Episode the Fourteenth: Little Dot vs. Germs

By: Mr. E. S. Stranger

Dot intended to go outside more. She did. After having been sick for so long, though, she felt a little cautious. Every time she sneezed, coughed, felt tired, had a headache, felt hot, felt cold, felt itchy, or otherwise felt odd or uncomfortable, she feared she was coming down with something serious. So she spent a lot of time in her room, where she was safe, and didn't do much about any of the many projects she had buzzing around in the back of her mind.

One day, she went into the living room and turned on the TV. Toona and Funny Bunny joined her on the couch, and a little while later, Jimi plopped down at her feet. Together, they sat and watched the flickering lights for a while. Hours passed while they sat there, faces blank, taking in each story and its associated corporate messages. From time to time, one of Dot's companions would stare longingly at the door for a few seconds, breathe a sigh, and turn his attention back to the talking box of light.

A commercial came on for a cleansing wipe that was supposed to kill ninety-nine percent asterisk of all germs on a countertop. Dot sat up and came back to awareness. The commercial showed pictures of the germs, which were apparently green blobs. Dot had never seen germs before; she knew they had something to do with filth and getting sick, but here was an actual picture of what she was up against. And here was someone on TV taking a stand against these abominations. She wasn't sure how much ninety-nine percent asterisk was, but it looked like a powerful weapon.

She stood up. "I have research to do," she said, and she walked off to her room.

Toona, Funny Bunny, and Jimi stared at her, considering whether or not to follow. They turned back to the television just as a commercial for legal services came on. Toona and Funny Bunny stood up and followed Dot to her room.

Dot was at her computer, jotting down notes as she stared at the screen. Her eyes didn't blink as her friends watched. She muttered to herself intermittently as she alternated between clicking with the mouse and writing down what she saw.

"Ahem," Toona said. Dot didn't notice.

Funny Bunny spoke softly. "I don't think you're supposed to say 'ahem.' It's more of a throat-clearing noise."

"How do you mean?"

In answer, Funny Bunny made a throat-clearing noise. It was small and high pitched.

"Oh," said Toona. "I don't know if I can make that sound."

"It'll be lower for you," Funny Bunny said. "Just clear your throat."

"Like this?" Toona asked, and he coughed.

"No, not a cough. Keep your mouth closed."

"Mmmmh," Toona said.

"No, no, no," said Funny Bunny. "It's a two-part sound."

Funny Bunny made the sound again. Toona attempted it. Funny Bunny did it again, emphasizing each part. Toona succeeded this time, but it was tentative.

"Too timid," Funny Bunny told him. "Really mean it when you do it."

Toona cleared his throat again.

"Better," Funny Bunny said. "Deeper, though. Release your inner bear."

Toona cleared his throat more loudly. Dot looked up at them.

"I hope you're covering your mouths as you do that," she said.

"We're just getting your attention," Funny Bunny replied. "What are you doing?"

"Research," she said.

"Oh," Toona replied. He stood there, unsure whether or not he was supposed to ask another question. Funny Bunny spoke up again.

"Research on what?"

"Germs," Dot replied. "I'm learning a lot. It all makes so much more sense now. But of course I couldn't have known. They've been around so much longer than we have."

"Who?" Toona asked.

"GERMS!" Dot answered. "They're everywhere. I had no idea the situation was so bad. I thought I was being so careful, but I've been living with them all along! But no more. No more."

"Wh...what are you going to do?" her frog croaked timidly.

"I'm making a stand," Dot replied. "I'm not getting sick anymore. I've already ordered the first batch of supplies for my campaign. It's me against the germs. Who's with me?"

Funny Bunny tentatively raised his hand. He saw that Toona was hesitating and lifted the bear's paw. Dot smiled.

"Frog?" she asked.

"I'm here for ya, Little Dot," her frog said.

"Maybe, but I'll have to check my calendar," Zoyla said.

Dot turned around. "Oh, hey, Zoyla! I didn't see you come in."

"Nope," Zoyla said. "I didn't see you come in, either."

"But I..." Dot began, and then she shook her head. "What are you doing here?"

"Making a delivery."

"Oh. What are you delivering?"

Zoyla reached into her bag and pulled out a box about half the size of Dot. She reached in again and pulled out another one, and then another one, and another, and another. Toona and Funny Bunny lost count, but of course this meant little as neither had fingers or toes to count on. When Zoyla finished, she pulled a pen and clipboard from behind her ear and held both out.

"Sign, please."

