Tag: talltales

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.

Flashback Friday: Letters From Grandpa

This story was originally posted on September 28, 2017. I had a few pen pals when I was younger. I loved to get mail from friends from far away. I learned a lot about different places and different people. I still feel like getting a letter in the mail is a little bit magical.

Ethan watched his mom go through the mail and sort it into piles. “Did I get anything?” he asked.

“Not today,” she said.

Ethan frowned. “I never get any letters.”

Mom tossed all the junk mail into the recycling bin.   “You have to send letters to get letters,” she said.

“But who would I write to?”

Mom smiled. “How about Grandpa?”

And so, Ethan wrote a letter to Grandpa.

Dear Grandpa,

On the way home from school today, I saw a squirrel.   Did you walk to school when you were my age? Did you have recess? I like to play four square. My favorite lunch is peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.   Write back please.

Love, Ethan

A week later, Mom handed Ethan a letter. “It looks like Grandpa wrote back,” she said.   Ethan ripped open the envelope and unfolded the letter.

Dear Ethan,

 I rode an elephant to school. We had to stick to the shadows so that the dinosaurs didn’t see us and try to eat us. We couldn’t play four square because of all of the lava on the playground. If we tossed the ball wrong, it melted and caught on fire at the same time.

So, mostly we just used big rocks to crack open small rocks to see what was inside. Generally, what’s inside of rocks is more rock. But sometimes there are jellybeans. You have to be pretty lucky to find jellybeans.

I liked to bring a lunch pail full of frog eye salad to eat at lunch time. There was a kid at my school from the fancy part of town.   He had a trained penguin bring him shaved ice for lunch on a silver tray. I always thought that would be a pretty lousy lunch. I imagine he was rather jealous of my salad.

What have you been learning this year in school?
Love, Grandpa

Ethan read the letter out loud to his mom. She laughed out loud. “Ethan, you know that people weren’t around the same time as dinosaurs, right? And I’m sure your grandpa didn’t ride an elephant to school or see any penguins there.”

“What about the frog eyes?” Ethan asked.

“That’s a type of pasta,” Mom said.

“Oh,” Ethan said. “I think I’ll go write Grandpa back now.”

Dear Grandpa,

Thanks for writing back. Mom said that your stories mostly weren’t true. They were funny though. In school we learn reading and math and science and geography and things like that.   What did you learn in school?   What did you do for fun? Did you have homework? I do sometimes. But Mom lets me play video games when I get my homework done. Write back soon.

Love, Ethan

A week later, Ethan got another letter.

Dear Ethan,

Maybe I dreamed the elephant. And the dinosaurs. I’m not sure. I’m pretty sure there was lava though. In school we learned the three Rs: resting, remembering, and wrestling. Or something like that.

Homework took a long time to do. We had to dive into the ocean and wrestle giant squids in order to get ink for our pens. We had to pound reeds into paper to write on. We didn’t have calculators, so we had to gather people together until we had enough fingers and toes to count on to finish our math problems.

Most of my friends used their extra time trying to take over the world.   I usually relaxed with my favorite book, an unabridged dictionary. It was an amazing book. There was something new on every page. I tried to take over the world once, just for fun, but that’s another story.

Do you like to read?

Love, Grandpa

Ethan read the letter to Mom. “Did Grandpa really wrestle squids and make his own paper?” Ethan asked.

“They had paper and ink at the store when he was younger,” Mom said.   “Grandpa really isn’t that old.”

“He’s really funny though,” Ethan said. “I’m going to go write him another letter. Then maybe I’ll read the dictionary.”

And Ethan wrote another letter, and then he discovered the dictionary was more interesting than he thought. And later his Grandpa wrote back, but that’s another story.

Charlie’s Room: Tall Tales

“Dad, were you always tall?” Charlie asked one day.

Isaac fit a piece of sky into the puzzle with a smile. “What do you mean?”

Marianne reached across the table for a mostly yellow piece. “I’ve never seen a baby as tall as him, so I doubt it.”

