Tag Archives: moral

No Work, No Money, No Food

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When Ma set out for the post office, Alina flipped the sign on the door over to say “CLOSED” and stayed behind, stocking shelves. She was old enough now to mind the shop during Ma’s errands, big enough to carry the seed bags out from the back, smart enough to write receipts and tally up the costs of customers’ orders, but Ma made her close up anyways. Ma was just acting scared, Alina figured, with Pa being out on a posse and all. Made no sense, to Alina, being scared just because Pa was gone. There hadn’t been a shot fired in town for over three months, not since the new sheriff had arrived. The streets were clean now, that’s what cousin Jacob said, and he was a real deputy, with a badge to prove it.

Besides, there was Pa’s rifle in the store room, if it came to it. He’d left it behind, and always kept it loaded. That was no big secret. The way Alina saw it, there wasn’t much to fear when you had a loaded gun.

Of course, Ma had probably never fired a rifle. She could knit like a fine fury, but holding a gun? Alina just couldn’t picture Ma doing that. Not that Alina had ever used a gun, either, but she figured she had the hands for it. Pa had said so, once, when Ma couldn’t hear. He’d said she had strong fingers, and he’d given her a little jackknife to skin squirrels with, if she could ever catch one. How Ma would scream if she ever learned about that!

As Alina trudged in and out of the store room, carrying canned beans and bags of corn seed out to the shelves, she felt the little knife bouncing in the pocket of her apron. After the shop got closed tonight, she was gonna go out and find a way to catch one of them squirrels. She’d have a skin to show Pa when he got home, a whole collection of skins. Maybe a groundhog or even a fox, too. He was gonna be so proud.

Alina hefted a seed bag off the store room shelf, sat it on the floor, and was wiping sweat off her forehead with one of her dirty-blonde braids when she heard the bell above the front door jingle quietly. Probably another one of these ranch-hand cowboys who’d never taken the time to learn his letters…

“Pardon me,” said Alina, stepping out of the store room, “but the sign says we’re Closed, so—” She stopped and frowned. The shop appeared to be empty. Maybe someone had started coming in before reading the sign, and then closed the door and went out again.

A silhouette stomped past outside, moving across the boardwalk that fronted all the shops along Main Street. Alina recognized cousin Jacob’s peaked hat and heavy steps.

Turning back to the storeroom, Alina’s eyes caught a hint of motion, and she noticed a pair of leather boots standing behind the shelf in the corner.

Alina walked past the cash register and popped around the shelf. A tall cowboy with a grimy face and fidgety eyes was standing there. “Excuse me, mister, but the shop’s closed while my Ma’s out. She’ll be back before much longer, but there ain’t supposed to be customers in here while we’re closed, so why not take a look in at the saloon on the corner and come back when…” She trailed off.

The cowboy was watching her talk with a strange expression on his face. He seemed to become aware of the strange lull that had fallen and crouched down beside Alina, so that he was looking up into her eyes. “Don’t worry ’bout me, little woman. I’m just havin’ a look around.” He grinned and winked. He was missing three teeth, and his breath smelled like dust and cacti.

“All the same,” said Alina, “it’s store rules that you ain’t supposed to be in here.”

“The rules is pretty important to you, eh?”

“Of course the rules are important,” said Alina, impatiently. “That’s why they’re rules!”

The cowboy cocked his head to the side and grinned again. Then he reached up and gave one of Alina’s braids a gentle tug. “I got a girl like you. Face full of freckles, smile like the sun reflectin’ off a lake. Calls me ‘Pap’; treats me like I could never do no wrong. How old are you, little woman?”

“Near to nine,” replied Alina.

The man nodded approvingly. “She’s turnin’ seven soon… Wish I could be there for it.”

“Why can’t you?”

The cowboy shook his head gently, wistfully. “That’s no story for a girl who h’aint reached nine years old yet.”

“I’m big for my age, and smart, too,” protested Alina, drawing herself up to her full height.

“Does your Pa tell you so?”

Alina nodded.

“And where is your Pa, little woman?”

“He’s on a posse,” declared Alina proudly. “Sheriff asked him to help hunt down an outlaw who was thievin’ from the ranches.” A terrible thought crossed Alina’s mind. “Say… You aren’t planning to try any thievin’ yourself, are you, mister?”

The cowboy rocked on his heels and grinned. “And what if I was? What if I was to take one of these here cans of beans”—he pulled one off the shelf—”and tuck it into my vest and just walk out without payin’? What would you do about that?”

“I’d run after you and scream!” said Alina, defiantly. “And the sheriff would arrest you and throw you in jail.

“But I thought the sheriff was out on a posse, huntin’ down an evil outlaw.”

“Then Deputy Jacob would do it. I saw him walking past only a minute ago.”

