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.

Samantha’s Suburban Surprise

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.

Samantha’s Suburban Surprise

Today, the degradation of the inner life is symbolized by the fact that the only place sacred from interruption is the private toilet.” -Lewis Mumford

I know. This makes you think the story’ll be gross.
Just trust me.

Of all things in the world that work reliably, Samantha thought that toilets should be one of them.  She stood in front of the porcelain necessity and judged it as a failure in its workings.  The toilet in the main bathroom had always been a source of trouble.  For some reason that Samantha and her family had yet to understand, the toilet was low-volume and it often took several tries to yield any results.  Samantha in particular was often vexed at the appliance’s lack of functionality and often made her way to the bathroom in the guest bedroom just to avoid the battle.

Friday morning was no different.  At seven in the morning there were enough things on the mother’s mind.  Joel and Cassidy needed their lunches packed.  Joel had a science fair that was being judged in the afternoon.  Samantha wanted to be there.  In truth, she deserved a portion of whatever praise was heaped onto Joel’s final product.  It had been Samantha’s fingers that had been caked in glue and dirt as the two had tiresomely created a dirt base for Joel’s photosynthesis diorama.  At the end of the night, as her son’s freshly washed fingers and brushed teeth slept three doors down, Samantha had been convinced that it would have been easier and cleaner to take their garden to school.

As her mother put a sandwich in her lunch, Cassidy refused to change out of her dance uniform.  Her mother tried to explain that the recital wasn’t for another two days.  Cassidy adamantly stuck to her fashion decision.  She didn’t care that Samantha’s parents were coming to town just for the performance.

They claimed that they were going to be in the area anyways and that Samantha and Chuck shouldn’t make any plans for them.  They even offered to check into their hotel.  But Samantha’s mom had said it with that tone in her voice.

She had heard that tone when she had brought home her high school boyfriend; the one with the motorcycle and leather jacket, but no helmet.  She had heard that tone again when she informed her parents that she was going to major in Liberal Arts.  Should Samantha’s mother ever hear about the state of their toilet, Samantha knew that tone would come out again.  Somehow, even while smiling, the matriarch could communicate her distaste in a decision without actually putting it down.  It was this ability that Samantha feared would be used if Cassidy’s dress looked frumpy or, God forbid, torn.  Yet, with all the hustle and chaos of the day, Samantha decided the loud battle that would ensue with her daughter was not worth the fight, even if it meant a silent conflict with her mother.

In addition, Samantha had her review today.  If the paperwork had gone through in the way that it should have, the whole ordeal would have been wrapped up two months ago and Samantha would be at her son’s showcasing.  Instead, she had waited for her boss to return from his European vacation.  Then she had waited for him to get caught up from his time away.  And finally she had waited for the man to get through every other person in the office’s evaluations except hers, even though hers were overdue and theirs were not.  Samantha asked if they could meet a day later, but the boss had said no.  Today was the day.  After fifty-seven days of procrastination, the boss had put his foot down and didn’t care whose toes he stepped on.

With all that going on, it makes perfect sense that the toilet, an everyday annoyance at best, was shoved to the back of Samantha’s already crowded thoughts.  She looked across the table at her husband and tried to remember the last time the two of them had gone out together.  Maybe she could con her parents into babysitting.  Samantha’s mother might have the vocal talent of the family, but she was powerless against Samantha’s Bambi-eyes.

Later that night, the four members of the household reassembled under the same roof.  Samantha was the last to arrive home.  She was shocked to see her daughter running around in something other than her recital apparel.  Chuck saw her, put his hairy arm around her waist, and hugged her.  A smile came over her face.

“I convinced her that if she was a secret agent ballerina, then she would have to wear pajamas to go on covert spy missions and save persecuted kittens from enemy clutches.  Plus she could do somersaults as she evaded capture and clutched the fur balls close to her.”

“Whatever works”, Samantha said as she pecked him on the cheek in appreciation.  “You’re brilliant and handsome, and I’d only love you and your scruffiness more if you had been kind enough to cook dinner so I don’t have to.”

“Spaghetti”, he replied.  “I figured since we don’t have dresses to protect, we’d celebrate with sloppiness.”

