PREVIOUS NEXT FIRST The Rainbows' Collision!

The Rainbows' Collision!

 The Mysterious Miss Keapor.

It had been raining at the four ends of town
for a long, long time:
Rain-shower after rain-shower passed through town
as if each of them had been riding a bus.

Between the passing rain-showers
... the kids were still able to slip out of their homes
for a minute or two at the playground
on the Billy B. Beautfool's City Park,
where every child from the four corners of town
was encouraged to be as much of an individual
as each of them already was.

Everything that happened always happened at
the playground on the Billy B. Beautfool's City Park:

There the children from the four different neighborhoods around it
gathered and mingled together every chance they got
... to learn each others' culture,
for all the children who found their way there
(out of the four different corners of town)
were special in some way all to themselves
and to each and every one of their own individual families:

There the mysterious Miss Keapor kept watch over them.

She showed them how to play
the games their own parents had played
back when they themselves had been children
and had played there like them
under the watchful eye of Miss Keapor.

This was something the spindly Miss Keapor had done in the town
as far back in time as anyone alive could remember.

And it was not unusual for even grandparents
to ask their grandchildren if Miss Keapor was
still keeping an eye on the playground as she used to do
back when they themselves had been children
--Which always was the case.

Miss Keapor was tall and gaunt, yes.
But for some strange reason she always appeared as frightening
to the grown-ups as she seemed helpful and friendly to the kids:

All the grandparents were certain they could recall
an almost identically named Miss Keapor
coming to the playground of the four different corners of town
to teach them the games their own grandparents
(and even their grandparents' grandparents)
had been taught there as children by her
... only, naturally, everyone with enough common sense
knew that this couldn't possibly be so.

Still, it was odd, when one thought about it,
especially on an all-muddled up and rainy day
like this one particular day happened to be
(a day which mysteriously reminded some of the grown-ups
of a similar day many, many years ago now):

Shower after shower crisscrossed the town, as I've said,
on this particular day.... in so many different directions
that sometimes a couple of showers would crash into each other
and exclaim a very loud thunderbolt
like a couple of angry neighbors fighting.

Strangest of all, Miss Keapor herself wasn't bothered by the rain
which was constantly starting and stopping,
because unlike the children (who ran inside
every time one of the showers dropped by
the Billy B. Beautfool's City Park),
it always seemed as if the water couldn't quite
manage to touch Miss Keapor.

At least, her dress always looked perfectly pressed, neat, and dry
--no matter how much it might rain while she was outside!

Four Rainbows!

All morning long the townspeople had been watching
four beautiful rainbows
over each of the four opposite ends of town
(as if there had been four suns in the sky that morning)...

Obviously, "At least three of them
must have been sent by God," claimed the Vicar.

Wherever they had come from,
each rainbow skirted its own personal rainstorm
as magically as if they'd been herding
the accompanying angry swarms of clouds into town
... from the farthest and most extreme ends of the earth
(or so testified those who claimed
a better sense of direction than most).

"They look like they're racing each other to a meeting!"
Mrs. Chesterton, superintendent of schools, was sure of it.

She couldn't bring herself to continue with her reading
at all (waiting for something weird to happen):

And, "No doubt about it," claimed Mr. Chesterton,
who was retired from the fire department:
"Four rainbows in the sky means something!
I recall being told as much back when I was a child."

Mister Gulliver, to whom everybody in town looked for wisdom
(as he had been almost everywhere one could imagine),
Mister Gulliver saw them more like
overstretched two-legged tornadoes of multihued lights
(than proper rainbows), and he was convinced
it was just an optical illusion:

"The moisture in the clouds playing tricks on the eyes,
you know!" As there were no four suns anywhere up there
to create four different rainbows at the same time.

And, "If there's only one Sun,
then there can be only one rainbow!" Mrs. Wilson assured everyone
who would listen to her (although so sure was she
that no one ever did
that she usually just echoed somebody else.)

That was that as far as Mister Capers was concerned too:
He'd already seen more than one rainbow at the same time
in the sky, so he quickly turned to more productive matters
inside his house, things to do with hammer and with saw and nails...

"It doesn't prove anything," whispered Mrs. Wren,
so Mister Gulliver and none of the other skeptics would hear her
--for she always tried to avoid any trouble with her neighbors
(like the good person she was):

But Mrs. Gannon disagreed nevertheless:
"There's only one human race, yet there's plenty of us!"

And loudly too:
She was the sort of person who liked to make sure
everybody heard what she had to say about everything,
no matter who might get hurt by it:
"The truth shall set you free!"

