Tag: fairytale

The Little Red Robot

Once there was a little red robot who was in charge of coordinating the efforts of all the kitchen appliances. One day, the robot was checking the calendar and was thrilled to find a dinner party scheduled for that very day. This meant that there would be lots of work to do, but the robot liked work, so this made him very happy.

He stood in the center of the kitchen and displayed the calendar on his view screen. “There is a dinner party today,” he announced to the appliances. “There will be a lot of work to do. Who will help me?” No one replied.

The robot wasn’t concerned. It was up to him to break up an important job like this into smaller tasks, after all, so that each appliance knew which was its part. The robot looked around the kitchen as he thought through what needed to be done.

“There are dirty dishes in the sink. We can’t start cooking when there are dirty dishes. Dishwasher, will you wash the dishes?”

“Not today. I washed two loads yesterday, so I’m due a day off,” the dishwasher rumbled.

“Then I’ll do it myself,” said the little red robot. And he did. He only broke three plates, which didn’t seem too bad.

The dishwasher didn’t agree. “Three plates? They’re going to blame me for that. I’ll be sent away and replaced by a newer dishwasher.”

“But there are lots of plates,” the robot protested.

“That’s because I don’t break them! If I broke plates every time I washed dishes, then they’d be gone in two weeks or less.”

The little red robot had to admit that the dishwasher had a point. But there wasn’t time to discuss abstract philosophy. There was a dinner party to prepare for. The robot went through his mental list.

“Now it’s time to choose a menu. Cookbook database, can you choose a recipe that would be good for a dinner party?”

The cookbook beeped. “All our recipes are good. Make them all.”

“There isn’t time for that,” the little red robot said firmly. “I’ll choose one myself.” He entered a few random letters and picked the top entry. “Pickle relish…” he did another search, “…and steel cut oats.” The robot thought for a moment. “There should probably be some kind of protein. I’ll boil eggs. I don’t need a recipe for that.”

The cookbook blinked its red lights and beeped repeatedly. “Those aren’t dinner party foods. They don’t even go together. I’ll be completely replaced if they serve something like that at the party. Here, take this…” It printed out a few recipes and went blank.

“We will need ingredients, refrigerator…” he began

The refrigerator opened a door just wide enough to shove the necessary ingredients out. “Don’t come any closer,” it said. “I’m functioning perfectly well, and I’d like to stay that way.”

“Good point,” the oven said. “I’ll have no burnt dinners, thank you very much. Pass me the ingredients and step back.”

The robot turned around to find the cupboards and table busy with the place settings. The door was cycling through possible greeting protocols. The little robot was happy to see that he was doing a tremendous job coordinating the efforts of the kitchen appliances.

Unfortunately, he did so well that he worked himself out of a job. It had been kind of thrilling when he thought he could do all the work of the dinner party himself. And if a guest hadn’t shown up, maybe he could have done their job too. He imagined entertaining everyone with talk about the current weather reports and common health ailments.

Alas, it wasn’t too be. The guests all arrived, and the party went smoothly. The little red robot watched from the shadows, before leaving quietly. There was nothing more to do here. However, he had looked out the back window earlier, and the garden could maybe use a little work.

Was nobody coordinating the efforts of the garden tools? He checked the calendar. In the morning he slipped out the back door and hurried over to the garden shed. “There is a barbecue scheduled in two days. Barbecues are a type of cooking, so I am coordinating efforts so that it all goes well. Lawn mower, will you mow the lawn tomorrow at ten o’clock?”

“It’s too sunny today,” the lawn mower said. “I think I might be overheating.”

“Then I’ll cut the grass myself,” said the little red robot. And so it began.

Two days later, the lawn was slightly bald in places and a few of the rosebushes were over-trimmed, but the barbecue went well. The garden tools had learned to work together, and the little red robot had worked himself out of another job. He didn’t mind too much. There was a slumber party on the calendar, and the bedrooms weren’t as clean as they should be. There was work to do!


A Royal Inquiry

The king leaned forward and glared at the baker. “Tell me how this happened.”

Shaking with fear, the baker began his tale. “It’s because we had to add more beehives, sir.”


