Your room is a terrible mess!
Isn’t it perfect?
Your room is a terrible mess!
Isn’t it perfect?
In the middle of the night, the wind started roaring. Isaac woke up from an awful dream where he was chased by lions, and it took a few minutes for him to figure out what was happening. Rain hit the window in bursts and sounded like the drumming of fingernails on the glass. Every once in a while, there was a strange, high-pitched whistle.
It was difficult to fall back asleep, so he went to the kitchen for a drink of water. Earlier in the evening, the full moon was visible. It hung bright and luminous and unreal somehow, like a sticker placed on top of the sky. Now, he couldn’t see it at all. The only light was from the streetlights, and the shadows wavered and danced in the yellow-orange glow, distorted by the rain tossed against the window by the wind.
The wind roared even louder, like an invisible ocean coming in to shore. Isaac glanced at the clock. He had an early meeting at work and couldn’t stay up late. With a reluctant glance back at the shifting shadows, he went back to bed. After a while, he fell asleep.
In the morning, it was still dark when he left the house with a cold muffin wrapped in a napkin for later. He swerved around branches in the street as he drove to work. The sun was just coming up as he arrived. He had to watch his step. The sidewalks were littered with papers and wrappers that had been blown against the buildings in the night.
After a busy day at work, Isaac was starving. The muffin wasn’t enough to cover breakfast and lunch. He spent the drive home imagining the wonderful sandwich he would eat when he arrived home. It was going to have everything he liked on it. Lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles, and whatever else he could find in the fridge that would fit on a sandwich.
The sidewalks and yards in his neighborhood were covered in debris from the storm. It would take a while to get things cleaned up. His home was no exception. When Marianne and Charlie didn’t call out to welcome him home when he stepped inside, he knew right away where to find them. They were in the garden.
Marianne had her hands on her hips, and she was shaking her head. Charlie was on his knees, inspecting the bottom of a trellis. Isaac hurried over. “Is everything okay?” he asked.
Charlie stood up and brushed off his knees. “I think so. We just have a lot of clean up to do.”
Marianne smiled. “Welcome home. I’m afraid that we need to put you to work right away while it’s still light out.” She pointed to a box of trash bags on the ground nearby. “Can you get a bag and start picking up in the front? We’ll take care of things back here.”
Ignoring his grumbling tummy, Isaac grabbed a bag and some gloves from the shed and got to work. It didn’t take long to get the front yard picked up. He looked around, pleased at the neat, clean yard, and thought about going inside and eating that fabulous sandwich. Surely there would be cheese in the fridge. He would add two slices, or maybe three.
And then he noticed the yards around him. Mr. Johnson would have a hard time picking up trash while leaning on his cane. The Simonsens worked until late. Maybe he could clean up for just a little bit longer.
Isaac cleaned quickly, quicker than he’d expected, and made his way back around to Miss Marta’s yard just as the sun was setting. The shadows were long and the light seemed heavier somehow. He reached for a plastic cup that was leaning against the base of a pine tree, when he saw something small dart forward through a gap in the iris leaves nearby. He froze.
The something small froze too. It was a little man, dressed in a green that was a perfect match for the leaves behind him. The man was clutching a small cast-iron pot, the size of a tea cup, to his chest. It was filled with golden odds and ends, things like buttons and bracelets and tooth fillings.
Narrowing his eyes and scowling, the man clutched his pot of gold tighter. “You can’t have it. It’s mine!”
Isaac took a step back and held up his hands. “Of course it is. I’m not sure that I even own any gold.”
“Well you can’t have mine.” The man stepped back, two big steps, while watching Isaac. “And don’t try to catch me and ask for wishes. I’d make them all turn out terrible, you know.”
Isaac nodded. “I understand. I’ll leave you and your gold alone.”
“You’d better.” The man took a few more backwards steps and then turned. Three more steps. He was fading into the shadows. Just then, Isaac’s stomach growled loudly. The man paused and turned back to look at Isaac.
Isaac smiled. “Sorry about that. Busy day.”
The man looked at Isaac’s bag of trash and the plastic cup nearby that Isaac hadn’t picked up yet. “I see that. I won’t grant you any wishes, but I can gift you some food.” He frowned. “But it’s only because I feel sorry for you.”
He waved a hand at Isaac, and suddenly Isaac was holding something wrapped in brown paper. When he looked up from the parcel, the man was gone. “Thank you,” he said anyway.
Isaac took off his gloves and unwrapped the parcel. Inside there was a sandwich with everything he liked on it. It even had three slices of cheese. It was delicious.
He finished picking up Miss Marta’s yard and went home. The streetlights were coming on. He threw the trash bag into the outside trash can and went inside. Marianne was in the kitchen, stirring a pot of soup and humming. Charlie was setting the table.
“That took you a while.” Charlie set out the spoons.
“I picked up a lot of trash,” Isaac said. “I picked up around the neighborhood a little.” He washed his hands at the sink.
“I’ll bet you’re starving after all that work.” Marianne tasted the soup and added a little salt. “It’s almost ready.”
“I had a sandwich,” Isaac admitted.
“While you were out?”
“Someone gave it to me.”
Charlie put the cups on the table with a smile. “Was it nice?”
“It was the best sandwich I ever ate.”
Marianne smiled. “Well the sandwich might have been nice, but wait until you taste this soup!”
The soup was wonderful. Isaac couldn’t have wished for better.
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.