A Sad Tale from Skuddledump
by Lyn Perry
A long time ago, even before you were born, the newly elected mayor of Skuddledump, the town in which this story takes place, built a huge, huge apartment building. It was bigger and taller than anything you’ve ever seen.
Now the mayor, whose name was Muddlethump, built this apartment building for the citizens of his town so that everyone could have a place to live. But no one moved in. No one, that is, except a man and his wife. The man’s name was Tuddle, and his wife’s name was Tumpalina – Tump for short.
One day, Mayor Muddlethump’s political enemy, the crafty ol’ Fuddlerump, came to visit Tuddle and Tump in their new residence.
“Good afternoon, Tuddle and Tump. How is everything today?”
“Everything’s fine,” said Tuddle. “This is a wonderful place to live. Mayor Muddlethump says we can visit any floor, enter any room, and move into any apartment we please in this building. We are his only tenants, you know.”
“Is that so?” asked Fuddlerump, who knew already that it was. His beady-looking eyes darted back and forth. “You say you can go anywhere and live on any floor?”
“Well, not exactly,” said Tump. “There is a top floor but the door to the staircase that leads to it is locked. When we asked the Mayor about it, he told us not to worry and that there wasn’t anything we’d want on the top floor anyway. So we haven’t bothered about it. We already have everything we need.”
“Oh, but you are very much mistaken, my dear Tumpalina. You do not have anything if you are not allowed on the top floor. You see, the best and grandest view is at the top. You can see the whole city of Skuddledump. It’s as if the world were at your feet.
“That’s why the Mayor won’t allow you to go up there. If you could see the world as he does, then there would be no reason for him to be mayor anymore. You could even have his job, for you would know just as much as he does. If you could see from the top floor.”
“Hmm, that’s very interesting,” said Tuddle. “Are you certain about there being a better view from the top floor?” Tuddle looked down upon the town. “I can see fine as it is.”
“Oh yes,” said Fuddlerump, nodding vigorously. “You can see quite well from here but think how much more you could see from the next floor up. And from the next floor after that. And from the next. Now imagine the view from the very top. The Mayor is selfish not to let anyone even visit the top floor, don’t you think?”
“Well, it is his apartment building,” said Tump, slowly.
“But that’s exactly the point. It’s his, but he built it for Skuddledump. Now what kind of a mayor would invite everyone to live in a brand new building and then stop them from living on a certain floor?” Fuddlerump folded his arms across his chest as if he had won a very important argument.
“Yes, we see your point,” said Tuddle and Tump together.
“But we can’t do anything about it,” continued Tuddle. “The door is locked. And Mayor Muddlethump would kick us out of his building if we just broke in.”
“He wouldn’t kick you out,” said Fuddlerump, his eyes narrowing mischievously. “Especially if you had the key. You wouldn’t be breaking in then, now would you? A key gives you the right to open doors, for what good is a key if you don’t use it?”
“Now where are we going to get a key?” asked Tumpalina.
A sly grin came over Fuddlerump’s face. He stuck his hand in his pocket and pulled out a gold key that shimmered, reflecting the afternoon sun.
“Ohhh,” said Tump. “That’s a very pretty key. You say it will open the door to the locked stairwell? May we have it?”
“Wait a minute, Tump,” said Tuddle. “Do we really want it? I mean, is it ours to ask for?”
“Of course it is! For what good is a key if you don’t use it?” concluded Tump, echoing Fuddlerump’s words from moments before.
“My sentiments exactly,” said Fuddlerump. “And that is why I came to visit you today. I am willing to give you this key so that you can enjoy the grandest view in the apartment building. What is more, I will cut your rent in half. I charge a lot less than that greedy ol’ Muddlethump, you know.”
“I don’t understand,” Tuddle said. “The Mayor is our landlord. Why would we pay you anything?”
“Because,” said Fuddlerump, “I’ll soon be the new landlord. And I’m going to rent out the rest of these apartments to every citizen of Skuddledump. Since I like the two of you, I’ll let you choose the top floor first. But you better hurry, if you don’t take it, I’m sure someone else will.” Fuddlerump started to put the golden key back in his pocket.
“We’ll take it,” said Tump. “We’ll take it, right, Tuddle?”
“I suppose . . . I suppose we will get the best floor for half the cost.” Tuddle and Tump looked at each other and nodded. “Okay, Fuddlerump, it’s a deal.”
