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Jest a Moment column: When nursery rhyme characters sue

Nick Thomas
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An illustration of "And the Dish Ran Away with the Spoon", from "Hey Diddle Diddle and Bye, Baby Bunting."

Columns share an author’s personal perspective.

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Leading up to this year’s World Nursery Rhyme Week, Nov. 16-20 (see www.worldnurseryrhymeweek.com), many well-known nursery rhyme characters have gathered to announce a new class-action lawsuit against various companies and individuals.

These beloved literary figures are seeking compensation for injuries incurred fulfilling their roles in promoting children’s poetic literature. Our correspondent at the event has filed this report:

Reporter: Good evening ladies and gentlemen. I’ll be chatting with some of the plaintiffs shortly, but let’s see who’s attending tonight’s event which features a banquet followed by a private discussion between the litigants and their legal team.

I see Little Jackie Horner over there in the corner tucking into some dessert with Georgie Porgie. Both are suffering from numerous health issues after a lifetime of forced consumption of various puddings and pies.

And there’s Little Robin Redbreast, obviously pursuing compensation for that severe sunburn caused by defective sunblock cream.

Old Mother Hubbard is here. Her reputation was ruined after PETA accused her of animal abuse. She appears to be eyeing the buffet and stuffing a large doggy-bag of ribs into her purse.

Simple Simon is with us, too - a tragic case of a life ruined following years of cruel gossip concerning his mental abilities.

And … oh wait, we need security! Security! … Can you remove those sheep? Yes, Miss Bo Peep will be thrilled they finally turned up, but guests are trying to eat. No, no, the Three Blind Mice can stay, they’re invited keynote speakers. Just keep them away from that annoying cat with the darn fiddle.

I’m now making my way through the crowd … excuse me, Miss Muffet! Miss Muffet! A word please? I understand you’re suing the Curds and Whey Breakfast Foods Co. after you were left severely traumatized by an unexpected encounter with an Araneus diadematus, more commonly known as a garden spider?

Miss Muffet: That’s correct. I mean, who expects such a hideous creature to crawl from a cereal box and lunge at you during breakfast. Due to the combined effect of shock and the defective stool I was perched on, I sustained a serious concussion after falling off. So I’m also suing the Acme Tuffet Corporation.

Reporter: I see. Oh, hello, here’s Humpty Dumpty who just arrived from England to join the litigation. Mr. Dumpty, wasn’t it irresponsible to climb walls given your fragile nature?

HD: Listen mate, I did not fall, the structure collapsed. I was touring the royal property at Windsor Castle and the guide assured me the walls were not only built according to the strict House of Normandy Wall Construction Code of 1066, but had been upgraded regularly and met all required current building standards. When this lawsuit is settled, we’ll see who has egg on their face.

Reporter: Okay. Oh, and here’s Jack B. Nimble. Jack, I believe your issue is with the Wickenshire Candle Company and the third-degree burns you sustained to the buttocks when your trousers became engulfed in flames during an attempt to break the world candle-jumping record by leaping over 1,500 candles. Could it be you were just neither nimble nor quick?

Mr. Nimble: Not at all. In fact, after approaching the company’s lawyer, Fanny Burns, to seek compensation for my injuries - in arrears, of course - I was merely told I had misused their product which she claimed was only intended for illumination purposes. So I was forced to sue. Thankfully, during the incident, Jack and Jill Smothers were present and raced up a nearby knoll to retrieve some water and extinguished the flames otherwise my injuries could have been much worse.

Reporter: Now, a final word from the Three Blind Mice who are suing a Mrs. Farmer for animal cruelty. By the way, love the prosthetic tails, guys.

Mouse one: Thanks, but clearly the brutal attack on me and my pals left us traumatized. We were only searching for food which is tough when you’re a visually impaired rodent. We never meant any harm and don’t care if Mrs. Farmer did suffer from murophobia. Her claim of self-defense is baseless.

Reporter: Well, on that note, we’ll sign off as the activities are getting underway. But we should also acknowledge the legal team of McGreedy, Pilfer & Leach, in charge of this protracted litigation, who emphasize this is not just another frivolous lawsuit, but poetic justice.

Nick Thomas has written features, columns, and interviews for over 850 magazines and newspapers. See www.getnickt.org.