Mr. Nobody

Jason woke up in the night and discovered that he was very thirsty. He was tired and his bed was warm, but his mouth was dry and his tongue felt sticky. He swallowed. His throat felt dry. His swallow seemed to stick halfway.

He climbed out of bed. The floor was cold. He swallowed again, and then yawned. The sooner he got a drink of water, the sooner he could get back to bed. The nightlight in the hallway lit the way from his room and down the stairs.

He walked down the hall, trying to keep his footsteps light so that he wouldn’t wake anyone up. His feet made thumping sounds on the stairs when he went down. He tried to step more softly, but it was too difficult.

He didn’t need to turn on the kitchen light. The light coming in the window lit the room brightly enough that he could see. He poured himself a glass of water and gulped it down. He poured himself another glass and wandered over to the window as he sipped it.

The moon looked big and orangish. It was like a round piece of cheese maybe, or a cookie or a coin. He crossed into the living room and sat in the big chair by the window. He finished his glass of water and put the glass on the windowsill. He sat and watched the moon.

At some point he must have fallen asleep. When he opened his eyes, the moon had moved and he was curled up kind of funny in the chair. His neck hurt a little from the way he’d been sleeping and his fingers felt like someone was poking them with pins.

Just before he shifted his position and began to sit up, he heard a noise.   Jason froze. It had been an odd sort of scurrying noise. What if it was a mouse? Or a rat? Or a monster? Very quietly, Jason pulled his feet up so that they weren’t tempting targets for monsters to nibble on.

He looked around to see what was making the noise. There was a rustling sound over by the closet. Jason looked over and saw a small man with pointed ears and weird furry pants. It looked like the man was stealing Jason’s homework.

Jason almost jumped up to yell at the man, but he was curious. What would the man do with his homework? The man laughed softly to himself and shoved the homework under a couch cushion.

Then he gathered up the shoes that were by the door and shoved them under the couch. It took several trips. As he turned around with the last pair of shoes, the moonlight was reflected off of two bumps on the man’s head. Did he have horns? Maybe he was part cow?

The maybe-part-cow-man disappeared into the kitchen. He returned with a dirty plate and fork from the sink. He set them on the floor in front of the television and laughed again. He took the remote and walked back into the kitchen.   Jason heard a cupboard door open and close.

The little man hurried back into the living room. He was munching on some of the cookies he was holding. He opened the front door and left, closing it behind him. Jason stood up and then nearly fell. His foot was asleep.

He hobbled over to the kitchen window and looked out.   He couldn’t see the little man anywhere. He pinched his arm.   Ouch. He wasn’t dreaming. He yawned and realized that he suddenly felt very tired. He went back up the stairs and went to bed.

In the morning, Jason woke up a little late.   He could hear his mother talking to his older sister Susan down in the kitchen. “Someone left their plate in the living room,” she said. “You all know you aren’t supposed to eat in there.”

“It wasn’t me,” Susan said.

“And someone ate half of the cookies I’d baked to put in lunches. Why is the TV remote in the cupboard?” Mom asked.

“It wasn’t me,” Susan said.

Mom sighed. “No, I suppose it was Mr. Nobody,” she said. “It always is.”

“Oh,” Jason thought. “That’s who that was.” Mystery solved, Jason got out of bed and started getting ready for his day.

Service Project

Claire rested her chin on her arms and watched her grandmother crochet. The fine white thread was slowly being twisted and knotted into a fine, lacy doily. “It’s so pretty, Grandma,” Claire said.

“Thank you, darling,” Grandma said.

She continued to crochet, and Claire watched. “Grandma,” Claire said after several minutes. “Can you teach me to do that?”

“I’d love to teach you,” Grandma said. “Give me just a moment to finish this round.” She stitched a little longer and then poked her crochet hook through the doily and wrapped it together with the thread and the pattern and set it on a shelf of the bookshelf.

Then she left the room and returned with a large ball of pink yarn and a fat crochet hook. “I’ve been hoping you’d ask,” she said. “I’ve been saving this just in case. Now, watch closely.”

