I met a strange and very wise man today.
I was very busy jumping in the snow around the Central Station Terminal; it was really entertaining, and I’d have gone on for a long time if not for that man.
I hadn’t seen him before. At first I thought he was just another street urchin: he was about as tall as Jimmy, and he was wearing old clothes. His hat was rather peculiar: an old bucket with two floppy donkey ears stuck on the sides. He was dancing and doing handstands on the platform. He was really good at it!
That’s why I stopped running to have a closer look; I noticed then that he wasn’t a child, but a man who hadn’t grown all the way up.
Even though he was a grown-up, I wasn’t afraid. He didn’t look mean, and I’ve met enough nice people in New Babbage by now to realise that not everyone wants to shout at me. Instead of telling me to go away, when he saw me, he started humming a song, just before doing a flip flop and a flap followed by a handstand.
“Doesn’t that make your head spin?” I asked, a tad concerned.
“No, my head thinks, not spins,” he said. That’s when I knew he was a wise man.
He was wondering where my moustache was, so I explained I wasn’t a short man like him — I was a child, and too young to grow a moustache. He wasn’t wearing one either! So I asked who’d stolen his. He said it was a goose.
Now, see, I don’t think that’s true, because I can’t imagine why a goose would want to wear a moustache. A moustache has to be worn between the mouth and the nose; a goose has neither of these things, hence, it can’t wear a moustache. Still, I promised the short man that if I saw a goose sporting some facial hair, I’d let him know.
But I was curious. If a goose had really stolen his moustache, had he likewise stolen the ears on his bucket from an ass?
“This hat was given to me,” he said, after I’d dared asking.
“By an ass?”
“Yes. His name is Underby.”
I laughed, then I looked around; we were alone. “I’ve heard of him. I don’t think he’d like being called an ass.”
“He should act less like an ass then,” the short man said, his voice loud and clear.
I nodded. “You’re very wise, Mr Donkey-Ears.” I remembered all I heard about Mr Underby; only rumours, mind you, but people don’t seem to trust him all that much. I was surprised at his generosity. “Why did Mr Underby give you a hat?”
“He said I was cold.”
And how! Mr Donkey-Ears wasn’t even wearing shoes! I frowned. “He should’ve given you a scarf. Bad, bad man. Or even gloves.”
“His bar is too dusty for gloves.”
That didn’t sound too good. Why would someone run a dusty bar? Nevermind, there were plenty of bars in New Babbage; why, I’d even drunk a free cocoa from the kind Christmas Elf, at Mr Lighthouse’s pub, two days ago!
We kept talking for a while: about the snow, and the trolleys, and where we were coming from. He may or may not be from New Babbage; he doesn’t remember. I can understand that; I can’t remember where my village is, either, and he looks much older than I am: his memory can’t be that good!
Still, he seems to know a lot. He can do handstands, too. A very wise man, indeed.