"Anastasia and the Mess"
"Anastasia and the Mess"
“Mom!” shouted Anastasia. “I can’t find my snow ski!” Anastasia peered round her bedroom. One ski lay beneath a baby bathtub. Where was the other one?
Anastasia kicked a pathway across her purple carpet. Pinwheels, monster masks, and gummy candy flew everywhere.
Anastasia turned in a circle. She spied three ant farms, five snorkels, a unicycle, fourteen nightlights, her father’s wheelbarrow, and six boxes of waterproof bandages. Anastasia fingered the bandage on her arm. She’d fallen over the wheelbarrow last night.
Anastasia’s older sister Jen came in and tripped on a marionette.
“Jen, will you help me find my snow ski?” asked Anastasia.
Jen waved her arms. “Anastasia! I almost broke my neck! Mom says clean up your room!”
Anastasia frowned. “Why doesn’t Mom tell me?”
“She’s busy,” answered Jen. “She sent me.”
Anastasia sighed. “Cleaning my room takes months.”
“My room is next to yours,” said Jen. “I see yours every day. It’s disgusting.”
“You’re a clean-freak!” yelled Anastasia.
“No, I’m not,” replied Jen. “I just know the secret.”
Anastasia stared. “What secret?”
Jen shrugged. “Not a real secret. More a technique. But if you clean your room, I’ll give you my sparkle crown from New Year’s Eve. I’m getting too mature for sparkle crowns.”
Anastasia brightened. A sparkle crown! Her face dropped. “But I have so many things,” she said. “And my room is small.”
Jen pointed at the mess. “First, take out what doesn’t belong. Then, sort your things into categories. Put each category in a container. Set the containers on shelves or along the walls.”
“What’s a category?” asked Anastasia.
“Things that go together,” replied Jen. “A collection. Like hair bands. Or art supplies. Or model fire engines. You have at least six model fire engines.”
“What kinds of containers?”
“Boxes, bowls, bags, anything that holds a category. Anastasia, how many gift bows do you have? Fifty? They’re everywhere, and they all have curly ribbon strings. And they’re smushed.”
Anastasia protested. “Those are my jellyfish! So many colors! How can I see my jellyfish in a container?”
Jen grunted. Backing into the hallway, she shut Anastasia’s door.
Anastasia wanted the sparkle crown. She knelt down to think. Gift bows were scattered like fallen leaves.
An idea danced in Anastasia’s brain. My walls are blue. The ocean is blue. Jellyfish float in the ocean.
Scrambling behind the pickle barrel, Anastasia found her super-size package of sticky-back hooks. Carefully she stuck the hooks to her blue walls, left to right, high as she could reach. She hung one gift bow from each hook. Ribbon strings dangled from the bows. She had just enough hooks for all the bows.
Anastasia switched on her ceiling fan. The swirling air caught the ribbon strings. They wriggled and waved.
“Categories, containers,” Anastasia said. She opened her door and stacked twelve empty cereal bowls in the hallway. Already the bedroom looked cleaner.
“What else doesn’t belong?” Anastasia asked herself. Dropping the gummy candies and a moldy orange into the wheelbarrow, she shoved it out. Next to the cereal bowls she set her cousin’s fishing rod. Beside the rod she placed a robin’s nest to take to school.
Closing the door again, Anastasia examined her room. Patches of purple carpet showed. So did her wire porcupine, formerly under the wheelbarrow. “Not bad,” she said.
Next, Anastasia searched for cowbells. She owned seven, of all tones and sizes. The cowbells hid under sweatshirts and behind pompoms. A car-wash bucket sat alongside Anastasia’s pillow. She plunked the bells in and parked the bucket on the floor.
“My birthday candle collection!” Anastasia exclaimed. “I knew Daddy didn’t eat them with his cake. There must be a hundred.” Picking candles off the closet floor, she packed them into her only polka-dotted sock.
“Now what about this mailbox?” Anastasia asked. Circling, she spotted fake fried eggs taped to her shelves. The mailbox held all twenty-one fried eggs, with room to spare.
Anastasia snapped her fingers. “The spaghetti drainer!” She yanked the drainer out from beneath the unicycle. Crawling on the floor, she found fifteen cat-shaped soaps and piled them in the drainer.
Anastasia continued fixing her mess. Soon her categories and collections filled dozens of containers. Her shelves looked neat. Her floor looked purple.
“But the one-of-a-kinds!” Anastasia moaned. “What if there’s only one?” Anastasia owned one fake alligator, one parachute, one golden key, one glow-in-the-dark mummy head, and one giant ball of foil. They all slid nicely into her umbrella stand.
Her room was almost clean. Almost. Mounds of plastic crickets peppered the floor. “Unacceptable!” declared Anastasia. Scooping up the crickets, she dumped them into a coconut shell.
And then Anastasia found her missing snow ski. It poked out from behind the dresser. In her clean bedroom, the ski seemed big and obvious. Anastasia placed her two skis inside the pickle barrel.
Anastasia called her sister. “Jen! Come see!”
Jen opened Anastasia’s door and grinned. “I hardly recognize this room. The jellyfish look like they’re swimming. Anastasia, you do exemplary work!”
“Exemplary? Does that mean I get your sparkle crown?”
Jen handed Anastasia the sparkle crown. “I knew you’d earn it. And I’ll help you with the stuff in the hall. Did you find your snow ski?”
“It’s in the pickle barrel with the other ski,” said Anastasia. “They belong there now.”
© Suzanne Werkema