Dot looked at the form, which was labeled "D&Z Instant Delivery" on the top, and read through the many parcel numbers listed on it. She glanced at the pile of boxes and signed the paper.

"Thank you," Zoyla said, taking the pen and clipboard and tucking them behind her ear again. "So," she said, "whadja get?"

Dot stared at the boxes. "I don't know." She picked one up, put it on her chair, and opened it up. Her face lit up. "My antimicrobial surface wipes!" she happily exclaimed. "And the other boxes must be the other supplies. Bleach, antimicrobial hand soap, alcohol-based hand sanitizer, Spiffyware dispenser for the wipes, Spiffyware hand soap dispenser, antibacterial and antiviral sprays-here already! That box there must contain the surgical masks and latex gloves. I'll have to do inventory. Who will help me?"

There was an audible pause. Dot waited. Her friends looked to each other for ideas on how to behave. Dot raised her voice.


"I will!" answered her frog. Dot looked to Toona and Funny Bunny.

"Uh...I will," said Funny Bunny. Funny Bunny poked Toona.

Toona looked at Funny Bunny. "What are we doing?"

"Counting things," Funny Bunny said.

"Oh," Toona said. "Ok."

Dot's gaze went to Zoyla. Zoyla shrugged.

"Well, this will give me a chance to use my industrial smart inventory scanner."

"What's that?" asked Dot.

Zoyla pulled a difficult-to-describe machine about as big as Dot out of her bag and set it down. She opened one of the boxes, took a wand out of a holster on the machine, and waved the wand slowly around the box. After several seconds, there was a beep. The machine spoke.

"A ridiculous number of cotton swabs and water testing kits," the machine voice said.

Zoyla smiled. "It works."

Dot frowned. "Can it give me an exact number?"

"Um..." Zoyla said, confused. "I suppose. What kind of number?"

"I mean," Dot said, "can it tell me exactly how many cotton swabs and water testing kits are in the box?"

"Oh," Zoyla replied. "Maybe. Let's see."

She waved the wand around the box again until they heard the beep.

"Exactly twenty thousand cotton swabs and one hundred miniature water testing kits-a thoroughly ridiculous number," stated the machine.

Dot frowned at Zoyla again. "Does it have to give an opinion at the end?"

"It's a built-in feature," Zoyla replied.

Together, they counted the rest of Dot's merchandise, the inventory scanner all the while making snide comments. When Dot was quite satisfied her entire order had arrived, she set her list down and smiled fiercely.

"Ok," she said, "let's get to work. The first thing to do is set up a base. We need to start by cleaning this place up. We could use a good place to put some of these things...Zoyla, do you have any space in your bag?"

"A little," Zoyla said.

"May I borrow some?"

"Sure," said Zoyla, and she reached into her bag, pulled out some space, and set it down in the corner. Little Dot worked to move the boxes into the extra space. When she was finished, she looked around at the clutter that remained.

"Clutter gives germs places to hide," she said. "We need to start by getting all of this picked up. I'll get a garbage bag. Toona, Funny Bunny, and frog, start separating the stuff on the floor into three piles: one for trash, one for stuff I'm definitely keeping, and one for stuff you're not sure about. Zoyla, I'll need your help getting the ultraviolet paper cleanser ready. Let's get some cleansers out, too; we'll need to wipe the surfaces for the disinfected papers. Ok! Let's go!"

She and Zoyla went immediately to work. Toona, Funny Bunny, and her frog were more hesitant; they poked uncertainly at the various articles of rubbish and other clutter and very carefully began to sort it all. Bit by bit, the room got cleaner. Dot and Zoyla disinfected the desktop and other surfaces including the walls and ceiling and then started the long, slow process of putting items through the disinfector. The freshly irradiated items went then into neat piles on the desk. After a significant amount of trash had accumulated in the trash pile, Dot tossed the used tissues, food wrappers, and other discards into a garbage bag, washed her hands with hot water and antimicrobial soap, sanitized them, and kept cleaning. This went on until the room was dim and Dot's mom called her for dinner.

Dot washed her hands thoroughly again and went to the table. She sat and hesitated before placing her hands on the table.

"Is the table clean?" she asked her mother.

"Yes," her mother said.

Dot rested her hands on the table. She inspected her dinnerware while her mother served the food. Her brother watched, amused. Her mother sat down and talked to her.

"What were you doing in there that whole time?"


"Oh," her mother said, nodding. "I don't mean to complain about you cleaning your room. That's needed done for a long time. But are you going to go outside one of these days?"

"I don't know," Dot said. "Maybe."

"It's been a few days since you went outside, hasn't it? Do you ever check on your garden anymore?"

