Planet of the Carrots

On a tiny planet there once lived some people who were hard working and others who were not so hard working. Then there were a few who were very hard working and a few who were very lazy. In a word – it was just like everywhere else in the universe. Except that the lazy ones and the hard working ones threw everything that they grew – mainly various kinds of carrots – on a pile and then shared everything from the pile. That wasn’t the way it was everywhere.

But one day a few of the hard working ones said, “We’ve had enough. We grunt and sweat all day, and then the others who just lie around on their backs all day and whistle at the sun come waltzing up and want to eat our carrots.” And instead of throwing their carrots on the community pile, they kept them in their homes and stuffed themselves till they were fat.

The really lazy ones just shrugged their shoulders and kept on eating from the big pile, and of course they ate more from the pile than they themselves brought to it.

Then the semi-hard workers and the semi-lazy ones noticed that now everybody was getting less than before because the really hard working ones had always brought especially many carrots, more than they ate themselves.

Then the semi-hardworking ones said, “So we’re going to keep our own carrots too.” And they stopped throwing them on the big pile, and instead, each one made his or her own little pile at home.

And the semi-lazy ones did the same thing. “We have no other choice,” they said to the really lazy ones.

And now they all had their own piles of carrots in front of their cottages, and when they felt like eating a special variety of carrot that they didn’t have in their piles, then they had to see if they could trade with someone else.

Pretty soon people were coming and going, and after work they were busy for hours trading carrots until they all had all the carrot varieties in their houses that they needed, or thought they needed.

“That’s a fine how-do-you-do!” said the really lazy ones among each other. For them there was no longer a community pile that they could sponge off of. But each one of them learned a different lesson from this situation. Some of them said, “All right, then I guess I’ll just have to work more.” But that wasn’t quite so easy because when such a reformed lazy person found a field to plant his or her carrots, there was usually someone who said, “Hey, I’ve always planted carrots here. This is my field.”

But others just went to the cottages of the richer ones and took from the carrot piles whatever they happened to feel like eating. “We always took from the community piles. And if there are now many piles, instead of one, then they’re all just lots of community piles. In any case, we’ll take what we want from them,” they said.

Of course, the rich people didn’t much like that attitude, and some of them started building fences around their carrot piles. And soon almost everybody had to build a fence around his or her pile of carrots because the more fences that were built around the piles, the more the really lazy ones, who wanted to keep to the old ways, went ahead and took what they wanted from the piles that didn’t have fences around them.

Before long, everybody who had a pile, also had a fence around it. Now, after work, they not only had to deal with trading varieties, but also with the mending and improvement of their fences and with watching them to make sure nobody climbed over them.

Pretty soon some of them started grumbling, “We all used to meet after work at the big carrot pile and tell jokes and play leapfrog. Now after work, we’re just stuck at home, watching our carrots and mending our fences. And the next morning we’re dead tired and can’t even plant our carrots properly. For some reason, we now have a lot more to do than we used to, but the carrots aren’t getting any more plentiful.”

And some people suggested that everybody should go back to the old ways, with the big community pile. “It’s better to feed a few really lazy moochers than constantly wear ourselves out with trading and guarding and mending fences!”

But the richest ones said, “No, if we go back to the old ways, then that means mooching is allowed. Then everybody will want to mooch, and no one will plant carrots anymore, and we’ll all starve!”

“But that’s not what’ll happen,” said the others. “It’s too boring for most people to just lie on their backs and whistle something to the sun. Believe us, there are only a few people, who are really that lazy. Actually, growing carrots is fun!”

“No,” said the richest ones, “growing carrots isn’t any fun. Only having carrots is fun. You can go ahead and share your carrots with the lazy bums, if you want to. As for us, we have no intention of tearing down our fences!”

“Heck,” said some of the semi-rich, “if the really rich ones aren’t going to go along, then we’d rather keep our fences too. We really don’t have so much that we can share it with the lazy bums.”

And the semi-poor ones said, “Well, if we’re the only ones who are going to share, then everybody’s going to have too little. We can’t go along with that. We’re afraid we’re going to have to keep our fences.”

And so this time, nothing came of it. And even though most of them actually knew that everybody now had more work to do, and no more carrots, they just couldn’t manage to go back to the old ways.

