Thursday, July 23, 2009

Daily Story 99: Everyone Needs a Hobby

Barry watched as the tiny apelike beings in his kitchen stacked his spilled cheerios into little towers and he sighed.

The little guys were hardly bigger than ants, and it took them forever to get each piece positioned the way they liked it. The structures didn't seem to serve any purpose, but they worked on them all day. What if it was some sort of religious thing? For the thirteenth time, Barry looked at the broom leaning against the far wall. He couldn't leave the cereal out. He had to clean it up. But he would feel so guilty, destroying the product of all that work. They had made little pulleys and tied strands of hair to the cheerios to pull them up higher, and had started to balance the pieces so that multiple towers could lean slightly and intertwine without falling over. It was actually quite pretty. Barry hadn't put that much effort into anything for years, and the idea of casually destroying the structure just so he could have a clean floor seemed immoral.
"Hey."
The tiny figures froze, staring up at him while tensing to run.
"Listen. I really don't want to take down your tower thing. I don't. But I have to clean the floor up, it needs a good sweeping. I'll make it up to you somehow, okay? I'll... I'll give you some non-food stuff to build with. Tomorrow."
Barry stood, brushing pop-tart crumbs off of his shirt, and walked towards the broom. The little ape-men were already running. He swept the cereal towers into the dustpan, wincing, and then cleaned the rest of the kitchen.

He thought about them at work, wishing he could be that industrious - or at least live rent-free in someone's wall. One Twinkie could last him a year. He neglected his reports as always, doodling pictures of the creatures.
"Is that Bigfoot, or some kind of monster from one of those stupid video games?" Liam put his coffee mug down right on the picture, stray drops soaking through.
"No, it's... just something in my apartment. Some sort of... ape... thing. They're small."
Liam nodded, picking up his cup to sip thoughtfully. "Probably all those experiments the government is doing."
"What experiments?" Barry asked, trying to think of what research would generate tiny primates obsessed with construction.
Liam gestured vaguely with his coffee. "You know. Just... experiments. Government does them all the time."

Later, Barry found a match box filled with straight pins and a few small spools of thread. He left it by the little hole that the apes lived in, and it was empty a few minutes later. The next day, inspired by the matchbox, he left them a whole box of undipped matchsticks he saw in the store. Also gone. From there it became a challenge, finding tiny building materials. He left a few larger items as well, like popsicle sticks, but mostly Barry figured that the smaller things were better - he left them a pile of circular bits of paper from inside the hole-punch, and some paperclips he had laying around. It was hard to tell what they liked, because everything was taken. Finally, while going to drop off a box of assorted small beads, Barry saw something wonderful: an empty spool. It had been left outside the hole, and while it could have been for any reason Barry felt sure that it was a request - More thread, please.

"You look unusually alert today, Buddy."
Even Liam's unwelcome banter couldn't annoy Barry. "You know what? I am. I've found a sort of project to work on in my spare time and it feels great."
"Extracurriculars." Liam said. This random word hung there for a moment until he added, "They say it's good for you, say you go insane after too long without some artistic outlet." Barry nodded and turned back to his computer but Liam had to add a little more before wandering off. "I collect lampshades, myself. Spare bedroom is just full of them."

Barry returned home with a bag full of thread and other miscellaneous objects from the craft store, and ran into his landlord.
"Billy, you don't have a dog do you? Or a cat?" Barry shook his head and the landlord smiled. "Good, didn't think so. We had some complaints about bugs in the building so I had the guy out today to bomb - I wanted to make sure I didn't kill your pet or anything. You may want to throw out any food that wasn't sealed up."
Barry would have been shocked that his landlord would bomb the building first and ask about pets later, but the previous summer he had shut off water for a week without warning while he installed a fountain in the courtyard that had served only as a mosquito breeding facility.

Barry made it all the way to his door and was pulling out his keyring when he realized the implications of a bug bomb. Dropping the bag of building materials, he fumbled the key into place and threw the door open, waiting to see a tiny furry holocaust. The floor was clear, and Barry laid down to look at the hole the ape-things lived in. To his shock, it had been sealed shut with plastic - from the inside.