Category: Charlie’s Room

Charlie’s Room: A Hiking Guide

Yet again, Charlie read the entry in the guide book out loud. “… beyond the footbridge, the trail descends, switching back and forth along the sides of the adjacent hills…”

Isaac smiled and looked down at the book they were reading as a bedtime story. He hadn’t read any of it, because Charlie was busy reading to himself, excited about the hike.

“…and then we get to the water fall. We’ll have a picnic there, right?” Charlie asked.

“That’s right. Now it’s time to go to bed.” Isaac put the book back into its place on the shelf.

“What?” Charlie sat up and looked down from his loft bed. “But we haven’t read a story yet. We always read a story.”

“We read the story of tomorrow’s hike,” Isaac said.

“That’s not the same thing.” Charlie crossed his arms. “Besides. I read that. You have to be the one who read the bedtime story. It’s the rules.”

“I don’t remember there being any bedtime story rules.” Isaac chuckled as he stood up.

“There’s rules, because that’s how we always do it. I won’t get to sleep without a bedtime story, and then I’ll be tired for the hike tomorrow.”

“It’s late,” Isaac said. “I’ll turn the light out and let you try to sleep. In a half hour, I’ll check on you. If you’re still awake, I’ll read you a few pages.”

“I’ll get to bed quicker if you read to me now.”

“We’ll see.” Isaac turned out the light and left the room. When he returned fifteen minutes later and peeked inside the room, Charlie was already asleep.

The next morning, Charlie was the first one awake. He ran around the house, filling the end of Isaac’s dreams with herds of elephants. As he’d been dreaming of building card towers, it was an odd way to end things.

Isaac shuffled down the hallway in his pajamas and looked at the bulging backpack Charlie was carrying looped over one shoulder. “It sounded like you were running a 5k inside the house. What did you put in your bag?”

“Stuff I’ll need.” Charlie held out the backpack, and Isaac looked inside.

“First aid kit, sunscreen, board game, towel, swimsuit, change of clothes…” He dug through the bag. “You won’t need all this for a day hike. We won’t be swimming, and there won’t be time for board games or card games or writing letters.”

“I was thinking maybe on the drive there…”

Isaac frowned. “You get car sick.”

“Fine, fine.” Charlie held out his arms for the back pack. “I’ll go through all this again. Are you sure we won’t go swimming?”

“It’s not safe to swim there.”

Charlie sighed and put his swimsuit, towel, and change of clothes in a pile. He added the games and the writing materials. “The guide doesn’t say all the stuff you can’t do.“

“Maybe there were too many things to mention.”

Charlie grinned. “Like baking cookies? Or going surfing?”

“Or playing golf or vacuuming or planting sunflowers…” Isaac added.

“Or petting dinosaurs or going ice skating or building a house…”

“Or forging a sword or piloting a UFO or traveling through time…”

Marianne shuffled into the living room, still in her pajamas. “Are you trying to pick a movie to watch? I thought we were going hiking today.” She looked down at the piles of things on the floor. “You know we can’t go swimming, right?”

“Or vacuuming or surfing,” Charlie said, kicking at the pile with his swimsuit. “The hiking guide wasn’t very helpful.”

“Vacuuming? Who would go vacuuming out in the woods?” Marianne shook her head. “I’m going to go get dressed. Can you clean up the stuff here?”

Charlie looked up at Isaac. “So what do I need to bring on a hike?”

“Am I your hiking guide now?”

“Well, you seem to know more about what I don’t need than the book did.”

“Honestly, I think you have most of what you need, except for the water and the picnic food. Let your mom and I take care of that.”

“Wow. I guess didn’t need a hiking guide.”

“Well, I think it made a nice bedtime story.”

Charlie frowned and zipped up his backpack. “No. I want a real story tonight.” He looped the bag over one shoulder and started picking up the piles of extra things.

Isaac picked up a few things to help put away. “Fair enough. We’ll save the hiking guide for special occasions.”

Charlie’s Room: Short and Tall

Charlie looked up from his spaghetti and asked, “How tall will I be when I grow up?”

Marianne and Isaac looked at each other. Isaac lost the staring contest. He smiled at Charlie. “It’s hard to say. You’ll probably be somewhere around the height of your mom and I. Why do you ask?”

“I was wondering if I got too tall for this house, if I could go and live at that store with the really tall doors. I think I’d like that. How do I get to be tall?”

Marianne shrugged. “I don’t think you get to pick how tall you are. Just eat healthy, and get plenty of sleep. That’s pretty much all you can do.”

“Unless you end up in some sort of magical dimension and eat the wrong sort of thing,” Isaac added.

“Like Alice in Wonderland?” Charlie grinned. “I like that. It would be nice to be able to be short and tall whenever you want. And her clothes grew with her! That would be good. I’m not sure if there are clothes for really, really tall people in the stores. If I was really small, we could buy a doll house for me to live in.”

