and “go away.” When it heard the command “come here,” it slowly slid down the hanger and wrapped itself around Lilli-Bunny’s shoulders. When the coat heard the command “go away,” it peacefully slid off Lilly-Bunny’s shoulders and went to sleep in the closet, where it was successfully fighting the moths. Lilli-Bunny patted his coat on the back and said “Cheer up. It’s so hot, it will be a while before I go for a walk with you.”
It was indeed very hot outside. The pond had almost completely dried up, and all the frogs were so tanned that they became black. Lilly-Bunny saw a black frog and shouted:
-Look! The frog is black!
The frog looked at him with irritation, and with a raspy voice said, “I am not black! I am African-American!”
Global warming didn’t catch Lilli-Bunny unprepared. He was quite ready, because in our time, everything is globalized: Global stupidity, global ignorance, global digestion, which is called “Fast Food.” That’s why Lilli-Bunny wasn’t very surprised by global warming. His cats were even happy because they felt so cold when it was just warm. The shallow sleep they slept in such cold so tired them, that when the weather gave them true heat, as it did that day, the relaxed, pleasant expressions on their sleepy muzzles seemed to say, “just don’t wake me up.” Their fur radiated warmth, but they didn’t take it off, probably because they were afraid to lose the cat documents they kept in their pockets.
You say cats don’t have pockets? But at least you will agree they have fur, and cats’ fur is their most attractive and charming weapon. With it, cats have taken over humanity and put us to their service, settling in our houses, sleeping on our pillows, and tenderly pushing with their paws the heads of their masters from their lawful place of rest. That is why all cats, without exception, fear getting wet. A wet cat looks exactly how it was created by the universe—a disgusting creature not much bigger than a rat. If cats were wet most of the time, they couldn’t have become the most successful species on Earth, conquerors of the majority of humanity.
Global warming didn’t bother Lilli-Jake. He started wandering around without his shirt, showing off his cute, naked belly, and frequently checked the sand in his sand thermometer, which he hid in the closet to prevent the cats from making a litter box out of the complex scientific instrument.
Global warming didn’t bother Lilli-Kitty, either, because she had just purchased three new bathing suits and global warming was a great excuse to get them wet in the pond and hang them all over the house to dry like the flags of foreign countries.
Only Lilli-Bear gravely suffered from global warming, just as he suffered Global Cooling the previous winter, just as he suffered other global events like Global Weight Loss, Global Ass-Shaking, and Global Farting. The whole world was full of these crazy times. Lilli-Bunny decided to help Lilli-Bear out by splashing him with cold water, but Lilli-Bear shouted:
“Lilli-Bunny! You got my socks all wet!”
Lilli-Bunny looked at his friend. Lilli-Bear had on wet pants, but was not wearing any socks. Lilli-Bunny liked precision and paid attention to details, and so asked,
“How could it be that I got your socks all wet when you aren’t wearing any socks?”
Then Lilli-Bear took the wet socks from his pockets. Lilli-Bunny recalled that Lilli-Bear, during the summer, always kept socks in his pockets in case global cooling suddenly arrived or summer suddenly ended.
Lilli-Bear knew that many things end suddenly. Cookies ended suddenly, maple syrup ended suddenly, not to mention the chocolate candies that are inclined to unexpectedly pass away.
Lilli-Bunny gave Lilli-Bear some ice cream and left for negotiations with Global Warming. He took some wild raspberries and blueberries, some fresh pancakes, and a small bottle of homemade liqueur, good for breaking the ice (just to overcome the discomfort of the first moments of conversation). Lilly-Bunny supposed that Global Warming would like the idea of breaking ice because that’s what it usually does anyway, threatening us with floods, but granting us the luxury of fishing right out of the windows of our houses. Lilli-Bunny understood that without small presents, it was not very comfortable to visit Global Warming, and Lilli-Bunny took the liqueur because Global Warming was of legal drinking age, and liked drinks that made one even warmer.
Lilli-Bunny found Global Warming in his own backyard. Global Warming was sitting with his shirt off, trying to get a tan under the harsh sun, and playing cards with Global Stupidity, Global Ignorance, and Global Neglect. This merry company was not playing just for fun; they were playing for rewards. We can observe the effects of this important game in the daily life of our world. If Global Stupidity is winning, everyone has to pretend they are stupid; if Global Ignorance is winning, everyone has to pretend they are ignorant; and if Global Neglect is winning, everyone has to say, “I don’t care.”
Global Warming had maliciously affected his partners with his tremendous, overwhelming heat and was trying to cheat. But Global Stupidity wasn’t smart enough to pay attention, Global Ignorance didn’t know the rules of the game, and Global Neglect just didn’t care and started to fall asleep.
Lilli-Bunny, without small talk, poured the drinks, and everyone raised their glasses for a toast to good acquaintances. Global Neglect finished the bottle and fell over, passed out, so Lilli-Bunny was invited to take his place playing cards. Lilli-Bunny won the first round, and then Global Warming asked, “Who are you?”
“I am a Global Bunny,” answered Lilly-Bunny.
“Then everyone must be a lilli-bunny,” said Global Warming. Then it, too, fell asleep.
Soon it got cold in the world, and Lilli-Bear felt better, making Lilli-Bunny happy. Only the cats were upset because they didn’t get to finish even one of their hot-globe dreams.
Lilli-Bunny once had a small, plain mailbox, which stood near the road. It was dark green; Lilli-Bunny loved his mailbox. But one winter, an evil tractor broke it down. Lilli-Bunny bought himself a huge new mailbox, painted it Bordeaux red, and wrote on it, “Lilli-Bunny.”
The post that held the mailbox Lilli-Bunny painted like a national border post, with red-and-white inclined strips. Traffic began to stop in front of it, the passengers getting out to show Lilli-Bunny their documents, because they thought the post marked a national border. For Lilli-Bunny, it was necessary to hang an enormous poster:
But, since the traffic on the road passing Lilli-House was two-way, Lilli-Bunny added on the reverse side of the poster:
|You pass too!
This is also not a border!
Please don’t take your pants off.
People of Earth are so used to the fact that a national border can be drawn in any place that when they see any striped post, they obediently grab their documents and stand ready to take their pants off for the more thorough checking used to make sure no one transports anything forbidden beyond the limits of the striped post.
Before the post, these things are allowed, and after it are not. If you try to cross with some anyway, you will end up in prison.
People do not like going to prison. And so they, as one, arrange themselves in lines with their pants down before any striped post. Once, the extraterrestrials from the planet Boozon decided to take over the Earth, but then saw, with their extraterrestrial telescopes, all the people of Earth standing in line before striped posts with their pants down. The Boozonians, thinking this might be contagious, took over another planet, leaving Earth to the crazy Earthlings. And we continued to establish new boundaries and borders, and the lines of people with their pants down grew and multiplied. “Do Not Trespass!” became a world slogan. This is important; it must be done to maintain order. If we do not hold a large part of humanity in lines with their pants down, how can we ensure world peace?
No one was surprised to see Lilli-Bunny’s border post, because most citizens are loyal and obedient. Voluntarily, they forewent their suspenders, to be better ready to support national security by stripping off their pants before the striped post.
Lilli-Bunny’s explanatory poster practically solved the problem. But it was still necessary, once or twice a day, to stretch the pants, taken by mistake, of passing drivers with weak sight or poor knowledge of letters.
Knowledge of all the letters of the alphabet considerably facilitates reading. It is possible, of course, to read without knowing all the letters—it is simple to turn over the pages of the book, search for familiar letters, and read only them. But looking for letters such as “B” or “U” in some books will cause the meaning to slip off the reader; therefore, our schools attempt to train people to read most of the letters, although some present difficulty.
Since well-developed modern school systems ensured that the majority of population had knowledge of the alphabet, people began to write each other letters, and the postal service was born to transport them.
Indeed, writing letters to send abroad is much easier than standing in line for two hours at the airport with your pants down, and then another two hours on your way back, all the while risking prison if you do something illegal like carry manicure scissors. We understand that the war on terrorism is more important than nail care. But try explaining that to women…
Lilli-Bunny didn’t like to travel abroad, and therefore, always made sure his mailbox was ready to accept new letters. Surprisingly, the way the exterior of your mailbox looks greatly influences what messages you receive. When Lilli-Bunny’s mailbox was green, all the letters he got were as melancholy as the green. But as soon as he put up the new Bordeaux-red box, merriest on the entire road, he began to receive funny postcards from tropical countries, letters of congratulation with pictures of chamomile flowers, periodicals with jolly pictures, and candies from Santa Claus. Lilli-Bunny was as surprised as one can be that the color of the receiver’s mailbox could influence the sender. Lilli-Bunny even wrote a letter describing this phenomenon to the esteemed physicist Super‑Einstein, who got drunk because of the insolvability of the paradox. Then, after being given a morning-after drink (a solution of fast neutrons), Super-Einstein gave a name to the phenomenon—the “Lilli-Einstein-Super-Bunny Paradox.” And that is how it is entered in contemporary textbooks on quantum postal physics.
However, as Lilli-Bunny did not rely solely on theoretical science, he sat down in the bushes next to the mailbox to see what really happened when the postman, Goodnewsman, came. Mailbox was gladdened and began to lick the postman on his nose, wagging its post like a tail. “Sit still!” said the postman, but the box didn’t calm down. It sniffed the postal bag, snatched out the merriest postcards, and swallowed them immediately. But the postman did not get angry at it.
When Goodnewsman left, Lilli-Bunny took his mailbox for a walk, built it a doghouse, and bought a doggy bone.
Aristocratic title is no longer a tribute to origin and noble blood, but to a well-fed childhood and superb education. Now it is possible to meet aristocrats in any class of society: workers and peasants, sponges, tubes of tooth paste, manicure scissors, and especially, it goes without saying, powder cases. I personally had the honor to know a remarkable, exceptionally well-brought-up powder case, which until now lived in the secret two-room pocket of Lilli-Bunny’s purse. She had not been used to powder noses for a long time, but had prepared herself exclusively for elegant conversations. Mademoiselle Powder-Case was presented by Lilli-Bear as a good old friend of the family of his grandmother, who in turn was introduced to Mlle. Powder-Case at the International Exhibition in Paris, in 1937. But since then, lonely, unmarried, pretty, old Powder-Case didn’t feel quite comfortable living in young Lilli-Bear’s toy box—it was just inconvenient. So Mlle. Powder-Case happily consented to settle in the purse of Lilli-Bunny, where she found modest but convenient apartments.
Lilli-Bunny’s sponge was also aristocratic; therefore, Lilli-Bunny wouldn’t dare allow himself the insolence of using her services as an ordinary sponge. Lilli-Bunny soaped himself with Lilli-Bear’s sponge, because Lilli-Bear didn’t need it anyway—he bathed in the pond and didn’t use the sponge much.
Even so, it is necessary to say that Lilli-Bear persistently asked Lilli-Bunny for that sponge, and even arranged a small demonstration of protest like those many brave people used to organize in front of the Kremlin in the Communist days of Moscow. There are not many brave people who do this now. This signifies a real victory for freedom in Russia.
The wall of Lilli-House was covered with Kremlin-style red bricks, so Lilli-Bear marched by it, waving a picket-sign:
A Sponge for the Bear!
and loudly proclaiming his revolutionary slogan: “A Sponge for the Bear!” “A Sponge for the Bear!” again and again. Moreover, he drawled out the word “sponge” so sorrowfully—“Spo-o-o-o-o-o-nge”— that Lilli-Bunny took pity on him and purchased Lilli-Bear a sponge. Lilli-Bear immediately lost interest of any kind in it, and he bathed in the pond without it. So Lilli-Bunny had to employ this sponge in order to keep unemployment low in Lilli-House. As you remember, Lilli-Bunny was the lawfully elected president of Lilli-House, and he worried about its levels of unemployment. This could serve as a good example to other presidents. Worry about the levels of unemployment, and you don’t have to worry about anything else. Unemployment is the new God of politicians. You may cheat, lie, steal—no one cares. But if unemployment goes up, you are politically dead. Because, as we once said, every healthy individual has to work, and it doesn’t matter if he/she/it works as a sponge and cleans someone’s—not important what, or soaps someone’s—other very important things.
Thus freed from her official responsibilities, the Sponge of Lilli-Bunny delegated the duty of washing Lilli-Bunny to her younger colleague, the new sponge of Lilli-Bear, and occupied herself writing poetry.
In the bath, warm steam
I forgot my dream—
I forgot myself
And I lost my health—
Mlle. Sponge sensually recited, and looked out the window of the bathroom, smoking a long lady’s cigarette in no less long amber mouthpiece:
My soap thoughts,
Leave me alone!
I spent my life
Washing someone’s ears—
I want to die,
I want to sink in tears,
And then my bones
Will see another world.
Lilli-Bunny listened and sometimes asked provocative questions that would irritate any beginning poet, like,
- “But Mlle. Sponge, you don’t have any bones!”
- “Leave me alone. Leave me alone—” answered the depressed Mlle. Sponge.
The melancholy of Mlle. Sponge grew each day. She sank in self-pity; she felt pulled down by an insurmountable force of uncompromising terrestrial gravity; she swelled in weight and twice fell to the floor with the hook on which she hung.
Lilli-Bunny began to worry about Mlle. Sponge. He introduced her to a famous therapist and psychologist, the neofreudofartist Dr. Coffinson, who preached the idea that it is not necessary to hold inside what is possible to let out. His books made much progress in this glorious new direction of psychology, Neofreudofartism.
In the psychologist’s office, Mlle. Sponge only moaned and released soap bubbles. Mr. Coffinson, cheerful because of his duty, proposed that Mlle. Sponge travel, but she objected, in verse reckoning:
“Leave me alone. Leave me alone—”
Mr. Coffinson’s wife was the only travel agent in town, and for some inexplicable reason, all his patients needed to travel. They usually were told to buy a tour around the world as part of their therapy. Mrs. Coffinson always added to this all-inclusive package a substantially discounted detour to the Moon, because Mr. Coffinson recommended to all his patients a visit to this heavenly body, in order to enjoy the proven therapeutic effect of its particularly cheerful landscapes.
Mlle. Sponge attempted to tell Mr. Coffinson about her dry, unhappy childhood in the store, in which she spent one-and-a-half cheerless years without a droplet of soap, feeling rejected. However, Mr. Coffinson didn’t want to hear about her childhood. He was a little disappointed that Mlle. Sponge didn’t follow his advice to travel, so he proposed that Mlle. Sponge at least purchase his new book Just Let it Out!, which Mr. Coffinson, it is necessary to give credit, was selling to his patients not at all for the speculative price.
Why are psychologists never quite satisfied with the money we pay for sessions? Why do they always try to sell us their books? Maybe because writers always try to sell us the psychological advice in their books. There is constant competition between psychologists and writers. Who will get our money? They are very dangerous people—psychologists and writers. Sometimes they are ambitious, greedy, and impulsive. Writers don’t read. They always say, “I am not a reader. I am a writer. Why should I read?” And psychologists usually have messy personal lives. They say, “Why should anybody else be happy, if I am not?”
You might say, “You aren’t a psychologist. But, obviously, you are a writer. Why are you saying such things?”
I don’t know. Maybe because I am a good writer! Maybe because I am trying to be honest! I already know what I am going to buy with my Nobel Prize in Literature. (A new vacuum cleaner. Even though this thing has a very deceitful name—a vacuum is empty space. Right? So why would you need to clean a vacuum?) You might ask, “And why are you talking about vacuum cleaners?” Well, if you are a good writer, you don’t care what you say. Writers just say whatever comes to mind.
Mademoiselle Sponge did not purchase a book, left the psychologist, and simply decided she was mortally sick and going to die soon. She’d seen the television show SpongeBob SquarePants, and so she knew that sponges are just like people. They have everything: the pants, the brains, and even the souls.
Lilli-Bunny decided to distract Mlle. Sponge from her sad thoughts. He bought her flowers, but she tragically stated, “Save these flowers for the funeral. I don’t have children, so there won’t be anybody else to put flowers on my grave.”
Lilli-Bunny decided that Mlle. Sponge was sad because she didn’t have any kids. He bought her an animal friend so she would take care of it and forget her depression. It was a fly. This fly was a chubby little boy, but Mlle. Sponge didn’t take care of him, and the chubby little boy grew up to be a garbage fly. He was not very clean, and finally he was sent away to a rehabilitative clinic after he was caught smoking green tea, a powerful and illegal aphrodisiac for flies.
Thus, Mlle. Sponge remained alone. Her poems became increasingly sad, there appeared headaches, she couldn’t sleep, and she suffered from dryness (Oh God!). Mlle. Sponge began to fall to pieces.
Dry winds of Death,
Tear me apart!
I won’t be happy!
I won’t be happy.
To make me wet
Is that your art?
Then make me soapy
For the last time, maybe…
When Lilli-Bunny heard this poem, he started to cry and urgently soaped Mlle. Sponge. But Mlle. Sponge spat out the soap and shouted that she was not looking for earthly soap, she needed spiritual soap, and Lilli-Bunny didn’t understand a thing in her poor sponge soul.
Lilli-Bunny was frightened for Mlle. Sponge’s health. So he helped her dress in her favorite veil, made from toilet paper, without which she never left the bathroom, and quickly transported her to Doctor Diefast, who gave Mlle. Sponge a Full Sponge Scan (FSS) after injecting contrast-enhancing shampoo into her main artery.
Mlle. Sponge was diagnosed with Acute Generalized Sponge Melancholy (AGSM) and Chronic Soap Deficiency (CSD) and forbidden to write verses.
Mlle. Sponge immediately asked for the priest. Most people don’t know it, but sponges are very religious.
The fate of Mlle. Sponge was decided the morning of the following day, when she, after confessing one not-very-serious bath sin, prepared to leave this imperfect world for another one, where cleanliness is not a forced need but an achieved fact.
Fortunately, that same morning, Lilli-Bunny noticed that Lilli-Bear had lain around too long and become a bit stale. Lilli-Bear did not argue—he took his new sponge, which usually washed Lilli-Bunny, and started to bathe with it in the pond.
Lilli-Bunny, having completely forgotten the terrifying situation his sponge was in, grabbed her sleeping from the hook, decisively soaped up, and used her according to her primary function, which was not poetry, but bathing.
Surprisingly, Mlle. Sponge recovered immediately and was never sick again.
Once upon a time, Lilli-Bear asked Lilli-Bunny to buy him three nuts. Lilli-Bunny went to the marketplace and paid for three nuts. But he was told there was a 50% nut tax, and they could give him only one and a half nuts. Lilli-Bunny asked if he could buy six nuts, and get three in total after tax.
No, was the answer, because there was a law that you could buy only three nuts at once. Why was there such a law? And why is there a law that prohibits camel hunting in Arizona? What about the law in Marshalltown, Iowa, that prohibits horses from eating fire hydrants? Why, in Devon, Connecticut, is it unlawful to walk backwards after sunset? There is a law in Tennessee that says a man must run in front of a vehicle that a woman is driving, and that the car may not go faster than five miles an hour!
So the limitation on nuts purchased could result from some stupid law voted in maybe 200 years ago when someone bought four nuts and choked or went into anaphylactic shock because he had an allergy to four units of nut products, while he was fine with three. Who knows? To spare Lilli-Bear worry, Lilli-Bunny put the blame on himself.
But it got worse. The next time Lilli-Bunny went to the market to buy nuts for Lilli-Bear, the signboard at the entrance to the market had been changed. Instead of the old words “Welcome to the Market!” it now read:
Welcome to the Global Economy!
Lilli-Bunny didn’t pay attention to such a minor change. He almost immediately met the market lady that always cheated and charged Lilli-Bunny that little extra, selling him 1½ nuts when Lilli-Bunny had paid for three. Lilli-Bunny understood that the market lady was probably cheating him, but he never objected because he was a loyal citizen and almost always paid his taxes on time.
But now the market lady had become Mrs. Global Economy, and cheated Lilli-Bunny for three nuts at once. Lilli-Bunny stood still, looking at Mrs. Global Economy. At that moment, Lilli-Bunny made the immortal discovery that he was not going to get any nuts at all, no matter how much he paid.
We must admit, Lilli-Bunny found it difficult to comprehend the new rules. He understood the need of a developing society to transition from a local economy with fresh olive oil and milk to a more developed, global one with milk made of powder and olive oil made of petroleum products. Nevertheless, Lilli-Bunny wasn’t ready to return home with no nuts at all, especially since he had paid for three of them.
The old deal was bad enough. When he was forced to bring Lilli-Bear only one-and-a-half nuts, Lilli-Bunny explained that he ate the other one-and-a-half along the road, so that Lilli-Bear would not be disturbed by all this economic improvement. Lilli-Bunny loved Lilli-Bear so much he couldn’t disappoint his friend in such a brutal way. Lilli-Bear was an idealist with a practical mind. He naively assumed that if you pay for three nuts, you must obtain precisely three nuts, and not two-and-one-half, not one-and-three-fourths, not even one-and-a-fourth. This occurred in other countries, where Lilli-Bear therefore chose not to live. Lilli-Bear had read the revolutionary books of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and since then had watched the state, to keep it from abusing its citizens. Lilli-Bunny worried about this, because the state doesn’t like people watching it and usually gets angry. Maybe it’s obese and doesn’t think it has a nice body to look at.
Lilli-Bunny respectfully declined the new bargain. For the price of three nuts, he was going to get nothing in a nice wrapping. (We must admit that wrapping was exceptionally nice, with cute little bears drawn on the red paper, and for a moment Lilli-Bunny thought to take the deal anyway.)
- “Sorry, Mrs. Global Economy,” said Lilli-Bunny politely, “I did not expect such a challenging opportunity. Instead of three nuts, you now give nothing, even though it comes in very nice wrapping. But Lilli-Bear is not going to like it! He is going to say, ‘I love nuts!’ Are you sure those are the current rules of marketing: to give nothing in a nice wrapping?”
- “Absolutely sure,” replied Mrs. Global Economy, looking at Lilli-Bunny with her honest global eyes.
- “But this is so strange—” Lilli-Bunny began to say.
- “What is strange?” asked Mrs. Global Economy angrily, now staring eagerly at every object near her but Lilli-Bunny himself. “God bless me, what’s the matter?”
- “Well, I am not quite sure this is right,” insisted Lilli-Bunny, trying hard to stay calm. (When you get heated in a public place, you can easily be arrested and even be shut up for no reason. This is one of the advantages of our society—now you can be shut up anywhere, anytime. It is so comfortable.)
- “Do you know how much it cost to change the signboard? We spent a lot of money to become really global,” argued Mrs. Global Economy, very convincingly. She kept shoving Lilli-Bunny with the global forms on her chest, and Lilli-Bunny thought it was probably time to go home before things got any worse. But Mrs. Global Economy continued:
- “You are an intelligent member of our society. You have to understand that consumption of nuts does not constitute a basic need of lilli-bears, according to the scale of needs of the great American sociologist, M.A. Slow. Therefore, acquisition of nuts is now charged with a one hundred percent tax with the immediate payoff of partial compensation in the form of very creative wrapping. You will need, of course, to fill in your application for correct filing of taxes for nuts. Here you are! Take and fill in the form N.U.T.S. 433 and return it to me whenever you are ready.”
Lilli-Bunny took the form and even said, “Thank you.” Then he thought another minute and asked Mrs. Global Economy again:
- “Are you sure this is the right form? I have never heard that the tax can be 100%.”
- “Once the economy goes global, everything goes global. And global, Mr. Lilli-Bunny, also means “total.” If you missed this lesson at school, I can explain it again,” answered Mrs. Global Economy, very much reserved.
- “But what is the basic need of my Lilli-Bear, according to your M.A. Slow?”
- “Well, porridge we consider a basic need for him. Therefore, consumption of porridge is almost tax-free, except for Local Porridge Taxes (LPT), which I believe are not high at all. Only one spoon to every two packages eaten.”
- “But Lilli-Bear has started to read Rousseau, and now it looks more like robbery not only to him, but to me, too.”
- “You, Lilli-Bunny, don’t have a deep sense of the development of global economy,” said Mrs. Global Economy with sincere disappointment in her voice.
- “But how can people survive in such circumstances?” asked Lilli-Bunny.
- “Well, you may break the law, and refuse to pay your taxes. This is your free choice. But if we find this out, we will put you in prison for the rest of your life,” said Mrs. Global Economy very convincingly, “This is a free country. In a free country, everyone has free choice of when to go to prison!”
- “So you are going to put everybody in prison?” exclaimed Lilli-Bunny with despair.
- “Not necessarily. But it is convenient that everyone has some tiny little sin. Then all of you feel guilty, and become manageable, like children.”
- “But how is my Lilli-Bear is going to survive without nuts? He likes them so much!” Lilli-Bunny almost cried.
- “Excuse me; I didn’t refuse to sell you the nuts. I just collected the tax,” answered Mrs. Global Economy coldly.
- “But where is all this money going?” asked Lilli-Bunny suspiciously.
- “What, you don’t watch TV? Don’t you know that we have to help the Africans?” asked Mrs. Global Economy with slight irritation.
- “So you send them food? You send them the nuts that you take from Lilli-Bear?” asked Lilli-Bunny with some hope, thinking all his suffering was for a noble cause. “Lilli-Jake has been helping the kids in Africa for a long time. He sends them a nice bun every Sunday.”
- “That’s very nice of him. But I see, Mr. Lilli-Bunny, you are very far from understanding the global economy,” said Mrs. Global Economy, “We sell nuts and buy warm boots.”
- “Why would they need warm boots in Africa? It is too hot there, anyway!” exclaimed Lilli-Bunny with surprise.
- “Do Africans have warm boots?” asked Mrs. Global Economy.
- “No,” answered Lilli-Bunny.
- “So, this means they have a deficit of warm boots. In order to balance their economy, we send them warm boots. They sell them to our northern people, who in return send them bottles emptied of booze. In Africa, they use the bottles to make Molotov cocktails to fight with,” explained Mrs. Global Economy.
- “To fight whom?” asked Lilli-Bunny.
- “It doesn’t matter. They are independent nations, and they may fight whomever they choose. We cannot interfere in their choices. Non-interference is our basic democratic principle,” Mrs. Global Economy remarked proudly.
- “I don’t understand—” said Lilli-Bunny in frustration.