"And earn you a fat lip," Mister Slocombe added
(making sure it didn't sound like a threat).

It brought a smile to everybody's face.

Except to Old Man Moushabeck's face.
(That would've been very nearly a miracle I'm afraid.)

Old Man Moushabeck simply let everyone know:
"That doesn't even make any sense!"
Even if he wasn't all that sure what everybody was talking about.

"So what," said Mister Hopkinson,
trying to head off the fight he could see coming
between the old fellow and the very cocky
and ready-for-anything Mrs. Gannon:

"Lots of stuff never makes sense," he said,
politely, "yet it still IS,"
(knowing Mrs. Gannon didn't mind
starting a good fight now and then)...

Still others spoke about sunlight refracting
through the many different layers of clouds and such.

But that's as far as it went
before all the neighbors finally walked away from each other
in anticipation that trouble would break out among them
any minute now...

And, "Thank heavens for that," sighed Mister Hopkins,
self-appointed peacemaker to the four different neighborhoods
about the Billy B. Beautfool's City Park.

The Games.

Back at the playground separating the four different neighborhoods
there was a lot less arguing among the dozens of fun-seeking children
playing there... and lots more important concerns:

Hide-and-Go-Seek, for example, which
the self-appointed custodian of their childhood,
Miss Keapor, assured the children
would let them exercise their curiosity safely.

And Hop-Scotch, to help them
get into the habit of keeping numbers in their heads.

Or so Miss Keapor assured them it would do for them,
although she also tried to gently herd them
towards every other special sort of game
every special child from each of the four neighborhoods
around the playground
told her his or her parents wished them to play there.

But Hop-Scotch was also a good exercise
to teach them to keep their balance,
so Hop-Scotch was the game they played then.

After which: Tug-of-War,
which was a most excellent event
for developing their muscles (as well as team-work,
since the most important lesson
Miss Keapor wanted to teach the kids
was how to work together).

Well, after that, and after a good old-fashioned romp
through the slides and a wild stampede by the swings
... the usual chase after themselves
to build up a thirst large enough to down a whole river.

But this was one the cloudiest day in the history of the town,
as well as one of the rainiest
... "Has it happened before? Will it happen again?"

"Those," said Miss Keapor mysteriously,
"are questions that must... remain."

Puddles of Responsibility.

There were plenty of puddles about
(no doubt set out by Fate
to try to get a kid in trouble with his or her parents
... if a kid didn't watch his or her step). However,
Miss Keapor even managed to make a game of this:

"Responsibility!" Miss Keapor told all
who asked her what Fate could possibly have been thinking
when it spread all those tempting puddles before them
--For Miss Keapor never refused to answer a child's question
(so special to her was every child there).

The children stayed mostly on the paved areas of the playground.
Some of them began Shootin' Marbles (to learn how to take a chance)
since the baseball diamond was rained out.

"Miss Keapor," protested those children
whose parents did not approve of Shooting Marbles:
"Our parents look down on gambling!"

Miss Keapor made all the kids stop shooting marbles
(for the sake of the parents of the kids who were offended
by Shooting Marbles), although she was certain that
all those same parents--to a one--would have insisted
that life itself is a gamble (mostly)
and that it was always better to be prepared for what's ahead
instead of stumbling into the unexpected.

Tiddlywinks was also being practiced that day,
for Miss Keapor said it developed patience
and 'perseverance' (whatever that was).

There was no point in making too big a fuss
over any one game in particular
(among all the many games Miss Keapor said were necessary
to grow up a 'proper' young woman or a 'proper' young man
after learning them from all the 'proper' people).

Miss Keapor insisted every child try the teeter-totter,
both with a good friend and with someone not such a good friend
(promising them that this particular form of fun would teach them
to trust each other, as well as when and even whom to trust):

Miss Keapor's ways were old as herself, no doubt there.

She thought it important to always make certain the children knew
she herself knew a great deal about everything,
so they would always trust her.

But everybody, parents no less than kids,
agreed that if she hadn't been there
... the children would have probably gone on to play
less 'cultured' games,
and they might have even ceased keeping alive for their parents
the fine old games and habits their parents had kept alive
for their parents
in every one of the four different neighborhoods
around the Billy B. Beautfool's City Park
... as far back as Time itself.

You know which games and which habits:
You've all played them: Games no one need teach anyone,
like King of The Hill (in which the object is
to find out which kid is the strongest
and can make everyone else do whatever he or she wants them to do
... like Politics and all the other Higher Pursuits of 'civilized' people).

