Charlie’s Room: Alien Dinner

Charlie and Marianne were sitting on Charlie’s rug in a warm patch of sunshine, going through seed catalogues, and deciding what to plant in the garden next spring. Charlie circled the things he wanted and handed the catalogue to Marianne.   She started to flip through the pages.

“Strawberries are a great idea, but we’ll start them from plants rather than seeds,” Marianne said. She wrote strawberries on her list.

“Do you think we can make jam?” Charlie asked.   “I love strawberry jam.”

“If we don’t eat all the strawberries first,” Marianne said. “They’re hard to resist.”   She turned the page. “Pumpkins?”

“So we can carve one for Halloween. If there’s extra pumpkins, maybe we can make pie,” Charlie said.

“Good thinking,” Marianne said. “What else? Corn, tomatoes, peas, broccoli. Good choices.” Marianne turned the page. “Asparagus and artichokes?”

“They look like alien vegetables. They look interesting,” Charlie said.

“Maybe we need to try them before we plant some in the garden,” Marianne said. “It would be disappointing to put so much work into growing them if we found out that we didn’t like them when they were finally ready to eat,” Marianne said.

“Let’s have an alien dinner,” Charlie said.

“What do you mean?”

“We’re already going to have alien vegetables,” Charlie said. “So, let’s make a whole alien meal.”

“What kinds of foods are alien foods?” Marianne asked.

“Green jello is definitely alien,” Charlie said.   “And pasta with the green sauce.”

“Pesto?” Marianne asked.

“I don’t know,” Charlie said. “But we should get those oranges that are red inside.   They’re creepy. And pineapple.”

“Pineapple is alien?”

Charlie nodded. “Of course it is. It’s really weird. I think aliens planted it here on one of their trips so they have something familiar to eat whenever they visit earth.”

Marianne laughed. “You’ve been listening to too many of your dad’s stories.” She wrote the dinner menu on a paper and wrote a shopping list next to it. “Would you like to come to the store with me? We can surprise your dad with an alien dinner.”

Charlie jumped up. “I’ll go get my coat and shoes. This is going to be great.”

“I’ll just put these papers and catalogues away first.”

Charlie and Marianne went up and down the aisles of the grocery store, filling the cart with items on their list. “We could put shredded apples and carrots into the jello,” Marianne said. “What do you think?” She laughed at the face Charlie made. “Maybe not.”

“Swiss cheese is odd,” Charlie said, as they passed the cheeses.

“It is, but it doesn’t go with the rest of the meal,” Marianne said. “Maybe another time.”

Finally, they bought and bagged their ingredients and headed home. They put their aprons on. “Time to cook,” Charlie said. “Where do we start?”

“Let me look up the cooking time on the vegetables,” Marianne said. “Then we can plan our cooking strategy so that everything finishes at the same time.”

“This is more complicated than I thought,” Charlie said.

They planned, and then they chopped and steamed and boiled and strained and tossed the food. After a flurry of activity, dinner was done and on the table. “This is a meal fit for aliens,” Charlie said. “If only we had some to invite to dinner.”

Just then, the door opened. Charlie ran to the entryway. “Dad!   For a moment, I thought there was an alien at the door.”

Isaac laughed. “Nope, just me. Dinner smells great.”

“We’re having alien food for dinner,” Charlie said. “Guess what we’re having.”

“Onions?” Isaac asked.   “I’ve always thought they were strange.”

“There’s some in with the pasta,” Charlie said. “But onions are boring. Think of real alien food.”

“Squid?”

“No. Squids are weird,” Charlie said,   “But I don’t want to eat one.”

“Pineapple?”

“Of course pineapple,” Charlie said.

“Aliens planted it here on one of their trips so they have something familiar to eat whenever they visit,” Isaac said.

“So true,” Charlie said. “Come see the rest of what we made.”