“One of these days I’m going to show you my appreciation”, she said as she stroked the dark hairs on his forearm.

“I’ll hold you to that”, he grinned.  “Oh, but there is one more thing I need to tell you.”

“Can it wait?”  Samantha asked as she took of her blazer and headed towards the guest room.  “I really have to use the bathroom.”

“Yeah, it’s about that”, her husband called out.

“In a minute, Hon”, Samantha yelled as she locked the bathroom door and turned on the facet.  She had learned much since children had begun sharing the house.  Rule number one was that the door should always be locked.  Seven year-olds didn’t understand when Mom was unavailable to answer their questions.  They would enter without remorse, without hesitation, and no matter how much she reminded them; without knocking.

Rule number two was that to these same kids, any bodily function was hilarious.  Running sinks wouldn’t mute all the noises that the human body makes, but they would more or less do the trick.  In another minute or two Samantha would face the quirks and surprises that her life provided in abundance.  But first she had business to take care of.  Samantha pulled her blouse loose, walked to the guest toilet, and sat down.  It was only seconds later that she heard a squeaking noise as something furry brushed by her bare skin

With a screech, Samantha stood up and scrambled to pull her clothing close to her.  She whirled around and saw the source of the noise.  There, swimming in the toilet, was a rat.

Hi! How’s it goin’?

“Chuck!”

“I tried to warn you”, his voice came from the other side of the door.

Samantha scrambled to unlock the door, her hands fumbling with the doorknob as her eyes continued to watch the beady-eyed creature at all times.  She knew that the moment she took her gaze from the rodent, that would be the second it would skitter off to some remote hiding space.

“You knew this thing was in our house?  And you didn’t do anything about it?”

“Sam…”

“You could have at least put something on the toilet seat lid!  One of those weights that’s cluttering up the garage; the one’s you never use.  Grab a potted plant from the back porch.  But don’t just leave it swimming in there!”

“Why not?  I think he looks rather cute.”

“Chuck!”  Samantha squeezed her husband’s bicep.  “Rat.  Toilet.  Not good bedfellows.  Did you try flushing it?  Making it return to the watery depths from whence it came?”

“I couldn’t do that to Joel.”

“What does our son have to do with that rabid creature with incisor-like teeth?”

“It’s his rat.  Or mouse.  I really don’t know.  Either way, he traded his prize money for another student’s rat.”

“What?”

“I could repeat that last bit, if you want.  It’s gonna be the same answer though.  Our son bought a rat.”

“And you didn’t stop him… why?”

“I told him we’d have to have a family discussion.”

“Ugggggh.  It’s a rat.  It’s filthy!”

“Actually, it’s not as bad as you think.  The other father assured me that they had taken all the precautions and that they are as healthy as can be.  He says they make pretty decent pets.”

“Then why didn’t they keep this thing?”  Samantha started to hop and skip around on the linoleum floor.  Her prior task was not forgotten, only temporarily delayed.

“Well, funny story.  It turns out they have five other ones at home.”

Samantha stood still and looked Chuck straight in the face.  “I don’t want to know that man’s name.  If we ever meet him and I know he’s the one with mice all over his house, I will scream.  Just assure me that we will never, ever, go to his house.”

Chuck only laughed in reply.  Samantha’s response was more dramatic.  She pushed her husband aside, threw the door open and hurried to the other end of the house.

“I thought we were talking”, her husband called out.

“Oh, we’re not even close to done”, Samantha hollered as she nimbly navigated her way around the floor-covered maze of toys and crayon drawings.  “But it can wait a few minutes.”

Samantha hurried to the main bathroom, thrilled to find it unoccupied.  She closed the door and sent a mental note of thanks.  She had never been so happy to see that wretched toilet in all her life.

Rambo’s Pain

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.

Rambo’s Pain

Of all God’s creatures there is only one that cannot be made the slave of the lash.  That one is the cat.  If man could be crossed with the cat it would improve man, but it would deteriorate the cat.” –Mark Twain

Rambo hobbled across the floor.  He had suffered a grave injury; one which he would never fully recover from.  Rambo had been scratched, scraped, and attacked before.  This time was different.  He could feel the powerful drugs that had been administered by men in face masks starting to wear off.  Rambo was still groggy, but he was conscious enough to comprehend what had been done to him.  Rambo looked at his fresh scar and howled.  It is a cruel fate indeed to have a cat “snipped”.

