The Universe’s Largest Messy Room

Do you know what you call those who use towels and never wash them, eat meals and never do the dishes, sit in rooms they never clean, and are entertained till they drop? If you have just answered, “A house guest,” you’re wrong because I have just described my kids.” -Erma Bombeck

**********

“Ralphie, get in here right now!  You are in big trouble mister!”

Almost against reason, Ralphie walked up the stairs and stood in his bedroom doorway.  Seeing the look on his mother’s face, he decided not to venture inside.  He remained where he was, half in the hallway and half at the scene of the crime.

“What did you do?”

“I cleaned my room”, Ralphie replied as he looked to the carpet.

“No, I don’t think you did.”

“Well, there’s no stuff on the floor anymore.  And there’re no toys around.”

“Yes”, Susan admitted.  “But there are also no toys neatly put away on the shelves and no clothes folded up in your dresser.”

“There’s no stuff on the floor”, Ralphie repeated.

“Ralphie, tell the truth.  Did you use your tesseract dimensional storage unit to hide all your things?”

Ralphie only looked at the floor, wondering if some sort of escape hatch might open and help him escape his mom’s question.

“Ralphie?”

“Maybe”, he said quietly.

“Now you know what your father said.”  Susan was exasperated with her son.  She thought that this matter had been taken care of before, but apparently it was time for her youngster to get a refresher.  “When your father invented a portal to fourth dimensional space so that we could access an infinitely sized realm, he gave you instructions, didn’t he?”

“He uses it all the time”, Ralphie argued.

“Yes and he’s an adult.  Adults get to make decisions that young people don’t.”

“I don’t see what the big deal is”, Ralphie said as he finally looked his mom in the eye.  “Dad stores his tools in there.  You told him he couldn’t keep his table saw in the garage anymore so he put in it the tesseract with that old clunker car and the extra dining room furniture.”

“Does he toss his clothes in there?”

“No…  He never said I couldn’t though.”

(Click to see the tesseract model.)

Susan sighed.  “I think you knew that you shouldn’t.  When your father places things into that endless realm of size and proportions, he makes sure to attach a special tracking device and a long cord to them.  Plus, he always puts on a pressurized suit in case the entrance’s walls buckle and gravity and oxygen are compromised.  Did you take those precautions?”

“I had Mr. Fluffin watch the door!”  Ralphie pointed to his stuffed bunny with the top hat.  Clearly, he believed there was no more responsible act than having his treasured toy act as his second in command.

“I told your father you weren’t ready for this.  I told him that you weren’t grown up enough.  If that doorway collapses, then we’re going to have an area that mimics the absence of space trying to merge with your bedroom.  Do you know what sort of calamity that could cause?”

“That depends”, Ralphie replied.

“Depends on what?”

“What’s a calm nighty?”

“A calamity is when everything goes terribly wrong.  Like in those comic books you read?  Every time a bad scientist gets careless, they get changed into a monster, right?”

Ralphie nodded, the images of scaly faces and claws for hands filling his head.

“Those accidents are calamities.  You don’t want to be the reason something like that happens, do you?”

Ralphie worriedly shook his head back and forth.

“And what about Rodney the Righteous Turtle?  Remember how he got lost in the tesseract?  How your dad had to send in a robot probe to bring it back?”

His eyes went wide as Ralphie remembered the turmoil that his favorite action figure had gone through.  Its shell-launching action still wasn’t the same.

“I’m going to talk to your dad.  We’ll see if he can get the probe to launch some sort of net over your things.  Hopefully they haven’t floated too far away from your portal.  If, if we can get all your stuff back, I expect you to take care of it.  Understood?”

Ralphie nodded again.

“That means you need to keep it organized and clean in this room.  You can’t just throw it into a boundless dominion with no shelves or physical constraints and expect it to be okay.  You need to take care of things here, in this room.  Got it?”

“Yeah”, Ralphie responded.  “Only…”

“What?”

“Do we have to bring back the itchy sweater too?”

The Petty Loss

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told.  Some will be fun, some will not.  Some will be great, some will be less so.  Some stories are true, some are merely possible.  This is one of them.

The Petty Loss

The size of a misfortune is not determinable by an outsider’s measurement of it, but only by the measurement applied to it by the person specially affected by it. The king’s lost crown is a vast matter to the king, but of no consequence to the child.  The lost toy is a great matter to the child, but in the king’s eyes it is not a thing to break the heart about.” –Mark Twain

The small boy was instantly struck with fright
When his eyes were met by the tragic sight.
Warren came home and saw the door ajar
And worried his cat could be rather far.