“That’s not what I meant.” Charlie sighed and turned the piece he was holding sideways and tried to fit it into the roof of the birdhouse. It didn’t fit.

“I think that’s part of one of the branches. The brown is more gray and less green,” Marianne said.

Holding the piece up, Charlie squinted. “I think you’re right.” He scooted around the end of the table and started trying to fit the piece in a different spot. “I was meaning that everyone says I’m short, and I was wondering if Dad was short too when he was my age.”

“He’s not short now,” Marianne said. She gave up on the yellow piece and picked up a piece with a stripe of brown down one side. “I was always short when I was younger. Then I was normal. Maybe you get the shortness from me.”

“I worried about being short once. I worried about it for about a month. Luckily, my school had a leprechaun as an exchange student. After standing behind him in the lunch line, I realized I wasn’t really short after all, and I haven’t worried about it ever since.”

“A leprechaun?” Charlie asked, putting down his puzzle piece.

“Mmm-hmmmm.” Isaac placed a piece of sky that had the edge of a bird’s wing. “He wore a little green suit and had a big bushy beard and was as tall as the top of my knee without his top hat.”

“He had a beard? In elementary school?” Marianne raised an eyebrow, looking skeptical.

“Yes, but I think he was rather young in leprechaun years. I’m not really sure how that works.” Isaac found another piece of sky and bird.

“Could he do magic? Did he have a pot of gold?” Charlie asked, paying no attention to the puzzle.

Isaac looked over at him and smiled. “Of course. I told you he was a leprechaun, didn’t I? He could pop around to wherever he wanted to go, so he was always first in line. He kept his gold at the end of the rainbow where it’s safest.”

“If it was just sitting there, what kept people from taking it away?” Marianne found the last piece of the birdhouse roof and put it in place.

“Rainbows always seem just as far away no matter how quickly you walk or drive, right?” Isaac began.

“But he could pop over to it, so he’s the only one who could get there,” Charlie said loudly while grinning. “It makes sense.”

“Aha!” Marianne said. Isaac and Charlie turned to watch as she fit a branch she’d been working on separately into place in the puzzle. She nodded. “I knew I could attach it eventually.”

Charlie looked back down at the pieces and found a piece with a line through it. He handed it to his mom. “Is this the end of a branch?”

“Yes, and I know where it goes,” she said. “It’s nearly the end when the pieces start going in fast.”

“Because there aren’t as many places they can go,” Charlie said, handing her another piece. “How long did the leprechaun stay at your school, Dad?”

“Just for the rainy season. I think he had to stay close to rainbows.” Isaac put the last plain blue piece into the sky.

“Why don’t we get exchange students?”

“I don’t know. Budget cuts?” Isaac handed a piece of branch to Marianne.

“We never had exchange students at my school, either,” Marianne said as she fit the piece in place. “Maybe it was just a special program at your dad’s school. Or maybe your dad is just telling tall tales.”

“Tall tales?”

Marianne tried a piece, turned it, and placed it somewhere else. “A story that’s exaggerated. There was probably someone shorter than him in school, but the kid wasn’t knee-high with a beard. Leprechauns aren’t real, of course.”

“Oh.” Charlie handed her the last piece.

Marianne handed it back. “Why don’t you do the honors?”

Charlie put the piece in place. The puzzle was done. “Puzzles always go faster when Mom helps.”

“We all have our talents.” Marianne smiled. “I can’t run as fast as your dad does.”

“Well, I thought I could run fast until that first gym class with the unicorn exchange student. He ran so fast that he made us all feel like we were standing in place.”

Charlie laughed. “I get it. That one’s a fast tale, right?”

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.

Grandpa Talks About Money

Carrie had a doctor’s appointment. She would be getting her immunizations, and so both mom and dad went to try to protect all the doctors and nurses. Carrie was scary when she was upset.

Grandpa came over to keep an eye on Lynn and Jim and Neal. They were all a little nervous about how upset Carrie would be when she got home. “We could hide under the bed,” Neal suggested. “I don’t think she’d find us there.”

“That’s no good,” Jim said. “It’s at her eye-level. I think we should hide on the top shelf in the pantry. She’d never look for us there.”

