Five kids in the back of a 1976 Kelly-green wood-paneled station wagon. Sweaty kids. Kids fidgeting and fighting. Sweatily.
“Stop touching me!”
“I’m not touching you.”
“Mom, he’s touching me!”
“I’m not touching him.”
“Stop touching me!”
“Mom, I think I’m gonna get sick.”
“Stop touching me!”
“I have to pee.”
“When are we gonna get there?”
“I’m really gonna get sick.”
“STOP TOUCHING ME!”
To say that my father told us stories in the car to entertain us on trips would be only partly accurate. My father spun tales, in large part, to keep from spinning around and throttling us. He did it to save our lives and his sanity. Although the story of Perry Pennypacker and his Purple Piper Cub was a perennial favorite, some of his most well-loved revolved around the adventures of a flea. A nameless flea who went to sea. In the pod of a pea. You see?
Several years before he passed away, my father, a United Methodist pastor, compiled his flea stories in a modest spiral-bound book, illustrated with simple drawings by a friend, and sold them locally. All proceeds from sales of the collection went to the Princess Basma Center for Disabled Children, in Jerusalem.
A year or so ago, I took one of his stories, changed it around a bit, and expanded it extensively. I’ve been trying to interest children’s book publishers in it ever since, but haven’t elicited much interest. Or any interest, really. It’s a tough field to break into.
So I’ve decided to share it here. I hope you enjoy it. You’ll have to envision your own illustrations, although sexy fleas might stretch the limits of your imagination.
The Flea Who Went to Sea
By Sherwood and Matthew Treadwell
A flea went to sea in the pod of a pea.
“You never know what you’ll see,” said he,
“when you set sail in the pod of a pea.”
He skimmed ‘cross the ocean,
(but got sick from the motion)
And landed on a beach feeling green in the teeth.
But in a short while his stomach stopped flopping,
And who should pass by but a she-flea a-hopping.
“Come sit on the beach” he said to the she-flea,
“Come stretch on the sand.”
But the she-flea was shy and turned away from his hand,
She turned right round and fled from that flea.
“Oh my, oh me,” said the sad-faced flea,
“Why flee from a flea as handsome as me,
Who’s sailed cross the ocean in the pod of a pea?
Come back, lovely girl, and I’ll drape you in pearls,
I’ll build you a castle right here in the sand,
With towers and turrets and a view vast and grand.
We’ll watch the sun as it creeps up to rise,
And watch yet again as the day-sun dies.
I’ll build you a throne of coconut shell,
With sea-stars and corals and jellyfish bells.
I’ll crown you in moonlight that floats on the bay,
I’ll do all this and more, much more…
If you’ll stay.”
The she-flea turned, a smile on her lips,
And said to the flea, “And fabulous trips?
Will we sail ‘cross the sea, not in a pea, but a yacht?
Can you buy me everything I want but have not?
Will you wreath me in flowers in some Paris café?
Buy me lobsters and steaks a la flambé?
Will you sweep me to places where fleas are all pretty?
Show me the shimmering sights of rich cities?”
“Of course,” the flea cried, sensing victory at last,
“We’ll do everything fine and do everything fast.”
The she-flea sighed, a sad, sorrowful sigh,
Then looked at the flea with a soft, thoughtful eye.
“You silly little flea, do you think I want that?
To be a statue, a queen, a gnat in a hat?
I have what I need, thank you so much,
I’m not looking for rubies and diamonds and such.
We can string some shells we find here on the shore,
And make precious things from feathers and more.
A throne of coconut sounds grand,
But isn’t it nicer to just sit on the sand?
What I want is to talk, and stroll in the woods,
Not high-class hotels and luxury goods.
A castle is lovely, but too big and too dreary,
A snug little cabin is warm and quite cheery.
I want to sit in the kitchen and laugh over meals,
Not strut down the street with lap dog and heels.
It’s nice to travel and discover new places,
To see beautiful sights and meet different faces,
But you know that already, you adventurous flea,
After all, you sailed ‘cross the sea in the pod of a pea.
So if you want to be friends let’s forget all the bling,
Let’s hop in your pod and see what the sea brings,
Let’s follow the waves and blow with the wind,
Let’s live simply and well,” the fair she-flea grinned.
Mr. Flea stood a moment and looked at the girl,
“Could it be,” he thought, “that there’s more to the world
Than pearls and castles and fine fancy places,
Could we do without the things that everyone chases?”
The flea looked at she and she looked at he,
And he smiled a rueful smile that turned slowly to glee,
And he held out his hand once more to the she-flea.
“Would you like to sail,” he asked, “in my little green pea?”
She took his hand and said with a nod,
“I’d be happy to float with a flea in a pod.”
And the two set off through the surf of the bay,
And they’re still out there exploring, to this very day.
Well, there it is, and I hope you liked it. I’ve shared it for two reasons: 1) In the honest hope that readers will enjoy it, and 2) In the more earnest hope that one of those readers will be connected to children’s publishing and think, “Hey, that’s good. Damn good. I need to get in touch with this Treadwell guy.” Here’s hoping!
And by the way, the tales I tell my kids in the car involve the miscellaneous misadventures of Puck the Duck and his brothers Tuck and Buck. But that’s another story.