- “You are not supposed to understand. Let me worry about these issues. You pay your taxes and keep your mouth shut. You don’t live in Africa, so be happy; we will take care of the rest,” answered Mrs. Global Economy politely.
- “But how can my Lilli-Bear be happy without nuts?” asked Lilli-Bunny again, and painfully pinched Mrs. Global Economy.
Surprisingly, Global Economy got excited and asked:
- “Why are you doing that?”
- “I’m preventing the stagnation of processes,” said Lilli-Bunny cunningly.
- “Oh, this is very good, it is good for the economy,” said Mrs. Global Economy and gave Lilli-Bunny one nut as a reward for activating the global economy. She began to pinch herself until Lilli-Bunny left and hid himself from sight. After ascertaining that Lilli-Bunny had left, Mrs. Global Economy, unnoticed, ate a large number of nuts taken from Lilli-Bear, and appeared to sink into deep thought about her conversation with Lilli-Bunny.
Because of the irresponsible action of Mrs. Global Economy, the Africans didn’t receive any warm boots. So the people of the North soon had a surplus of empty bottles and began to amuse themselves by inserting slips of paper reading “Save Our Souls!” into them and throwing the message bottles into the sea. When rescuers began to arrive, they saw that the people of the North were just joking. They laughed about this joke and remained with them to drink their booze.
It goes without saying that in Africa, a shortage of bottles appeared. The conflicts stopped all at once.
One inhabitant of Africa, who had received a bun from Lilli-Jake, suddenly got the idea to grow some wheat and make his own bun. And he asked himself, “Why didn’t I do this, years ago?”
It was a dark, dark night. In Lilli-Bunny’s house, everything was still and silent. Only the large grandfather clock didn’t sleep—it slept in the daytime and walked around the house, making noise, at night. The cats snored in unison. Lilli-Bunny’s Left Slipper slept restlessly, muttering, “Distribute the wealth—” Lilli-Bunny’s old grandfather clock walked quietly along the house, occasionally savoring sour cream from Lilli-Bunny’s fridge. Perhaps you do not know that all grandfather clocks need fresh dairy products? Without the creamy food, they begin to beat everyone they can reach with their pendulums, but with it, they behave calmly. Grandfather Clock finished a sour cream, looked at the electronic display on the microwave, which displayed the time, and cursed. “It’s so goddamned late, it’s already twenty minutes after three, and I didn’t chime even once. Damn old age, tick-tack—” Lilli-Bunny’s clock was so old it couldn’t count the time by itself anymore. The old clock despised the microwave’s electronic clock, but constantly looked up the time. Grandfather Clock walked with its heavy gait to its place in the dining room, wiping its face clean of sour cream with a napkin.
“Bohm” rang Lilli-Bunny’s grandfather clock. It usually made its “Bohms” with no hurry. The intervals between the “Bohms” were sometimes so long that no one knew whether each “Bohm” related to the previous hour or the next. Grandfather Clock listened to the silence, for its “Bohm” woke no one. Even skittish Basia didn’t wake up, though she slept on the cover of the old grand piano that stood in the same room. The piano slept a peaceful sleep. It dreamed that Lilli-Bear finally learned his notes and began to play a tolerable rendition of Chopin’s “Nocturne,” which the grand piano missed greatly, for no one had played that masterpiece on it for at least half a century. Lilli-Bear, for the most part, played works of his own composition, which always rolled to the well-known melody of the folk song “Little Bear has a day off—”
Clock, in a hurry, made two more “Bohms” and fell asleep after leaning on the wall, having farsightedly lowered both weights to the floor so Lilli-Bunny wouldn’t complain the next day, “Why does this clock never work in the day? It makes noise, thumps around, and eats all the sour cream and cottage cheese in the house at night!” The house sunk into a deep silence, and only once was heard the cry of Lilli-Bear in his sleep, “Land!” He was dreaming, not for the first time, of a Jules Verne novel, in which he was a sailor-bear and traveled aboard a real ship.
Suddenly, someone knocked at the door. “Duk. Duk. Duk.”
Lilli-Bunny awoke immediately. He wasn’t surprised. In Lilli-House, it happened frequently that neighbors knocked at night, innocently asking to borrow some onion or that pair of sunglasses. Lilli-Bunny woke both his slippers, because he did not want to walk through the entire house barefoot, took the onion bulb and sunglasses from the night table, and with no irritation murmured, “Who the hell is knocking?” though he knew for sure it was his beloved neighbor, Mr. Squeeze-Hard, who at night squeezed maple syrup from birch firewood after rubbing it with fresh onion for smothering. The sunglasses were necessary so that the onion would not make him cry. Mr. Squeeze-Hard didn’t like it when something or someone made him cry; he apparently preferred to make others cry. Except for this, he was a very pleasant gentleman in his early years of retirement. You thought Lilli-Bunny’s neighbor was some sort of retarded person awaiting hospitalization in a certain sort of facility? Now see how wrong you were! Now you see that the man was making a worthy business and not just fooling around, as most of us do most of the time! Don’t make premature conclusions! Don’t giggle and say, “Why, for Pete’s sake, would the neighbor need sunglasses at night? This is pathetic!” You are pathetic yourself, if you rush to premature conclusions. It is necessary to respect one’s labor, especially when it is promptly rewarded by a small jar of superb maple syrup, which the grateful neighbor usually brought as an almost-free gift and token of his friendship. Lilli-Bunny treated his Lilli-Bear to the maple syrup and disregarded the small nighttime inconveniences.
My honorable reader, please don’t start again, saying, “Holy Smokes! What are you talking about? You cannot squeeze maple syrup out of birch firewood!” Maybe you will also say that the Grandfather Clock does not eat sour cream. Then, please, simply close the book. Because now begins the most interesting and unbelievable part of the tale. (Did I say everything in this book is based on real stories? Real stories are usually the most unbelievable ones.)
Lilli-Bunny, with the onion bulb and the sunglasses in his hands, unlocked his front door. On the threshold stood Lilli-Bunny’s Neurosis.
- “Did you turn off the teapot?” it asked anxiously.
- “Yes, I did,” said Lilli-Bunny and shut his door.
After leaving the sunglasses and onion bulb close to the front door, just in case Mr. Squeeze-Hard did come that night, Lilli-Bunny went to his bedroom. He passed through the kitchen to check on the teapot anyway.
Barely had Lilli-Bunny shut his eyes, when the knock on the front door was heard again. Now whoever it was knocked differently—very persistently and nervously. Lilli-Bunny jumped out of bed, thinking, “Probably Mr. Bolthead.” This neighbor frequently asked Lilli-Bunny for bolts, always at night. Mr. Bolthead habitually did his work with bolts at night so as not to draw unnecessary attention from the local community, which did not like people trying to attract attention to anything. Lilli-Bunny took a bag of bolts and ran down the stairs to open the door. On the threshold stood Lilli-Bunny’s Neurosis.
- “Will you excuse me, monsieur Lilli-Bunné,” it said very politely, intelligently putting an emphasis on the last syllable of Lilli-Bunny’s name in the French style; however, it had difficulty controlling its agitation. “Did you cover your flowers? They can dry up during the night.”
- “No, they will not dry up. At night, the sun does not shine,” said Lilli-Bunny, ready to shut the door again.
- “And what if a supernova flares up?” Lilli-Bunny’s Neurosis asked restlessly.
Lilli-Bunny thought for a moment and opened the door. He knew from Lilli-Bear that when a supernova goes off, the flowers must be covered with cloth, to protect them from the harsh radiation. Lilli-Bunny politely shook hands with his neurosis, and they went to the backyard to cover the flowers with a piece of cloth. After completing this elaborate procedure, they said “good night” to each other and Lilli-Bunny returned to his bed. While falling asleep, Lilli-Bunny sorted out in his head, with satisfaction, the turned-off teapot and sheltered flowers.
He heard the knock at his door again. The visitor knocked so loudly, Lilli-Bunny fell off his bed. After a few moments, short of breath, he forewent his slippers and ran down, trying not to panic, and opened the door. Once again, his Neurosis stood in the doorway. Its hair was tattered and its small, unhappy eyes shone feverishly in the darkness. “You forgot your wallet at the market!” Lilli-Bunny’s Neurosis nearly yelled.
Lilli-Bunny, without thinking or checking this extraordinary claim, jumped into his car, and they drove to the market. They didn’t find the wallet at the market. There were only the mountains of empty shells of the nuts the Global Economy ate by mistake after her morning conversation with Lilli-Bunny.
Lilli-Bunny returned home, where he found his wallet on the dresser. Lilli-Bunny’s Neurosis politely apologized and respectfully left the house, promising not to bother Lilli-Bunny anymore.
Lilli-Bunny returned to bed, firmly resolved not to wake up if his Neurosis came back in spite of its kind promise. But as soon as Lilli-Bunny wrapped himself sweetly in his blanket, someone began to scratch at his window.
Lilli-Bunny thought one of his cats had slipped out when he drove to look for his wallet at the market. Now the hungry fox could eat his cat! Lilli-Bunny, in horror, ran up to the window and opened it. He called the cat, but it was his Neurosis’ muzzle pressed to the window.
- “Did you feed the hamster?” it trembled.
- “The hamster moved out long ago!” answered Lilli-Bunny impatiently and slammed shut the window. And yet, he ran down the stairs to leave a note—“food in the fridge”—just in case Hamster Hamlet unexpectedly came back.
Then Lilli-Bunny once more tried to sleep. His peace was short-lived, for in the chimney of Lilli-House something rustled. Lilli-Bunny opened the damper, and the Neurosis fell out of the fireplace.
“Listen up!” said Lilli-Bunny’s Neurosis restlessly, “don’t you think it smells like carbon monoxide in the air?” Lilli-Bunny was a well-educated bunny and knew that carbon monoxide does not have any smell, but sampled the air with his nose, nevertheless.
“No, it does not smell,” he said nervously, then pushed his Neurosis back up the chimney flue and shut the damper. Lilli-Bunny decided to go to the bathroom, thinking he had little chance, this night, of sleeping at all. On his way to the toilet, he opened all the windows in the house, just in case the Neurosis was right about the carbon monoxide. It was summer, of course, and no one had used the fireplace for three months, but we should all be careful. In the bathroom, Lilli-Bunny raised the cover of the toilet. There, in the bowl, sat his Neurosis.
“Why did you open all the windows?” yelled Lilli-Bunny’s Neurosis, “your Lilli-Bear will catch cold!” Lilli-Bunny slammed the toilet shut and broke into a run to shut the windows. But at the first window sat Lilli-Bunny’s Neurosis, thoroughly wet after its time in the toilet. So it was necessary to wipe the Neurosis dry and warm it up with hot tea and raspberries.
Lilli-Bunny’s Neurosis continued to shake and through the knocking of its teeth asked:
- “And what if your ceiling crumbled?”
Lilli-Bunny broke into a run and placed supports under his ceiling.
- “And what if a meteorite suddenly fell?”
Lilli-Bunny climbed on the roof and tied pillows to the tiles to soften an impact.
- “And if—”
They rushed about until morning.
The following night, Lilli-Bunny’s Neurosis took some sleeping pills and wrapped itself comfortably in its bedspread. Lilli-Bunny’s Neurosis lived in the small hollow of the old oak growing in Lilli-Bunny’s backyard. Lilli-Bunny’s Neurosis locked the door of its hollow for the night, just in case. It decided not to go anywhere this night.
Someone knocked at the door. It was Lilli-Bunny.
- “Listen up, did you turn off the teapot?” he asked restlessly.
Lilli-Bunny’s Neurosis embraced Lilli-Bunny and said:
- “Welcome to the club!”
And they checked on the teapot together, and then had tea with sleeping pills. Lilli-Bunny’s Neurosis spent the night in the basket of Golden Cat, who never used it because he slept everywhere in the house.
Since then, Lilli-Bunny always lulled his Neurosis at bedtime. He gave it warm milk with honey to drink, and went to bed only after it was asleep. They no longer ran around the house at night. But in the hollow of Lilli-Bunny’s oak tree settled another tenant—the neurosis of Mr. Squeeze-Hard, who one night squeezed the last drop from his birch firewood, reducing his neurosis to complete nervous exhaustion.
One evening, Lilli-Bunny was so tired, he ran up the stairs to his bedroom as fast as he could. He had just made an appointment with one Mr. Troubleson, who had promised to get him out of trouble. Mr. Troubleson had a solid legal practice in a nearby town. Lilli-Bunny’s trouble had its birth in a decision, made by the government in 1882, declaring that the state could build a road through Lilli-Bunny’s land, most of which was occupied by his backyard.
Therefore, the mayor had lawful “right of way”—free passage through the backyard at any time. Yet this wasn’t the start of the trouble. All the years that Lilli-Bunny lived in his house, the formality had never disturbed him, or any other inhabitant of Lilli-House. Each time the mayor passed through, Lilli-Bunny locked his cats inside the house so they would not run under the wheels of the mayor’s convoy. Lilli-Bunny also put his mailbox on a short chain so it would not chase the six horses pulling the mayor’s coach. And each time the entourage passed, Lilli-Bear took his dearly-loved national flag, which kept coming down ill, and unknotted the unbelievable knots Flag tied itself in because of it necessary to remove the flag from display without jeopardizing the dignity of the state.
Then Lilli-Bear would swing the flag from the window and solemnly sing the national song especially loudly when the mayor’s crew, after catching the wheels of the coach in the mud, hefted it on their shoulders and with disgust, stepping over the brown water barefooted, transported His Honor across the Atlantic Ocean—the enormous puddle in Lilli-Bunny’s driveway.
Lilli-Bear godlessly confused several words of the national song, but the mayor smiled at him.
Lilli-Bunny’s problem began when His Honor the mayor delegated to his representative the duty of crossing Lilli-Bunny’s property. This representative habitually took with him many assistants, who smoked and littered Lilli-Bunny’s property with cigarette butts. Flag was so dissatisfied it tied itself up in triple knots and could not be hung out.
Lilli-Bear tried several times to sing, “Welcome, representative of the mayor” but the surname of this official rhymed badly with the remaining text of the national song. The day Lilli-Bunny was so tired that he broke into a run to reach his bed, he had removed cigarette butts from the tracks of the representative of the Mayor; therefore, Lilli-Bear made an appointment with Mr. Troubleson, to have the right-of-way clause deleted from the deed of Lilli-House. Why, the road had been built one hundred years ago, fifteen kilometers to the south of Lilli-Bunny’s property. There was no need to litter Lilli-Bunny’s driveway and backyard with cigarette butts. Flag completely agreed with Lilli-Bunny’s decision and explained to its neighbors in the closet, unpatriotic mops, that there was no reason to hang itself out, except in the presence of His Honor, the mayor himself. And the mops laughed at the flag, because they greatly envied their noble relative.
The following morning, Lilli-Bunny put on the business suit, which consisted of a black T-shirt with the inscription,
He put on the second piece of his business suit, his black sports shorts, and left to see his lawyer.
The lawyer, Mr. Troubleson, met Lilli-Bunny at his office and said right away that this was not a simple issue. He talked for two hours about the history of the question, but never touched on the question itself.
This is the way all lawyers are trained to talk to win in court. You win a case only if you put everyone in the courthouse asleep with your monologue. So this way of talking became a professional disease of all lawyers. When a lawyer’s wife asks him whether he wants tea or coffee, he starts with the history of the question, and never gives a definite answer. Though we must admit that no lawyer that has mastered such a way of talking can be held responsible for anything, because he never says or does a thing, and therefore can be excused from any responsibility what so ever.
Lilli-Bunny listened patiently, but in the end, he asked:
- “So, how can we solve the problem?”
- “Well, it is possible, but there is one small obstacle,” said Mr. Troubleson.
- “This is good; a small obstacle is not a problem. So what should be done?” asked Lilli-Bunny enthusiastically.
- “It is simple. You need make some slight adjustments on your property before we can file the request for deletion of the ‘right of passage,’” said Mr. Troubleson.
- “No problem. What are they?” asked Lilli-Bunny.
- “Actually, there is only one change that must be done; speaking more precisely—” added Mr. Troubleson, after checking some book of laws.
- “And this change is—” asked Lilli-Bunny, slightly impatiently.
- “To destroy your house,” Mr. Troubleson completed the sentence and went on with his polite explanation. “In fact, according to regulations, dated 1892, in order to delete the ‘Right of Way (right to passage)’ from the title, the applicant should present a proof that the land in question is free of any buildings, sheds, or other structures. Why such a regulation emerged in the first place is hidden in the obscurity of old times. But please don’t worry, Mr. Lilli-Bunny. This is standard procedure, and I recommend you carry it out without further delay, because the period of service of the current representative of His Honor the mayor ends this Friday, and according to reliable information from the mayor’s inner circles, he is going to appoint Mr. Elephantson from Planning. Elephantson and his crew usually trespass on my clients’ properties riding elephants, which have the habit of littering in a way that will make you recall the good old days, when you only had to pick up cigarette butts.”
Modern society tends to put its members into completely hopeless situations. So it was in the case of Lilli-Bunny and his house. A stupid regulation, written by some drunk or insane legislator over one hundred years ago now placed poor Lilli-Bunny before an intolerable dilemma—destroy his house or spend his life removing elephant droppings from his backyard.
Lilli-Bunny was very reserved individual and didn’t show much of his frustration. He just opened his mouth and started to shout very loudly:
– А! – А! – А! – А! – А! – А! – А! – А! – А! – А! – А! – А! – А! – А! – А! – А! – А! – А!
Lilli-Bunny also tried to cover his mouth, eyes, and ears simultaneously, using only one pair of hands. Mr. Troubleson stared in awe, believing he saw the multi-armed God before him. Then he knelt and read a prayer. In Mr. Troubleson’s youth, he had gravitated to a foreign sect that taught him to worship this powerful and ancient god.
As a matter of fact, it was there he had made acquaintance with Mr. Elephantson, a good friend of his up until now, who had served as Troubleson’s source of information from the inner circles of His Honor the mayor.
Lilli-Bunny continued to shout, and Mr. Troubleson amended his first impression with the following conclusion: “Suppose this is not a multi-armed god.”
Mr. Troubleson rose from his knees and poured a glass of water to make Lilli-Bunny stop crying. Lilli-Bunny refused it and paid for the time Mr. Troubleson spent providing his valuable advice. Then Lilli-Bunny returned to his home, where he told all its inhabitants about the trouble that had popped up so unexpectedly.
Before Lilli-Bunny left, Mr. Troubleson promised to visit Lilli-House, to make sure everyone got his message right and to have dinner with the family.
Mr. Troubleson liked to socialize with his clients, especially when the clients were buying him lunch or dinner, because he honestly believed this made his services even more valuable. He was always ready to tell his clients the history of any question in such informal settings. Mr. Troubleson deeply believed that knowledge of the history of a question might easily substitute its resolution. Legal systems are never worried about fair results; they worry about procedure for the sake of procedure itself.
Mr. Troubleson also wanted to use the opportunity to recommend the services of one of his relatives, who was a contractor, and could demolish the house and rebuild it for a very reasonable price.
Do not overreact, dear reader. It would be most unjust to assume that Mr. Troubleson pursued any vicious purposes or interests when he himself recommended to his Honor the mayor that his friend Mr. Elephantson be appointed to trespass on homeowners’ properties.
My honorable reader, why do you see a dirty scam in such a tiny coincidence? It doesn’t matter that Mr. Troubleson knew Mr. Elephantson would trouble his clients. Nor does it matter that he expected his clients to ask for his services to get them out of trouble or to buy the construction services of his relative. Of course, when you put it all together, it looks like Mr. Troubleson tried to cheat innocent homeowners of their money.
This is just not true, because Mr. Troubleson was a true gentleman. He always helped the ladies put on their coats, even if they came without coats—a firm sign of his gentlemanly behavior.
True gentlemen never pursue mercenary purposes. If it turns out that everything they do or make goes only to their benefit, I assure you it is pure coincidence.
Mr. Troubleson joined Lilli-Bunny and his friends for dinner and after finishing his pudding, Mr. Troubleson proposed to discuss the options.
So, after dinner, all spoke about the problem of Lilli-House. Lilli-Bunny’s Right Slipper proposed to untie the flag of Lilli-Bear and give it to Mr. Elephantson as a bribe, so that he would select smaller elephants and feed them little before bringing them to Lilli-Bunny’s backyard. But Left Slipper said you couldn’t bribe an official! At least, not with the national flag! Then he proposed to untie the flag anyway and start a civil war for independence from elephants.
Lilli-Kitty and Lilli-Jake proposed to sell the house and buy a new one, somewhere on the seashore in a tropical country.
The cats proposed to lie down to sleep while Mr. Elephantson passed by and make Lilli-Bunny’s car clean up the mess.
Lilli-Bunny’s car proposed to leave the house while Mr. Elephantson passed by, go live in her garage, and later make the cats clean up the mess.
Lilli-Bear kept silent and mysteriously smiled. On Friday, immediately after Mr. Elephantson’s designation as the representative of the mayor, the above-mentioned honored gentleman promptly appeared in Lilli-Bunny’s backyard with a whole bunch of elephants. But the moment the elephants stepped on Lilli-Bunny’s land, they reared up on their back feet, turned and ran far away, taking Mr. Elephantson with them.
Since then, neither Mr. Elephantson, nor his elephants, ever trespassed on Lilli‑Bunny’s backyard again.
You might ask why. Immediately after the memorable dinner with Mr. Troubleson, Lilli-Bear called Hamster Hamlet, who brought many of his girlfriends, all mice, to Lilli-Bunny’s backyard on Friday. Hamster Hamlet had as many mouse girlfriends as King Solomon had wives—hundreds.
Elephants are afraid of mice, as you probably know from the programs on National Geographic or the Discovery Channel.
Lilli-Bunny liked people. He forgave attitudes other bunnies wouldn’t accept. But there was one man who could not be friends with Lilli-Bunny.
Mr. Spitman lived in a nearby town and was known for his unprincipled and dishonorable behavior. He offended everyone who came near.
Mr. Spitman lived in a broken streetcar. This streetcar, before it broke down, had carried people around town. But Mr. Spitman always offended his fellow passengers while traveling in the streetcars, so all the streetcars ran away to another city. But the broken one couldn’t escape. Mr. Spitman settled in this poor, broken streetcar, much the way William the Conqueror invaded England. Although it is not quite resolved whether the conquest was, in the end, a positive twist of history that allowed a perfect mixture of Anglo-Saxons and Normans, or just a bad one that added many French words to the English language…
Probably you didn’t realize it, but William the Conqueror was a very peaceful person. All he wanted to do was to call Harold, the king of England, and congratulate him on his victory over the Norwegians. But who knew William couldn’t stand answering machines? He wanted to leave a message, but the answering machine of King Harold had so many options, it drove poor William crazy. He crossed the English Channel and prepared to fight near a place called Hastings. King Harold had just got back from a victorious battle with Norwegians in the North, saw the problem, and called 911 from his mobile phone to report the intruder, but also got stuck with an answering machine:
“This is the emergency service. If you have an emergency, please press one. If you don’t have an emergency, please hang up now.”
King Harold pressed one and got another menu:
- If you are threatened with murder – press one
- If you are about to become a victim of rape – press two
- If you are going to be strangled – please press three
- If you are not sure what the offender is going to do with you, please ask him. If you don’t get an answer, please stay on the line. Our first available representative will be happy to assist you.
King Harold couldn’t hear the fifth option because he got an arrow in his eye and was killed with all his noblemen. Poor William, he was left to rule England alone. This is not easy, even in our day. It’s not easy to rule France, either. Personally, I would prefer to rule Papua, New Guinea. At least they don’t have many answering machines over there.
Even if the intrusion of William was somehow explainable, Mr. Spitman’s take-over of the broken streetcar was unquestionably unacceptable. His fellow citizens did not support the invasion and settlement, but Mr. Spitman didn’t seem to care much about what the others thought of him and his actions. The hurried escape of the other streetcars deprived Mr. Spitman of his primary occupation—traveling on streetcars and offending the passengers. He needed to find himself a new profession, which would suit his talents. Therefore, he decided to become a financial advisor and conduct a currency reform in the city. His goal? To make coins not round, but square. This reform was necessary long ago, as round coins can roll away and get lost. It happened all the time to the poor townspeople. How else could their poverty be explained?
Mr. Spitman broke into the local bank at night and bit 52,368,000,000,000 different coins, a major portion of the town’s liquid capital, cutting the rounds into perfect squares. The next morning, everyone in town heard on the radio that their capitals had been squared. People were excited at first, but later realized there was nothing to be excited about. The intriguing thing is that most reforms have the same effect—first people get excited, but later they wonder how they could have been excited about such annoying and stupid changes. But feelings of regret do not necessarily make one any smarter, and we are ready to applaud the next reform. How did we end up with an education system that allows our children to smoke pot most of the time? What is so educational in smoking pot? Wasn’t this the result of very promising reforms?
My dearest reader won’t be surprised that the townspeople got angry with Mr. Spitman and sent a policeman, Mr. Stickbeat, to arrest him. But the officer came back empty-handed, crying and complaining that Mr. Spitman had offended him so horribly that “I never want to deal with Spitman again.” Police like to deal with polite, nice people—and we cannot blame them for that!
Then everyone agreed that the bitten money was still money, after all, and decided to complete the currency reform initiated by Mr. Spitman, since the number of coins yet to be bitten wasn’t large. People lined themselves up at Mr. Spitman’s streetcar and exchanged their remaining round coins for freshly squared ones. You know, sometimes it is good to let people match themselves with the currency they possess. Square people deserve square money.
Mr. Spitman served people very politely, and surprisingly, didn’t offend anyone. This didn’t mean that Mr. Spitman had abandoned his offensive practices. When someone offends you by action, there is not much need to offend you with words.
Lilli-Bunny didn’t keep his money in the bank, because he was a farmer and therefore didn’t have much money. He consumed what he produced, and sold only a portion to the government.
