Category: Intelligent Inanimates

The Short Shelf Life of Cookies

Once there was a baker who was so tired that she mixed all her ingredients up and somehow ended up baking oatmeal raisin cookies that were alive. They didn’t have arms and legs like the little gingerbread boy from the story, so they didn’t get up and run away.

Instead, they sat and watched her with their little raisin eyes, and shrieked in terror if she stood too close. So, she left them to cool and left to make another batch. She was more careful with the second batch, and the cookies were perfectly normal.

She picked one up. No shrieking. She bit into it. There was a lot of screaming, but it was coming from the other side of the room.

The baker put the nice, normal cookie down with a sigh, and turned to face the terrified cookies still cooling on the cookie sheet.

“I’m not going to eat you,” she said. “I don’t eat anything that can ask me not to eat it.”

“Please don’t eat us,” the cookies said at once.

“I won’t. There. See? Everything is fine.” She stepped closer. The cookies watched her, but didn’t yell.

“So you’ll let us go?” one of the cookies asked.

“Go where?” the baker looked around the room. “Where would you go?”

“Someplace safe for cookies,” the cookie said.

The baker thought for a moment. Was there a place like that? “You know, the shelf life for cookies isn’t very good, but I could probably freeze you for up to a year.” She brought the cookies over to the freezer and set them inside. “See?”

“Too cold!” the cookies said.

“Well, then you’ll probably only last a week or so. That’s not long.”

“Can you take us to see the world?” one of the cookies asked.

“The world? In a week?”

And that is why the baker ended up sneaking a briefcase full of cookies into the movie theater. When the lights went out, she opened it on her lap and turned it to face the screen. She shushed the cookies when one of them started to talk, and they soon settled in to watch the film.

She had to close the briefcase a few times when someone passed by, but overall, the movie was a success. The trip to the library was less so. The cookies were completely unimpressed by the shelves of books.

“I don’t hear any stories,” one of the cookies said.

“I don’t see any stories,” another said.

The baker closed the briefcase and left the library. At the art museum, they were checking bags, so she turned and left without the cookies seeing anything at all. When she got back to her car, they were very disappointed, and complained loudly until she closed the briefcase again.

In the park, a dog ran up to the briefcase, barking and wagging his tail. The baker barely managed to close the briefcase before the dog ate any of the cookies. It was a very close call.

“We don’t want to see the world any more,” the cookies decided. “Let’s go back to the movies.”

The baker took a week off, and spent most of it at the movies with a briefcase full of living oatmeal raisin cookies. The cookies had many interesting questions about the movies they watched. They didn’t really understand the idea of fiction, and believed that every story they watched was completely true.

And so, after a film about a magical world, the cookies had many questions about magic. “Can we do magic?” one asked.

“Maybe,” the baker said. “Talking cookies already sounds kind of magical to me.”

“Oh.”

The cookies began to whisper. They muttered to each other through the next two movies, but refused to tell her what they were talking about. The baker was a little nervous.

Everything seemed well when she covered them with a tea towel and left them on the counter that evening. She checked the movie schedule for the next day, and made a plan for what to see. The cookies probably only had a few good days left.

She paused to wonder what the effects of mold would be on the poor cookies. Would it make them lose their memories, or would they suddenly be angry or act like zombies? What would zombie cookies act like?

She never found out. The cookies were gone in the morning. Had they been eaten? Had they figured out magic and used it to transport themselves somewhere else? Maybe they started to mold a little early, and mold made talking cookies disappear?

The baker missed the cookies, but was rather relieved that she didn’t have to deal with zombie cookies. She really didn’t want to know what happened to someone bit by a zombie cookie.

After the cookies left, the baker was much more careful when she cooked, especially when she was tired. She also started watching more movies on her days off. And she never ate another oatmeal raisin cookie again. Even if they didn’t talk, it still felt like the raisins were watching her.

Flashback Friday: The Fruit Bowl

This story was originally posted on August 23, 2017. I don’t know why I find talking food so funny. Too many orange peel smiles (did you do that growing up?) and raisin faces in my oatmeal?

“If I painted myself orange, do you think I could spy on the carrots?” one of the bananas asked. “I think they were looking really suspicious at lunchtime.”

“Nah, we can just check in with the tomato later and see what’s going on,” the honeycrisp apple said. “He blends in with the vegetables without doing anything special.”

“But isn’t that suspicious too? Maybe he’s spying on us,” the lemon said.

