“Edwin, will you tuck a blanket around Reesha? I don't want to drop stitches on this scarf,” Granny Greta said as her knitting needles flashed through woolen strands of red and brown.
“Here you go, little cousin. I hope you feel better soon,” Edwin said.
Eight year old Reesha coughed and snuggled deeper into the blanket. “Granny, can I change the view please?” she asked.
“Go right ahead, dearie.”
“Mr. Spectacular, change to fireside view. With mountains. And snow,” Reesha commanded of the house AI.
“What do you say?” Mr. Spectacular responded
Instantly, the wall of windows looking out to a blooming garden surrounded by a white picket fence changed to a roaring fire within a brick fireplace flanked by windows looking out to snow-capped mountains.
“Now I feel like I want to stay inside anyway.” Reesha coughed again. “Granny, why did you name your house so weird?”
“Because he's spectacular. I didn't have such things when I was your age.”
Edwin snorted. “Granny, house AIs have been around for hundreds of years. Since before people even came to Mars.”
Reesha ignored them. “Granny, will you tell me a story?”
“I do know a good one about a beanstalk,” Granny Greta said.
“No, a true story. About you when you were a kid,” Reesha said.
“It is. I once grew an amazing beanstalk. It was so strong and tall I could climb up it. Have you ever seen a beanstalk?”
“We grew plants from beans in science class, but they were small,” Reesha said.
“Yeah, Granny. How'd you get such a big beanstalk? Even the ones at the hydroponics lab aren't very big.” Edwin grinned. He enjoyed trying to catch Granny in a lie.
“Well, that's explained in the story. When I was a kid, we didn't have very much food – that was before the microreplicators were invented – so my mother asked me to sell our cow at the market and buy food.”
Edwin grabbed a cookie from the platter on the coffee table then leaned back into his chair. “Granny, have you ever even seen a cow? There's hardly any on Mars.”
“We had one of the first cows brought to Mars. Anyway, I carried our cow carefully in the crook of my arm all the way to the market. I loved that cow and didn't want to sell her to some farmer who would try to get her to produce milk on Mars-grown feed, a futile endeavor.”
“What does futile mean?” Reesha piped in.
“It means something that’s impossible to work.... like ever finishing this story with all these interruptions.” Granny looked up from her knitting to see Edwin wink at Reesha. Reesha giggled.
Granny Greta continued the story. “But on the way to the market, I met a strange little man with a green pointy cap who offered to play a song on his magical flute.”
“That's the wrong story, Granny.” Edwin said, clearly enjoying himself.
“Who's telling this story, young man? Anyway, the little man could play a magic song to fill my pockets with gold coins if I would give him my beloved cow. Since money was what I needed anyway, I agreed to the trade.”
“But the food depot only takes standard digi-credits,” Reesha said.
“Oh, that's right. But I had a plan. Because up the beanstalk...” Granny paused. “Umm, far beyond the skyscrapers of New Moscow I had grown a giant beanstalk from magic beans. The beanstalk was so tall it reached to the sky. With my pockets full of gold coins I climbed up that beanstalk and saw the most spectacular sight. A huge stone castle hovering in the clouds and an evil giant coming out the front door.”
Instantly, a tremendous face with glaring black eyes loomed on the wall where the fireplace used to be.
“Aargh!” Edwin shouted as he fell out of his chair.
Reesha doubled over, laughing.
“Mr. Spectacular!” Granny said. “That's not what I wanted.”
“Did you want more of an ogre look?” Mr. Spectacular asked. “I believe the original story had an ogre.”
“No, change it back to the fireplace, please.”
The giant face and castle disappeared. Reesha laughed into her blanket as Edwin climbed sheepishly into his chair.
Granny Greta put her knitting down. "I think this is a good spot to end the story."
“But Granny, what about –”
“Maybe another time. You need to rest now.”
Reesha pulled the blanket over her head, grinning from ear to ear.