She showed Claire how to make a slipstitch and had her try. Then she taught her to single crochet. Then double crochet. Claire patiently watched and copied what her grandma taught her. “Very good, Claire,” Grandma said.

Claire finished her row and put down the hook, careful not to let it slip out of its loop. “Grandma, when will I learn how to make the pretty webs you were making?”

Grandma laughed. “They’re doilies, dear. It will take a little bit of practice before you get there. I think it won’t take you long. You’re learning really quickly.”

“Doilies?” Claire asked. “What are doilies for?”

“They’re to be pretty. If I leave them under a vase, they can protect the table like a coaster would,” Grandma said.

“Oh,” Claire said. She looked disappointed.

“What’s wrong, dear? What did you think they were for?” Grandma asked.

Claire looked down at the pink ball of yarn and rolled it back and forth, a few inches at a time. She mumbled her answer. Grandma leaned forward a little. “Say it again, I didn’t quite catch that,” she said.

“A web,” Claire said. She looked up. “I thought it was a web.”

“And what would I do with a web?” Grandma asked. “Did you think that I’m secretly a spider?” She laughed.

Claire looked down and pushed around the ball of yarn again. “No,” she said. “Of course not.” She frowned.

“Then what did you think?” Grandma asked.

Claire sighed and looked up again. “I thought you were helping the spiders,” she said.

“But the spiders make their own webs,” Grandma said.

“I thought maybe there were some spiders who can’t because they’re sick or got hurt or something. So you were making webs for them,” Claire said.

“My doilies wouldn’t catch them any bugs,” Grandma said.

“They would if you sprayed them with sticky stuff,” Claire said. “And even without it they would be a nice place for spiders to sleep.”

Grandma smiled. “So you wanted to learn to crochet so that you could help the spiders too?” Claire nodded, and Grandma gave her a big hug.   “That’s really sweet.”

“But the doilies can’t help the spiders?” Claire asked.

“Maybe they could, but I don’t know how I’d find the spiders that need them.   I think the other spiders know best how to help them, because they can speak spider language and we can’t,” Grandma said.

“Oh,” Claire said. She frowned.

“But I could teach you how to make a hat,” Grandma said. “We could make hats and give them to humans who have cold heads.” She smiled.

Claire smiled back. “I like to help,” she said.

“I know you do,” Grandma said. “I like that about you.”

 

 

Sour Grapes

A fox reached up to pick a grape. However, he couldn’t quite reach them. He walked away, his tail swishing. “They were probably sour anyway,” he said.

His friend the sparrow swooped down. “Don’t worry, friend,” she said. “I’ll get you some grapes.”

“I really do think they’re sour,” the fox said. “Leave them there and maybe we can pick them later when they ripen.”

“Nonsense,” Sparrow said. “It really is no trouble. Don’t be so negative.”

The sparrow flew up and picked a bunch of grapes. Then she fluttered in front of her friend until he took the grapes from her beak. She flew around in a happy circle and landed in front of him.

“Go on,” she said. “Try one.”

Fox sighed and picked one of the grapes. He tossed it into his mouth and chewed. He made a face. “Sour,” he said.

Sparrow drooped. “Really?” she said. “You’re not teasing me?”

“Try one,” Fox said and held out the bunch of grapes.

Sparrow leaned over and bit a grape off the bunch. “Bleh,” she said. She spit out the grape. “That’s inedible. Why do they look yummy if they taste like that?”

“I don’t know,” Fox said. “Maybe they’re the wrong type or it’s too early to pick them.”

“We should find someone who can tell us,” Sparrow said. “That way we won’t eat any more sour grapes.”

“I think that’s a good plan, friend,” Fox said. “You lead the way and I’ll carry the grapes.”

The sparrow hopped on her feet at the praise and sang a happy little tune.   “I just thought of the perfect person to ask,” she said. “Let’s go talk to Mole. I think he knows all about growing things.”

She led the way to Mole’s house. She was excited and flew a little too fast, so it took a while for Fox to arrive. While she was waiting, she knocked on the door. Mole answered the door just as Fox stepped onto the front step.

Mole looked nervously at the fox. “Oh, don’t worry about him,” Sparrow said. “He’s a friend.”

