Small Problems: Times and Places

Jacob and Trish were sitting on their hill, in the broad field at the end of their motley neighborhood, watching the sun set over the distant pines.

“There’s a time and place for everything,” said Trish. “This is neither the time nor the place.”

“If this isn’t the time nor the place,” replied Jacob, “when will it be the time and the place.”

“Someday. Somewhere.”

“Really?” he said excitedly. “Where and when will that be?”

“Sooner or later,” Trish nodded. “Here or there.”

“OK! It’s a date!”

Jacob, you can be sure, can not take a hint.

Small Problems: Perspective

Trish is a little girl who can draw anything she sees or imagines. Because of this, children in the neighborhood often ask her to draw portraits. Unfortunately, the small problem that Trish often confronts is that many of the children don’t look anything like the way they think they look.

“No, no, you’ve done this all wrong,” Trevor said. “ This isn’t what I look like at all. Draw me the way you draw a tree — just as you see it.”

Trevor had big ears, a large crooked smile, and one nostril much larger than the other. He was sure his face had a lot of character.

“With this much character in one face, I can’t draw it as I see it,” Trish replied. “I’ve adopted a new style. Just for you.”

Picasso, you can be sure, solved the same problem the same way.

Small Problems: Prelude to the Paradox

Tammy was Timmy, before the Vet said he was a she. She’s long, sleek and very black, with white on all her tips. She likes to stretch in sunbeams and curl into perfect black balls, with all the tips tucked away, on chairs, sofas, and beds.

One evening, she was a perfect black ball on Jacob’s favorite chair in the front sitting room. He had a book with tiny print and a cup of steaming hot chocolate, but no favorite place to sit.

“If I disturb Tammy, she will be worse off, but, if I don’t disturb her, I will be worse off,” he said to himself. “I could sit in another chair, but so could she. Does it matter that she arrived before me today, when I sat in the chair yesterday?”

Fortunately, for Jacob, he discovers Zeno’s paradox on another evening.

Small Problems: How To Divide the Cake?

Trish and Jacob are both very fond of chocolate cake and, unlike many boys and girls their age, they are both very fond of sharing chocolate cake. The small problem they often face is how best to divide the cake.

“I guess we can both be sure that we aren’t the mother of this piece of delicious cake,” remarked Jacob.

“Agreed,” Trish agreed, as she smoothed the long folds of her bright Sunday school dress. “How shall we divide it?”

“Why don’t I divide it,” said Jacob. “Boys are better able to divide cake than girls.”

“Very well,” said Trish, “but I get to choose first which piece to take. Girls are better at choosing pieces of cake than boys.”

Jacob, who couldn’t quite believe his luck, quickly said, “Why, of course, that makes perfect sense!”

Whatever might be said about the relative skills of boys and girls, you can be sure Trish is no saint and that she prefers larger to smaller shares of chocolate cake.

Small Problems: Up The Hill.

Jacob and Trish live in a motley neighborhood of houses, which end abruptly at a broad field with a large hill in the middle — perfect for sledding in the winter. Trish doesn’t know about the sledding, because she’s new to the neighborhood.

Sitting together on the hill one day, they watched the distant pines buzz in the late summer sun.

“We didn’t bring a pail of water,” said Jacob.

“You shouldn’t,” replied Trish, “the first time you go up a hill together.”

“I guess, I shouldn’t have brought this crown either,” Jacob said nervously.

“No, I think it looks rather smart on you,” she replied.

Do you remember the age before irony? Refreshing, isn’t it?

Small Problems: Meet Jacob and Trish.

Jacob is a little boy, who is big enough to ride a bike with no training wheels and smart enough to read a book with tiny print. He’s also fond of saying so.

“I’m big enough to ride a bike with no training wheels and smart enough to read a book with tiny print,” he said one day to Trish.

Trish is a little girl who can draw anything she sees or imagines and who likes to dance in tall grass whether or not anyone is watching.

“No, you can’t borrow my bike,” she answered. “I don’t even know your name.”

The start of a beautiful friendship, don’t you think?