One day, Lilli-Bunny arrived at the post office to send a postcard Lilli-Bear had written to Mr. Sun-Bang-Bong. After seeing Sun-Bang-Bong on television, Lilli-Bear wanted to congratulate the man on his excellent performance. What was it, you ask? Mr. Sun-Bang-Bong jumped onto the scene, moving like a goat, and his costume was made of shiny Christmas tree ornaments. He also made a sound, strengthened by his microphone: “Bang-Bong! Bang-Bong! Bang-Bong!” Lilli-Bear put aside his volume of Kant, where he searched for exactly what Kant can’t, and with admiration began to watch the performance of Mr. Sun-Bang-Bong. Lilli-Bear was curious how the performer would finish. After rattling the Christmas tree toys fast, slow, this way, that way, Mr. Sun-Bang-Bong crushed most of them and jingled from the scene. This display earned the indescribable enthusiasm of the audience. Lilli-Bear, without delay, wrote this congratulatory postcard:
Dear Mr. Sun-Bang-Bong,
Thank you for your music!
I liked your Bang, but mostly, I liked your Bong!
Though the arts of music are not exactly flourishing today, it is an exaggeration to say that there are no talented performers. Look at you! Your “Bang” made me feel “Bong,” and vice versa.
You are doing first-rate work, especially jumping out of the scenery and breaking all the Christmas toys in the end of the show!
Make more Bangs and Bongs!
Your sincere fan,
Lilli-Bear went to stick a stamp, but he didn’t have his favorite stamps with the queen. Only the large stamp with the polar bear remained. Lilli-Bear was afraid to lick it, for the polar bear could bite him. Being himself a bear Lilli-Bear did not quite trust the polar bear on the stamp. Lilli-Bunny, who wasn’t a bear, didn’t trust the polar bear, either. Lilli-Bunny also decided not to lick the stamp. It was returned to its place in the box for letters and postal equipment, and Lilli-Bunny drove to the post office to buy Lilli-Bear his favorite stamps with the queen. At the post office, Lilli-Bunny tried to pay with his round coin, but the postal worker would not accept it. The currency reform in the city was complete and payment was received only in bitten square coins.
So Lilli-Bunny was referred to Mr. Spitman to exchange his invalid round coins for now-valid square ones.
- “Where did you get your money?” asked Mr. Spitman.
- “I am a farmer, and I sell surpluses of what I produce to the government,” answered Lilli-Bunny politely.
Nowadays, one is frequently asked about the source of his or her income. Come to the bank to deposit money and they ask, “What is the source of these funds?” to prevent money laundry. It is very important for any government to keep all money dirty!
I imagine that the officials expect a crook to declare his source of funds as “stolen” or “income from drug trafficking.” They really should put these options on the questionnaire, to make filling out the form more pleasant. Don’t you think so?
Mr. Spitman exchanged the money and told Lilli-Bunny, “I like you.” The man also promised to visit Lilli-House.
So Lilli-Bunny went back to the post office and bought a stamp with the queen, and returned home to prepare for the visit of the important person Mr. Spitman had become after his currency reform.
When Lilli-Bunny walked in, he was surprised to discover Mr. Spitman was already there. He sat in the dining room with his feet on the dinner table, and behaved boorishly with Lilli-Bunny’s slippers. Right Slipper, his glasses on his nose, was so frustrated with Mr. Spitman’s inappropriate behavior that he exclaimed:
- “You are a cad!”
- “This is true,” replied Mr. Spitman, in a most caddish manner. Then he got up, went back to Lilli-Bunny’s refrigerator, and savored the cold salads prepared for dinner.
Lilli-Bunny invited everybody to the table before Mr. Spitman could finish all the food in the house by himself, because Lilli-Bunny had a responsibility to feed his friends.
But there was not much left to eat, because Mr. Spitman not only gobbled up all the cold salads, but also, completely by accident, overturned the pan with the soup on Lilli-Bunny’s cats (we must admit that it wasn’t quite accidental, because Mr. Spitman had to chase Basia before he could effectively spill the soup on her. It was easier with Golden Cat, because he was in the most intense phase of catosynthesis and couldn’t move anyway.)
When everyone had arranged themselves around the table, Mr. Spitman began his speech:
“The currency reform was necessary to the city. Since the streetcars, for some reason, ceased to function, our town was deprived of its only sign of uniqueness, for streetcars have become a rarity.”
- “I say,” said Left Slipper, “the currency reform must be continued.”
- “Right! This is a great idea! There should be a permanent currency reform!” yelled Mr. Spitman, and after spitting on Lilli-Bunny’s carpet, kissed Left Slipper. “Please continue to share your thought!”
- “First, all bitten square coins must be rolled up with small tubes, tied with knots, and replaced with candy wrappers and cut newsprint, and then entirely abolished,” stated Left Slipper very firmly. It appeared he had thought about this for a long time.
- “But how would we conduct exchange of commodities? Or run the economy?” inquired Right Slipper validly, as he pushed his glasses higher on his nose. He suffered shortsightedness, in contrast to his leftist brother, who suffered foresight. Left Slipper could see very far away, but nothing near his nose. And yet, he never agreed to wear glasses.
- “We can base commodity exchange on pure trust. Money is the dirty thing, and since governments don’t allow people to launder it, it becomes even dirtier. Without money, people will become honest and there won’t be a need for any money at all.”
- “I see!” said Mr. Spitman with excitement.
Conversation at the table began to calm, and Mr. Spitman remained to spend the night at Lilli-House.
Next day, Mr. Spitman gulped down his breakfast and rushed to the city in Lilli-Bunny’s car to continue the currency reform proposed by Left Slipper. But he was pulled over by policeman for speeding and lack of a driver’s license. He tried to offend this policeman, but the officer pulled out a gun and almost shot him. This actually made the boorish man more manageable. But then Mr. Spitman spat inside the police car, and the officer had to let him go, because, as we said, police prefer to deal with clean, polite people wearing perfume, not ones that spit inside your car.
In the evening, Lilli-Bunny climbed into the cabinet, looking for his nightcap. Lilli-Bunny didn’t find the cap, but did find the note it had written:
“I was stolen by Mr. Spitman. I will call when I get access to a telephone. Try not to worry. Your Night Cap.”
Lilli-Bunny sat near the telephone and waited for a phone call from his nightcap. The call never came; however, Lilli-Bunny got an urgent telegram:
“Mr. Spitman made holes in me for his eyes and put me on his head. We have broken into the town’s bank. We are rolling bitten coins into tubes. When we get done, I will send myself by mail.”
“This is an outrage!” said Lilli-Bunny. But Left Slipper, encouraged, began to sing the revolutionary song:
Arise ye workers from your slumbers
Arise ye prisoners of want
For reason in revolt now thunders
And at last ends the age of cant.
Away with all your superstitions
Servile masses arise, arise
We’ll change henceforth the old tradition
And spurn the dust to win the prize!
So comrades, come rally
And the last fight let us face
The Internationale unites the human race.
So comrades, come rally
And the last fight let us face
The Internationale unites the human race!
Left Slipper felt such agitation that he left for the balcony to smoke.
The next morning the postman brought a parcel. Inside was Lilli-Bunny’s nightcap. There were indeed two large holes cut in it for the shameless eyes of Mr. Spitman, because shameless eyes are always large and round. They seem to ask, “What’s the matter?”
Lilli-Bunny embraced his Night Cap, but stopped when he heard someone ring the bell at his door. It was the policeman, Mr. Stickbeat.
Lilli-Bunny thought the officer had come to arrest Night Cap for its participation in the robbery, and promptly hid it under his bed.
However, it turned out that the policeman had followed the signal of Lilli-Bear, who had confused the telephone with the remote control of his TV set and randomly punched 911. Of course, Lilli-Bunny had hung up immediately, but the emergency service is set up to recognize where calls come from. A police officer is sent to the house to determine if there is a real emergency.
Policeman Stickbeat inspected the occupants of Lilli-House for bruises and scratches and promptly departed for the next house, where an old lady had confused the telephone handset with a calculator and dialed 911 again.
When the inhabitants of Lilli-House gathered in the dining room, the pot of soup was again empty. Instead, there was Mr. Spitman in it. He confessed he’d hidden from the police, because the police had already been in Lilli-Bunny’s house. It is like a bomb, never falling twice in the same spot. After making sure everything was quiet in the house, Mr. Spitman sent Lilli-Bear to buy him cigarettes, called Golden Cat a “suspicious type,” and Basia “Illegally Blond,” even though she was legally black.
Mr. Spitman behaved quite boorishly and selfishly that evening, for the second stage of the currency reform had succeeded to glory! After deciding to pass the night in Lilli-Bunny’s bed (Lilli-Bunny had to sleep outside), Mr. Spitman could not fall asleep for a long time, loudly complaining that he had swelled from the soup and the mattress was too rigid. He frequently ran to the toilet, each time stepping on the Neurosis of Lilli-Bunny, who took sleeping pills and tried to get some sleep in Golden Cat’s old basket.
The next morning, after breakfast, it was declared on the radio that since Mr. Spitman had not been found, and there remained money not displaced by the rolling into tubes, the inhabitants of city unanimously elected Mr. Spitman as the new mayor of the city, so he would complete the reforms he initiated. Mr. Spitman left Lilli-House without delay, after stealing Lilli-Bunny’s business suit (including the T-shirt with the inscription “I am busy!”) and Golden Cat’s concert necktie-butterfly. He accepted the post of mayor. City problems engaged him so much that he no longer appeared in Lilli-Bunny’s house. And Lilli-Bunny, after sewing up the holes in his nightcap, continued to live as before.
A well-known religious source indicates that when Our Savior, Jesus Christ, fed thousands of people with five breads, they were not exactly breads, but five saucepans of macaroni. This in no way understates the miracle, since macaroni is actually a wonderful food.
Lilli-Bear did not like macaroni, but once he saw how much it cost in the store—a couple of coins a pack—Lilli-Bear at least started to respect it, because he was, as all bears, very reasonable and thoughtful.
How it is possible to walk by this remarkable, high-calorie product, on which it is possible to eat ‘til full for couple of coins a pack? Lilli-Bunny adored macaroni, but he did not trust the store enough to purchase his macaroni there. So Lilli-Bunny decided to produce macaroni himself. First Lilli-Bunny planted the soil in his backyard with a little vermicelli, but apparently, it was not a good time of year, and the vermicelli didn’t quite flourish. The same failure cursed the attempt to sow spaghetti broken into small particles. Nor was planting noodles in Lilli-Bunny’s vegetable garden very successful. Lilli-Bear went with Lilli-Bunny to see what was wrong with the macaroni beds. Bear and bunny watered them and even spread cheese over the garden; however, there was no harvest of macaroni.
Lilli-Bear read up on pasta growing, a little, in his encyclopedia. Repeating the entry to Lilli-Bunny, he made it seem he’d known from the very beginning that macaroni does not grow in vegetable gardens, but must be planted like tomatoes, in a greenhouse. Lilli-Bunny was upset that he had not understood this before. Italy, the native land of macaroni, is warm, and therefore macaroni, like tomatoes, should be grown inside a greenhouse. Our agrarian specialists made a trial sowing in the greenhouse, but this, too, gave no result, except negative, which neither Lilli-Bunny nor Lilli-Bear, as you understand, could accept.
Then they decided to look on the World Wide Web. Perhaps they had done something wrong. In the basement, where the World Wide Web grew, they started a conversation with the WWW-spider that had lived there for last ten years. The WWW-spider explained that macaroni is made from flour, and even handed Lilli-Bunny a detailed recipe.
Lilli-Bunny began to bake his first macaroni and got so excited he couldn’t stop. Soon there was not enough space in Lilli-Bunny’s house. Lilli-Bunny forgot to cut the pasta into elbows, making one long tube. So Lilli-Bear glued one end of the macaroni to an envelope and sent it by mail to his old friend Rubber Hedgehog, on the other side of the Earth.
While the letter traveled halfway around the world, Lilli-Bunny kept making his long macaroni. When it reached the rubber hedgehog, the macaroni tube was longer than the world is wide. Rubber Hedgehog opened the envelope, looked at the end of the macaroni tube and decided to send it back. He glued it into the envelope again and sent it to Lilli-Bear. Only this time the letter traveled over the other side of the Earth. As you probably know, the Earth is round. (They still teach this in school, don’t they?)
The next morning, the loud barking of his mailbox wakened Lilli-Bunny. Lilli-Bunny’s mailbox had adjusted to its doggy image so well that it had begun, little by little, to bark. Lilli-Bunny broke into a run to get the mail, and he immediately saw, stretched to the mailbox from behind the horizon, his macaroni. Lilli-Bunny took the envelope from the box and tied one end to the other of his one long macaroni in the kitchen. By such means, Lilli-Bunny created a global macaroni tube, which circled the entire sphere of the Earth.
Lilli-Bunny invited representatives of the Academy of Sciences. They gave Lilli-Bunny a certificate for proving that the Earth is round. All previous proofs seemed insufficient to the Academy of Sciences.
The delegation from Italy arrived at Lilli-Bunny’s house, and took a section of the global macaroni for a DNA test. It revealed the macaroni tube to be a close relative of Italian macaroni. They issued an official certification stating this important fact.
Representatives from the space agency arrived at Lilli-Bunny’s house, to acquire experience in the production of highly durable gigantic macaroni, because they planned to launch very long macaroni tubes into space and even to the surface of the Moon, Mars, and beyond, in order to ensure the uninterrupted delivery of this high-calorie, inexpensive product to the future tenants of celestial worlds. The French periodical Paris-Catch published a large article with color photographs, where much was discussed about the personal life of Lilli-Bunny, and little was told about his global macaroni, the reason he had become famous.
Everything ended suddenly when Lilli-Bunny got tired and went to sleep, forgetting to prepare supper for Lilli-Bear. The next morning, first in the Lilli-House and then the entire world, stunning news appeared—Lilli-Bunny’s global macaroni, the last hope of humanity, had disappeared. First, everyone thought it was the terrorists’ fault, but they began to make excuses, and everyone believed them. The world trusts when the terrorists speak. Unfortunately, this is because these freaks are the only consistent people on Earth. They always do what they threaten to do.
The loss of the macaroni was first noticed in Lilli-Bunny’s house. Lilli-Bunny’s Neurosis, which lived in Lilli-Bunny’s bedroom in the cat basket, and Lilli-Bear’s Neurosis, which lived in Lilli-Bear’s paper basket, were so alarmed that they simultaneously broke into a run along the stairs—one downward, the other upward—and after bumping their foreheads in the middle of the stairs, went to see Doctor Diefast. Doctor Diefast looked at the injuries and stated it was some sort of virus infection, and sent the Neuroses home without treatment.
Lilli-Bunny, at first, was upset that his macaroni had disappeared. But after learning that Lilli-Bear ate it by mistake, Lilli-Bunny was glad, because with the Global Macaroni around there was too much noise; correspondents messed the floor with their dirty footwear, and photographers scared all the owls in the region with their flashes, so at night there was no one to make owls sound like “ugu!” So Lilli-Bunny went on with his day.
Conversations are tricky—some like them; some don’t. They live, usually, in corridors, drawing rooms, kitchens, streetcars, cafes—yes, where they don’t they live? There are sincere conversations, but they are encountered rarely and don’t live long—usually one night, like some light-winged butterflies, and only come out when accompanied by nice hors d’oeuvres and equally nice drinks.
Let’s talk about small talk, because they usually are annoying, empty, and not very sophisticated. Small talks sometimes don’t know for what purpose they exist and tend to die prematurely, because a life without purpose is an unpleasant experience indeed. Did you ever try such? Try; you will see.
But if you were born, it doesn’t matter whether you have purpose in life or not. It doesn’t matter whether you enjoy this life, or not quite. You have to live, eat, drink, make love, and keep your mouth shut. This is a basic law of nature. If you are alive, be happy, and don’t complain. If you die, you may complain, but no one is sure whether it will be possible. So people complain while they are alive. Other people don’t want to hear their complaints, and therefore have created one of the greatest inventions of all time: Small Talk—the most vague and useless creature on Earth. It teaches us how to talk and not share thoughts, information, or feelings of any kind.
Of course, there are other sorts of conversations, such as business talks, or erotic murmurs—but neither are quite welcome in nice company.
One small talk jumped at Lilli-Bunny while he was walking down the street. It sang a song:
“Lilli-Bunny walking down the street—
Lilli-Bunny doesn’t eat the meat!”
(You might say this is plagiarism and that the song was originally composed for Pretty Woman. Why does everyone get so excited about sweet tales concerning prostitutes? Why not Lilli-Bunnies?)
Another small talk hung itself on Lilli-Bunny’s ear when he was in the grocery store. Yes, it hung itself on a length of ribbon, because like most aimless souls, small talks turn suicidal. And then the whole bunch of them pounced on Lilli-Bunny.
One small talk, “How do you like the weather today?” bit Lilli-Bunny and stole the illustrated journal that Lilli-Bunny bought for Lilli-Bear.
As he left the store, Lilli-Bunny took out his Neurosis, because he wanted to let it get some fresh air. This was foolish, for they both became victims of the whole pack of wolves— Oh, I am sorry, I was going to say a pack of small talks. Small talks often hang together in packs.
Wild small talks are dangerous for young Neuroses. Lilli-Bunny’s Neurosis got so frustrated, it started to run in circles and even fell into the ditch. Lilli-Bunny helped his Neurosis climb out and closed its ears with a scarf. He even had to buy his Neurosis a huge chocolate bar to calm it down.
You know that chocolate is the way to calm your Neurosis, and provoke your diabetes, destroying your teeth on the way? Medieval dentists invented chocolate in order to ensure their future income until the end of time. That’s why I propose to call them medevil, because either they were medically evil, or because they brought me devil into my mouth, whose name it carries.
Another small talk attacked Lilli-Bunny right at the place he was buying the chocolate for his Neurosis.
- “Are you ready for summer?”
It seemed to imply that if Lilli-Bunny was not ready for summer, he could call summer over the phone and ask it to come a little bit later, and it would wait because one Lilli-Bunny was not ready yet.
The idiocy of small talks is obvious. They served, seemingly, as the cockroach moustaches of the inhabitants of Lilli-Bunny’s town.
The townspeople used this moustache of small talks, touching neighbors and pedestrians. If the newcomer answered with a proper small talk—their moustache—it meant, “This one is local; we shouldn’t eat him alive.” But if they didn’t get the right answer, it meant, “O, my god! He is a stranger!” And a stranger should always be eaten or somehow eliminated, because otherwise he will eat or eliminate you.
Small talk must be an ancient tradition. It is as primitive as one-celled organisms. Once Lilli-Jake saw, under his microscope, two one-cell organisms engaged in—small talk! One of them asked, “How is your mitosis going?”
“It’s okay, thanks,” the other answered, and they both duplicated. What boring lives one-cell organisms have. They don’t employ sex as a means of reproduction. Well, lately, we quite often don’t employ sex exactly as a meaning of reproduction, either, but for other, obscure reasons. Does this bring us to the level of one-celled organisms? Apparently, sometimes, it does.
Lilli-Bunny farmed for living, so he couldn’t afford to keep his small talks on his farm, because they ate much but nothing useful came out of them.
They were not like chickens, which you can feed and then get fresh eggs in exchange. Small talks are like viruses that reproduce themselves, maliciously using our heads as their hosts. After invasion by small talk, one’s head drains ‘til it’s as empty as an empty pan, and emptiness is little step toward the nonexistence we call the disturbing and unpleasant word death.
Small talks so scared Lilli-Bunny’s Neurosis that Lilli-Bunny had to take him home early. Lilli-Bunny’s Neurosis ran into the house and bumped into Lilli-Bear’s Neurosis. Then he squeezed himself under the bench in the kitchen, and didn’t want to come out, no matter how hard Lilli-Bunny tried to attract him with the chocolate bar.
Only Lilli-Bunny’s cats took pity on Lilli-Bunny’s Neurosis and intentionally fell asleep under the same bench, so as not to let him feel so lonely and cold there.
Lilli-Bear’s Neurosis was so upset with a nightmare that happened while Lilli-Bunny’s Neurosis was in town, that he canceled all visits to town and persuaded Lilli-Bear to stick to the same. You know, sometimes, Neuroses can be very persuasive.
Small talks and people who farm for their living do not get along very well. Because when the small talk asks such a person, “What do you think of the weather?” the farmer starts to explain what he actually thinks, because weather for farmers is not an abstract topic at all. If the farmer says exactly what he thinks of the weather, the small talk might die! If you do not immediately apply a phrase like, “What are you doing for Easter?” it will be too late to resuscitate the small talk.
Lilli-Bunny was afraid to kill too many small talks at once. A die-off could cause unnecessary unrest in the community, and the Small Talks Association might step in and press charges of smalltalkicide, a serious offense in our culture—almost as severe as homicide. Meanwhile, homicide becomes a less severe crime, because the population always grows, and people have ceased to be a rare and precious commodity. Please don’t blame me for these outrageous words. I am the writer, presumably—a “truth teller”—and I just write what I see on TV, because I rarely go out. And what one sees on TV is convincing me that the price of human life is not very high at all, while small talk is prized very highly!
Lilli-Bunny was worried that he didn’t quite fit in. It seemed like the whole town had learned, by heart, stupid questions and no-less idiotic responses:
- “How are you spending your weekend?”
- “Not bad at all, so far.”
- “Did you enjoy yourself?”
- “Oh, absolutely! Thank you!”
These talks made people into some sort of answering machines. Lilli-Bunny didn’t want to engage in the mass insanity.
Lilli-Jake took pity on Lilli-Bunny and activated his Brain Company. The micro-lilli-jakes jumped out and said, “Okay, guys! What’s the problem?”
When they learned what the problem was, they laughed for half an hour, then sank into deep thought for another half an hour and eventually came up with the following invention: the “Small Talk Generator.”
It consisted of a box that Lilli-Bear’s Neurosis liked to put on its head when it was especially nervous, just to feel more secure. They put two parrots inside the box and trained them to squawk ten to fifteen phrases that small talk usually consists of. Even though the birds parroted these phrases randomly, it sounded like real, fully-grown small talk.
Once equipped with such a sophisticated apparatus, Lilli-Bunny walked down the street again.
“How do you like the weather?” The first small talk jumped on him from the sidewalk.
Lilli-Bunny wanted to answer honestly, “Not very good at all. It is late spring, but the weather is still very cold. This is not good for my vegetable garden.” But such an answer would cause an immediate heart attack in poor Small Talk, and his sudden death could trigger an investigation: “What are you, a farmer? Are you serious?” And it could end with the police taking Lilli-Bunny and his suspicious box to the police station or even jail. The parrots didn’t want to go to jail, so they woke up when Lilli-Bunny encouragingly shook the box. The poor birds said:
- “Weather? The weather is okay. It is not too bad!”
- “Are you ready for Christmas?” asked an especially disgusting small talk with a broken tooth. He had on a winter coat, despite the late spring.
Lilli-Bunny wanted to say, “It is spring, a little early to get ready for Christmas, no matter how deeply you love that holiday.” But such a statement would murder the small talk, because the farther you get from the big city, the earlier people get ready for Christmas. Lilli-Bunny’s town was so deep in the province (countryside, away from centers of civilization), that people got ready for Christmas in early spring. There are some places in the world where Christmas comes every day. The North Pole? Wrong. It happens in large corporations that cheat their investors for a couple of years in a row. Although later, the poor CEOs have Yom Kippur for the rest of their lives.
– “Christmas? Yes, I am getting ready!” answered the parrots inside the box.
Lilli-Bunny was considered a nice person, who had mastered to perfection the art of small talk! People gravitated to him, and he had to leave his “Small Talk Generator” in town and pick it up the following day. The parrots were exhausted, but happy, because for the first time, they could really enjoy their freedom of speech!
The professors of Cosmology are universally recognized scientific celebrities, but Cosmology tangles all in its sly theories. So now we do not understand how the new picture of the creation of the Cabbage Soup, which the uneducated masses call Our Universe, arose. It is unclear who cooked the Cabbage Soup, how it was created, how long it has existed, or how long it will continue to exist. These—the insoluble questions of our time—the respected professors of Cosmology, knights of science without fear, placed before themselves when they decreed that delicate observations, made eighty years ago with a super-precise telescope, could only mean that what we all live in, and everything which was and will be, is nothing but Cabbage Soup. The remaining eighty years of science only refined the details—and in the details, as is known—well, you know who is in the details—
The old Pope, when he learned what the scientists had discovered, almost died of disappointment and frustration. But after conferring with the Lord (he had a good relationship with Him), he decided to approve the theory, and made an elegant speech. Its effect? If the universe is nothing but Cabbage Soup, someone cooked it; therefore, donations to the Cataleptic Church must not dry out.
The professors of Cabbage Soup didn’t accept Lilli-Bunny into their educated circle. They thought that the minds of Lilli-Bunny and his friend Lilli-Bear too practical to be occupied with such fundamental theories as the universal cabbage soup. But when one professor of the Cabbage Soup discovered a large piece of cabbage, which irrefutably proved that the cabbage soup was actually made of cabbage, there was no end to the professor’s happiness, because he was worried that what he’d found would turn out to be, instead of cabbage, just ordinary garbage. He invited Lilli-Bunny and Lilli-Bear to the conference, to demonstrate to them his remarkable discovery.
Lilli-Bear prepared well for this event, because he wanted to explain to the scientific world his theory, in which the universe is not made of cabbage soup, but Porridge with Raspberry Jam (PWRJ). He repeatedly experimented with porridge and could easily prove that his theory was no less, but also no more, absurd than the theory of the professors of the Cabbage Soup.
However, the porridge specially prepared by Lilli-Bunny for his report proved to be so unstable that it existed only a fraction of a second before Lilli-Bear ate it. Therefore, there was nothing to take to the conference to prove Lilli-Bear’s claims, and as we know, extraordinary claims should have extraordinary proof. Believe me; Lilli-Bear had a batch of extraordinary porridge, but unfortunately, he ate it all.
The professors of Cabbage Soup didn’t believe anything that couldn’t be proved. They were themselves the honest people, so they did not trust another’s word of honor. But the theory of Lilli-Bear pleased God very much, because He loved porridge with raspberry jam. Don’t you like porridge with raspberry jam? It is godly food.
God did not know what theory of His universe was worst at the time. He was so tired of the theory about three elephants, whales, and a turtle, that the theory of Cabbage Soup made no impression on him.
He even decided not to come to the conference, since he was occupied with the preparation of the flood in the Sahara, which he had put off for twenty million years; His neglect had left this corner of Earth especially dusty. (I can imagine that once, in a couple of years, there is a flood in the Sahara, everyone will decide I knew some ancient secrets like Swift, who made brilliant astronomical predictions. So let me make a statement here: the flood of the Sahara is just a fruit of my imagination.)