Dinner was strange but delicious. Charlie liked the asparagus but decided that artichokes were too hard to eat. “The aliens can keep their artichokes,” he said. “But they’ll have to share the rest of their food with us.”

Isaac’s Adventures Underground: Chapter Two

Isaac looked around the empty lobby. There were the usual chairs and little tables and fake trees planted in baskets.   There wasn’t a front desk or windows or glass doors. Instead, there were sets of metal elevator doors along the walls.

“I guess I’ll just take one of the elevators out of here,” he said. “Which one goes up?” Isaac walked to the first elevator door. There was a button with an arrow pointing up and another one with an arrow pointing down. He pushed the up button and waited. Nothing happened.

He pushed the other button. “If the elevator comes, I can still push the button to go up once I’m inside,” he said to himself. After a moment, he heard a quiet ding! and then the world turned upside down. No, actually Isaac was upside down, standing on his hands.

He kicked the up arrow button. Ding! He was standing on his feet again. Well, that wasn’t helpful. Should he try the buttons beside the next elevator? He didn’t have any better ideas.

Isaac walked over to the next elevator and pushed the up arrow button. Ding! He started to float up into the air like a balloon. Panicked, he hit the down arrow button with his knee as he floated past. Ding! He collapsed back on the floor. Ouch.

Floating up out of the cave seemed like a good idea.   However, if he didn’t stop floating, he could drift up to outer space where there wasn’t any air to breathe and it was always cold. Obviously, he’d need to test and see if it wore off while he was close to the button, just in case.

Isaac dragged a big, heavy looking chair over to the elevator. He held on to the chair with one hand, and then pushed the up button. By the time he heard ding!, he was holding onto the chair with his arms and legs. He held on tightly and waited. It felt like being pushed upwards by a strong, persistent wind.   Eventually, his grip started to give out. He hit the down button. Ding!

He sighed. He might as well check the other elevators. If they didn’t work, he’d have to find some rope and tie himself to the chair for a longer test. It would give him a bit of perspective on how a balloon feels. “Maybe I’ll never ask for balloons at parties anymore. It seems mean to tie them to chairs and banisters and leave them there.”

Isaac hurried to the next elevator and pushed the up button. Ding! Nothing happened. “Nope,” he said in a high squeaky voice. How funny! He pushed the down button. Ding! “Hello,” he said. His voice was normal. He pushed the down button again. “Hello?” His voice sounded deep. He pushed the down button again. Ding! “Hello.”   His voice was now very deep. He laughed, but it sounded strange. He laughed harder.

Finally, he pushed the up button twice. Ding!   Ding! “Hello,” he said. Normal voice. Time to go to the next elevator.   This time the elevator doors moved up and down the wall, but didn’t open. Isaac walked over to the next elevator.

He pushed the up button. He started to grow. He grew taller and taller and taller. The hanging metal lamp above him hit him in the head. It hurt. He quickly leaned over and pushed the button. Unfortunately, he held the button down a bit too long. Ding! Ding! Ding!

Isaac shrunk rapidly. The room seemed to blur for a moment. When it stopped he looked up. He was probably mouse-sized at this point, far too small to reach the up button by the elevator. He needed to mark this elevator so that he could find it again, and then go hunt for something to use as a ladder.

Looking around, he saw something white under a nearby couch. The baseball! He rolled it over and looked up again. Even if he stood on it, he’d be to short. It was a start though. Maybe he could find something to pile on top of it. Did the couches have any small cushions?

He left the baseball by the elevator and started to explore the room. The couch cushions were all far too big. The tables and chairs were too heavy. But behind one of the plants he found a little door about half the size of the cupboard doors in the kitchen at home. It had a little metal sign on it that said Come In. Isaac tried to twist the doorknob, but the door was locked.

Isaac knocked on the door and waited. No one answered. He looked up at the basket beside him. Maybe they hid a spare key somewhere in the potted plant? It wouldn’t hurt to check. After all, the door said come in, so there must be a way inside. Maybe he’d find someone who knew the way out. Isaac started to climb.