Best of all, Miss Keapor liked to stress how special
each and every child was, and how special their parents' special games
and habits were, and how special
was each and every one of the differences between them,
which was the thing every grown-up in the four different neighborhoods
around the playground approved of the most
about Miss Keapor (for some strange reason).

A Mystery In The Sky!

But that's when it happened, of course,
even as distracting thoughts like those
were threatening to worm their way into the heads of
some of the more draining kids,
and their wilder and wilder horse-play
became harder and harder for Miss Keapor to control:

Some say that's why it happened,
while others blame the four rainbows in the sky
on that very rainy day...

Billy Hatch had Bobby Rutherford right where he wanted him
for a great fall (atop the highest point of the teeter-totter).

Susan Gerald had given poor Sally Utrich a push on the swing
that would be certain to send her flying through the air like a baseball.

"Look! Look!" Miss Keapor pointed to the horizon outside town
(where the four mysterious rainbows were gathering)...

The children stopped all they were doing
and raised their eyes towards that part of the sky
where the four rainbows seemed to be headed
like whirlwinds.

It was a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle;
and even though the four rainbows were far away
everyone at the Billy B. Beautfool's City Park could see them
moving in the sky (indeed exactly like overstretched tornados),
as if they'd been the multicolored zippers
that keep the universe from spilling out of itself!

All the kids stood as still as bowling pins
watching in wonder
while the four arches' eight magical columns of colors
slowly drifted towards each other wriggling slowly back and forth
less like arches than rippling kite-strings
made of ever-pouring streams of lights
connecting one end of the earth with the other one.

"Geez!" Billy Nudd cried,
for he had read all about rainbows:
"Those can't be rainbows!"

"Watch now, children!" Miss Keapor said,
calling everyone together so none of them would miss
what she was sure to be one of Nature's grandest spectacles:

"Have you ever seen anything like that,
Miss Keapor?" Daniel Round asked.

"Very rarely," Miss Keapor assured them all
--Even as old as she was.

"I wonder if it will make one great big rainbow
when they all crash together?" Felix Deverow marvelled.

"Yes," Hazel Teasdale was betting:
"They'll all probably eat each other up
and end up one great big rainbow alone!"

But no one really knew what would happen.

Even Miss Keapor kept insisting it would be better
for the children to wait and see for themselves
than for her to tell them in so many words.

However, "When rainbows collide in the sky,"
she did tell them, mysteriously, as if she had been reading:
"When rainbows collide in the sky
... down here in the world
humanity will learn the greatest of all human lessons!"

But, was it true? Or was she just putting them on
(to make the experience even more mysterious
and magical than it already was)...?

Could she be telling them some ancient legend handed down to her
by her own grandparents, perhaps,
or maybe even by her great-great-grandparents?

Not knowing was a bit frightening to some of the children.

And being aware that no one, not even the grown-ups, knew
was even worse: So much mystery always seems to remain
even about the most ordinary things around one
when one is a child!

Other children were frightened for a different reason:

Even as young as they were,
experience had already taught them that few lessons in life
were ever learned without some bother (and oftentimes
with quite a lot of difficulty or downright pain on top of everything,
as well). And knowing this was frightening to them now.

"Oh!" Gerald Martin complained,
trying to get Miss Keapor to confess:
"You're just trying to scare us!"

   But, "What lesson?" Charley Hudson wanted to know.

Miss Keapor's reply was to instruct the children to just keep watching,
and that way they would learn it themselves,
and then they would be able to talk about it afterwards
(whatever 'it' was).

What Happened After The Rainbows Crashed.

Sure enough, high above the world
the four shimmering shafts of colored lights
were slowly but steadily coming closer and closer together
like colorful arches with overstretched tornados of light for legs
(although instead of going from one place on the earth to another
in an arch, they seemed to be flying everywhere
between heaven and earth
as if trying to make a connection between them)
... perhaps even trying to join together into one single big rainbow,
or to twist around each other like fighting snakes!

Closer and closer drifted the four rainbows,
nearer and nearer to each other... until finally
no one could deny that it seemed
as if they were about to touch.

And, no sooner thought than done:

The four fantastic rainbows instantly blended together
into one single tornado of light
and then shed a brilliant golden brightness over every child staring
up at the awesome sight with awe-filled eyes!

And that's when a most remarkable thing began to happen:

Bobby Reiss was about to tell everyone how lovely it looked to him,
but instead his tongue got in the way of his words
and it flicked and flicked right out of his mouth
exactly like the tongue of a snake!

