Category: To Be Young

Cancelled, as told by Grandpa

Dad was out the door the moment Grandpa came inside. They didn’t even pause to high-five or tell a joke. Dad just mumbled something about a list on the fridge and left.

Grandpa came in and hung up his coat. Lynn and Jim and Neal waited patiently to drag him to the living room. As soon as the hanger was safely back on the rod in the front closet, they escorted him to the couch and sat down around him.

“Did you have any questions about the sleep study for baby Carrie?” Grandpa asked.

“I think this is when they find out she’s really an alien,” Neal said.

“I think she’ll scare them into pretending she’s normal,” Jim said.

They all looked at Lynn. She shrugged. “They may be right. Carrie’s scary.”

Everyone nodded. Even Grandpa.

After a pause, the children looked at him expectantly. Neal folded his arms and frowned. “Grandpa, aren’t you going to tell us a story?”

“What do you want to hear about?”

“Something true,” Lynn said.

“Something scary,” Jim said.

“Something with dinosaurs,” Neal said.

“I can do that.” Grandpa sat and thought for a moment. “But this story will have to go way, way, way back to when I was young. Back then, there were dinosaurs. They fetched our mail and mowed the lawn, and ate annoying house guests. Every house had two or three. But then, something terrible happened.”

Neal looked alarmed. “What happened to the dinosaurs?”

“They were cancelled. But that was only the beginning. Soon, everything was being cancelled. Television shows. Movies. Concerts. Amusement parks. School. Church.”

“You can’t cancel church,” Lynn said. “That’s ridiculous.”

“I wish they’d cancel our school,” Jim said. “We didn’t even get any snow days this year.”

“Why did they cancel everything?” Neal asked.

“Maybe it was a snow storm. A really, really, big snow storm. Maybe it was the ice age. I bet that’s it.” Jim looked at Lynn. “The ice age was real. I could be right.” She shrugged.

Lynn frowned and tapped her chin. “The dinosaurs died a long time before people, so they would be gone first. So, ignoring the part about dinosaurs living with people, maybe everything else happened at different times too. I still don’t know why they’d cancel church, though. Was all the power out?”

“Maybe all the presidents and kings got eaten by sharks. Did that ever happen?” Neal asked.

Jim rolled his eyes. “If everyone was getting eaten by sharks, everyone else would be hiding in the churches and praying.”

They looked at Grandpa.

“Do you want to know what happened next?” he asked.

“Yes,” they said in unison.

“Well, everyone stayed inside their houses. And they didn’t have dinosaurs to fetch their mail or mow their lawns, so they did that themselves. But only when nobody else was around.”

“Were they afraid of being cancelled?” Neal asked.

“Yes,” Grandpa said.

“What did they do about the annoying house guests?” Jim asked.

“They told them to go distance themselves,” Grandpa said. “For their own safety, of course.”

“So what did they do all day?” Lynn asked.

“Oh, they cooked and read books and talked on the phone. They also complained loudly and tried to sneak out of their houses when no one was looking.”

“Did it work?” Jim asked.

“Of course not. There was always someone looking.”

“And then what happened?” Neal asked.

“Then they cancelled the summertime, and it started snowing. Then they cancelled being reasonable, and everyone wanted to buy all the toilet paper. Then they cancelled breathing, and finally, this story was cancelled. Time for bed.”

“That story didn’t have enough dinosaurs,” Neal complained.

“And it wasn’t real at all,” Lynn said.

“It was a little bit scary, though,” Jim said. “But not as scary as Carrie.”

“Nothing is as scary as Carrie,” Neal said. Everyone nodded.

“Do you really think she’s an alien?” Grandpa asked.

Everyone nodded.

Friday Flashback: How Louis Saved the World

This story was originally posted on September 29, 2017. Aliens are fun to write about. They come from far, far away, which already makes them sound like part of a story. Other than the long-distance travel, they’re completely mysterious. It’s an interesting idea to explore.

Louis was home in the middle of the day, because he was sick. If it was up to him, he would have been at school.   Today they were going to make ice cream as a science experiment. That was much better than staying in bed and staring at the ceiling.

Unfortunately, Mom said that if you have a fever and a runny nose, and a terrible cough, and a sore throat and can’t stop sneezing, then you should stay home. Throwing up after breakfast hadn’t helped his argument at all, either. So, Louis blew his nose again and sneezed and looked at the ceiling.   Ceilings are boring.

“Mom, I’m bored,” Louis yelled. Then he coughed. Ouch.   His throat really hurt.

“Then take a nap,” his mom yelled back. “You need to rest so that you can heal.”