You want to cut -what- now?

Rambo walked through his home with illusions floating about him.  He suddenly felt the need to run up to the kitchen counter, meow, and run back to the bathroom.  He wasn’t exactly sure what mystery force was out to get him, but he let the delusions dictate his behavior for the moment.  Of course, once he stopped scurrying about, he realized the price of his exertion.  His front paws were just fine, but Rambo’s hind legs had a stinging pain that was exacerbated by his antics.  The result was a slightly rhythmic tone in his mind with every span of ground he passed.  As his paws went “step step, step step”, his nerves answered back “fine-Ow!, fine-Ow!”.

The newly butchered cat tried to figure out what he had done to deserve such a cruel punishment.  Yes, he had lobbed his fair share of hairballs onto the carpet.  It was summer, it was hot, and his fur still needed to be maintained.  What else was a cat to do?  That wasn’t the sort of activity that would be hindered by having “those” organs removed.  Perhaps his owners were jealous of the attention he had lavished upon the next door cat.

He couldn’t help what came naturally to his him.  They were called instincts for a reason.  And Rambo had always had a thing for Siamese felines.  He was just being neighborly.  Humans, they just didn’t understand.

Go. Away.

At last, the sun began to shine in the perfect way.  Rambo knew that there was still one treat left in his life.  There would be no more associating with the finer residents of his species.  No more frolicking.  And running after anything, be it mouse or dust bunny, was simply out of the question until he healed up.  But there was one hope for enjoyment in the cat’s life.

Rambo settled on a warm spot of carpet as the afternoon sun lulled him back to sleep.  Rambo the mighty would not be denied this one final comfort.  After all that had been taken from him, the cat just wanted to lay in the sunbeam and be the master of his small domain.

As the Wheel Turns

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.

As the Wheel Turns

Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” -Henry Ford

Tootsie didn’t understand what had happened to her relationship with Pete.  At first, it had all been so promising.  He had been attentive when she had first moved in.  Pete had held her tight and traced his fingers lightly over her chin while she drifted off to sleep.  Tootsie had woken up to meals that Pete had prepared just for her.  He would read her stories and keep her company until the wee small hours of the morning.  Yes, things had all started so happily for a lad and his hamster.

Then, as inevitably happens, Pete grew weary of Tootsie’s presence.  He would let a comment slip about the jowls around Tootsie’s neck.  He stopped feeding her expensive food and let her nibble on whatever morsels lay around the house.

When she had first moved in, Tootsie had been allowed free roam of their shared living space. Now she was confined to a metal cage.  She felt it terribly unfair that Pete was allowed to strap on his jogging shoes and run around outside, but Tootsie was expected to be content with her tiny world.  Pete was the one making jokes to his friends about how chubby Tootsie looked, but she was the one trapped with an exercise wheel and no other activities.  Tootsie wondered how inspired Pete would be to keep in shape if he were trapped running on the same boring machine hour after hour, every day.

Tootsie took a sip from the giant water bottle and took in a few stale drops of water.  The sweat from her morning stroll around the wheel was dripping down her body, matting clumps of hair together.  She wanted some sort of fun before she began yet another stroll around the circular treadmill later in the afternoon.  She had long ago wondered if all this exercise was really worth the benefits.  She knew that she could still squeeze through an empty cardboard tube.  Paper towels, toilet paper; she was up for any tiny obstacle that was placed in her path.  Yet, as she looked in her smudged mirror with the blue plastic frame that only slightly cheered up her drab environment, Tootsie saw no difference in her appearance.  She still appeared, as Pete so succinctly put it, like a giant fluffed up furball.

Staring at the clock on the wall, Tootsie tried to slow down her heart rate.  Her goal was always the same.  She wanted her heart to beat at the same tempo as the second hand.  If it was a good enough goal for Pete, then it was fine for her.  Yet, try as she might, the thump-thump sound of her chest was always ticking away much faster than any clock.  She closed her eyes, took deep breaths, tried to picture a white pearl in front of her nose in a black room; none of it worked.  As healthy as Tootsie should have been with her maddening exercise routine, she just couldn’t seem to measure up to Pete’s goals.