His precious pet was the curious type
Its need for adventure was always ripe.
The family tried to keep the door shut
So the cat would be safe from any mutt.

Often Warren looked at the furry face,
Warning the feline of the outside place.
He liked the fluff ball to stay at his side,
Who knew what could happen to it outside?

Hours of searching with no cat around,
No paw prints to follow on the hard ground.
Calling out and searching were all in vain,
The parents called it with the start of rain.

So Warren went to bed, the time was late
He couldn’t believe his best friend’s new fate.
Tears flowed as he thought of his pet with dread,
Then he heard a meow from under his bed.

Pic from Best of Web

The boy sat up quickly, hearing the noise,
He cleared away all the mess and the toys.
And there, in a heap, just as sure as that,
Was the confused, still sleepy, pussycat.

The Astounding Meeting of Albert & Play-So

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

(Once again, kiradault was kind enough to give us schlubs something to write about.  I’ll wait while you go check out her site.  Done?  Amused?  Neat.  This time folks are invited to write about inspiration.  When I was a kid, nothing inspired me to be creative quite like Roald Dahl did, so that’s what we’re shooting for today.)

The Astounding Meeting of Albert & Play-So

A little nonsense now and then, is cherished by the wisest men.” -Roald Dahl

Albert was a quite sort of a boy.  He often strolled up and down the lake looking for interesting things.  He wanted to do fun activities that typical boys enjoy.  He liked watching fish flop around in the water, picking up slugs with sticks, and of course; swimming.

It was on a nice summer day that Albert had taken off like a shot out the door.  His mother had work to do in the village and therefore he was allowed to have free run of the neighborhood.  The only exceptions were Snow Blanket and Mr. Frumplestick.

Every town has their troublesome dog, and Snow Blanket more than fit that description.  Word had it that he had once glumped down a baby in one swoop just because it cried too loud for him.  His owner, Ol’ Mr. Frumplestick, ignored all the complaints that the citizens and the city had filed against Snow Blanket.  He maintained that if the children would mind their manners and if pesky solicitors would keep off his lawn, then his precious little greyhound wouldn’t harm a soul.

Mr. Frumplestick had such a frightening figure that few had the courage to stand up to him.  He towered at least a head over everyone else, even though he was a third as skinny as any other person.  It was if he had been lashed to a telephone pole as a child and the only way he knew how to grow was up and up.  He lashed out at visitors with surprising speed.  The only signs of his age were his raspy voice and the countless wrinkles that obscured his face.  Children claimed to have lost buttons and marbles in the folds of Mr. Frumplestick’s burlap face, but none dared to get close enough to look.  (This isn’t to say that all old people are mean, or that all tall people have wrinkles; far from it.  There are plenty of grandparents with soft wrinkles in their hands and plenty of dog owners who like small children.  Mr. Fumplestick, however, was an unfortunate gathering of all the worst traits imaginable.)

Mr. Frumplestick liked to take long walks with Snow Blanket along the lake.  Albert tried to avoid them, but he always seemed to bump into the gruesome pair quite often.  Every time the three met, the result was the same.  Albert would freeze in terror.  Snow Blanket would growl and tense his muscles as if ready to pounce.  Mr. Frumplestick would take a swig of the vinegar and beet juice that he kept in a flask that resided in a pouch on his belt.  The children around town all assumed it was what helped preserve his lanky frame and wrinkly face.    Albert had tried to ignore them and go swimming, but each time he did that he returned to find Snow Blanket had eaten his shoes and Mr. Frumplestick had used his shirt to wipe his shoes off.  Albert knew the only way to escape trouble was to hide in the bushes when he saw the pair approach.

Albert would have preferred to enjoy this nice summer day, but as soon as he heard familiar feet plodding towards him, he knew what he had to do.  He climbed up the nearest tree and waited.  A few moments later, along came Mr. Frumplestick.  Sniffling, scarfling, and snarfling behind him, Snow Blanket obviously had something stuck in his nose.  If Albert had ever been scared of the greyhound before he was now terrified of it.  There was something extra eerie about the dog.  Albert clung to the tree branch and waited for what seemed like forever.  Finally, the two went off the same way they came, Mr. Frumplestick mumbling and the canine emanating all sorts of freakish noises.

Albert breathed a sigh of relief and slowly climbed down the tree.  He had seen something from his perch that he wanted to investigate.  He tossed his shirt and shoes in a pile at the base of the tree and swam out to the right bank.  There was a gathering of tall weeds over there which obscured a large section of the lake.  Albert, being a fellow who didn’t like getting stuck in plants, had always tried to steer clear of the area.  But Albert had seen something movie.  He couldn’t explain it, but Albert knew that he was supposed to take a look.

