Playing Dead

Zeke disguised himself as one of the small furry things he’d seen playing with the humans in the park.  Pretending to be a pet was a textbook infiltration technique he’d learned in the academy.

He double-checked his translation and recording devices and ambled up to a tidy-looking front step.  When a human came out, he barked and wagged his tail.  A small human peeked around the human standing in the doorway.  “A dog!  Can we keep him, Dad?” the small human said.

“He might already have a family, Paul,” the tall human dad said.

“We can put some signs up just in case,” Paul said.

“Okay,” Dad said.  Zeke was in.

Fortunately, the humans were happy to teach him what was expected of him.  His duties included fetch, shake hands, roll over, and play dead.  Careful observation of the humans told him that these duties were expected of other small furry things, so he wasn’t surprised.

He had hoped that he’d be able to use his duties for more than just amusing humans.  So, he watched closely.  Humans did shake hands on formal occasions to say hello or goodbye.  His humans were rarely formal.  Humans do not roll over on the ground.  Humans do throw balls for other humans to catch.  He did not see them throw sticks for each other.

Playing dead was a large part of human culture.  Every evening, his humans would sit down in front of their communication screen and play dead.  The first time he watched his humans do this, he was slightly alarmed.  He soon became accustomed to this strange ritual.

Sometimes he would join them in playing dead.  He would watch the screen and try to understand the messages.  They were communicated as stories and advertisements and sporting events.  Sometimes his humans would sit up and yell back at the screen, but the messages continued to play.  Their responses didn’t seem to be heard.

At first, he thought the messages were recordings of events happening somewhere.  He realized his mistake when he saw the story about humans in space.  He knew that humans had not yet developed space travel.  Perhaps this message was requesting support in developing the necessary technology?

His current theory was that humans sometimes strengthened their communications with emotion, and the stories were meant to evoke the emotion that best conveyed the message.  Zeke wasn’t entirely sure.  His humans did seem to like the messages best when they reflected the conveyed message most strongly.  If they looked passive, they’d switch to a new message soon.

Zeke studied many aspects of human behavior.  He surveyed local plant life and structures when out on walks.  He slept on Paul’s bed and monitored his sleep patterns.  Paul was also most helpful in passing him samples of human food.  Paul was especially eager to share any plant matter from his plate.  Zeke was fairly sure this was because Paul didn’t like the plant matter.

Then one day, too quick for his humans to see it, a message from his mission commander flashed across the human communication screen.  At the same time, his communicator buzzed under his fur.  It was time to go home.  That evening, he shook hands with Mom, Dad, and Paul.  Then he barked and wagged his tail for good measure.

After they were asleep, Zeke let himself out the back door.  He briefly wondered if they would put pictures of him up again.  Well, time to write up his mission report.  He took off his furry animal suit and returned to the ship.

Dog Wishes

Did you know that every dog gets a wish? One day the dog fairy comes and asks what they want most. Then, poof! They get their wish, just like that.

Mostly dogs are pretty happy as they are. So, they wish for extra dinner or a sunny day or that someone would scratch behind their ears. The wishes are so easy that they almost grant themselves.

But once there was a dog that probably spent too much time thinking. He would have been happier if he’d jumped into more muddy puddles or barked at a few more people passing by his yard. But instead, he was sitting and thinking, and that was the cause of his problems.

One day, when he was resting in a patch of sunlight, sitting and thinking and ignoring the squirrels dancing around his yard and making faces, the dog fairy appeared. “What is your wish?” she asked.

“Do you know what would be handy?” the dog asked. “Having hands like a human.”

“Is that really your wish?” the dog fairy asked. “You only get one you know.”

The dog sat and thought for a moment more. “Yes,” he said. “That’s my wish.”

“So be it,” the dog fairy said. And the dog had human hands. He held them up and turned them this way and that.

“Thank you,” he said. The dog fairy smiled and disappeared.

The dog stood up. It was uncomfortable walking on his new hands. He tried to stand on his back feet, like he’d seen humans do, but it wasn’t as easy as it looked.

