Tag: invention

Flashback Friday: The Trendsetter

This story was originally posted on December 2, 2016. I like the idea of fashion trends that aren’t meant to be taken seriously. I’m not so sure about the giant boot, but I would really like a day to stay home and read. Can someone make that the popular thing to do, please?

There was a time when, if you wanted to know what was popular right this second, you looked to Marley Christofferson. Marley posted constant tips about everything from fashion to breakfast cereals, and thousands listened. Some people insisted it was becoming a little ridiculous. At first, no one listened to them.

The first hint that something was wrong was the giant boot trend. Marley insisted that the popular thing to do was to shove both feet in a giant boot and hop everywhere. It caught on quickly. It was mostly harmless, except for all the uncoordinated people who kept falling over.

After that died out, Marley advised people to wear an oven mitt on one hand.   “I wasn’t so sure about that one,” one fan said. “I didn’t like taking it off to text, but I could keep my phone inside the mitt, so I didn’t have to reach all the way to my pocket to take it out. And I only had to paint the nails on one hand.   That was nice.”

It did make driving difficult, and made it harder to complete schoolwork. Many schools banned oven mitts.

Marley’s next big fad was conducting everything you say with a pencil. It led to people saying everything in a sing-song voice in an attempt to speak in the proper rhythm. Many older, less hip people found this trend especially irritating. “Marley needs to stop,” a principal commented. A few music teachers found a silver lining.   “My students have become well-acquainted with 3/4 and 4/4 time. I even heard one student speaking in 6/8 time. I was impressed,” a music teacher said.

This was followed by ending every sentence with “Yeah, yeah.” “It was even more irritating than the pencil thing,” the same principal said. This fad didn’t last long.

However, the next fad was particularly long lasting.   Beginning in November, Marley advised her followers to “Be festive and string bells on your shoelaces.” It caught on in a big way. People wore a variety of bells laced in complex ways into their shoes and jingle-jangled their way everywhere. “It made it easier to catch some petty criminals,” a police officer noted. It was months before the fad died down, and some people never stopped wearing their “bells on [their] toes”.

Next Marley advised people to peel and eat grapes slowly at lunch. Then it was putting make up only around one eye.   Marley spoke and thousands listened.   And then thousands more followed their example.

It was when Marley recommended staying home all day and reading a good book that her account was closed down. “She was just too disruptive,” officials said. “She couldn’t be allowed to continue.”

A year later, Marley finally agreed to an interview. When asked about the sources she used to decide what was trendy, Marley said, “I just shared what I liked.”

And the strange advice at the end? “I looked around and people were so serious and stressed. I was joking about the giant boot, but people actually tried it. I saw them smiling and laughing and happy. I just wanted to keep seeing people smile like that.”

Is that why so many people followed her advice? “I don’t know,” Marley said.   “I think people want to laugh and be happy. I think they also want to fit in and feel like they belong. I think fads and fashion should be able to do both.”

So what is next for Marley? “I’m at fashion design school now,” Marley said. “Wait until you see my first collection this fall.”

Will we have clown suits or mad scientist gear to look forward to? “Of course not,” Marley said. “Everything I design will be at the height of fashion right at the second I design it, of course. Just wait and see.”

Flashback Friday: Wishing for Wishes

This story was originally posted on July 25, 2017. I like the idea of this story. I think it would be even better as a longer story with more explanation and such. (For example, how does the alligator talk to everyone? Is he a normal alligator?) Maybe someday I’ll sit down and write that story.

The alligator swam as quickly as he could.  The rainbow was fading.  “Wait,” he said.  Instead of waiting, the rainbow started to fade a little faster. Fortunately, alligators are faster in water than on land, and this rainbow ended over water.

With a final burst of speed, he dove under the water and sat on the pot of gold.  A few seconds later, a leprechaun popped into view.  It flailed its arms and legs for a moment, and then surrounded itself and the alligator and the gold in a bubble of air.

“Give me back my gold, you big lizard,” the leprechaun said.  “What would you do with gold anyway?”

“Maybe I’m turning into a dragon and need to build a hoard,” the alligator said.

