‘Tickling Butterflies’ – The Smarty Pants Competition

If you’re just joining us, here’s the story so far.

Tickling Butterflies is an epic fantasy, containing 128 fairy tales that together create one huge story. We are in the middle:


The Smarty Pants Competition

(Containing the laughable account of how laughter accounts for intelligence.)


Filled with sadness and pain, Benjamin Miller continued to tell his sad tale, Sylvia and I wanted to find a way out of the Land of No Respect.

We needed a boat, since the doctors had caused ours to sink.

In town, the whipped-creamed streets were filled with people. We noticed that the people who were alone seemed strange in some way. Some had long noses. Other had long necks. Other had big stomachs. Every man and woman who was single had some kind of feature that made him or her stand out among the rest.

But the couples, they were even stranger than the single people. Couples in the Land of No Respect seemed to be opposites. A man twice as tall as a building would be with a woman as short as a thimble. A man as fat as a house would be with a woman as thin as a candle. A man with a big head and small chest would be with a woman with a small head and a big chest.

Everywhere we looked, we saw couples that seemed complete opposites of each other. And everyone was headed in one direction, outside of town.

“What is going on?” I asked someone. “Where is everyone going?”

“We’re going to the theater,” he answered. “The Smarty Pants Competition is starting in thirty minutes.”

We asked him what he meant. Although he couldn’t believe that we had never heard of it, he told us the story of the Smarty Pants Competition.

“On the third day of the third week of every month,” he said, “we hold a competition for everyone in town to see who is the smartest one amongst us. We hold that competition in the theater. This is how it goes: We put three of our funniest people on stage. Each, in his turn, tells a very funny story. The audience laughs. Whoever laughs first the most times during all three funny stories is the winner of the Smarty Pants Competition and is declared the smartest person in town.”

“But why do you think laughing makes you smart?” asked Sylvia.

The man looked at Sylvia with utter disbelief. “Laughing does not make you smart,” he said. “Laughing first… Laughing first means you’re smart. Whoever laughs first understood the joke first. Whoever laughs second, understood the joke second, and so on. Whoever laughs last was the slowest to understand the joke.”

“Ah,” Sylvia said. She was beginning to understand. “But wait… this is a land of no respect. Does the winner get respect?”

“Oh, no,” the man said. “Once the competition is over and the winner feels good about himself, everyone comes up to him, and makes fun of how smart he is. That is the Land of No Respect!”

Sylvia’s body began to shake. “You’re all crazy! You are all horrible! This is a crazy and horrible place!”

Before I could put my hand on her shoulder, she began to run in the other direction: out of town and somewhere behind the mountain.

I climbed after her, as fast as I could, but she was running as if she was not running on whipped cream.

This has been the beginning of a disquieting story, King John the Cute, of Sylvia’s madness, a madness that would soon lead to tragedy.


(To be continued on Thursday…)

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