Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Wooden Zebra Loses A Leg...(The first in an occasional series about the destructive effect of children on their toys)

Once upon a time in a land far far away there lived a wooden zebra called Ken. Ken had been carefully carved from a small chunk of wood that was used to prop open the door of a shed by a little man called Ken who worked for a mechanic under some railway arches in South London.

Ken made Ken in the spare moments when the garage wasn't busy. He would peel back some wire fencing and go and sit in the allotment that ran alongside the garage. As he carved wood he liked to smoke and ruminate on how he would kill his boss. By the time he had chipped a few slivers of wood off the block and made a Zebra he felt much better. He could face going back to the garage and smiling in a slightly forced way at the man he had wanted to kill just a few minutes before.

So Ken's manufacture involved the transformation of Violence into Love.

One day Ken died. So it goes.

When the council came to clear all the stuff from his flat they found it was full of tiny carved animals. They were carved from wood and some of them were painted with crude, tar-like paint. Ken had no family or friends so the council chucked all the animals into a tin and sent them to the dump.

There are loads of folk that scavenge a living from council tips. One of these was a lady who prided herself on her brilliant eye for a potential bargain. She spotted the tin of animals and took them home to clean. A week later they were on her brickabrack stall down the market.

It was a cold and steel-grey Saturday afternoon. The lady was on the point of packing up when a scruffy bloke stopped, a pasty half in his mouth. Something had caught his eye...

"How much is this" he said, holding a small wooden zebra towards her.

"50p love"

He handed over a coin and walked off with Ken.

It so happened that this man was rather sentimental. He had always been fond of small objects and there was something about Ken that had grabbed his attention. He would take it home and give it to his small son Finn.

Finn loved the zebra. It came with him on trips in his buggy. Pretty soon it began to rival the plastic dinosaur as a method of entertaining Finn on the bus. (Finn and dad hated the bus and only used it as a last resort. It was far better walking about.)

Then one day they were on a 68 and it was packed. There were roadworks on the blinking Woolworth Road and everyone on the bus was wishing they were somewhere else, particularly Finn. He started to yell and yell. Nothing would calm him down. Dad gave him Ken, the zebra, as a last resort but Finn was angry and hurled the little zebra onto the floor so hard his leg snapped off.

"Oh..." said Finn.

Dad was gutted. He loved that zebra and was hoping Finn was going to love him too but now he was broken.

What dad didn't notice was that now Finn was calm and quiet. Ken had taken the Violence and turned it into Love.

So it goes...


  1. Lovely stuff. But...

    Will Ken be fixed?
    How do you know the story of Original, Non-Zebra Ken?

    The world needs to know?

    (By the way, re those Michael Chabon bookplate things--if you have more than 1 copy you could compare them to see if there are any tiny differences between signatures, thus determining if they're real signatures or printed).

  2. Ken's leg was lost on a number 68 bus - that part is true.

    Non-Zeb Ken is a figment of my addled brains...