The leprechaun’s mouth dropped open.  “You can do that?” he asked in a squeaky voice.

The alligator snorted.  “No, of course not.  I just want a wish.  Grant me a wish and you can have your gold back.”

The leprechaun shut his mouth and scowled.  “I won’t be granting a wish to something with teeth like that.  Keep the gold.  It will do you no good.”  The leprechaun folded its arms and disappeared with a crack.  The bubble of air disappeared with him.

The alligator waited another half hour underwater and then gave in.  Even he would need to go up to breathe eventually.  Once he left, the leprechaun would come for the gold.  He could take it with him, but what was the point?  He didn’t want the gold.  He wanted the wish.  And the leprechaun made it clear how he felt about that.

This was not the first time or the second or third time the alligator had been denied a chance for a wish.  He’d wished on the first star.  He’d found a stray campfire to blow out on his birthday.  He caught a leaf as it fell.  He held his breath as he ran through a tunnel.

Every time, a fairy popped in front of him and told him that their wishes were not for alligators and to stop wasting their time.  No one asked him what his wish was or told him how alligators could get wishes.  It just wasn’t fair.

However, alligators are stubborn, and this one wasn’t any different.  He had a wish, and he was going to find a way to get it.  It wasn’t one he could work towards on his own, so he needed to find help.  Well, he’d just keep looking.

He caught a fish and let it go.  The fish laughed at him and swam away.  He rubbed a camping lantern with his paws.  The genie popped out, grabbed the lantern and vanished.  He blew the seeds off a white puffy dandelion.  A fairy appeared, gathered all the scattered seeds and blew a raspberry at him.  “If you try this one more time, I’ll send the fairy princess to stop you.  She’ll turn you into a beetle,” the fairy said.

The alligator did not give up.  There had to be a way for alligators to get wishes.  And then one morning, he heard a faint cry for help.  He rushed towards the voice.  He found a frog cornered by a snake.  The alligator knocked the snake out of the way.

The snake looked up, and his expression went from angry and annoyed to terrified.  The alligator grinned to show all his teeth, and the snake slithered away.  “I’m doomed,” the frog said.  “I’ve gone from the frying pan into the fire.”

“Nonsense,” the alligator said.  “Did you know that you are speaking in English and not Frog?”

“I am?” the frog said.  “That would have made things a little easier, I suppose.  If I wasn’t about to be eaten.”

“You have a feel of magic around you, and you don’t talk Frog.  I’m not going to eat you,” the alligator said.  “So, tell me your story.”

“I’m an inventor.  I invented a self-flying broom.  It made the witches’ guild angry, and they turned me into a frog.  I can only become human again if a princess kisses me.  In this day and age, I think that’s a near impossibility.” The frog sighed.

“Does it have to be a human princess?” the alligator asked.

“They didn’t say,” the frog said.

“Then it doesn’t.  Follow me,” the alligator said.  He went to the meadow and picked a white, fluffy dandelion and blew.  A majestic, angry looking fairy appeared.

She glared at the alligator.  “You were warned,” she said.  She lifted her arm.

“Wait,” the alligator said.  “This human needs your help.”

The fairy princess turned and looked at the frog.  Her eyes narrowed.  “He looks like a frog, but there is magic surrounding him.  Tell me, frog, how did this happen?”

“I was cursed by witches.  I can turn back if a princess kisses me.”  His voice shook.

“Oh, very well.  I never did like witches, so I wouldn’t mind spoiling their plans,” the fairy princess said.  She blew a kiss at the frog, and in a swirl of light he became human again.  “There,” she said.  “Now their spells won’t work on you.”

Then the fairy princess turned and glared at the alligator again.  “As for you, knock it off.”  She disappeared in a clap of thunder.

“What was that about?” the inventor asked.

“The fairies refuse to give wishes to alligators,” the alligator said.  “It isn’t fair.”

“What is your wish?” the inventor asked.

“I want to fly,” the alligator said.

“So that it’s easier to catch and eat things?” the inventor asked.

“No.  So I can fly.  I mostly eat fish, and flying wouldn’t make it any easier to catch them,” the alligator said.

“Well then,” the inventor said.  “I think I can help you.”

