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*****
The Cranky Yankee - reprinted from the South Shore Puzzle Journal, Issue No. 47 - February, 2010
By Stephen Martin

"I love you, you love me. We're a happy family." -- Barney

      The Cranky Yankee tells the freshly bathed and flannel clothed grandson in his lap, "One spahklin' mornin', in a burrah by the side of the Molonglo Rivah in Australia, a platypus egg hatched."
      "What's a platypus?" interrupts the eight-year-old, already. "Like an octopus?"
      "I'm gettin' to it," the elder says. "Out of thet theyah egg came the oddest lookin' little crittah you nevah saw. He was covahd with thick brown fuhr, like an ottah, a flat tail like a beavah, webbed feet and a snout shaped like a duck's bill."
      "Was he a mammal, or a water bird?"
      "He was a mammal."
      "Then how come he was hatched out of an egg?"
      The elder sighs and scratches his beard with thick, rough fingers. "Because," he explains, "he was a monotreme, a small family of marsupial mammals that lay eggs."
      "But..."
      "Did you want a bedtime story, or a biology lesson?"
      The child is silent. Cranky continues, "The little platypus' parents thought he was just as cute as a speckled pup in a little red wagon. They named him Sydney. They gave him all theyah love and affection so that, even though the othah animals made fun of the way he looked, he grew into a very happy young platypus, indeed.
      "Early one evening, as he was floatin' on the watah, Sydney huhrd a racket up on the rivah bank. He looked and saw anothah crittah rippin' apaht a rotten log with its big, shahp claws. It was pret' neah as odd lookin' a Sydney was, in its own spiky way. It looked like a big hedgehog, but it had a long snout like an ahdvahk's. It was flickin' out its wicked long, sticky tongue to catch the tuhmites living inside the log. It was an echidna, 'bout the same age as Sydney.
      "Sydney swam to shoah and said, 'G'dye. My nime's Sydney. What's yoahs?'
      "But the echidna just looked up, frowned, and went right back to rippin' up thet log. Not so much because he was hungry, but because he was mad. You see, his parents didn't give him all their love and affection. So he was a very unhappy echnida, indeed.
      "Finally the echidna stopped rippin' and said, 'Why do you want to know my name? Are you going to pick on me, like everybody else does?'
      "Sydney said, 'No! I thought we could be mites. Everybody picks on me, too.'
      "'My nime's Spike,' said the puggle (young echidna) with a little smile.
      "Surprised, Sydney said, 'Why, you must be my cousin Spike that my parents told me about.' And sure enough, echidnas and platypuses are the only two remaining members of the monotreme family. Anyway, the new friends walked over to Sydney's house for a delicious meal of mostly insects."
      "That was a good story, Grampa," says the boy. "And, a biology lesson, too."
      "Twas, wasn't it?" agrees our humble hero.
*****
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