Photos by Judi Newall
“Cute! I hate cute!” The Master of Evilness, also known as Moe, strode about in his dragon shaped boots. He was in his laboratory, surrounded by wart-covered green goblins.
The goblins ducked as Moe walked past. They knew when Moe was in a bad mood he might feed them to the hippo-gators, a cross between a hippopotamus and an alligator. Moe had created them one day when he had an extra cage to fill, and a lot of time on his hands.
“I hate Tiny Town. It is a morass of unapologetic cuteness. We will destroy Tiny Town. Smash the houses, dump the wootberry juice, and throw away the waffles.”
“Throw away the waffles? But can’t we eat some, oh evil lord and master?” asked a braver goblin.
“I want to drink the wootberry juice,” whispered a more timid goblin.
“No!” thundered Moe, smashing his fist on his authentic wizard’s table that came with a matching skull and crystal ball set. “Destroy it all. Tramp it into the mud. Leave no cute things unturned.”
The goblins piled into the Ebil bus with Moe in the coveted front seat. For luck the driver gave one twirl of the purple velvet dice hanging from the rear view mirror, then threw the Ebil bus into gear.
While singing “The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round” like a Viking pillaging song, the goblins rocketed towards the helpless Tiny Town.
Cosmos the Kitty, the great sorceress of Tiny Town, was in the town square, slackening her thirst with a taste of the punch flavored fountain.
“Mmm, cherry flavored today,” she said licking her whiskers with a rough pink tongue.
A large object came plummeting out of the sky. It smashed into the town square, breaking the statue of the town founder holding a waffle in the air, and bowling over the tiny calypso drums with a tinny, crashing sound.
The tiny drummers stood gaping as green goblins poured out of the now half-flattened Ebil bus.
The goblins ran towards the massive Waffle-o-matic. Powered by windmills, its wooden gears turned, and its long arm stamped out waffles at a breakneck pace.
Moe pointed at the Waffle-o-matic. “Goblins, destroy the waffles!”
“Nooooooo!” cried the tinies.
A tiny pink rabbit ran to defend the waffle-o-matic. He tried to block access to machine, but a goblin shoved the rabbit out of the way. The goblin’s feet stuck in the syrup, and before he could escape, the long Waffle-O-matic arm descended, stamping the goblin into a waffle shape.
“What a way to go,” said a tiny wolf, licking its jaws.
A tiny mink strapped two buttery waffles to her feet. Grabbing the other of the taffy, she skated around a group of goblins. Like rope, the sticky taffy wound around the slavering, wart-covered goblins.
“Stop that, you minx!” cried the tallest goblin, struggling to escape the gooey trap of taffy.
“I am a mink, not a minx. People always make that mistake.” The mink tied the taffy extra tight around the struggling goblins.
“Come on goblins, we’ll eat our way out.” The biggest goblin opened his mouth filled with sharp teeth, and bit into the taffy binding them.
“I think we’ve had just about enough of your ill mannered goblins.” Cosmos pulled out a tiny magic wand. She waved it three times. “Alakazam!” Cans of paint in a rainbow of colors appeared over the heads of the goblins. The goblins looked up.
“Uh oh,” said one goblin, then a paint can fell on his head. He fell down, out cold, arms and legs splayed on the pavement in a pool of cheery yellow paint.
“You think your magic is stronger than mine?” Moe snapped his fingers and the paint cans flew against the wall, splattering it with a multitude of colors. “We’ll see about that.” Moe turned to a goblin nearby. “Steal those boots off that fox and bring them to me.”
“About time,” complained Moe. He threw the boots into the middle of the huge pit of berries, set out for stomping into wootberry juice. “Grow, grow, make room for giant toes.” Moe snapped his fingers. The boots grew three times their size, then ten times their size, then a hundred times their size.
“Stomp, stomp! Stomp the berries and flood the town square!” Moe snapped his fingers and the boots crushed berries into juice. “Faster!”
The giant boots crushed the berries until a flood of wootberry juice flooded the town square. The tinies squeaked as their feet became soaked. They rushed for higher ground. The goblins climbed onto the roof of the Ebil bus.
“Don’t worry. We will float our way to victory. Moe is not the only one who know a grow spell.” Cosmos the kitty sorcerer flicked her wand at a toy boat. “Grow, grow.”
The toy boat swelled on the waves of wootjuice. It grew to be large enough for tinies to sail. A crow’s nest and a pirate flag popped out of the mast.
Cosmos aimed her wand at the tinies. They sprouted eye patches, pirate hats, and tiny swords. The tinies cheered and cried “Aarrggh. Shiver me timbers,” in high pitched voices.
The tinies climbed into the boat and sailed to attack the goblins. The tinies swung on ropes from the ship onto the roof of the Ebil bus. They used their tiny swords to poke at the warty goblins.