He reached his toes out as he got closer, expecting there to be ground reaching up to meet him.  Albert was in the heart of the weeds, how deep could their roots be?  He kicked and kicked but only water and branches replied.  Albert was confused.  He dove under the water and was met only by plants.  There were more plants than he expected.  Tall leafs and wavy growths gestured towards him.  He lunged to the surface, took a deep breath, and dove back down.

Swimming as fast as he could, Albert made his way through the lake and the foliage.  Ten seconds passed then twenty and then thirty.  Albert was an excellent breath-holder, but he knew he’d have to return soon.  Suddenly, an opening appeared up ahead.  Albert didn’t have time to second guess himself; he swam forward.  A grotto was in his path and cool air met his face as he gasped it in.  Algae on the walls gave a creepy light to the area.  He could see around him, though not as well as he would have liked.

Out of nowhere, Albert heard a sound.  Something was in the grotto with him.  He froze.  An undefined shape was moving about.  It was too big to be a fish.  No cats or dogs could have possibly gotten in here, could they?  Pictures of Snow Blanket wearing scuba masks hopped into Albert’s head and refused to leave.

“Oh, I say.  Is there someone there?”

Albert was too scared to reply.  The shape that had spoken got closer.  It moved and splashed in front of a pungent patch of algae and the light glowed on its face.  Albert couldn’t believe his eyes.  He was staring right at a plesiosaurus!

“’pon my word, you couldn’t have announced yourself or something?  I certainly didn’t mean to give you such a fright.  But my boy, you really must wait for an invitation or some such before you enter any creature’s abode.  It’s simply good manners, don’t you think?”

Albert bobbed up and down, his gape offering no reply.  He had never been taught by his parents what to say when a plesiosaurus inquires as to one’s presence.

“I do fear I’ve frightened you dear boy.  Surely we can start afresh.  What, pray tell, is your name?”

“Al… Albert.”

“Well I wish you the greatest tidings and pleasant day to you, Albert.  It is day, isn’t it?  I must confess that I have yet to venture outside of my abode in quite some time.  Sort of took it ‘pon myself to have a little me-time, if you know what I mean.”

“You’re, you’re really a dinosaur!”

“That I am”, the creature replied.  “Do you know what kind?”

“Sure”, Albert replied.  Clever little boys often know about dinosaurs, and Albert was no exception.  “You’re a pleisaur, a pleasio, a… um…”

“Plesiosaur”, it corrected.  A sigh followed.  “I’ve often commented that the name is a bit long.  You may certainly call me Play-So, if you don’t find it too forward.”

“Hi Play-So.  Sorry to bother you, I didn’t think anyone was down here.”

“Well it’s my own little hide away”, Play-So said, beaming with pride.  “There are so many fish and vegetation cluttering up this lake that I like to have a spot where I can be myself.  I find it to be ever so relaxing, don’t you?”

“It certainly is rather neat”, Albert agreed.  “The air tastes weird, if you don’t mind me saying so.  Plus, my arms are getting tired from treading water.”

“Dear me, how right you are.  I’m being quite the terrible host.  I suppose we could continue this conversation by land.  Though, do try to keep up.  I’m not too fond of large groups of people, so I tend to pick the remote locations.  Is that all right with you?”

Albert nodded and reached out.  Play-So lowered its neck and let Albert grab onto it with both his hands.  As soon as Albert had secured his grip, the two were off.  They swam back down the opening, rushed through the thick cluster of plants, and found themselves on land.  Albert looked around and saw that he was surrounded by trees and no people were about.

Play-So lifted a flipper and put it on Albert’s forehead.  “Are you feeling, quite well, Albert?”  It was then that Albert got his first good look at Play-So.  The dinosaur was much smaller than he would have expected.  While still quite bigger than Albert, the animal couldn’t have been more than twelve feet long from tail to head.  Most surprisingly to Albert, Play-So had attire on his flipper.

“Are those spats?”

Play-So lifted his front right flipper and grinned, all his teeth shining happily.  “Yes they are.  Wonderful, don’t you think?  I know some folks think they’re out of style, but I’ve always been old-fashioned.  If you ask me, a flipper just doesn’t look right without a little decoration.  Anytime I venture out I have to have all four spats.  Splendid, aren’t they?”

Albert nodded.  A question had been building in his mind ever since he saw Play-So for the first time and he had to let it out.  “How have you kept hidden for so long?”

Public Domain in the United States. Click picture for information.