Maybe that was what was keeping them apart, Tootsie wondered.  When they had started spending so much time together, Pete’s attentions had been focused solely on his precious hamster.  Tootsie had thought that she was Pete’s entire world.  He laughed as she burrowed underneath her bedding, made sure her water was fresh, and generally watched her every adorable move.  But Tootsie had to admit that upon second thought, there had been signs that his attention had been waning.  Pete had other things on his mind.  He had work, friends, television, and books.  All Tootsie had were her cage and Pete’s affections.  She still liked having Pete around, but she wanted more.  Pete had started off holding the key to her heart, and now he wouldn’t even unlock the cage.

In desperation at her state, Tootsie crawled into the corner of her living quarters.  She was in no mood to eat or exercise.  She simply wanted to the world to make sense.  She wanted the same amount of attention that she had once gotten.  Why couldn’t anyone make Tootsie the center of her world?

Little did she know, Tootsie’s unheard pleadings were about to be answered.  Pete opened the apartment door at that moment with a paper bag in his hand and a smile on his face.  He walked straight to Tootsie’s cage as he reached inside the sack.

“I thought you could use a little pick-me up”, Pete teased.  “I know I haven’t been around much, but hopefully this’ll help.”

Tootsie heard a squeak come from the bag.  She hunched nervously in the corner, not sure what to expect.  Pete opened the cage door, placed his other fist inside, and then closed the squeaky latch once more.

There, much to Tootsie’s delight; was a male hamster.  And he was quite cute.

“Hey there”, the Hamster said as he winked one of his brown eyes.  “I’m Hugh.  How you doin’?”

“I’m fine”, Tootsie found herself saying.  “Much better now that you’re here.”

On that day Tootsie’s lonely and cramped world opened up.  All kinds of possibilities were now hers to explore.

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.

Dressed for the Dirty Duty

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.

Dressed for the Dirty Duty

(Over at her site, kiradault suggested that folks write about a funny memory.  If this story amuses, you have her to thank.  If it’s just all kinds of odd, then blame me.)

As I was growing up, my two siblings and I had our share of pets.  My mom had her birds here and there, my dad was indifferent, and there seemed to always be a fishing floating around in a glass container somewhere.  There was the giant fish tank that I had no desire to ever clean.  I still remember Jamie, the fish that I kept in a small bowl on top of my dresser.

Jamie met his end at the paws of a cat.  I know what you’re thinking, but Jamie did not die in the typical fashion.  Our cat at the time felt it deserved a more unique kind of death.  Instead of putting her paw in the bowl, catching Jamie, and eating him for dinner, our cat took a more sadistic option.  She used what kitty-strength she had and knocked over Jamie’s bowl.  There we found Jamie, gasping for air (or in his case, water), as the cat looked on.  Maybe she was gloating about her triumph and was going to eat Jamie but we interrupted her?  It seems possible, but I always figured that cat simply wanted all the attention for herself.

ImageI, being the youngest of the three, thought I should get all of the cat’s attention and none of the effort.  My brother, much like my dad, did not really have any interest in our cats.  So I happily let my sister do all the dirty work.  One day, for a reason I do not remember, I was assigned the task of cleaning out the litter box.  Thinking back on it, this was not the greatest hardship that could befall a small boy.  But for me, this sort of smelly task required reinforcements.

First and foremost, I donned a pair of woodshop glasses.  You know; those flexi-plastic light-green things that hug to your face to keep the sawdust out.  For some reason, I thought it was imperative that I have those over my eyes.  Quickly added to my supplies list were gloves.  Now, one hears “gloves” and thinks perhaps some food handlers gloves or maybe some mittens.  Nope, I once again raided my dad’s woodshop and got the thickest, roughest, most industrial gloves one could ask for.  One never knows where a cat has been or what trouble they have gotten into; clearly their poop required extra protection.