Moreover, it is necessary to say, upholding the honor of the professors of Cabbage Soup: they took pity on God’s ears and did not send him an official invitation. They only said that if He wanted, he could come.
The professors of Cabbage Soup didn’t have very good relationships with God, since one of them, namely Leibniz, said that God was not a necessary component of his scientific proofs. So the professors of Cabbage Soup learned to manage without God in their work—not because they denied Him, but because He was not necessary to their delirious proofs. I must say that practical, i.e. applied scientists have succeeded in the creation of apparatus that facilitates our lives. But theorists somehow failed to provide us with anything useful. They were stuck in their cabbage soup approach for eighty years, even when Mr. Super-Einstein told them, with his charming German accent, “This is stupid! The universe is not cabbage soup! It is a schnitzel with garden peas (SWGP Theory). They did not believe it. They said, “The old man is just not capable of accepting the new trends of future generations. He discovered that everything is relative—proved it by carrying everything somewhere, and then no one could find it, because he’d already brought it back. Wish he would just play his violin and stop interfering with our Cabbage Soup Progress!”
You see, the statement that everything requires proof does not require proof! This is obvious, like the fact that our universe is just Cabbage Soup! Just look around and you will see! You can’t see? What kindergarten did you graduate from? What does your diploma say?
Hereby we acknowledge that Mr. Annoying Reader
Has completed the course of study in our Kindergarten.
Mr. Annoying Reader demonstrated
when he managed to take his pants down
before using the facilities…
Now I see. You are an educated person indeed. You successfully finished the complete course of kindergarten. You can independently go to the toilet. Of course, things are forgotten with the years—we don’t remember much of what we were once taught. Otherwise, how can we explain the problems encountered with such basic habits in nursing homes, for example?
Hitler very clearly attempted to prove that the universe is a Piece of Shit (PS Theory), and humanity almost accepted this theory because it sounded so refreshing. But there was disagreement over some aspects of practice and humanity decided to adhere to the conventional paradigm, based on the theory of Cabbage Soup. Moreover, scientists now try to prove that there are other bowls of cabbage soup out there. Wow! Many soups—the wonder of the new Multi-Cabbage Soups Theory.
Lilli-Bunny considered the universe a carrot, but he never shared with others his brilliant guess, although all his experiments with carrots indicated its unquestionable rightness.
Lilli-Kitty considered the universe a jumble of noodles, because everything in it is interconnected and mutually intricate. Socrates himself wrote her an enthusiastic letter, but it was written on a wax tablet, and Lilli-Bear scratched it because he thought it was a toy. It was necessary to order a telephone conversation with ancient Greece, but no one answered; everyone was hiding from the Minotaur.
Lilli-Jake considered the universe a jar, in which we, like insects, are gathered so God can scrutinize us under His magnifying glass.
The cats considered the universe a large, sandy litter box. If they hadn’t yet mastered it entirely, it didn’t matter, because new generations of cats would arrive and finally master it completely.
Those of Lilli-House even sent a telegram to the president, expressing appreciation for the idea he tossed out: to master the universe by spending an entire state budget in the next twenty years, so that our astronaut could be the first to piss on the sand on the surface of Mars and beyond. The people completely supported the president—because who does not secretly dream of pissing on a celestial body?
Lilli-Bear sent a telegram to the President proposing an original, brilliant idea:
Dear Mr. President,
I propose that, instead of whole astronauts we launch to Mars only one shoe. It will print the step on the surface and leave the same track it would if an astronaut stamped it; however, we won’t need to feed him all the way to Mars and back. The heap of money thus saved we will divide in half—a half to you and half to me, because porridge has begun to rise in price since we are at war now, and during war, gas prices rise, then porridge prices. We can donate our shoe for this mission. Lilli-Bunny’s Left Slipper gave his consent and has already begun training for the flight.
With cosmic regards,
Lilli-Bunny’s parrots did not know that the universe existed. Therefore, the birds quietly observed stars and galaxies as they saw them—through the telescope of Lilli-Bear, where the parrots lived until it was used to converse with the wife of Monsieur Silvouplaît. The parrots forgot the universe after the loss of their tube, which was not difficult, because they did not quite know about its existence, even when they observed it. Parrots observe the universe directly, not through complex experiments with cabbage soup, porridge, or noodles. But when an object is observed directly, sometimes it does not require any explanation.
Lilli-Bunny’s failed attempts to grow macaroni upset him because he was a little bit of a perfectionist. He understood that being a perfectionist is stupid, but his failure upset him, anyway. He had done it all according to agrarian science. He planted the macaroni elbows in warm soil and added ketchup as a fertilizer, yet nothing helped.
Lilli-Bunny decided to take a trip to the village and get more experience from real ploughmen, who, as it is known, are encountered only in the villages. Lilli-Bunny could not wait to meet such specialists of plow and harrow—knights of manure and nitric fertilizers, sorcerers of early sowing and late harvesting!
The village was named Stoned-Henge, probably not because it was built of stone, but because most of its inhabitants were stoned most of the time. Stoned-Henge was not far from the end of the highway, because the highway was so high at this point, it couldn’t go any farther!
Lilli-Bunny, after cramming into his car all the inhabitants of his house, went to visit the stoned village. Lilli-Bunny had a friend there, the cottage agriculturist Mr. Loafeater, with whom Lilli-Bunny exchanged letters regarding the benefit of different plants. Lilli-Bunny had always planned to visit him.
The inhabitants of Lilli-House departed early. The air smelled of that from which everything is born and into which everything disappears, namely the thin smell of the frankness of rural working days. “You will not fertilize, you will not eat,” says old rural wisdom. “You will not eat, you will not fertilize,” echoes a no less wise joke. We inhabitants of cities have long ago forgotten that truth is as simple as daylight—the truth of the interrelation of all with all. The unceasing rotation of nature does not occupy our thoughts; it does not worry us at night with its ordered and incorruptible truth of existence. We ourselves are enormous processing factories of valuable products into no less valuable products whose value is disputed by many philosopher-perfumers. Its frank and agitating prose in the clean, original state it is smelled does not diminish this, but the steadfast streams of this amazing substance winnow life from non-life as they pour on— the breadwinner of our earth, producer of a simple, everyday miracle—a green plant, which will become our bread, vital only to return to its primary state after visiting our insatiable stomachs.
You should love this smell! I mean the smell of the damp earth and grasses—it is the source of our table; it gave to us the possibility not only of chasing mammoths, but of conveniently sitting in front of television sets.
You should love this smell! In it lies the force of life and a shield from the cow’s madness! You should love to love; by loving, you are loving love.
And all you need is—Guess what?
As Lilli-Bunny neared Stoned-Henge, his eyes followed a stream of villagers applying fertilizer. He focused attention on the first field, filled with a violent plant culture, which enviably, grew with such health as only weeds could grow.
Lilli-Bunny asked his car to stop as they approached the field. He touched the earth, felt the earth, smelled it, and already a real, experienced farmer, tried to taste the earth, smearing his forehead and staining his eye.
Everything spoke, “the field is resting.” Therefore, it was not surprising that on it witchcraft weeds spread violently in their love of life, growing to the sizes of young, but well-fed baobabs. It was incomprehensible why anyone should fertilize weeds. But with his knowledge of the matter, Lilli-Bunny explained this to his fellow travelers, when they returned to the car. Lilli-Bunny said, “The field is resting.”
Lilli-Bear immediately visualized the field resting on the bench or the sofa. Golden Cat imagined the field at rest, entirely flooded by fresh milk, the entire field, flooded by fresh milk, an entire ocean of fresh milk, entire universe of fresh milk, entire eternity of fresh milk—and Golden Cat did not see any of those disgusting monsters with horns and stomping hooves around. Golden Cat did not love cows, although he loved the milk they produced. To me this is familiar—very often, people like what I write, although they dislike me.
After imagining the fresh milk, multiplied by infinity, Golden Cat fell asleep with satisfaction, happily squinting to his milky fantasies. But the other cat, Basia, thought nothing, because she’d left her glasses at home, and she could not think without her glasses.
She didn’t have impaired vision. As a matter of fact, her vision was outstanding, but for some reason, she was incapable of thinking without the glasses. Lilli-Jake once made a scientific experiment of it. He put the glasses on her, but it turned out that with the glasses on, she was still not able to think. This fact he decided to hide from Basia, because her psyche was already deeply traumatized by the air balloon’s attempt to strangle her when she tried to climb under the sofa.
Since then, Basia, at the sight of any balloon, ate cat grass and fell into psychosomatic over-excitation, in view of which they tried to hide from her, her inability to think with or without her glasses.
Lilli-Bunny was an adherent of the old school of medicine, when doctors and family tried not to tell the patient unpleasant things. The patient felt better not knowing about his chance of survival, and sometimes he even got well, in spite of the predictions of his doctors. This greatly disturbed the doctors, who were proud of their ability to predict accurately the course of a disease, even more than their successes in treating the patients. Doctors say to one another things like, “This patient will die in exactly two hours and three minutes.” Another doctor objects. “Please, dear colleague, allow me to disagree with you. Not two hours and three minutes, but two hours and four minutes!” And they both stand and stare at the dying man with stopwatches in their hands to see who is right. The patient moans, he requests maybe some medicine, an enema, or at least that someone remove the pillow from his face. Yes, the nurse mistakenly put a pillow on the patient’s face when she was fixing the bed, and forgot to remove the pillow. The patient cannot do it himself because he has his hands tied to the sides of the bed to prevent him from pulling out the IV lines and monitor leads. So, probably death will result from suffocation by the pillow placed on the patient’s respiratory passage and forgotten there.
Frankly speaking, the patient’s suffering can have but one diagnosis—Acute Suffocation by Pillow (ASP). When he arrived at the hospital, he was essentially healthy, and had been sent to the hospital for tests to prove it.
Don’t think something went wrong; something was messed up. The tests required some slight narcosis, so the patient was not quite conscious, and when he woke up, he found himself tied to the bed with a pillow on his face.
The doctors that came to see him on their busy rounds could have removed the pillow, but first of all, it was not their job to fix the beds, and second of all, they never looked at the patient; they were preoccupied with his test results and monitor readings that clearly showed he was going to die soon.
Patients are none of doctors’ concerns. Their concerns are test results, monitor readings, and exact predictions of when someone is going to die.
The patient, of course, is trying to fight for his life. He gets loud, trying to draw the attention of his doctors, but the doctors don’t like patients to interfere with their decisions, and they add drugs to the IV line to make the patient more relaxed. Next morning, one of the doctors will give a call to the family: “Sorry, he didn’t make it—”
Of course, the postmortem examination will not find the real cause of death, because the body won’t be transported to the refrigerator with the pillow. The pillow is needed for the next patient.
A pillow, generally, is not a medical object and is not related to disease. It was obvious that the patient died from a virus that he got from China. The patient had nothing to do with China? What about the Chinese food he ordered before his hospitalization?
I don’t want to say that medicine turned evil only in our day. It was like that all the time. Only, in the good old days, the patient wasn’t told he was going to die, and doctors with their stopwatches waited for his death behind the door.
I can prove that doctors are more dangerous than firearms.
The number of doctors in the U.S. is 700,000. Accidental deaths caused by physicians per year are 120,000. Accidental deaths per physician are 17.14%. (Statistics courtesy of the U.S. Dept of Health & Human Services)
Now let’s look at gun statistics: The number of gun owners in the US is 80,000,000. (Yes, that’s 80 million!) The number of accidental gun deaths per year, all age groups, is 1,500. The number of accidental deaths per gun owner is 0.001875%. (Statistics courtesy of the FBI) So statistically, doctors are approximately 9,000 times more dangerous than guns. Remember, guns don’t kill people, doctors do.
If you still think I am crazy (which is possible), listen to this fact: Not everyone has a gun, but almost everyone has at least one doctor!
Now, medicine took a colossal step forward. It resolved that, in general, if a patient dies, it is nothing terrible. Indeed, how many healthy people remain?
Why should doctors be occupied with the sick and dying, which despite all attention, are persistent in their inclination to be ill and to die? Neither should doctors be occupied with healthy ones, because as the above example demonstrates, healthy people don’t need a doctor. Why would the healthy need a doctor? A doctor is to a healthy person what a butcher is to a live rooster.
So doctors began obsessing over their favorite occupation—tracking that which is most important to them—how much time remains to their patients’ lives, to the second. This greatly pleased the insurance companies, which by all measures, attempt to insure us in such a way that the insurance never, under any circumstances, even under fear of death for the insurer, has to be paid out.
Thus, Lilli-Bunny hid from Basia her obvious diagnosis, Acute Cat Stupidity (ACS). Doctor Diefast didn’t agree with this diagnosis. He told the cat she was suffering from some sort of virus, and Basia believed him and washed herself with an antiviral shampoo that didn’t make her any smarter.
There must be some agreement between doctors and viruses. On one side, doctors are obliged not to look for efficient ways to fight the viruses, and from another side the viruses agree to cover for doctors in all cases when they are not able, or don’t want to find, a correct diagnosis.
Now back to agriculture. Lilli-Bunny was in such enthusiasm from what he saw in the fields that he couldn’t wait to meet his friend Mr. Loafeater, who could explain to him this new method of agriculture.
Mr. Loafeater was a simple person. Some call such people rednecks, but I think this is unacceptable. The color of one’s neck is a personal issue and shouldn’t be mentioned in vain, like the color of one’s skin or the color of one’s vehicle. We shouldn’t use color to describe anything at all. Otherwise, the huge Black Hole in the center of our galaxy may find the name “black hole” offensive and swallow us with our Sun and miserable planet. Stop using colors, for the sake of the security of our solar system!
One may assume these so-called rednecks are different from country to country. This is not true. They are the same everywhere—hard-working, hard-drinking individuals, who are the basis of our well-being. Otherwise, who would consume the booze we produce in the cities?
Lilli-Bunny, in his younger years, traveled much and ascertained that people are identical everywhere. Yes, of course, they perhaps differ outwardly—some use a toothbrush, and others don’t. This is the only difference.
Distant villages in any country all look alike. But the big cities, too, are as similar as two drops of water. Forget about famous towers and landmarks—London looks the same as Toronto, Toronto looks the same as New York, and between the cities, the earth is uniform, too—industrial zones all over the place.
The countryside is the only place you can meet the real, genuine people of a country. There lies the oasis where you can meet the true face of the land.
Lilli-Bunny met Mr. Loafeater near the entrance to the village, where the man was apparently waiting for his dearest guests. Lilli-Bunny asked Mr. Loafeater why all the fields around the village were resting and full of weeds, and why the people were fertilizing them with compost.
– “Listen, Lilli-Bunny, you are behind the time. First, those are not weeds; they are a very valuable plant, Greedyslutus Swampus. It grows all by itself and needs no special care. You don’t need to sow it; it sows itself. You don’t need to harvest it either, because nobody needs it.
– “So why would you grow it?” asked Lilli-Bunny with surprise.
- “Oh, simple. It photosynthesizes and provides fresh air. So the government assigns us subsidies to assist us in growing Greedyslutus Swampus, because the city populations would suffocate without new fresh air,” explained Mr. Loafeater.
- “Does this mean that you get money for the air?” asked Lilli-Bunny, getting down to the details.
- “Since when have bunnies been interested in money?” joked Mr. Loafeater, trying to avoid the line of questions about his air-selling activities.
- “Don’t you grow any wheat at all, Mr. Loafeater?”
- “Oh, no, god forbid! Definitely not! There is no need to grow wheat. In our time, bread is produced in the factory from bread-fibers. We, the people of Stoned-Henge, propagate a new agricultural entity, in addition to the Greedyslutus Swampus. We grow this new culture in our basements. We installed many lamps to give it warmth and light.”
- “What is this new thing that grows in the basement? Is it mold?” Lilli-Bunny inquired curiously.
- “Cannabis likes the basement,” responded Mr. Loafeater with a smile. “It’s easier to grow in basements because of our special botanics.”
Mr. Loafeater was famous for his hospitality, and that is why he didn’t insist his guests join him for dinner. Others often insist the guests finish all the leftovers in the house, a grave problem if there is no pig in the household. So the leftovers are left to guests and such treatment makes guests nauseous. They vomit all over the place, which considerably decreases the presentability of the village and harms the local tourism industry.
Villages are heavily dependant on the tourist industry. Many visitors are interested in finding their roots, and here, they find them. Sometimes, they crawl for three hours in a row, on the ground, trying to find their roots. And you say it’s the moonshine, but how would you explain how it happens on moonless nights? The tourists sometimes buy the new plant that is grown in basements, but only for souvenir purposes, because its leaves are so artistic. Sometimes they smoke it, in order to repel mosquitoes, but not for any other purpose. You don’t quite realize how many mosquitoes there really are in our countryside. Since the Greedyslutus Swampus covered the area, the land has become swampy, and even the well water became covered with algae. Did you know that algae is one of the first creatures to appear on earth? It is our only hope for terraforming Mars. The fact that algae started to re-appear in our wells means that evolution is going to start all over again—a second cycle. For example, humans will not be derived from apes; they will be derived from moonshine stills. Therefore, liquor will be produced in humans by special moonshine-producing organs that won’t be rejected because of excessive consumption.
Lilli-Bunny had dinner in the backyard, sharing it with his companions, but he soon left to see how things were in the village. At the first house he visited, he met Charles Dickens. The great writer was checking on the inhabitants to see if they had enough food, how many pieces of bread per inhabitant they consumed, and how drunk they were. Dickens was collecting material for his new novel, David Doobiefield, for he wanted to express his thoughts on poor people. He was going to argue that if you teach poor people about their roots, especially their square roots, you will make them much richer, if not materially, then at least spiritually, and when someone is poor and spiritual, they are much better off than someone who is spiritually poor.
When Charles Dickens saw Lilli-Bunny, he was very excited. He gave him his book, Twisted Oliver and autographed it: To a real Lilli-Bunny, from the real Charles Dickens.
This was necessary because lately, people had started to doubt he was the real Dickens. They touched his beard and said, “Is it really he?” So he, himself, started to doubt he was real. Sometimes he found himself touching his beard and saying, “Is this really me?”
Public opinion is very influential. If you read about yourself in the papers, that you are an idiot, sooner or later, you will realize you have become an idiot. The same is true when one is told one is a moron; but it doesn’t quite work when one is called a saint. Being a saint is much tougher than being a moron. It demands more responsibility, and yet is not quite reflected in remuneration. Therefore, there are fewer and fewer saints, and more and more morons. Public opinion can also name you either a bonehead or a bastard. Both titles are very respectable and strongly desired, because they are usually given to heads of state and other extraordinary individuals with the highest levels of compensation, both in monetary means and public esteem.
Lilli-Bunny asked Charles Dickens to consider re-writing his famous book, Twisted Oliver, and rename it either Cinnamon Twist or Twisted Twink because in our day, you have to talk about food or homosexual love to become a successful writer.
Charles Dickens got excited about this idea and left to write a new book, Twisted Oliver 2, incorporating the themes recommended by Lilli-Bunny. Charles Dickens had to stay a famous writer at any price, otherwise, what would British folk read before they went to sleep? And what would put American folks to sleep if they were accidentally exposed to it?
Lilli-Bunny said goodbye to Charles Dickens and left to find the cow pen. He found no cows, though. Lilli-Bunny was planning to get his own cow, so he wanted to learn from others’ experiences how cows should be cared for, and what they should be fed. Lilli-Bunny liked cows very much. A bit disappointed by not finding cows, Lilli-Bunny went back to Mr. Loafeater and asked where all the cows had gone. Mr. Loafeater explained that all the cows had gone mad and flown south. Lilli-Bunny was VERY surprised. He thought, “How is it possible cows could fly south in the spring? Why wouldn’t they go in the fall when the birds go?” But Lilli-Bunny said, “Probably the cows want to have their vacations in summer, like everyone else. Why should they be considered mad for trying to be like everyone else? Isn’t this an injustice? These hard-working creatures are destined to graze grass, to produce a greasy substance that fertilizes our fields. Why shouldn’t we respect these graceful grass-grazers?”
- “That’s right!” said Mr. Loafeater. “That’s their zoology.”
Lilli-Bunny stayed for a night in the shed because he wanted to sleep on a haystack, because it was a lot of fun to sleep on a haystack, because that’s just what you do when you stay in a village. But there was no hay because after cow madness and chicken flu, the hay caught haynxiety and burned itself. Lilli-Bunny had to sleep on an old mattress that Mr. Loafeater conveniently left in the shed. Lilli-Bunny looked at the mattress and saw many inscriptions. It was borrowed from the local mental hospital, where the patients left poems and other texts on the artifact. Lilli-Bunny enjoyed the reading, and wondered how many really talented people are confined to mental institutions.
In our day, it is becoming hard to distinguish between normal and abnormal. Things considered normal today would deserve capital punishment a couple of decades ago, and everyday occurrences of the past are illegal today. Any performer in modern show business would be admitted to a mental institution without hesitation sixty years ago. Old-fashioned individuals who call someone out to a duel to resolve a dispute about love or honor are now admitted to mental facilities or imprisoned, even though two hundred years ago they would have been considered perfectly normal, decent individuals.
Lilli-Bunny’s companions went to sleep in Lilli-Bunny’s car because there was only one mattress in the shed. Lilli-Bunny and his slippers stayed in the shed because it isn’t really a visit in a village if you don’t get to sleep on a haystack—even if the haystack is substituted with a very creative and readable mattress.
At night, someone bit Lilli-Bunny very painfully. It was a local bedbug, named Mr. Hugeman, who used to be a successful standup comedian. But when he got to Lilli-Bunny’s bed, he became a lay-down comedian, because even standup comedians need to get laid every once in a while.
Lilli-Bunny’s slippers woke at Lilli-Bunny’s cry of pain and jumped on the bedbug, crying, “What did you do? You bit a president!” Don’t you remember? The slippers elected Lilli-Bunny president.
Mr. Hugeman said with disgust, “I don’t care if he’s a president! I don’t care who I bite! I am a free spirit!” And free spirits are not quite free; they are pretty expensive.
Standup comedians are like journalists; you cannot buy them unless you pay a very good price. Even if you pay one, it doesn’t mean he won’t say the truth. He will just do it from your point of view. You can’t make a journalist lie because journalists are great people, and great people never lie. They define what is true or false, and this is why whatever they say cannot be wrong. They are almost like physicians, whose word is often the final one, or whose clients cannot object because they are dead or publicly dead, which is almost the same.
Lilli-Bunny left the shed to wake his companions, and they left immediately. Lilli-Bunny said, “The village, these days, is only for very healthy folk who won’t get sick meeting so many sick people all at once.”
“I really need to plant my potatoes before they fly south like the cows. Who knows what their botanics are?”
It was an ordinary morning in the Lilli-Bunny house. As usual, Lilli-Bear had beaten his plush bull, a present from a Lilli-Bear friend who lived in Texazistan, the country of plush bulls. Since Lilli-Bear got the plush bull in the mail, he engaged the beast in a bullfight called Corrida: At Lilli-Bear’s command and the count of three, the plush bull fell over and said ouch. Then Lilli-Bunny danced for Lilli-Bear the dance of the flamenco. And Lilli-Bear always excitedly applauded Lilli-Bunny, shouting “Bravo! Bravo!”
The only thing out of place on this morning was that Lilli-Bunny planned to go fishing and so danced the flamenco twice as fast as usual. Lilli-Bear applauded intensely, to match the pace of the dance, and his paws got so hot he had to blow on them to cool them down.
Plush Bull went to herd himself onto the carpet, silently mooing innocent, critical comments on Lilli-Bear’s habit of engaging in bull fighting every morning. But we can understand Lilli-Bear. He beat the plush bull only so Lilli-Bunny would dance the flamenco, which Lilli-Bunny refused to dance any other time because he was very busy. But when Lilli-Bear started to win against the plush bull every morning, Lilli-Bunny could not refuse to dance because according to a tradition that has been preserved, unchanged, for centuries, someone must dance flamenco for all the winners of La Corrida.
The day before, Lilli-Bunny had received secret information from his Intelligence Agency. In his Lilli-Lake had appeared Fish 007, whom Lilli-Bunny had chased all over the globe. This fish was why Lilli-Bunny had organized his own Intelligence Agency, with headquarters so secret that even Lilli-Bunny himself forgot their location. Luckily, the headquarters continued to operate, sending him valuable information about the weather, and recommending plants for sowing.
But the information Lilli-Bunny was waiting for was hard to obtain. Lilli-Bunny’s Intelligence Agency was reluctant to release the location of Fish 007, who Lilli-Bunny had almost caught. One time, he spent twenty-four hours in a hiding place, right in front of Fish 007’s nose. The second time, he ambushed Fish 007 near the spy’s special apartment under the Red Sea, then in the White Sea, and another time in a semi-dry sea, aged to perfection for five years. Now when Lilli-Bunny got the information that Fish 007 had shown up in his own Lilli-Lake, right across from the house, he just couldn’t let it go. It was about his reputation as a secret agent, and the salvation of the human race from the terrifying spy activities of Fish 007, who frankly speaking, hadn’t done anything terrible. It was just a small, modest, smallmouth bass, but Lilli-Bunny decided to play spy games with it and appointed it Fish 007. Now listen, if Lilli-Bear was allowed to engage himself in La Corrida with the plush bull every morning, why couldn’t Lilli-Bunny play spy games with a dangerous double agent, Fish 007, who was now working simultaneously for two enemy intelligence agencies—the Maritime and Laketime Agencies? This was probably just the fruit of Lilli-Bunny’s fanciful imagination, but who cared? It could have been worse: it could have been a vegetable of his imagination. Then Lilli-Bunny would have gotten really, REALLY serious. He would have made clear to everybody that bunnies are very serious, indeed, when it comes to vegetables.
My rigorous reader, you might say that my hero, Lilli-Bunny, is just fooling around, and that I am just fooling around with him, that my text has too many words, and not many of them are really touching. You might say there are probably some touching words in my text, but that it is difficult to find them, especially after you have lost all hope and thrown my book under the sofa. You were fixing up the place before your guests’ visit, paying stupid homage to the idiotic tradition of fixing up the place before the guests arrive, just for the sake of allowing them to mess it up once again, when after all it was messy in the first place. Now you make some surprising discoveries under your sofa. Among the unidentified articles of someone’s dress and the half-eaten apple someone attempted to consume before the dawn of the last economic crisis, you find my book, and open it randomly to this very page, read my long sentences, get angry again, and throw it back under the sofa, completing the infernal cycle of obtaining and losing hope all over again, that you might find all touching words in my book listed in alphabetical order. This is a pity, because you could find many hooks, especially fishing hooks that could hook your soul if you would agree to write on yourself “007” and grow scales, because fish with other numbers didn’t interest Lilli-Bunny at all, as you might understand.