No matter how many times Bobby Reiss tried to speak
... all that came out of his mouth now was
that so very silently flicking tongue of his,
thin as a lizard's and split where it flicked!

Mary Black screamed for him, though (and at him),
because Bobby Reiss's tongue was not the only thing about him
that was changing right in front of their eyes
--His entire body was becoming as thin and as long as a snake's.

Benjamin Cuyler would have run away at the terrible sight,
but his own body was quickly sprouting
a gigantic carapace like a turtle's right out of his back.
And suddenly everything about him seemed to be slowing down,
and slowing more and more... until he was
as slow (and as ugly) as a tortoise itself!

Thomas Bernstein's eyes grew not just bright with awe
--and totally round-- but also as large as an owl's.
While feathers began bursting out all over his face, legs,
shoulders and chest, and his arms started becoming wings!

Martha Hengst tried to point it all out to Miss Keapor,
but she had inexplicably become a bear.
A big black bear was now showing Miss Keapor its paws
while it honked like a fog horn with a throaty cold!

And they were not the only ones,
because unexpectedly every child in the Billy B. Beautfool's City Park
was turning into an animal!

Each of them a different animal, too,
so that soon the whole place was teeming
with every imaginable kind of animal there is in the world!

The Getaway.

As Miss Keapor watched the children changing into beasts
all around her, she could see giggling Susan Donaldson
becoming a baying donkey.

In no time Georgiana O'Keefe was laughing
like a hyena having a fit. While little Billy Gottstein,
always the busiest child in any group of children,
began to shrink and shrink... and shrink
... until he had shrunk to the size of a gnat
--And he looked very much like one, as well
(to those who could still see him, of course).

"Oh!" Miss Keapor said, as if not knowing what to do.

Only unexpectedly something much more important came up
... in the shape of Alexander Morrow
(who had turned into a great big African lion)
and was staring at her with what Miss Keapor thought was
just too hungry a look... for her own good.

Well, at any rate, in such a way
that just the sight of that now enormous mane of hair on him
and his huge growl (even though he wasn't even growling at all in anger)
were enough to send poor Miss Keapor running off in a panic!

Although Alexander Morrow, now and African lion,
did not chase after anyone, Miss Keapor did not rest until
she had put as much distance as she could between herself
and the terrible beast he had turned into
... even if the only place anywhere in that entire playground
where she might be safe was... atop the flag pole
next to the statue of the Billy B. Beautfool. And there
did Miss Keapor race without caring one little bit
that it didn't look lady-like and the rest of it:

Up the flag pole next to the statue of Billy B. Beautfool
(owner of the town's biggest company
... the Billy B. Beautfool Melting Pot Company) which
the townsfolk had raised there at his own expense
to celebrate the man who had the original idea to build a park
between the four different neighborhoods for children
to have a safe place in which to play: Up the flag pole
did Miss Keapor shimmy
as agile as if she'd been a little monkey even at her age.

From up there atop the tip of the flag pole
Miss Keapor could see that she was the only human being left
in the entire Billy B. Beautfool's City Park
who had not become an animal.

The Flag Pole Sitter.

On top of that flag pole,
eye-level with the stony moustache of the Billy B. Beautfool statue,
Miss Keapor looked down over the baffling sight of
all those newly minted animals
(which only moments before had been children)
milling around below her:

And, "Oh!"

Where once so many different children had played together
now a Malayan centipede (next to a Chinese silk worm)
measured itself against a nearby tree.
And a gigantic salamander from Japan stood not far away
(atop the slide). While a German cockroach
had taken possession of one of the swings.

A South American tree frog sat
right on the lap of the Billy B. Beautfool statue.
While an Australian cockatoo was scolding the world
with its neverending loudness from its shoulders of stone!

Miss Keapor spotted an actual New Zealand kiwi joining the group.
Along with a Boston terrier, a Burmese cat, a Canada goose,
an Arabian horse, one single solitary English sparrow,
and a Bactrian camel... no less!

She could also see a small Indian gharial
trying to back down a Hawaiian jungle fowl
(who was just as firmly trying to prove to it
that it was no chicken).

"Ah!" Miss Keapor peered as far as she could
toward the four different neighborhoods that surrounded the playground
on the Billy B. Beautfool's City Park
... to see if she might spot anyone to cry out to for help.

But as far as she could see there was no one out there
... not a sign to tell her whether it was just
only the children at the Billy B. Beautfool's City Park
who had been turned into animals, or
whether she was the only human being left in the entire planet.

All The Little Animals.

Suddenly a native American eagle flew so close to her
that it totally distracted her.

