This story was originally posted on August 10, 2017. It has some references to a few of my favorite Beatrix Potter stories. I really love her stories and illustrations! However, this story has people as the main characters, instead of animals. It seemed to fit the story better.
This story was originally posted on October 31, 2018. I think that strange events can make complete sense from a different point of view. Sometimes that point of view is very, very different.
This story was originally posted on November 8, 2017. I love fairy tales. I also love to tell them a little bit differently. It’s a lot of fun.
The illustration for this video contains a tribute to one of my favorite Richard Scarry characters. Who else is a Richard Scarry fan? Good memories. I hope you enjoy this video!
Once, or maybe someday, there was a little factory sitting nearly abandoned at the edge of the woods. It was nearly abandoned by people, because the Gold Standard Cleaning Supplies factory was nearly fully automated. The robots did most of the work themselves, and only really needed people to pick up their neatly boxed supplies to deliver them elsewhere.
Unfortunately for the Gold Standard Cleaning Supplies company, one day one of the delivery people was in a hurry. He stacked the boxes higher than normal so that he could take fewer trips. This meant that he propped the door open so that he didn’t need to try to open and close it while his arms were over-full.
He did not notice the cleaning robot making its way around the perimeter of the factory. He did not see it follow the trail of his muddy footprints out the door. And when he locked up and left, he did not count to see if any robots were missing.
The little lost gold standard cleaning supplies industrial janitorial robot, goldibot, would not be missed for months and months and months. That’s how long it would take for the deliveryman to notice that the factory floor was unusually dusty. It would take many more months for him to remember to report it to his supervisor. By that time, goldibot was long gone, and they never knew what happened to it.
They never knew that goldibot followed the dirty footprints out to a dirty parking lot, where the footprints became lost in the general grime. Following the perimeter of the lot, the little robot began sweeping up dirt and fallen leaves and pine needles and leaving them in tiny compact cubes. Normally, goldibot would pick these up in its next pass around the perimeter and drop them in the incinerator.
However, the perimeter wasn’t clearly defined, and goldibot didn’t come around again. Instead, the robot soon wandered into the woods, clearing a path as it went. Occasionally there was a tree in its path, and goldibot paused to clean off all the moss and scrub the bark. Boulders received similar treatment. The robot cleaned with pressurized air and sonic waves, so it was in no danger of running out of cleaning supplies.
The next morning, goldibot wandered into a dark, messy cave. This was not just any cave. This was the home of three bears, who were out for a walk to patrol the edge of their territory.
Goldibot quickly swept up the nuts, seeds, and berries left in the hollows of the rock and left them behind, squished into tiny cubes. It rolled further into the cave, clearing boulders of moss and stacking them neatly out of the way.
The next room was full of mounds of pine needles and soft grass that kept goldibot very busy sweeping and compacting. In fact, goldibot was still cleaning up when the bears returned home. Goldibot didn’t know that the bears were there, of course.
But the bears knew that goldibot was there. When they stepped into the cave, ready to sit down to breakfast, they noticed right away that something was different. “Something has happened to my breakfast,” Papa Bear roared.
“Something happened to my breakfast, too,” Mama Bear replied.
Baby bear inspected the tiny cubes and tasted one. “I think this is breakfast,” he said.
After some grumbling, the bears quickly gobbled up the tiny cubes and went to sit in their living room. But their comfy moss-covered boulders were gone. “Someone has stolen my chair,” Papa Bear roared.
“Someone stole my chair, too,” Mama Bear replied.
Baby bear sniffed at the tiny green cubes and followed them to the neat stack of clean boulders along the far wall. “Here they are,” he said.
“We can’t use them like that,” Papa Bear said. “They don’t look at all comfortable. Someone has broken our living room.”
“This is all so distressing,” Mama Bear said. “I need a nap.”
“Me too,” Papa Bear said.
Baby Bear followed them to the bedroom. The bedroom looked strange, too. Something was missing.
“Somebody stole my bed,” Papa Bear roared.
“Someone stole mine too,” Mama Bear said.
“Someone is still stealing my bed,” Baby Bear said. “And there he is.” They all looked at the silver something as it scooped up the last bit of Baby Bear’s bed. It spat out a tiny cube, made a scary hissing noise, and zoomed away.
The bears cleaned up the mess and remade their furniture. They never saw the scary silver thing again. But they heard from the foxes and wolves that it was still out there, causing trouble. The animals still tell their children about it on dark nights when the moon is full and no one can sleep.
And the little lost goldibot continued to clean everything in its path for years and years and years.
Jack had gone from being the part-owner of one old cow to owning a magic harp, a magic chicken, and a big bag of gold. All it took was a few days and a few magic beans. His mother was happy, he was happy, and it looked like they would live happily ever after.
Of course the giant wasn’t happy, but that didn’t really matter to Jack. The giant had stolen the treasures anyway, so they didn’t belong to him in the first place. Besides, he’d threatened to eat Jack, so Jack didn’t really feel all that sympathetic.
He went to bed feeling like he was on top of the world. He left the bag of gold on the table by his bed, so that it would be the first thing he saw when he woke up. It was a nice idea, but it didn’t work.
The first thing Jack saw when he woke up was a tiny person waving a tiny sword an inch from his eye. Without even thinking about it, Jack tried to swat the tiny person with his hand. He hit the tiny sword instead. Or maybe it hit him. Either way, the tiny sword was as sharp as a needle.
Jack screeched in pain and sat up. The little man tumbled off Jack’s pillow. With a mocking laugh, he slid down the bedding and ran across the floor. Jack jumped up and chased him.
Just as the tiny man ran into a mouse hole in the wall, Jack realized that the little man had a gold coin strapped to his back. Jack peered into the mouse hole. He couldn’t see anything.