“Ouch, stop that, you cute, but annoying, tiny pirate,” complained a goblin. He swiped at the tiny, who did a swashbuckling move of grabbing a rope to swing out of the way.
“I will make a kraken, to destroy your tiny pirate ship.” Moe raised both hands, calling on the spirits of anti-cuteness to aid him. He called on the spirits of parking tickets. He called on the devils in pens that won’t write. He called on demons that stuck gum to your shoe.
Moe pointed at an aquarium in a pet store window. A small squid, who was inside a tank, glowed with a sickening green color. It grew until it smashed the sides of the tank. It continued to grow until it smashed the pet store window open. The squid slid into the sea of wootberry juice in the town square.
“Destroy the ship!” ordered Moe to the kraken. The kraken moved to wrap its tentacles around the tiny pirate ship. Tinies screamed in tiny terror and rushed around the ship.
“We will stop you!” Cosmos called on the spirits of cuteness to aid her. She called on adorableness of kittens, puppies and baby turtles. She called on the sweetness of waffles.
Cosmos aimed her wand over Moe’s head. A single tin pail, like one a child would use on a beach, appeared above Moe’s head.
Moe looked up. “That will defeat me?” He laughed with delight. “How pathetic.”
Cosmos tipped her hand. The pail tipped over, dumping concentrated cuteness on Moe’s head.
Moe gasped as the wave of cuteness hit him. “No, no! My beautiful evil will be the destroyed. I will no longer be a master of evil.”
“It’s for your own good,” said Cosmos, smiling.
Moe’s eyes became big. He grew soft, luxurious fur. A fluffy tail popped out of his backside.
No longer fueled by Moe’s evil powers, the squid released the tiny ship. It shrunk down. The boots returned to wolf paw sized, and no longer smashed berries. The sea of wootberry juice drained away.
“Now dry your tears, eat a waffle, and join in the calypso band,” gently commanded Cosmos.
Moe wiped away his tears. He ate a waffle, then ate two waffles, with lots of syrup and butter. The goblins joined in, feasting on waffles and drinking puddles of wootberry juice with long straws.
Then they all happily danced to the calypso band.
The Steward of Tiny Town
by Caledonia Skytower
In memory of Al Bell, my Grandfather
Impossibly bright. There’s no other way to describe it. I thought I had seen this sort of exuberant rainbow before, but I was wrong. This town had a vivacity about it, a constant happy industry. It’s brightness was irresistible. Wootberries squishing under tiny gleeful feet. The jubilant hum and clank of the great waffle press, and the buoyant splashes of color everywhere.
I pressed my hands to my cheeks. What was this new sensation? I was smiling – smiling so wide and so fully that my face hurt. The essential energy of Tiny Town was infectious, and I knew at that very moment that it was something from which I never wanted to recover.
It wasn’t enough that the colors phosphoresced, that the berries gooshed and the waffles stamped. House after tiny house – doors, windows, roofs peaked, mansard, hipped, all kinds – rose above the streets in a joyful profusion of chaos and competing architecture. Each wee home had been personalized by its tiny tenant, and the overall effect was one of thousands of small voices shouting “Weeeeeeee! Look at me!” all at once.
As I craned my neck, straining to determine just how many layers of buildings there were stacked, and precisely how many kinds of different homes there were, I was startled by the loud beep of a bugle horn as a diminutive otter zoomed by on a bright green scooter.
I laughed, and followed the otter through streets that wound and turned. Was there a single straight or perpendicular line here anywhere? Faster and faster, laughing with glee because there is no other possible response when you run pell mell through Tiny Town.
The otter lead me down a wooden ramp, the scooter thumping on each plank, and the otter chuckling with each impact. At the foot of the ramp I stopped, looking up in amazement. There was such a thing as parallel and perpendicular in this crazy city. It was something I never had even conceived would be something I would find myself looking at. It was incredible. It’s quaint materials in no way lessened the elegance of its engineering or the brilliance of its design. For what could be more important than a gigantic waffle press in a town filled with tinies.
As I followed the flow of the batter and pondered the efficiency of the great stamp, I spotted someone who seemed out of place. He wasn’t furry, brightly colored, or even tiny. He was regular sized – tall even – lean, and lanky. We was wearing a chambray shirt with berry stains around the cuffs, and a pair of overalls rolled up at the hem to clear his work boots. Some exuberant seamstress had added extra pockets to the overalls, in bits of brightly colored fabric. There were tools of all shapes and sizes peeking out of the pockets, along with bits of wire, string, and at least one pointy stick. He was wiping his glasses, and then his forehead, with an oversized cotton handkerchief. His clothes had splashes of the same bright colors that were all over the walls of the town.
What made this even more remarkable was his face – a face I had not seen since I was very small. “Grandpa!” I shouted.
