Frances Spencer

This is an advance copy of my story, "Mother Nature Knows Best," which I hope to illustrate myself, then print and publish as a book. Copyright. Any illegal reproduction of this content will result in legal action.


Lambert was only six years old, but he often had deep thoughts. He wondered about things. He especially wondered about food. One evening at dinner, he asked, “Mom, how come you keep telling me carrots and string beans are good for me even though I hate’ em, and chocolate candy is bad for me even though I love it. How come, mom?

“Because,” said his mother, “It’s the way nature made us. Veggies are for every day but candy is for once in a while.”

“The way Nature made us?” Lambert asked. “What is nature?”

“Well, it’s like this. Look at the trees and the flowers. They know they need water, soil and sunshine to make them grow strong and beautiful. You don’t see a tree eating ice cream do you?” Lambert tried to imagine a tree eating an ice cream cone. He laughed. “That’s funny, mom.”

His mother continued. “A squirrel eats acorns and nuts all day, not candy bars.” Lambert tried to picture a squirrel stashing a candy bar in the oak tree. He laughed again. Mother said, “Do you know what birds eat all day?

Lambert answered, “I know, they eat seeds and bugs.”

“Very good,” said mother. Now you’re getting it. Can you imagine what would happen to a bird if it ate a cherry pie?”

Yeah,” said Lambert, “When he tried to fly, he’d fall out of the tree.” They both laughed.

“You’ve got the idea. The trees and flowers and animals know what’s good for them. Nature tells them what to do. Sometimes we call her Mother Nature. She’s the mother of us all.”

“Wow,” said Lambert. So where can I find Mother Nature? I’d like to talk to her about my eating problem. Maybe something can be done about it.”

“It’s just a figure of speech. There’s no actual mother. We just call it that. Nature is everything around us, everything you see and hear, touch and smell. Nature isn’t really a he or she. I guess you could say that Nature is an IT.”

Lambert tried to picture an “it” but all he could imagine was a big green monster, and he didn’t like that at all. So Lambert said, “Maybe if I could talk to Nature, I could get her – I mean It – to change its mind.”

“I don’t think so,” his mother said. “There are rules, and they were made a long time ago. I don’t think Nature can change the rules now.” Mother cleared off the table and began washing the dishes. Lambert looked down at his plate, and forced himself to eat some of his vegetables so he could grow up to be strong as a tree, quick as a squirrel, and swift as a bird. He ate some, but his heart wasn’t in it.

That night, mom and dad tucked Lambert into bed, kissed him goodnight, and tiptoed out. Lambert lay there a long time in the dark, thinking about nature. maybe I could get nature to change its mind, if only. . . He called softly, “Nature, oh nature, where are you? “ As he drifted off to sleep, he wondered what Nature really looked like. His mom had said nature was just an “It.” But wouldn’t it be great if nature were really a mother instead of just an It?

Lambert was about to fall asleep, when suddenly he felt a tickle on his cheek, as if a feather were brushing across his face. He opened his eyes, and there stood a beautiful lady who looked exactly like his mother except that on her back were black polka dots like a ladybug, and golden antennae growing out of her forehead. He thought perhaps it was his mother all dressed up for Halloween, except it wasn’t Halloween.

“Mom?” He sat up in bed and blinked. The pretty lady smiled at him. “No, I’m not your mother. I am Mother Nature!”

“Oh boy,” Lambert whispered, “you’re not a green monster after all. You’re not even an It. You really ARE Mother Nature. How did you know I wanted to meet you?”

The lady smiled. “I heard you call me, Lambert, so here I am.”

“That’s cool. Are you really in charge of everything – even eating?”

“I certainly am. Now that you’ve found me, tell me what you want.”

“Okay, I have a little favor to ask. I know you can do it if you want to – Mother Nature.” He spoke her name respectfully.

“What is the little favor, Lambert?”

“Well – can you fix it so I can eat all the sweet stuff I want, and still grow up to be big and strong?”

“That’s not a little favor. It’s a big one. There are rules, you know. I can’t change the rules for one kid. If I change the rules, it’ll have to be for everyone.”

“Please Mother Nature, please,” Lambert begged.