So you say I am fooling around. First of all, you are fooling around trying to fix up your place before the guests arrive, you are also fooling around not reading my book and throwing it under the sofa, you are fooling around even if you do read my book and search for the touching words. You are always fooling around. Everyone is always fooling around.
I can easily prove that the whole world is continuously fooling around. Look at the serious faces of the leaders on TV. They are so serious and impenetrable, but it always seems as if they will turn to the side and burst out laughing, and by that prove to the whole planet that they were just fooling around.
Does this surprise you? The world was always fooling around. Please read the world’s history from this point of view. Of course, you will find many economic reasons, ideological struggles of interests, but the bottom line is that great people always fool around. Look at Alexander the Great; look at Napoleon and read our entire history, making this new anti-fooling-around analysis. You will detect that fooling around is the ultimate basis for all of the historic developments of humanity. But most professional fool-arounders are intelligent people once they get to the summit of their power, because they are not amateurs at fooling around; they do this for a living.
Intelligence services are the only department of the state that fools around completely officially. In what other department can you report the expenses of attendants of a whorehouse? Or receipts for buying beer and whiskey, trying to get innocent pedestrians drunk in order to collect from them valuable information about their private lives (which are grey and boring, like everybody else’s), and file reports about these secret meetings, carefully archiving them for decades with classified access. Later, they have to clean up the evidence of their spy activity by dealing in certain ways with the source of information. The options for this are plentiful—you may choose from a list: assassinate, or more precisely, annihilate, asphyxiate, blow away, bump off, butcher, crucify, dispatch, do in, drown, dump, electrocute, eradicate, erase, execute, exterminate, extirpate, finish off, hang, knock off, liquidate, lynch, massacre, murder, neutralize, obliterate, poison, polish off, put away, put down in China Town, rub out, slaughter, slay, smother, snuff, strangle, suffocate, waste, or somehow else wipe them from the face of the earth. Even though they charge the government with all these colorful activities, most of the time, you will be surprised to find the innocent individual destined to die in a most brutal and horrible way, continues to thrive, despite all the threats mentioned above, because in intelligence services mistakes happen, just like everywhere else. Or the operatives fake the report of liquidation and spend the money on extra beer.
While intelligence officers approach innocent pedestrians to collect valuable information, on the very next street, airplanes fly into skyscrapers, buildings get blown up, terrorists take hostages. But this is not a problem, because the paperwork is in order and carefully archived. If the paperwork is in order, everything is fine and in order, because that’s what is left of any sort of activity—loads of paper and nothing else. We cannot criticize intelligence services because we can see only their failures. We don’t know how many terrorist attempts were prevented. Maybe, at this very moment, as you are lazily sitting on your sofa and reading these lines, some anonymous intelligence officer is saving the world. The world clings by its pale childish hands to the edge of a deep chasm, and the intelligence officer is trying to pull it back while we sit here on the sofa and know nothing of what’s going on. The only result of the operation that will remain to history will be a tiny wrinkled receipt—a train ticket, because he took the train to get to the chasm where the world was hanging. If this is the only ticket, it means he didn’t make it back (I always wondered which he didn’t make). If there is a return ticket, it means he made it back, and the world was saved. If the world isn’t saved, we won’t know, because we will all die at once.
And you say the intelligence service is not fooling around professionally? Oh. This is an intriguing world of receipts for beer paid by the government budget, a world that moves ahead when you need to go backwards, maneuvers to the left when you need it to the right, complicated double, triple, quadruple games in a multi-polar world where everybody is good and evil simultaneously and everybody loses track of who is working for whom and who is paying for what, and where we should all run, because intelligence penetrates everywhere. They have healthy appetites, are very reserved, and don’t suffer from any sort of dignity, which is usually amputated by cosmetic surgery from each spook on the government’s account.
Didn’t you know that dignity is dealt with now by cosmetic surgery? Previously, dignity was an internal organ, but now it has started to swell so much that it is considered an external organ and may disgrace the surface of the face and other parts of the body. This is why they started to brand people and amputate dignity moles to prevent them from spreading, and metastasizing to true honesty, which in the modern world is considered a malignant disease. I don’t mean the benign fool’s honesty, which grows in a majority of citizens of wealthy western societies, in which they start to demonstrate naked, without special honesty-covering undergarments. This is called honest nudism. This honest nudism can make you sick all over again, and it has nothing in common with true malignant honesty, because benign honesty grows from another type of tissue, a part of the coward-gland, which is located in the two-faced ass region of the human body.
True honesty grows from one’s soul, the organ destined for surgical extraction, as in the earliest age. I’m sorry I became occupied with these medical descriptions. If you already got your honesty and soul fixed, you can just skip over what I have written. I am writing it for those who still have these features on their bodies, which can be pretty dangerous, not only to them, but to our society as a whole.
Lilli-Bunny got ready to go fishing, and fishing for him was no joke. He took all of his fishing equipment out of the closet and carefully reviewed it.
List of Lilli-Bunny’s Fishing Equipment
Category 1: Fishing Rods
– Fishing rod with laser-guided missile
– Fishing rod with sniper optics
– Fishing rod with Video Hook and fiber optic fishing line
– Fishing rod with nuclear-powered floater (300 tonne displacement)
- Fishing rod with Night Vision
- Fishing rod with day-not-vision
- Special Fishing Rod: LGX-344 (Classified technology, will be declassified in the year 2075. Relax, we won’t live that long.)
Category 2: Chum
- Chocolate cake
- Box of 20 whiskey bottles
- 10 Exotic Thai dancers
- Narcotic powder from the fruit of the Get-Stoned Tree
Category 3: Bait
- Well-fed Elephant
- Greenland whale
- Loch Ness monster (And why do you think no one can find her in Loch Ness Lake? Because for the last few years, she has been living in Lilli-Bunny’s closet with his Fishing Equipment. Lilli-Bunny recruited Nessie in Scotland by blackmailing her, pretty friendly-like, threatening to tell the British press that she has, not a tail like a real dinosaur, but a tail like a bunny. If such facts leak to the British press, the paparazzi won’t relax until Nessie is in a deadly accident in a tunnel in France.)
Category 4: Safety Equipment
– Spaceship (for emergency evacuation of the earth’s population in case the fishing trip takes an unexpected turn)
- Lifejacket with three- day supply of porridge for Lilli-Bear (Who wasn’t going with Lilli-Bunny, but just in case, was wearing a life jacket while sitting at home, consuming his safety porridge)
- Lifejackets for the fish (just in case they fall over the edge of the boat)
- Whistle for disinformation
- Flashlight for Flashbacks
Category 5: Accompanying documentation
- Official Certificate stating Lilli-Bunny is not Lilli-Bunny
- Official Certificate stating Lilli-Bunny is, in fact, Lilli-Bunny
- Official Certificate issued to Lilli-Bunny certifying that he both is Lilli-Bunny, and is not Lilli-Bunny at the same time (for fooling the enemy)
- Official Certificate issued to Lilli-Bunny certifying that he is a cat
- Official Certificate issued to Lilli-Bunny certifying that he is a hare
- Canadian Passport under the name of Mr. Notspy with Lilli-Bunny’s photograph
- License for fishing in forbidden areas
- Document forbidding fishing in allowed areas (For justification why you weren’t fishing when you could fish but didn’t want to)
- A photograph of international terrorist OH-SAM-BEING-LED-IN in a fish costume (in case he dresses as a fish and settles in Lilli-Lake)
Category 6: Special Nets
- Ordinary Fishing Net – 1
Lilli-Bunny loaded all this equipment into a paddleboat that Nemo built specially for Lilli-Bunny from the spare parts left over from the construction of his ship, the Nautilus. Lilli-Bunny’s boat was assembled in various dry docks all over the world. Lilli-Bunny set sail and departed for the high seas, which in this case, were high lakes. He went fishing alone, because he always took the most difficult assignments alone, according to the unspoken code of honor of all spies, which required them to work alone, in order to spare themselves the need to kill witnesses. As he gave this assignment to himself, another code of honor of spies applied: “If you give an assignment to yourself, go and do it yourself.”
Lilli-Bunny got on course, heading North-South-East-West, which probably sounds impossible for the ordinary bunny, but is very common in the spy world—you simply split and head in different directions. Splitting is a very important function for any spy, because if you do not split with others, they will simply take everything and leave you with nothing.
Fish 007, however incredible it may sound, was ready for the attack. It is true that this fish was simply an ordinary fish, but after years of hiding from “that crazy bunny” (how the fish referred to Lilli-Bunny in private), he learned many spy methods and recruited the moles on Lilli-Bunny’s lawn. Fish said he was a mole and only dressed like a fish. That was how Fish 007 convinced the moles to be recruited, for they didn’t want to question their ability to see, since they obtained sunglasses from Lilli-Bunny’s sunglasses pack. The moles worked undercover, and learned that Lilli-Bunny had information regarding the location of Fish 007. Fish 007 immediately changed the number that had been written on its side ever since Lilli-Bunny captured and held it in the Red Sea. Fish 007 licked his fin, rubbed away the 007 on his side, and wrote the new number, “008,” which was very crafty because Fish 007 could then, without worrying, promenade all over the shore without Lilli-Bunny being any the wiser.
But Lilli-Bunny was no idiot; he cracked down on this deceiving maneuver, jumped out of the boat, and caught Fish 007/008 with his net. Lilli-Bunny and Fish 007 lived happily together and went to dry off and have some tea with buns in the gazebo, where all the other inhabitants of the Lilli-House joined them. At the party were Lilli-Bear in his lifejacket, who’d spent all the time Lilli-Bunny was fishing at home, Lilli-Kitty, Lilli-Jake, Lilli-Bunny’s two slippers, and the two parrots. Only the cats did not join the tea party because they were still sleeping, or had already gone to bed, and generally didn’t drink tea with fishes, anyway, for personal reasons.
And you say intelligence doesn’t fool around?
Once upon a time, Lilli-Bunny baked his famous berry pie. I don’t like works of literature that tell about different meals, but never mention the recipe, and then, after a hundred years, the readers have to guess what the classic means by mentioning particular delicious foods, which causes complete disappointment with classic authors. Being confident that I am going to become a classic author, I want to avoid this tiny disadvantage of my colleagues, and I promise that from now on, I’ll try to give you detailed recipes of all delicacies mentioned in my ingenious enlightenment that just can’t become anything other than a timeless classic.
By the way, Lilli-Bunny learned to bake this pie from Hans Christian-Anderson, who lived in Denmark at the time, where Lilli-Bunny was visiting. Lilli-Bunny went there to save the girl who was selling matches on Christmas Eve, to prevent her from dying of cold, as was described later in one of Anderson’s tales. Lilli-Bunny met Mr. Anderson while watching the girl dying, and that was how they were acquainted. Anderson invited Lilli-Bunny and the girl to his place and treated them to his Danish cake, and then Anderson promised Lilli-Bunny that he would look after the girl and make sure she did not die, so Lilli-Bunny left. The girl died the next night, anyway, because Anderson was watching her die in order to write his terrible fairy tale, anyway. Anderson knew that he was going to write a timeless classic, and he readily sacrificed this poor soul for his eternal success, with which he still scares new generations of innocent youth. Why do people use the deaths of others as sources of entertainment? I don’t see anything entertaining about death, unless it happens within you. Then you are so pre-occupied with the serious procedure that no movie or computer game can compete. I hope these lines won’t be misunderstood as a promotion for suicidal inclinations, I am just saying not to make fun of another’s death. You know why? Because it is not funny.
Now, back to the pie. I will now proudly present you the recipe. First, bake a tart shell. Secondly, spread around a mixture of vanilla pudding and milk (or custard) inside the shell and let sit in the refrigerator for at least one hour. After you have your tart shell full of vanilla pudding and milk, all that’s left is to spread berries over it in a decorative way. Spread the berries to your personal liking.
Once Lilli-Bunny baked his huge berry pie, it was the size of the annual budget of a small country, which I cannot name here. Naming it could damage the reputation of the United Frustrations Organization (UFO), of which this country is part. This country has been engaged in such immoral actions that mentioning its name in vain might destabilize the world order; this is the last thing I want to do because I am not quite ready to look for another planet to settle on yet. To make a long story short, let’s dub this country “CSBP” (the Country that Stole the Berry Pie) and what do you think? It has just stolen the pie! Lilli-Bunny baked the pie and put it on the windowsill, and the CSBP snuck up, grabbed the pie, and ran away. Lilli-Bunny didn’t have time to blink (even though Lilli-Bunny was a champion of artistic blinking and could blink in a very professional way).
Lilli-Bear and Lilli-Jake chased the CSBP, but it had very long feet (there are states with very long hands, and you had better not irritate them because they will get you no matter where you go, but some states have very long feet and you should watch out, because they can steal something from you and run away).
And so this country ran away to its national territory, and didn’t issue visas to Lilli-Bear and Lilli-Jake. They stood in front of the national border of CSBP and came home empty-handed, which is better than handicapped, which you could get if you tried to get in without visas. In the country CSBP, the arrival of the berry pie received a lot of support. In the polls, they got the following results:
Poll of Public Opinion of Citizens of the State of CSBP
55% completely supported the theft of the pie
35% thought that CSBP needed to steal something else
8% thought there was a need to steal Lilli-Bunny’s slippers, too
Only 2% considered how lawful it was to steal the pie, but supported it anyway, because they were afraid that if they were considered to have not supported it enough, they would not get their share of the pie and would probably be killed, which is equally unfortunate.
Do you understand this problem? Democracy has to comply with the will of the majority, and if the majority supports stealing, the country should steal. Otherwise, it cannot be considered a democratic country. If it doesn’t steal, it will be acting against the will of the people, and this will make it an anti-people state. In the world, everyone respected the will of the inhabitants of CSBP, especially because the number of international democratic representatives making sure the polls were accurately democratic was higher than the number of citizens of CSBP themselves.
The state of CSBP was considered a people’s state, and so the government decided to divide Lilli-Bunny’s pie between all of the inhabitants. This is where the problems started. As we mentioned before, the pie was bigger than the annual budget of CSBP, and this country was not used to such large financial operations, nor, we must frankly say, were they ready for such a large responsibility. This non-preparedness started a civil war in the state of CSBP because in some countries, you don’t need much reason to start a civil war. There were two major parties—the party of Length and the party of Width. These two parties were separated in their views on how to cut the pie—the Length party wanted to cut the pie lengthwise, and the Width party wanted to cut it widthwise. What the two parties didn’t realize was that both cuts were the same because the pie was round. They couldn’t have known how absurd their argument was because soon after receiving the pie, the leaders of CSBP deposited it in a Swiss bank, so none of the party members got a chance to see it. You might say that all pies are round, and the parties should have known that anyway, but in a place like CSBP, pies are very rare, and the roundest object the populace was familiar with was a brick, which is why the terms “Length” and “Width” weren’t very distinguished in their language. This didn’t matter much because these parties hated each other anyway, and were just looking for a reason to start a war.
The United Frustrations Organization stepped in immediately and demanded that the war be stopped and the pie be divided equally among all the people, but the state of CSBP didn’t care much what the UFO said. Do you believe in the UFO, my dearest reader? I don’t, not anymore, and I wonder if anyone really does. We have to say that the state of CSBP was engaged in some sort of war for the last fifty years.
Short History of the Wars of the State of CSBP
- 1952-1958: The War of the Half-Eaten Apple and Three Cigar Butts
- 1958-1962: The War of the Squashed Lemon
- 1962-1964: The Sausage Revolution
- 1964-1968: The Anti-Sausage Counter-Revolution
- 1968-1969: The Tomato Massacre
- 1969-1978: The Plum Resistance
- 1978-1985: The Peach Impeachment and Apricot Blockade
- 1985-1992: The Watermelon Incident
- 1992-1999: The “Shut Your Mouth” Conflict
- 1999-2004: The Spoiled-Food Blockade
- 2005-Present: The Lilli-Pie War
The Swiss bank was terrified of terrorist attacks and secretly announced to the press that they were transferring their most valuable entity, which was actually the cause of a civil war, the famous Lilli-Pie, to the country that could assure its safety, because it was the most self-confident country in the world. The president of the most self-confident country in the world ordered a safe box, in which to hold the Lilli-Pie in captivity, and asked everyone to leave so he could examine the cause of the civil war in person.
The president opened the safe, and oh god! It was empty, or at least, he thought this is what he would say if he ever had to testify, and presidents of the most self-confident country in the world never lie—unless they really have to. Until now, nobody knows who ate the pie because in fact, nobody knew the pie was eaten, but the president of the most self-confident country did not let this information leak outside the world of his square office. The president locked the empty safe back up and didn’t tell anyone it was empty because he realized he didn’t have a good alibi to prove his innocence, and he wanted to prevent his rival party from accusing him of eating the cause of the civil war in CSBP. Any court would consider that the president was the last who saw the pie alive, and he would spend the rest of his days, and probably all of his fortune, trying to prove he wasn’t the one who ate the Lilli-Pie.
The civil war hasn’t ended yet because nobody in the world knows there’s no more reason to fight. The president of the most self-confident country in the world wisely decided that the state of war is a natural state for the state of CSBP, and the reasons for war are not what are important. The important thing is who can be accused in the current situation. Let’s do an analysis together: you might say that the primary cause of war is the people of the state of CSBP. I’m sorry, are you insane? Do you want to say that the people of CSBP are all bad? Tell me something. Are you against the people? The people cannot be bad; they are always good. Maybe it’s the government, but the government was just doing what the people expected it to do. Maybe the Swiss bank should be blamed, but what was wrong in trying to ensure that they wouldn’t wind up under a terrorist’s bomb?
The president of the most self-confident country in the world can not be blamed for anything because it would cost you more to blame him than anyone else. All nations need a good working relationship with the most self-confident country in the world and blaming its president would ruin that relationship very fast, leaving you with a well-manufactured missile aimed at your kitchen as a token of appreciation for your peace-making efforts. Well, the conclusion is clear. The only one we can blame this on is Lilli-Bunny, for making his Lilli-Pie in the first place, because if you arrange to bake a pie on the same scale as a small but proud nation’s economy, you must eat it while hiding in the basement, if you don’t want to cause such colorful consequences as a civil war. Please don’t blame anything on politicians; they are the gray heroes of our times. They work hard to make sure we are safe, and if they sometimes hide secrets in empty safes, they are doing it only for our own well-being.
Lilli-Bunny asked himself once, “Who lives happily in our forest?” He asked himself whether he was happy and decided he was. Lilli-Bear also said he was happy because he’d just eaten his porridge with jam. The other inhabitants of the house didn’t answer because they were busy. The cats were sleeping, Lilli-Jake was building an airplane out of an old winter boot, and Lilli-Kitty was making a souvenir, pouring layers of colored sand into a bottle. From their activities, it was obvious they were happy. Lilli-Bunny’s politically engaged slippers asked for more time to answer—until winter, because everything depended on the results of their coalitional struggle against Lilli-Bunny’s winter boots.
Then Lilli-Bunny decided that the poll of the inhabitants of his house wasn’t significant enough, and called the individualistic Hamster Hamlet’s new apartment, but was answered by a mutant mouse who explained that the Hamster had asked not to be disturbed ‘til winter, because every summer he prepared for hibernation by reading German philosophers. Usually, reading Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason” made him stuporous for at least three months. And now Kant had sent Hamlet a new treatise—Critique of Filthy Madness—and Hamster was ardently studying it. “Call any time in winter; nobody will answer you anyway—everybody will be sleeping,” said the lady pleasantly and meowed into the receiver, but Lilli-Bunny wasn’t surprised, because you could expect anything from mutants.
Then Lilli-Bunny decided to go for a walk to find out who was living happily in the forest. Lilli-Bear preferred to go for a walk lying on a sofa at home; all the rest were busy, so only Lilli-Bunny’s slippers were persuaded to accompany him. They went along the forest road near Lilli-Bunny’s house.
First, they met the Beaver. The Beaver was dragging a gnawed log and sighing heavily. Lilli-Bunny hailed him and asked whether he was happy.
“Oh, don’t ask—” moaned the Beaver. You could see he wasn’t happy at all. The Beaver was a building contractor, and summer was a hot time for building contractors.
“But what’s the matter?” pressed Lilli-Bunny because he loved animals, although he didn’t love building contractors too much. Lilli-Bunny knew they usually destroyed more than they built.
“I have just built myself a swimming pool,” the Beaver lamented. “You know, after a day at the dam, you deserve a civilized rest in a swimming pool. I’ve dug a pool, not worse than any other, arranged illumination, poured clear water—I’ve spent a fortune on the materials. But when I finally sat and relaxed, a Fly came and bit me. I told her, ‘Come tomorrow during working hours, and you can bite me as you wish. It doesn’t make a difference how I suffer during working hours—gnaw logs or be gnawed by flies, the time is passing anyway, and the client is paying by the hour. But when a builder is sitting in his nice pool, it’s unfair to bite him.’ And the Fly bit me more. I’ve tried all the ways to smash her—no success. So I’ve fled the pool and gone to the dam, because at the workplace, even flies, for some reason, don’t bite.”
Surprised, Lilli-Bunny asked, “So small a Fly, and she ruined all your investment—how can you swim when you are continuously bitten?”
“You don’t say,” sighed the Beaver. “It seems to me the world is unfair since all the pleasure from a costly project is ruined by a nasty Fly that doesn’t cost a dollar herself.”
“Did you try to complain?” asked the Right Slipper. “Write a letter to the World Fly Extermination Association, and they’ll send you something thermonuclear to exterminate your Fly. It’s strong stuff—a single use exterminates an elephant, to say nothing about a single Fly. Don’t underestimate the flies. Millennia of evolution made them very agile, so it’s not easy to get rid of them.”
Building contractors don’t have millennia of evolution behind them, and the Beaver wiped his forehead and complained, “These flies are a vindictive gang, they are. Better not to mess with them. I built a house for that Fly, and she got offended. Said the door was too small for her noble ass. I said it was her problem that she had such a big ass. I build what I see in the architect’s plan, and it’s not my fault if the architect spilled his coffee and confused an inch with a foot—let her bite the architect! Should I think instead of him? It’s not my business! We builders, we build—we need not think.”
“So, you had relations with this Fly previously,” the Right Slipper commented. “In such a case, your incident is not surprising.”
“Why so?” exclaimed the Beaver. “I made the chimney wider in compensation, and this bitch complains that now she’s blown out of it. You cannot satisfy those flies: either the door is too small, or the chimney is too wide.”
“Did you try to beat her up with a boot?” asked the Left Slipper. “I once knew a shoe-maker who used to beat unsatisfied clients with boots, and it helped a lot, you know. Such strange people—don’t like to get two left boots; don’t like left boots at all. People get out of bed on the left (wrong) side all the time, that’s why we, left slippers, are over worn.”
“I’ve tried everything, but the Fly doesn’t leave me alone,” complained the Beaver. “She went mad and bit me all over after the roof of her house collapsed the other day. I warned her not to sneeze indoors; the construction wasn’t designed for sneezing persons!”
“The Beaver’s life isn’t easy, indeed,” Lilli-Bunny thought, and continued along the road. The Moose was stomping in the opposite direction, shaking his antlers.
“Are you happy?” Lilli-Bunny asked him.
“What are you talking about?” The Moose waved his antlers. “All my life I’ve been employed as a moose and overworked.”
“You don’t like your work? Seems like it fits you—you are a moose, pardon my question, aren’t you?”
“I am, but I was taught at school that everyone has equal opportunity. So I decided to become a butterfly. All my youth I tried to flitter. And failed. My life is ruined now. I hate my work; I don’t even like my antlers.”
“This is wrong,” thought Lilli-Bunny. “What bullshit do they teach at school?”
Next moment, he met the Wood Grouse, a local teacher. Lilli-Bunny asked him:
“Mister Wood Grouse, I hope you are happy. You teach everyone; you preach to everybody; you make everyone write homework and grade low whomever you wish, you orient moose to butterfly careers. It must be a nice life!”
“What are you talking about?” the Wood Grouse lamented. “The children went totally insane. They have their own opinions, they go wild, and run to pampas every break, you cannot call them back. They smoke pot and flitter in the forest ‘til evening.”
“I didn’t mean exactly that.” Lilli-Bunny wanted to be exact. “The Moose here complained that you expounded on equal opportunity, and thus ruined his life.”
“Not my fault,” the Wood Grouse began to make excuses. “I only teach what scientists and scholars have written in textbooks. Whatever they say is sacred—that’s the way of things here. If they say penguins are tropical birds, I’ll teach that penguins are tropical birds. It doesn’t matter what you teach. What matters is that as long as we keep these bandits at school and in university, they don’t do anything outside—don’t grab jobs. And when we release them with diplomas, they aren’t dangerous anymore. First of all, they are too old by that time to attempt any real work, and secondly, the diplomas we issue are so twisted nobody will employ our graduates. So don’t you worry, Mister Lilli-Bunny, about your job—nobody will take it from you, thanks to my modest teaching work.”
“Since I’m living by farming,” Lilli-Bunny confessed, “I don’t need employment.”
“More reason not to worry,” the Wood Grouse confirmed. “The things we teach them are so unnatural; they won’t claim your natural economy. On finishing their studies, they have a mixture of marijuana and calculus in their eyes, and that’s complete warranty that nothing will threaten your farming business.”
Lilli-Bunny continued his walk, and saw the Grass Snake, the local scientist. Lilli-Bunny asked him why he wrote textbooks for the Wood Grouse that make moose shed their antlers from disappointment that they could not be butterflies.
“My textbook,” the learned Grass Snake answered, “reflects the tightening ties between the classical analysis, the complex, and the functional analyses.”
“But why did you posit equal opportunity for everyone?” the Right Slipper asked anxiously.
“You see,” the Grass Snake answered, “that’s why logical symbolism, sets, functions, real numbers, limits, continuity exist—they constitute the basis for determination of such equal opportunities.”