Louis scowled. He was much too old for naps, and he wasn’t at all sleepy. Well, he was maybe a little bit tired. But not really enough to fall asleep yet. He turned and watched the shadows on the wall move.   The wind must be blowing through the tree outside.

And then, the shadows started to fade, or maybe the room started to glow.   Louis wasn’t quite sure. It was all a little strange. Everything looked a little bit foggy. Louis blinked, and when he opened his eyes, he wasn’t in his bedroom any more.

He was in a strange metal room filled with blinking lights. Something was making a clicking sound. Three tall skinny beings with greenish skin and bright blue eyes looked at him. They were definitely aliens. Louis looked back. One of the aliens said something, but Louis didn’t know what he was saying. “I don’t speak your language,” Louis said.

The aliens approached and one of them looked closely into Louis’s face.   The aliens smelled like dust.   Lots of dust. Louis sneezed right into the alien’s face, and then he couldn’t stop sneezing.

The alien backed up, but the other two crowded closer. The sneezing hurt his throat and upset his stomach. Louis threw up on the other two aliens. The aliens backed up and bowed. One of the aliens pushed a button on the wall, and the room started to get brighter.   Everything looked foggy. Louis blinked.

And he was back in his room looking up at the ceiling. Had any of that really happened? Mom knocked on the doorframe and came in. “How are you feeling?” she asked. “Any better?”

“Mom, I was just captured by aliens,” Louis said. “I threw up all over them, so they let me go.”

“That sounds like a nice dream,” Mom said. “Is your stomach still upset?” She put her hand on his forehead. “Oh dear, you’re still quite warm. Would you like some ice cream?”

“For lunch?” Louis asked.

“Why not,” Mom said. “You’re feeling sick.”

Maybe being sick wasn’t so bad, except for the staring at the ceiling part.   Even being captured by aliens wasn’t terrible. It had been kind of interesting.   If it really happened at all, of course.

Two days later, Louis was back in class. He’d missed the ice cream experiment and a math quiz, but otherwise things had been pretty quiet at school. Susie said that Dan threw up on the slide just a day ago.

Louis decided that being sick probably happened to everybody at one time or another. He was glad that he felt better now and could move forward. He hoped he didn’t feel sick again anytime soon and that he never threw up on the slide.  That sounded embarrassing.

Hundreds of thousands of miles away, the crew of an alien space ship coughed and sneezed and stared at the ceiling and tried not to throw up. “I thought it was too eager to give us the samples we required. It was completely suspicious,” one said.

“I thought it believed we were peaceful scientists,” another replied.   “How was I to know it recognized us as a possible threat.” The alien sneezed and sneezed and sneezed.

“Well, I’m going to recommend we don’t try to colonize this world. The inhabitants are far too hostile. And they don’t fight fair, either,” the last one said. And then he threw up.

Flashback Friday: The New Kid

This story was first posted on August 29, 2017. I love how kids can live in the worlds they imagine and try to convince others to join in. For them, anything is possible.

“Hi, I’m Jason,” a boy said. “You’re the new kid.” He was wearing a blue shirt with a big red letter J on it. Martha was pretty sure he wasn’t in her class. She’d remember a shirt like that.

Jason raised his eyebrows. Had he asked a question? “Yes, I’m new,” she said when it seemed like Jason wasn’t going to say anything else.

“Are you evil?” he asked.

“No,” Martha said.

“Are you sure? What do you do for fun?” Jason asked.

“I like to draw.”

Jason crossed his arms and narrowed his eyes. “What do you draw?”

“Mostly horses,” Martha said. “I like horses.”

“That’s boring.” Jason walked away.

During recess, Susan and Amy introduced themselves to Martha. “What do you think of our school so far?” Susan asked.

Martha paused.“It’s nice,”.

“You paused before you said that,” Amy said. “Is there something wrong?”

“I met a boy named Jason.” Martha frowned. “He asked me if I’m evil.”

Susan laughed. “Oh, don’t worry about that. I’m sure he didn’t mean it personally.”

“Then why did he ask me that? And then he said I’m boring.”

“Jason wants to be a superhero when he grows up.” Amy shrugged. “He’s been watching everyone since kindergarten.   He’s looking for his arch rival supervillain.”

“So, I’m just the latest suspect?” Martha asked.

“Like all the rest of us,” Susan said. “Like I said, it isn’t personal.”

“He caught a litterer once. And someone cheating on a test.” Amy counted Jason’s successes on her fingers.

“Did he try to beat them up or something?” Martha asked.