Then there was an even bigger and more worrisome distraction,
as she spotted a Kodiak bear (another different kind of bear
yet) milling around the base of the flag pole!

There was an Indian elephant around too (hard to miss),
which Miss Keapor had to keet an eye out for it most of all,
all the time she was praying that it
would never think of looking for a flag pole to scratch itself with.

Then... that spitting cobra hiding behind the tree
just had to be Andy Barton--it was so like him
(if it was like anybody there).

The howler monkey making that noise?
Undeniably Ruth Yoder (it sounded like Ruth Yoder
even as a howler monkey too much to be a coincidence).

A genuine Barbary ape (a very hairy fellow, too)
was, thankfully, kept away from the base of her flag pole
by an Afghan hound loudly trying to explain something to it:
Maybe it had something to do with
the hippo standing next to them.

Miss Keapor sighed with relief at that
(knowing the ape could've climbed the flag pole
with even greater agility than she).

Also down there, on one of the park benches, sat a French poodle
who was getting too curious about the Russian bear
(still another kind of bear) for his own good.

They were soon joined by a Spanish horse,
dancing about them as skittishly as a Flamenco artist.
Although, thankfully, he distracted the Russian bear
away from the poodle (long enough to maybe even save its life).

An English hedgehog and an emperor penguin were
each wondering what the other was up to, down there
next to a New Guinea cassowary that just couldn't seem to get enough
of trying to estimate how the penguin walked at all!

A pygmy Etruscan shrew came along then
(sniffing out a Chinese giant panda); and a fruit bat
from Malay (a really, really big one)
was apparently trying to figure out how a common little rat
could have grown to the size of a Brazilian capybara
(obviously no longer knowing that it had just then
been turned into one from a little boy).

An immensely curious Tasmanian devil was spotted by Miss Keapor
trailing closely behind a native American turkey
after switching from an Arctic tern which was able to fly away
to the top of a nearby tree as soon as it discovered
how interested the devil was in her!

There was a fish too, of all things, splashing in and out of
a great big dark (and hopefully deep-enough) puddle.

And then there was a modestly chubby rat down there too,
if you can believe it... along with an unusual number of
bugs in all shapes and sizes!

But the tiny little buzzying Miss Keapor kept hearing near her ear
was not an insect at all: It was a tiny little Cuban hummingbird
--in fact the littlest bird in the world:

No bigger than a bumblebee, it zoomed and zoomed (twice)
about her, and then flew off
hopefully only to find some flowery food!

"Oh!" Miss Keapor didn't think she'd be able to take much more:

She'd never seen so many different animals
from so many different parts of the world
in one place (and not even in a zoo):

There was no telling who was going to get eaten by whom down there,
either: After all, the cat's culture
revolves almost completely around eating mice!

Cultural Clash!

Miss Keapor had watched as Marilyn Schaefer, who was
always talking about her friends behind their backs,
changed into a little lizard. And now there she was down there
sneaking through the grass, thankfully unnoticed by 'anybody' else
(except Miss Keapor herself from up there atop the flag pole).

Daniel Francis, who was now a Billy (goat),
a real billy goat, kept saying 'no' with his horns
to every other animal he ran across, large or small!

Whoever had been turned into the monkey
kept trying to get the deadly Komodo dragon to play with it
(Miss Keapor never saw which boy it was
that was changed into the monkey, or she would have yelled
some reprimand down to him to get him away from the dragon).

She did notice enough of a blue handkerchief on
the head of a passing deer to make a pretty good guess
that it must have once been little Esther Lapidus:

"Just stay away from the leopard, dear!"
Miss Keapor screamed from the top of the flag pole
at the top of her voice.

The big brown bear (almost every third beast down there
seemed to be a bear) was still licking Judie Keeling's licorice,
so Miss Keapor hoped and prayed that it was indeed she
... and that Judie Keeling hadn't been some other little animal
which that particular bear had, you know, had
--before following it with his little licorice dessert right there.

She suddenly noticed something worse:

One of the cats was chasing a mouse! "Oh dear,
oh dear, oh dear!" What was she going to
tell the mouse's parents if that cat caught it!

"Run, little mouse! Run," was all the help she could offer it
from atop the flag pole: Directly below her
a grizzly bear was now scratching itself against the base of the flag pole!
("Are there no end to the different kinds of bears there are in this world?")

It instantly wiped away all thoughts Miss Keapor might have had
of going down there to help anyone,
mice or rats, or bees, or even little lambs.