A few months later, the alligator was darting around in a rocket-propelled suit.  It was as amazing as he’d always dreamed it would be.

Scientific Inquiry

Dr. Frederick had a problem to solve. After his walk, when he was hanging up his coat, he glanced in the mirror and saw something puzzling. There was a large wad of bright pink gum stuck in his snowy white hair.

Chewing gum was not a naturally occurring substance. It had to have a human source, but who was the source of the gum? Did he chew the gum himself and spit it out without realizing it? Dr. Frederick decided that this was unlikely. Sometimes he ate things without noticing that he was eating, but none of them ever ended up in his hair. The source of the gum was currently unknown.

Where did he get gum in his hair? He knew that he combed his hair before leaving for the park. He looked in the mirror at the gum. It appeared undisturbed. It had not been combed through, and he always combed his hair most thoroughly. He had been nowhere but the park. The park was the obvious location of the source of the chewing gum.

When did it happen? No one had come close enough to stick gum in his hair while he was walking the paths. It was unlikely that it dropped from a tree, as gum was not naturally occurring, and people seldom discarded trash high in tree branches. It was too heavy and sticky to be carried into the branches or his hair by a strong wind.

Dr. Frederick mentally retraced his steps. Had anything been different about his trip to the park today? The sun had been warm and bright, unusual for this time of year. He remembered sitting on a sun-warmed park bench and closing his eyes for several minutes, enjoying the beautiful day.

Had the source of the chewing gum approached at that moment and stuck gum in his hair? Had he leaned against the bench somehow and unknowingly transferred discarded gum to his hair? He didn’t have enough information.

Without knowing the source of the gum, it wasn’t helpful to try to deduce a motive for attaching it to his hair. He found a notepad on the side table below the mirror and fished a pencil out of the drawer. It was time to write down what he knew. He scribbled rapidly and flipped the page.

What could he do to prevent this happening again in the future? He could avoid the park. He could wear a hat to the park. He could coat his hair with something slippery so that gum wouldn’t stick to it. He could shave off his hair. He could claim the park as his own personal territory and attempt to repel all human intruders.

Dr. Frederick carefully weighed the options, considering the pros and cons. Finally he decided that wearing a hat would be effective and cause the least disruption to his normal routine. He circled “wear a hat” and flipped the page.

Now it was time to get this mess out of his hair. He scraped as much gum out of his hair as he could, and set it aside for further study. There was still gum in his hair. He could cut his hair, but he had already decided he liked having hair when the weather was cold, so he would do his best to keep his hair. He pulled out his phone and started to research. He wrote down his options and then went to test them.

Peanut butter and ice were not as effective as he hoped. Oil and lemon juice and toothpaste were also disappointing. Known options exhausted, it was time to get creative. He picked up the sample of chewing gum and headed to his lab.

An hour later, he held up the results of his efforts. As far as he could tell, this should work. Dr. Frederick used a dropper to dispense the chewing gum remover to the specks of gum still stuck to his hair. The chewing gum dissolved, along with the hair around it.

As Dr. Frederick really wanted to keep his hair, this was not a good chewing gum remover. Unfortunately, he was out of samples of chewing gum. He cleaned up, put on his coat and left to buy some chewing gum.

He chewed a piece of gum on the way home from the store, and once he was back in his lab, he stuck some in his hair. The rest he saved to experiment on. During the next two weeks, locks of his hair turned blue once and bunches of his beard were green twice. Both hair and beard were impossibly oily on several occasions. At one point in time, his hair smelled so bad that he almost reconsidered his decision to keep it.

Finally, one day, he managed to develop the perfect chewing gum remover. Problem solved, he went to the barber for a nice trim to remove the last spots of color and even out the parts that dissolved. The barber had a lot of questions about the condition of his hair.

Enthusiastically, he told the barber about his experiments. The barber was skeptical. “I always heard peanut butter got gum out just fine. If it doesn’t, hair grows back. You can just cut it out.”

Dr. Frederick wasn’t discouraged. This wasn’t the first time that a scientific breakthrough was belittled. Instead, he applied for a patent and marketed his invention to companies that sold hair products. It didn’t take long to find a buyer.