Mole didn’t look any less nervous. “What do you want?” he asked.

“Can you tell us how to tell if grapes will be sweet before you eat them?” the sparrow asked.

“No, I only grow carrots, radishes, onions, and potatoes. That way I can pick them without leaving my house. I don’t like to leave my house. It’s not safe,” Mole said. Then he slammed his door shut. They could hear him lock it.

“Well, that didn’t work,” Fox said.   “Who likes to eat grapes?”

“I thought everyone did,” Sparrow said. “We should ask a bird. Birds are very smart.”

“Well, people do talk about birdbrains,” Fox said.

“Exactly,” Sparrow said.

“Except I think they mean that birds aren’t always deep thinkers,” Fox said.

“That’s ridiculous. It was probably a lie spread by the cats,” Sparrow said. “Let’s go ask Grandfather Owl. He’s quite wise.”

So, Fox followed Sparrow to Grandfather Owl’s tree. “Grandfather Owl,” Sparrow said. “We have a question to ask you.”

“Is it evening already?” Grandfather Owl asked. “Then why is it so bright out?” Grandfather Owl peeked around the edge of the door blinking his eyes.   He saw the grapes and bit one off the bunch. He made a face.   “Sour. Don’t you know any better than to pick sour grapes?”

“But how can you tell if they’re sour?” Sparrow asked.

“By the taste,” Grandfather Owl said. “If they’re not sweet, they’re sour. Good day.” He closed the door.

“He is so wise,” Sparrow said. “Now we know.”

“That doesn’t answer our question of how we can tell if they’re sweet without tasting them,” Fox said.

“Maybe we were asking the wrong question,” Sparrow said.

Fox sighed. “It was nice spending time with you today Sparrow. I need to go. You can keep the grapes.” He set the bunch of grapes next to sparrow and disappeared into the bushes.

Sparrow smiled. “That was so nice of him.” She bit a grape off the bunch and then spit it out. “Bleh! Sour.   I’d forgotten. I wonder if all the grapes are sour? I guess I’ll follow Grandfather Owl’s advice and taste them all to find out.”

That night, Sparrow went to bed with a stomachache.

 

A Friend of Spiders

The eensy, weensy spider had made his web in a corner of the front porch, right by the rain gutter downspout. It wasn’t a very big web, but he wasn’t a very big spider, so it suited him just fine.

Then one terrible afternoon, a storm came. The little spider huddled in the corner of his web. He was frightened by the wind and rain that shook his web. Then a small stick tore through the edge of the web where he was hiding.

He clung to the stick as it blew against the wall of the house and fell to the floor of the porch. He scurried closer to the house and hid in a little crack between the boards of the porch floor. He listened as the wind and rain seemed to go on forever.

Finally, there was a break in the storm. The eensy weensy spider climbed out of his hiding place and hurried to the downspout. Water was still trickling down the inside, so he climbed up the outside of the spout to reach his little web.

It was hanging on by just a few strands. He carefully patched and repaired it. Just as he was finishing his work, it began to rain again. He hurried to his corner and hesitated.   Was his web safe during rainstorms?

He wasn’t so sure any more. He decided to wait this one out back down on the porch. He’d been safe there. He climbed down the outside of the downspout while dodging raindrops.

He was just climbing down, when one of the monstrously large human children saw him. The ground shook as she hurried closer. She towered over him and spoke in a voice like thunder.

The little spider froze. Was this going to be the end for him? The human child lifted up a container and twisted her hand at its top. The lid came free and she turned over the container.   Water poured out, rolling in a stream across the porch.

The human child laughed loudly as the little spider dodged left and right to avoid the flood of water. He couldn’t escape. He ran for the downspout and she poured water down the outside edge.

He jumped inside and tried to climb, but was caught in a sudden stream of water that swept him back out into a shallow pond. The little spider managed to catch onto a leaf and pull himself out of the water.

The little human was waiting at the edge of the pond. She raised her shoe. It looked like this was the end for the eensy weensy spider. He waited for the shoe to drop, wishing himself back in his safe little web.