“Excellent! Here’s the key. I’ll be back later to collect my first payment.” Without another word, Fuddlerump turned and walked away. As they watched him disappear, Tuddle and Tump heard a faint chuckle echo from down the hall.
“What now?” Tuddle asked. “Should we go see what’s on the top floor?”
“I guess we can. No one is stopping us,” Tumpalina said to her husband.
So off they went. Since they were on the 200th floor and had 200 more floors to go (I told you, this was an exceptionally huge apartment building!) Tuddle and Tump took the elevator to the 399th floor and got out.
When they arrived at the locked stairwell Tump took out the key, looked at Tuddle, who nodded, and put it in the lock. With an easy turn, the door swung open revealing a long staircase going up, up, up, and ending at another door.
With a deep breath Tuddle and Tump took each other’s hands and mounted the first step. They climbed for a long time. After awhile, Tumpalina stopped and said, “Tuddle, we haven’t moved an inch!”
Tuddle agreed. “This is strange. Maybe the Mayor was right. Maybe there’s nothing up here for us. Do you want to go back and tell Fuddlerump the deal’s off?”
“Well,” said Tump, hesitating. Tuddle looked at his wife with searching eyes. Then both of them shrugged their shoulders and started up the stairs.
In no time at all they reached the top. Tuddle checked to see if this door was locked also. It wasn’t, so he pushed it open a tiny bit and peeked inside.
Warm air greeted them along with the smell of roses, hyacinths and all sorts of other flowers. “It must be a greenhouse,” murmured Tump, who slowly pushed past her husband and entered the room.
After wandering through the garden and enjoying the fragrant flowers and colorful shrubs, Tuddle said quietly, “Beautiful, eh, Tump? But we have a greenhouse on the 157th floor. I wouldn’t want to live among all these plants. Mayor Muddlethump was right – there isn’t anything we’d want up here.”
“But the view, Tuddle, remember the view,” said Tumpalina. “Fuddlerump said we could see the world like the Mayor does, from the top floor.”
Tuddle and Tump held hands again as they picked their way through the greenery and edged to the windows for a look. They marveled at what they saw. Everything was close up, like seeing through a magnifying glass. In every direction Tuddle and Tump could see far-away objects as clearly as if they were across the street. What’s more, they could see everything at once. They saw the whole town of Skuddledump, every road going out of town as well as the surrounding countryside, even Farmer Brown milking his cow.
Tuddle and Tump were excited. For the next hour or so they laughed and pointed as they named every landmark in town and looked for their favorite stores. They giggled when they saw their friends walking their dogs and driving their cars. But after awhile, Tuddle stopped smiling and scratched his head in bewilderment.
“What is it, dear?” asked Tumpalina.
“I’m not sure,” Tuddle said. He pointed. “Those big trees in the park. They look . . . sick, somehow. What do you think, Tump?”
Tuddle’s wife stared at the trees and nodded. She said, “You know, those trees look old; I think they’re about to die. I’ve never noticed anything like that before. Do you think we can actually see sickness from up here?”
“Hmm. I guess so. But it sure is odd.”
Tuddle thought for a moment. “Wait a minute! Didn’t the Mayor plant a lot of new trees in the park a few years ago? At the time we all thought it was a waste of our tax money. But now I’m glad he did. When those old trees die out soon, the park will still be green. The Mayor is very wise to plan that far ahead.”
“I wonder now,” Tump thought out loud. “Yes, look over there, Tuddle. The old quarry pond outside of town. It used to be our favorite swimming hole. That is, until the Mayor closed it after the earthquake we had three years ago. He said that it became dangerous because of submerged rocks. The city council investigated and couldn’t find anything wrong. Still, the Mayor wouldn’t allow any more swimming.”
“I remember,” said Tuddle, “and it looks like he was right. I can see some very dangerous rocks from up here.”
“Mayor Muddlethump has made many wise decisions,” said Tump. “He must use this window often. No wonder Fuddlerump said we would know just as much as the Mayor, if we could see from the top floor.”
The husband and wife looked at each other. “You know, Tuddle, I don’t think we’re supposed to be here.”
“I don’t think so either, Tumpalina.”
They were about to move away from the window when Tump noticed something else. For a long time they simply held each other and stared at the citizens of Skuddledump moving along the streets, going in and out of stores and walking their dogs. Then Tump started to cry.
“What is it, Tumpalina?” asked Tuddle. “What do you see that would make you cry so?”
“It’s the people down there, dear husband. They are so . . . so helpless. I don’t know how to describe it. They wander around without any purpose, without anyone to guide them. Do you understand?”