Play-So chuckled.   “It really isn’t as hard as you might think, my good fellow.   I can tell that you’ve noticed my size.  Something happened to mom’s side of the family a few generations ago.  We’re just a bit smaller than the rest.  I choose to believe that it makes us more adaptable.  Still, there are some who think it good sport to belittle this trait.”  Play-So’s smile faded at his last thought.

“You mean there are others of you?  How many?”  Albert was shocked at the idea that he had been swimming in a lake full of dinosaurs all this time.

“Oh, there’s not as many as you might think”, Play-So replied.  “However, I’d rather not say.  I don’t want to make any of them known that prefer their solitude.  You can understand that, can’t you Albert?”

“Sure”, he replied.  “I mean, me stumbling onto you doesn’t mean that your whole family wants to be bothered.”

“Quite right, though I think you’re rather pleasant”, Play-So offered.  “Although I probably am the most out-going out of all of us.”

“Do you mind if I ask another question?”

“Certainly not, go right ahead.”

“What do you find to eat?”  Albert couldn’t understand it.  “I’ve fished here plenty of times and come back empty handed.  Can you survive on the few fish here?”

“Goodness, no”, Play-So replied.  “First off, I’ve never had a taste for fish.  They have that scaly texture about them that my pallet simply doesn’t agree with.  I only eat wonzelberries.”

“Wahnzi… whatsa… what?”

“Wonzelberries; surely you’ve heard of them?”

Albert shook his head.

“Oh my dear boy!”  Play-So was indignant.  “Oh Albert, how you’ve been missing out!  You don’t understand!  Wonzelberries, why they’re like nothing you’ve ever tasted before.  Imagine the feeling you get when someone gives you ice cream cake and a shiny new toy on your birthday then gives you a hug.  Got it?  Well, that’s what wonzelberries taste like!  They make you all fluffy like a pair of pajamas straight out of the drier and fill you up like eight doughnuts fresh from the baker.  Why, wonzelberries are so deliciously perfect that it only takes one or two to fill me up.”  Play-So paused and looked at Albert.  “Hmm… I’m quite a bit bigger than you are.  Perhaps you shouldn’t try one.  Your stomach might explode.”

Albert’s eyes widened as his disbelief became visible.

“Oh you don’t have to believe me, dear friend.  I’ve seen it happen.  My brother thought I was crazy for swearing off fish and so he tried one of them.  Actually, he tried an entire plant.  I tried to warn him, I tried to stop him, but the ruddy fool simply wouldn’t listen.  Poof!  He puffed with so much satisfaction that he floated right up out of the water; shot up like a rocket he did.  Yes, that was the last time we ever saw him.  I suppose he’s broken through the stratosphere by now, if he hasn’t exploded entirely.  Well, I always said that greed would get a plesiosaurus in the end, and it was proven that day.”

“I don’t think I want to try one”, Albert stammered.

“Probably for the best”, Play-So replied.  “Besides, they only grow at the bottom of plants on the bottom of a lake.  Rather hard to get through.  And you have to break through their stone-like shell.  But oh, how it’s worth the effort.”  Play-So looked at Albert then looked at the lake beneath him.  “I say, you don’t have a wagon or a few skateboards around, do you?”

“I have one skateboard at home”, Albert replied.

“Oh no, that won’t support me.  I should need four.”

“What would you ever do with four skateboards?”

“Why dear fellow”, Play-So said.  “How else would I get about on land?  I tried it once and found that my flipper muscles were very adept at navigating those boards on the ground.  I practiced it late at night.  However, the boys that owned the things must have remembered overnight that they had left them here for they reclaimed them in the morning.”  Play-So sighed wistfully.  “I did have such a wonderful time on those skateboards.  There was no place I couldn’t go with those sixteen wheels.”

“If you give me some time I’m sure I could save up and buy some.”

Play-So’s narrow eyes lit up.  “You would?  Oh, would you really?  Why Albert, that would be just terrific of you; I mean bravo!  Are you sure?”

“Isn’t that what friends do for each other?”

“Well said” Play-So declared.  “Couldn’t have put it better myself, dear boy.  Spot on.”

“It will take me a little time, I just have to…”  Albert stopped.

“Why what is it?”  Play-So turned around and saw what had surprised Albert.  There, having just come around the trees, stood Mr. Frumplestick and Snow Blanket.

“What… what is this?”  Mr. Frumplestick ran towards Play-So as Snow Blanket growled his teeth.  “I’ve never seen anything like it?”

“Is this a friend of yours, Albert?”

“Not exactly, Play-So.”

“And it talks!”  Mr. Frumplestick leapt in the air and let his feet tap together with glee.  “I’m rich!”

