Beaming with accomplishment, Professor Utonium stood
back to admire his work.
He hadnt really set out to do anything spectacular.
It was a hot Spring day, and he was getting restless and fidgety over the reams of paperwork he had to complete at his desk.
Predictably he had become distracted, and had absently started to doodle the chemical composition of various soft drinks in
his notepad. Suddenly a wave of inspiration washed over him. He began scribbling numbers out on his chalkboard, toying around
with various sums and chemical equations. Fifteen minutes later, he had come up with what looked to be the formula for permanently
fizzy soft drink.
His eyes scanned over the trail of symbols, part of him searching for any previously unnoticed errors,
part of him smugly basking in his own ingenuity.
Time for a break, he murmured, ascending the staircase
of his laboratory. He decided that a cold root beer would be the perfect toast to his accomplishment, and he began daydreaming
about the money that his new patent would bring in for his family.
Bubbles Utonium bounded down the stairs, two at a time,
to land with a clumsy and playful thud on the landing in the family room. It was too hot to play outside today and there had
been no distress calls from the Mayor, so she had spent the afternoon in her bedroom playing hospital with her stuffed toys.
that had grown tiresome. As soon as lunch was over, her family had dispersed to separate ends of the house to immerse themselves
in solitary activity. She had tried to entertain herself as best she could, but the little girl was not in the mood to be
all by her lonesome. She needed stimulation.
Skipping across the room, Bubbles decided she had the
best shot with her father. Maybe she could coax him out of his lab for a game or two. Besides, it didnt sound like being stuck
down there doing math all day was much fun.
Pushing the door ajar, she peered down the stairs.
the lab was empty.
She decided to enter anyway, willing to wait for his return.
For a few moments Bubbles stood there
listlessly, humming a bouncy, formless tune. Then her eyes rested on Utoniums chalkboard, standing conspicuous and askew by
And more importantly, she also spied the colourful lengths of chalk lying beneath it.
Pacing out of the kitchen, Utonium took a sip from his
can of drink, which was a thankful relief from the heat. He thought with a smirk about how the brand of root beer in his hand
would be completely outmoded once he sold his little innovation off. Soon, flat soda would be a thing of the past. Of course,
he would still have to test the drink to see if any of the modifications to the original formula had other, unpleasant side
effects. But that would be easy to execute. He also pondered about how he could examine ways of making the beverage remain
permanently ice cold.
He descended the steps to his lab. No more time for
complacency. First and foremost, he would have to preserve the new formula in his notepad
Look what I drew, Daddy!
Bubbles joyful expression
met him at the bottom of the stairs, her little face grubby with chalk dust.
Reluctantly, Utoniums gaze met the
The elaborate formula was gone, smudged and obscured by drawings of smiley-faced butterflies, their wings rendered
lovingly in white and yellow chalk.
His can fell to the floor, splattering flat root beer all over the tiles.
Sandra Keane-Utonium shuffled her way out of the laundry,
gingerly balancing a teetering tower of colour-coded tunics in her arms. With a sigh, she wondered how her three daughters
managed to get so many dresses dirty in the space of one week.
She set them down on the coffee table in the family
room and went to fetch the ironing board. As she passed the door to her husbands lab, she heard an all too familiar, high-pitched
whimper emit from within its white cavernous interior.
In turn, this was drowned out by a second voice:
What were you
THINKING? I dont come into your room without permission and scribble over your homework!
Oh, boy. What had happened now?
She poked her head inside. John?
As soon as Bubbles
spotted her, she zipped up into her arms, desperately clutching her sleeve.
Sandra looked down at the tearful moppet in
her arms. Whats going on?
Utoniums face was harsh and steely. Bubbles came in here without permission and destroyed a very
important project I was working on, he said in a tone normally reserved for teenage delinquents and army recruits.
mean to! the girl defiantly wailed. I didnt know it was important!
Regardless, you showed a total disrespect for the property
Utonium paused, crossing his arms.