You would think that would be enough. Perhaps this eight year-old in his hyper-color t-shirt (tie-dye orange, thankyouverymuch) would wear a bandana to cover his nose.  For some reason, that was the one part of me I did not cover.  No, in the middle of summer I decided to don my winter coat as protection against the two or three pithy clumps that needed to be scooped.

So there I was; a young fellow with combed-“enough” hair decked out in jeans, the aforementioned tie-dye shirt, a puffy winter jacket, green worker glasses, and burlap-like gloves.  I of course felt the need to top it all off with a hardhat.  Bright white; to contrast the black winter jacket, I’m sure.  And I did it.  I comically held my breath long enough to get those three little pieces of pee and poop into a milk carton.  I made quite the show of exhaling the now “clean and refreshing” air.  I am not entirely proud of this overly dramatic show of wackiness.  I would like to just scoop it up, toss it in a carton, and pour some cat litter over it.  But I cannot.  There is one obstacle standing in my way; my family.

I have a family that remembers far too much.  Should my family ever forget?  They have photos of the whole thing.  So whenever I get too full of just how spiffy I am, they have the perfect ammo to deflate me.  Darnit.

Scott the Pretty Great

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.

Scott the Pretty Great

Scott stood back and admired his work.  Not too bad, he thought to himself.  The blue raccoon stared up at him with glassy eyes that betrayed its current lifelessness.  In the dreary industrial setting that surrounded him, Scott was thankful for his creation that sat there in a myriad of blue colors.

It had not been Scott’s intention to make this animal-robot a bright color when he first started.  But, as young boys are wont to do, Scott had gotten the idea after he had started and leapt at the opportunity to implement the color scheme.  The change to a blue-theme had only served to complicate his already complex endeavor.  There were only so many blue pieces of metal lying about the factory for him to use.  The paint cans that he came across were mostly empty; a thin layer of blue chips taunted him with its uselessness.

As he admired the raccoon in all shades of blue, Scott decided the extra effort had been worth it.  True, the hues and tones didn’t quite match, but nobody said they had to.  The raccoon was most decidedly blue.  The ears were blue-green, the stomach was a murky grey-blue, and his tail was a striped set of royal blue and sea-blue.  The curious machine stood in stark contrast to the steel table it stood upon.

Scott turned to his fellow workers, eager to show off his new companion.  Sadly, the blank gaze in his raccoon’s eyes was nothing compared to that of the rest of the children.  Scott was the only boy in the entire warehouse not hunkered over his task.  Filling the room were hundreds of work stations, all of them occupied by eight year-old boys.  As the only twelve year-old, Scott knew that he had been expected to be a regional supervisor by now.  That was how things went.

With the advent of Insta-Learning, childhood had become a shortened period.  Women had nanites injected into them while in the second trimester of pregnancy.  Genetic advancements had already prepared the babies to be as healthy as possible.  Any gene which wasn’t regarded as beneficial was a gene that could possibly be altered.  Harelips and severe acne were a thing of the past, as were asthma, severe baldness, and weak teeth.  The children were born picture perfect, each one of them perfectly adorable.

As the kids grew, the parents worried that their offspring would have a hard time establishing themselves.  The doctors and philosophers offered that there were great advantages to allow the next generation to adopt a sense of homogeny.  If no one was different, then no one would be discriminated against.  Why not allow physical traits to turn towards sameness and idyllic features?

But the parents still wanted their child to be the “special” one.  They were grateful for the next generation’s freedom from many health concerns, but they still wanted their offspring to be the one that was the best.  Insta-Learning came along and was only too happy to help.  For decades, doctors and educators had been recommending teaching a child as early as possible.  Reading together with a child was no longer enough.  By the time they entered the school system, it was soon common place for children to have the encyclopedia ingrained in their memory.  Insta-Learn had let the infants acquire massive amounts of knowledge through a two-step process.  One part of the invention allowed the brain to change and adjust itself, allowing the brain to form in the way that retained the most amount of information.  At the same time, the program constantly fed the baby terabytes of facts, procedures, and muscle information.  If desired, (and if the Premium Package was ordered, the one that offered customizable traits that the Economy Package and Standard Package options did not have) the child could come out of the womb knowing as much as its parents did.  By the end of the week, the Insta-Learn process had programmed the child to not only walk and talk, but hit a homerun and recall humorous quotes from Oscar Wilde’s works.

