Learning How Others Talk: An Animal Story Review

Today, at my job, I’m doing storytime.  Storytime involves some of the most soulcrushingly boring stories, broken up over 8 weeks of time.  It’s pretty brutal.  This two months, the story is about animals, so I’ve decided to reproduce it, in full, so that I can fully complain about it.

Learning How Others Talk, Part 1:

One day, Grandma went out to see her friends.  A stranger walked into the house.  The dog barked, “Help! A stranger is in the house! Woof, Woof.” The cat meowed, “Help! He’s going into the bedroom. Meow, meow.”  The goldfish said, “Oh! He’s taking the vase. Blub, blub.”  They couldn’t understand each other.

Okay.  Let’s just get this out of the way. I think it is irresponsible for an old woman, who apparently lives alone, to be taking care of all of these pets.  I appreciate that two of them don’t need to be taken care of as much, but seriously, the dog alone would be hard for this apparently frail woman to take care of properly.  She could be a spry old woman, but from her pictures, she is pushing 250 years old.   Also, there is no evidence of this stranger coming in from anything other than a basic understanding that this old git didn’t lock her doors.

Secondly, I know it is difficult to believe this, but dogs, cats and goldfish don’t just use their respective sounds as punctuation.  They don’t have fully formed thoughts in English and then convert them to barking by going woof woof.  Also, fish (at least pirhanas) are now know to make a diversity of sounds.  Blub blub, is the sound of escaping air, which, as far as I can tell, is not what any fish would be able to produce. 

Learning How Others Talk, part 2:

They said, “Let’s learn how to talk to each other.”  They started to learn.  The dog said, “Fish, I’m stronger than you. Blub, blub.”  The goldfish meowed, “Cat, I can swim faster than you. Meow, meow.”  The cat barked, “What a suprise! You two are great! Woof, woof.”

Look, I get it.  This story is about learning how to communicate and learning how to understand each other.  This, however, is not how this works.  If they, collectively, are able to communicate to each other that they are 1. unable to talk to each other, and 2. that they should learn how to talk to each other, what the fuck more do they need to learn.

These animals have just experienced what should have been a somewhat traumatic event.  They have just had their home invaded, but all concern for safety and their batty owner not locking the doors or whatever has been completely disregarded so that they can compare attributes?  That doesn’t make any goddamn sense.

And, the attributes that they compare aren’t even that good.  Sure, the dog is probably stronger than the goldfish.  It’s also bigger by a factor of 800% at least.  Relatively, however, if you stuck it’s head underwater, the fucking goldfish would murder it.  The goldfish may be a faster swimmer than the cat underwater, but take away the water, and you have a snack for the cat, prepared and ready.

And now, apparently, all you have to do to speak someone else’s language is to finish everything wtih a particular phrase.  So, apparently, my nonsense Spanish is finally validated. Yo voy a shoestoreo is now a valid sentence, because the ending sounds Spanish?  And I actually looked up how to conjugate the verb for that sentence-o, so maybe this one is better to demonstrate what I am talking about-o.

Learning How Others Talk, part 3:

Many days later, the dog meowed, “What do you want to do this afternoon? Meow, meow.”  The cat said, “I want to swim. Blub, blub.”  The goldfish barked, “I want to sing. Woof, woof.”  They were very happy to talk to each other.

“Many days later?”  What?  How does that make any sense?  There was a thief in the first part of this story.  These animals picked up each others langugae within minutes of the thief leaving, and they haven’t been using this apparent superpower for anything other than asking what they’re going to do after teatime?  These animals could go to a zoo and talk to a fucking whale.  They could get centuries old animals to talk about what they have seen that has changed their life, and they use it for the lowest imaginable purpose. It’s infuriating.

I’m super psyched that they were happy to talk to each other, but weren’t any of them worried that Grandma hasn’t appeared in several days.   How do these animals eat?  The dog might be able to deal, and the cat could eat the goldfish, but Grandma is either there, and they don’t give a fuck about her, or she isn’t there, and she is currently being murdered in her “friends” basement.

Learning How Others Talk, part 4:

One afternoon, Grandma was looking for her vase.  The dog barked, “Grandma, a stranger took your vase.”  The cat meowed, “Grandma, he took the vase.”  The goldfish said, “Grandma, he took the vase.”  But she didn’t understand them.  They said, “Grandma has to learn how we talk.”

Oh, hey, drama.  Where the have you been for the last two parts? Oh, you’re just popping by?  I understand, I wouldn’t want to be in this story either.

Look, another indeterminite time later, our Grandmother has appeared again.   She has finally realized, after days and days, that someone invaded her private space and took her stuff.  However, the animals know who did it, they have the ability to speak to each other now, and they try to do the exact same thing that they did with each other, with nary a blah blah after everything that they say.   Also, the goldfish is so unoriginal that he merely repeats what the cat said.

Also, this is actually the end to the story.  The resolution is just a moment of brutal storytelling.  The animals have the ability to communicate to everyone but the one person who could do something.  However, they are left on this cliff of unknowing, waiting to try to talk to Grandma.  And even if Grandma finally learns that they can talk, the instant that she talks to another person, the independence that she has cultivated will be taken away, because she believes that animals can talk to her.  She will live the rest of her days in an institution, haunted by dreams of animals talking in English to her, making her insane.  Her gift will be her curse, and she will be so withdrawn from society as to be dead to it.

This is what I teach to children.  I just don’t get to add my own parts to the story.  Hope you enjoyed it.

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