Youre grounded for two weeks!
Bubbles started up in a new fit of sobbing. Pulling
her closer, Sandra looked up at Utonium, down to Bubbles, then back to Utonium. He was passionate about preserving his workSandra
knew from experience how incensed the usually meek and tolerant man could get if anyone impeded upon it.
asked calmly, why were you in the lab?
The girl sniffled. I was looking for Daddy and I knew he was working in here today,
but when I came in there was no-one around so I decided to wait until he came back and
And you consider that reason enough
to deface my work? Utonium chided.
John Sandra shot the man a stern gaze, and turned back to Bubbles.
Now, honey, you
know that what you did was wrong. You should ask before using other peoples things.
The blue-eyed tyke nodded sullenly.
It wont happen again.
Sandra gave her a comforting nuzzle. While one
child had learnt her lesson today, there was still an even bigger baby to take care of. Utonium stood there, arms crossed,
an almost charming pout upon his otherwise grown-up face. He was obstinate, still resentful over losing the fruits of his
labour to a spontaneous five-year-old muse.
What did you lose? Her voice was even and patient.
formula for a new invention. A good one. It could have brought us a healthy profit. Not to mention it could have changed peoples
lifestyles the world over
Sandra nodded. It sounded like another of her husbands attempts to save humanity. He was always
trying to play the role of saviour like that, tinkering with new methods of recycling, curing disease and other such societal
aids. Sandra just loved that compassionate and idealistic streak of his.
A new kind of medicine or something? She inquired.
shook his head. Permanently fizzy soft drink.
Something snapped inside Sandra. Soft drink? That
was his big breakthrough? Thats what he was getting so uptight about? She could have understood her husbands harsh punishment
of Bubbles had she ruined the cure for AIDS or the ultimate clean and re-useable fuel source The righteousness in her reflected
upon the practices of the ethically bankrupt soda companies, the dubious chemical compounds mixed into each new recipe, the
amount of children whose teeth were rotting away thanks to the drink
You must be kidding me! she blurted out.
refuted, his pride suddenly injured.
You cant tell me that soda means that much to you.
Thats beside the point, Sandy.
Bubbles destroyed something that I worked very hard on.
I didnt kn Bubbles tried to protest, but her mother cut in.
just how long did it take?
Utonium froze, an abashed expression creeping onto his face. About fifteen minutes, he answered
reluctantly. A moment or two later he regained his confidence, crossing his arms and frowning intensely at Bubbles. But that
makes no difference. It was a discovery that could have brought a lot of money in for us.
Oh yes, Sandy scoffed, were
just up to our necks in poverty right here, arent we? We could really use another few grand to spend on abstract sculptures
for the family room.
Utonium winced. Despite the sweet kindly persona, Sandy could be quite cutting when she wanted to.
John. If holding a grudge against your child for one careless action really means that much to you, then go ahead. But dont
expect me to show any sympathy the next time you accidentally throw out one of her crayon drawings.
Ouch. Perhaps he was being a little strict with Bubbles,
but being reminded of the occasions when he had done that was just too much.
He sheepishly looked back at the two pairs
of crystal blue eyes staring up at him. One was penetrating and adamant, one was hurt, remorseful and brimming with tears
Come here, sweetheart. Utonium opened out his arms and
an apologetic Bubbles floated into them, grasping his neck in a desperate and longed-for embrace.
I forgive you. He said
quietly, rhythmically stroking the crown of her golden-haired head.
She sniffled, and hugged him even tighter.
The harsh look on Sandras face had melted away completely:
she was delighting in the scene before her. You big softie, she cooed.
With Bubbles supported in his left arm, he used
his right to take Sandras hand. How about I make us all some afternoon tea?
Bubbles lifted her head, a resilient and eager
little smile gracing her tear-streaked face. Whatll we have?
Anything but soft drink.
Sandra couldnt help but laugh
at the corny quip.
And with that, the three of them ascended the stairs once again, shutting the laboratory door behind