She thought about it for a moment. “There’s no guarantee it will work. But if it does, then it will have to be for all the children in the world.”

“Oboy,” said Lambert. Right at that moment, he didn’t care about all the children in the world. He could only think that, “I’ll be able to eat all the ice cream and candy I want. And I’ll never have to eat veggies or oatmeal again.”

“Well, we shall see,” said Mother Nature, as she leaned over and kissed Lambert, just like his mom always did. “Now go back to sleep,” she said, “and when you wake up, the world may be different.”

Lambert fell asleep, and he dreamed of a wonderful land where everything was made of sweet stuff to eat. The houses were made of layer cake with holes cut out for windows and red frosting for roofs. The trees were candy canes and the leaves were spun sugar. Mountains were ice cream, and rivers were root beer floats. In his dream, Lambert ate and ate, and he grew and grew. Soon he was as big as the incredible hulk with muscles to match.

When Lambert woke up, it was morning, the world looked the same as usual. “What a funny dream I had,” he said to himself. His mother came in to help him get ready for school.

“Mom,” he said, “I had the funniest dream, all about Mother Nature, and she looked just like you.”

His mother laughed. “Oh she did, did she?” Then she looked surprised. “Wait a minute. How did you know about Mother Nature?”

“Remember? Yesterday you said nature is an It, but sometimes they call It Mother Nature. Remember?”

“I don’t remember any such thing,” his mother said. She looked at him in amazement. “Anyway, it’s time for a good hot breakfast.” She went to the refrigerator and came back carrying a huge ice cream sundae with mounds of vanilla ice cream covered in steaming hot chocolate fudge. She set it down on the table in front of Lambert. “Here’s your breakfast,”she said.

“Wow,” said Lambert. His eyes widened. “A hot fudge sundae for breakfast? But mom, what happened to my hot oatmeal and my toast and butter? And where’s the big glass of milk you always give me for breakfast?” After a moment, he said, “I know, mom. This is a joke, right? To teach me a lesson because I always ask for sweet stuff to eat?”He laughed. “Okay, mom, I got the joke. But I still want my glass of milk.”

His mom looked worried. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. This is the same breakfast you’ve been eating since you were three years old. Don’t you want to grow up big and strong like your daddy?”

Lambert had a hard time holding back tears. “Mom, You can stop now. I got the message.” At that moment, Lambert looked more closely at his mom’s face. “Yeow!” He shrieked, when he saw that her eyes were two big chocolate cookies and her hair was made of black and red licorice pulls.

Then, Lambert realized it hadn’t been a dream, that Mother Nature really had visited him last night, and that when she had said “tomorrow the world may be different,” she wasn’t kidding! It was different all right, but he wasn’t sure he liked it. In fact, he was downright scared.

His mom interrupted his thoughts. “What’s the matter, Lambert? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

Just then, his dad came into the dining room and—just as Lambert had feared—yes, his dad had raisin cookie eyes and lollipops for hair, and his face and hands were made of some kind of crumbly cake. It seemed that both his mother and father had been changed into something that wasn’t human any more. Lambert was sure of one thing—he didn’t want to grow up looking like them.

His mother said, “Now Lambert, hurry and eat or you’ll be late to school.” She turned to father. “What’s wrong with the boy?”

“Well you know he never likes to eat what’s good for him,” father said. Then leaning closer to Lambert, he added, “Don’t you want to grow up big and strong like me?” As he spoke, little raisinets and M&M’s fell out of his hair. “Drat,” said father, “It’s that dandruff again!”

Lambert jumped out of his chair in terror. His father said, “What’s the matter? Mother, I don’t know what’s gotten into him. Why don’t you just give him some oatmeal and whole grain toast? It’s obvious he’s not going to eat what’s good for him, like a nice big hot fudge sundae.”

As father spoke, two of his teeth fell out and bounced on the floor. Lambert got down on his hands and knees to peer at them. Just as he feared, he could see that they were not teeth, but were actually two small white marshmallows. “Oh my goodness,” Lambert shouted, “That’s gross!”

“What’s the big deal?” Father said, as if it were nothing. “I’ll just eat a couple of S’mores and they’ll grow back.”

