There was a new store open down the street from Isaac’s work. It was a discount store, with bright green and yellow signs telling the world about the sales to be found inside. It hadn’t been there the week before, but somehow it sprang up over the weekend in the spot where the dog groomer closed up shop six months ago.
Isaac walked over on his lunch break to explore it. The aisles were wide and brightly lit, and filled with a strange variety of items. Nearly everything had a sign posted below it on the shelf, saying that it was only available for a limited time. Isaac felt like he was on a strange sort of treasure hunt.
He looked through socks that looked like sharks and boxes of fruit flavored crackers and sandalwood scented toothpaste. There was a large candle that looked like an angry clown that scared him a little. There didn’t seem to be anything useful at all.
And then, at the end of one aisle, there was a jumble of small electric things. There was a pencil sharpener and a can opener and a razor and a sock heater and a mint dispenser and a stapler. Their cords were all knotted together, and the metal prongs on a few of the cords were bent.
Patiently, he untangled the cords. He wound each cord in a little coil and knotted the end of the cord around the coil to keep it tidy. Then, he picked up the pencil sharpener and can opener and took them to the front of the store to buy them.
He left the pencil sharpener on his desk, and took the can opener home after work. Marianne met him at the door. “Great, you’re home,” she said. “I’ve got to get to my meeting. I’ll have dinner there. You and Charlie can heat up a can of soup.” Then she kissed him and rushed out the door.
Charlie peeked around the corner. “It’s a soup day?” he asked. Marianne hated canned soups, but Charlie and Isaac liked them. So, it was their tradition to eat them if she wasn’t going to be home.
Isaac was pretty sure Marianne and Charlie had their own traditions for when he was gone, too. Maybe they ate boxed macaroni and cheese. Isaac refused to eat it, but he’d seen the boxes in the cupboard.
“It’s a soup day,” Isaac replied. “And guess what? I have something new for us to try out.” He held up the electric can opener.
“What is that?” Charlie asked. “Is it a little robot? I’ve always wanted a little robot.”
“It’s a can opener. Pick out a can of soup, and I’ll show you how it works,” Isaac said.
Charlie raced to the kitchen. “Here,” he said. “Chicken noodle.”
Isaac plugged in the can opener. He fitted the can in place and held down the handle. Bzzzzzzz. The can opened. Isaac let go of the handle and pulled the can free and looked inside. It didn’t look quite right.
“That’s tomato soup,” Charlie said. “The label is wrong.”
“How odd,” Isaac said. He grabbed a can of tomato soup and put it in place. Bzzzzzzz. It didn’t look like tomato soup.
“Let me see,” Charlie said. He took the can and looked inside. “Clam chowder,” he said.
Isaac grabbed another can of chicken noodle soup. Bzzzzzz. “I think it’s cream of celery,” he said.
He pulled out his manual can opener and opened the last can of chicken noodle soup. It was chicken noodle soup. He opened a can of tomato soup. It was tomato soup. He opened a can of clam chowder. It was clam chowder.
“Weird,” Charlie said. “Was it the can opener or was there a mix-up at the soup factory?”
“I don’t know,” Isaac said.
“What are we going to do with all the soup?” Charlie asked.
“I guess we can invite some people over for a soup party,” Isaac said.
“Let’s invite the dinosaur club,” Charlie said. “It’s about time for another meeting.”
Charlie called and invited his friends while Isaac rummaged through the cupboards and fridge for things that could go with soup. He ended up with saltine crackers, grapes, and a loaf of bread.
It was a fun party. After everyone went home, Charlie declared that soup night should turn into a party more often. “We’ll see,” Isaac said. He unplugged the can opener and hid it in his closet.
The next day at work, he tried out his new pencil sharpener. It sharpened his pencil quite well, but every time it sharpened it, it changed the color of the lead. “I’ll have to take this home and color with Charlie,” he said.
The ground was suddenly further away, and the bird seemed much smaller. He’d grown again. He sighed in relief.
The bird squawked and seemed to fall out of the sky. “Ouch, ouch, ouch,” she said. “That really hurt.” She looked up at Isaac and began to hop away quickly.
“I won’t hurt you,” Isaac said. “I just didn’t want you to eat me. Are you all right?”
The bird flapped her wings. One of them seemed a little stiff. “I think I broke my wing,” she said. She hopped a little further away.
“Let me see,” Isaac said. He started to step forward, and then remembered the eggs. He’d grown quickly while standing right next to the nest. He was a little afraid to look.
Luckily, the eggs were fine. He’d bumped one out of place with his foot, and he could hear faint cheeping. He carefully took a big step away from the nest.
“Hey, hey, hey,” the mother bird said. Isaac looked back at the mother bird. She was running towards him, dragging her wings on the ground. Had she injured both of them? Running around like that would probably hurt them more, but she must be worried about her babies.
Isaac took a few more steps away from the nest, trying to watch where he stepped. The grass was probably full of little ladybugs and angry ants and creatures he hadn’t met yet.
“Don’t eat me, tall cat,” the mother bird said. “I’m sure I look delicious and defenseless, but don’t eat me.” She was running away from Isaac, then circling closer, and then running again. Her wings continued to drag on the ground.
“Stop, stop. I’m not a cat. I won’t eat you. You’re going to hurt yourself. Please stop,” Isaac said. He crouched down, smiled, and reached out a hand towards the anxious bird. She danced out of reach.
“Of course you’re a cat. Who else appears out of nowhere? Who else smiles like that?” She asked.
Isaac stopped smiling. “Cats don’t smile. I’ve never seen a cat smile.”
“Who else but cats can lie convincingly like that?” the bird said. “Help, help, help!” She hopped closer, and then away, and then ran in a little circle, away from her nest. As she ran, she fluttered and dragged her wings and continued to yell for help.
Isaac looked around nervously. Was he going to go to bird prison next? “I’ll just leave you alone, then,” he said. “Can I call a doctor for you? Do birds have doctors?”
The bird paused. “Are you asking me to tell you where more birds are, so that you can eat them after you’ve eaten me? Cat’s are always so terribly sneaky.”
“I’m not a cat,” Isaac said. “I’m just trying to help.”
“Stop lying,” the bird shrieked. “If you’re going to eat me, just get it over with.”
“I think I’m just going to leave now,” Isaac said. “If I see a doctor, I’ll send them to see you.”
“Help, help, help,” the bird shrieked. Isaac walked away, watching where he stepped. The bird finally stopped yelling. And then, behind him, Isaac heard a faint whooshing sound.
He turned around. The mother bird was again flying in circles in the air above her nest. There was no stiffness in her wings any more. She was just fine.
“She tricked me,” he murmured. Then he smiled. She was just trying to protect her babies. But, it wasn’t him that was the liar, after all.
He looked around the grassy meadow. He needed to find Miss Muffet to find the spider to find the key to find the way home, but he still had no idea where to look. Maybe he should retrace his steps and go back and ask for directions at the brick house. As long as he was careful, it shouldn’t take long. He turned around and started to look for the path.