In the end he carefully picked his way across the yard, avoiding the sharp rocks and prickly weeds. It took him an hour or more to figure out the doorknob. As soon as he was inside, he raced straight to the kitchen.

The dog pulled open the fridge. He knocked down containers and tried to open them. Some things tasted great. Others were terrible. Some containers he couldn’t figure out how to open at all.

He hadn’t even started on the drawers when he began to feel sick. He left everything as it was and hobbled down the hall to Jack’s room.

Jack was his special human, and the dog wanted to curl up on Jack’s bed until he felt better. The dog was grateful that the door was open. He wasn’t feeling up to trying another doorknob.

He jumped on the end of the bed and curled up in his favorite spot. When he looked up, he was facing the mirror on Jack’s closet door. He held up his new hands. They didn’t look right on the end of his front legs.

The dog turned his back on the mirror and hid his hands under his chin. He fell asleep, and while he slept he dreamed.

The dream started out quite nice. Dogs were lining up, asking him to open things for them. Even cats were in line, clutching tins of cat food to their chests and looking hopeful. He used his amazing hands and could open everything on the first try.

But then, they wanted to run a race, and he couldn’t keep up while running on his sensitive human hands. Would he never be able to run again? How would he play fetch with Jack? Did it mean no more walks?

And then he saw the dogs barking softly to each other. When he looked at them, they stopped barking and looked away. A little dog laughed and then pretended it was coughing. His new hands did look strange. Maybe this had been a bad idea.

He woke up when the front door banged closed. Had he left that open? He could hear Jack yelling something in the kitchen. Oops. He’d left a mess in there.

He looked down at his odd human hands. What if Jack didn’t recognize him anymore? What if he didn’t like them? Why did he wish for hands? They were going to get him into trouble.

“Dog fairy?” he barked softly. “If you’re there, please give me my paws back.” Nothing happened. He could hear Jack coming down the hall. “Please, dog fairy.”

His paws changed back to normal just as Jack opened the door. The dog was so grateful, that he told his story to every dog he met, and they told all the dogs they met. The dog spent less time sitting and thinking and more time playing with Jack. And he was happy.

Dogs still pass around the story today. As far as I know, no other dog has wished for human hands.

Real Bears

Goldilocks ran all the way home from the bears’ house. She ran inside and closed and locked the door. Then she found her mom.

“There you are,” Mom said. “You are just in time for lunch.”

“I ate at the bears’ house,” Goldilocks said. “I ate up all their breakfast.”

“I think you’d better explain,” Mom said, “because I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I found a house in the woods. I knocked on the door. No one answered, so I went in,” Goldilocks said.

“That was a bad choice,” Mom said.

“Why?” Goldilocks asked.

“You aren’t supposed to go into the woods alone. You don’t visit people on your own. And if no one says come in, you don’t go into someone else’s house.”

“Oh,” Goldilocks said.

“What happened next?” Mom asked.

“There was no one there, but they’d left their porridge on the table. I like porridge, and I didn’t want it to be wasted. So, I ate it all up. Except the porridge that was too hot or too cold. That’s yucky.” Goldilocks made a face.

“That was a bad choice. It was stealing,” mom said.

“Okay,” Goldilocks said. “I accidentally broke a chair, and then I fell asleep on one of the beds, and when I woke up there were bears, and I ran home.”

“Goldilocks,” Mom said.

“I told you it was an accident,” Goldilocks said.

“And you shouldn’t call them bears,” Mom said. “Real bears don’t live in houses. Even if they seem hairy and grumpy, they aren’t real bears.”

“Yes they were,” Goldilocks said.

“We’ll have to bring them cookies and offer to pay for the chair,” Mom said. “After lunch go to your room and write an apology note.”

“But I don’t want to apologize,” Goldilocks said.

“Growing up means learning to do hard things,” Mom said.

After Dad got home from work, Goldilocks led her parents to the bears’ house. They walked through meadows of flowers and past several surprisingly tiny cottages. Goldilocks stopped in front of a white wooden fence with a gate that opened up on a small tidy yard in front of a charming cottage. She insisted on staying by the gate while her parents went to the door.