"Good lord!" She suddenly discovered that Daniel Francis,
the billy goat, was angrily butting his head
against a huge and angry-looking bull!

She never had time enough to wonder which kid had become the bull:

Another one of the bears had suddenly gotten it in its head
that it wanted to hug the moose very, very much
(of which hug nothing good was bound to come,
because the moose--a huge one, with an outrageously large
spread of antlers on its head--looked like
it wanted nothing whatever to do with hugging bears).

"Children! Children!" Miss Keapor hollered desperately.

But all it did was attract an angry-buzzing hawk to her,
after which a just too lovey-dovey mosquito
fell utterly, utterly in love with Miss Keapor's ears
(one form of affection she could have
very definitely done without, thank you).

Below: Freckled-faced Eddie Rauf was a porcupine
and showing off all of his razor-sharp quills
to everyone who came too close to him.

Andy Davis was the elephant... trunk, tusks and everything!
And he was beginning to act rather worried now,
slowly finding himself among so many other different animals
(and so far removed from every other elephant on earth):

Lois and Martha Metz, who were respectably a rabbit and a hare,
were already in a race with Joey Herman the jaguar,
although apparently playfully--so far!

"Oh!" Miss Keapor shivered with apprehension:
About the only one of the animals down there not
going after somebody else
seemed to be the gopher (who was busy
drilling holes near home plate).

Miss Keapor prayed and prayed
that none of the animals below her lived strictly by their culture
... that none should die by it either:

"What a mess! What a mess! What a mess!"
Moaned Miss Keapor atop her flag pole then,
thoroughly helpless to do anything for anyone below:

All the different beasts
were going to have to find a way to live together
--all on their own and all by themselves--
for all she would be able to do
(if somebody tried to eat anyone else,
according to his or her culture)
would be to shout down at the romping beasts:

 "Stop! Stop! Stop! Stop!"

Although... would she be heard down there
from way up the flag pole!? Even she didn't think so.

And, even if the beasts heard her,
would they have understood? She knew not either!
For she would be shouting in her own human language,
and all of them now talked only in their own
special and different animal tongues.

All The Different Beasts.

"Look out! Look out! Look out!"
Miss Keapor screamed every time she saw somebody's claws
or teeth getting too close for comfort to somebody else's skin:

Certainly Steve Simmons, now a full-fledged polar bear,
didn't seem to be listening: He was busy
trying to play with a roly-poly seal Miss Keapor was convinced
had at some point in the not so distant past been clumsy little David Davis,
who could hardly run away now that he had no legs (to speak of).

They seemed to be playing rather roughly too
(the poor seal that used to be David Davis was thrashing all about,
trying to get away from Steve Simmons the polar bear
as clumsily as little David Davis might have managed it
... even when he hadn't been a seal).

"Oh, my goodness! Goodness!" Thought Miss Keapor
--Don't polar bears eat seals!?

"Heaven protect little David Davis!" Miss Keapor prayed.


Hoping that his brother Andy (who was now a great big elephant)
would somehow rescue him in time...

It was all too horrible to look at.

And yet Miss Keapor still kept trying to do whatever little she could
wherever she saw somebody in need of help:

"Look out! Look out!" She hollered at a small deer
(whomever it had once been), as soon as she spotted
Alexander Morrow the African lion, trying to sneak up on it.

Just in time too: "Thank heavens!" She exclaimed
as the little deer jumped away from Alexander Morrow
like a nine pound cricket.

That reminded her--Where there any crickets down there?
If there were (and she hadn't spotted any so far
or heard any of their songs):
What if somebody stept on one of them--even by mistake?!

A number of different cats of all colors and sizes
(and from who-knows how many different parts of the world,
too) were getting awfully curious about all the other smaller animals
around them, and they were looking them over
very suspiciously indeed.

While a number of different beasts down there
were beginning to get scratched by claws now (even if playfully
--at first), or starting to fight like animals not
to get scratched or clawed by those animals who had
claws with which to scratch them--!


Even tiny little bugs were beginning to
... bug 'everybody' too much
too (especially the animals with great big swatting tails):

The nits were picking on everyone.
While a couple of annoying gnats
kept loudly tying invisible knots in the air
(much to everyone's annoyance):

"Oh! Oh! Oh!" It was only getting worse below:

Soon there was a rather overly excited monkey
down there, that, for no reason at all (except maybe that
that's just the sort of stuff overly excited monkeys like to pull off)
... an overly excited monkey that tripped a chimpanzee
(ten times bigger than it). And, naturally,
it started quite a noisy all-out chase between them.