“Did you, now?” The man scratched his cheek. “Yeah, I reckon he would.” The man tossed the can of beans in the air and caught it again. “Do they feed you when you’re in jail?”

The question caught Alina off guard. “I… Well, I reckon so. Everybody’s gotta eat.”

“Then maybe I oughta get myself arrested!” said the man.

“That would make you an outlaw,” Alina pointed out.

“Better to be an outlaw than die of starvation,” the man mused. “See, truth is, I h’ain’t had a bite o’ real food to eat in near on a week, so these here beans are lookin’ mighty good.”

“All you gotta do is buy ’em,” said Alina. “Them cans are only ten cents a dozen.”

“What if I h’ain’t got ten cents?”

“I’ll put you down for credit,” said Alina, “and you can come back when you do have ten cents. Ma does that all the time.”

“That’s kind of you, little woman,” grinned the cowboy. “Most folk wouldn’t give credit to a man like me.”

“Why not?” asked Alina.

“Wouldn’t trust me to come up with the money,” said the man.

“It ain’t hard to earn ten cents,” said Alina. “Ma gives me ten cents a week for helping with the laundry and weeding the garden.”

The man placed the can of beans back on the shelf. “There’s the trick of it, though, little woman. Most folk wouldn’t give me work to do, neither.”

Alina wrinkled her forehead. “But if you can’t work, then how’re you supposed to earn money to buy food?”

“Don’t seem fair, does it?”

“Why won’t people give you work?”

The man leaned towards her and spoke in a conspiratorial whisper: “‘Cause I broke a rule, once.”

Alina’s eyes opened wide. “Are you an outlaw already?”

The man held his hands out innocently. “Do I look like an outlaw, little woman?”

Alina pondered this for a moment. “Not to me, you don’t,” she admitted.

“I don’t feel like one, neither, and don’t much want to be one, but they tell me I am one, anyways,” said the cowboy.

“Can’t you ever change folks’ minds?”

“Only one way to do that,” said the outlaw, “and that’s for a judge to declare me a regular citizen again. But that ain’t likely to happen.”

“Why not?”

“You ever met Judge Gordon?”

Alina nodded. Judge Gordon was a fat man with beady eyes and a bald head who always treated her like she was still a toddler.

“Well Judge Gordon hates my guts. He’s hated me ever since he saw me kiss a girl he fancied… And then I married her, too. He ain’t never gonna forgive me for that.”

“So what are you going to do?”

“I’m gonna head out east, find a different judge to turn myself in to so I can get a fair trial, where Judge Gordon can’t interfere. Only problem is…”

“What?” asked Alina.

“I h’ain’t got enough food to get me there, and no horse to help me carry it, even if I did. If I had a gun I could hunt along the way, but if nobody’s gonna sell me a can o’ beans, then for darn sure nobody’s gonna sell me a rifle.”

Deputy Jacob’s silhouette passed across the front windows again. Alina saw that the outlaw had noticed, too.

“Is he out there looking for you?” asked Alina.

“Your Pa’s right,” nodded the cowboy, “you are a smart little woman.”

“What’ll happen if he catches you in here?”

“He’ll lock me up, like you said, probably say I was thievin’ from your shop and tryin’ to kidnap you.”

“But you aren’t doing either of those things! I saw you put those beans back myself.”

“That’s justice for you,” shrugged the outlaw. “That’s the rules, when you’ve got a man like Judge Gordon in charge. I reckon he’ll prob’ly want to tie the noose himself.” He let loose a haggard sigh.

Alina made up her mind. “Wait right here, mister.” She went back into the store room, climbed onto a barrel, reached up to the top shelf, and wrapped her fingers around the butt of Pa’s rifle. She clutched it carefully to her chest. It felt much bigger and clumsier than she had imagined.

The outlaw was standing beside the cash register when she returned, glancing over his shoulder through the front windows. “Hey, now,” he said. Whatcha gote there?”

“This’ll help you get out east,” said Alina, handing him the rifle. “And when you’re a free man, you can bring it back. Like you’re buying it on credit.”

“Bless your heart, little woman,” said the cowboy. “This world needs a million more generous, forgiving souls like yours, I reckon.”

Alina blushed. “Oh, and in case you need to skin any of them animals you catch while you’re hunting…” She dug the little jackknife out of her apron pocket and pressed it into his hand. “Here. My Pa gave me that, but I haven’t caught any squirrels yet, anyways, and I can always save up and buy another one.”

“Thank you, darlin’,” said the man, gently, tucking the knife into his pocket.

“Quick, now,” said Alina, “you can come out the back way before cousin Jacob comes around again and sees you.” She turned to lead the way through the store room but stopped in midstep upon hearing the bell above the shop door jingle again. She spun and saw Jacob standing in the doorway, arms folded across his broad chest, a grim smile on his round, clean-shaven face. His tall hat was cocked back on his head, and his long blond hair spilled out from under it.