“And who put you in charge, anyway?” the orange said. “Oranges are the only fruit impressive enough to have a color named after themselves.”

The apple’s shiny peel glinted in artificial light. “It’s due to my many talents. I’m fierce enough to frighten doctors, but charismatic enough to charm teachers. I’m sweet enough to put in pie, but healthy enough to be included among the common healthy snack foods.   I’m just amazing like that.”

“And so modest, too,” the granny smith apple said, obviously feeling a little green with envy. The lemon snickered.

“Well, I challenge you to a duel,” a banana said.

Just then, the tomato shuffled towards the fruit bowl, hiding in the shadows. The honeycrisp apple turned and waved his stem. “Hey, tomato. What’s the news?”

“Oh, the carrots and celery were threatening to throw the radishes out of the relish tray again. You know radishes. They can’t stop making sarcastic, biting comments.” The tomato laughed.

“How are the cucumbers doing?” the grapes asked.

“Why are you asking?” the tomato asked.

“Hey, I challenged the shiny apple guy to a duel,” the banana said.

Everyone ignored him. The grapes giggled. “No reason.   I just think we have a lot in common.   Can you introduce us?”

The orange gasped. “Traitor!   Fruits and vegetables are natural enemies. We don’t befriend them.”

The grapes pouted. “Tomato does.”

“That’s different,” the honeycrisp apple said. “He’s a spy. So, tell us what you have in common.”

“We’re both immortal. We live on in death,” the grapes said. “Isn’t it romantic?”

“Ew. No,” the lemons said.   “Being pickled or dried out isn’t living on, you twit. It’s a cursed half-life. No one should want to live on like that. It’s unnatural.”

“Why do you have to be so sour?” the grapes asked.

“I’m a lemon. It’s what we do.”

The banana huffed. “Hey, if you don’t duel me I’m going to sing loudly until you give into my demands.”   He began to sing terribly off-key.   “If all of the raindrops were carrots and oranges, oh what a rain it would be…”

“I object,” the orange said. “Carrots would never be classed with oranges by any one with a discerning eye for value.   They obviously copied our color in order to try to fool the gullible, but no one smart would ever mistakenly mix us up.”

But the banana sang on…

“I’m out of here,” the tomato said. “Later.”

“Wait,” the grapes said. “What about the cucumbers?”

And the banana continued to sing. “If all of the raindrops were apples and radishes…”

“Make him stop,” the orange said. “If he continues, we’ll all end up as crazy as he is.”

The lemon snorted. “Will that make us bananas too?”

“That was a terrible joke,” the orange said. “But it was kind of funny.” He laughed, and the banana sang on.

“Fine, fine,” the apple said. “Bananas, what are your demands?”

“I want to be in charge,” the banana said.

“Sure, you’re in charge,” the apple said. “Here’s the rotation schedule for all the fruit, so that no one gets shoved in a dark corner and goes bad and takes us all with them.”

“Oh,” the banana said.

“And here’s the optimum fruit arrangement for the bowl so no one gets bruised. And here’s all the paperwork for the seasonal rotation. Pay special attention to the holidays. They’re tricky.”

“Never mind,” the banana said. “Can we just declare today banana day and forget all about me being in charge?”

“Okay,” the apple said. “Happy Banana Day.”

“Happy Banana Day,” the other fruits chorused.

“Thank you,” the banana said. “That was beautiful.”

“Excellent,” the apple said. “Meeting adjourned.”

Charlie’s Room: The Sunflower

Isaac liked sunflowers. They were normally the most cheerful flowers in the garden. Sometimes in the summer he went out at twilight and chatted with them as they were settling in for the night. Trying to talk to them any earlier was overwhelming. They would all talk at once really, really loudly.

One evening, Isaac wandered around the garden listening to the murmurs of the sleepy plants. Marianne and Charlie were inside making charts and detailed plans for the garden as fall approached. Isaac smiled and passed the ears of corn still young enough to fall asleep much earlier than the rest of the garden around them.

Once he was past the corn, he could see the cluster of sunflowers at the end of the garden. They waved happily as a breeze rustled the leaves. As soon as they saw him coming, they shouted out greetings and news that they couldn’t wait to share.

“Hello friend, isn’t it a beautiful evening?”

“Wasn’t the sun warm today?”

“I think I will be tall enough to touch the sky tomorrow. Wait and see!”

“Welcome to our garden! Welcome!”

As he came closer, Isaac realized that there was something different this time. One of the sunflowers was drooping, face looking down and leaves limp. Was it feeling sick?