“After the trial, when the tarts went missing that the queen had made herself, we weren’t allowed to leave things out to cool any more. Theft risk, and all. We couldn’t leave them on the counter or on the windowsill or on the table or in the cupboard…”

“What does that have to do with the bees?” the king asked angrily.

“Yes, your highness. Sorry, your majesty. I was just explaining how we needed to put baked goods where they’d be secure and not tempt anyone to steal them by being left out unprotected. So we built fake beehives and hid them in with all the others. We had to wear special suits to fetch the scones for lunch and whatnot, but nothing was ever stolen.”

The king nodded, looking a little less angry. “That seems reasonable. Why did you need to add more beehives?”

“The queen wanted more honey to eat with bread in the parlor.” The baker shrugged nervously. “It caught on and so everyone else wanted bread and honey too. We needed a lot more honey, so we needed more hives. But there just wasn’t enough space. Our fake beehives became real beehives by order of the royal beekeepers. So we needed another safe place for all the royal pastries.”

“I assume you didn’t put anything in the treasury, or I would have noticed. I go to the counting house everyday to count all my money.”

The baker nodded. “We don’t have high enough security clearance to access the treasury, your majesty.”

“As it should be,” the king interrupted, looking suspiciously at the baker.

“Of course it is, your majesty. I wouldn’t even think of going there, your highness.” The baker held up his hands in surrender.

The king looked at him for another minute or two. “Very well,” he said at last. “Continue with your tale. Where did you stash all the royal baked goods?”

“We built pie safes in the trees where the blackbirds were nesting. Vicious smart creatures, blackbirds. They immediately thought the sweets were for them. We had to lock up the pie safes, and even then they managed to get a few open. I think they stole the keys from the head chef’s desk when he was out for lunch. He has to keep his windows closed now, even on really hot days.”

“That doesn’t explain what happened today.” The king touched the tips of his fingers together and glared over the top of them.

“I’ll explain it as best as I can, your majesty. Honest, I will.” The baker nervously looked at the window. “It’s just that the blackbirds always seemed to know when we were going to put something in the safes or take it out. I’d have thought they had a man on the inside, but they’re birds and all. I don’t really know how that would be possible. Even with the windows closed, they knew, and they were always all there waiting.” The baker paused and looked at the king.

“Go on.”

“Yes, your highness. We carried rolling pins to swing around and scare them off. My apprentice once strapped a cat to his chest, but that ended in blood and tears. We threw bread crumbs and stale crackers as a diversion, and managed to keep most of the treats safe. Unfortunately, the blackbirds held grudges. Even when we wore disguises, everyone who assisted in carrying away the baked goods was later found and pecked soundly. We’re all covered with bruises now.”

“We recognize your courage in defending the royal desserts. However, none of this explains what happened today.”

The baker wiped the sweat from his brow. “Well, we finally moved the pie safes to the royal alligator farm. Climbing trees and fighting off blackbirds was getting too difficult. But the blackbirds found us. They pecked away the alligators and continued their attempts to steal everything we baked the minute it was cool. It got so bad that we’d start carrying a cake back towards the kitchen, and arrive there with crumbs.”

“And the pies?”

“They eat the filling right out of the pie and leave the crust. They don’t like pie crust much. Maybe it isn’t sweet enough? But the one we brought you looked like we managed to get it away safely, your highness, honest. It wasn’t all sunken in like the other pies. I thought it was the perfect dish to set before the king or it wouldn’t have left the kitchen.”

The king sighed. “So they weren’t baked in the pie?”

“Of course not.” The baker looked confused. “If they were baked in, they couldn’t sing like that when the pie was opened.”

“That makes sense.” The king nodded slowly. “And the alligators are all gone?”

“They moved to greener pastures,” the baker said sadly. “The swamps are all blackbirds now.”

“Very well. I suppose there’s nothing to be done for them at this point.” The king thought for a moment. “If we gave more room for beehives, do you think the bees could keep the blackbirds away?”

The baker pondered the question. “I think so. They don’t have those special suits.”

Just then, there was a scream from outside. The baker rushed to the window. “Oh, it’s the maid who helped us bring in the pies. We disguised her, and they never saw her before, but they still found her. I think her nose will need stitches. Vicious smart creatures, blackbirds.”

The king nodded, looking troubled. “Perhaps the bees will be enough to save our pies.”

