Once upon a time, there was a beautiful little dark brown shuttle bus named L.B., or Elbie. His only job was to take passengers to a local water park. He had strict instructions to drop the passengers off and return immediately to his parking spot. He liked his parking spot, because it was just the right size for him, and he was tucked away out of sight of all the traffic that flew by on the busy street. Wild animals also roamed the street, but he felt safe in his cozy parking spot.
Some days, however, after he drove his passengers to the water park, he would get distracted. He would watch them rush into the park, tumbling around, getting all wet, and waving gleefully. He didn't mean to disobey his instructions, but he would just get caught up in the moment and forget to drive right back to his parking spot. It was not his job to bring the passengers home from the park, just to bring them safely there and make sure that none fell out on the way. So when he got distracted and didn't do his job, passengers would line up at his parking spot, waiting for their ride. Eventually, after waiting hours, or even days, wondering where Elbie was, the passengers would get disorderly, and fights would break out. They would punch and kick each other, sprawling all over the parking lot. The tidy, orderly, lovely parking spot would become a mess of confusion and disarray, and the passengers panicked, shouting, “Where is Elbie? Where could he be? He's supposed to be right here! How will we ever get to the water park? We need to get there! Somebody help us! Where is our beloved bus? How could he abandon us like this?”
Sometimes when he was gone for days at a time, someone would realize that Elbie had fallen asleep at the water park after watching his happy passengers play in the water. The water park was closed for the day, but Elbie sat there all alone, sound asleep. Finally someone would come along and say, “Why is there no one enjoying the water park today? Oh dear! Elbie is asleep! No one can get to the water park!” They would shake Elbie, wake him up, and say, “Elbie! You have a very important job to do! Why are you sitting here sleeping?” Elbie would start his engine and rush back to his parking spot, horrified at what he saw there. He would gather up all the tired, grouchy passengers and rush them straight to the water park, where they would tumble out and have a glorious time, happy once again. When Elbie did his job, everyone was happy. When he didn't, chaos reigned.
Elbie had a twin brother named Ham, who liked to be called by his middle name, Purr. Elbie and Purr were not identical twins, for Purr was bigger and pure white. They were both very attractive shuttle buses, and their passengers loved and appreciated them. Purr was the only other bus in the whole city that drove passengers to the water park. He was not quite as distractible and narcoleptic as his brother, but he would occasionally forget to return to his parking spot after dropping the passengers off at the water park. His parking spot was a little more remote, farther from the water park, and not as heavily trafficked. He had a bigger parking space, but he was not as protected from the wild animals as Elbie was. Sometimes a lion or a jaguar would walk right by him, and he had even been scratched by one of them once or twice. But his scratch-resistant finish was not affected, and he was not hurt, just a little frightened.
When he forgot to follow his instructions to return immediately to his parking spot, his passengers reacted in the same way that Elbie's did. They grew impatient standing there all day, and in their boredom, they eventually beat each other up and got knocked all over the parking lot. The wild animals would often attack the defenseless passengers, further scattering them across the parking lot. They would call in vain for their bus, who was parked at the water park and couldn't hear them. People who lived in the city would get angry and the kick the unruly passengers out of the way, and the peace and beauty of the city would be disturbed. As long as the shuttle buses did their jobs, everyone in the city was happy, and the streets were clean and tidy.
She was interested in the story and said she liked it, but no meaning dawned on her. I said, "Do you know what L.B. stands for?" She didn't. I said, "Laundry Basket. And do you remember what his brother's name is?" She said, "Purr." I said, "Do you remember his first name? Put them together." She said, "Ham...Ham Purr...Oh! Hamper! Is that whole thing about the laundry? And the wild animals are the cats?" Now that she understood it, she wanted to hear it again. I was surprised by how thrilled she was that I had written a story just for her. She loved it! I took her to the washing machine and said sadly, "Oh look. There are Elbie and Purr, just sitting there looking at the empty water park." She grabbed them up and actually rushed off to pick up the passengers!
She said, "Don't worry, passengers! Elbie is here to take you to the water park!"
She happily tossed them into the water park and returned both Elbie and Purr to their parking spots.
I don't pretend to believe that this has solved the problem, but next time instead of yelling and complaining and nagging, I can say something like, "The passengers are getting unruly...where's their shuttle?"
She asked me to print off her story and was even inspired to write one of her own:
The Selfish Little Cats
by Sarah Janes
There once was a cat with beautiful black shiny fur that her owners made her wash every day. The owners also had another cat, but that cat did not get washed as much, so the back of his tail was a little unruly. The two cats got along in harmony until one decided not to share his toy with the other. That cat got very sad, so she left the other cat to sit on the cat gym all alone so she could go to sleep. And it went on for years and years. The cats did not get along at all and started to growl and hiss at each other. They started to fight with each other until their owners shut them up in their own kennels and yelled at the cats for being rude. So the cats apologized and all was well.
The moral of the story is not to fight with anyone, but repay evil with goodness.
She explained that the beautiful cat was her, and the less hygienic one was Noah.