Dot kept her face toward her plate. "I haven't been feeling like it."

"Why's that?" her mother asked. "Have you been sick?"

"Not recently," Dot replied.

"Well, then, what is it?"

"I don't know," Dot replied testily. "I just haven't felt like it."

"Ok," her mother said. "I was just worried about you."

They didn't speak for the rest of the meal. Dot finished, cleared her place, washed her hands, and walked back to her room. The rest of the evening, she worked at clearing the clutter. When the floor was clear, she got a can of special carpet cleanser and sprayed the carpet. Then she got the vacuum and cleaned the floor. Next, she stripped the bed and got fresh covers for it. Satisfied with a job well done, she pulled a special pair of goggles from a box.

"What are those?" asked her frog.

"Microbial goggles," Dot answered. "They'll let me see germs I missed."

Dot grabbed a can of disinfectant and put the goggles on. Her heart sank. She had missed germs all over the room. Some were floating in the air, and she saw with horror that an untold number had attached to her and were using her as a base from which to launch missions to colonize other parts of the room. She rushed about, frantically spraying every spot that glowed green through the goggles. The task seemed endless. Zoyla began excitedly shouting out spots to hit.

"There! In the crack! Now behind you! On the wall there! Now at your feet!" Zoyla shouted.

Dot stopped, breathing heavily. "Wait...you're not wearing the goggles. You can't see them."

Zoyla shrugged. "Educated guesses."

Dot took off the goggles. "I need to quit for the night. The running while spraying chemicals is making me lightheaded. I need to clean myself off now and get back to this in the morning."

She showered and went to bed. Zoyla had left for the night, but Dot said goodnight to her other friends and lay there, forming battle plans, until she eventually drifted off to sleep. She woke up several times in the night from dreams in which filthy things chased her mercilessly around.

The next day saw her more determined than ever to defeat her microscopic nemesis. Plans to cockroach-proof the house weren't proceeding according to plan since her mom would not let her own an iguana, but Dot took to the surface sanitation project with vigor. Once she thought she had a foothold in her room, she took the fight to the other rooms of the house, wiping, washing, and vacuuming mercilessly. Her mother was growing concerned but didn't know exactly how to explain what was wrong with working so hard to clean the house.

One day, Dot saw Jimi walk in from outside and make straight for her room. Jimi. She hadn't considered this variable. The dog was a potential carrier of all sorts of rotten filth. She intercepted him and blocked the doorway to her room.

"No, Jimi!"

"Um," Jimi said, "you're sort of blocking the doorway."

"You're filthy!" Dot yelled. "You'll contaminate my room."

Jimi tried to shrug his shoulders, which is not easy on four legs. "Fine. I'll just go lie down on the couch."

"No!" Dot said. "No! In fact, you may not contaminate any of my nice clean surfaces. You need to bathe first. And from now on, no going outside without authorization, and wash your paws before and after you eat."

There was silence between them for a few seconds. Then the dog replied, "No, I won't be doing any of that." He walked off into the living room.

Exasperated, Dot called to her other friends. "Team meeting!"

She went into her sanitary lair, otherwise known as her bedroom, to find Zoyla queuing up a slideshow presentation using a projector. Toona, Funny Bunny, and her frog sat down on the bed to watch.

"What are you doing?" Dot asked Zoyla.

"Running the slides for the meeting," Zoyla answered.

"I don't have any slides."

"That's ok."

Dot shook her head and cleared her throat. Zoyla began a slideshow featuring ads for the D&Z family of companies. Dot looked each of her companions in the eye before beginning.

"We face a new threat: the great filthy outside. It has come to my attention that right under my nose, members of the household might be bringing in germs from the outside, undoing everything we've worked for. Be honest. Raise your hand if you've been outside since the cleansing began."

Only frog raised his hand. Dot frowned.

"Frog, it's filthy out there. Toona and Funny Bunny knew better."

"Well..." began the frog. "Guys, please don't read anything into this, but Toona is made of polyester and pellets, and Funny Bunny is, well, shoestrings. They don't need to go anywhere. But a frog's gotta see the sun once in a while, ya know? And your garden needs looked after. Someone's gotta eat the bugs attacking it. It's bad enough it hasn't got much water lately."

"We need to establish ground rules," Dot said. "Until we come up with a plan for defending against outside germs or can clean the outside, we stay in."


"And," Dot went on, "we should talk about other habits. Toona, I saw you pick up a dirty tissue the other day and not wash your paws."

"I've been very careful," said Toona. "I always use a clean tissue to pick up the dirty ones."

