Little Rufus Gravitas was like an island of calm in the heart of a china shop overrun by bulls. His family was so off-the-charts wild, he could barely hear himself think. His father liked to wrestle furniture, paint seabirds, and set off fireworks at all hours in any surroundings. His mother was a singer who sounded like a screamer, and she liked to run laps around rooms in alternating directions. His sister collected stolen things from stores, took in stray skunks and squirrels, and never met a gun she couldn’t shoot in the house. His brother was craziest of all, what with the constant calisthenics, multiple personalities, and unnatural affection for canned goods.
Poor Rufus was bookish and shy and just wanted to be left alone…which was like a cat asking for peace and quiet in a barnful of dogs. Whenever he sat down to read his Proust or Tolstoy, someone always started scream-singing or wrestling a chair or shooting holes in the wall over his head. One day, he got in the worst trouble yet by standing still during what he darn well knew was Family Extreme Agitation Night. He made matters worse by not turning up all the TVs and radios in the house to full volume or throwing open every window to share the joyful noise with the next-door neighbors like he was told. He was sent to someone else’s room in another house as punishment.
But Rufus never got there. Dressed in his favorite sheep costume, he threw together a raft made of junk mail and sailed away to a distant land, hoping never to have to deal with his lunatic family again. Hoping only for a little peace and privacy in which to collect his thoughts. Imagine his dismay when he found the land was populated by great, bizarre beasts who came tromping out of the jungle to greet him. So much for his vacation from madness. So much for his getting away from it all!
Fortunately, miraculously, the creatures of this land were amazingly tame. In fact, they wanted nothing to do with wildness. These creatures wanted only to sit around on their striped asses and do quiet, peaceful things. Reading was a favorite pastime, as was origami, bird-watching, and navel-gazing. They never even said a word to Rufus or each other; their sole greeting consisted of putting their great clawed index fingers against their lips and saying, “Shhhhh.”
So Rufus settled down to existence in what he thought was a perfect paradise. Still in his woolly sheep costume, he and the Tame Things sat around the jungle day and night, doing absolutely nothing with even the slightest tinge of wildness. Tamely, they cloud-watched and thumb-twiddled and daydreamed. Once in a while, one of them might even look in his direction, but only for an instant before shyly looking away. It was the most wonderful place and the most ideal life Rufus could ever imagine. He had never been happier.
Which made him all the more miserable when the Tame Things tossed him on a raft and told him to get lost. Apparently, Rufus was far too wild for them. He had a bad habit of blinking too loud while slacking off. His breathing was also annoying, and the sound of his thinking was preventing the Tame Things from not getting their work done. So much for paradise! Rufus waved sadly from the edge of his raft, then realized he was being too unruly and slowly lowered his sheep’s hoof. The Tame Things couldn’t even be bothered to tell him never to come back.