Vocabulary Stories

by Roderick T. Long

[1974-1976 (grades 5-6, ages 10-12) in Idaho Falls. A frequent school assignment was to compose a series of sentences, each one using a different vocabulary word, in order to show our mastery of the word’s meaning, as well as spelling and penmanship. As a means of relieving the crushing boredom, I eventually started either turning each sentence into a mini-story, or else weaving all the sentences together into a single continuous story. I suspect the teachers let me get away with it because it relieved their boredom also. Occasionally I would blow off a vocabulary word by writing a sentence like “I wonder what (word) means”; my teachers let me get away with this because they knew I knew what the word meant. (I now notice occasional mistakes in spelling or grammar (like “sprung” for “sprang”) that my teachers failed to correct.)]

[no date, but presumably early as the story aspect hasn’t really gotten going yet; it also doesn’t specify which words were the vocabulary words, though in many cases it’s easy to guess.]

1. Under that tree you will find the buried treasure.

2. They lived in a pleasant house at the center of the earth.

3. His eyes had a strange glare in them.

4. The movie fans looked at the actress without interest.

5. While it was raining, we all stayed in the house.

6. A loaf of bread was given to Spiderman.

7. Several dogs were barking at the octopus.

8. Roman engineers built roads through their empire.

9. George Washington gained final victory in the Trojan War.

10. The rocket was launched at Los Angeles.

11. Kangaroos carry their young in boxes.

12. Mud splashed on the side of the clean car.

13. The first streetcars were pulled through the quicksand.

14. The bather spread suntan lotion all over his body.

15. Socrates, the Greek philosopher, met death with calmness and self-control.


Arabic – John listened patiently as Naki jabbered away in some foreign language that sounded like Arabic.

cluster – A small cluster of people had gathered around Capt. Thunder, asking for his autograph.

context – Do you know what context means?

determination – Sherlock Holmes was a man of great determination.

logic – “Since the door we came into the cave through is closed, but those men are no longer in the cave,” said the Underground Undulator*, “then my logic tells me that there must be another door that we don’t know about.”

volunteer – The ad asked for volunteers for the search party.

*The Underground Undulator is the name of a superheroe!

[no date]

Albert Einstein – Marilyn said that I am making a report on Albert Einstein, which I am certainly not!

amateur – I am an amateur magician, but nobody ever sees my magic tricks.

brilliant – The Perpetual Motion Machine is not a very brilliant invention – in fact, it is utterly worthless!

carnival – Perhaps I could give the Perpetual Motion Machine to a carnival as a novelty – if I ever built it.

clipper – I might need a clipper if i built a Perpetual Motion Machine.

engineer – He was an engineer.

genius – Albert Einstein was a genius – which means that he put on one red sock and one blue sock.*

horrible – A horrible monster appeared, and he ate up the plans for the Perpetual Motion Machine.

legion – The “Legion of Super-Heroes” is my favorite comic magazine.

shanty – Dr. Crachpotte lived all alone in a little shanty except for one Perpetual Motion Machine.


[Sept. 9, 1974]

Mike leaped from the balcony to the excited crowd below.

The sand was colored a light buff, mixed in with little red lumps of rock which the captain said looked something like meatballs.

Tom faltered in front of the mouth of the cave, hesitating to enter, but Mike grabbed him by his sleeve and pulled him into the dark enclosure.

Tom sang happily in perfect harmony with the others, while Mike poked the fire with the stick he had found.

The underground waterfall was irresistible to Tom, and he ran to it, much to mike’s displeasure.

Mike came upon Tom and Elizabeth lobbing the precious red stones as if they were baseballs.

Tom was back to the monotonous everyday routine of the camp.

Mysteriously, Elizabeth appeared behind the huge boulder, as if from nowhere.

Mike, Tom, Elizabeth, and Ned made a perfect quartet, but Mike refused to sing.

The men in the black robes beat their drums in rhythm, while Tom and Elizabeth tried to get loose from their bonds.

There was a tremendous roaring, as gallon after gallon of water poured through the hole.

Tom curled up in the corner with a copy of “The Voyages of Ulysses” by James Kirkhouse.

“Where are my vittles?” growled Naki as he came into the camp.

“I’m trapped in this weird formation of rocks,” crackled Ned’s voice on the two-way radio, echoing through the underground cavern, “and I can’t get out!”

Uncharted Regions,
The King of the Cannibals

[No date]

A short, thirsty, English man was exploring uncharted regions when a cannibal chief captured him and made him march in the sixth and seventh cavalries, and wear a short blue tunic of cloth. He wondered if his friends would search for him. He wished he ahd never ventured forth into uncharted regions. Then he would shake his head sadly.