After a moment, Tuddle said, “Yes, I do, my dear wife. And what is more, we are just like those people down there – helpless and lost. We don’t belong on this floor, Tump. Let’s go.”
Silently, Tuddle and Tump turned their backs on the grandest view in the apartment building and headed back to the stairs. Before they had walked very far, however, they heard someone open the door and enter the greenhouse.
“Quick, hide,” said Tump. “It’s Mayor Muddlethump. If he finds us we’ll be kicked out of this building for sure.”
So Tuddle and Tump hid themselves in the shrubs and greenery. They barely breathed when the Mayor walked by and grew frightened when he stopped and called out their names.
“Tuddle, Tumpalina. Where are you?”
“He knows we’re here,” Tump whispered. “What do we do?”
In response, Tuddle pushed aside the branches and stood in front of the Mayor. Tumpalina joined her husband.
“Why were you hiding?” Muddlethump asked with a hint of sadness.
Tuddle was surprised; the Mayor didn’t sound upset. “We were afraid, Sir, that you would become angry and kick us out of this building if you found out we had been on the top floor. We know we are only helpless tenants . . .”
“Who told you that you were helpless?” asked Muddlethump, interrupting.
“Why, no one, Sir,” Tuddle said. “With these special windows we could see for ourselves that the people below are helpless and we realized that in your eyes we must look very much like them.”
“That is a very wise observation,” the Mayor said. “I am saddened, however, that you’ve seen the village through these windows. You should not have come to the top floor. How did you get in?”
“It was Fuddlerump, Sir,” Tump said, quickly. “He gave us a golden key and said we could pay him half the rent when he became the new landlord and that we could live anywhere in the building but that we would have to choose quickly because he was going to rent out all the other apartments and so . . . and so we wanted to live up here,” Tumpalina finished, her voice very low. She turned to her husband, “Isn’t that right, Tuddle? Didn’t Fuddlerump promise us the top floor?”
The Mayor said, gently, “My dear Tumpalina, I am afraid that Fuddlerump has deceived you. He didn’t own this building and had no right to offer you the top floor. But you are correct, he will become the new landlord now.”
“I don’t understand,” said Tuddle. “If he doesn’t own this building, how can he be our new landlord?”
Muddlethump explained patiently. “The law of Skuddledump states that the ownership of a property belongs to the one who is acknowledged as owner. When you accepted the gold key from Fuddlerump you agreed that he was your new landlord, and now he is.”
“But we want you to be our landlord still,” they cried.
“I’m sorry,” said the Mayor, “but building properties can only be passed to someone else and never directly back to the original owner. Under the current law, I no longer own this apartment building.”
Tuddle and Tump did not understand all the technicalities of the law and were very confused about who owned what and why. But then the implication of what they had done dawned on Tuddle, who spoke.
“Mayor Muddlethump. Since we are the only ones who live in this building and we both agreed to make Fuddlerump landlord, he now has the power to kick us out, right?”
“It’s a bit more complicated than that, Tuddle,” Mayor Muddlethump said. “Once you agreed to pay rent to Fuddlerump our contract was dissolved. You are now without a lease and are no longer tenants in this building.”
“Is the Mayor kicking us out then?” whispered Tump.
“No,” said Tuddle. “We just kicked ourselves out. That is, unless Fuddlerump lets us sign a new contract so we can stay.”
The Mayor, Tuddle, and Tump continued to talk for awhile as they walked around the greenhouse on the top floor of the huge apartment building. Soon the sun set and the three of them watched it as it disappeared behind the horizon.
Just as Tuddle was about to ask the Mayor what he should do with the gold key, Muddlethump’s political enemy walked into the room.
Anticipating Tuddle’s question, the crafty ol’ Fuddlerump pointed at the key and said, “I’ll take that.”
He then saw the Mayor. “Well, Muddlethump, what are you doing here? I own this building now and it’s time for all of you to leave.” He waited expectantly for the three of them to depart, his hand outstretched for the golden key.
Without a word, Tuddle gave the key to Fuddlerump, who smiled in triumph. Slowly, Tump took her husband’s hand and the two walked passed the new landlord to the door which led to the stairwell and left.
© 2000-2007 Lyn Perry
All Rights Reserved
Lyn Perry, a former pastor and now business owner, is married with two children and is the publisher of Residential Aliens. This story was originally written in seminary, dusted off in 2000 and reprinted here with permission from myself. Lyn enjoys reading, writing, and arithmetic. Well, two out of three anyway.
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