The sky was gray. The clouds were green. A PUCE spaceship hovered and dropped a lotta-watt beam on the crossroads of REALITY JUNCTION and THIS COULD WELL BE A DREAM.
(It was answering a Club House call for help.)
In the spaceship, three PUCELETS in three-piece, puce suits and puce beanies and tall puce boots sat in three puce power booths.
One PUCELET shook the handles.
One PUCELET turned the cranks.
The third Puce guy peeked through the Viewpoint Window and gave puce cords a yank.
Down they went in their spaceship shaped like an apple core after a six-minute flight through showers on the worldwide solar floor. And, of course, there was that big send-off party on JUST STUFF # 44, a planet more commonly known as DOES ANYONE EVER REALLY KNOW WHAT THEY'RE LOOKING FOR?
At the controls, the PUCELETS shook and turned, and they yanked. They adjusted the knobs on the hootchka and twisted the dials on the hootchka-ain't. They threw out the jewela hoops and released the jelly bank.
Without a sound, they set the spaceship down on a nice soft jelly mound.
The PUCELETS were not really purple and not really brown. When they smiled, they floated. They stuck to the ground if they frowned. (It was the PUCE way of keeping up-feelings up and down-doings down.)
One by one, the PUCELETS stepped onto the jelly mound.
Each wore a name tag with a lot of Z's which, translated loosely and taking liberties, meant, REMEMBER, FORGET, and DON'T BEAT YOURSELF UP ABOUT WHAT DIDN'T HAPPEN YET.
Though they all looked different, they all looked good. And they were ready.
The three compared time on their Tick-Tock-Acheezz. They shut off their nose alarms so they would not sneeze. They called their jewela hoops back from over the top of the trees.
All the hoops came with a laughing sound. They flashed bright colors as they spun around. They dropped bubbles that spoke when they broke when they hit the ground. (Of course, they whispered, because they didn't want to be preachy.)
The PUCELETS walked three abreast across a woodsy floor where trees dropped cones to invite some more. They walked through the orchard where the fruit was ripe and bees buzzed loudly like they had mics. They walked through the meadow where blooms smelled so sweet that birds shook their wings like rugs, and butterflies shook theirs like big sheets.
The first PUCELET, REMEMBER, said, " Look ahead. Zeep. Zeep."
The second and third adjusted the chiffers on their cheeks.
"That's the spot that sent the signal," REMEMBER said, and he took a picture with the hiffer on top of his head.
FORGET blew Mellow Mist from his Mellow Mist Blow Pack.
DON'T BEAT YOURSELF UP had keyboard bones, and he played music when he scratched his back.
REMEMBER chirped and pushed his belly button to receive a fax. But other than that, they were pretty quiet as they walked up to the Club House.
The Club House seemed small with a small wooden floor. The roof was flat. The yard was flat even more. A sign hung over the open door. It read: LOOK HARDER THAN YOU EVER LOOKED BEFORE and WITH A LITTLE LUCK AND A LITTLE EYESORE, YOU MIGHT SEE A LITTLE BIT MORE.
Inside, there was a sofa, a table, and a sewing machine. There was a piano, wheelbarrow, a kitten that preened. There were jelly and jumping and just plain old beans. There was a hammer, a hanky, and old stockings with seams. Just like with every small person and every small thing, there was so much more to it than anyone dreamed.
Two boys in look-alike shoes and baseball caps sat cross-legged on a big whole-world map. They had empty boxes around them.
One box was marked KEEP. One was marked JUNK. The third was marked, I DON'T KNOW WHAT THIS STUFF IS, BUT IT'S A PRETTY BIG CHUNK.
The map was covered with toys and not-toys, with knickknacks and knacknicks. There were all shapes, all sizes, bright colors, dull colors, and colors that mixed. Round things rolled with a hum. Square things moved with a click. Rubber things snapped. Brass things shrieked to get picked.
Most of it was good stuff, or stuff that could be fixed.
But there was some STINKER-STUFF that should surely be nixed.
Some were EVERYDAY STINKERS in everyday clothes who ran back and forth and left tracks with their stinky toes. Some of the STINKERS were lumpy and cracked. Some had big ears to listen for bad things. Others had big mouths to say bad things right back. The STINKERS from undoing parents quickly learned to undo. They unbuckled, untied and unpolished their shoes. Some crawled under appliances and took out the screws.
The sneakiest STINKERS could hide anywhere. They were the HA-HA, YOU CAN'T SEE ME STINKERS that sometimes get in your hair. There they are quiet and don't do a thing until you have to go to the doctor, the dentist, or to the front of a big room to sing. Then they scratch your head and tie knots here and there. They make you feel awful. Make you hurt. Make you weak-kneed and scared.
The PUCELETS twisted chiffers, clicked hiffers, and took it all in. EARTH was like all other places where they had been. There was teaching and learning to do between friends, and a proud kinda DON'T DO EVERYTHING FOR ME, BUT IS THERE A HAND YOU CAN LEND?
FORGET blew Mellow Mist from his Mellow Mist Blow Pack.
DON'T BEAT YOURSELF UP played, 'YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE' when the cat jumped up on his back.
REMEMBER typed a message on his palm Talky-View. He smiled because it tickled, and he rose an inch or two.
Together the PUCELETS said, "We are the LETS from PUCE. We unwind the tight. We wind up the loose. We jewela-hoop away all lazy bones and each poor excuse. For lunch we eat Wise Crackers in Life-Is-Great-soup. But the process takes a little time."
Above the PUCELETS, behind a wood stool, a grandfather clock struck the hour of Don't-Be-A-Fool, (which on earth is ten o'clock, give or take a minute or two). The clock chains trembled. The cones rose and fell. The gold pendulum swung back and forth like the tail of a beaver, or some other tail.
Time went up and up in the air. Time went on inside and outside. It went on everywhere. It went through the roof. It went through the door except for the two and a half minutes that took a nap on the floor.
All the things on the map that could shiver or shake, all the things that could jump up and down and not break, all the Pretties and Plains, all the Humdingers and all the Ho-Hums, all that things that thought they were smart enough to call other things dumb, and the Look-at-Me things and the shy things that still sucked their thumbs, and the ones who heard parents call and did not, or did come, as well as those who cracked knuckles or made a sticky mess with their gum, did whatever they could to get into the KEEP box.
The jewela hoops flashed colors. They spun over the map. They blew thousands of bubbles until bubbles stacked up on bubbles without leaving a gap.
All the popping of bubbles at once made a deafening roar.
All the after-pop messages spoke over each other when they hit the floor.
Though most secrets of the universe were spoken that day, though most mistakes were pointed out so they could be taken away, there was just so much truth that truth got in the way.
The boys tried to hear every word as they sorted through things on the map. They looked at the top of this. They got to the bottom of that. They made each thing in the middle stand on its own and take off its hat.
In the end, most of their choices for the KEEP box were right, but a few things were wrong things that learned how to act real polite.
The point is, the boys tried very hard to get everything right.
And the PUCELETS?
They went back to their spaceship where their message board blinked. They poured Truth Cola into cups for the jewela hoops that were lined up to drink. They primed the jelly bank cabinet with juice from the cushion roots of the pink jellyvink.
One PUCELET turned the handles.
Another PUCELET turned the cranks.
The other PUCE guy turned knobs on the hootchka and twisted the dials on the hootchka-ain't.
They all took turns and gave puce cords a yank.
Up they went in their spaceship shaped like an apple core. They smiled, and puce needles spun around on puce dials while they flew five hundred and forty-six miles
-- to help stop a backyard fight between friends in east Baltimore.