He earned enough money in the sale to buy many hats, which he continued to wear to the park even after his hair grew back. After all, the source of the gum was still at large. It was prudent to be cautious, even with the invention of the chewing gum remover. There are many more substances that could be stuck to hair, or the mysterious gum chewer might give up on sticky substances and decide to come to the park armed with scissors. Prevention took less time than developing a cure, and was much easier on his hair.

Isaac’s Adventures Underwater: Chapter Twenty-Three

Following a voice through the mist was difficult. Isaac wasn’t always sure which direction it was coming from. Plus, he had to keep ducking to avoid tree branches that came out of nowhere.

Luckily, just as the odd song about insects made from food ended, he arrived at doorway where the old man was waiting. Isaac remembered to applaud, and the old man bowed.

“So, where are we?” Isaac asked.

“This is my laboratory. I designed it myself. It’s so much more practical than Teddy’s lab.” the old man grinned.


“The other scientist on the beach. He designed a dungeon laboratory. So impractical. It is damp and moldy and of course that messes with the experiments. Mine is so much better. I’m Billy, by the way.” The old man pointed to himself.

Isaac held out a hand. “I’m Isaac.”

The old man leaned back and folded his arms. “I don’t shake hands. Germs.”

Isaac let his hand drop. “Oh. Of course. So, how is your laboratory different?”

“It’s a tower. You have to come and see.” Billy put a hand on the door and the entire door glowed neon blue before disappearing. “Come on in. Just don’t touch anything. Germs.”

Isaac followed him inside. The entryway was brightly lit. Glass cases lined the walls. He put his hands behind his back and leaned forward to peer inside the closest case.

“Is that a toaster?” he asked.

Billy looked over his shoulder. “Yes it is. I designed it to work upside-down, to save on counter space.”

“But doesn’t that mean the bread just falls onto the counter?” Isaac asked.

“When it’s done toasting. You just have to position your plate just right. I suggest gluing your plate to the counter so you don’t have to worry about it.”

“But then it doesn’t really save counter space at all,” Isaac pointed out.

“Maybe. Maybe not. It’s not really my concern. I just invented it.” Billy pointed to another glass case. “Look over there, that’s one I’m really proud of.”

Isaac looked into the case. “It looks like goggles. Like the ones Teddy was wearing.”

“That’s right. I invented them to see through fog. He stole my idea for them to make his own. We haven’t talked unless we absolutely have to ever since.”

Isaac frowned. “Well, living here, he’d need something to see through the fog. He might have just come up with something similar at the same time.”

Billy thumped his walking stick on the ground. “Of course not. It took me years to develop them. It was after that when I turned on the fog machine to test them out. How would he know in advance that I would create a fog machine or that I wouldn’t be able to turn it off? And yet he was wearing the goggles a month later. He stole my idea. It’s the only explanation.”

Isaac nodded. “Maybe you’re right. Can I borrow the goggles and look out the window of the tower? I’d love to see the island, but the fog gets in the way.”

“You have to give them back when we get to the moon gate,” Billy said. “I won’t have anyone else run off with any of my ideas or my inventions. And you’ll have to sign a non-disclosure agreement.”

“Of course.” Isaac crossed his heart and signed the papers that the scientist pulled out of his lab coat pocket.

Billy took them back, making sure not to touch the parts of the paper that Isaac touched. “Leave the pen on the case right there. I’ll disinfect it later. Germs.”

Then he took a ring of keys out of a different pocket and unlocked the glass case. He took out the goggles and handed them to Isaac, and locked up the case one more time. “The stairs are this way. We’ll go straight up to the moon gate. Feel free to look out the windows on our way up.”

The spiral staircase was in the middle of the tower. It alternated between narrow and wide spirals. The windows were on the wide spirals. Looking out with the goggles on, it was like there was no mist at all. There was also no one else on the island.

He could see a little shack on the opposite side of the small hill at the center of the island, which he assumed was the entrance to Teddy’s lab. Otherwise, it was all trees and rocks. No party.

Isaac took off the goggles with a small smile. There was only one island left. He was almost done.

“All done,” Billy said just then. “Behind this door is the moon gate.”