Just Right
To Read the original nursery rhyme "Jack Sprat",
click here


When little Charlie Spickenspan heard the poem about the Sprats, he suddenly got an idea that he was sure would make him really, really rich.

What he did was start up a dirty dishes laundry, so that for a quarter or maybe fifty cents people who didn't want to do their dishes after dinner could just bring them by his place where some people like Jack Sprat and his wife would lick everything clean.

Some of the people Charlie hired for his dirty dishes laundry were:

Mary Stead who loved good red and her husband who drank only white. They left the glassware bright.

And Andy Bower who loved things sour while his wife would eat anything sweet. They left the tableware neat.

And Alice Swat who ate straight from the pot but whose husband loved things really steaming. They left the pots a-gleaming.

And Peter Bligh who munched everything high while his wife gnawed anything low. They made the platters glow.

Well, any evening of the week, you could see the cars pulling up in front of Charlie's place and people getting out with baskets and boxes of dirty dishes and slimey silver and crummy cookware and gooey glasses. They would bring them into his place, and there all the dirty stuff got sorted, with sweet stuff going here and peppery stuff going there and sticky, hot, low, cold, high, white, greasy, or sour stuff going yet that many other places.

And then Charlie's crew would get to licking, and just a few minutes later, the people would go back to their cars with baskets of shining silver and pretty platters and purified pots and glistening glasses.

But then one day along came the City Sanitary Inspector, who is a kind of mom-like person who inspects things for clean. And like most moms, the Sanitary Inspector almost never finds things quite clean enough.

"These platters may be licked clean, they may look clean, they may be kinda clean, but they're not really, truly clean clean!" said the Sanitary Inspector. "To be really, truly, clean clean there has to be some soap!"

So Charlie ran off to the store, bought some soap, and spread it around among the next batch of dirty tableware to be licked clean by his crew.

"Aargh! Ughh! Yech!" they all said. "This tastes awful. We can't lick platters clean when they taste like this!"

So Charlie ran back to the store again and asked the clerk, "Do you have any good-tasting soap?"

"I don't know," said the clerk. "I never tasted any soap. But we got all kinds of soap. We got bottled soap and bar soap and soap in flakes and soap in cakes..."

"That's it!" Charlie interrupted excitedly. "I love cake! Everybody loves cake! Cakes of soap ought to taste pretty good! I'll take some."

"Chocolate, Vanilla, or raspberry?" asked the clerk.

"A lot of each," Charlie said.

This time the famous Spickenspan Dirty Dish Laundry platter lickers said, "Oh! Yum! Is that cake soap ever good." And they started licking like crazy while the Sanitary Inspector stood to the side nodding his head up and down in approval.

But then something began to happen. First it was a little foam where the Swats were cleaning pots. Then it was a little more foam and some suds where the Steads were licking head by head. And then it was great mountains of suds and bubbles and foam where the Blighs were licking up pie scraps and the Bowers slurped the flowers on the china free of food.

And with a rumble and roar the gathering soapsuds billowed up like a dark storm cloud and boiled out of Charlie's house in a vast, crashing wave loaded with broken dishes and bent pots and silverware and shattered glasses, but all nicely clean, and into the street. Charlie and the Sanitary Inspector and the Steads and the Bowers and the Blighs and the Swats had to run as hard as they could just to stay in front of the mess.

After a while, the suds and bubbles and foam melted away and the people all came and picked up their busted up clean dishes, and the Steads and Blighs, the Swats and the Bowers, went off to lick somewhere else, and Charlie sat on his front step with his head in his hands.

"Where did I go wrong?" he said.

"Ah," said the Sanitary Inspector. "Some things are too big, some things are too little; some are too hot, some are too cold; some too soon, some too late. It is hard to know when things are just right."

"I thought I had it just right with the soap cakes," Charlie said. "Had everything really clean clean."

"Good try," the Sanitary Inspector said, "but your crew went too far. They got all the way to super clean clean, and that's just too darn clean for anyone, even a mom.


 


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