Such a ruckus did they make
that every other animal also began to become more and more skittish
now--Miss Keapor could see their feathers and fur standing on end
(even from as far as she was atop that flag pole): "Oh!"

She was certain that it wouldn't be long now before a real battle broke out
and somebody got seriously hurt or eaten:

Who Eats Whom?

Even the usually so tranquil tortoise
was starting to oppose the opossum at every step,
all in slow motion too. While the normally bashful hares
actually seemed to be boldly trying to grow
on a couple of the biggest bears--

"Oh, what dangerous playmates they've picked!"
Miss Keapor thought, wondering how long it had been
since the kids had had their breakfasts!

Below... the fawns were funning,
although the dogs were very, very serious about dogging them.

And one of the grizzly bears slipped by the base of the flag pole
and then took off running as if this time
it would not rest until it had caught ... something!

Ralph Pearson, now a flipping and flapping bat
(and not a fruit one, either) was flittering after Harriet Spinner
(who at the moment was a giraffe),
as if he just couldn't believe the neck on her
... definitely thinking of putting the bite on somebody!

Peter McBride, a little terrier now, was chasing the chinchilla
(that had once been Olga Cruz) all over the playground.

Unfortunately Alexander Morrow, the African lion,
was also leaping playfully now... after the billy goat
(once Daniel Francis), and making Miss Keapor wonder
how long Daniel Francis would remain
a butting and kicking billy goat!

Just as Miss Keapor was about to shout out a warning
to Daniel Francis the billy goat, she was again distracted
by a weasel which was going all out trying to fumble out the fish
that was splashing about in a puddle!

 "Goodness gracious!"

There didn't seem to be any end to it, either:

Suddenly there was a skunk down there trying to get to know
the porcupine... much too closely for comfort!

Oh, if anybody got stuck with one of those sharp spines
--Well, no telling how badly
one of those quills might injure somebody.

Down there, also a cow (bell, horns, and all)
was now checking out the grass.

And an actual racoon kept his masked eyes out
for anything it might lift...

A huge timber wolf could be found down there as well
(an animal which every other animal was trying to stay away from).
Whomever he had been as a little boy,
he himself was looking over the cow
--While a fly kept pestering a toad as big as a dictionary,
just dodging and dodging its shooting tongue.

   Only... for how long!?!

"Oh!" Then a bison,
and who-knows whom he might have once been
(or who cared, for it hardly mattered to Miss Keapor now),
a bison kept bumping against everything and everyone
that didn't get out of its way fast enough!

And a big ole pig, too, one which
Miss Keapor was too much of a lady to have tried to guess whom
he or she might have once been, but who was trying
his or her worst to make friends with a little tiny English hedgehog
that kept rolling up into a ball and very very politely
... trying ever so persistently to make his or her escape.

Then a little lamb began calling out for its mother.

And a leopard, not all that far from him, was very obviously
trying to find out where the calls were coming from!

"Oh!" There was even a parrot down there,
a parrot which never seemed to stop talking (not once), and not even
when a big red dog barked and barked at it real close!

Miss Keapor was appalled! She would have fainted,
but she would only fallen between the polar bear and the grizzly bear
(who, just below her, were slowly discovering
how little they liked each other):

"Oh!" Frightened to within an inch of her life,
Miss Keapor could only watch in ever-growing alarm
... and hope nobody ate anyone (how would she explain it
to their parents--they were sure to think she had miskept everyone):

"Children! Children!" Miss Keapor called and called,
as hard as she could: "Children!"

But those weren't children down there any more, of course.
So none of the animals paid much attention to her at all!

The Rainbows Part.

In the distant horizon, just as mysteriously as it had begun,
the four intertwined rainbows
had meanwhile begun to weave their beautiful dancing spells
away from each other,
and the same strange lovely golden brightness
suddenly burst once more upon the world!

"Children! Children!" Miss Keapor was still yelling from the flag pole:
"You are behaving like animals!" As the same mysterious magic
which had turned the children into beasts, slowly started
returning their bodies to the human forms they had once had:

Alexander Morrow the African lion's great mane of hair
began to turn back into just an ordinary shirt collar!

Eddie Rauf's every porcupine quill
again became a harmless little freckle!

Little Billy Gottstein, who had become such an annoying gnat,
began to double, and triple, and even quadruple in size
... until he was nearly his normal little human size again!

Just in time too
... for the fish (the weasel had finally succeeded in flipping
right out of its puddle) would have surely drowned
had it delayed turning back into Jennifer Schulman another second:

But now Jennifer Schulman sat up, not even so much as wet
with a drop of anything that was in the puddle that had been her world
moments before, and she rubbed her startled eyes
as if just waking from a dream...