“No, he held up his hand like he was telling them to stop, and then he started saying pew-pew-pew-pew until a teacher convinced him to tell them what was wrong.” Susan held up her hand to demonstrate. Martha laughed.

Just then there was some yelling by the slides. Above the other voices, they could hear someone yell.   “Pew-pew-pew-pew!” The recess monitor hurried over and the yelling stopped.

“Was that Jason?” Martha asked.

“Yeah. Someone was probably cutting in line,” Amy said. “Jason hates that. Do you like playing jump rope?   If there are three of us we could take turns jumping.”

Susan clapped her hands. “That’s a great idea! We haven’t been able to jump rope since Linda moved.”

“I love to jump rope.” Martha followed her new friends to check out a jump rope from the equipment box.


Weeks passed. Martha and Susan and Amy had soon attracted a group of girls who liked to jump rope too. One day a new girl joined them. “Hi, are you new?” Martha asked.

“A weird boy just asked me that,” the girl said.

“It must have been Jason,” Martha said. “He asked me that when I moved in too. Did he ask you if you’re evil?”

“Yes,” the girl said. “Oh, what’s your name, by the way? I’m April.”

“I’m Martha.” Martha held up her end of the rope. “Do you like to jump rope?”

“I love to jump rope,” April said.

The girls started to jump rope. One verse into Cinderella Dressed in Yellow, Jason walked by and stared at them suspiciously. “I’m watching you, new girl.” He pointed two fingers at his eyes and then pointed them at April. He backed away slowly, only tripping once.

Martha looked at April. “Why is Jason watching you? He said I was boring.”

“I told him that someday I’m going to rule the world.” April smiled.

Little Monster Goes to the Dentist

It was that terrible, horrible, awful, scary time of year again. No, it wasn’t Halloween. That would have been much, much better. It was time for Little Monster to go to the dentist.

“My teeth are fine,” Little Monster said. He smiled a wide, sharp-toothed grin. “See? They’re all there and they work great. Why bother the dentist?”

Mama Monster rolled her large yellow eyes. “It won’t bother the dentist. It’s her job to check on monster teeth so they stay healthy.”

Little Monster coughed a little, unconvincing cough. “I think I have a cold. We’d better not spread it around. We might as well reschedule.”

“Hmmmm.” Mama Monster picked up her purse. “We’ll let them know when we check in, but I think it’ll be fine.”

On the way to the door, Little Monster fell dramatically over a chair. “Ouch! I think I broke both my legs. I’d better go lie down.”

Mama Monster scooped him up and carried him out to the car. “I guess I’ll make an appointment with the doctor as well.”

Little Monster sat up straight in his booster seat, looking worried. “Actually, I think my leg is all better now. I don’t need to see the doctor.”

“Well, that’s good.” Mama Monster started the car and drove to the dentist’s office.

At the front door, Little Monster paused. “Are you sure we need to go to the dentist today? Wouldn’t another day be better? We should think about this. I think it’s a bad idea. Remember my cold?” Little Monster coughed another little cough.

Mama Monster opened the door. “Come in and sit down. I’ll let the receptionist know about your cold.” Little Monster sat in a terrible pink chair with a scowl. Mama Monster walked up to the front desk. “Little Monster thinks he might have a cold.”

“That’s fine,” the receptionist said. “The dentist wears a mask and gloves.”

At that moment, Little Monster knew that he was going to actually see the dentist and there wasn’t much he could do about it. It’s not easy being a little monster. He decided that someday he would get to choose whether or not to visit the dentist. He would choose to not visit the dentist.

All too soon, Little Monster was sitting on an awful dentist chair decorated with horrible rainbows. The dentist came out wearing a frightening people mask and people gloves. Little Monster screamed. Mama Monster and the dentist chuckled as the dentist changed her mask and gloves to something more normal.

Little Monster didn’t think it was funny.

“Have you been brushing your teeth?” the dentist asked, leaning his chair back.

Little Monster smiled widely. “Yes. I brush everyday with my brussel sprout toothpaste.”

“Oh, the green slimey one? I love that toothpaste,” the dentist said.

“So, since I brush everyday, I don’t need to be here, right?” Little Monster tried to sit up.

Mama Monster put a paw on his shoulder. “Nice try.”

“Open up,” the dentist said.

The next twenty minutes weren’t so bad. Unfortunately, after the dentist finished poking Little Monster’s teeth with something sharp, she turned to Mama Monster and said something scary. “His teeth look boring.”

“Oh no,” Mama Monster said. “I was afraid of that. I kept hoping they’d get more crooked as he got older.”

“I’m afraid that if you don’t do anything, they’ll remain straight as straight can be.”