He hurried over and crouched in front of the sunflower. “What’s wrong?”

The other sunflowers answered instead.

“She’s sad.”

“She looks sad.”

“I don’t think she’s sick. The water was sweet today.”

“The water is always sweet. The sun is bright. Life is good.”

Isaac waited. A breeze blew through the yard again, and the sunflower shuddered. “There’s only one sun,” the sunflower whispered at last.

“Yes.”

“I thought that if I kept growing, that eventually I’d reach high enough and shine bright enough to become the sun. But there’s only one sun and many sunflowers. I don’t think we grow to become the sun after all.”

The other sunflowers stilled, despite the breeze.

“We don’t become the sun?”

“Maybe there’s only one because we take turns?”

“I think there’s only one because the tallest sunflower is the sun.”

“Do we become stars instead? I don’t know if I’d like that.”

How unexpected. Isaac wasn’t sure how to respond. “From what I’ve seen, the sun and sunflowers aren’t the same. Sunflowers start small and grow, and then eventually they grow old and return to the earth. Through it all, the sun shines down unchanging.”

The drooping sunflower bent further under the weight of his words.

Isaac leaned forward and lifted the flower’s head. “There are many things I don’t know and cannot see. I know there is a special connection between sunflowers and the sun. I have no idea what happens to sunflowers after they return to the earth. Perhaps all the sun energy that they store is returned to the sun and becomes part of it.”

The flower perked up a little. “We all become the sun? Together?”

Isaac shrugged and pulled his hand back once the sunflower was supporting its own weight. “I don’t know. I’m not an expert.”

The sunflowers chattered excitedly.

“We’ll all be the sun together.”

“I already feel a little taller.”

“Do I look like I’m shining?”

The little flower was nearly standing straight and tall again. Isaac smiled and stood up. “Who wants a drink of water?”

“Me!”

“I do!”

“Me! Me!”

Isaac chuckled and left to retrieve the watering can. Crisis solved.

Philosophical Discussion Over Spring Water

Winterborn listened to the breeze rustle through his leaves and felt the sharp chill of the spring water in his roots and the warm sun at his back. The forest hummed with all the living that seems to burst into a crescendo in the summertime.

Louder still were the footsteps that approached the spring. Winterborn opened his eyes, just enough to see the visitor. The light that filtered through his leaves made dappled patterns on the surface of the spring. A little elf with hair the color of new leaves sat on the bank of the spring, legs crossed. He nodded at Winterborn. “Father of this glen, may I share this spring?”

“The spring is here for all who are in need, child.” Winterborn watched as the elf took a small white cup by the handle and dipped it in the spring, leaving rings of ripples.

The elf sipped the water and smiled. “The water is sweet.”

“Perhaps.”

A butterfly landed on one of the blossoms of a nearby bush. The elf put down his cup and leaned forward to look more closely. “Two delicate and beautiful creatures. Sisters in spirit, both at the height of their beauty.”

Winterborn shook his branches in laughter. Elves loved poetry and appearances. “I don’t think that’s quite right. One would have to be the younger sister, yet to reach her metamorphosis.”

The elf turned the cup in his hands. “I don’t understand.”

“That’s a berry bush. The blossom is like a caterpillar, waiting for its change into the bright berry.”

“But a berry isn’t as lovely as a blossom,” the elf protested. “The blossom is so delicate and fleeting, more like the lovely butterfly.”

“Many think that children are more charming than adults. They are certainly more delicate. But I think that the squirrel and the rabbit who visit this bush in late summer would be happy to debate with you over the loveliness of the berries.”

“So flowers are like caterpillars?” The elf looked at the blossoms suspiciously. “That just doesn’t seem right.”

“It depends on the flower. All fruit comes from flowers, but that does not mean that all flowers become fruits.”

The elf watched the butterfly float on the breeze and choose another blossom to land on. “Do some butterflies become something else?”

“No, butterflies are like flowers that never grow into anything else.” Winterborn stretched out his branches just a tiny bit further into the sunlight.

“Like children who won’t grow up?” The elf was still watching the butterfly.

“No, like elves or trees that grow to the right size and then don’t change at all.”

“Ah.” The elf sipped his spring water and was quiet for a while.

A stronger breeze swept through the glade around the spring, scattering a few loose leaves and whisking the butterfly away.

The elf looked up from his cup. “But should we change and become something better?”

Winterborn’s branches shook again in laughter. “Can’t we become better without becoming something else?”