They knocked and the door creaked open. Mom and Dad yelled in surprise. Mom dropped the cookies and note and they both ran. Dad scooped up Goldilocks on the way past. They ran home.

The bears stood in the doorway for a moment, feeling shocked. “What just happened?” Baby Bear asked.

“Oh look, they brought us cookies,” Mama Bear said. “It’s a good thing they wrapped them up so well. And an apology note too, how nice.”

“Those were obviously her parents. They looked a lot like her,” Papa Bear said.

“They yelled and ran away like her too,” Baby Bear said.

“I guess it runs in the family,” Mama Bear said. “I wonder if we’ll ever see them again.”

They never did. They did find a little chair on their doorstep one morning, though.

Learning to Rain

“Watch closely,” Daddy Raincloud said.

“I’m watching,” Little Raincloud said. “This is going to be great.”

“I’m glad you’re excited,” Daddy Raincloud said. “Someday you’ll be doing this all on your own. Well, follow me. First we pick up water. We’ll just sit here for a while and breathe it in.”

“It’s kind of hard to do,” Little Raincloud said.

“You can do it,” Daddy Raincloud said. “There you go. I can see that it’s working. Now think gloomy thoughts.”

“Like what?” Little Raincloud asked.

“Like how everyone hides under an umbrella when we come, and when we come to a picnic, they all go home,” Daddy raincloud said.

“Oh, that is sad,” Little Raincloud said. He sunk a little lower.

“Now you’re getting it,” Daddy Raincloud said. “Now when you’re floating over the area scheduled for rain, drop the water at a steady rate. Ready, wait a moment, go.” Daddy raincloud started to sprinkle water on the thirsty plants below.

Little Raincloud followed behind him, not raining. “I can’t do it, Daddy,” he said. “I can’t. It won’t work. I need help.”

“Keep trying,” Daddy said. “You can do it.”

Finally, finally, Little Raincloud started to rain. “I did it, Daddy,” he said. He gave a little hop and the rain poured harder.

“Ease up a bit,” Daddy said. “We don’t want a flood. There’s not one scheduled here for another decade. Why don’t you try to send out a rainbow?”

“I like rainbows,” Little Raincloud said. “Please show me how to make one.”

“Catch the light just right, like this, see? Then toss it up gently and let it come back down,” Daddy said. He gently tossed a rainbow out. “Now you try,” he said. “Toss a rainbow just below mine , and we can have a double rainbow.”

Little Raincloud tossed his rainbow out. It fell straight down. He started to cry and the rain came down in sheets too thick to see through.

“Did you toss it up?” Daddy Raincloud asked.

“I tried, Daddy,” Little Raincloud said. “But it didn’t work.

“I wonder what went wrong,” Daddy Raincloud said. He drifted closer to Little Raincloud. “Little raincloud, how long have you been upside down?” he asked.

“Is that what’s wrong?” Little Raincloud asked. “How can you tell which way is up?”

“Rain falls down,” Daddy Raincloud said. He blew a sharp breeze that flipped Little Raincloud the right way up. “Do you want to try again?” he asked.

“Yes,” Little Raincloud said. “What’s next on the schedule?”

“We’re going to go rain on a lake a little way from here,” Daddy Raincloud said.

“Can you teach me how to throw lightning?” Little Raincloud asked.

“Let’s work on your aim first,” Daddy Raincloud said.

Together they rained gently over the lake. They watched the fish rise to the surface and the frogs hide. They gently shook the branches of the trees and listened to the clapping sound the leaves made. At the end of the storm, Daddy Raincloud tossed his rainbow up into the air. Once again, Little raincloud’s rainbow fell straight down.

“Are you upside down again?” Daddy Raincloud asked. “When did that happen?”

“No,” Little raincloud said. “I’m not upside down. I just dropped it this time. Can we try again?”

“Not today. That was the last one on the schedule. Maybe tomorrow,” Daddy said.

“Can we try some lightning tomorrow, too?”