“If we weren’t in the house, she would be guaranteed to be unable to find us,” Lynn said.

Neal sighed and his shoulders slumped. “Yeah, but do you know how much it costs to get a passport?”

“Everything costs more nowadays,” Grandpa said, patting Neal on the shoulder. “I think it’s because young people don’t know the value of money. When I was younger, I could get ten pairs of shoes with a penny, and I’d still get change.”

“Wow.” Jim’s eyes were wide. “How could you get change for a penny? What’s smaller than a penny?”

Lynne rolled her eyes. “Nothing is. And while things cost more now than they used to due to inflation, you couldn’t ever get ten pairs of shoes for a penny. That’s ridiculous.”

“Actually, we used to use leaves as change.” Grandpa smiled. “I’m sure you’ve heard about money growing on trees.”

“I thought money didn’t grow on trees,” Neal said doubtfully.

“It doesn’t anymore. People liked the metal money, because it kept them anchored to the ground better during that unfortunate period of time when gravity wasn’t working so well.”

“Really? Could you jump really high like astronauts on the moon?” Jim asked.

“Of course. The problem wasn’t jumping up, it was coming down afterwards. That’s why people talk about lucky pennies. It would surprise you how many people were saved by having a few pennies in their pockets. I’m sure the moon is full of people who just didn’t happen to have change in their pockets when they tripped.”

Lynne snorted. “Gravity doesn’t change like that. It’s constant.”

“Then why is it different on the moon?” Neal asked. “That doesn’t make sense.”

“Quite right,” Grandpa said. “Of course, I found a real lucky penny once. I knew it was lucky, because it looked like a quarter to everyone else. I was afraid to spend it though, because once it belonged to someone else, it would look like a penny to them. Then they’d think I was cheating them.”

Jim leaned forward. “Do you have it now? Can I see it?”

“Of course I do.” Grandpa reached into his pocket. “It’s right here. See?” Grandpa held up a quarter.

“It’s a quarter,” Lynne said in a bored voice.

“It really does look like a quarter!” Neal looked excited. “That’s amazing.”
Jim held out his hand, and Grandpa dropped the quarter into his palm. He turned it over and over. “It looks just like a real quarter.”

“That’s because it is a quarter,” Lynn said. “Not a penny.”

“Could you give it to me?” Jim asked. “Just for a little bit? I want to see it look like a penny.”

“No, because then it would still belong to me. I’m not really willing to give up my luck just yet.”

“We’ll need it when Carrie gets home. Maybe we could disguise ourselves, like the lucky penny,” Jim said.

“Carrie hates strangers,” Lynn pointed out.

“Good point,” Jim said.

“Back before there was money, we didn’t buy anything. We just traded for what we needed. Of course, you had to find people who had what you wanted. People would put big signs outside their houses listing what they had and what they wanted to trade. You could walk around the neighborhood reading signs. It was hard to be strangers when you read everyone’s signs.”

“That didn’t happen,” Lynn said.

Jim frowned. “I thought there was a barter system a long time ago.”

Lynn took a deep breath. “There was a barter system a long, long time ago. Grandpa isn’t that old. And there weren’t any signs and…”

Grandpa was looking out the window. He interrupted Lynn. “I think your parents and Carrie are driving up the driveway. Who wants to go for a walk?”

Everyone ran for their coats.

 

Grandpa Tells a Bug Story

Grandpa was babysitting while Mom and Dad went Christmas shopping. Carrie went too. Grandpa wouldn’t admit it, but he was probably slightly relieved. Carrie didn’t like being left with babysitters, not even Grandpa.

Jim was working on a report for school. “I have to write all about bugs. It’s kind of interesting.” He flipped through the pages. “They’re everywhere, you know. And they can do good and bad things, just like people.”

“Like what?” Neil closed the book he was reading.

Lynn snorted. “Everyone knows that insects can spread disease and eat crops or they can work as pollinators. Some insects eat other, more harmful insects.”

Grandpa nodded. “Yes, I remember when bugs were invented.”