Little Monster crossed his arms and glared. This was hard to do when lying in a dentist chair, but Little Monster was always good at glares. “I like straight teeth.”

Mama Monster shook her head sadly. “The other monsters at school might tease you.”

“I don’t care.” Little Monster turned his head away from the dentist. “They’re my teeth, and I like them. I don’t want braces.”

Mama Monster sighed.

“Maybe we can wait until he’s a little older.” The dentist clicked a few keys on her computer keyboard. “But the later you start, the later it will be until he’s done. I’ll send you home with some brochures. We can customize his look. We have a lot of options for artful, attention-getting crooked teeth.”

“I want to go home,” Little Monster whined.

“Not yet,” the dentist said. “You still need to get your teeth cleaned.”

“But I brush them every day,” Little Monster said. No one listened. Little Monster resolved to catch the flu next time he had an appointment. He never wanted to go to a dentist appointment again.

Flashback Friday: Buckets of Fun

This story was originally posted on May 4, 2017. This is the first of a series about Grandpa and his tall tales and the vaguely scary baby Carrie. They’re a lot of fun to write. I hope they’re fun to read, too.

“Wouldn’t you like to ride that roller coaster?” Jim asked as they drove past the fair. “It looks amazing.”

“I’m sure it would be buckets of fun,” Grandpa said.

“Fun doesn’t come in buckets, Grandpa,” Lynn said. “That’s silly.”

“It did when I was younger,” Grandpa said.

“Oh good, a Grandpa story,” Jim said. He shook his brother’s arm. “Neil, wake up.   Grandpa is going to tell a story.”

Three sets of eyes turned to watch the back of Grandpa’s head. “Is everyone ready?” he asked.

“Carrie’s asleep,” Lynn said. “But she’s too little to really understand what we’re talking about anyways.”

“Don’t wake up Carrie,” Jim said. “She’s really grumpy when she doesn’t get enough sleep. It’s kind of scary.”

“Go ahead and start the story, Grandpa,” Neil said. “Please.”

“All right then,” Grandpa said. “Long ago, when I was a lad and the earth was young…”

“You make it sound like you’re as old as dinosaurs,” Lynn said. “That really can’t be true. People don’t live that long.”

“Well, sadly, I’m even older than dirt,” Grandpa said.

“How can you be older than dirt?” Neil asked.

“When I was young, the earth was still covered in packing peanuts, just the way they sent it from the factory. The dirt came later when everyone got busy and fell behind on washing up,” Grandpa said.

“Where did the dirt come from?” Jim asked.

“Out of nowhere, like it always does,” Grandpa said.

“Dirt is mostly made up of minerals and decayed things,” Lynn said. “And no one is older than dirt.”

“Let Grandpa tell the story, Lynn. We still haven’t heard about the buckets,” Jim said.

“Fine,” Lynn said. “But it’s not a true story.”

“Stories don’t have to be about things that really happened to be true,” Neil said.

“That doesn’t even make sense,” Lynn said.

“Shall I continue?” Grandpa asked.

“Yes,” Jim said. “Please do.”

“So, when I was a lad, no one liked to do anything. We all sat around and looked at each other when we weren’t out poking through the packing peanuts for something to eat. I once spent ten years digging a hole in a rock with my big toe for something to do.”

“And then what happened?” Neil asked.

“And then someone found the fountain of youth,” Grandpa said.

“Is that how you lived so long?” Jim asked.

“No, the fountain of youth doesn’t make you old.” Grandpa said. “Of course not. The fountain of youth made things fun.”

“How did that work?” Lynn asked.

“Well,” Grandpa said. “Fun used to be dispensed twice a month in buckets. You would pour it over the activities that needed it the most.   Eventually it soaked in and people liked doing strange things like being scared or sitting around listening to noises.”

“People don’t like doing things like that,” Lynn said.

“Sure they do,” Grandpa said. “They ride roller coasters and go to haunted houses and tell scary stories. They put together strange contraptions made of metal and wood and people sit around and listen to the sounds they make. They call it music.”

“I guess when you say it like that,” Lynn said.

“Where are the buckets now, Grandpa?” Jim asked.

“They don’t need them anymore,” Grandpa said. “People know how to have fun.”

“Where is the fountain of youth?” Neil asked.

“I forgot,” Grandpa said. “Old people forget things all the time, you know.”

“Grandpa, you aren’t really that old,” Lynn said.

“How old are you, Grandpa?” Jim asked.

“Oh look,” Grandpa said. “We’re home. Everybody out. I’ll wake Carrie.” He never did answer the question.

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