“I hope so, your majesty. If not the bees, then what can?”

The Fourth Little Pig

Once upon a time, there were four little pigs. I’m sure that you were told that there were only three. Don’t feel bad. Everyone makes that mistake. Perhaps you will understand why after reading this story.

It begins just like the story you have heard so many times before. Little pigs set out to seek their fortune and build themselves homes, each possessing various levels of patience and common sense.

The first pig buys straw bales and makes a house-shaped structure. Perhaps he’s clever enough to look up modern construction methods and use the straw bales for insulation, plastering the straw bales inside and out to prevent mold and decay, and building overhanging eaves to keep the rain out. Perhaps he didn’t. In any case, the story says he finished building rather quickly.

The second pig built with timber. Was it a rough log cabin or something more modern? Did he use durable wood and treat it to protect it from moisture and pests? The story doesn’t say. Pig number two also finished building rather quickly.

The third pig buys brick. It takes him a long time to build a sturdy home. I assume every necessary protection was in place, although apparently his chimney was large enough for a full-grown wolf to crawl inside. This implies that he neglected a chimney cap or that it wasn’t securely fastened in place. He was lucky that flying embers didn’t ignite a house fire before the wolf arrived.

And the fourth pig? Well, I’m sure you can guess. Each pig in this story spends more time building his house and making it more secure. The fourth pig was no exception. He built a castle from stone, surrounded it with a moat, and hired squirrels as archers.

The castle keep was large enough to house and protect many small animals and their families. In exchange for the promise of shelter, they shared guard duties during the construction process. The wolf didn’t stand a chance, and he knew it. He stayed well out of range of the squirrel archers and visited the other three pigs instead.

Their story continued much as you know it. He came, blew down their houses with magical wolf breath or a portable jet engine or a wrecking ball that didn’t work on brick. The three pigs made their final stand in the third pig’s house and won against the wolf.

And the fourth pig learned about the whole mess from their Christmas newsletter. He complained to a nearby sheep that no one ever tells him anything any more, and that they didn’t even mention him once in the newsletter. And then he realized the sheep was really a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

In the fuss of getting that resolved and requiring the security guards to undergo more training, the whole thing was forgotten. He didn’t send out newsletters that year, and so everyone only heard about the three little pigs and their adventures. The fourth little pig was fine with that.

Of course, wolves aren’t the only woodland predator. Humans also stalk the woodlands, searching for tiny structures to use in their miniature golf courses. The brick house, which had stood so valiantly against the magic wolf breath or whatever it was, was no match for humans and their house-stealing tools.

The humans rejoiced when they found the castle. They spent days dodging the flaming arrows from the squirrel archers and the boulders sent by catapult. The little animals knew they wouldn’t survive a siege. Humans had more resources, and humans collecting for miniature golf courses were relentless.

Under the cover of the archers and catapults, they dug their way out, surfacing in the woodland not far away. The humans had won. The archers and the last of the guards joined them, collapsing the tunnel behind them.

It was time to build again, perhaps somewhere farther away from human civilization and its miniature golf courses. On their way to somewhere else, they met the three little pigs. “We’re going to build again,” the second pig told them.

“This time, we’ll all build with brick,” the third pig said.

“No we won’t,” the first pig said, looking surprised. “My house was perfect, if it wasn’t for the bad luck with the wolf.”

“Like that would happen again,” the second pig added.

“But it could,” the third pig said.

“So could humans, and we can’t protect against them.” The first pig looked stubborn.

“Well, I’m going to protect against what I can,” the fourth pig said. His friends cheered in agreement.

They went their separate ways. The three little pigs built the same houses again, and their story repeated. The fourth little pig took a lesson from the wolves and he and his friends dressed in human clothing. They built a little village to live in, called it a miniature golf course, and charged admission. Every year, they got another Christmas newsletter from the three little pigs telling the same story, wolf and all. The fourth little pig never bothered to send out any newsletters.

Squirrel Guard

The Wicked Baker of the North

Martha was a marvelous baker, of course. Everyone in her little town knew she would grow up to be a baking prodigy by the time she was five and selling masterful macrons at a roadside stand when the other children were selling lemonade. Her petit fours were winning competitions just a year later, and Martha dreamed of someday baking for kings and presidents before retiring to write a bestselling cookbook and starting a legendary culinary academy.