And then, a miracle happened. There was a louder, older voice that said something, and the little girl stepped back.   The human mother was standing nearby.   She shook her head and pointed at the door to the human house. The little girl stomped back up the porch stairs and into the house.

The little spider hurried into his hiding place and waited out the storm.   The sun came out and dried up all the rain, and the eensy weensy spider went up the spout again. Once back in his safe little web, he resolved to never leave it again if he could help it.

He was grateful to the human mother who spared his life. He declared her a friend to spiders and wove a tribute into his web, telling other spiders that a friend lived here. He was sure she’d be delighted with all the spiders who would come to help protect her house from insects who meant her harm.

It was the least he could do to repay her kindness. The little spider settled into his web for the night, grateful to be alive and satisfied that he’d managed to repay his debt in some small way. He fell asleep to the sounds of the night world waking up. It had been a very busy day.

 

Little Green Trees

On a foggy, rainy day, when the humans were all either inside or rushing down the street with their heads down, neither looking right nor left, the trees had a family reunion. In small groups here and there, the dryads left their trees and floated to the gathering place out in the woods.

They drank deep from the lake and then sat on the soft green moss, waiting for the meeting to begin. Finally, Grandfather Oak stood, his gray-green beard brushing his toes.   “It’s been decades since we last met,” he said. “It’s wonderful to see that there are so many of us left. Everyone will get a chance to tell us what is new in their patch of earth.”

“I don’t think everyone is here yet,” a young city tree said. “The little green trees haven’t arrived.”

“Who are the little green trees?” Grandfather Oak asked.

“I haven’t talked to them, but I’ve seen them through the windows of the human houses. They stand on little saucers and interact with the humans. After a while, they just disappear. I think maybe the humans eat them,” the young tree said.

“Humans don’t eat trees,” Grandfather Oak said.

“Perhaps they’re baby trees,” the young tree said.

“Did they look like saplings?” Granny Smith asked.

“Well no, they looked like full grown trees, just shrunk smaller,” the young tree said.

“Perhaps they’re not trees at all,” a fir tree said. “Maybe they’re some sort of human food made to look like us in order to show their respect.”

The trees murmured in approval. The young tree rustled. “But they looked like little trees,” he said.

“Maybe they’re from another planet and flew here on their saucer,” a rowan tree said.

“Do you think their saucer has a shrink ray and that’s why they’re so small?” an ash tree asked.

“Why are they visiting the humans and not us?” Granny Smith asked. “That doesn’t seem natural.”

“Perhaps they’ve been captured,” the young tree said. “We should rescue them.” The younger trees all began talking at once.

“Quiet,” Grandfather Oak said. “Young tree, keep an image of these trees in your mind, and I will give you the words to call them here.”

The young tree repeated the words. In moments, several small green elves sat on the ground in front of the dryads. They looked confused.   “Welcome,” Grandfather Oak said.

The green elves responded in quick, high-pitched voices. Grandfather Oak shook his head. “We don’t understand you. Can you understand us?”

The elves chattered with each other and finally one stepped forward.   “Hello,” he said very slowly.

“Hello,” Grandfather Oak said. “Who are you?”

“Broccoli,” the elf said.

“Are you a tree?”

“What is a tree?” the elf asked.

“We are trees,” Grandfather Oak said.

“We are not you,” the elf said. “We are broccoli.”

“And what is broccoli?” Grandfather Oak asked.

“Us.”

“Are you from another planet?” The young tree asked.

“Maybe,” the elf said. Then, with a snap of his finger, all the elves disappeared.

“They weren’t trees,” Granny Smith said. “Trees don’t act or sound like that.”

“Unless they’re alien trees,” a rowan tree said.

“It’s neat to know that there are trees living so far away,” an ash tree said.   “I’ll remember that as I look at the stars at night.”

“Well, I’m ready to go home. That was too much excitement for one day,” a pine tree said. Several other trees agreed.

“But what about our meeting?” Granny Smith asked.

“Don’t worry,” Grandfather Oak said. “We can meet again in another twenty years. We have plenty to think about until then.” And with that, the meeting was over and the trees went home.