Soon, the world where everyone was special gave way to a land where no one was special.  Children lost their precocious and curious nature; having already learned all that was needed.  The traits that they had may have varied from child to child, but eventually all parents made whatever sacrifices were needed to upgrade their now-perfect child to the Premium Package.  The limits were gone; each child could do it all.

With nothing left to learn, schools and parks were soon closed.  The education system could be replaced with a nightly upgrade from Insta-Learn and parks were deemed to unreliable.  Playing was seen as frivolous.  The children had no need to entertain themselves; that was the opinion of certain government figures.  Why would they allow all these workers to walk around when there were plenty of tasks they could help out with?

So began the Production Age.  The need for newer, better, more impressive belongings had never been greater.  And with millions more skilled laborers now introduced into the population, it only made sense for them to lend a hand.  Warehouses like the one Scott worked in had been built almost overnight.  Thanks to the Insta-Learn, each child woke up knowing exactly what device they were to build, where they should report to, and with the necessary information and skill set already in their brains.

Scott however, had been different.  He looked healthy enough, but what information had been loaded into his brain was incomplete.  Scott himself theorized that if Insta-Learn had an almost one hundred percent success rate, he was that exception.  He knew enough to blend in, but he found himself curious about things.  He found himself walking around the streets looking up while his peers walked wordlessly in organized patterns focused only on their next achievement.  While Scott’s head was in the clouds, others’ minds were on productivity.

That was how Scott had a robotic raccoon in front of him while thousands of car brakes were being efficiently assembled.  Scott often admired the precise and dedicated way that the eight year-olds worked.  There were no flaws, no errors, and no slip-ups in their work.  Scott looked back to his raccoon and shook his head.  Of the four legs on his new toy, only two of them were the same color.  Wires were uncovered by the casing he had managed to assemble.  There was a bump on the hindquarters of his creation because he simply didn’t feel like filing down the dome.  In the end, and just for fun, he had cut open the area, cleared out innards, and made a storage spot to hide any great treasures that the two of them might come across in their adventures.

Adventure.  It was a funny word to Scott.  Whenever he tried to explain his desire to go out and see new things, he was always met with confused looks.  Why would someone want to travel around and see things that were already in their mind?  Why use up valuable work time when one could simply research it on the Insta-Learn?  Scott tried to tell them for a while.  He tried to explain that he thought looking at a mountain was more interesting to him than reading about one.  He extolled the virtues of trying to hold as much lake water in his hands before it leaked out.  In return, his fellow workers just commented that they would need to dry their hands off before they returned to their assigned task, so it was more efficient to keep as dry as possible at all times.

Scott reached behind his raccoon’s chin and depressed the power button.  He clapped his hands when the whirring and humming started up.  He could see the gears moving behind the plastic paneling by the legs.  Slowly, the raccoon stood on its four legs.  It tried to lift its head, but it was met with a few jerks and spastic movements.  Scott was alarmed, and leaned in for a closer look.  The raccoon tried to back away; apparently scared of Scott the would-be attacker.  But Scott managed to hold it down long enough to free a stray wire that had caught around the neck.  Making a note to contain the wiring better, Scott backed away from the raccoon.

Blinking, the robot looked up at Scott.  It tilted its head to one side and took in its maker at a thirty degree angle.  It blinked.  The glassy eyes now flicked from side to side.  It seemed to be taking it all in.  The quick-adaption protocols that Scott had created were working just as he had hoped.  Learning would be a gradual process for his robot.  Everyone else started their lives knowing everything.  Scott didn’t want his robot to be like that.

Scott whistled to the raccoon and watched as the robotic animal turned towards him.  He patted on his knees, whistled again, and waited to see if the protocols would follow as he had hoped.  Sure enough, the raccoon edged towards the end of the table top.  Scott patted his knees, whistled, and patted his knees again.  The raccoon came to the very edge of the table, looked down, and took in its options.  A few moments later, it carefully and curiously hopped down to the chair, and then hopped down to Scott’s feet.  The robot looked up to Scott with an inquisitive air.  What next, it seemed to ask.

That, Scott thought to himself, was an excellent question.

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