“But the butterfly and the berry blossom…” The elf began, and then paused as if uncertain what he wanted to say next.

“The butterfly and the berry blossom are not trees or elves or rabbits or squirrels. They have their growth to attend to just as we have ours. If there is life and growth and improvement, does it matter that it looks different for each one?”

The elf smiled and put his cup away. “Truly you are wise, father tree.”

“Perhaps. I have had more years to stand and think. Your wisdom will come if you continue to think and ask questions.”

The elf stood. “May I come again?”

“The spring is here for all who are in need, child.”

The elf walked away, back the way he came. Winterborn closed his eyes and listened to the breeze rustle through his leaves and felt the sharp chill of the spring water in his roots.

Flashback Friday: Mad Plans

This story was originally posted on May 12, 2017. I wrote several stories with these characters, but this was the first. I like writing mad scientist stories.

Bert was a proud mad scientist. He even managed to find a minion. Well, a paid employee anyway.   His employee, John, was a graduate student who hadn’t been able to find any other internship offers. He wasn’t a hunchback, but he was a lot taller than Bert and had to stoop over to avoid smashing his face into low-hanging light fixtures. It was close enough.

One day Bert was still cooking his lunch when John came in from his lunch break. John shook the rain off his umbrella and left it in the bucket by the door. Bert decided not to tell him it was a trashcan.   The banana peels at the bottom wouldn’t really harm the umbrella after all.

“Why does it always rain just around your house?”   John asked.

“It doesn’t always rain. Just at meal times,” Bert said.

“Do you have some sort of weather machine?”   John asked.

“Of course I do, how else would the storms be so regular?   What did they teach you at that school you went to?”

John slapped his hands on the kitchen table and leaned forward. “Really?   Did you really invent a weather machine?”

“I just told you I did.”

John leaned back and bounced a little on his heels.   “That’s amazing! You could take over the world!”

Bert snorted. “That’s ridiculous.”

“No it’s not. You could threaten countries with droughts or floods or the next ice age. You could take over everything,” John said.   “Isn’t that what mad scientists want?”

“You don’t know many mad scientists, do you?” Bert asked. He hummed and flipped the brussel sprouts.  Nearly done.

“Well, no. But I’ve seen some on TV,” John said.

“Mad scientists are generally scientists first and want more time to work on their favorite projects. Who wants to do paperwork or meet with politicians or deal with all those people and their uninteresting problems?” Bert said. “No thank you.”

John shifted from foot to foot. “Well, could I borrow it and take over the world?”

Bert sighed. “Sorry, it has a secret government patent. And I developed a wide range signal blocker to counter it for them too.   How do you think I had the money to pay for an intern?”

“Oh,” John said. He sat on one of the kitchen chairs with a thump. “That’s disappointing. So why do you need the storms?”

“I cook with lightning. Another good burst and my sprouts will be done.” Bert pulled a plate out of the cupboard. “It’s been a little slow today.”

“Why cook with lightning? Wouldn’t the stovetop be more precise?” John asked.

“There. Now you’re thinking like a scientist!” Bert said. “You would be correct. However, you are overlooking the benefits of this cooking method.”

“What benefits? Is it healthier?”

“Not that I know of,” Bert said. Just then, there was a bang and the house rattled. The cooker glowed and a bolt of light shot out and hit the brussel sprouts. One of them started shaking, and then sprouted little tendrils. It lifted itself on four of the tendrils and began to wobble around the stovetop.

“What is that?” John asked.

“The benefit,” Bert said. “Sometimes, the vegetables come to life.”

“So, are you building an army of living vegetables?” John asked.

Bert sighed. “What did I tell you about taking over the world?”

“You don’t want to?”

“I don’t want to,” Bert said. “Mostly they work outside in the garden. It makes them happy and gives me a steady supply of vegetables to eat.”

“Do they mind you eating them?” John asked.

“Not as long as they don’t see it.” Bert carefully scooped up the little sprout and took it out the back door.   He came back in a few minutes later and tipped the rest of the sprouts onto a plate. He opened a drawer and grabbed a fork. “I’m eating a late lunch, but your lunch break is over.   Back to the paperwork, John. It’s why I’m paying you.”

John trudged off the living room. “Why is there so much more paperwork on my desk?” he asked loudly.

“I got a lot of work done while I was waiting for the storm machine to heat up.   So, more work for you.” Bert cackled.

“That sounds more like a mad scientist from TV. Are you sure you don’t want to take over the world?”

“Oh, hush,” Bert said.

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