“Insects weren’t invented.” Lynn rolled her eyes. “That implies that they’re machines, and they’re not.”

“Shhhhh.” Neil scowled. “It’s a grandpa story, and I want to hear the rest of it.”

Jim put down his pencil. “But who could have invented bugs? There are so many types.”

“That’s because they were invented by a committee. No one could agree on anything, and so they tried to do everything. But in their rush to be the first to complete the project, there were a lot of errors.” Grandpa shook his head. “That’s why people talk about errors as bugs sometimes. Some of those insects were so buggy it was terrible.”

“They shouldn’t have released them if they weren’t made right,” Neil said. Jim nodded.

“Yes, that was yet another mistake. The air holes on the holding tanks were much too big. So they all got away. The later committees that formed to fix the mistakes came up with crazier and crazier solutions, until they all finally gave up and let the bugs run wild.” Grandpa wiggled his fingers and waved his arms like bugs running away.

“What were some of the solutions?” Jim asked.

“Mosquitoes are really susceptible to viruses, you know.” Grandpa frowned. “I think it might be due to an error in their programming. They used to also have a terrible craving for cheese. They would raid cheese stores in giant swarms, carrying off wheels of brie and Camembert and cheddar. They would leave viruses in the cheeses they didn’t take, like feta, which is crumbly and hard to carry away.”

“So what did they do?”

“They left a trap for the mosquitoes. A gigantic pile of spoiled cheese. The mosquitoes all got food poisoning and haven’t eaten a bite of cheese since. Unfortunately, it made them angry. Now they bite people, and anything else that moves. I don’t know if they’ll ever stop being angry. It must be another error in their programming. Mosquitoes are just made of errors.” Grandpa sighed an shook his head sadly.

Neil laughed. “Tell us another one.”

“Spiders. They came up with spiders to catch flies. Some of the committee members thought it was working too slowly and developed poisonous spiders. I don’t need to tell you what a mistake that was.” Grandpa paused and the children shook their heads. “Exactly. Some of those spiders are worse than the flies. One of the committee members was particularly impatient and started swallowing the flies herself.”

“Spiders don’t swallow flies,” Lynn said. “They digest them first by…”

“But what happened to the lady that swallowed the flies?” Neil interrupted. “Did she die?”

Grandpa shrugged. “Not right away. She swallowed a spider to catch the flies…”

Jim laughed. “I heard this story. She kept swallowing bigger and bigger things, like cats and dogs and horses.”

Lynn rolled her eyes again. “Ignoring the impossibility of swallowing something as large as a cat, let alone a horse, once they were swallowed, they wouldn’t be alive anymore. She wouldn’t need to swallow anything else. The digestive juices in a person’s stomach…”

“So did she die?” Neil interrupted.

“Of course she did,” Jim said.

“It was a shame. If only she’d been a little less impatient,” Grandpa said sadly. “Insects aren’t all bad, you know. I really admire bees. They pollinate flowers, have a well-organized society, and produce honey. They are tiny little marvels of efficiency.”

“But they sting people.” Neil frowned. “That’s not very nice.”

“Bees only sting people to protect themselves and their homes,” Lynn said.

“Not like wasps. Those are the mean ones. They can just sting people for fun.” Jim turned to Grandpa. “Which came first, wasps or bees?”

Grandpa tapped his chin and thought for a moment. “Ah yes. They were in development at about the same time. The wasp team cut corners to finish first. It’s too bad. If the developers were more careful, maybe the wasps would have turned out better-behaved.”

Lynn sighed loudly. “You are all so silly. You do know that insects have been around for millions of years. Grandpa couldn’t have been around before insects were. That’s impossible.”

Neil shrugged. “No it’s not. Grandpa’s older than dirt. Dirt has to be older than insects, so Grandpa is too.”

Grandpa nodded. “That’s right. Did I ever tell you the story about how dirt was invented?”

Just then, they heard the front door open. Mom and Dad and baby Carrie were home. Grandpa stood up and picked up his jacket. “Oh well, maybe another time.”

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