Play-So waved a flipper at Mr. Frumplestick and nodded to him.  “Good morning to you, Sir.”

Mr. Frumplestick shoved Albert aside and stared the creature in the face.

“I say”, Play-So replied.  “That’s no way to treat a friend of mine, nor any small child.  I think some sort of apology is in order.”

“Beast, I don’t care what you want.”  Mr. Frumplestick was already counting gold coins in his head.  “I can charge whatever I wish for admission.  Ten or twenty a head, maybe even fifty!  They’ll pay it!  They’ll have to!  I’m rich!”

“Pardon me sir, but I think I may take my leave of you.  I do wish to see Albert again, but I’m afraid you are a bit of a ruffian.  I bid you good day.”

“No!”  Mr. Frumplestick screamed as he saw his fortune slipping through his fingers.  “Snow Blanket!  Sick ‘em!”

The greyhound approached slowly, the growl that had been in his belly the whole time only growing louder.  Between the snarfling of his nose and the growl form his teeth; Snow Blanket was turned into a grotesque hunter.  With a start, the dog lunged at Play-So’s throat.

Play-So, stunned at such rude behavior, let his baser instincts kick in.  His head snapped forward and he gulped Snow Blanket down without so much as taking a bite.

“Snow Blanket!”  Mr. Frumplestick screamed in terror as he watched his dog disappear into Play-So’s belly.  “What did you do to my precious Snow Blanket?”

“Ugh”, Play-So replied.  “The foul mongrel doesn’t taste precious.  What have you been feeding this poor animal?  My tongue feels like it licked an oozing snail and then had a bucket of ashes spilled on it.  Clearly this dog was filled with all sorts of atrociousness.  But you’ll get him back, so long as you promise never to bother me or Alfred again.”

“I will!  I promise!”  Mr. Frumplestick’s face was extra wrinkly as he lamented losing his dog.  “Only don’t hurt my lovely Snow Blanket!  He never harmed you!”

“I’m sure he would if I had given him the opportunity; wretched beast.  Well Albert, what do you say?  Should we let the dog go?”

Albert looked to Mr. Frumplestick who he had long loathed.  He had never seen the old man so distraught or frightened.  Albert looked back to Play-So and nodded.

Play-So winced and then wiggled his belly.  He clapped his front two flippers, spats and all, in front of his chest.  He hacked.  He coughed.  He stuck out his tongue.  With an ill look on his face, Play-So managed to cough Snow Blanket up.  The dog landed, wet and terrified, as a defeated blob on the grass.  Mr. Frumplestick squealed with happiness and picked up the soggy animal.  He held the dog close, gave one last look at the dinosaur, and then ran off.

“That was amazing!”  Albert leapt about with elation.  “You were great!”  Albert stopped and looked Play-So in the eye.  “You… you wouldn’t really have eaten him.  Would you?”

“Don’t be absurd”, the creature replied.  “That would be cruel and make for poor nutrition.  I just thought the bloke needed to be taught a lesson.”

And that was how a long and happy friendship was formed between a boy his dinosaur.

Stanley’s Super-Heroic Feat

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

Stanley’s Super-Heroic Feat

Lord knows, kids like Henry need a hero.  Courageous, self-sacrificing people. Setting examples for all of us.  Everybody loves a hero.” –Spider-Man 2

Stanley didn’t like change.  He didn’t like it when he was out of his favorite chocolate-crusted flaky cereal and had to settle with “boring ol’” puffed rice.  (The inclusion of freshly sliced strawberries wasn’t enough; Stanley’s breakfast needed chocolate.)    Stanley didn’t like it when his favorite rocket-ship pajamas were being washed.  Once upon a time he might have been okay with robot pajamas, but those could never be as cool as his rocket ship pajamas.  As he often pointed out to anyone who he thought might listen, the rocket ship ones has padded feet.  Stanley liked things how he liked them.  He was not a child who ran off with a backpack full of treasures to seek out far away perils.  He liked his own little world the way it was.

Thus it should come as no surprise that Stanley’s parents were not looking forward to telling him about the move.  Stanley’s father had been transferred to Arizona, which meant leaving behind their New York lives.  They had some family out in California, but they knew it would be a challenge to adjust their son to a life without the friends and loved ones he’d known all his life.  Even at eight years old, Stanley had become very accustomed to the way things were.

Knowing that they couldn’t put it off any longer, the parents fed Stanley his favorite dinner of macaroni and cheese.  They hoped that the familiar taste and a gentle approach would help smooth things over.  Stanley, forgetting the table manners that had been instilled in him, played with his favorite action figure.  He kept putting down his fork and turning his thoughts to the super-hero in his hand that he was flying and vrooming over the plate.