"But," Dot countered, "then the clean tissue becomes dirty, and you're touching a dirty tissue. You need to wash your paws." Dot stopped and looked up. Zoyla had not changed the slide for a while and was giving her a funny look. "What?" Dot asked.

"You're being really weird," Zoyla said.

Before Dot could respond, there was a knock on the door. "Come in," Dot instinctually said.

Her brother walked in. "You need to remove the caution tape and biohazard signs from my room."

"No," said Dot. "It's a public safety issue."

"Take it all down," he replied. "What are you doing, anyway?"

"Making war on germs."

He stared at her. "Making war on germs? You think you can kill them all?"

"Not yet," she said, "but someday."

"You know they're everywhere, right?"


"And you know," he continued, "that we need bacteria to live, right?"

"No!" she said. "That's a lie! That's a bunch of propaganda the germs use to keep us weak!"

"It's true," he said. "Look it up." He started to walk away. "And get your stuff out of my room."

Dot rushed to the computer. Her friends watched. After several minutes, she let out an exasperated cry and went to the bed. Her friends watched her for a bit as she first held her head in her hands and then looked up, wide-eyed and tired.

"So..." Zoyla said, "what's up?"

"It's true," Dot said. "The germs have taken over. All life depends on them. We never had a chance." She lay down.

The others didn't know what to say. Toona hesitantly spoke.

"So...um...what do you want us to do?"

"Whatever you want," Dot replied. "It doesn't matter. I'm going to lie down for a while. Go do whatever."

She lay there, and the others hung out. Zoyla played on her smart phone; her frog went to the shower curtain to give her a little space but checked in every twenty minutes or so; Toona and Funny Bunny just sat and waited. After a while, Dot's mom called her for supper. She robotically got up to eat. She didn't say much at dinner and went back to her room and slept. Her mom woke her up for breakfast, which she ate mechanically, and then she hid in her room again. As the day went on, Dot's mom became too concerned to leave Dot alone. She went into Dot's room and saw on the bed.


"Hey," Dot replied.

"What's wrong?"


"You tired?"


"I noticed you've stopped cleaning."

"Yep," Dot said.

Dot's mom put a hand on Dot's shoulder. "Why were you cleaning the whole house like that?"

Dot shrugged under the covers. "It was dirty."

"Well, I know that," her mom said, laughing a bit. "You and your brother make it filthy all the time. But why were you worried about it all of a sudden?"

Dot was silent for a number of seconds before replying. "I'm just tired of getting sick."

"Oh. Well, Dot, you haven't been sick in a little while."

"I know."

"And you're not doing your health any good hiding in the house all the time."

"I know."

"You should go outside."

Dot slowly sat up. "I want to. I really, really do. I haven't seen my garden in a while. I just can't bring myself to do it."

"Why not?"

Dot shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know. Just weak, I guess."

"No, you're not," her mom said. "You're strong. You just haven't been feeling well. But you need to stop feeling sorry for yourself. You can go outside any time you want. You should go out right now, in fact."

"I'm tired."

"You're making yourself tired sitting and lying around all day. You'll make yourself sick if you're not careful."

Dot thought for a bit. "I should have thought of that. Of course! I've been playing right into their hands."

"Whose hands?"

"Germs. They want me weak and lazy so they can finish me off. But I'll show them. I'm getting up."


"Getting up," Dot repeated, not moving. She looked around the room a bit and started to sag.

"Aren't you getting up?" her mom asked.

"Yes," Dot replied.

Her frog cried out. "You can do it!" Dot's mom seemed not to notice, but Dot felt better.

"I can do this," Dot said.

"Go Dot!" said Funny Bunny, followed a second later by Toona.

Dot sat for just a few moments, and then she stood up. "I'm going outside."

"Good," her mother said. "Go play for a while. Water your garden."

"I'm doing it," Dot answered determinedly. She walked toward the door. "I'm doing it. I'm going out. I'm going out right now." She slipped her shoes on on the way. "Going outside. Going outside right now." She reached the door and put her hand on the knob. "This is it. No more feeling sorry for myself. I'm going out right now."

Dot opened the door. She looked out. In the time that Dot had been cooped up inside, summer had come. No living thing was outside. The merciless sun ravaged the land. The air shimmered; the rocks appeared to melt. The bit of air that came in through the doorway felt like it would crisp her skin in a few seconds. She shut the door.

"Next month," she said. "Next month, I am definitely going outside. And then they'll see. The germs will see how healthy I can be."

She went to the couch, sat down, and turned on the TV.