With a final bow to Dr. Seuss

And another to the late Molly Ivins, coiner of “Shrub”

By a faraway star, on a dark little globe,

In a place never probed by a NASA space probe

There’s a big ugly desert of bubbly black rubble

That bristles with prickles and thickets of stubble.

Go closer, go near; certain features appear,

And it’s clear that intelligent creatures lived here.

That spike was a tower–that stub was a steeple.

Inside them are rooms and the remnants of people.

Their skeletons pose as if they were still doin’

Whatever they did before coming to ruin;

Odd, monkeylike creatures with oversize brains

There used to be billions; now not one remains.

Oh, wait–I exaggerate–there is still one,

A single survivor, but otherwise, none.

So what does it matter if he’s overlooked?

This planet–his planet–is finished. It’s cooked.

I hear your astronomers thought it quite strange

How quickly this world underwent a great change.

It sparkled, it glistened, and then it got dimmer,

And then it went dark, without even a glimmer.

What happened? Let scientists sigh, “It’s a mystery.”

Listen to me and I’ll whisper the history.

Starting just six years ago–I should know.

I was there–I was called Ayatollah Jah-So.

Perhaps if you’ve heard of the Great Go-Goop War

My retelling the whole thing will just be a bore.

Or you might prefer as a little refresher

To Google “Go-Goop.” As you wish. There’s no pressure.

So here’s the backstory: This planet of ours

Was covered with skyscrapers, turrets, and towers.

The short ones were poorer, the tall ones were richer;

The richest were tallest–well, you get the picture.

The tallest of all was the Great Tower of Us,

Which is why it’s the tower we’ll chiefly discuss.

At its top was a group called the Zooming-Up Club

Headed up by a pup with the famous name Shrub.

Old Peter “Pete” Shackles stood right at Shrub’s rear

And constantly muttered advice in Shrub’s ear,

While at Shrub’s other ear hovered Peter’s repeater,

A wary old warlord called Dummold Drumbeater.

The foremost and firmest belief of these guys

Was that Us must be tallest and always must rise!

Which is why every guy in this Zooming-Up group

Was completely obsessed with the quest for Go-Goop.

It was Go-Goop, of course, that made towers grow tall!

And Go-Goop, of course, was what started it all:

The war (although Shrub gave a dozen fake reasons)

And also the wreck of the seas and the seasons.

You see, while the war stole the Us-er’s attention

A different predicament went without mention:

The rise of the poisonous pools of gray poop,

The leftover mess from–you guessed it–Go-Goop.

The poop was the payback for overreliance

On poisonous fuel. I don’t know the science,

But poop in the pools led an active retirement,

Flowing and blowing throughout the environment.

For many long years–just about 80-plus–

It was Goop that enabled the Tower of Us

And other tall towers like Us to rise high,

All the while sucking dry the world’s Go-Goop supply.

There wasn’t a shortage of Go-Goop as such,

Not yet-but the Us-ers were using too much.

They used Goop for their cooking and cooling and heating,

And Goop for their clothing and bedding and seating,

And Goop for their toothbrushes, Goop for their scissors,

And goo-gobs of Goop for their climbers and whizzers.

(To live in a tower, you had to have climbers,

and whizzers as well for your kids and old-timers.)

But most of all, Goop ran the jumbo-size pumps

That prevented the towers from getting in slumps.

It was known there was just so much Goop to be found–

Official Goop Snoopers had checked underground–

And the very best Go-Goop, the creme de la creme,

Lay under the faraway kingdoms of Them,

Where unfriendly Them-ers might cut off the flow

Of the gummy black Goop that made everything go.

Meanwhile, it was known (although Shrub said it wasn’t)

That Goop caused diseases (though Shrub said, “It doesn’t!”),

And likewise that poop in the air and the water

Was making the weather get wilder and hotter.

You’d think the Big Wheelers of any tall tower

Would welcome ideas for new kinds of power,

But when the inventors presented inventions

They met with resentments and cold condescensions.

You’d hope that high-uppers were scoping and scanning,

Relying on science for plotting and planning

Some kind of transition–a Post-Go-Goop system.

Oh, there were suggestions, but Shrub would resist ’em.

No, Shrub and his Zooming-Up Club preferred war

And keeping the system the same as before.

So instead of attempting to tame the Goop habit

They lowered the Boom on the land of Dag-Nabit.

The reasons they offered–their working excuses–

Included a record of brutal abuses

And rumors that Dag-Nabit had, and kept hidden,

Two huge blunderbusses. (In fact, though, it didn’t.)

The rest, most of Us didn’t yet realize,

Was woven with weasel-words, whoppers, and lies.

Goop was the cause for invading Dag-Nabit:

Dag-Nabit had it; Us wanted to grab it.

So Drumbeater sent over hummers and bremmers

And young Us-er soldiers to battle the Them-ers,

While Dag-Nabit’s nasty old ruler, Goddam,

Ran out the back door and lit out on the lam.

The Boom was predoomed from the day they installed it.

The “Great Freedom Boom,” as the Zoomers-Up called it,

Though touted as some sort of “Surgical Stab,”

Blew a huge gaping hole in the heart of Dag-Nab.

It looked like a canyon–no surgeon’s incision.

It worsened the region’s religious division.