Lambert then called as loud as he could, “Mother Nature, get me out of here!”

“What’s with him?” said father. “He’s never acted like this before.”

Mother touched Lambert’s forehead with her crumbly cake fingers. “No fever,” mother said. “Okay, just this one time, until you come back to your senses.” She brought him a bowl of oatmeal with toast and milk. “Now finish up and then you can go to school. But tonight you’d better eat your cake and ice cream for dinner. Or no TV for you.”

Lambert slurped up the entire bowlful of oatmeal and asked for more. It had never tasted so good.

“Now that’s all you get,” said mother. “You can’t grow up big and strong eating that goat food.” She handed Lambert his lunch box. He took the bus to school. In the classroom, everything seemed normal until he noticed that some of the kids had cookies for eyes and the teacher had a face that looked kind of flat, like a pie. He tried not to notice, but he felt really weirded out. He thought out loud. “I wish I had never asked Mother Nature to change things,” he said, and all the students turned to stare at him. Suddenly, he couldn’t stop himself from calling out, as loud as he could, “Mother Nature, where are you?” But there was no answer. The teacher looked at him sternly. “Lambert, what on earth is the matter with you?”

“Sorry, teacher, I’ll be quiet.” He thought he’d better act polite, or something worse might happen. At lunchtime, Lambert sat in the school courtyard with his lunchbox full of cookies, candy and bottle of flavored cola. His regular pals sat with him acting perfectly normal as if it were nothing special for them to have gummy bears for hair, and raisinets for eyes.

Suddenly, something occurred to Lambert. “I wonder if—” He peered down at his arms and hands. He was horrified to realize that he was turning into a gingerbread boy. It was only a matter of time and he would be just like them.

That night at dinner his mom brought out a big platter with a cake in the shape of a roasted turkey covered with gravy that was really hot fudge. It had two fake legs and was surrounded by carrots made of orange frosting, and potatoes made of vanilla ice cream already melting in the steaming hot fudge gravy.

Mother smiled broadly, her marshmallow teeth gleaming. “I thought if I made your dinner in the shape of a turkey, with potatoes and carrots, you would like it better. You can pretend it’s the real thing. How’s that? She smiled so broadly that one of her marshmallow teeth fell out. But she hardly seemed to notice.

“Yuk!” Lambert said.

“Mother added, “See how hard I work to please you? I spent all day preparing a special dinner so you could eat what’s good for you and grow up big and strong like—“

I know,” Lambert inerrupted, “so I can grow up big and strong like daddy.” Then, he blurted out, “I don’t want to grow up like you or daddy!”

His mother frowned, and then looked kind of sad as if she were about to cry. Lambert quickly added. “I mean, I love you and daddy but—I don’t want cakey hands and licorice hair and marshmallow teeth that keep falling out.”

“Now, Lambert,” mother said gently, “let me remind you that you already have those things, so you might as well not fret about it. So if you want to grow up big and strong . . .”

“Yeah, mom, I know,” said Lambert. He realized they didn’t have a clue. He began to feel sorry for them. They were trying so hard, but they were stuck in this new world the same as he was. The only difference was that he remembered the way it used to be, and they didn’t, and that made it even worse for him.

By now, Lambert had eaten so much sweet stuff that his tummy had swelled up and it began to hurt. “I can’t eat any more cake and candy,” he said in desperation. “Please mom, please just give me some milk. That’s all I want.”

“Oh dear,” said mother, “you must be coming down with the flu. Well, all right, here’s some milk, and it’s off to bed with you.”

Lambert crawled under the covers, thankful for the glass of milk. He didn’t dare change into his pj’s, for he was afraid some parts of him might crumble away. Soon his mother came into his room carrying a steaming bowl of something. He was afraid to look.

She said, “I brought you some good old fashioned chicken soup like grandma used to make.”

“Oboy, give it here.” Lambert looked into the bowl, sniffed it, put his finger in and tasted it. “Yech!” he said. It was definitely not chicken soup. It seemed to be hot raspberry syrup with chicken-shaped jelly babies floating in it. “Gee, mom,” he said. “I thought it was real soup. You lied to me.”