 

Too Many Godmothers

Once upon a time, there was a kingdom with more than its share of pretty, kind young ladies. All of them, of course, had troubles of one kind or another. It’s part of growing up, I suppose.

This was a magic kingdom, and so many of these young ladies had fairy godmothers. Each godmother only wanted the best for the young lady in her care. Unfortunately, even though this kingdom had lots of wonderful young ladies, it only had one prince.

And so, when the young prince held a ball and sent out invitations to all the young ladies and their families, the fairy godmothers all declared war. There were some that were working from a disadvantage, because their young ladies had obstacles preventing them from attending the ball. It only made their fairy godmothers more determined to get them there.

The fairy godmothers needed something to work their magic on, so each of the young ladies needed to start out with a basic dress.   Naturally, the dress shops in town had expected to sell out of all their fanciest dresses, the kind that are all beads and lace and embroidery and far too many layers.

Instead, they had a hard time keeping the simple dresses in stock. They worked late into the night stitching together cheap cotton dresses while the dresses they’d designed with care and love sat in the shop window day after day.

Meanwhile, the fairy godmothers pulled out their wands and the battles began. Small animals were sent from house to house to spy on the competition. Dress designs changed from one moment to the next, depending on the competition.

“The blue fairy is adding a sparkling overlay of snowflakes stitched in silver? Doesn’t she know that the snow queen look is so last year? Wait until she sees the beaded roses on your gown!”

And of course, there was the issue of transportation.   The girls couldn’t walk to the ball or take a taxi. Who did that? Coaches were made from vegetables and fruit and sticks and seashells and mailboxes, and bugs and mice and worms were transformed to drive them.

Eventually, each young lady was wearing a fantastic dress, standing next to her coach. It was time for the finishing touch. Each fairy godmother smiled. This was the easy part. They waved their wands and said the magic words. Each young lady was now wearing a pair of clear, glass slippers. “The magic lasts until the last stroke of midnight,” the godmothers warned.

And the young ladies went to the ball. Some were early, some on time, some late.   All were lovely. The prince danced with them all. He had no idea how he was supposed to pick a future wife after one dance.   Most of the young ladies he met seemed pretty and kind.

The young ladies were also having a wonderful evening, except that they were learning that glass slippers were uncomfortable and hard to dance in. They had to be tight enough to pinch a little, or they’d slide right off. They didn’t allow the toes to bend or the foot to shift easily from side to side. Worst dancing shoes ever.

And then, the clock struck midnight. At once, most of the girls jumped up and ran for the door. Alarmed, the prince followed them. What was going on?

The girls looked at the steep steps and every one of them pulled their slippery glass shoes off and left them at the top of the steps. Then, they jumped into their carriages and rode away.

The prince looked around at the pile of glass shoes, and then watched the carriages race away. He walked slowly back inside. The ladies left inside the room were a little less wonderful than the girls who had just left. However, the girls who had just left seemed to be a little strange.

“So, did you find a nice girl to marry?” the queen asked her son.

The prince sighed. “I don’t know. It was too hard to decide.”

“Maybe we should hold another ball. If you spend more time with them, maybe you’ll get to know them better and find one you like the best,” the queen said.

A week later, another invitation was sent out.   Round two. The dresses were fancier. The carriages were crazier. The shoes were still glass.

The queen stood next to the prince just after midnight and looked at the piles of glass shoes on the steps. “Maybe we should send you to visit your grandparents’ kingdom where I grew up. I think the girls in this kingdom are a little too strange. They’re pretty and nice, but strange.”

When the prince found his bride elsewhere, the fairy godmothers were outraged. Within a matter of two weeks, they’d all sent the young ladies in their care on quests.   The kingdom seemed a lot smaller when they left. There were a lot less glass slippers, too.

In the end, too many godmothers spoil the ball.