“Stanley”, his mother said.  “We need you to put down your toy and listen to us for a minute.”

Stanley was perplexed.  He wasn’t sure what could possibly be more important than zooming over mountains to save people.  Still, he stopped moving the toy about and held it with both his hands in front of him.

“Stanley”, his father began, “we’re going to be moving to a new house.”  Immediately Stanley’s father could see the worry consume his son’s face.  “It’s going to be okay, though.”

“We’re just going to take everything and put it somewhere else”, Stanley’s mom offered.  “All your toys, your father and I; we’ll all be together.  We’re just going to it all in a different house.

“Where?”  It was all Stanley could say. 

“Do you remember Uncle Frank?” Stanley’s father asked.  “We went out to see him two years ago?”  Stanley looked back with the same confused expression.  “He had that horse he let you ride?”

Stanley nodded quietly.  He remembered the horse, but he couldn’t understand what it had to do with him.  The horse could come over and visit if it wanted, but he and his toys were quite happy here.  Stanley hugged his toy closer to his chest in case some of the bad news was meant for his favorite hero.

“We’re going to move out there and be close to him”, Stanley’s mother said.  “We’ll be able to see him more often.  And your father has a new job out there.  He’s going to learn how to do more things.  You know, like how your teacher shows you different things at different times of the day?”

Stanley only nodded.

“It’s just like that”, his mother continued.  “Let’s say that your dad has been learning to read all this time.  Well now we’re all going to a different place so he can learn how to do math.  And we don’t want your father to be lonely, so we’re going to go with him.”

“I like it here.”  Stanley put his head down and looked at his hero.  He could only see the lines that made up the hair on top of its blonde head and its broad shoulders.  He thought about lifting the muscular arms up in a defiant flight position, but he knew he would have to let go of the toy to do that.  Stanley wasn’t about to risk that for anything so he kept staring down, unmoving.

“We all like it here”, Stanley’s father replied.  “Y’know what, though?  We think we might like it out there.  We might have all kinds of fun there.  It’s a lot warmer out in Arizona.  You know how it gets dark and cold and snows out here?  Well they have lots more sun in the dessert.  You could be outside and talk to iguanas.”

“What’s an iggana?”

“It’s a lizard.  You know what lizards are, don’t you?  They’re like little dinosaurs”, Stanley’s mother offered. 

She had hit the magic word.  “Dinosaurs?”  Stanley’s eyes lit up.  “I get to live with dinosaurs?”

“They’re really small, but kind of.  They aren’t exactly dinosaurs, but they have green skin and they’re scaly, and they crawl around on tree branches.  Oh, and they have long tails too that they can sweep back and forth.”  Stanley’s mother could see her excitement was transferring over to her son.  He was no longer looking at the floor.  Now Stanley was staring off into space pondering the possibilities.

“Coooool.”

Image“Yeah, isn’t it?  Think about it”, Stanley’s father continued.  “Your little guy there could have all sorts of adventures.  He’s already saved New YorK City… I dunno… How many times Stanley?”

“A gabillion!”  Stanley was very proud of all the help he had provided his hero with in their never-ending mission.

“Don’t you think he might get a little bored of saving the same old buildings?”  Stanley’s father had shared his love of super-heroes with his son and knew exactly what approach to take.  “What if we take all your heroes to a new world?  They could have trips to alien worlds and see weird creatures.  Do you think they would like that?”

“Yeah”, Stanley answered.  “But when are we coming back?”

“Not for a long time, honey.”

“Oh.”  The reply Stanley got from his mother wasn’t the one he had hoped for.  “We can’t come back?”

“We might”, she answered.  “Don’t you think we should try out the new place first?  See how that goes?  We can’t give up too quick.  That wouldn’t be right.”

“I guess not.” 

Stanley’s father saw the sadness returning to his son’s face.  An idea hit him.  “Hey Stanley, you like your heroes, right?”

“Yeah”, he replied quietly.

“Well you like how brave they are, don’t you?  How they stand up for their friends and take on danger to help others?”

“Uh huh.”

“That’s what we need you to do.  We need you to be brave.” 

Stanley didn’t respond.

“Here’s what I think”, Stanley’s father continued.  “I think we should get you a mask.  And every time we start getting caught up in things that make you scared, you put on the mask.  That way you can be brave like your hero, there.”

“Can I have a belt too?”  Stanley’s voice held a hint of cautious hope. 