“Whatever do you mean? It is real soup.” She touched his forehead again. you’ve been acting very strangely. A good night’s sleep should help. I’ll just leave this nice, hot chicken soup by your bed. Try to eat some later. You know I love you. I’m only trying to do what’s best for you.”

“Sure, mom, I know.”

She kissed him goodnight, turned down the light, and left the room. Lambert felt so alone. He was an outsider in a strange new world. “Well, boy,” he said to himself, “You asked for it.” He called softly, “Mother Nature, where are you?” He called and called. The tears began to course down his cheeks. “Mother Nature,” he sobbed, “Don’t leave me like this. I don’t want to grow up to be a gingerbread man with raisin cookie eyes and crumbly, cakey skin. Please, if you help me now, I’ll never ask you for a favor again. “

Suddenly, there she was. She stepped out of the darkness and hovered over him, her ladybug wings fluttering. She kissed his cheek. “Don’t cry, boy. I’m here now.”

Lambert hugged her. “Oh, Mother Nature, am I glad to see you. Can you ever put things back the way they were?”

She answered, “It wasn’t easy to change the rules in the first place. I hope I can change them back. You see, the rules were set a long time ago. I’d say about fifteen billion years ago when the universe began. It’s pretty hard to change the rules now. Humans have been trying to do that a lot lately, but it doesn’t seem to be working out.”

“You will try, won’t you?”

“Yes, I will try. But no guarantees. Now go to sleep.”

Lambert closed his eyes. As he drifted off to sleep, he whispered to Mother Nature, “If you can put things back the way they were, I’ll never complain again. I’ll eat everything that’s good for me. I’ll never eat another piece of cake or a cookie or ice cream as long as I live.” He thought it over and added, “Well, maybe just a little bit for dessert.” Then he fell into a sound and dreamless sleep.

When he woke up, the first thing he heard was his father calling, “Time for breakfast!” Lambert ran to look into the mirror. He could see he was his old self again. He couldn’t stop laughing. “Cool! No more cookie eyes and cakey hands.” Then he stopped to wonder about his mother and father, and asked himself what they will look like, this morning. He couldn’t wait to find out.

Lambert took off the clothes he had slept in, and changed into a fresh clean shirt, and another pair of trousers and jacket. He had never dressed so fast, and all by himelf too. He rushed into the kitchen, and stared at his mother and father and he could see that they were their old selves again. He shouted, “Yay! Everything is okay again.” Then, added, “Mom, I want plenty of oatmeal this morning!”

His mother and father looked at each other questioningly. “Oboy,” said Lambert, “I am so glad everything is back the way it used to be!”

“What do you mean?” asked his father.

“Oh, nothing,” Lambert said, digging into his oatmeal. When he finished the bowl, he took a big bite of toast and butter, and drank not one but two cups of milk. His mother and father looked at each other.

“What’s gotten into him?” asked mother. “All of a sudden he can’t get enough oatmeal, and before, all he ever wanted to eat was candy and cookies.

“I thought you hated oatmeal,” said father.

“Oh no. I love oatmeal. And I love real turkey and carrots and potatoes too. Can I have some for dinner, mom?”

“I don’t get it,” his mother said. “Whatever happened, Lambert?”

“You’d never believe me, if I told you,” said Lambert, as he looked out the window into the garden. There, he thought he saw—could it be? Something glittered behnd the rose bush. Then a flash of color flickered between the branches of the tulip tree. He wondered, was that a bright eye peeking at him from behind the hollyhock blossoms?

Lambert called out, “Mother Nature?” Something very small flew up against the window pane, and stayed there. It was a ladybug! Lambert pressed his fingers against the window. On the other side of the pane, the ladybug crawled toward his fingers and lingered there for a moment, waving its antennae as if it understood. Then, it flew off.

Lambert laughed. “Thanks, Mother Nature. I won’t forget you.”

His mother smiled. “I’d better thank her, too.” She shouted, “Thanks, Mother Nature, wherever you are!”

Then, father joined in. “Thanks, Mother Nature.”

A butterfly flew up out of the rosebush, hovered for a moment and disappeared into the sunshine. Lambert, along with his mother and father, waved. Then all together in a chorus shouted, “Bye.”

by Frances Spencer