The Tiniest Animal Ever Trained

by Jay Edson

Manuel was talented.

He was strong.

He was handsome.

He was likable.

But Manuel was not brave.

Above all else he wished to be safe.

At a very young age he looked around at the world into which he had been born. He saw sick people. He saw people who were hurt by their friends. He saw people who wanted things they couldn't have. He saw people making fun of their neighbors. "The world is a very dangerous place," he said to himself. So he built himself a tall and sturdy

tower with a comfortable room in the very top. And there he went to live.

Manuel's greatest talent was telling stories and acting them out.

His friends came and knocked at the tower door. "Come out and tell us stories," they pleaded. "Your stories are funnier, and sadder, and more surprising than anybody else's."

"Go away," Manual told them.

His mother came and knocked at the tower door. "Come home," she begged. "Your father and your sisters and your brothers are all bored without you. No one can make us laugh and cry and think new thoughts like you can."

"I'm not coming out," he said.

No one knew what to do.

One day a circus came to town. Traveling with this circus was the greatest animal trainer in all the world. Her name was Claudette. It was said she could train any animal in the world to do anything she wished.

As Claudette walked through the town between performances she glanced up and saw Manuel looking out of his window. "How handsome, he is," she thought to herself. "What intelligent eyes." She felt at once that he was the one she had been looking for all her life. She went and knocked on the door of the tower.

"Nobody is home," he called out. Though she persisted for some time he never came to the door.

Claudette asked the villagers about Manuel. "He is handsome and intelligent," they agreed. And he is a great actor. But he has decided to hide. You will never get him

to come out."

"We shall see about that," she said.

Back in her circus tent Claudette began working with a raven. In just one day she had it trained. After dark she took her raven to the tower and whispered instructions in its ear. The raven flew up to the tower window, and into Manuel's room. Manuel was sleeping. The bird flew over to him and pecked him on his nose. Manuel sat up in bed with a yelp and chased the bird back out the window. When he looked down on the street below and saw the animal trainer.

Are you responsible for this?" he yelled, holding his sore nose.

"There is no place in the whole world that is totally safe," she called back to him. "You might as well come down and leave your tower. I want to meet you."

"Well, I don't want to meet you," he answered.

The next day Manuel ordered some chicken wire and had it sent to the tower. Carefully he tacked it up at the window. "That should keep out unwanted birds," he thought.

When Claudette saw what he had done she went back to her tent and began training a mosquito. In two days she had it perfectly trained, and she returned to the tower. It was night time. After whispering instructions to its antennae she sent it up to the tower window. It flew through the chicken wire mesh and over to the bed where Manuel was sleeping. It landed on his face and stabbed its proboscis into his nose. Manuel sat up in bed with a yelp and went over to the window to see whether this was the work of the animal trainer from the circus.

Claudette smiled up at him sweetly. "There is no place on earth that is totally safe," she told him. "Why don't you come out and talk to me."

"I don't want to come out and talk to you," he retorted. "LEAVE...ME...ALONE."

The next day Manuel bought some very fine screen and had it sent to his room. "The tiniest flea couldn't get through this screen," he thought to himself as he tacked it up at his window.

Claudette came to the tower and stared up at the screen for a very long time. Then she returned to her tent and went to work. She had a plan. This was to be the greatest animal training feat in all history. She got a microscope, and a very very tiny whip, and she began training a germ, not by whipping it of course, but by making tiny cracking noises that only the germ could hear.

It was the ferocious Fernando Poo Flue germ, which is a particularly difficult germ to train. Even for the greatest animal trainer in the world it took three days of continuous work.

When she was ready she returned to the tower. It was late at night. She whispered instructions into the germ's semi-permeable membrane (which serves as an ear for a germ), and released it into the air. Although no-one could see it, it followed her instructions and flew straight up to the window, and in through the wire mesh. It flew over to Manuel, crawled into his nose, and began making him


Two days later Manuel woke to find himself weak and shivering. He had the Fernando Poo Flue. His head hurt, his stomach hurt, and all his muscles ached.

Claudette came by his tower and knocked at the door.

"Go away," Manuel moaned. "I don't want to see anyone."

"I've come to nurse you back to health," Claudette called up to him.

Manuel thought about this for some time. Being nursed back to health didn't sound like too bad an idea. "All right," he called down finally. And he threw to key to the tower door out the window.

Claudette let herself in, and went up to Manuel's room. There she stayed for the next three days. She put cold towels on his head and fed him many cups of chicken soup. She sang to him and told him true stories of her life in the circus.

Manuel fell in love with her. "I want you to marry me and come live with me here," he told her.

"I want to marry you," she said, "but I can't come live with you here."

"Why not," he asked. "It is safe here."

"My life is in the circus," Claudette said. "And besides," she added softly, "its not totally safe anywhere in the world."

Manuel thought about this for a long time. "I guess you are right," he answered finally.

"Your friends tell me that you tell the best stories of anybody around," Claudette pointed out, "and that you are a fine actor. You could learn to be a clown. You could teach me to act and we could travel together in the circus."

"Yes," said Manual. "I could do those things."

He told Claudette a story and they practiced acting it out in his room. In a few days they came outside the tower and acted the story for all the village. Manuel's family and all his friends were very happy to see him again.

"If we worked very hard, we could do a clown and an animal act together," Claudette suggested.

"Yes, we could do that," Manuel agreed. They practiced and practiced, and were soon ready to perform their act for the village. It made people laugh, and cry and think as they never had before. They could see that this was the best clown and animal act in the world.

After promising to visit from time to time, Manuel and Claudette went away with the circus, and lived dangerously ever after.

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