One day, he was lying in the shade, when a sharp knife hurtled down at him. Now, the English man had won a championship for being a fast draw, so he reached into his tool chest, pulled out his gun, and blasted the knife to pieces before it could call another inch. The natives thought he was a god, and so they decided to worship him. And so, the English man became the King of the Cannibals.

Macrobes and Microbes, or, The Thimble

[Nov. 11, 1975. At the time it never occurred me to me that the teachers might be picking words just to see what I’d do with them; but “rubber baby buggy” awakens my suspicions now. (I’d bet that that one was Vera Hylsky’s.)]

Three robbers arranged to steal a toboggan. They arrived at the house and took the toboggan. They jumped on it, and slid down the hill through the slippery snow.

Suddenly, up popped a jellyfish eating carrots. The robbers were so scared they had an accident. They crashed through the wall of a theatre, where they were showing an operetta. A married couple screamed and threw butter at the robbers. Other people shouted, “What’s the matter?” (They hadn’t noticed the toboggan.)

Suddenly, a buffalo in a rubber baby buggy crashed through the ceiling, carrying a banner. He started throwing tobacco at the audience. Smelling the tobacco, the robbers woke up, and found that it was all a dream. “That was a weird dream, wasn’t it?” said one robber, flicking his antennae. “It sure was!” said the other, flicking his antennae back. And then they both went back to sleep.



Australian Adventure

[Feb. 25, 1976]

This is the story of an adventure that happened in Australia. A mad scientist named Dr. Muffin-Up invented a machine. He used his machine to turn the entire population of a sheep station in South Australia to sugar!

Muffin-Up threatened to do the same to the Theater Association of Northern Australia, too. However, they paid no attention to him, thinking he was a crackpot. When Muffin-Up found out he jumped up to position his machine. He sent out the ray and turned an entire section of the nation into sugar. The TANA (Theater Association of Northern Australia) believed him then, and paid attention to his ultimatum: “Either you give me a million dollars or you and the rest of the nation will be turned into sugar!”

Everyone was scared and ready to comply with Muffin-Up’s demands when Gongwall, champion of Australia, made a speech. In his speech, he said that we should blow up his machine and prevent him from manufacturing another one, or there would be a national crisis. That is what they did, and after they turned all the sugar back into people and sheep and things, they made Muffin-Up write fifteen hundred sentences for penmanship, as a punishment.



Flair and the Iceman

[Mar. 4, 1976]

Young Flair’s life was filled with joy and happiness until one day his car fell into a ditch. The dirt mixed with the gasoline and the car explode and began to burn. The heat was so great that Flair died immediately – or so everyone believed. But Flair was not dead. The fire and the explosion had turned his form into a sort of miniature supernova with the heat to turn hardened steel into jelly. Flair went insane, and flew through the air, killing people. However, Iceman, who had the gifts of amazing strength and the power to turn anything to ice, heard of Flair. Iceman offered to locate and capture Flair.

Iceman flew off on his magic surfboard until he found Flair. Flair tried to kill him, but Iceman said, “I’m going to enclose you in a block of solid ice!” He neatly turned the air around Flair to ultra-cold ice – so cold that Flair could not melt it. Then he carefully picked up the whole block of ice with Flair inside it and flew away upon his magic surfboard.




[Mar. 9, 1976]

In the valley, there lived a farmer who had a pet turkey. He raised sheep for wool, and he grew many crops in the rich soil. He grew straw, and he had many grapevines in his orchard. He also had the prettiest lamp in the world, that hung on a thread from his ceiling. But one day, in flew a bareheaded hawk, who tore apart the thread so that the lamp crashed to the ground. “All right,” agreed the farmer, “I’ll meet you on your term!” He grabbed the firehose and squirted it at the hawk. The result was that the hawk flew out of the valley forever, and was never seen again.





A Fishy Story

[Mar. 17, 1976]

One day Benjamin K. Hysteria came home late. “Why are you late?” his wife asked. “Well, you see,” said Benjamin, “I was driving along when I found an exciting adventure. All of a sudden – now prepare yourself for a shock, dear – a little cricket a few miles away made such a loud noise, it shattered the bridge! I was the only one on the bridge when it exploded, but I fell into the water unharmed. I would undoubtedly have become drowned were I not in the practice of always wearing a scuba mask wherever I go.”

“When I got to the bottom of the sea I discovered a beautiful castle, made of pearl and decorated with gold. In the center of the courtyard was a huge, jeweled chest full of treasure, and mermaids and mermen were dancing around it.”