But a few other interesting things happened instead. Some of those who didn’t have big carrot fields went to some of the richer ones and said, “Listen, if each of you gives me a few carrots every day, in exchange I’ll guard your piles.”

And others came up with a different idea and said, “I’ll fix the fence of anybody, who gives me carrots!”

And still others went from house to house and said, “Give me a few of your carrots, and I’ll go and trade them for you, if I can keep every fifth carrot.”

That’s how it went for a while, and then some of them started scratching their heads and said, “Actually I should now have more time, but now I have to plant more carrots so that I can pay the fence mender and the night watchman and the carrot trader.”

And once again, some people proposed that they should all go back to the old ways and tear down the fences. But strangely, it wasn’t just the richest ones who were against the idea, but the poorest too, “Do you want to take away our work?” yelled the fence menders.

“How are we going to make a living?” yelled the night watchmen.

“Do you want us to starve?” yelled the carrot traders.

Heck, and so they just went on doing things the new way.

The Blue Boy

the_blue_boyFar, far away behind the stars, everything is very different from here. And even farther out there, everything is even more different from there, where everything is very different from here. But if you flew far away, very far away into the distance, to the place where everything is completely different from everywhere else, maybe there it would be almost exactly like here.

Maybe, in this faraway region, there’s a planet as big as our Earth, and maybe people live on this planet, people who look almost exactly like us, except that they’re blue and can fold up their ears when they don’t want to hear anything.

And perhaps a war broke out on this faraway planet, and ever so many blue people died. A lot of orphans had been left behind, and in the ruins of one of the houses that the bombs had destroyed, sat a little blue boy who was crying because he had lost his father and his mother. For a long time he sat there like that and cried, but then he stopped because he had cried all the tears that were in him. He pulled up his collar, put his hands in his pockets, and went away. When he saw a rock, he kicked at it, and when he saw a flower, he stepped on it.

A little dog came up to him, looked at him, and started wagging its tail. Then it turned around and began walking alongside the boy, as though it had decided to keep him company.

“Go away!” said the boy to the dog. “You have to go away. If you stay with me, I’ll have to love you, and I never want to love anyone again in my whole life.”

The dog looked at him and wagged its tail cheerfully. Then the boy found a gun that was lying next to a dead soldier. He picked up the gun and showed it to the dog. “This gun can shoot you to death!” he said angrily. So the dog ran away.

“I’m going to take you with me!” the boy said to the gun. “You’ll be my good friend.” And with his gun he fired a shot at a dead tree.

Then he found a flying scooter that had just been left lying around in a field. He got on it and tried to start it. The flying scooter worked.

“Now I have a gun and a flying scooter,” said the boy. “They will be my family. I could have had a dog too, but he might be killed, and then I would have to die from crying.”

He flew around on his flying scooter until he saw a house with smoke coming out of it. “Someone’s still living there,” said the boy. He circled around the house and looked through the windows. Inside, there was only an old woman, who was cooking something.

The boy parked his flying scooter in front of the house, took his gun and went inside. “I have a gun!” he said to the old woman. “You’ve got to give me something to eat!”

“Come on, I would give you something anyway,” said the old woman. “You can go ahead and put your gun away.”

“I don’t want you to be nice to me!” the boy said crossly. “My gun can kill you!”

So the old woman gave him something to eat, and he flew off.

That’s how the boy was living now. He set up a hiding place in an abandoned house. When he got hungry, he flew somewhere where there were people, and with his gun he forced them to give him something to eat.

At other times he flew over the deserted battlefields and collected parts from weapons and tanks and trucks that had been left there. He took all of these things to his hiding place.

“I’ll build a giant armored robot!” he said to himself. “It’ll be a hundred yards tall, and it’ll weigh a hundred thousand tons, and way up in its head I’ll have my controls in a cab. Then I’ll have power and no one can do anything to me.”

One day a girl came by his hiding place. The boy went outside with his gun and said: “You’ve got to go away! My gun can shoot you!”

“I don’t want to bother you,” said the girl. “I’m just looking to see if the mushrooms have started growing again.”

“You’ve got to go away!” said the boy. “I don’t want anyone around me!”

“Are you all by yourself?” asked the girl.