“I think that makes sense”, Stanley’s mother said.  “That way you could have pouches to put your toys in.  We wouldn’t want you to stare down trouble without your friends by your side.  Don’t forget though, we’ll both be there the whole time.”

“Do I get boots?”  Stanley was getting excited.

“Would I let you go stomping off into wonderful new worlds without boots?”  His father feigned injury at the suggestion.  What super-hero, or even sidekick, would go out without their boots?”

Stanley grinned.

“What do you say, Stanley”, his father asked.  “Can you be brave for us?”

Stanley nodded and vigorously shook his head up and down.  His parents looked on, quietly interlocking fingers and breathing a shared sigh of relief.  Stanley, back to his normal self, played with his toy in one hand and ate his macaroni with the other.  He could almost feel his belt and boots making him stronger already.

The Unborn Child

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told.  Some will be fun, some will not.  Some will be great, some will be less so.  Some stories are true, some are merely possible.  This is one of them.

The Unborn Child

Picture a girl like many other girls.  She was born to a quiet family; complete with siblings, fish, and every now and then a cat.  She lived in the suburbs, sledded down the hill when there was snow, and shared lawn-mowing duties in the summer.  She wore leggings as pants in the eighties, had her share of toy horses, went to church each Sunday, and her room was painted in light pink.  She didn’t become overly involved in school, but she had excellent grades and spent much of her summer reading books until three or four in the morning.  In short, her childhood was pleasant.

Then she left the home and went to college.  Being the nice, quiet gal that she is, she made friends with her roommates.  Nothing terribly sordid or untoward occurred at their Christian college.  She studied plenty and came home each summer.  She worked the typical cashiering jobs but always exited the workforce when college season rolled around again.  Of course, she excelled and graduated on time.  She moved in with her parents and looked for a job that would suit her.  Not long after, she found a rather special guy.  She took her time, waited until she was absolutely sure, and then the two of them got married in a nice summer ceremony.  As was usually the case with her, it was a bright and sunny day.  There would be no rain on her parade; that would come later.

Sure enough, the two bought a house.  They had a son and eventually added a few cats to the mix.  There were a few surprises added to their lives.  Giant potholes opened up in the street, winter storms unlike anything she had been used to as a child were commonplace, and their son was more of a handful than she had first expected.  However, theirs was nothing to complain about.  They liked their lives.  They loved their son, so they thought they would have some more children.  He wanted four to six little ones while she would have been happy with two to four.  So they tried and waited.  They waited.  The waiting wasn’t going well.  That rainy day had come around for them.

Medical assistance was sought.  Tests were run, procedures were attempted, and things got hairy.  Over the course of several years they tried their best and prayed.  They had moments of hope here and there.  But along came a miscarriage.  They mourned, slowly recovered, and got up the courage to try again.  Then came the news; twins.  But, because things don’t always go as we would like, those lives ended in another miscarriage.  After more suffering and more praying, it was decided that there was only so much that they could take and they tried the adoption route.

Raising a child that someone else birthed proved to be just as challenging.  This was not the storyline of a sitcom that they had been shown.  There were the fees to be paid, the applications to fill out, and the interviews to be presentable for.  The couple had a lovely quality to them, yet they hoped and waited to be found perfect for the perfect child.  Parents met with them.  Feelings and gut instincts were taken into account.  Each time, the result was the same.  They usually felt some peace with each child that was not to be theirs.  However with each disappointment they started to wonder if they weren’t thinking big enough.  They considered adopting internationally.  Skin color wasn’t an obstacle that would stop them; why not give a child who was struggling an opportunity to live with them?  In the end, this didn’t sit right with them either and they abandoned the notion.

That was how things were.  For all their attempts and all their work, they found their house emptier than they would have like.  Sure, their son was pretty fun.  He liked to watch construction work happen and enjoyed being outside with ducks and ponds.  The cats did their neurotic thing that felines do, the child went to school, and the parents worked at their jobs and with the church.  They decided that the life they had was enough.  They could work and toil and continue making themselves miserable by hitting their heads against brick walls, or they could let the world turn as it would.  They would be content with what they had.

Now imagine the joy they had when they found out they were pregnant last fall.  Picture how nervous and concerned they were when it had all happened unexpectedly.  The first few weeks were a test on their trust and their hopes.  They didn’t want to see yet another child taken away when they just wanted to love them.  They wanted this child to survive and be healthy.

She is.  She was born yesterday.  And I’m very happy for this couple I care about.  I’m glad that their seven years of waiting ended the way I always thought it should.