There you are,” growled Jacob. “Knew you had to be along here someplace. Musta been some neat trick you pulled, doublin’ back and shakin’ a whole posse off your trail.”

The outlaw kept his back turned so the rifle was hidden from the Jacob’s sight. “Not such a tough job, when the posse’s bein’ weighed down by a fool like Gordon.”

Jacob shook his head slowly. “You shouldn’t’ve come back here, Holden. Just another poor decision to add to your long list of mistakes.” He noticed Alina standing in the door of the store room, then. “Come on over here, Alina. Your Ma would have a fit if she saw you standin’ so close to a filthy outlaw.”

Alina looked up and saw the desperation in the outlaw’s eyes. He gave her a slight, reassuring nod, and she cautiously stepped forward to join Jacob.

Just as she started to move, the outlaw whirled, raised the rifle to his shoulder, and shot Jacob straight through the stomach. Jacob toppled over against a shelf, sending it and its contents crashing to the floor.

The outlaw winked at Alina, tipped his hat, and sprinted out the front door, shouting “Yeehaw!” as he went. Alina stood paralyzed in shock as she watched the outlaw spring onto cousin Jacob’s horse and go galloping off down Main Street.

Alina was vaguely aware of yelling and screaming breaking out in the street, and footsteps thundering across the boardwalk. Ma rushed in, dress flapping behind her. The sight of Ma broke Alina out of her paralysis and she slumped back against the counter, bumping the cash register. It dinged, and the money drawer slid open.

It was empty of all but ten cents.

Jef and the Sad Sack

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There was a boy who lived in an attic. His name, when he bothered to remember it, was Jef.

In some ways, Jef was a very normal boy. He liked catching bugs in his hands, and jumping on things, and running around and around and around in circles, all over his attic.

But in other ways, Jef wasn’t very normal at all. He didn’t have a favourite colour, or a favourite animal, or a favourite food. He didn’t have a favourite anything, because no one had ever taught him what a “favourite” was. He slept on top of an old wooden desk and used the rainwater that leaked through the roof to fill his baths. He never got to play with other boys or girls, or visit the park, or eat chocolate or candy.

In fact, Jef never got to leave his attic at all, and he didn’t get to have visitors, either! The only person who ever came to see him was the man at the trapdoor, and he never wanted to talk to Jef or jump off things or catch bugs. All he ever did was look grumpy and bring Jef bowls of carrot soup. He wasn’t a very nice man. Actually, he was a very bad man, but since no one had ever taught Jef the difference between good people and bad people, he didn’t realize it.

Sometimes Jef was sad. Sometimes he was lonely. Sometimes, during the night, when it was dark and the wind was blowing through the rafters, he felt scared. Most of the time, Jef was very hungry.

One morning—Jef always knew when it was morning because he could see the sunshine through a crack in the wall—one morning, Jef was lying on his desk and feeling even hungrier than usual. There had only been two lumps of carrot in his soup the night before, and normally he got three or four. He was too hungry to even play with the ant that was crawling past his face!

Jef’s tummy rumbled, and he sat up and poked at it with his finger. “There’s no use rumbling, Mr. Tummy,” he said. “I’ve got nothing to put inside you, unless you want me eat this ant!”

His tummy rumbled again, louder. Jef could see his belly button wiggling. “No, sir, Mr. Tummy,” he said. “I will not eat that ant, no matter what you say!”

Again his tummy rumbled, even louder this time, and it kept on rumbling so hard that Jef’s desk began to shake, and then the floor began to shake, and then the roof began to shake. Jef began to think that maybe all this rumbling wasn’t actually coming from his tummy!

He jumped down off his desk and went to peek out through the hole in the wall. Instead of seeing two big brick buildings with the sun rising between them, like he normally did, Jef saw a round, silver spaceship covered in blinking blue and green lights flying right towards him! He jumped out of the way, and only just in time. The spaceship came crashing through the wall, scattering bits of wood and brick all over the place.

A door on the side of the spaceship flopped open and a funny little grey-haired, blue-skinned alien jumped out. It was about the same height as Jef, but it had four arms, a round belly, a big, wide nose, and enormous eyes. It was wearing spectacles that were bigger than its face, and they were taped together in the middle.

“Bother and trouble,” it said. “Trouble and bother. What is it this time? The Pompter Valve? The Jumbly Filter? The Warston Gauge?” It popped open a panel on the side of the spaceship and started poking at wires and tapping little beeping buttons.

Jef didn’t know what to do. He’d never had an alien spaceship crash into his attic before. I expect you haven’t, either! Jef was a very curious little boy, so he decided he should at the very least say hello.