Now Them-ists and Them-ites–the old rival tribes–

Lined up on both sides of the hole, trading gibes.

And the damn Boom got stuck. It was not just bad luck:

Seers had said that the Boom would get stuck in the muck;

Soothsayers had said that the Goop would run red;

Oddsmakers had bet on the number of dead.

If at first the whole enterprise seemed to be cursed,

Well, it only got worse and we braced for the worst.

Vengeance was virulent, violence was viral;

Dag-Nabit descended a desperate spiral.

Ka-Blammers–supposedly friends of the Them-ists–

Showed up with their bomb-makers, killers, and chemists,

So Them-ites invited some guys from E-Gadd,

Not as mad as Ka-Blammers, but almost as bad.

And the Boom’s ugly wreckage became a huge stage

For the mounting of weapons and spouting of rage,

While the army of Us was stuck halfway across,

At a loss to explain this big mess to their boss.

At one point the Us-ers–well, half if not most–

Attempted to bump Master Shrub from his post.

Miraculously, he was saved from removal,

Which Zoomers-Up took as a stamp of approval.

Then something struck Us a great blow from below,

But it wasn’t the work of some faraway foe.

Big Muddy, a town on the bottommost loop

Was drowned by a thundering wave of gray poop

Thrown up by the blast of a blustering storm

That arose when the ocean got overly warm.

Whizzing down for a visit, Shrub wore a long face,

But that was the last time he looked at the place,

And he said in an interview, “Why the big fuss?

I’m busy protecting the Tower of Us!”

And Shrub, ever stubborn, and ever the bragger,

Explained his new “victory plan” with a swagger:

“Go Zoomers! On Boomers! Let’s go back and get ’em!

They’ll march back across and get Us if we let ’em!”

The war just went on. It went on, on, and ON,

And some Us-ers received the bad news with a yawn,

But others could barely contain their outrages,

And finally a few of the wizards and sages,

Including old heads of the Zooming-Up Club,

Went up to the hub to see Shackles and Shrub.

“It’s stuck,” said an Old Zoomer chief with a cough.

“If we can’t get it un-stuck, then let’s cut it off!”

While Shrub doubled over, as if for protection,

Old Zoomers took pains to explain their defection.

“This war for Go-Goop is a god-awful flop.

For one thing, it hasn’t delivered one drop!

And now all the towers–and ours in particular–

Seem to be tilting way off perpendicular!”

“What!” sputtered Shackles. “We’re zooming on high!

Just look at our Tower! It touches the sky!”

Yes, part of it did, just the uppermost top.

The folks at the bottom were hip-deep in glop,

And the midlevel layers were starting to droop,

Because Booming and Zooming used so much Go-Goop.

Then Shrub told the Tower, with little remorse,

“We’re staying the course with a little more force.”

(And he smiled while he said it, as if it were clever.)

“We’re gonna go deeper! Yep, deeper than ever!

“Perhaps we had slipups, back at the beginning,

But that’s all been fixed, folks. Let’s get back to winning!”

The Us-ers heard Shrub but believed not a shred.

They just couldn’t credit a word that he said.

The air everywhere had a smell and a taste

That was finally traced to Go-Goop and its waste,

And Us-ers unhappily peered through the cloud

That had covered the huge pools of poop like a shroud,

And they looked at the war, which was going kerflooey,

And then at the weather–depressingly screwy–

And that’s when they finally turned against Shrub.

His club took a drubbing–but here was the rub:

The guy at the hub was still Shrub. Two more years,

With Shackles still pouring advice in his ears;

And the Tower, still sagging and straining the wires

That tied it to all other towers and spires,

And most Them-ers thinking that Us was the problem,

That Us-ers just wanted to kill Them and rob Them;

And friendly-ish Them-ers in towers so slender,

One after another they’d have to surrender;

And the world picking sides, between Them-ers and Us-ers,

Supplied by Ka-Blammers and Big Blunderbussers;

And even more troubling, the great lakes of poop

Still growing and flowing and bubbling like soup.

That’s when I, Ayatollah Jah-So, joined some others

Attempting to talk to all Them-ers, our brothers.

“We’re killing ourselves! We are killing our own!

Just stop! Maybe Us-ers will leave us alone!”

And for this we were placed under palace arrest

And locked up in a tower, they said, “for the best.”

We had been there a year when the great battle came.

Our tower stood over a river of flame.

I felt an explosion below, through my toes,

And just like a rocket, our whole tower rose.

And the next thing we knew, we had gone into orbit.

We crowded the portholes, and though it was morbid,

We watched and recorded and carefully noted

What happened the day that our planet exploded:

The horrible heat, nearly double the norm,

The sudden onslaught of a terrible storm,

The smoldering Go-Goop erupting in flame,

The Us-ers and Them-ers exchanging the blame,

The enormous black storm clouds, they swelled and they swirled,

And they swallowed, entirely, our sorry old world.

Now, hearing just static and seeing just fuzz,

I can’t really say if it actually was

The Great Go-Goop War, or the Great Go-Goop Waste

By which our whole history was swiftly erased,

But I’d bet it was both–for whatever it’s worth.

I hope that this broadcast reaches the Earth.

My friends are all gone. I too must go.

My very last words!


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Tom Chalkley.