On a faraway planet beside a far star,
So far the best telescopes can't see that far,
In a place you can't get to by airplane or bus
There stood a tall tower--the Great Tower of Us.
It was taller than all other towers together,
A building so big it looked down on the weather,
And yet it grew constantly higher and higher,
From deep engine-dungeons right up to the spire.
(Just how did this work? Well, to fully explain
Would take many more words than these verses contain.)
The Tower was covered with plumbing and wheels
(More like those on bikes than on automobiles),
And up near the stoop of its uppermost coop
Spun the biggest of wheels--the so-called Great Hoop.
The Hoop spun the wheels and the wheels turned the Hoop
And the whole shebang ran in a grand loop-de-loop.
As long as it didn't run out of Go-Goop.
Go-Goop! The thick, sticky underground soup
That pulsed in the plumbing and turned the Great Hoop!
'Twas Go-Goop that kept the big rollers from rusting!
Go-Goop that kept all the upthrusters thrusting!
Go-Goop! Fulfilling the Us-ers' desire
To always go higher and higher and HIGHER...
...As long as there was enough Goop to be found
In the great Go-Goop bubbles that grew underground.
Now, most Us-ers clung to their coops on the side
Of the growing Great Tower--along for the ride.
And most did their part as the Tower rose higher
To hold it together with stickum and wire.
But others climbed upward to savor the thrill
Of Permanent Tournament King-of-the-Hill.
There were climbers who did it with pulleys and jacks
And others who climbed over those climbers' backs.
There were swoopers and swingers who swung with such zest
That the rest of Us cheered and assisted their quest
As they grappled and battled their way to the top--
Though occasionally, one of these heroes would drop.
Up near the Great Hoop and the highest-up wheels
Lived the Big Wheeler-Dealers who made the Big Deals
In pumping and piping and pushing Go-Goop
Or in selling machines like the Go-Gooper Scoop.
Of course all the Big Wheeler-Dealers agreed
That the Tower must rise at the speediest speed,
So they put out a paper describing their views
And sent it down-Tower--the Top Story News.
"Onward and Upward! It's our Higher Calling!
Pump up the plumbing! Have no Fear of Falling!"
So said the Top Story News when its readers
Were right in the middle of choosing their leaders.
And soon the Go-Goopers' own troopers took power
In all of the uppermost floors of the Tower.
And thus, in the year of Gazillion and One
The "Era of Zooming-On-High" was begun.
In the Great Hoop itself, in the hub of the hub,
Sat Drumbeater, Itchascratch, Shackles, and Shrub.
They'd angled and wangled ten years for this day
And now had the whole Tower under their sway.
Shackles, 'twas said, was the brains of the group,
Who'd planned their campaign to command the Great Hoop.
Drumbeater's job was to fend off the foe,
While Itchascratch spied on the Tower below.
As for Shrub, he was born umpty-five stories high,
And yet somehow seemed like a regular guy--
Just the guy to tell Us-ers Below not to worry
When Us-ers Above seemed to hustle and hurry.
Shrub had no patience for fretters and frowners:
"True Us-ers aren't fussers! We're Uppers, not Downers!"
He said to a roomful of Who-When-Where-What-ers,
And muttered a few other stutters and sputters.
What Shackles and Shrub hated most was a Why-er.
When people said "Why must we always go higher?"
Or "Why do we have to use so much Go-Goop?"
They'd have Itchascratch send down a Snitch or a Snoop.
Which is why, when the Tower would shiver and sway,
Most Us-ers had little or nothing to say.
Whenever the Tower would wiggle or wobble,
They'd say, "We have no right to quibble or squabble.
Let's stick to our level and stay out of trouble!"
But then there were Them--all those strange other peoples
Who had their own citadels, turrets, and steeples.
Fragile things standing in lakes of Go-Goop
Amid a grim desert of black Go-Goop Poop.
While a few Them-ers lived at a humongous height,
There were many more slogging along out of sight,
Down under the weather, down under the smoke,
A hardscrabble rabble of penniless folk.
They worked on the land, scratching acres of stubble,
Or dug out Go-Goop from the nearest big bubble,
Though some of them traveled to find the Great Tower
And work there for chickenfeed--two specks an hour.
Still others who'd spent all their lives in the cellars
Had come to resent all the Great Tower's dwellers.
Some even said, "Us-ers are demons and devils!
It's time for their Tower to fall a few levels!"
And Shrub, staring down at their small, scattered palaces,
Seeing Them stare back at him with mixed malices,
Sent down the word through the Top Story News:
"It's Us against Them, and we Win or we Lose!
And if you disagree," Shrub said, "Ahem.
You can't be with Us--so you must be with Them!"
The scariest Them-er was Goddam Ga-Zing,
A swaggering bully who'd made himself king.
He lived in a fortress half-buried in sand
On top of a huge heap of Goop-bearing land.
Goddam was a climber, both ruthless and proud,
Who'd built up his heap to peep over the cloud.
It was rumored that under his fortress of stones
Lay a foundation made of his enemies' bones.
It had suited the Us-ers a long time before
To side with Goddam in a Goop-grabbing war,
Even giving Goddam a ten-ton blunderbuss--
Until one day he brandished the blunder at Us.