He walked up to the alien and tapped it on one of its four shoulders.

The alien jumped in surprise and put two of its hands over its two hearts. “Oh dear!” it said. “You startled me! What are you doing here, little boy?”

“This is where I live,” said Jef.

“You live here?” said the alien. “Little boys aren’t supposed to live in attics. They’re supposed to live in bedrooms.”

“What’s a bedroom?” asked Jef.

The alien shook its head sadly. “You don’t know what a bedroom is? Humans can be so very strange… Hmph!” It went back to fiddling with the wires on its spaceship.

Jef didn’t much like being called “strange,” especially not by a four-armed blue alien with gigantic spectacles, but he was so very curious about the spaceship that he decided not to be mad. “What are you doing to your spaceship?” he asked the alien. “Are you trying to fix it?”

“Yes! Something is wrong with it, but I don’t know what. It started flying crooked as I was going past Earth, and then I lost control and crash-landed all the way down here!” The alien took its spectacles off and rubbed them on its shirt. “My eyesight isn’t what it used to be. Can you read what it says underneath this blinking red light?”

Jef looked at the tiny little words, but it was no use. “No one has ever taught me how to read!” he explained.

The alien wrinkled its wide, flat forehead. “Haven’t you ever been to school?”

“What’s school?” asked Jef.

“Oh dear,” said the alien. “Oh dear, and oh bother. Humans, eh? Humans. School is where you learn important things, like reading and writing and long division and arts and crafts. But I think you can still help me. Take this pencil and copy down the letters you see onto this paper, but bigger. Then I can read them.”

“Okay,” said Jef. He took the pencil and paper that the alien had pulled out of its shirt pocket and started copying the letters. These were the letters he copied:


“There,” he said, when he had finished. “What does this say?”

“Oh, of course!” said the alien. “It says ‘screw loose.’ So that means all I have to do is tighten this here…” He took a screwdriver out of his back pocket and reached up to the engine on the side of the spaceship. There was a screw sticking out a little ways, and the alien used its screwdriver to tighten it back in. “Problem solved!” he said. “At least, I hope so. Thank you so much for your help! Oh, and silly me, I haven’t properly introduced myself. I am YoboHogo, space explorer. What’s your name?”

It took Jef a few seconds to think of his name, because he hadn’t used it in a while, but at last he remembered. “I’m Jef,” he said.

“Pleased to meet you, Jef,” said YoboHogo. “Now I suppose I must be on my way.” He closed the panel on the side of the spaceship and started to climb back in through the door.

“Where are you going?” asked Jef. He didn’t want YoboHogo to leave, not so soon! He had too many questions to ask about what space was like, and how it felt to have blue skin.

“I’m on my way to visit my aunt and uncle on Mars,” said YoboHogo. “And thanks to that loose screw, I’m already late!”

“What are aunts and uncles?” asked Jef. “Can I come visit them with you?”

“I don’t know if that’s a good idea,” said YoboHogo. “What would your parents think?”

“What are parents?” asked Jef. “Do you mean the man at the trapdoor?”

“Doesn’t even know what parents are?” muttered YoboHogo. “Lives in an attic, never taught how to read… You poor boy. Maybe you had better come with me, after all.”

“Hooray!” cried Jef, and in a flash he had crawled into the spaceship behind YoboHogo and settled himself into one of the soft, comfortable seats inside.

YoboHogo pulled the door of the spaceship closed and then buckled Jef tightly into his seat. “Hold on tight while we’re taking off!” he said. He grabbed onto four different controls, one with each hand, and started to twist and turn them all at the same time. The spaceship growled and rumbled and grumbled and howled, and then with a flash of light it zipped backwards out of the hole in the roof of Jef’s attic and zoomed up into the sky.

In just a few seconds the spaceship was so far off the ground that Jef could see for miles and miles in every direction. There were houses everywhere, and big, tall, glass buildings, and roads filled with teeny tiny cars, and mountains, and lakes… Jef had never imagined that all of these things had been surrounding him in his little attic. The only things he had ever known about, for as long as he could remember, were the attic, the trap door, and the brick walls he could see through the crack. Seeing all of these things made Jef feel very, very small.

They flew higher and higher, until the sky turned black and Jef could see the whole Earth way below them, like a big blue and green ball hanging in space.

“Isn’t it pretty?” said YoboHogo. “Your attic is down there somewhere, far, far away, so far away that it’s just a tiny speck, and we can’t even see it.”

“A tiny speck?” said Jef. “Far, far away? Ooooh…” Suddenly he started to cry.

“What is it?” asked YoboHogo. “What’s wrong?”

Between sobs, Jef said, “I’ve never been outside of my attic before, and I’m scared! What if I never see it again?”