“Just how did they dance if they had tails?” asked Ben’s wife.

“That is a puzzle, isn’t it?” Ben smiled. “I never could really decide how they did it.”

It was at this moment that Benjamin K. Hysteria’s wife flew off the handle. She grabbed up the phone, and, using it as a club, she swung at him, screaming “I’ve had enough of your silly stories!”

Ben dodged the blow, and ran out of the room, his wife right after him.

“Oh, well,” he said with a smile, as he leaped over a fence, “at least this is good exercise – for both of us!”


A Tragic Love Story

[Mar. 28, 1976. I got a B on this assignment because my teacher claimed it “doesn’t make sense.” I think that must have pissed me off, because I seem to have gone back to separate sentences after this.]

Once upon a time there was a lawnmower who decided to marry a ribbon factory. Everything would have turned out just fine, if the lawn mower hadn’t hurt his tooth while eating some hubcap stew – a special concoction made out of flour, candles, candlesticks, one credit card, and a variety of chocolate and peppermint flavored hubcaps and inner tubes. He took his tooth out, wrapped it in albums of “The Gorilla Gonzo’s Greatest Hits,” and soaked it in carrot juice and peanut butter, but it still hurt.

Meanwhile, the ribbon factory had hurt herself. You know that women are usually curious, and this factory was no exception. She went too near the cliffs, and fell over.

The ribbon factory’s sister was a pioneer. If you yourself are a pioneer, you know that they are very determined. The factory’s sister was very determined that the lawn mower had killed his girlfriend by pushing her off the cliffs. She promised herself she would kill the lawn mower, so she set out toward his house (where he was still soaking his tooth) with a large amount of gunpowder. However, instead of using it to kill the lawn mower, she changed her mind and ate all the gunpowder in one gulp. (By mistake, she also swallowed a lighted match. Scratch one pioneer.)

When the lawn mower read in the paper that both the ribbon factory and her sister, the pioneer, had been killed, he cried himself to death.

Whatever you think, this is a true story.


P.S. – It is a recently proven fact that lawn mowers cannot cry. Not that I’m trying to imply that the author of this story is a liar. I just thought you should know.

[April 13, 1976]

1. Anthony Hope wrote a book about a modern-age hero in the medieval country of Ruritania.

2. The two countries joined together to fight France.

3. “Are you ready for the new detergent, ‘Gonzo’?” asked the television commercial.

4. “This feather is too heavy!” complained the weight-lifter.

5. “Company halt!” shouted General Schweinhund as he marched his army toward the Arctic Circle Restaurant.

6. Nine million oil companies bought Cost Less Brand cookies this year.

7. “I’m sorry about the Empire State Building disappearing, but can I help it if I’m hungry?” said the termite.

8. A flying saucer landed on the grocery store and stole all the comic books.

9. The Nazis dropped groceries on the heads of the orangutans to educate them on the matters of traffic laws and civil disobedience.

10. The Jolly Green Giant was a Jolly Normal-Colored Giant before he ate so many vegetables that he turned green.

11. The Inflatable Cupcake Industry is doing well because of a million-dollar-grant from King Midas of Phrygia, who needs no introduction to our literary audience and if you’re not a member of our literary audience you shouldn’t be reading this anyway.

12. When the Licorice Planet was colonized, mining industries sprung up everywhere to mine the licorice and dig it out of the ground so that it could be shipped to Earth where it would be used to make raincoats, clocks, and more rocketships to send to the Licorice Planet so that it could be colonized some more, and so more licorice could be mined and sent to Earth to make raincoats, clocks, and rocketships.

13. The beauty of the warthog was so stunning that everyone who looked at it was blinded and fell screaming to the floor and twirling empty soup cans on their fingers and wishing it were Wednesday.

14. Oswald the Oscillator is so lazy that he actually objected when Ma Sheen informed him that he had thirty seconds to oscillate the entire city of Washington, D.C.

15. Miranda looked up at the Eiffel Tower and wondered whether she should try to eat it with a fork or a spoon. (SHE FINALLY DECIDED ON A KNIFE.)

16. After fifteen tries, Stan Stumble finally caught the beach ball.

17. The Statue of Liberty was easily destroyed by the giant laser ray.

18. “Can a microbe balance a penny on its antennae?” asked the penny, who was balancing a microbe on the “T” of One Cent.

19. He opened his mouth and a swarm of wild pennies flew out, buzzed around the room, and clicked into the gumball machine, which promptly exploded for no reason whatever.