“I don’t think you’ll be ready for lightning for a while yet,” Daddy said. “For now, let’s stick to rainbows.”
Rain Trainer

Charlie’s Room: Bubble wrap

When Isaac got home from work, there was a package waiting on the table. “Who’s that from?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” Marianne said. “It doesn’t say. Why don’t you open it and see what it is?”

“Huh, I didn’t order anything,” Isaac said. He rummaged around on his desk and found some scissors.

“Can I open it, Dad?” Charlie asked.

“Let your Dad do it,” Marianne said. “It’s addressed to him. Come help me set the table.”

“But I want to see what’s in the package first,” Charlie said. “Then I’ll set the table.”

“I’d better hurry and open it then,” Isaac said. Using one leg of the scissors, he sliced through the tape across the top of the box. Then he turned the scissors sideways and cut the tape still holding the box flaps down.

He opened the box and pushed aside the bubble wrap. “It’s an egg timer,” he said.

He lifted out the little blue owl-shaped timer. Charlie reached for it. “Can I see it?” he asked.

“Sure.” Isaac handed it over and watched Charlie twist the owl so that it was looking over its shoulder. “I don’t remember ordering this,” he said.

“I didn’t order it either,” Marianne said. “Maybe it was a gift. Is there a card?”

Isaac pulled out the bubble wrap. “Nope, it’s just bubble wrap,” he said.

“Well, maybe the card will come later,” she said.

“But it’s not your birthday,” Charlie said. “Why do you get the cool owl timer?”

“I don’t know. Why don’t you keep it?” Isaac asked.

“Yay! Thanks, Dad,” Charlie said. He gave Isaac a hug just as the timer rang.

“Sounds like it’s time to set the table,” Marianne said. “Give Dad the timer, and he can put it in your room.”

“Okay,” Charlie said and handed over the timer. He dashed off to the kitchen.

“I’d better go drain the noodles,” Marianne said.

Isaac took the timer to Charlie’s room and left it on his desk. He was still holding the box. He set it down on Charlie’s desk and took out the bubble wrap. Pop, pop, pop, pop. He quickly popped all the bubbles.

There was another piece of bubble wrap in the box. He took it out. Right in the center, there was a bright red bubble. How unusual. Isaac popped it right away.

It started ticking. It took Isaac a second to realize it wasn’t the timer. He dropped it, prepared to back up. What if it was a bomb?

No, he couldn’t leave it here in Charlie’s room. He picked it up again and rushed out of the house and dropped it on the driveway. It ticked a few more times and then disappeared in a puff of smoke. When the smoke cleared away, there was nothing left.

Isaac hurried inside and checked in Charlie’s room. Everything was just like he left it. The box, used-up bubble wrap, and timer looked completely normal.

He checked the bubble wrap. No red dots. He didn’t see any wires or anything. He held it up to the light. Nothing. But then, he hadn’t seen anything in the other sheet of bubble wrap, either. He looked suspiciously at the timer and the box. The timer had worked all right before, but that was no guarantee it was safe. And if bubble wrap could explode? What could a box do?

He slipped the timer into his pocket, then took the box and bubble wrap and closed them in the tall metal trash can they kept outside. If they were safe, he’d recycle them later. He looked at the timer and turned it all the way around. Then he set it in the driveway and stepped back. Five minutes later, it rang. He tried it again and again. Nothing changed.

Marianne came out the front door. “There you are! I’ve been looking all over for you. It’s time for dinner,” she said.

“The bubble wrap exploded when I popped it,” Isaac said.

“Were you hurt?” Marianne asked. “I didn’t know bubble wrap exploded.”

“I didn’t either,” Isaac said. “I’m fine. It was just loud.”

“Well, that’s okay then,” Marianne said. “Come inside for dinner. I thought you were going to leaver the timer in Charlie’s room.”

“I need to make sure it’s safe first,” Isaac said.

“If you wanted to keep it, you should have just said so. I’ll go tell Charlie. He’ll understand.” Marianne hurried back inside. The door closed and then opened again. “Are you coming?” she asked.

“I’m right behind you,” Isaac said. He picked up the egg timer and followed her inside.
Owl Timer