“Don’t be sad,” said YoboHogo. “Don’t be scared. You’re on an exciting new adventure now!”

But Jef couldn’t stop crying.

“I know what you need,” said YoboHogo. “Wait right here.” The alien got out of his seat and bustled off into another part of the spaceship. After a couple of minutes he came back carrying a bowl and a little blue bag with a zipper and a bell at the top. “You’re probably hungry for breakfast. Here: eat this.” He handed Jef the bowl.

Jef didn’t recognize what was inside. “This isn’t carrot soup,” he said.

“No,” said YoboHogo. “It’s cereal. I hope you like space cow milk.”

Jef tried the cereal. It was delicious! He liked it far more than watery carrot soup. He ate it all up, and felt much less hungry, but it only made him feel a little bit better. He still missed his attic.

“Now, try this,” said YoboHogo, handing Jef the little blue bag. “It’s a Sad Sack. Next time you start to feel sad, scared, or worried, just open the Sad Sack up and put those feelings inside. You can try it now, if you want.”

Unzipping the bag, Jef held it up and looked inside. “How does it work?” he asked.

“Tell it how you feel,” said YoboHogo.

That sounded like a silly thing to do, but Jef thought it was worth trying, so he said, “I’m sad because I miss my attic.” The bell at the top of the Sack started to jingle, and the Sack shook a little bit in Jef’s hands, and then ZIP!, it zipped itself shut. Even though Jef hadn’t put anything inside it, the sack didn’t look quite as empty as it had before.

“Feel better?” asked YoboHogo.

And Jef did! He stopped crying and wiped his eyes. Something strange was happening to his face. “I feel… funny,” he said.

“Uh oh,” said YoboHogo. “You aren’t getting space-sick, are you?”

Jef had been sick before, and it didn’t feel like that. “I don’t think so,” he said. “I’m all warm and fuzzy inside. What does that mean?”

“Oh,” said YoboHogo, “that just means you’re happy! Don’t you know what happiness feels like, Jef?”

It wasn’t like anything Jef had ever felt before. The corners of his mouth were rising up towards his eyes and he wanted to jump up and down! It was kind of like when he was running around and around his attic in circles, or playing with a caterpillar in his hand, but way better. “What do people do when they’re happy?” asked Jef.

“Well, sometimes they laugh,” said YoboHogo, “like this.” And he laughed, “Ha ha ha ha!” while his round belly wobbled.

Jef tried it: “Ha ha.” It sounded strange, but it felt good. He tried again: “Ha ha hah hah.” And then suddenly he couldn’t stop! “Hah hah hee hee ho ho ho!” he laughed, and YoboHogo laughed with him.

“Now you’ve got it,” said YoboHogo. “It sure is nice to laugh sometimes. But remember, even though you can put your sadness and fear into the Sad Sack, that doesn’t mean it goes away. You have to let those feelings out every now and then, so the Sack doesn’t get too full.”

“Okay,” said Jef, but what he was really thinking was that he never wanted to be sad or scared again, not when being happy felt this good! He put the Sad Sack into his pocket.

“It’s time for us to head to Mars,” said YoboHogo. “It’s going to take a little while to get there, so you can go take a nap on the bed in the back.”

“What’s a bed?” asked Jef.

“A bed is what you sleep on.”

“I sleep on a desk,” said Jef.

YoboHogo said, “I think you’ll like a bed better than a desk.” He led Jef to the bed and tucked him in under the blankets. The bed was so soft and comfortable and warm that Jef fell asleep in three seconds flat!


When Jef woke up, he had been sleeping so deeply that he’d forgotten where he was. What was he doing all wrapped up in these blankets? Why was he so warm? He wasn’t used to being all covered up like this! He yelled and kicked the blankets off.

Then he remembered that he was in a bed aboard YoboHogo’s spaceship, flying through space towards Mars, far away from his quiet, dark attic. For a minute he was scared again, but then he felt the Sad Sack in his pocket. He took it out, opened the zipper, and said, “I’m scared because I’m way up in space!” The bell jingled, the Sack filled up a little bit more, and then it zipped itself shut, and Jef felt better again. He put the Sack back in his pocket, got out of the bed, and went looking for YoboHogo.

He found the alien at the front of the spaceship, sitting in the pilot’s seat and flying with the four joysticks. Where the blue-and-green Earth had been before, there was now a big red planet, covered in white swirling clouds.

“You’re awake!” said YoboHogo, when he saw Jef. “Did you like the bed?”

“Mmhmm,” said Jef, nodding, but he didn’t tell YoboHogo that he’d had to use the Sad Sack again, because he wanted YoboHogo to think he was too brave to need it.