Steve Simmons, the polar bear, was about to bite little David Davis
(who had been turned into a tasty little seal) when
his mouth became too small to bite anybody's head off... ever!

Seeing all this, Miss Keapor slowly let herself slide down the flag pole,
just as all the bickering beasts and animals below her
pulled back from the brink of disaster
before they savaged each other with all of their fangs and claws...

"You must try to behave like human beings!"
Miss Keapor still pleaded with everyone
as she hurried to check whether any of the children had been seriously hurt
(by another child), or been outright eaten
--While still trying to encourage them to, "At least pretend you're human
beings--That's something you should all play at now!"

Thankfully, no one had eaten anybody else!

And all the beast and animal there... were very quickly turning back
into the little human beings they had all been
'taught to pretend they were'
before the collision of those four mysterious rainbows
let loose all the animals inside the children.

Only then, after they were all back to being mostly human beings,
only then did they get along with each other again:

Far away in the horizon, perhaps even beyond the world itself,
those four mysteriously shimmering shafts of multi-colored lights
which had twisted around themselves like fighting snakes
(until they had seemed a single rainbow
throughout the horrible ordeal
of the beasts in the children having come out like that)
now fell farther and farther apart
and quickly started to fade away as if out of existence itself.

What Happened?

Yes, "What happened?" Benjamin Cuyler asked.
He had just been a very slow turtle, but now was quick enough
to be the first one to ask the 'perhaps' puzzled Miss Keapor:
'Perhaps' because she was a very poor actress, and
many of the more clever children suspected she knew
more than she was letting on.

In any case: "Was I really an owl?"
Thomas Bernstein wanted to know, "or did I dream it?!"
His mouth wide open in shock (hardly able to believe it now),
and still trying to find a feather somewhere on himself left over
from his so vividly owlish 'daydream.'

"Yes!" Marilyn Schaefer was only too glad to set him straight
(maybe even only so he knew she knew): "Yes you were!"

 But what to tell the children?

"Remember what happened here!" Miss Keapor said
--She would have liked to tell them she knew what had happened
... for although she had remained a perfect human being throughout,
Miss Keapor was acting just as puzzled as were the whole zoo of animals
that was slowly turning back into human beings: "Remember this!"

( It had seemed to her that the children's playing had been going so well,
too, right up to the time they all turned into every kind of beast! )

"Boy," said Andy Barton, so recently a spitting cobra that
he was still spitting around every other word he spoke:
"We sure were special... as animals!"
Still speaking with a little bit of a forked tongue: "Weren't we!"

"That may be so," Miss Keapor was quick to let him know,
and the rest of them: "But I think I like you all a lot more
when you're all plain ordinary human children!"

"Miss Keapor," said Susan Donaldson (so recently a donkey
that she was still slowly losing her long donkey ears
even as she spoke): "What lesson has humanity learned?"

"That's right!" Joey Herman seconded her,
a growl left over in his throat from the jaguar he had just been
... only now becoming enough of a little boy
to be able to use words again: "Didn't you tell us
that when rainbows collide in the sky
... humanity learns the greatest of all human lessons?!"

"That's right--She did!" Andy Geisel trumpeted
(although he was nowhere near as big as he'd been as a hippo)
... nevertheless remembering it all quite well:

"What lesson was that, Miss Keapor?"
Susan Donaldson stubbornly asked, "I don't know
what great lesson humanity has learned!"

"Don't fret there," Miss Keapor told her, and all of them:
"Just try to remember what happened here." Scratching
with apparent disbelief the long donkey ears on Susan Donaldson's head
(something Susan Donaldson seemed to enjoy a lot)
... even as those incredible donkey ears of hers were changing back
into human ears at Miss Keapor's touch:

"I do not know myself what lesson humanity has learned,"
she confessed to the children: "But then again,
I alone am not humanity, am I? And, from the looks of it,"
for they were obviously only then (all of them to the last one
safe and sound) again becoming completely human:
"From the looks of it, neither are even all of us put together
--for there is always somebody else besides!"

Everyone looked up at the horizon then,
at the four magical rainbows falling farther and farther away
from each other, and from the whole world itself it seemed...

"But remember this and you may yet get to be completely human,"
Miss Keapor added with reverence, her voice shaking with awe:
"And if you remember what happened here... perhaps
you shall be getting there that much sooner!"

And, "Sooner!" Echoed the now more and more human
Emily Wilson, not that long ago... a parrot.