“Can you in any way be sure that Wood Grouse, the teacher, understands all you’ve written there?” Lilli-Bunny asked indignantly.
“My esteemed fellow,” the Grass Snake sighed, “differential and integral calculus of one real variable isn’t always unambiguous. Sometimes differential calculus of multidimensional functions is needed.”
Lilli-Bunny and his slippers stood blinking on the road, and the learned Grass Snake slithered on, shaking his head disgustedly: how did these ignoramuses dare argue?
The knocking of the Woodpecker forced Lilli-Bunny to regain consciousness. The Woodpecker was the local doctor and healed sick trees.
“Well, this one is surely happy,” Lilli-Bunny thought and ran to talk to the Woodpecker.
“Mister Woodpecker, are you happy?” asked Lilli-Bunny joyfully.
“Knock, knock,” the Woodpecker answered. “Just try to hammer your head on a tree all day long and then ask, though I think by the end of the day, the asking mechanism in your head will fall off, along with the head.”
“But you’ve sworn the Peckercratic Oath; you’ve got a noble trade!” Right Slipper was indignant.
“And you, old galosh, better keep mum, or I’ll report you to the authorities,” knocked the Woodpecker.
“Oh, you are an informer!” Left Slipper was delighted. “Informers are the cleaners of the society! Without informers, the society could not function. Hurray to informers!”
“And you also keep mum, or I’ll prescribe you an enema with lethal outcome, so you’ll know better than to preach hegemony here.”
Lilli-Bunny didn’t like the Woodpecker, especially since it was apparent that, although he was a common local doctor, he was reporting everything to authorities, and you could suddenly find yourself in jail for no reason.
Lilli-Bunny picked up his slippers and ran away from the Woodpecker. And immediately encountered the Wolf-of-Fortune.
“Are you happy?” Lilli-Bunny asked the Wolf-of-Fortune.
“You dumb mug, close your head before I stuff this mud-pipe down your mush—and tell your moll-slippers to hand over the mazuma!”
Lilli-Bunny feared that the Wolf-of-Fortune was speaking some foreign language. But Left Slipper, who in his time, like all slippers with left-wing inclinations, had been subjected to repressions and spent many years in jail, translated: “You, with the stupid-looking face, stop talking before I stuff this opium pipe down your face—and tell your girlfriend-slippers to hand over the money!”
Lilli-Bunny turned and fled for home, but on the way encountered the Boar, who represented law and order in the wood. “Well, that one is certainly happy,” Lilli-Bunny resolved, and asked, “Mr. Boar, are you happy?”
The Boar looked at Lilli-Bunny disgustedly and demanded his papers. Then he detained the Right Slipper for identification purposes because the Right Slipper seemed suspicious to him. The Left Slipper was also detained because of his former imprisonment.
Lilli-Bunny, barefoot, didn’t go home, but ran. Near the house, the Skunk, known politician of the wood, encountered him.
Lilli-Bunny decided not to talk to him, to avoid learning anything, being knocked around, or detained. But the Skunk addressed Lilli-Bunny of his own accord with—just imagine!—Lilli-Bunny’s own question.
“And are you, Lilli-Bunny, actually happy in our forest?” asked the Skunk interestedly, and smiled widely.
“In the morning, all was well, but since I’ve left home, I don’t know how to get back. Our people are too serious.”
“Yes, we’ve got great folks up here,” the Skunk answered. “Perhaps you were thinking it’s enough to be happy, to have money like the Beaver, or to be like the Wolf-of-Fortune? No. We Skunks are the happiest of the lot. We’ve got larger swimming pools than the Beavers have, and the Flies don’t bite us, and we teach everybody bullshit like the Wood Grouses, and we philosophize like the Grass Snakes, and we steal like the Wolves-of-Fortune, and we can beat everybody up like the Boar.”
“No, I’d better manage with my farm,” Lilli-Bunny said, and escaped home.
The slippers returned the next morning and decided not to go for walks with Lilli-Bunny anymore. Not to leave home at all, in fact, since slippers are house footwear. They also decided to concede superiority to Lilli-Bunny’s winter boots—let them be answerable for everything, but they, the slippers, could cope with standing under the bed while Lilli-Bunny was adventuring outside. It was better under the bed than on the jail bunk.
So what’s the moral lesson? Only that it’s better to stay at home, out of harm’s way, than to go adventuring in the woods asking provocative questions.
Mrs. Soft Drink wasn’t a young lady. Her glass bottle waist retained a trace of the Wild West saloons’ aesthetics; her carved figure with the cut-glass neck made you imagine a cowboy crawling on all fours out of a saloon onto a dusty road—to fall at her sober, like a course for the prevention of road accidents, feet.
She wasn’t as vulgar as modern two-liter plastic bottles, but there was in her a little bit of the drink which has conquered the world in the last century, and which sticks in the gullets halfway to the stomachs of honest citizens at all four corners of the Earth. In short, Mrs. Soft Drink was well known enough to not be in need of any introduction when, one hot afternoon, she knocked at Lilli-Bunny’s door to ask for a glass of water and a short rest.
Lilli-Jake opened the door and, delighted by such a momentous visit, brought spring water for her. (Mrs. Soft Drink herself didn’t drink soft drinks because they made her belch, and this phenomenon isn’t convenient for a decent lady of her years and appearance.)
Lilli-Bunny, having met Mrs. Soft Drink drinking spring water in his own kitchen, greeted her politely, and offered her refuge from the midday heat in his refrigerator. Mrs. Soft Drink graciously accepted the invitation and went to sleep in the refrigerator ‘til five o’clock tea. While she slept, there were remarkable changes all over the world. All nations returned to their traditional soft drinks. Having wiped their lips from their national drinks, the people of Earth suddenly thought, “How was the idea of drinking a black liquid, with a questionable taste, which hardly goes down to the stomach, put in our heads?” But to no avail. The enlightenment appeared short-lived. Mrs. Soft Drink woke, got out of Lilli-Bunny’s refrigerator, and the world again, as if zombified by some malicious, superior alien race, obediently began to guzzle this liquid, which differs from gasoline only in that if you fill a tank with it, the car will not start. Oh, one more thing—it doesn’t burn; that’s why firemen favor it. Those, actually, are all its positive aspects.
Mrs. Soft Drink thanked Lilli-Bunny for his hospitality and stayed to drink tea with Lilli-Bunny and his household because, as you understand, she drank practically everything except herself. It usually happens that the shoemaker goes without boots, the doctor cannot cure himself, the fireman cannot extinguish himself, the thief cannot steal from himself, and the policeman cannot put himself in jail. That’s the imperfection of the professional world. You don’t agree? Well. How often have you met dentists who treat their teeth themselves? Not very often? There you are. Likewise, Mrs. Soft Drink wasn’t able to supply drink for herself. Although she was full to her neck with this drink, which was remarkable in its inability to be assimilated, Mrs. Soft Drink couldn’t digest a drop of it herself—her soul refused to accept it.
Lilli-Bear was just entertaining himself with some of Lilli-Bunny’s homemade liquor and suggested a glass to Mrs. Soft Drink. She didn’t refuse and accepted two or three liqueur glasses without much ado. Then the conversation started.
“Where are you from, Mrs. Soft Drink?” Right Slipper asked, business-like.
“Oh, I was born over a hundred years ago—in a drugstore, in the backyard of a pharmacist’s house. My father was Daddy Cocaine, and my mother was Mummy Cola, the African nut, also known as a soft, head-spinning drug,” Mrs. Soft Drink began her story. “Until the beginning of the 20th century, cocaine was allowed in America and Europe. All high society of the time used it. When cocaine became forbidden, my biography was cleaned of it. By the middle of the century my Mummy, the extract of the cola-nut, was likewise deleted.”
“Hard fate,” sighed Right Slipper, who knew the sorrow of disappointment.
“So you aren’t what you were,” the Left Slipper declared shamelessly. “No coke, no cola in you.”
Mrs. Soft Drink looked on the Left Slipper with mild hostility and uttered, “Perhaps you’d want me to provide children with cocaine?
“Dear Mrs. Soft Drink,” Lilli-Bear fussed, filling her glass with some more liquor, “we didn’t mean to offend you at all. We are just trying to understand the meaning of this—an overwhelming part of humankind consciously and willingly guzzles a bad-tasting drink that reminds us of a broth of cocaine and a narcotic nut, although neither is present in it anymore!”
“It is, you know, like licking cigarette butts or smelling empty cigarette packs,” the Left Slipper declared and drew on his cigarette with relish. Left Slipper indulged himself with a smoke sometimes—seriously irritating the Right Slipper because of the latter’s chronic bronchitis and resulting chronic cough.
“You do not ask why people engage in other nonsense. People do a lot of things.” Mrs. Soft Drink took offense and made to leave. But then Lilli-Bunny brought a huge saucepan of his delightful, well-known compote from the kitchen, and she decided to stay for a glass or two of this divine drink.
“Mankind is sick by its nature,” declared Mrs. Soft Drink. “I’m not the reason; I’m the consequence of the silliness of this world. Okay, people used to drink dope, but that wasn’t enough. Apparently, they still add some kind of secret substance and offer me all around, and people don’t think what they actually drink. People don’t even think about more serious things. People weren’t created to think at all. If every other person fell down dead after drinking me, then I agree, that’d be another matter. But the thing I’m sticking in everybody’s craw isn’t criminal. Many things stick in everybody’s craw. Let me tell you this: if everybody took the effort to think even for the little bit of time that it takes one to drain a glass of me, and instead of forcing himself to swallow what doesn’t want to go down, thought of himself, of his life, of the world surrounding him and where he is going, there would be no wars on Earth, nobody would be hungry, everybody would put on clean shirts, and mankind would represent a proper example of sapient beings in any exhibition. But in fact, the problem isn’t that they don’t think because of drinking me. As though they would begin thinking if they stopped drinking me! Far from it. Imagine how many murders, thefts, and foolishness could be accomplished in the time people spend drinking me and struggling to hold me inside!”
“Yeah, we haven’t thought about it like that.” Left Slipper apologized and offered her a cigarette, but Mrs. Soft Drink declined because she led a healthy life and not only didn’t drink soda pop, but didn’t smoke.
“The important thing is not in what people drink,” Mrs. Soft Drink said thoughtfully, and left Lilli-Bunny’s house.
“What a woman,” the Right Slipper said pensively afterwards. “If it were possible to drink her, she’d be priceless.”
“Yes,” Lilli-Bunny said. “Modern tastes are way above us.” And he filled his glass with more compote.
Once, Lilli-Bear’s Neurosis awoke in a wastepaper basket, where it lived among the torn letters and candy wrappers, and encountered a Fast Food hamburger, bitten, but still in good condition. Lilli-Jake had thrown it in there, apparently disappointed in the product, though it was nutritious, and more importantly, rare in Lilli-Bunny’s house.
Lilli-Bear’s Neurosis gulped the sandwich down because, first, it was very hungry, especially in the morning, and second, it believed you should eat your Fast Food fast, so no one can take it away from you; hence, Lilli-Bear’s Neurosis simply had no time for the chewing process, which always requires some degree of thoughtfulness.
No wonder Lilli-Bear’s Neurosis immediately got a stomachache and began to cry. Lilli-Bear loved his Neurosis and always stood up for it. Hearing sobbing from the wastepaper basket, Lilli-Bear tried to find out who had offended his Neurosis.
Lilli-Bear’s Neurosis complained of the sandwich, and Lilli-Bear immediately reported to Lilli-Bunny what offense had transpired. Lilli-Bunny was the defender of all offended and overfed. He possessed a remarkable healing ability: when Lilli-Bear, having over-eaten, lay down and moaned, Lilli-Bunny touched his tummy with his finger and murmured an ancient medicine chant:
Let crow’s tummy hurt, let magpie’s tummy hurt,
Let Bear’s tummy heal, heal, heal.
Let crow’s tummy hurt, let magpie’s tummy hurt,
Let Bear’s tummy heal, heal, heal.
This activated Lilli-Bear’s farting mechanism, and all the pain was over.
This method, however, wasn’t without side effects. It is necessary to say that because of such radical medical actions, no crows or magpies remained in Lilli-Bunny’s neighborhood. Some were overwhelmed by the pressure of various diseases and perished, dropping heavily from a branch, and some moved out of harm’s way, far from Lilli-Bunny’s house, beyond the range of the chant.
Lilli-Bunny’s medical actions resulted in Lilli-Bear’s Neurosis’ rapid recovery, in spite of the fact that Lilli-Bunny’s Neurosis fussed around the house, opening all the medical books and health magazines and called the ambulance eight times; the ambulance, however, never arrived because each time, the excited Neurosis mistakenly dialed the number of the local zoo, and the elephant answered, “Wrong number.”
As soon as Lilli-Bear’s Neurosis recovered, it ran and hid in the wastepaper basket, where it immediately fell asleep to forget the unpleasant incident of the sandwich.
Lilli-Bunny resolved not to leave the offense at that and went to complain to Mr. Fast Food.
Mr. Fast Food was a clown of unpleasant appearance. Movie producers with schizoid disorders film such clowns. His sinister smile made you cry with fright and run away, feverishly looking back to see whether the maniac was pursuing you with an axe.
Well, the schizophrenic movie producers have neglected their disorders for too long. Sometimes they film things that call for putting them in straight jackets and isolating them from society immediately. Society, however strange it may sound, watches their delirious productions, and then leaves those insane producers free and unattended, though it is, you know, very dangerous. Our society is too busy. Snatching sleep after peering for too many hours at a TV set, you can hardly find time to organize to catch the schizophrenic producer and transport him to an asylum. Sometimes Society lifts its backside from the sofa, and you think it’s just about to go and bring the manic producers to reason, but no, when you look closer, you see it went to the bathroom because it’s spent too long in front of the TV set and developed the necessity, so to speak, to leak you know where. Then, you think, after visiting the bathroom, Society will wash its white hands (it always declares, “I wash my hands!” as Pontius Pilate once did, to show he was not the one to blame for Jesus Christ’s crucifixion—the act became a tradition) and go deal with the schizophrenics. But no, it only went as far as the kitchen to get toxic chips or popcorn and head back to the TV set.
Well, you think, it cannot be true. You rush to society shouting, “Take them, these producers, they are raving mad! A normal person couldn’t even think about what they’ve created, let alone watch it.” And society sits at the TV set, popping its corn. You then look in its eyes with one last hope— And there—oh dear! The eyes of Society are absolutely mad.
So, Mr. Fast Food was a clown with an appearance a la “horror- movie.” Lilli-Bunny asked him, at once, why he was feeding fast food to everyone. As was to be expected, Mr. Fast Food began to juggle hamburgers and laugh in a most unattractive way.
“What can I tell you, my dear Lilli-Bunny,” laughed Mr. Fast Food loudly. “People have no time for a normal, tasteful repast. Times have changed. Nowadays, people hate their bodies, their food, and their souls. People rush about now. They don’t care what they swallow; they’re always on the run, until they fall like racehorses. In their free time, they glue themselves to the TV screen and watch running pictures for fear somebody will jump out and bite them. That’s how they spend their miserable days. I brighten up their lives with my hamburger. I could have sold them food in pills, and they would eat it with delight. But I’m humanist, you know. I respect tradition; I understand the human need for moderate conservatism. I give old names to things: a lunch, a salad, a pie. Certainly, none of this is real anymore, but traditions are sacred to me. By the way, Mrs. Soft Drink always helps me. She pours her icy-black sparkles over my stomach-drilling victuals, and that’s it. The person is ready for new feats—for his stupid work, for stupid screens! Isn’t that happiness?”
“It’s hardly happiness,” said Lilli-Bunny. “A meal requires respect; you have to prepare it with gusto, sincerely, take your time eating, have a nice conversation—”
“You, Lilli-Bunny, are backwards,” Mr. Fast Food was indignant. “Don’t you understand that modern times have already come? And modern times are when everything old is considered nonsense. Is that clear?”
“Yes, everything is clear with you,” said Lilli-Bunny and sadly ordered a hamburger, because he had got hungry.
“That’s better,” Mr. Fast Food approved. “Don’t be upset, Lilli-Bunny, I’ll add a plastic toy Monster-Ponster to your order. Only don’t eat it, okay? It’s plastic.”
“Okay,” Lilli-Bunny agreed. He ate his hamburger and gave the toy Monster-Ponster to Lilli-Jake. What can you do? Lilli-Bunny couldn’t stand in the way of modern times, could he?
People were primitive in the past. They counted in their heads, wrote with quills or ball pens, enjoyed indecent pictures in paper magazines, and thought their lives were quite modern and advanced. What naïveté! O sancta simplicitas.
But at last, belated enlightenment came to mankind, and it began to use monkeys for all these things. (You think I’ve made a mistake and said “monkeys” instead of “computers.” Well, what’s the difference? Both behave irrationally, freeze all the time, in any climate, fuss, crack, and inevitably cause headaches in decent persons.)
Nowadays, in the monkey era, people use monkeys to do the things they previously did themselves. Monkeys monitor the flight of airplanes and spacecraft, supervise complex industrial processes, and carry out financial operations. It is difficult to find an aspect of modern human life that doesn’t depend on monkey intellect.
If you want, for example, to make a cup of coffee, you approach a Monkey and give it a command in Monkey language:
Enter: Coffee Command: Quick!
Program: Well, where are you?
Enter, Enter, Enter for Chrissake!
On entering the command, first you wait for the Monkey to read it syllable-by-syllable. Then you wait for the Monkey to find the definition of the concept “coffee” in the Human-Monkey dictionary and ask you to specify which coffee was meant.
The Monkey will start to announce a list in a dismal voice, and you should nod or say “Ugh” to indicate your choice of aroma, spiciness, density, texture, degree of bitterness, demitasse*, coffeepot, earthiness, sweetness, cappuccino-ness, espresso-ness, saltiness, tartness, mocha, exoticism, and finally, whether you meant French latte.
Having chosen the precise brand of coffee and other details, you wait while the Monkey puts the coffee pot on its head and then on some other place, warning you politely:
“Coffee pot found.
Reconfiguring the system.
Then you wait for the monkey to spread coffee all over the kitchen, and finally—
The monkey scalds you with coffee. (As though it was necessary to ask so much about the brand. Does it make any difference which coffee has scalded you?)
You scream, “A-A-A-A!” and the Monkey laughs its head off. In the past, you would have had your coffee without all these adventures. But what a retrograde life it was! Certainly, nobody likes to be scalded with coffee. But while you wait and choose, and you’ve already seen that it takes a lo-o-o-o-ong time to wait and choose, you really look like a future man as cavemen imagined him—a ram with two heads. Why two heads? Because he’s clever. Why a ram? Such were the aesthetics of cavemen.
Lilli-Bunny decided to get himself a Monkey. He didn’t want to be retrograde, because he didn’t like the Owl to call him a rustic, boorish, and unadvanced person. The Owl was a very progressive person, engaged in virtual reality, and because of this, her orbs were always bulging, and she kept saying, “Uhu,” whether it was appropriate or not. Well, you know how owls say, “Uhu,” with a period in the end, almost like Lilli-Bear’s “wow,” with a period in the end. The Owl chased virtual computer mice in virtual reality and was quite pleased with her life. She spent all night long in virtual reality and slept in the afternoon. Lilli-Bunny fed the Owl because, left to herself, she would have long ago perished of starvation. Virtual mice are not nourishing indeed. The Owl lived on cookies that Lilli-Bunny specially baked for her breakfast in the evening because, you know, the Owl woke in the evening and then breakfasted.
Sometimes, when Lilli-Bunny fed the Owl cookies, she criticized him. “You, Lilli-Bunny, are absolutely outdated. Nobody bakes cookies anymore. They are all virtual now!”—chomping a mouthful of cookies.
And so, Lilli-Bunny got himself a Monkey in the house, for he did not want to lag behind civilization. Though Lilli-Bunny, we have to confess, had disliked monkeys since childhood, because a nasty monkey bit him when a picture was taken of him with it against a background of Egyptian antiquities. Since then, monkeys weren’t the kind of animals he addressed as “cute and pretty.” And he said so to almost all animals because he loved animals very much.
There’s nothing to be done, whether you like monkeys or not; you have to follow the times.
There were an enormous number of Monkeys in Lilli-Bunny’s neighborhood. Mr. Fin Tell, the terrible hunter, caught them when still innocent and after stamping “CPU” (Cerebral Processing Unit) on their foreheads, gave them to Mr. Soft Ware the trainer. Mr. Soft Ware read the brand. If he saw “CPU 5,” he inserted a fivefold amount of brains, and if he saw “CPU 4,” he only inserted fourfold amount. When these Monkeys became sufficiently mad, Mr. Soft Ware introduced his system to their madness and turned them loose. The locals readily picked up these systematic Monkeys and took them away to their houses, shops, libraries, and even offices, because they themselves couldn’t do anything without Monkeys. That made both Mr. Fin Tell the hunter and Mr. Soft Ware the trainer very rich, so everybody envied them and spoilt their Monkeys now and then, training them in indecent grimaces and thieving.
We have to add that Mr. Soft Ware also attired his Monkeys in fine soft pants to make them look more decent. He named his company “Soft-Pants Co.,” because the pants were really soft. This way, Mr. Soft Ware quite fairly reflected his occupation in the name of his company.
So, Lilli-Bunny got himself a Monkey and started to engage her in his farm work. However, the Monkey he got was willful. When Lilli-Bunny planted carrots, the Monkey pulled them all out, or contrariwise, when Lilli-Bunny pulled out the carrots, the Monkey buried them back and stomped on the patch as if nothing had changed. She began to drive Lilli-Bunny mad. One day, the Monkey deleted a whole saucepan of Lilli-Bunny’s compote; another time, she froze to the kitchen ceiling and threw frozen bananas at everyone coming and going.
Lilli-Bunny decided that the Monkey was inapplicable to his farm work, and he gave her as a present to Lilli-Bear. Lilli-Bear began to train the Monkey to say “wow” with a period in the end, but she refused to be trained, and once overturned Lilli-Bear’s plate of porridge. After that, Lilli-Bear gave her as a present to Lilli-Kitty, and the Monkey combined all Lilli-Kitty’s earrings in a long, logical chain, so Lilli-Kitty had to spend an evening disjuncting them, analyzing each earring separately.
Lilli-Kitty was angry at the Monkey and gave her as a present to Lilli-Jake. Lilli-Jake put her in his room in place of his old computer, but the Monkey began to misbehave; she showed him her tongue, grimaced, and applied indecent words to such distinguished persons that Lilli-Jake’s parrots, who repeated everything they heard, got on the “black list” of the local security service and were almost exiled, fortunately to a country that didn’t accept troublemakers anymore. The parrots remained in Lilli-Bunny’s house, but a police officer sealed their beaks.
The Monkey was left masterless, and wandering around the house, got into the basement and tangled herself in the World Wide Web, which the WWW-spider wove.
There, in the basement, Left Slipper found her. She sat and cried bitterly because nobody needed her. Left Slipper immediately recognized the importance the Monkey attached to the World Wide Web and used her for subversive revolutionary activity in the native country of all left slippers.
Under the orders of Left Slipper, sent by the Monkey through the World Wide Web of WWW-spider, the shot of the cruiser Glutton on the Heel Palace became the signal to begin the heroic storm of “the last stronghold of Slippercracy.”
Historians are absolutely sure that, with the documents available today, including those stored in special archives, it is possible to recreate only an approximate picture of the events of the Slippercracy overthrow. The preparation for the revolutionary rebellion began on October 22, and on October 25, groups of the Torn Slipper Guard had already occupied the post office, bridges, railway stations, telegraph stations, and other important landmarks of the city. Throughout this time, life proceeded as usual in the country: trams ran, well-known singers sang.
On the night of October 25, the Heel Palace, where the Proverbial Government convened, was taken. On the evening of October 25, at 21:45 (9:45 PM), the Glutton’s guns shot a blank volley, and the artillery of the nearby fortress commenced shooting at the Palace; of over thirty shells, only two or three hit the target. According to documentary photos, only some eaves and windows were damaged.
About one o’clock in the morning, the rebels—Torn Slippers, armed mainly with tightly rolled insoles at the ready—with bootlaces—stormed the Palace. A battalion of ladies’ footwear was defending the Palace.
When Lilli-Bunny saw in the news what was going on in the renamed Torn Slipper Land immediately after the revolution, he understood, at once, that it was his Left Slipper’s doing. He called Left Slipper to answer and demanded things be put in order in Torn Slipper Land and the historical name of the country restored. Under Lilli-Bunny’s pressure, Left Slipper restored the name; however, the essence didn’t change, because the Torn Slippers, on seizing power, tore all the other slippers, so that even now everybody goes barefoot there.
That’s how Lilli-Bunny came to understand how dangerous a Monkey could be without supervision. So Lilli-Bunny took the Monkey back to Mr. Soft Ware.
Mr. Soft Ware didn’t want to take the Monkey back because he already had Monkeys labeled “CPU 8,” and simply turned her loose. Now she successfully fools citizens less advanced than Lilli-Bunny, who is already so advanced he doesn’t need a Monkey to live wonderfully.
Only the Owl was still dissatisfied because she believed that only monkeys could do without a Monkey.
Art isn’t simply a kind of inessential excess, like a garnish. Art is a requirement of the soul—its gentle side, so to say. Even peasants, even complete hermits need art: a countryside song or painting on a wooden spoon make life more colorful. Not coarse-grained like ground horseradish, but smoothly agreeable, like finely grated carrot.
So Lilli-Bunny, although he lived by natural economy, was inclined rather appreciably to art in its many manifestations. Lilli-Bunny painted pictures wonderfully. He could suddenly undertake to paint Lilli-Bear’s portrait. His work titled “Horsed Lilli-Bear Prevailing over the Green Serpent” is especially famous. It hung for a time in the Louvre’s ante-chamber, but then Lilli-Bear demanded it removed and returned to him because the visitors pointed at the artwork constantly (apparently, they didn’t trust the truthfulness of the image. They just couldn’t raise themselves to the high level of the allegory; generally, teddy bears don’t ride horses and don’t spear serpents). The painted Lilli-Bear didn’t like it, and he made an angry face, reducing the artistic value of the work. The portrait even called Lilli-Bear once and complained that he was offended in the Louvre. Just imagine: lunch time in the Louvre—it’s noisy, voices are booming, and the painted Lilli-Bear, sitting on a white stallion, holding his victorious spear under his armpit and squinting is dialing a heavy old-fashioned telephone which was added to the picture on the previous day by a young, talented impressionist painter, a member of the Academy of Arts, according to the painted Lilli-Bear’s request. Because of the artist’s awful shortsightedness, the painted telephone was smeared very much, and the painted Lilli-Bear had to squint to dial the right number. Our picture would be incomplete if we conceal the fact that the Green Serpent wasn’t present in the picture, because it was on its lunch-break and “Closed for Lunch” was painted over the portrait.