“No,” said the boy. “I have a gun and a flying scooter. They’re my family. And one day I’ll have a giant armored robot!”

“Don’t you have anybody real?”

“I could have had a dog. But if someone had killed it, I would have had to die from crying.”

“I don’t really have anybody either,” said the girl. “We could stay together.”

“I don’t want to have anyone who could be shot by a gun!”

“Then I guess you’ll just have to find someone who can’t be shot by a gun!” said the girl and she went away.

But the boy built a giant armored robot and got inside. He sat down way at the top in the robot’s head, where he had built the cab with the controls.

Then he set out and drove around the country in his giant armored robot.

Everywhere the people screamed when they saw him coming, and they wanted to run away. But they couldn’t escape the giant armored robot.

The boy had a microphone in his cab, and everything he said into the microphone came roaring out of the robot’s mouth. “Is there someone here who can’t be killed by a gun?” yelled the robot. But wherever he came, people just ran away from him, and he never found anyone who couldn’t be killed by a gun.

One day, however, he could see from up above in his cab where he was sitting that someone down there wasn’t running away from him but just stood there and shouted something up to him. But he was so high up that he couldn’t understand what the person was saying.

“Maybe that’s someone who can’t be killed by a gun?” the boy thought and climbed down. But it was the old woman who had cooked a meal for him a while ago. “Did you want to say something to me?” the boy asked.

“Yes,” said the old woman. “I heard about somebody who can’t be killed by a gun. I thought I should tell you about him.”

“And who is that?” asked the boy.

“He’s an old man who lives up there on the moon.”

“Then I’ll have to look for him,” said the boy, “because I don’t want to have anyone around me who can be killed by a gun.” And he pulled a switch and his giant armored robot transformed itself into a giant armored rocket and he flew in it to the moon.

Up there on the moon, the boy had to search for a long time. But finally he found the old man. He was sitting behind a telescope and looking down on the blue planet.

“Are you the man who can’t be killed by a gun?” the boy asked the old man.

“I guess so,” the old man said.

“And what are you looking at in your telescope?”

“I’m studying the people on the planet down there.”

“Do you think I could stay with you?” the boy asked.

“Maybe,” said the old man. “What’s so special about me?”

“Because I don’t want to stay with someone who can be shot to death. When my parents died, I cried all the tears that I had in me. I could have had a dog, but if someone had killed it, I would have had to die from crying. And I could have stayed with an old woman or with a little girl. But they weren’t bulletproof, and if they had been killed, I would have had to die from crying.”

“It’s all right,” said the old man, “you can stay with me. No one can shoot me dead because there aren’t any guns here.”

“Is that the only reason?” the boy asked.

“Yes, that’s it,” said the old man.

“But I brought my gun with me.”

“Too bad,” said the old man, “now you can’t stay with me. Your gun could shoot me dead.”

“Then I’ll just have to go back,” said the boy.

“Yes,” said the old man.

“Too bad,” said the boy.

“Are you sorry?” the old man asked.

“Yes,” said the boy, “I would have liked to stay here.”

“Maybe you could throw your gun away?” said the old man.

“Maybe,” said the boy.

“And then you could stay with me after all,” said the old man.

“Maybe,” said the boy. “And what would I do then?”

“You could look through this telescope. Then maybe you could find out why those people down there are always fighting wars.”

“And why do they fight wars?”

“Well, I don’t know that either. I suppose it has something to do with not knowing enough about each other. There are so many of them, and their lives are so complicated that they don’t know how their actions will affect others. I guess they don’t know where the meat that they eat comes from or where the bread goes that they bake. I suppose they don’t know whether the iron that they dig up from the earth is used to make bulldozers or cannons. Maybe they don’t know if the meat they’re eating isn’t being taken away from other people. If they could see themselves from up above, maybe they would understand many things a lot better.

“Then somebody ought to show it to them?” said the boy.

“Maybe,” said the old man, “but I’m too old and too tired for that.”

It wasn’t until then that the boy let his gun fall, and it fell down through space, down to the planet, and there it broke into pieces.

But the boy stayed a long, long time with the old man on the moon and looked through the telescope and studied the people down there. And perhaps one day he flew down there and explained to them what they were doing wrong.

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