There was this tramp. One cold winter’s morning he was walking along a country road, when he heard a cry for help from a nearby lake.
Without a moment’s hesitation he ran out onto the ice and slipped and slided over to a little girl. He managed to pull her out without breaking the ice further and carried her back to the road. He took off his coat and wrapped her in it then began looking for a car to flag down.
Coincidentally the father drives up. “How can I ever thank you sir?” he says after putting his daughter into the warmth of the limo. “Just name your price – I’m a wealthy man.”
“Ah, well…” stammers the tramp, “… uh, I’m a little short of cash, perhaps you could help me out.”
“Oh dear,” says the father, “I don’t carry much cash with me, I only have ten pounds – but come home with me and I’ll get more from the safe.”
“No! No!” says the tramp, “Why ten pounds is more money than I’ve seen in my whole life – that’ll be plenty.”
“Ten pounds,” thinks the tramp, “I’m rich! I’m rich!” and off he goes to the town to buy himself a holiday.
He finds a travel agent, walks in – much to the disgust of the staff – and goes up to the desk. “I’ll have one holiday please!”
“Ahem, which holiday would you like?” asked the girl at the desk, forcing a smile.
“Oh, any holiday I don’t mind, anything up to ten pounds,” replies the tramp.
“TEN POUNDS! You’ll NEVER get a holiday for ten pounds,” says the girl incredulously.
She goes into the back of the shop, and searches in the deepest, dustiest filing drawers she can find. There – to her amazement – she finds an old file.
“Well you’ll never believe it,” she says to the tramp, back in the shop. “I’ve got you a holiday – its a super-duper, ultra-hyper, mega-economy class round the world cruise – and it costs ten pounds.”
“Yippee!” exclaims the tramp, “I’ll take it!”
A few days later he arrives at the port, and there in the dock is the most beautiful, most elaborately decorated, most expensive looking ocean-going liner he has ever seen.
“Get off my ship ye dirty bum!” shouts a voice, and an irate captain storms down the gangplank and kicks the tramp down onto the dockside.
“But I’ve got my ticket!”, responds the tramp, “super-duper, ultra-hyper, mega-economy class, and I want on!”
“Well okay,” says the captain, “but you can’t come on just now, I don’t want my first-class passengers seeing you. Come back at midnight when it’s dark and I’ll let you on then.”
So the tramp finds himself a quiet spot among some cargo cases on the dockside, and he falls asleep.
“Psst,” says a voice, waking him with a start. It was the captain.
“Hurry up, it’s midnight, let’s get you to your cabin.”
The tramp toddles after the captain, along the dockside, up the gangway, and onto the ship – and what a ship!
First they went down through the first class level: Oriental carpets – 6″ pile. A genuine Rembrandt on every wall. Leave your shoes outside for cleaning, and the steward brings a new pair. 24 ct gold trim everywhere.
Then the second class: As above, but perhaps the carpets were only 3″ deep, and so on…
3rd, 4th, 5th class, down past the casinos, and the ballrooms, down through the crew’s quarters, down through the galleys, and the engine rooms, until finally, at the lowest point in the ship, against the very hull, the captain opens a watertight door into a tiny 7′ x 4′ cabin, with a hammock, a bedside table, and an alarm clock.
“Sheer luxury!” exclaimed the tramp, “A room of my very own.”
“I’m glad you like it,” replies the captain, “but there is one more thing… Your class of ticket only allows you to use the facilities of the ship, at night – when all the other passengers are asleep. So that’s what the alarm clock is for. Enjoy your cruise.”
Well the cruise began, and the tramp had a whale of a time. Sleeping by day, and up on deck at night – he loved it. One-man-tennis, clay pigeon shooting, more food than he’d ever seen…
Then one morning, a week or so into the cruise, the tramp decided he’d have a go on the diving board of the pool. He had just enough time for one dive before he had to go below.