The Louvre was in an uproar. A painted Lilli-Bear on a white horse with a telephone—and he complains, too! Disgrace. What a shame for the Louvre, where the pictures are generally treated kindly. Mona Lisa, in truth, was also dissatisfied, because they made her smile with her mouth closed all the time. Can you imagine the fate of a woman who wasn’t allowed to show her teeth for five hundred years? A certain emancipated activist tried to add a fang to Mona Lisa’s face, but she was hospitalized in time (the activist, not Mona Lisa). Every woman has to have a chance to show her teeth sometimes, otherwise she’ll forget what freedom is. And women cannot allow themselves to forget freedom, because Freedom should have its hair curled and its face made up, at least on holidays.
So Mona Lisa suffered in silence because she couldn’t accept the painted Lilli-Bear’s recent invitation to move to Lilli-Bunny’s house. Lilli-Bunny just couldn’t provide suitable conditions: Mona Lisa needed attention and adoration, but visitors were infrequent at Lilli-Bunny’s house, and the inhabitants of the house somehow preferred images from animated movies and comics to serious Mona Lisas. Besides, there was a danger of someone jokingly adding some detail to her. As you quite understand, to add anything to Mona Lisa is unacceptable, because she is already perfect.
Don’t think the inhabitants of Lilli-Bunny’s house weren’t well educated. Lilli-Jake, for example, was educated at home and took lessons with MacPlato himself. At first, they wanted to employ O’Aristotle, but having met his pupil, Alex of Macedonia, decided to refrain. We certainly cannot deny that O’Aristotle imparted love of poetry to Alex. Alex, however, expressed this love in a rather peculiar way—when he destroyed the city of Thebes, he left only the house of the poet Pindarus to stand among the ruins. He loved and respected Pindarus, you see. Just imagine this Pindarus leaving his house in the morning to buy a bottle of booze—no chance, the liquor store has been demolished. Fortunately, Pindarus didn’t live to see this unhappy hour. But Alexander was quite a civilized and intelligent man, so he left the house as a kind of monument.
And what happened to Lilli-Bear’s portrait? The Louvre returned it with apologies, and Lilli-Bear placed it on the wall of his wine cellar. The wine cellar lay below Lilli-Bunny’s house near the WWW-spider’s den and provided a fine place to store Lilli-Bunny’s bottles of wine and liquors, big barrel of honey-brown beer, and assorted snacks, like pickled tomatoes and red peppers.
Besides the art of pickling tomatoes, Lilli-Bunny respected other refined occupations, for example, music. Once, he bought a ticket to a concert of a well-known musician, whose name I wouldn’t want to mention here. Okay, okay—His name was Paganino.
Lilli-Bunny put on his holiday suit, consisting of red and white dotted shorts, and a pink T-shirt with the words—
I Love Loud Music!
I Hate Loud Neighbors!
—and went to the concert. Lilli-Bunny took his slippers with him because for all kinds of footwear, no ticket was required (everyone who used to go to concerts barefoot for economy’s sake should note that). The other inhabitants of Lilli-Bunny’s house preferred to listen to the music on the radio, and so they stayed at home. Lilli-Bunny, however, was a real connoisseur of the musical arts and didn’t object to spending money on the ticket.
The concert proved successful from the very beginning because in the buffet there were flaky, sugar-powdered pastries, which Lilli-Bunny ardently loved. These pastries reminded him of the innocent pleasures and sweet treats that life sometimes graciously grants us.
Then Lilli-Bunny entered the hall, not waiting for the last bell, because he was punctual—the result of his long-time involvement in natural economy.
The music hall was full. Paganino was quite a talented violinist and gathered many and varying people. The members of the Deaf Musicians’ Association, who loved music because every deaf musician “hears” the music in his own way, occupied the first rows. Further away sat the city celebrities and almost-celebrities. Lilli-Bunny, however, sat on the gallery because being slippered, he wasn’t admitted to decent society, though Left Slipper threatened to arrange a debate about equality and the rights of slippers, which would have certainly spoiled the concert. To calm him, Lilli-Bunny bought a small red flag and a box of candy.
At last, the audience calmed down, and the maestro appeared on the stage. Paganino was dressed in loose black robes; his long black hair wasn’t accustomed to the delicate courtship of shampoo.
After the first three vigorous chords, all Paganino’s strings broke. Then the chandelier fell, and then the ceiling cracked. The majority of the audience left, running—ignoring the fact that it might have been an integral part of the performance. But Paganino paid no heed. Having lost his strings, he began to drum on the violin, and Lilli-Bunny, willing to help the maestro, began to sing quietly, “Ta-a-a—Ta, Ta, ta, da tam—” Lilli-Bunny launched into Caprice 24, by Paganino. Having heard Lilli-Bunny, the enlivened maestro finished the couplet, “Ta Ta Da Dam—” and called Lilli-Bunny onstage. They continued the performance together, using the violin as a drum.
Lilli-Bunny’s slippers participated, too. Right Slipper sat at the grand piano and began to accompany until he upended it. Paganino’s music was so vigorous, no instrument, except a drum, could sustain it past the first three chords. Left Slipper found a starting pistol somewhere, and he began to shoot in tune. The last spectators ran away and didn’t ask for their money back, because they thought it was a musical and everything was specifically arranged this way. Shaped by new tradition, musicals can turn unpredictable nowadays, and shooting isn’t the worst possible outcome.
Lilli-Bunny and Paganino sang with abandon, and no one in Lilli-Bunny’s house trusted their ears, listening to the radio. The radio broadcast Lilli-Bunny’s lovely little voice, husky but confident, accompanied by Paganino’s smoker’s baritone, the sound of the grand piano falling, and the shots of the starting pistol.
That was a remarkable concert! What else is important in art? What is important in true art is that it’s not boring. When it is boring, it isn’t art anymore, it’s science.
Lilli-Bunny dreamed of keeping a cow for a long time. He, as a person living by natural economy, certainly required a cow, but all the inhabitants of Lilli-Bunny’s house were against it. Lilli-Bear didn’t want to share Lilli-Bunny’s attention with anybody; Lilli-Kitty was afraid the cow would spoil her haircut; Lilli-Jake was afraid the cow would lick off some important item of his, because even without a cow, many of his important items kept disappearing, as though a cow had licked them off. The cats were categorically against a cow because they thought cows were dirty creatures, as cows don’t wash themselves with their tongues; the parrots repeated everything after everyone, so they were naturally against a cow, and Lilli-Bunny’s slippers were afraid that the cow would wear them barehoof, and that would be their objective, if not to say concrete, end.
Only the old Grandfather Clock was for a cow because, as you remember, the Clock was desperately in need of fresh dairy products.
Lilli-Bunny decided to try to find a decent cow anyway and then, he thought, he’d begin to treat everybody to fresh milk and cheesecakes, and their attitude towards the cow would soften.
He didn’t say a word about buying a cow. Not that Lilli-Bunny was short of money. Lilli-Bunny was economical—not greedy or stingy—but economical, so he had enough money. The thing was, he lived in a free country and in a free country, cows had rights as full as the rights of other citizens, say, roosters or goats. The time when cows were regarded as cattle long ago had passed. Now cows are regarded as working class, which is more pleasant, believe me. Cows have received freedom, as did the Oriental women in their time, and they commenced to choose their occupation, place of residence, and terms of feeding.
And so, Lilli-Bunny placed the following ad in the local newspaper:
with higher education,
Experience and recommendations
are a must!
Apply in Lilli-Bunny’s house,
knock three times.
Lilli-Bunny didn’t want to give his phone number because he was afraid there would be a lot of senseless lowing on the phone. Better, he thought, they come directly and knock with a hoof on the door. And to be sure he would not mistake them for his neighbor, Mr. Squeeze-Hard, coming for an onion and sunglasses, or his other neighbor, Mr. Bolthead, coming for a bag of bolts, he added the request to knock three times, exactly. Really, Lilli-Bunny isn’t a yo-yo to answer the door once with bolts, once with onions. And besides, the cow might not like his appearance with these items on the threshold. Cows are fastidious nowadays—they wouldn’t want to work in an establishment that looked strange or queer to them.
As for higher education, it’s now required of any cow. Not that the cow yields more milk, nor is the milk tastier because of higher education. It’s simply that there are established standards and criteria in society, and in the country where Lilli-Bunny lived, higher education of cows became traditional. Some especially unable cows were given bachelor degrees in cow sciences on their general length of service, without examination. But the majority of cows chose other occupations, because cow freedom meant that any cow might self-determine freely.
Lilli-Bunny, certainly, could look for the cow on acquaintance, according to his neighbors’ recommendation, so to say. But he didn’t want to turn to such domesticity at once because he, too, respected the basic democratic principles of the society in which he lived, and he wanted to give all cows equal opportunity on the labor market. The consciousness of the country’s population was at a high level, especially regarding questions that didn’t so much concern the pockets or personal benefits of the citizens; though Lilli-Bunny was a conscious citizen, not for show, but for the general improvement of all kinds of important matters, which abound in a progressive society. Society very much loved Lilli-Bunny for it, especially when, in rare moments of lucidity, it bought fresh carrots and fennel off him.
The first to knock at Lilli-Bunny’s house door was a brown cow with big white spots. Lilli-Bunny would prefer a classic black-and-white cow, but he moaned from delight. And besides, to state openly his preferences about color had been considered illegal and outright discriminatory for quite a long time now. Therefore, everybody continued to be guided by his or her preferences, but silently.
Lilli-Bunny invited the cow to his office (you cannot do without an office in modern natural economy), and began the interview:
“I require, you know, a cow in my establishment.”
“And is your establishment big?” the brown cow asked severely.
“I wouldn’t say so,” confessed Lilli-Bunny modestly.
“And there are how many other cows?”
“There are no other cows. I require a cow,” Lilli-Bunny answered, “precisely because there are no cows!”
“Well, surely you don’t expect me to do all the cow work!” the brown cow stood up angrily.
“I’ll feed you well, and I don’t need more than one cow,” Lilli-Bunny tried to persuade the cow.
“I do not work at small enterprises,” the brown cow cut him off and left without saying goodbye. Slamming the door, the cow uttered, “What a shame! How do the authorities permit that?”
Lilli-Bunny was especially upset by that last phrase. Like every decent citizen, Lilli-Bunny was afraid of authorities, although he didn’t quite understand what was amiss in the fact that his establishment was small and had no cow. He judged that, in general, there wasn’t anything especially criminal, but as the saying goes, God protects those who protect themselves. Therefore, Lilli-Bunny phoned Mr. Troubleson, his lawyer. After long excuses that he didn’t have time for phone conversations and things like this were not for discussion over the phone, he at last proceeded to enlighten Lilli-Bunny—being a small-scale enterprise wasn’t accepted in this country, and it was considered criminal to some extent. Although there wasn’t a definite law against it, judiciary practice showed that small enterprises invariably suffered in court, whereas large enterprises usually dodged trouble and avoided court.
“Why should they prosecute me?” Lilli-Bunny sobbed into the receiver.
“Get yourself a cow,” advised Mr. Troubleson, avoiding a straight answer.
Lilli-Bunny hung up and wiped his nose. Hiring a cow wasn’t a choice anymore. It was a vital necessity. It appeared that the absence of a cow in a natural economy was equated, by public opinion and judiciary practice, if not to a major felony, then to something like fraud. How could an establishment lack a cow? The public deception is evident.
Thank God, he didn’t have to wait long. Another cow, of Lilli-Bunny’s favorite color, knocked on his door, and the happy Lilli-Bunny led her to his office.
“Does the fact I don’t have a cow at present bother you?” asked Lilli-Bunny uncertainly.
“Oh, no, not at all,” the black-and-white cow answered, then began to talk about herself. “I’ve graduated the conservatory, the faculty of artistic whistle.”
“Oh, please whistle something!” Lilli-Bunny was delighted. He knew the cow should be milked early in the morning, and music could brighten up the early yawning hour.
“Moo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o,” whistled the cow.
“But that’s not whistling; that’s lowing.”
“Well, I graduated the faculty of artistic whistle, specializing in artistic low! You’d like the cows to whistle?”
“No, no,” Lilli-Bunny immediately surrendered. “It’s not important; milk is more important—”
“What?” the cow was deeply indignant. “You are going to milk me? Oh, no—”
The cow jumped up, hastily collected her diplomas, and left.
Lilli-Bunny was perplexed. “Well,” he thought, “what shall I do?” Fortunately, somebody knocked the door, and Lilli-Bunny ran to open it.
A huge bull stood on the threshold.
“Excuse me,” said Lilli-Bunny uncertainly, having nevertheless led the bull to his office, “but I require a cow—”
“Aren’t you familiar with the law against sexism?” asked the bull imperturbably. “This law provides measures for realization of the state policy developed for the assurance of equal rights, freedom, and opportunities for cows and bulls, for the prevention of discrimination by sex, as a necessary condition of stable and steady development of this country.”
Lilli-Bunny was outright frightened. “I won’t hire you, not because you are a bull, but because you are not a cow. That is, not because you are not a cow, but because you don’t give milk.”
The bull’s reply was even more confusing:
“You didn’t write in your ad that you require milk. You wrote that you require a cow. You should write, “A bull or a cow.” The law demands it, and I’ll insist on my rights.” The Bull began to press on Lilli-Bunny, but, fortunately, Lilli-Bunny’s thirty-gallon Samovar entered the room to announce that it had begun to boil and everybody had to go to drink tea.
Seeing the huge Samovar, the bull lowered his eyes and agreed to forgive Lilli-Bunny his ignorance of the laws, although certainly, ignorance of the law doesn’t release anyone from abiding by it. You see, when the bull tried to press his rights in another place, he had been scalded with boiled water. Apparently, he was afraid of repeating that experience with the Samovar that puffed and glared very convincingly.
By the end of the evening, Lilli-Bunny’s rash personnel policy had broken so many laws that, if his visitors hadn’t been really kind and mild, in general, and his Samovar so impressive, Lilli-Bunny would probably be sitting to the end of his days in prison for all kinds of discrimination.
Other applicants came to Lilli-Bunny. There were among them a professor of Mad Cow disease, experts on transforming cows into pigs and back, and a French chef specializing in beef a la Chateaubriand.* There were many well-educated cows— cow-engineers, cow-programmers, cow-lawyers, cow-choreographers, and even cow-hereditary adventurers. However, no candidate agreed to give milk.
Lilli-Bunny became extremely sad, but applicants continued to arrive, which totally upset his natural economy.
All day long, Lilli-Bunny was engaged with obstinate applicants, each of whom made a row his own way; but the French cook raged especially. And it seemed that all the candidates weren’t really interested in employment—they had suspicious snouts and interrogated Lilli-Bunny in detail about his establishment, sometimes checking documents and accounts. They were especially strict with the living accommodations. The majority insisted on a two-three room cowshed with a phone and bathroom, a corporate mobile phone, a car, and shares in Lilli-Bunny’s business. When they found out that Lilli-Bunny didn’t have shares because he wasn’t “Lilli-Bunny Corporation Ltd.,” but a self-employed entrepreneur, the candidates sometimes contemptuously spat on Lilli-Bunny’s office floor; one cow even left cow dung on Lilli-Bunny’s carpet.
At first, Lilli-Bunny tried to persuade the cows that his accommodations were fine and that cows usually don’t have difficulties giving milk, but his visitors didn’t even think to accept his offer.
To stop the nightmare, Lilli-Bunny was compelled to place a new ad in the local newspaper:
No cow is required,
especially with higher education,
neither on full time, nor on part,
and no living accommodations are provided.
Experience and recommendations
will not help!
Do not apply at Lilli-Bunny’s house,
and especially do not knock three times!
The ad cost Lilli-Bunny dearly, because each “no” word cost one dollar, whereas a usual word cost only 25 cents. The negative particles were so costly because the newspaper didn’t want to look too negative.
Lilli-Bunny was also compelled to hide from the public the fact that he needed a cow, because he had confused the public with this ad, especially printing it in the newspaper.
And so, law-abiding Lilli-Bunny became criminal all over, and even acquired a habit of looking around when he left his house—to check whether he was being watched.
One night, when Lilli-Bunny’s neighbor, Mr. Squeeze-Hard, came to borrow an onion and sunglasses, which he needed, as was mentioned earlier, for extracting maple syrup from birch firewood, Lilli-Bunny broke down and asked whether he could recommend a decent cow who would agree to give milk. To Lilli-Bunny’s surprise, Mr. Squeeze-Hard immediately offered him his cow Peggy (Pegasus abbreviated). Lilli-Bunny was beside himself with delight. Peggy the Cow didn’t ask much and promised to give milk every day.
Peggy the Cow came to work the next day, giving a bucketful of milk. Lilli-Bunny began to receive a pail of milk every morning. He didn’t even have to milk her, because she milked herself. Lilli-Bunny suggested Peggy arrange machine milking (with help from Lilli-Bunny’s car, who in her childhood thought she was a cow, had even grazed on the lawn, and until lately, dripped something out of her all the time—sometimes oil and sometimes gasoline).
But Peggy the Cow nearly reared.
“No! No!” she cried. “No milking! I’m doing it all by myself!”
And Lilli-Bunny gave up.
The problems didn’t start immediately, but in time, domestic accessories began to vanish from Lilli-Bunny’s house: watches, toys, umbrellas, caps, cups, paintings, wines from Lilli-Bear’s wine cellar, can and bottle openers, flasks, lighters, Left Slipper’s cigarettes, and even ashtrays with cigarette butts.
At first, Lilli-Bunny blamed Klepty, the house-gremlin of troll nationality, who was a chronic kleptomaniac and filched everything that wasn’t nailed to the floor (or the wall or ceiling). But Lilli-Bunny checked his closet, and found nothing except Right Slipper’s old glasses.
And then Lilli-Jake’s thermometer, the sand thermometer that Lilli-Bear made for Lilli-Jake (if the sand is warm, the weather is hot, and if the sand is cold, the weather is cold) vanished. Lilli-Jake was very upset.
However, a very similar thermometer soon appeared in a local junk-shop, and Lilli-Bunny purchased it for Lilli-Jake. Lilli-Jake declared that it was his old thermometer, because he once had buried a coin in it; he now dug the coin out.
All secrets were revealed at last, when one summer day, Lilli-Bunny went into the cowshed to get his next pail of milk, but found neither milk, nor Peggy the Cow.
On a straw bed lay a note, obviously written by a hoof:
“Gone South. Will be back by autumn.
Kisses. Peggy the Cow.”
From his visit to the country Lilli-Bunny knew that cows usually depart for the South in summer, like all normal vacationers, so he wasn’t surprised; however, having examined the cowshed, Lilli-Bunny found a whole mountain of empty milk bottles.
“All is clear now,” Lilli-Bunny bit his lip. “Peggy didn’t give milk herself; she bought it in a dairy-shop. And she got the money selling things from the house.” You couldn’t expect her to buy milk on her salary, could you?
“It’s a pity,” said Lilli-Bunny. “Why didn’t she admit she wasn’t giving milk? We’d love her anyway.” Peggy the Cow had stolen and sold Lilli-Bunny’s thermos, which he liked very much, that’s why he was so upset.
“Well, the Cow will come back, and I’ll tell her we are not angry with her, but that she isn’t to hand things from the house over to the junk-shop. Let her live with us and receive the cow salary, and we really should buy milk in the dairy-shop, anyway.”
“Now I understand why Mr. Squeeze-Hard gave the Cow to you so readily! That’s why he extracts maple syrup from birch firewood at —she’s beggared the old man absolutely,” Left Slipper declared.
“Maybe you should sack her all the same?” Right Slipper asked uncertainly.
“No, a natural economy is impossible without a cow!” said Lilli-Bunny severely and pensively looked at the sky. “When will my beloved Peggy return from the South?”
Lilli-Bunny met an old gramophone, who later became his favorite Gramophone, on his journey to the nineteenth century. Lilli-Bunny undertook this intrepid journey in order to find the roots of his Lilli-Bunny family. He was building a genealogical tree, but he lacked data on some of his relatives. Lilli-Bunny could go to the archives, but the dust always made him sneeze; and besides, due to the absurdities of the last 100-120 years, some slips of paper most likely were lost and unwelcome additions were scribbled (oh, a historian’s life is difficult indeed). Lilli-Bunny, without long deliberation, entered his time machine, which usually served him as a washing machine and was used as a time machine only in such rare cases as when the milk boiled over or a pie was burnt. Then Lilli-Bunny put on the hat that was fashionable five minutes ago (the fashion in hats always changes with terrific speed), and went pastwards in time to switch the milk off or get the pie from the stove. You will say that it isn’t absolutely true, because sometimes the milk escaped the pan and was left to rush the rooms, terribly frightening the cats. That’s so, but it was done not because Lilli-Bunny didn’t want to use the time machine once more, but because milk should sometimes be given a chance to run about, otherwise it turns stale and overweight.
Honorable Super-Einstein himself changed Lilli-Bunny’s washing machine into a time machine. Once, having run out of his tincture of fast neutrons, and subsequently recovered from a fit of hard drinking, Super-Einstein considered once again the “Lilli-Einstein-Super-Bunny Paradox,” according to which, as you remember, the color of the mailbox could influence the quality of the received correspondence. Super-Einstein then decided to meet Lilli-Bunny personally to discuss the current problems of quantum postal physics with him.
Lilli-Bunny shared with his esteemed colleague Super-Einstein his practical observations of Mailbox behavior conducted from nearby bushes, which resolved the “Lilli-Einstein-Super-Bunny Paradox” in a graceful and truly Einsteinian style: as you remember, Mailbox snatched the most cheerful postcards out of Goodnewsman the postman’s bag and promptly swallowed them. Super-Einstein laughed until he cried! Why did he fail to guess himself?
Super-Einstein liked Lilli-Bunny’s practical wit and apple strudel very much. Lilli-Bunny complained that he was often so busy with household chores that strudel burnt and milk boiled over. Super-Einstein then became thoughtful, looked at Lilli-Bunny with his famous cunning glance, took one more mouthful of the delightful draft, Honey-Brown Beer, from Lilli-Bear’s wine cellar, and waved his hand. “All right, I’ll turn your washing machine to a time machine.”
Lilli-Bunny himself used his washing machine as a time machine, but only traveled forward in time. Sometimes he used to climb into the washing machine at 12:30, and when he climbed out of it, it was already 12:35, so Lilli-Bunny said he ‘d manage himself, thank you, very much.
But Super-Einstein wasn’t distracted that easily. He tightened up some nuts, stuck some lamps and clocks around, and eventually modernized the washing machine to a real time machine that could go back to the past.
So, this time, due to Super-Einstein’s modifications, Lilli-Bunny went to the nineteenth century, having preliminarily put on a hat corresponding to that time. Since there was only one sitting place in the machine, Lilli-Bunny took only his slippers with him, and he didn’t tell anyone that he was going so far back into the past, because he planned to return to the present practically at the moment of departure, so nobody in Lilli-Bunny’s house needed to worry that the dinner this day would be late.
The nineteenth century was sedate and slow. The charm of rotting feudalism and aristocracy was still being felt. Lilli-Bunny visited all his relatives and even went to visit a very distant ancestor in London.
In the nineteenth century, London Lilli-Bunny found the person he needed, asked him everything (it turned out that this ancestor lived by natural economy, too), wrote down everything accurately, and on top of that, had a roaring argument with Karl Marx, who just happened to turn up. Lilli-Bunny stated that because of his crazy communistic extravagances, no cow in the future agrees to give milk. Then Lilli-Bunny was ready to go back home to the future, but became absorbed with the extraordinary music coming from the gilded tube of the then very young Gramophone who lived at Karl Marx’s place. The Gramophone was very unhappy there because Karl Marx made him play the “Internationale” all day long, and when the tired Gramophone made a mess of the words, the cruel man pulled Gramophone’s handle until it hurt and spat into the gilded tube.
We’ll spoil henceforth the old tradition
And hit the blue to win the prize!
The Gramophone muddled godlessly, playing the same record for the thirty-third time.
“You counterrevolution!” the coryphaeus of national revolts cried as he beat the poor Gramophone with his fists.
And one time, the Gramophone was awfully frightened by the spirit of communism, which didn’t wish to wander across Europe, but sat in Karl Marx’s outhouse with constipation. Poor Gramophone wanted to wash his tube after his master’s abuse, but the sobbing spirit of communism occupied the outhouse. The Gramophone became convinced that day that the spirit was good for nothing and began to muddle the “Internationale” intentionally, trying to make his hairy master understand how badly his business smelled, but to no avail. Karl Marx continued to rage, and the Gramophone nicknamed him “the Rabid Moor.”
Lilli-Bunny, having met the Gramophone, confirmed the record player’s worst fears about the future; Karl Marx, however, didn’t listen to Lilli-Bunny and threw his worn right boot at him, which brought him the admiration and respect of Left Slipper, who adored this coryphaeus to begin with.
Lilli-Bunny said to the Gramophone, “You don’t have to stay in this hated place. Run away with me to the future.” Gramophone agreed, but couldn’t fit into Lilli-Bunny’s time machine with his tube, and without the tube, he refused to go.
So Lilli-Bunny suggested the Gramophone move on his own and gave him his phone number to call in 150 years. Lilli-Bunny said a touching goodbye to the very young Gramophone, and they parted—Lilli-Bunny in tears, and the Gramophone issuing a hysterical crash as a symbol of his despondency.
And what do you think? In the present, Lilli-Bunny got a phone call, and there in the receiver was the familiar gruff Gramophone’s voice and charming crackling. Lilli-Bunny again shed tears, and went to collect the Gramophone and bring him to live in Lilli-House.