“That’s Mars up ahead,” said YoboHogo. “We’re almost there. Pretty soon you’ll get to meet my aunt and uncle. They’re very nice people. I’m sure you’ll like them.” The alien helped Jef strap into his seat for the landing, and then the spaceship swooped down through the clouds of Mars and went zooming past the red mountains and over the red valleys.

Soon they came to a round blue house sitting on top of a tall, red, dusty hill. The spaceship landed a little ways away. Before they opened the door and got out, YoboHogo gave Jef a little pill to swallow, to help him breathe the Mars air, since air on Mars is very different from air on Earth. The pill made Jef’s mouth and throat feel ticklish.

YoboHogo opened the door of the spaceship and helped Jef down the ladder onto the ground. Two other aliens had come out of the round blue house and were waving their four hands to say hello.

“That’s my aunt and uncle!” said YoboHogo. “Wave hello to them!”

Jef waved, even though he only had two hands to do it with.

YoboHogo said, “Let’s go see if they have supper ready for us.” He took Jef’s hand and led him up the hill to the round blue house. He gave his aunt and uncle each a big, four-armed hug.

“It’s so nice of you to visit!” said YoboHogo’s Uncle UmburBumbur, who had dark blue skin, a belly shaped like a basketball, and big square glasses. “And who is this friend that you brought with you?”

“This is Jef,” said YoboHogo. “I crashed into his attic on Earth. He has spent his whole life sleeping on a desk and eating nothing but carrot soup, so I decided to bring him with me.”

“Oh, you poor dear!” said YoboHogo’s Aunt AndaManda, who had green skin and teeny tiny little glasses shaped like half-moons. “Come on inside. We’ll feed you waffles and strawberries and apple pie. Have you ever had ice cream, Jef?”

Jef hadn’t ever had ice cream—can you imagine?—so he shook his head.

“Poor dear!” cried Aunt AndaManda again. “Poor, poor dear! Quick, Uncle UmburBumbur: get the ice cream!”

They rushed him inside and Uncle UmburBumbur fetched the ice cream from the freezer. Jef took one careful little bite and his face lit up into an enormous smile. He loved it! He started scooping big spoonfuls of ice cream into his mouth, even faster than he could swallow.

YoboHogo laughed. “Slow down, Jef. Slow down! Save some room for the waffles and strawberries!”

When Jef had eaten two heaping bowls of ice cream, Aunt AndaManda give him a waffle covered in strawberries and whipped cream, and he gobbled that up, too, and asked for more.

“Careful, Jef,” said Aunt AndaManda. “You might give yourself a tummy ache.”

“Oh, fiddle faddle,” said Uncle UmburBumber. “Fluff ‘n’ puff. Let the boy eat! He’s had nothing but carrot soup his whole life…”

“Yes, please let me have some more,” begged Jef.

So Aunt AndaManda kept the food coming. Jef had another waffle with strawberries, three pieces of apple pie, and then one more bowl of ice cream for dessert. When he was finished there was a stack of dishes in front of him that was as tall as he was. Uncle UmburBumbur whisked the dishes away into the sink and began washing them.

“To bed with you now, I think!” said Aunt AndaManda. “All that space travel, and all that food, and you’re so far away from home… A good night’s sleep will do you well! YoboHogo, would you show Jef to the guest room?”

YoboHogo brought Jef up the stairs and down the hallway and showed him into the guest room, where there was a nice, big, soft bed waiting. “I told you my aunt and uncle were nice people, didn’t I?” said YoboHogo.

Jef tried to say, “Yes,” but he had eaten so much food that all he could do was roll onto the bed and lie on his back, staring at the ceiling with his mouth open. He looked down at his tummy, and it seemed almost as big and round as all of the aliens’ tummies were! “Oooooh,” he moaned.

“What’s wrong?” asked YoboHogo. “Did you get a tummy ache?”

Jef nodded. The food had all tasted so good, but now he wished he hadn’t eaten so much of it. He remembered that he still had the Sad Sack, though, so he took it out, opened it up, and said, “I feel sick because I ate too much yummy food and got a big tummy ache!” The bell jingled, the Sack swelled up nice and full, and the zipper went zip! and shut tight. Right away Jef’s tummy felt a little better.

“Jef, have you been remembering to let some of your bad feelings out of the Sad Sack now and then, like I told you to?” asked YoboHogo.

Actually, Jef had forgotten all about letting his feelings out. Besides, it felt so nice to put all of his sadness, scared feelings, and tummy aches into the Sack. Why would he want to let any of those things back out again? Why shouldn’t he make himself feel better all the time? Jef decided to tell a lie. “Yes, I’ve been letting them out,” he said.

“Good,” said YoboHogo. “It’s very important, you know. Well, have a nice sleep! I’ll see you in the morning.” He turned out the light and closed the door.