20. The South African Jujubee tore down the sacred temple and screamed like a banshee because he was so lonely.

21. The Gorgon Medusa was so ugly that Richard Nixon gave her a fruit salad.

22. “I don’t live in a community because every time I go near one it mysteriously blows up!” said Spiderman.

23. Dracula struck terror into dozens of Transylvanian communities.

24. There’s a lot of activity going on in the subterranean cavern that belongs to the Bogie-Man with the pink eyes and twitchy nose like a rabbit.

25. Did you know that every time you destroy the world all activities at the YMCA are canceled?

26. Can you imagine What’s-his-name crawling over a Whatchamacallit and playing “Who’s Who?” on a Thingamajig?

27. Theron escaped from the zoo, and Mike Dixon is going to escape next week.

[Once again no date, though given #3 it must be some time prior to the GOP convention of 16-19 August 1976; it also, once again, doesn’t specify which words were the vocabulary words, though in many cases it’s once more easy to guess.]

1. “I find it hard to relate to an Amoeba,” said the Paramecium to the Bacterium Microorganism.

2. In “How I Escaped from a Tar Pit on the Back of a Multi-Headed Omnivore while being Pursued by Several Species of Tax-Collectors, Brandishing Maces of No Small Destructive Capacity, and Howling with Considerable Ferocity,” by Ivan Coleman, the hero is placed in a situation of extreme discomfort.

3. “Do you think Reagan or Ford will win?” asked the reporter, to which Monsieur Mealymouth replied “Maybe.”

4. “XKLTPQRSLMPHBNAAAGH!” the man in the shed ejaculated in a whisper.

5. “I am a Babylonian Spumoni Specialist a la ´ mode!” said the Babylonian Spumoni Specialist a la ´ mode.

     BA-BOOF! BOOF! BOOF! is rhythm, but
                    is not rhythm!

7. When the big rock star finds out that BANG! BIFF! BOOF! ZAP!
                    is not rhythm, he is apt to commit suicide.

8. The serpent tried to tempt the apple to eat Adam and Eve!

9 . The toreador ate a corridor, and since there were people walking in the corridor at that time, the toreador got a stomach-ache and couldn’t go out in the bullfight, ha ha on him!

10. “I can’t tolerate people who use old sayings like ‘Give them a centimeter and they’ll take a kilometer’ and ‘I wouldn’t touch it with a 6-meter pole’,” said the man in the 38-liter hat.

11. John has a recurrent dream about a giant microorganism.

12. You only have to have one requirement to join the Eezikumeezigo Club, but only the club members know the requirement, and they aren’t telling!

13. “Iyam VAY-ree SAH-ree, but that IN-for-MAY-shun is confi-DEN-shall!” the very sorry receptionist remarked about the confidential information.

14. “And now, a word from our sponsor – or rather several words – or rather several sentences – or rather several paragraphs – or rather 180 dang minutes of gab!” said the game show host.

15. The force of gravity pulled Isaac Newton into the air, causing him to bump his head on an apple tree, thus discovering gravity.

16. “I feel somewhat amalgamated,” remarked Dr. Amalgamated.

17. National DC Comics issues hundreds of copies of “Action Comics” every month.

18. “For some reason, this report you write is not very convincing!” said Mr. Eggwhistle, as he examined a small slip of paper on which was written:


          RE: THE MOON (L. LUNA)


19. “The Aboriginal Spaghetti Examiners are getting unruly!” reported the Chief Reporter on the Welfare of the Aboriginal Spaghetti Examiners, to which the Chief Who Governs the Aboriginal Spaghetti Examiners (as well as the Chief Reporter on the Welfare of the Aboriginal Spaghetti Examiners) replied “If the Aboriginal Spaghetti Examiners are getting unruly, why don’t you, who are the Chief Reporter on the Welfare of the Aboriginal Spaghetti Examiners, beat the Aboriginal Spaghetti Examiners with the Royal Stick with which to Beat all Those who do not Please the Chief Who Governs the Aboriginal Spaghetti Examiners (as well as the Chief Reporter on the Welfare of the Aboriginal Spaghetti Examiners)?” to which the Chief Reporter on the Welfare of the Aboriginal Spaghetti Examiners had nothing to say.

20. That last sentence was overwhelming!

21. “I cannot interpret these hieroglyphics,” said the archaeologist.

21. Humble Hans was a humble man who wore humble clothes and lived in a humble house on the edge of a humble town with his humble wife and all their humble children.

22. “Bubble, bubble, boil and bubble! Double, double, toil and trouble!” said the witch.

Back to Juvenilia and Other Offenses