He climbed up the ladder, stepped onto the board tip, bounced, and dived…
… and what a dive…!
Perfectly poised in the air, he hit the water without so much as a ripple.
Now unknown to him, the captain – who’d grown rather fond of the poor old tramp – was standing watching this.
“That was amazing!” exclaimed the captain, “Where did you learn to dive like that?”
“Um, well I’ve never actually dived before,” replied the tramp.
“Well that’s incredible!” says the captain, “I’ve never seen…” He broke off. “Hey, I’ve got an idea”, he started again. “How would you like to train a bit, and we’ll put on a show for the other passengers. I’ll pay you, and you can then afford to go first class!”
“It’s a deal!” says our man. For the next 3 weeks the tramp practices like he’s never practiced before. Back-flips, front-flips, triple-back sideways axled dives, you name it he tried it.
Then one morning the captain comes to talk. “Okay, I’d like you to stay in your cabin for the next 2 days. We’re going to erect a high diving board for you.”
“Okay,” agreed the tramp.
Two days passed, and the big day arrived. The ship was humming with excitement. Everyone wanted to see the mystery diver. The captain had provided the tramp with a new pair of swimming trunks and he wore these as he stepped out onto the sun-beaten deck. Gasps of astonishment from the crowd, and a hushed awe. Higher than the eye could see, towering up and up, rose a slender column of metal.
“Well, tramp,” said the captain, shaking his hand, “Let’s see what you can do.” And with that the Captain handed him a walkie talkie. And the tramp began to climb…
up and up…
below him the ship grew smaller…
on and on…
past a solitary albatross…
and still higher…
till the ship was but a speck on the ocean below…
and on still further…
till the ocean grew dim…
and the earth itself…
began to shrink…
past our moon…
higher, and higher…
through the asteroid belt…
and on and on towards the diving board…
past the outer planets, until…
on the outermost reaches of the Solar System…
he reached the board.
He climbed on top and radioed the captain…
Slowly at first,
but speeding up,
faster, and faster,
speeding past Pluto,
and the other outer planets,
through the asteroid belt,
and the moon,
faster – ever faster,
and by now the earth was growing large in the distance, the oceans and land masses grew clear,
faster, and faster,
past the albatross,
and he could see the ship, tiny in the distance,
hurtling down now, he posed, ready for the final 500 feet,
Down on the ship the crew strained their necks,
“I CAN SEE HIM!” yelled a passenger, “LOOK!!!”
The tramp streaked down towards the pool, did a last triple flip, and dove…
NOT A RIPPLE ON THE SURFACE!
DOWN THROUGH THE WATER!
SMASHED THROUGH THE POOL BOTTOM!
DOWN THROUGH THE FIRST DECK!
SMASHING THROUGH THE SECOND!
THROUGH THE CREW’S QUARTERS!
THROUGH THE ENGINE ROOMS!
SMASHING THROUGH HIS OWN LITTLE CABIN!
AND DOWN THROUGH THE DOUBLE-STRENGTH STEEL HULL OF THE SHIP!
DEEPER INTO THE MURKY DEPTHS,
Into the sea bed, sinking a 37′ shaft in the process.
Desperate for air he struggle out of the shaft, his lungs bursting he swam frantically for the surface.
Up and up, desperate, gasping…
Out of the water, up the ladder onto the deck of the ship, into a throng wild with acclaim.
“HERO!” “WONDERFUL!” “AMAZING!” “GOOD SHOW THAT!”
And handing him a heated towel the captain spoke, as a hush fell over the crowd.
“Well tramp, I have NEVER seen anything like that, EVER. That was the most STUPENDOUS piece of diving I have ever seen.”
The tramp blushed.
The captain went on, “but tell me, most amazing of all is how you survived smashing through this boat after you dived – how did you do it.”
And the tramp looked at the captain, and the crowd and replied modestly: “Well you see…
I’m a just poor tramp…
so you must understand…
I’ve been through many a hard ship in my life.”