"And ever since then he's been nothing but trouble,
A time bomb on top of a great Go-Goop bubble,"
Said Shackles to Shrub, sitting in the Great Hoop.
"But if we defuse him, we'll get his Go-Goop!"
They watched and they waited, they double-dog-dared,
They badgered and bugged, but Goddam wasn't scared.
He held to his ground, even though he was grounded
By Us blunderbussers who had him surrounded.
And Shackles to Shrub muttered, "Steady, boy, steady.
I'll let you know when--but right now we're not ready."
Then one sunny morning there came a loud Boom
That shook the Great Tower and rattled each room.
All Us-ers looked upward, and saw with dismay
That two higher spires had splintered away.
The spires and all of their dwellers had tumbled
And fallen so hard that the whole planet rumbled
And terrified Us-ers sent up a great cry:
"Who did this to Us?" they all cried. "Who, and Why?"
And a voice answered back, "This is Ali Ka-Blam,
But don't even bother to guess where I am.
My gang is all over! We strike from Below!
We'll hit you again--Where and When, you won't know.
"As to Why..." Ka-Blam started, then Shackles broke in,
"Don't listen to him--don't you even begin!
He'll bring down the Tower of Us if we let him!"
And Us-ers agreed on the need to go get him.
Ka-Blammers were fingered and captured and tracked.
But Ali himself pulled a vanishing act.
Drumbeater, told to go hunt for the foe,
Stared over the empty brown fog down below.
"You know," he said, "what if we can't find Ka-Blam?
This could be our chance to go after Goddam!
"Ka-Blam is a nuisance--a huge party poop--
But Goddam is on top of goo-gobs of Go-Goop!
The people are frantic, demanding some action,
And frankly," he added, "they need some distraction."
The Tower had lately been swaying and swerving,
Which Us-ers Below and Above found unnerving.
The Big Dealers' Wheels whizzing wildly on top
Were causing each other to flutter and flop,
And occasionally, one of those Big Wheels would drop.
But Drumbeater smiled. "There's a new kind of Boom.
We can point at a target and let it go--zoom!
It goes for the kill with such surgical skill
We can blow that Goddam fellow off of his hill
And barely one dollop of Go-Goop will spill!"
The Us-ers were puzzled. They paused and said, "Well..."
And Shrub said, "It's settled! We'll blow him to Hell!
The building of this mighty Boom starts tomorrow!
We'll do it if we have to beg, steal, and borrow!"
So straight from the side of the Great Tower of Us
They built a huge trestle, a trellis, a truss,
A crane with a crank and a highly armed arm,
And Shackles declared, "It'll work like a charm!
"Of course, it will run off our Go-Goop supply
(And the price will go up as our bubbles go dry)
And of course it'll throw the whole Tower off kilter
(But we'll manage that with a big counter-tilter).
"Of course we'll need soldiers, the best of our best
To march out and put our big Boom to the test.
But when it's all over, gosh, won't it be GREAT?"
Then somebody somewhere below shouted "Wait!"
Shrub turned around and looked down, so did Shackles.
Drumbeater looked, and he hiked up his hackles.
Itchascratch hiccupped--his upper lip curled.
They'd forgotten about the so-called Nother World,
The hundreds of towers that stood under Us's,
Some of them armed with big blunderbusses,
And every last one intertwined with the Loop
That linked the Great Hoop to the source of Go-Goop.
"Wait!" cried the Nothers, "Consider what's coming!
Remember--the Go-Goop that runs in our plumbing,
The Goop that keeps all of our Hoops going 'round,
And the Goop that Goddam has in store underground.
"Us Goop or Them Goop, it's all of the same Goop,
The same old be-careful-it-bursts-into-flame Goop!
The stuff that we use to go higher and faster
Could take us all down in one great big disaster.
Blow up Goddam and the next thing you know,
The next thing will blow and then on it will go...
"Just look at our towers, all shifting and shaking,
Our wheels are all wobbling! Our plumbing is breaking!
And all it would take is one well-aimed ka-blam,
While you're bent over double to get at Goddam...
"And all of us could wind up under the weather
Because," said the Nothers, "we're tied up together!"
But Shrub, with a shrug, said, "We'll go it alone."
He turned and he frowned and he hung up the phone.
From his High Command Post in the highest-up room
Shrub issued the order to lower the Boom.
The weapon was readied. The whole Tower groaned.
"Our purpose," Shrub thundered, "will not be postponed!"
And then, as he hovered, he felt a sharp peck,
As if an ice-pick'd put a nick on his neck.
"Ow!" hollered Shrub, "Did that come from Ga-Zing?"
"No," Shackles said, "It's from Lo No Ka-Ching!"
"From where? Over THERE? Golly, what do you figger?"
Shrub said as his finger closed over the trigger.
"Let's deal with them later," he said, taking aim,
"Ka-Ching has no Go-Goop. They're not in this game!"
A tremor and clamor came up from below
As Us-ers of every level yelled "No!"
While others said "Go!" and still others said "Wait!"
Shrub's short index finger lay heavy with Fate.
The Us-ers' great power hung out on a limb.
Shrub knew the whole planet was staring at him.
The Great Tower started to shiver and rattle,
Shrub narrowed his sights--
And prepared to do battle...