“I’m bored,” said Henry Elbow. He was staring out the window of his living room, at the huge mounds of snow that blanketed his backyard. It looked like the North Pole out there, and could have been a fun place to build a fort or make a snowman. But the snow was so high that the swings that hung from the swing set were buried, and his Dad had come in from shoveling their driveway with snow up to his knees. Since Henry was just a little kid, he would have practically drowned in the snow. So, he was stuck inside for the day.

“I’m bored,” he said again, then added, “So, so, bored,” so that anyone listening would know the exact amount of boredom he was feeling. He looked to his mother with eyes that begged for help. Please, Mother, his eyes seemed to say, please help me find something to do! Please, oh, please or I will surely die from not being able to think of anything to do! What a way to go!

His mother, who was busy typing on the computer, turned from the monitor and smiled at Henry. She worked from home, and so she, at least, had something to do. But poor, poor Henry was not used to being cooped up in the house all day. He was supposed to be out running in the yard, kicking his beloved soccer ball, or at school, pretending to pay attention to the teacher. But this! This was wrong, being stuck inside like a prisoner. But maybe his mom could help. It was worth a shot.

She turned from her work and smiled, mussing Henry’s brown hair. “I have the perfect idea,” Mom said. At last! Freedom from the terrible terror of boredom! Finally, something to do, anything to do, whatever it was he’d do it. Henry didn’t care, anything would be better than just sitting. But what she had in mind was not better than just sitting. No, it was much worse, and it was, more importantly, no fun at all. What she said was, “You can clean your room.”

No! This was a trap and Henry had fallen right into it. He didn’t want to actually work, that was what parents did for fun. He wanted something actually fun to do, and now he was stuck, because he knew that when Mom said, “You can clean your room,” she meant, “You will clean your room,” and now he had no choice but to actually clean his room. Which, if he remembered correctly, wasn’t really all that messy, anyway. Besides, what’s the point of having a room if you have to clean it all the time?

But, Henry accepted his fate, and as slowly as possible, walked up the steps to his bedroom, which is too bad for him, but good for us, because that is where our story begins.

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