Maybe I’m dating myself here, but do people remember that cartoon for kids called Goofus and Gallant? It was about two brothers, the screw-up, Goofus, and the good brother, Gallant. It was a two-panel affair, with the first panel saying something like, Goofus throws his banana peel on the floor. And then the second panel would say, Gallant puts his banana peel in the garbage and takes the garbage out without his mother even asking.
There is actually a point to this. We rent the second floor of this old triplex. The landlords, an older couple, live on the top floor and this other couple, B & D let’s call them, rent the first floor. Anyway, this whole thing has evolved where the landlords have decided that M & I are Gallant, and B & D are Goofus for no particular reason. Like, whenever a light is left on, B & D get a note. Whenever there is some trash left somewhere, or a door left open B & D get a note. Because M & Carolyn Jean couldn’t POSSIBLY have done it. While we’re slightly more conscientious than B & D, it’s not like we’re perfect. We have actually laughed about this whole thing with B & D.
Well, today the landlords went to Mexico, and because those Goofuses B & D are such screw-ups, Gallant M & Carolyn Jean have been asked to care for the landlord’s cat, and take out the trash, and shovel if there is a big snowfall. The ugly side of being Gallant has emerged!
Anyway, another version of Goofus and Gallant is the Ant and the Grasshopper. Do people know that one? The Grasshopper sings all summer while the ant works hard to store away food, and then in the winter, the grasshopper is really bummed.
Somerset Maugham, one of my favorite old authors, had this total fascination with the grasshopper, and if you really look at his work, you see that the grasshopper was the hero of many of his stories and novels. But the way he worked it, things end up turning out okay for the grasshopper, and the ant is the one who is bummed. In Maugham’s moral world, the grasshopper is rewarded for following his heart and doing what he pleased instead of slaving away with a grim, puritan work ethic.
This is what I was thinking about as I dragged the big garbages to the curb. That Goofus and the grasshopper and Somerset Maugham are totally on to something.
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