It took the Gramophone 150 years to reach Lilli-Bunny’s time. He saw much on the way. The police confiscated him from Karl Marx for debts. He worked for some time with Sherlock Holmes; from the fingerprints on Gramophone’s gilded tube Holmes deduced that Lilli-Bunny had visited the Gramophone, but he wasn’t sure whether the visit happened already or only was to happen later, since the fingerprints had the characteristics of representatives of future generations—in spite of being clear, they were not listed in the card files. In general, through the rest of the time, the Gramophone was treated reasonably well, although his gilded tube was shot twice in the course of one revolution and the First World War. During the Second World War, the Gramophone resided in Argentina and was spared. From time to time, anarchically inclined Argentineans used his gilded tube as an ashtray, and he was completely fed up with their tango, but it really counted for nothing compared to Karl Marx’s “Internationale.” The Gramophone arrived in Lilli-Bunny’s time whole and sound, and to general surprise, played records very tolerably. Lilli-Bunny at once took the Gramophone on a picnic and treated him to raspberry jam, and all the inhabitants of Lilli-Bunny’s house at once adored Granddad the Gramophone. They even began to call him Grammy. Lilli-Bunny was very glad that Grammy had arrived in our time, having survived all the tribulations and storms of history. See what feats a true friendship like the one between Lilli-Bunny and his Gramophone can achieve!
It’s difficult to decide what are considered cultural differences and what are outright meanness and rudeness. Before Lilli-Bunny settled in Lilli-House, he lived in many countries and saw different customs and traditions. Certainly, people live differently, some are even so original that they are similar to nobody, but that’s just the point—when you speak about a people as a whole, it is just theory. When you have a specific representative of this people right before your nose, you never know how to behave; he might have any number of cultural values you might unwittingly offend. In short, Lilli-Bunny had more than his share of trouble with cultural distinctions. Sometimes it happened that he could clearly see a person as an impudent swine, while everyone around would explain to him that you, Lilli-Bunny, simply have cultural differences with that person; he seems a swine to you, but he is quite a decent person according to the local standards. Well, maybe just a bit more impudent and swinish than the norm, but this is quite accepted and even encouraged here.
Lilli-Bunny’s head started to spin in the kaleidoscope of cultural differences, and he clasped it with both hands so it wouldn’t fall off, though nobody would have paid attention; they would have decided it was one of Lilli-Bunny’s cultural differences to lose his head. So Lilli-Bunny decided to penetrate the heart of cultural differences once and for all. In one country, it was bad to steal, but people stole; in another, it was good, and they stole, too; and in the third, it was possible to steal, but nobody did it, because there was nothing left to steal. Again, somebody stole from Lilli-Bunny, and again, he didn’t know whether he was being treated badly this time, or whether some cultural difference had happened, not worth his attention. Lilli-Bunny had been suffering for some time, and then went to the city of Cosmopolitville, where a certain lady by the name of Mme. Cultural Differences lived, in order to learn from her on the spot. Once more, Lilli-Bunny took only his slippers with him, because the other inhabitants of Lilli-House didn’t want to go to Cosmopolitville.
When Lilli-Bunny arrived in the city, it took him a long time to find the house, because some numbers were in Arabic numerals, while the others were in Roman, and the street names were sometimes written in pseudo-Chinese (looking like Chinese characters, but with no meaning whatsoever), and sometimes in Ancient Bullterriers’ language.
At last, Lilli-Bunny found the house. Mme. Cultural Differences received Lilli-Bunny favorably, as if she had expected his arrival. She was a lady of an unbalanced exterior because, despite her leanness, various extremities of her volatile organism disrupted her balance as she walked, and therefore, she used tundra skis even at home. A red Chinese hat with a long braid adorned her head; she was wrapped up in a magnificent Japanese dressing gown over a Russian padded jacket and on her feet, she wore Texan boots with spurs, over which the tundra skis were attached.
Lilli-Bunny closely examined Mme. Cultural Differences and paused, not knowing how to greet her.
“Shalom,” said Mme. modestly and kissed Lilli-Bunny thrice, according to the Russian custom.
“Salaam aleikum,” answered Lilli-Bunny for some reason, and settled on a sofa.
“I believe you have some business here?” asked Mme. Cultural Differences, pouring Lilli-Bunny a glass of Russian vodka diluted with Sabbath wine.
Lilli-Bunny didn’t drink it, but his slippers eagerly accepted and asked for more.
“Yes, dear Mme. Cultural Differences,” Lilli-Bunny said, “I have a question. I certainly respect all cultural differences very much, but frequently I’m not sure whether I’ve encountered cultural differences or whether a person is simply a rascal and an SOB. It makes my head spin. Do you have some means to differentiate between cultural differences and simple ordinary rascality?”
“But what exactly happened? I need an example,” asked Mme. Cultural Differences, and drew on a huge Havana cigar made in the Netherlands.
“Well, I’ve recently been robbed, almost left penniless, and they told me afterwards that I was a fool, and it was all because of cultural differences,” Lilli-Bunny admitted grimly.
“Have they taken much?” asked Mme. Cultural Differences in a business-like manner.
“Practically everything they could carry away.”
“Well, did they say good-bye?” asked Mme. Cultural Differences.
“Yes,” answered Lilli-Bunny.
“It means that they were cultured,” noted Mme. Cultural Differences and enquired, “And how exactly did they say goodbye? Please repeat literally, preferably in the language they used.”
“Something like, ‘It has been nice knowing you’,” remembered Lilli-Bunny with effort.
“And what have you answered?” Mme. Cultural Differences became interested.
“Something like, ‘I am very upset with what you did to me,’” recollected Lilli-Bunny at once.
“Well, you see, we have cultural differences here,” concluded Mme. Cultural Differences. “Had you answered ‘Go f— yourself’, there would have been no differences.”
“Aha! So what is important is not what people do, but what they say!” guessed Lilli-Bunny.
“Sure,” Mme. Cultural Differences approved Lilli-Bunny’s guess.
“It means if I’d answered correctly, he would have become ashamed, returned, and become a decent person?” asked Lilli-Bunny with hope.
“Certainly not, but in such a case, there would have been no cultural differences, while in the situation you described cultural differences are evident.”
“Dear Mme. Cultural Differences, don’t you think that many people simply use these ‘cultural differences’ as a cover to avoid punishment for their mean and dirty tricks, and thus manage to remain clean? It’s not our fault that certain Lilli-Bunnies experienced another childhood and pissed into a pot with a label in another language?” Lilli-Bunny expressed himself.
“Well, not without it, not without it,” admitted Mme. Cultural Differences. “But you, Lilli-Bunny, should be pleased, because in some places, cultural differences reach such intensity that you could have been eaten. I used to know one tribe—would you like me to introduce you? Very affable cannibals. I think some of them would enjoy an occasional Lilli-Bunny.”
“And what about slipper-eaters among them?” worried Left Slipper; social reforms were his life business, and he couldn’t allow himself to be eaten before finishing them.
“Slipper-eaters?” reflected Mme. Cultural Differences. “I don’t know. I shall ask.”
“Aha,” guessed Lilli-Bunny, “Nothing has changed in the world: people still are eating each other—they just speak in a civilized manner!”
“Certainly! This is the progress of civilization,” encouraged Mme. Cultural Differences. “There is nothing worse than to believe that anything in the world is changing. That’s how simpletons are caught: they think that times have changed; nobody would eat them on any sunny afternoon—they go out just like that, and they are swallowed whole. Times do not change, only the phrases change which fertilize those or other actions.”
“So cultural differences were thought up by idiots for idiots?” finally guessed Lilli-Bunny.
“At last!” Mme. Cultural Differences was delighted, as if she had been long leading Lilli-Bunny to this idea, though she herself was surprised by it and decided to consider it later. In truth, she didn’t succeed, didn’t consider it, because after Lilli-Bunny left, Mme. Cultural Differences went to a hairdresser where the idea was casually cut off, together with her surplus hair.
You know, it happens sometimes: you come to a hairdresser to engage in thought (where else can you concentrate better on an idea than sitting in an armchair and squinting so that hair won’t get in your eyes?), and a silly hairdresser begins to chat, so that you leave not only without hair, but also without valuable ideas which could have developed and flourished if not for the chatter.
And why are hairdressers so talkative? “Cultural differences,” you will answer habitually. No, it’s just pure idiocy.
Yes, pure idiocy!
(Instead of an Afterword)
You won’t be surprised to find out that the world began to respect Lilli-Bunny so much, after all he had done for it, and especially after all he hadn’t done to it, that the United Frustrations Organization (UFO) appointed Lilli-Bunny Citizen of the World and declared August 24 (Lilli-Bunny’s birthday) International Lilli-Bunny Day. I think it is necessary to respect and celebrate people, not only because they’ve done something to the world, but also because they haven’t done something to it.
For example, in thirty chapters of the novel, Lilli-Bunny:
- Still didn’t kill fifty million people
- Didn’t participate in any massacres
- Didn’t invent the A-bomb
- Didn’t drop an A-bomb, and
- Didn’t invent any kind of theory that makes a couple of continents almost strangle themselves
Isn’t this list of merits sufficient to consider Lilli-Bunny an exceptional person on a world scale? It seems to me that, not having done anything at all, Lilli-Bunny has brought real benefit to our world.
You will say that you, too, did nothing from the list above, and why are you not considered an outstanding person? Nobody is declaring your International Day. You’ve forgotten perhaps: Lilli-Bunny might be you! (Taking into account some clauses specified in the preface). That means it is your International Lilli-Bunny Day! Yes, don’t work this day if you wish. Show this book to your employer and don’t go to your work. And if he threatens to fire you, peacefully threaten to engage in natural economy and persuade all your colleagues to do likewise. So he, your employer, will go West with all his business. And if you are the employer, threaten your workers that if they do mischief while you are on holiday, you, too, will engage in natural economy, and all their workplaces will go West.
In short, having provided yourself with an additional day off, you can start to win yourself other holidays. Here follows the brief calendar of holidays for which you, as a rightful Lilli-Bunny, can safely struggle:
January 1 – Lilli-Bunny’s New Year (coincides with the official one)
January 3 – Lilli-Bunny’s Day for finishing up all the tasty leftovers of the New Year feast
February 8 – Lilli-Bunny’s Mailbox’s Birthday
February 23 – Peggy the Cow’s Birthday
March 1 – March Hare Day; celebrated by putting pink paper ears on and baking carrot pie
March 23 – Lilli-Kitty’s Birthday
April 1 – Klepty the House Gremlin’s birthday
April 7 – additional International Lilli-Bunny Day, if the celebration in August wasn’t enough
April 11 – Lilli-Jake’s Birthday
April 13 (on Friday) – the Day of Both Parrots’ Hatching
April 29 – Lilli-Bunny’s Gramophone’s Birthday
May 1 – the Day of Sticking out Our Tongues at Karl Marx
May 15 – Hamster Hamlet’s Birthday
June 1 – the Day of Fish 007’s Capture
June 2 – Basia the Cat’s Birthday
June 5 – the Day of Lilli-Bunny’s Victory over the Fox
August 13 – Lilli-Bunny’s Favorite Grandmother’s Birthday
August 16 – the Day of Lilli-Bunny’s Sponge’s Recovery
August 24 – International Lilli-Bunny Day
October 1 – Golden Cat’s Birthday
October 11 – Lilli-Bear’s Birthday
November 7 – Lilli-Bunny’s Left Slipper’ Birthday
December 24 – Lilli-Bunny’s Right Slipper’s Birthday (simply coincides with Christmas)
There you are! With such a cheerful calendar of additional holidays, you can begin to live anew, joyfully and happily! Twenty-six new holidays! Only to think! And you can invent your own additional holidays—“And when should we work?” you may ask. But work is a bad habit. For example, Lilli-Bear’s brother from Texazistan, the country of plush bulls, says, using folk language, “Horses die of work, ears go deaf, and eyes go cataractic,” though he himself works much, because Texazistan needs to prosper, it won’t do otherwise.
In short, you can work when you are free from holidays, if you cannot live without work. You see, holiday isn’t when you don’t go to your work and fart all day long on a sofa or slave in your own garden. Holiday is when you want to sing. When was the last time you wanted to sing? Before what revolution?
But Lilli-Bunny sings every day, because for him, every day is a holiday, maybe not official, but very cheerful, and he engages in natural economy without days off, because for him it’s not work, but a way of life.
So, when the people of the Earth declared Lilli-Bunny’s birthday International Lilli‑Bunny Day, he invited everybody to his house. On the previous evening, he made a sea of compote and baked a continent of berry pies.
In the morning, Lilli-Bunny woke and couldn’t find his glasses. He fumbled and fumbled on the bedside table, but the glasses just weren’t there. “How so?” he thought. “Maybe I’ve dropped them into the compote?” But then he looked closer, and here on the bedside table lay a humble, huge present wrapped up in gift paper. Lilli-Bunny read the attached note—the present appeared to be from Klepty the house gremlin. There were Lilli-Bunny’s glasses, his favorite thermos, and Lilli-Bear’s dumpling mold, all wrapped together. Lilli-Bunny even shed a few tears. How pleasant it was to receive, on such a holiday, a present from Klepty the kleptomaniac himself. The return to us of something stolen occurs so seldom.
Then Lilli-Bunny was accosted with congratulations by his Neurosis.
“Oh, Lilli-Bunny,” cried Lilli-Bunny’s Neurosis, “we’ve grown older by one more year; oh, what’ll happen, oh what’ll happen! We shall die soon! Where will they bury us?”
“Calm down,” Lilli-Bunny gently stroked his Neurosis on its tousled head. “We aren’t nuclear waste products; they’ll bury us, somehow.” And Lilli-Bunny yawned sweetly.
Lilli-Bunny’s Neurosis calmed down and gave Lilli-Bunny a key-holder with the prayer that saves one from wild animals and other misfortunes you can meet on the road.
Lilli-Bear gave Lilli-Bunny a dog named Kolbassa. Lilli-Bear used to give Kolbassa to Lilli-Bunny every birthday, painstakingly wrapping him in gift paper. The dog resisted desperately, wagging his tail and kicking his extremities, so by the time of delivery, he was already practically loose and could lick Lilli-Bunny’s nose freely. And Lilli-Bear gave Lilli-Bunny a ring, with the inscription “I Love You,” which means in translation from Lilli-Bearish, “I love Lilli-Bunny.”
Lilli-Kitty gave Lilli-Bunny a butterfly-shaped pin to pin his ears up, because he always dipped his ears in the compote, and they interfered sometimes with his agricultural activities.
Lilli-Jake gave Lilli-Bunny an island in the Lilli-Atlantic Ocean, which his Brain Company Ltd. discovered. Lilli-Bunny landed on this island, declared its territory the territory of the state, and placed his famous Flag there. The Flag was proud that he represented the state authority on the island and ceased to tie himself in knots.
Lilli-Bunny’s slippers gave themselves to each other. That is, the Left Slipper wrapped up the Right Slipper as a gift to Lilli-Bunny, and the Right Slipper, while being wrapped up, asked Lilli-Kitty to catch and wrap the Left Slipper as a gift to Lilli-Bunny from the Right Slipper. And that was done.
Hamster Hamlet came for a visit from his new apartment and brought, as a present, a whole brood of mutant mice for scaring elephants away in the future.
Golden Cat gave Lilli-Bunny a “Catosynthesis Manual,” and they catosynthesized all morning together. Basia the cat gave a “Manual on Rescue from Suffocation by Air Balloons,” with a bag of air balloons for inflating and training.
Charles Dickens gave Lilli-Bunny a big package with the inscription:
“To a real Lilli-Bunny,
from the real Charles Dickens.
The paper that will endure everything.”
When Lilli-Bunny unwrapped the package, there was a roll of toilet paper. Everybody laughed until they cried, having appreciated the joke of the great realist.
Global Warming gave Lilli-Bunny a clear sunny day, and Global Neglect created a carefree holiday atmosphere.
The neighbor, Mr. Squeeze-Hard, gave Lilli-Bunny a jar of maple syrup, freshly squeezed from birch firewood, still smelling of the onions with which Mr. Squeeze-Hard rubbed the firewood for pliability.
The neighbor, Mr. Bolthead, gave Lilli-Bunny a huge wrench for his nuts, but the public wasn’t alarmed, because everyone was already nutty anyway.
The Fox gave Lilli-Bunny her notebook that she used during military activities against Lilli-Bunny. According to experts, the notebook’s estimated value was already ten thousand dollars as a military relic, but in truth, there was no buyer, and none was expected.
The moles gave Lilli-Bunny a set of sticks for Lilli-Bunny’s golf and promised to adjust their vision by the next referendum.
Lilli-Bunny’s car gave Lilli-Bunny a bicycle because she was afraid that Lilli-Bunny would wear her out. Lilli-Bunny rode his car to shops three times a day, and she hadn’t enough time to engage in literature, the fine arts and, mainly, ballet.
The frogs on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean gave Lilli-Bunny their plan for a peace settlement named “The Road Goes Ever On and On,” and promised not to renew military activities at least till next spring, though they had again fought at the holiday table, and Lilli-Bear again had to paint them the same color.
Lilli-Bunny’s Mailbox gave Lilli-Bunny a huge amount of greeting cards addressed to Lilli-Bunny and all his neighbors, because he, as usual, snatched and swallowed the most joyful and colorful mail items from Goodnewsman the postman’s bag. Giving the cards, the Mailbox vindictively lifted a leg near Kolbassa and irrigated the ground at the dog’s legs, exactly as the dog himself did at Mailbox’s leg every time Kolbassa was taken out. It was apparent that they struggle outright for the right to be Lilli-Bunny’s favorite dog, so Lilli-Bunny had to buy two doggy bones now—one for Kolbassa and the second for his Mailbox. However, the impression was that they would make friends soon, as they frequently barked and howled at the moon amicably.
Mrs. Global Economy came for a visit and brought a whole bag of nuts for Lilli-Bear. Mrs. Global Economy had passed the next crisis and some breakdown, which happens to any lady at least once in a lunar month, and she became appreciably cheerful.
Mr. Troubleson, the lawyer, gave Lilli-Bunny a document stating that Lilli-Bunny’s backyard was exempted from the “right of way.” He had found an opening in the law at last, through which there was a possibility of not destroying Lilli-Bunny’s house. Though Lilli-Bunny had already solved this problem, as you remember, he didn’t want to upset Mr. Troubleson and wrote him a check for services rendered. In some cultures, gifts are not accepted as such; you always have to pay for them in some way.
Mr. Spitman, as a gift to Lilli-Bunny, squared and rolled in tubes all of Lilli-Bunny’s cash, thus finishing the second stage of his currency reform. Mr. Spitman, again, was selflessly rude and boorish and informed Lilli-Bunny how unrecognizably old he had grown since their last meeting. Only after a while did Mr. Spitman understand that he spoke to Klepty the house gremlin, who truly did look elderly, as he was a hereditary troll; he was 950 years old, born in the time of the Vikings and casually delivered to Lilli-Bunny’s house with the luggage from Lilli-Bunny’s old house in Scandinavia, where Lilli-Bunny had lived happily for some time.
Klepty the house gremlin was flattered that Mr. Spitman mixed him up with Lilli-Bunny. He even took the opportunity to filch Mr. Spitman’s suspenders, and Mr. Spitman had to hold his trousers during the party. The moment he wanted to say a boorish toast and, having risen from the table, lifted a wineglass in one hand and a fork with a salted mushroom in another, his trousers fell, and everybody saw that Mr. Spitman was wearing long, polka-dotted underpants with an inscription in front:
“Do not pass by!”
And another inscription behind:
“Do not pass through”
That strongly damped his reputation as city mayor, to which office he was providently elected by the wise townspeople for life because they didn’t want Mr. Spitman to plunder the city treasury immediately upon his election.
Monsieur Silvouplaît gave Lilli-Bunny good will and greetings from Monsieur Almost-Napoleon himself. He also gave back Lilli-Bunny’s tube and Lilli-Bunny, with pleasure, returned his parrots to it. The parrots began their third honeymoon observing stars that, in truth, had become a little bit displaced in the sky since their last observation.
The professors of Cosmology gave Lilli-Bunny an honorary diploma as Professor of Cabbage Soup and allowed him to cut the tape opening their new Cabbage Soup accelerator, which they started up to prove to everybody, finally, that they were professors, not just a bunch of people puttering around.
Mme. Cultural Differences gave Lilli-Bunny an embroidered skullcap in the style of the Jewish kipa and joyfully danced with him the Greek dance, sirtaki, turning into the Jewish dance freilechs.
The Fish 007 gave Lilli-Bunny six jars of first-class Riga sprats. Not the sprats they make somewhere in Estonia that are impossible to eat, but the real ones that are very possible to enjoy eating. This action, in the Fish’s 007 opinion, would lower Lilli-Bunny’s fish-thirstiness for a time, giving the Fish an opportunity to regroup for the next round of espionage thrills.
Mr. Hugeman, the local bedbug, for the sake of old times, wrote a satirical greeting that made Basia the cat cry, even though she was remarkable for the excessive cheerfulness peculiar to all idiots.
The Country That Stole the Berry Pie gave Lilli-Bunny a mold for baking berry pies fashioned like a boomerang with vertical risers. The moment the pie was ready, the mold would rise forty thousand feet in the air and deliver the pie to the Country That Stole the Berry Pie. That supported the permanent civil war there, without which the citizens of the state would be extremely uncomfortable. Their habit of going to sleep to the sounds of cannonade and waking up to the sounds of single shots caused them acute nostalgia as soon as they were deprived of this accompaniment. And an opportunity to shoot down the neighbor and go unpunished was one of the integral advantages of civil war simply impossible to refuse.
Mrs. Soft Drink gave Lilli-Bunny a bottle of lemonade, but she asked him not to publish this fact, which could break the established status quo of everybody drinking fizzy drinks. So just forget at once what I said, and continue to guzzle those unnatural drinks. By the way, fizzy drinks clean the green patina off copper perfectly. I suggest washing the domes of the architectural monuments of St. Petersburg and Copenhagen with fizzy drinks.
Mr. Fast Food gave Lilli-Bunny a gift coupon for one hamburger sandwich and told him that Lilli-Bunny, as a spy, was to have this coupon always on hand, in case he encountered a situation in which he would be required to self-destroy immediately. A hamburger sandwich operates faster than potassium cyanide. You swallow it and run to the toilet at once. Your enemies will wait and wait for you, and will eventually go away.
Lilli-Bunny’s Samovar gave him a tea strainer, and Lilli-Bunny was as pleased as a child.
And in the evening, the philosophers of all times and peoples gathered in Lilli-Bunny’s pavilion and sang together the song, “Frost, oh frost, don’t freeze—” despite the rather hot weather. Such minor discrepancies should never confuse true philosophers.
Descartes, who specially arrived to get Lilli-Bunny’s acquaintance, sang louder than anybody did, because he wished to prove his existence. It goes like this: I sing, therefore I exist,—else who is bawling so loudly?
Lilli-Bunny was very glad to receive all these visitors and gifts. But can you imagine his pleasure when his favorite cow, Peggy, appeared in the sky, hastening to return from the South before the end of summer, precisely in time for Lilli-Bunny’s birthday, which became International Lilli-Bunny Day!
 Lilli-Bunny derived from Lilliput – a land imagined by Jonathan Swift that was inhabited by tiny people.
 He regretfully recalled the day he ate pineapple Jell-o and since then could no longer eat it. Try to imagine: The guy is eighty now and he went almost his entire life with no pineapple Jell-o! That is a real human tragedy!
3 Raskolnikov is a character in the Dostoevsky novel Crime and Punishment.
 Idiot – character of “Idiot” – from a novel by Dostoevsky
 Jean-Jacques Rousseau, “Du contrat social ou principes du droit politique”: “Du pacte social” Archives de la Societe Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Geneve, 1762.
 Who are not bunnies. A bunny is an intelligent individual with a mid-sized income.
 I will give you the exact coordinates of this planet later on. Probably in the second book.
 Abbreviation of Mademoiselle
 If you think this could never happen in the “real world,” consider this: I knew a truck driver who loaded up with onions grown in Canada and shipped them to Mexico. There they put the onions in bags. And the truck driver transported the bagged onions back to Canada to sell.
Another example: trucks with Coca-Cola go in both directions across the US-Canadian border.
A lot of stupid things happen in the modern global economy.
Yesterday, I read in the French journal Le Figaro that the mordern philosopher Alain Finkielkaut said:
“Notre société est toujours plus rationnelle, mais aussi de moins en moins raisonnable”*
Our society becomes more and more rational, but also less and less reasonable.
*Le Figaro Magazine # 1307, Nov. 12, 2005 p. 62
 Yom Kippur is the Jewish holiday of the Day of Atonement. It falls on the tenth day of the Hebrew month of Tishri (late September-early October). The day is commemorated with a 25-hour fast and intensive prayer.
 Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz (1646 – 1716) was a German philosopher, scientist, mathematician, and diplomat
 In Greek mythology, the Minotaur was a creature that was half man and half bull.
 Lilli-Bear didn’t have it quite right. A well-known cola company does use coca leaves, stripped of their cocaine. Kola nuts are not narcotic; rather, they contain caffeine. This parody is based on no specific cola trade name; we mention these facts for educational and entertainment purposes only. Mrs. Soft Drink isn’t a Coke; she is all modern soft drinks.
 A sweet syrup of boiled fruit
 O holy simplicity! “To be “simplus” in Latin is both to be innocent, humble and modest, but also ignorant, credulous and naïve.” <http://cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/White/creation/sancta-simplicitas.html>
* A special small cup for serving espresso. This French term means, literally, “half a cup.”
* Beef a la Chateaubriand – this French recipe for beef with garnish was invented by François Rene Chateaubriand, the French politician and writer. Take 7 ½-14 ounces of beef without fasciae, wash it and dry. Heat the fat on a pan and roast the meat to brownish color. You may also use a barbecue. Add salt and white pepper. After 10 minutes, place a piece of roasted goose liver on top of the meat and fix it with a toothpick; place a cube of butter with herbs on top of this tower. Serve with fried potatoes, stewed peeled tomatoes, mushrooms, green peas, carrots, and asparagus.
* Es ist einfach! – It is simple! (German)
** Das Gedanken experiment – thought experiment (German)
 Here, hello. Also goodbye and peace. Ultimately means completeness. (Hebrew)
 “Peace be upon you.” (Arabic)
 © J. R. R. Tolkien