He raced back to the table by his bed. The bag of gold was suspiciously flat. Jack snatched it up and opened it. It was empty.
It took just a few minutes to discover that his magic chicken and magic harp were gone also. That terrible tiny man had stolen all his wealth, and he didn’t even have a cow left to trade for more magic beans. What would he do?
Trudging into the kitchen, he slumped into his chair at the table. “Mother, I have bad news.”
She looked up from the steaming pot she was stirring. “What happened? Is the terrible giant back?”
“Even worse,” Jack said. “A tiny man came and stole everything that I got from the giant.”
“A tiny man? Are you sure?”
“As sure as I am that I saw a giant.”
His mother sighed. “I knew it was too good to be true. Well, easy come, easy go.”
Jack frowned. “Mother, I assure you that it was not easy to take things from a giant.”
“It was probably as easy for you to steal from the giant as it was for the tiny man to steal from you.”
Jack wasn’t really sure how to respond to that. So he changed the subject. “But what will we do now? We don’t even have a cow to sell.”
“Luckily, you did get those magic beans.”
Jack sighed. “But they’re gone now. Besides, I took all of the giant’s treasure. They wouldn’t do me any good.”
“Who needs the giant’s treasure? We still have the beanstalk.” She pointed out the window dramatically.
Jack looked out the window at the remains of the beanstalk, now a tangled mess in the backyard. “What good is a beanstalk? It will dry out and be too brittle to build with. No one wants a beanstalk.”
“Foolish child, have you forgotten what grows on a beanstalk?”
“Beans?” Jack sat up in surprise. “Are they magic beans?”
“Not as far as I can tell. But they are giant beans.” She pointed to a neatly stacked pile next to the stove.
Jack had initially mistaken it for a pile of wood for the fire. But, they were too green to be logs. “They’re giant beans,” he yelled.
His mother sighed. “I just said that. We have enough to sell at all the major markets in the country and have some leftover to save for seeds.”
That sounded promising. “So we aren’t going to starve to death, even though a tiny person came and robbed me of everything I rightfully stole? We’re going to be fine?”
“That’s right. We’ll be better than fine. With a little effort, we’re going to be able to earn a respectable living for the rest of our lives.”
“Oh. Well, that’s okay then.” Jack thought for a moment. “Maybe I should send an apology letter to the giant. It wasn’t very nice of me to steal from him, was it? I didn’t like it when someone stole from me.”
“You do that,” his mother said. “We’ll give it to him next time we see him. I’ll call you in when breakfast is ready. I hope you like beans.”
Aspen already knew what her costume would be. She was going to be the princess under the bed and champion the rights of monsters everywhere. Who else was as brave and strong and amazing?
Her mom helped her zip up the dress without catching any of her fur in the zipper. She put her crown on, settling it right behind her third eye. Aspen grinned at the mirror.
She was missing a baby fang, but otherwise she looked very princessy. It was perfect. She smoothed out her fur and jumped down from the stool.
Aspen was ready for a night of tricks and treats. She picked up her plastic pail and waited by the door. After taking far too many pictures, her mom finally took her out into the delightfully scary sunshine.
It was fun to be out so late in the day, when the sun was shining and casting odd spooky shadows everywhere. Tree branches cast shadows that looked like human hands reaching out to catch her. Aspen held her mom’s paws a little tighter and tried not to look at them.
Aspen rang her neighbor’s doorbell and waited. Even with her mom right next to her, she felt a little nervous. She could hear old Mr. Dragon shuffling to the door. His tail made a swishing sound when he walked.
“Hello?” he said, opening the door just a crack.
“Tricks or Treats.” Aspen smiled widely, showing all her fangs.
“Oh, how terrifying!” Mr. Dragon opened the door a little wider. “Is that the princess under the bed, visiting my old cave? I’d better show her my best tricks.”
Aspen giggled. “It’s me, Aspen. I want to see your best tricks, please.”
And so Mr. Dragon breathed fire in the shape of spiders and bats. He said a spell and one of the firebats was cool enough to sit on her hand for a few seconds before it flew off with the others, fading away into the bright sky. Aspen applauded until her paws hurt.
Mr. Dragon bowed and smiled, and then he shuffled back inside. His door clicked shut. Aspen didn’t feel nervous any longer. She raced to the next house with her mom following behind.
Hours later, her plastic pail was full of treats. She’d collected brussel sprouts and broccoli and cauliflower and cabbage and radishes and turnips. Even better, she’d seen so many amazing tricks.
The yetis built a snow maze that didn’t melt. The Scottish monsters could disappear and reappear and did a dance that seemed to take place in four dimensions. The vampires made the area around their house dark as night whenever someone knocked on their door. It was strange to stand on their front porch in the darkness and see daylight stretch like a curtain around the outside of their lawn.
The shadows were smaller and less scary by the time Aspen got home. She was so tired. She couldn’t remember ever staying up this late. Her dad took her pail and exclaimed over all the treasures.
“Daddy tax. I get all the brussel sprouts,” he declared.
Aspen gave him a stern princess glare. “That’s not fair. You can’t have all of them.”
“What a scary princess you are.” Dad grinned. “You win. We’ll share them.”
“And Mom too,” Aspen said. “Did you do tricks or treats this year?”
“Treats. We still have some peas left over. Maybe next year I’ll think of a good trick to do.” Dad gave her a hug. “It’s time to go to sleep. Do you need me to tuck you under the bed?”
Aspen hugged her mom and then stood up straight and tall. “I can brush my fangs and get to bed by myself. I’m the princess under the bed.” She started to walk away and then paused. “Could someone help me with my zipper?”