The Gashlycrumb Terrors

Every year around April Fool’s day, Bruce Schneier has a (somewhat misleadingly-named) Movie Plot Threat Contest. The challenge in this year’s contest was basically to create a story that would frighten small children into obeying their government without question. Writing an actual story seemed too difficult, so instead I wrote a little poem inspired by Edward Gorey’s The Gashlycrumb Tinies. Here’s an updated version of my entry:

A is for anthrax, so deadly and white.
B is for burglars who break in at night.
C is for cars that, with minds of their own,
    accelerate suddenly in a school zone.
D is for dynamite lit with a fuse.
E is for everything we have to lose.
F is for foreigners, different and strange.
G is for gangs and the crimes they arrange.
H is for hand lotion, more than three ounces;
    pray some brave agent sees it and pounces.
I is for intricate criminal plans.
J is for jury-rigged pipe bombs in vans.
K is for kids who would recklessly play
  in playgrounds and parks with their friends every day.
L is for lead in our toys and our food.
M is for Mom’s cavalier attitude.
N is for neighbors — you never can tell:
    is that a book club or terrorist cell?
O is for ostrich, with head in the sand.
P is for plots to blow up Disneyland.
Q is for those who would question authorities.
R is for radical sects and minorities.
S is for Satanists, who have been seen
    giving kids razor blades on Halloween.
T is for terrorists, by definition.
U is for uncensored acts of sedition.
V is for vigilance, our leaders’ tool,
    keeping us safe, both at home and at school.
W is for warnings with colors and levels.
X is for x-raying bags at all revels.
Y is for you, my dear daughter or son
Z is for Zero! No tolerance! None!

I suppose I should add a disclaimer — the above is intended as satire and really, really doesn’t reflect my actual opinions.

Update: thanks to all who’ve suggested ways to improve this, including Bruce Schneier and the readers of his blog (especially Gareth Rees, “V”, “Alan”, and Andre LePlume); some of those suggestions have been incorporated in this version. Special thanks to Schneier reader Tommy Turtle, who turned my clunky “zero tolerance” line (and the one before it) into something that actually scans. In case you’re curious, the original is here.

One thought on “The Gashlycrumb Terrors

  1. Loved this! Dark and funny, just the way I like my humour. And thank you for the intro to Edward Gorey. I’d never come across his work before but find myself an instant fan.

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