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.