Jef fell asleep and dreamed of mountains of waffles and strawberries, covered in snow made of ice cream.


The next morning Jef was woken up by the happy singing voice of Aunt AndaManda. “Wake up, wake up, sleepy little boy!” she sang. “You wouldn’t want to miss breakfast, would you?”

Jef sat up and asked, “What’s breakfast?”

“Breakfast is the meal you eat in the morning,” said Aunt AndaManda. “Haven’t you ever eaten breakfast before?”

Of course, Jef hadn’t. He was only used to getting carrot soup for supper. He didn’t know that people usually ate three meals every day instead of just one. “Oh boy!” he said. “Do I get to have more waffles?”

“No,” said Aunt AndaManda. “Here on Mars we eat waffles for supper and have chicken and potatoes for breakfast!”

Jef didn’t know what chicken and potatoes were, so he didn’t know how silly it was to eat them for breakfast. He just thought they sounded delicious—and, of course, he was right. “Hooray!” he said, and he jumped out of bed with a giant smile.

YoboHogo and Uncle UmburBumbur were already downstairs waiting. Everyone sat down, and Uncle UmburBumbur said thank you for the food, and Jef started eating as fast as he could. Yum yum yum! The chicken and potatoes were so delicious. Jef especially loved the gravy. He even ate a big bunch of broccoli! This time, though, Jef remembered to stop eating before he gave himself another tummy ache.

When everyone was done eating and Uncle UmburBumbur had taken the dishes away, YoboHogo said, “We’ve had such a wonderful time visiting you here on Mars, Aunt AndaManda and Uncle UmburBumbur, but I think I should bring Jef home.”

“Oh no!” said Jef. “But I want to stay here!”

“We can’t stay on Mars forever,” said YoboHogo. “I have lots more exploring to do, and it’s time for you to go back to Earth.”

This made Jef very sad. He had been having so much fun here on Mars. His smile drooped down into a frown, and then into a very sad face. He sniffled, and was almost going to cry, but before he did, he took out the Sad Sack and opened it up. He said, “I feel very sad because I want to stay here on Mars and not go back to Earth.”

The Sad Sack shook and swelled up very full, and the bell jingled, and the Sack began to shake harder and harder.

“What’s happening to it?” asked Jef. “Why is it shaking so hard?”

“Haven’t you been letting your feelings out?” said YoboHogo.

Jef knew he couldn’t lie again. “No,” he admitted. “I didn’t want to be sad or scared anymore.”

“If you haven’t been letting your feelings out, then the Sack has gotten too full!” said YoboHogo. “Now all of those feelings are going to come out whether you want them to or not. Here they come!”

The Sad Sack jumped out of Jef’s hands onto the floor and shook around and around and around until suddenly POOF!, out jumped a little yellow monster with ugly red eyes, a flat, piggy nose, four stubby legs, a brown-and-yellow tail, and sharp bristly hairs all over its body. It hissed like a cat and leapt up onto the table.

“It’s a Sadness Monster!” cried Aunt AndaManda. “Look out!”

The Sadness Monster spotted Jef, flicked its tail, and pounced onto his head. It grabbed Jef’s head with its legs and wrapped its tail around his neck, and suddenly Jef began to feel so sad, and so scared, and so sick all at once that he didn’t know what to do!

“Help me!” said Jef. “Oh, please help me!” Before he could stop himself, he started to cry and scream and sob and wail.

Then he felt twelve arms wrap around him tight, as YoboHogo, Aunt AndaManda, and Uncle UmburBumbur all gave him a big, warm group hug. All three of them started to cry with Jef, helping to share his sadness and fear.

The Sadness Monster howled and yowled and hissed, but it quickly began to shrink, smaller and smaller, until pop!, it disappeared.

The three aliens let go of their hugs and lifted up their glasses and wiped their eyes on their sleeves. “How do you feel, Jef?” asked YoboHogo. “Are you all right?”

Jef wasn’t sure how to feel. He was still a little bit sad, but he felt much better now that the Sadness Monster was gone.

YoboHogo said, “That’s what happens when you put all of your bad feelings into the Sad Sack and never let them out. If you store up too many at once, they turn into a Sadness Monster and attack you! But if you have people who love you, like your family or your friends, they can help share your sad or scared or sick feelings, and then those feelings aren’t so bad.”

“Thank you for helping me,” said Jef. “I wish I had family or friends back on Earth, though! There’s nobody to help me with my feelings in my attic except for the man at the trapdoor, and all he ever goes is look grumpy and bring me carrot soup.”

“Hmm,” said YoboHogo. “Hmm hmm hmm. Maybe we can do something about that! I have an idea we can try once we get back to your attic.”

Aunt AndaManda gave Jef some waffles and ice cream to take along for the flight back to Earth, and Uncle UmburBumbur picked up the Sad Sack and gave it back to Jef.