His pale blue eyes showed that he recognized me, and he beckoned me emphatically. I had been looking at those eyes in photographs for years, where they had seemed to disappear, as light as they were, giving him an otherworldly look that had always seemed in tune with his absence. I had been 4 years old when he passed away. But now there he was, reaching into his pocket, and calling out, “have you been good today?”
I stopped in front of him, not sure whether it was safe to hug him, as I very much wanted to do, with all those tools in all those pockets. His hand opened and it was full of peppermint lozenges – not just the pink ones from my childhood, but riotously multi-colored ones – just like the town.
“Yes Grandpa, I think I have been pretty good.”
I chose a purple one, and he smiled. I popped it in my mouth and grinned back at him. The candy tasted of happy memories.
“Come along with me, I’ve just finished up here.” He reached for a small wooden tool box. I recognized the workmanship – he’d created this with his own hands. Though he’d never made it past the 8th grade, growing up in rural Iowa, he had been a brilliant natural engineer, crafting everything from boats and trailers, to drawers and cabinets, and stunningly functional and tables wrought from beautiful woods. He’d even built a small table top Christmas village, when my Mom was a little girl, hand-crafting each piece down to the miniature lights that actually worked.
He loped along, and I followed, not scurrying quite as much as I had as a child, but still struggling to keep up with this man who always had so much energy that his hands never stopped working. He was always fiddling, fixing, and fashioning.
He stopped in front of the vast wootberry vat, put his tools down and contemplated it, rubbing his chin and squinting slightly.
“Hmmmm, something not quite right here,” he muttered.
I peered around, trying to see what he was seeing. It all looked fine to me, there was juice flowing out of each of the wooden spouts located at radial intervals around the vat’s perimeter. He began to pace, looking all around it. Then he stopped, bent down on one knee and just listened.
“Nope, that’s not how it should sound.”
“What’s wrong Grandpa? It looks like it’s working fine to me. I mean there’s juice flowing and all. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to work?” It seemed like pretty simple tech to me.
“Ah yes, it would seem to be fine, wouldn’t it. But things are not always as they seem. It’s the hidden things that cause problems. If you don’t deal with them, things get plain old nasty. They don’t like “nasty” around here much. Can’t say as I blame them. It spoils the joy.”
With that he reached into one of the wooden spouts; way far back, his arm disappearing entirely. He seemed to grab a hold and wrestle with something inside the spout, trying to wrest it from where it had seated itself.
“Come on!” he muttered, giving one great pull followed by a loud popping sound. Out came his arm and a twisted unicycle wheel, both dripping with vibrantly violet wootberry juice and clumps of pulp. The juice flowed stronger now, and he worked all the way around the vat, reaching into each spout and extracting one thing or another, as the flow of wootberry juice continued to increase: a broken step stool, a bent gramophone horn, the strangest bazooka I had ever seen. He removed each, wiped it clean, and checked the spout again before moving on to the next – both looking at, and listening to the flowing, gurgling juice.
When he’d finished he looked with satisfaction at a small pile of assorted stuff he’d removed from the various spouts. He wiped his glasses and forehead again. “Yep, there’s a whole lot of silly goes on around here sometimes. Things end up where they shouldn’t, and they have to be taken care of.”
He looked up at me, smiling, “That’s where I come in.” His long arm made a sweeping gesture to the houses of the surrounding town, “Just look at it! There’s sure never of shortage of things to fix and build here: best job I’ve ever had!” Moving to the lip of the vast machine, a torrent of juice now happily running, he sat and motioned for me to join him.
“How about you? Everything flowing the way it should?”
I frowned, confused, “Flowing? I don’t know what you mean, Grandpa.”
“Well, we all get stuff stuck from time to time, coming a little loose, or out of plumb. It’s the natural result of living. You use the stuff of life, and it needs a bit of tending. Sometimes a whole lot of it. You don’t take care of it, and things get wholly unpleasant.”
I must have made a face, because he added, “I know, it’s mucky at first, but look at what happens once you do, everything flows again.” He pulled two small polka-dotted cups out of the impossible pockets of his overalls, and dipped each into the chuckling berry stream. He handed me one, and I sipped it carefully. It tasted of unrestrained laughter.
There’s a bit of me in you. Always has been. You’re capable of rooting out what’s stuck, and making things work fine again. You just need to do it, and stop fussing or thinking too much about it.
How did he know?
He laughed. “Everybody does. It’s not just you.” He looked around the crazy, silly little town again, a look of pride on his face. “Can you imagine what this place would be like if I wasn’t here to keep everything smart and running properly?”
I thought for a moment, feeling a new awareness creeping into my heart. I looked across the lawn to a tiny bobcat laying flat out on the grass, blowing bubbles. “The happy stops working,” I replied.
“Just like that,” he said, and he clicked his glass to mine.