Unfortunately, when she finally opened her own bakery, business was slow. People in town did their own baking, unless it was for an important occasion. And when those occasions arrived, they all wanted a nice, big vanilla cake with buttercream frosting and some kind of filling.

Martha liked cake, but she wanted to create crusty croissants, buttery brioche, and sugar-dusted scones. When the grocery store opened a bakery and started selling cheap baked goods that tasted mostly of flour, her customer base was cut in half. Things had reached a crisis point.

Something needed to change. But what could she do? If only she could move to a bigger city where more people might appreciate a well-crafted croquembouche or an elegant eclair. Yet, in order to move, she needed funds, and money was in short supply.

Martha would not accept defeat. She had known since she was three years old that she would grow up to be a world famous baker. Those strange dreams of dancing sugarplums had to mean something, after all.

And so, she cooked up an amazing plan. She would do some sort of newsworthy publicity stunt. People would come to her bakery to see whatever it was and spend money. Once she had enough money, she would move her bakery to somewhere much more bakery-friendly and live happily ever after.

All she needed was that publicity stunt. One day, while she was biting the head off of an unsold giant gingerbread man, the idea came to her. She could build a life-size gingerbread house, one big enough to live in. If she lived in it for a week or two, surely that would break some kind of record, and the world would beat a path to her door.

Now that she had a plan, all of Martha’s considerable focus was directed to building a gingerbread house, one cookie brick at a time. She went all out with frosting décor and giant gumdrop furniture. It was the house of her dreams, if she’d been dreaming of cookie houses instead of dancing sugarplums.

The townsfolk watched in wonder, uncertain whether Martha had finally gone crazy. A kind looking woman walked up one day to warn her that cookie houses weren’t very practical. A well-meaning doctor asked if she’d been feeling overwhelmed or stressed lately.

Martha persevered. She had a plan. And when the house was nearly complete, she alerted the newspapers in all the big cities and sent invitations to every celebrity she could think of. This was going to be big. She baked superb snicker doodles and beautiful baklava in anticipation of the crowds.

The night before she was going to move into the completed gingerbread house, she was in her bakery working late. The moon was full, and the kitchen windows overlooked the nearby forest that towered over the cookie house at the edge of the bakery lawn. It was picturesque.

Or, it would have been, if not for the mob of small children devouring the gingerbread house by moonlight. Martha thought that werewolves or vampires or zombies would have been preferable. People were willing to travel long distances to hunt for supernatural monsters, and that might be an even better publicity stunt. The gumdrop bed wasn’t very comfortable, after all.

But no one would travel any distance to see a gang of kids with a sweet tooth. Those were not rare at all. Martha stood up straight and reached into the nearby closet. She would not stand by and watch her amazing plan get gobbled up.

She burst out of the door shrieking and waving a broom. The children screamed and scattered, running away as fast as they could. The damage wasn’t easy to repair, and the house was still unlivable when the reporters and celebrities arrived. Her tales of ravenous hordes of children were met with confusion.

“But where are the children now? I would have expected an army of children with such delicious delights on offer.” The reporter gestured to the table of sweet samples Martha had prepared for her guests.

“They’re probably afraid I’ll bake them in my giant commercial-grade ovens,” she joked. The reporters all nodded and wrote her response. “That was a joke,” she pointed out. “I’m not a wicked witch. Maybe just a wicked baker.”

Everyone looked at the table of tasty-looking treats. “Are they poisoned?” A famous author asked, sounding oddly hopeful.

“Of course not, who do you think I am?” Martha asked angrily.

She found out soon enough. The tale was twisted and told out of context. Some local children named Hansel and Gretel told some outrageous fairy tale to the reporters after her interview. They called her the Wicked Baker of the North.

The locals steered clear of her bakery after that. Luckily, out-of town visitors swarmed the bakery, hoping for glimpses of the witch. Martha pretended to be her assistant and told everyone they’d just missed her.

Within a year, she was able to close her bakery and move to a larger town under a new name. There she proficiently peddled profiteroles and never looked back. In fact, whenever she saw Hansel and Gretel’s tell-all tale in bookstores, she hid the books behind a nice cookbook and pretended she hadn’t seen them. She lived happily ever after.