“Thank you!” said Jef. “Maybe I can come visit you again someday.”

“We would like that very much,” said Uncle UmburBumbur.

Jef gave Uncle UmburBumbur and Aunt AndaManda both one last hug, and then he and YoboHogo went back to the spaceship, got inside, and blasted off for Earth.


When they made it back to Jef’s house, there were workmen up on the roof trying to repair the hole that YoboHogo’s ship had made in Jef’s attic. The workmen looked up and saw the spaceship and were so scared that they dropped all their tools and went running away down the street.

YoboHogo flew the spaceship through the hole into the attic again and he and Jef climbed out. As much as Jef had loved Mars and hadn’t wanted to leave, it felt good to be back in his familiar home again.

“Here you are, safe and sound,” said YoboHogo. “And before I leave, I’d better put my plan into action!”

“What plan?” asked Jef. “What are you going to do?”

“Watch and see,” said YoboHogo. He had Jef hide behind his old desk, and then went to the trapdoor and stomped on it three times, stomp stomp stomp.

After a few seconds, Jef heard the sound of footsteps, and the trapdoor swung open. The man at the trapdoor stuck his bald head up, frowning and grumbling. “You workmen always have some new complaint!” he said, and then he saw YoboHogo and his spaceship. The man’s eyes grew extra wide, and his mouth opened up in a big “O”. “Wh-who are you?” he said. “Wh-what in the world are you?”

“I am YoboHogo!” said YoboHogo, holding all four of his arms out wide and shaking them around. “I have come from Mars to live in your attic! Boogidy-boo!”

The man in the trapdoor squeaked like a big mouse and ran back down his ladder, letting the trapdoor fall shut behind him.

“I think my plan is working!” said YoboHogo to Jef.

“How is it working?” asked Jef. “I don’t understand.”

“You’ll see,” said YoboHogo. “Just wait here. You’ll see. Now, it’s time for me to go do some more exploring. I’m off to Venus next! Goodbye, Jef. I’ll see you again someday soon.”

Jef gave YoboHogo a big hug and said, “Goodbye, YoboHogo!”

Then YoboHogo climbed into his spaceship, started up the engines, and flew off into space, making the whole attic rumble.

Jef sat on his desk and waited for YoboHogo’s plan to work. He wondered what was supposed to be happening, and how long he was supposed to wait.

After a while, he heard footsteps climbing the ladder to the trapdoor. Was the man at the trapdoor coming back again so soon?

The trapdoor opened up and someone stuck their head through, but it wasn’t the man at the trapdoor. It was a woman in a blue hat. “I don’t see an alien or a spaceship,” said the woman in the blue hat. Then she saw Jef. “Oh, hello, little boy,” she said. “What’s your name?”

“Hi,” said Jef. “I’m Jef.”

The woman in the blue hat climbed all the way up into the attic. She was wearing a blue shirt, too, and she had a shiny badge stuck onto her shirt. “What are you doing up here all alone, Jef?” she asked.

“I live here,” said Jef. “I’ve lived here for as long as I can remember. But I just got back from a visit to Mars.”

“Is that so?” said the woman in the blue hat. “You know, you look familiar, Jef. I think maybe I’ve seen a picture of you before. Yes, I’ve definitely seen your picture back at the police station. It’s been hanging on the wall there.”

The man at the trapdoor climbed up behind the policewoman and said, “It was right here, I tell you! A big round silver spaceship, and a blue alien with giant glasses and four arms!”

“There’s no spaceship,” said the policewoman, “but there is my new friend Jef. I’ve been looking for him for a long time, and now I’ve found him! Why don’t we all go to the police station to celebrate?”

The man at the trapdoor didn’t seem very happy about going to the police station, but Jef was excited. He didn’t know what a police station was, or why the policewoman had been looking for him, but it sounded like an adventure, and he now knew how much fun adventures could be.

Jef got to ride in a car all the way to the police station. It was kind of like YoboHogo’s spaceship, but it stayed on the ground and didn’t go as fast. When they got to the police station, a man and a woman were waiting for them.

“These are your parents,” said the policewoman as they got out of the car. “Do you remember them?”

Jef didn’t, but he did remember YoboHogo talking about parents once, and saying that he was supposed to have some. It turned out he did, after all! He hoped they would be as nice as Uncle UmburBumbur and Aunt AndaManda.

Jef walked up to his parents and said, “Hi. I’m Jef!”

“Hello, Jef,” said his parents. They were both looking at him and crying.

Jef knew what to do about that. He reached into his pocket for the Sad Sack, but to his surprise, it was gone! How could he help his parents now?

Then he remembered: there was another way to help people when they were sad. He reached out his arms and gave both of his parents a big, warm hug.