Image

Blanket: The Only Toy a Girl Ever Needs

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

Blanket: The Only Toy a Girl Ever Needs

Amy was obviously the only one who realized the potential power that this grand object possessed.  Others around her rolled their eyes and asked her to leave her prized item at home.  Some even suggested, in a rather harsh way, that she was being childish.  But Amy was convinced that she was right.  Just because a majority of people believe something, doesn’t make them right.  She told herself that over and over.  She had seen the evidence of what this blanket could do.  Clearly, the adults around her weren’t as clever as this little five year-old girl was.

How else could one explain where all her marvelous treasures disappeared to?  Amy had gotten quite skilled making a pouch out of her blanket.  She would take the fabric (covered on one half by bunnies and the other by ducks) and lay it flat on her bedroom floor.  Then she would take only her most treasured things (her favorite stuffed animal, her jump rope, her second favorite stuffed animal, her watch, a tennis ball, her third favorite stuffed animal, her blue dress, whatever candy she had left, slippers, her sunglasses, and whichever pieces of jewelry seemed sparkliest that day) and place them on the blanket.  Skillfully, she grabbed all four corners of the blanket and lifted them like a fisherman carrying a net full of fish.  Could any blanket accomplish such a feat?  Also, there had to be some sort of secret pockets sewed into the fabric that not even Amy knew about.  How else could one explain that there was always an item or two missing when she got to her destination?

Now the convenient carrying capability of her beloved blanket was hardly the finest of its capabilities.  For instance, it could give her super powers.  All she had to do was pull the blanket over her shoulders and wear it as a cape.  Quick as you like, she could fly.  She kept trying to tell her dad how the roof on their house looked from way up high, but he didn’t really appreciate how truly terrific the view was.  She had thought her friends would be impressed that she could fly over the top of the playground.  However they usually wanted to play hopscotch or tag instead.  (Those games were fine by Amy.  She enjoyed them too.)

If something happened to the blanket’s cape-powers, then it had a built-in safety mechanism.  Amy grabbed the other end of the blanket while she held the first two corners and parachuted herself down to safety.  What airplane seat acted as its own parachute?  Certainly not any that Amy had ever flown on; but to be fair she’d only been on a plane once to visit Grandpa Roger out in Canada.  Happily, she’d had her blanket with her had anything gone wrong.

Image When she put her blanket over her head, she turned invisible.  When she rolled and tucked it up in the perfect way, it made a doll.  Folded and twisted two or three times, the blanket made an excellent pillow.  If Amy sat on the blanket and pulled at the front, she had herself a slide that would go down carpeted staircases while brilliantly conforming to the shape of the terrain.  She had never seen anything in the toy catalogs that had such wondrous features as her blanket-sled.  Why, when her younger brother Alan was messing up things in her room, she could throw the blanket over his head and his ability to cause trouble was greatly reduced.  That trait alone made the blanket precious to Amy.

In every other way, Amy got along with her family as happily as anyone.  Sometimes Alan would pull her hair or take her things, but they “managed not to kill each other”, as he dad said.  Amy liked reading and mashing cookie dough between her fingers with her Mom.  Her dad sang to her and told her all about the different things you could see in trees and how fun puzzle books and board games were.  Her cat was as cute as they came, even if he did look at Sir Chirps-and-Flaps with hungry eyes.  Even Alan had his uses.  Amy could talk him into all sorts of adventures, or “trouble”, as her dad said.  Still, her little brother was light enough that she could put him on her shoulders and he could reach the cookies when they were pushed to the back of the kitchen counter.  In return she would grab him around his stomach and swing him around once or twice.  Her parents were not found of either activity, but Amy insisted that he liked it.  Alan was usually too dizzy to speak for himself immediately after.  The dazed smile on his face showed that Amy might be right.  “As long as he isn’t crying, he’s probably okay”, as her dad said.

Yet they just didn’t get what was so special about her blanket.  Amy’s mom would try to hide it, but she wasn’t aware of the secret sound that the blanket made that only Amy could here.  Sometimes it took her a while to hear it, but as soon as Amy found the blanket in its new hiding place, Amy felt it beeping to her loud and clear.  Amy’s dad had tried to swap out the blanket for the opportunity to play a new game, but Amy wanted both.  Why couldn’t she sit on the blanket while playing?  Her bottom was delicate, what with her being a princess and all.  Didn’t her dad want her to be comfortable?

Eventually, her parents felt that there was no harm in her playing with the blanket.  She was content, and they were happy that Amy wasn’t making a habit of watching too much television show or tracking in mud.  Amy hadn’t even revealed her newest trick.  She was waiting until she got it just right.  Because when she put the blanket over her hand, she found out that she could make the blanket talk.

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