“Well, there aren’t any magical dimensions, so you need to eat your vegetables and go to bed on time.” Marianne pointed to his plate and Charlie started eating his peas.

“And the dollhouse?” Charlie asked, his mouth half full of chewed peas.

“Wait to finish eating what’s in your mouth before you talk.”

Charlie closed his mouth, and Isaac nodded approvingly. “If you were small enough to live in a dollhouse, we’d get you one.”

Charlie finished chewing. “I think I need a little brother or sister.”

“Why?” Marianne frowned.

“Then I wouldn’t be the littlest one in the house. I’d be really big, but I wouldn’t be the biggest one, either. I’d be big and small at the same time. So?”

“So, what?” Isaac asked.

“When can I have a little brother or sister?”

Marianne and Isaac looked at each other. Isaac lost the staring contest again. He really needed to practice, or he was going to be stuck answering all the difficult questions. He didn’t mind really, except that Marianne usually gave better answers.

“That probably won’t happen,” Isaac said. “But we’ll let you know if that changes. I think you’re overlooking one obvious solution to your problem.”

Charlie frowned at first, but his frown fell as he began to think. “What solution? Can we get a dog?”

“I’m still allergic to dogs, sadly,” Isaac said.

Charlie thought a little longer. “I still don’t know.”

“If what you really want is to be short and tall, the solution isn’t to find some one younger than you. If you had a little brother or sister, they would grow too. They might even end up taller than you. Also, you are already shorter than us, but as you get older, that will change. We won’t be a lot taller than you any more. However, there are things that you are always going to be taller than or shorter than.”

“Like what?”

“Think of the plants and animals that are taller and shorter than you.”

“Like dinosaurs?”

Isaac nodded. “Yup. Always taller.”

“But who is always shorter?”

“Goldfish, petunias, flower fairies, leprechauns, ants…” Isaac started counting things off on his fingers.

“I still kind of want a little brother or sister. And a big brother or sister. And a dog.” Charlie pushed the peas around on his plate.

Marianne and Isaac looked at each other. Marianne smiled and let Isaac win the staring contest. She put a hand on Charlie’s shoulder. “Do you remember the story of the three bears? Each of the bears had something different, but it was just right for them. Do you think Mama bear who liked soft chairs would have been comfortable in Papa bear’s chair?”

“No.”

“Do you think that Papa Bear liked his porridge the same way as Mama bear?”

“I guess not. I don’t know.”

Marianne patted Charlie’s shoulder and let go. “Just right is different for different people and different families. I think our family is just right for us. I’m glad we have each other.”

Charlie nodded slowly. “Okay. But can we get a bird? Or a goldfish? Dad isn’t allergic to those.”

Marianne looked at Isaac and he shrugged. “We’ll see,” she said.

The next week, they bought a goldfish. It was much shorter than Charlie. “Now I just need to find a dinosaur,” he said.

Charlie’s Room: Rainy Afternoon

The afternoon was cool and overcast. There was enough light to read by, but it felt later in the day than it actually was. They had eaten lunch late, so no one was in a hurry to start cooking dinner.

Marianne and Charlie were drawing up plans for the garden. They had the spring garden coming along well, but it was time to start transitioning things for summer and planning for fall. Luckily they kept a pretty detailed garden journal, so they were able to look back to previous years for help.

Isaac was reading. The story was getting to an exciting point where he kept turning pages to find out what happened next. He was so interested in the story, that the world around him faded away.

Suddenly, he felt Charlie tapping his arm. “Dad, dad, dad, dad, dad…”

“What?”

Charlie folded his arms across his chest with a frown. “You weren’t listening. We were asking your opinion on cantaloupe.”

“I like cantaloupe.” He turned back to his book and read the first sentence of the next chapter.

Charlie tapped his arm. “But do you like it better than honeydew melons?”

Isaac shrugged. “I like them both.” He began reading the first sentence again.

“That didn’t help.” Charlie began tapping his arm again.

Marianne laughed. “I told you. He’s too busy thinking about his book to think about gardens. We can ask him later.”

“Fine.” Charlie stopped tapping.

Isaac read the first sentence of the next chapter for a third time, but this time he wasn’t interrupted. It wasn’t until the next chapter break that he noticed it was raining. He looked up and realized that the room was a lot darker than before.

He was leaning in a lot closer to his book. He straightened up and stretched his head from side to side. Ouch. How long was he hunched over like that?

The house seemed quiet. He looked around. Marianne and Charlie were curled up on opposite arms of the couch, fast asleep.

The rain continued to tap against the windows. If he listened closely, he could almost hear music. He stood up and walked to the window. Outside, he could see brightly colored dots hovering around the flowers. They were the size of bees or maybe butterflies, but more luminous, and they seemed to be humming to the rhythm of the rain.

He watched them weave around the flowers in whirling patterns of color for a while. However, the humming and the rain and the snoring behind him were all making him a little sleepy. Isaac sat back down in his comfortable chair, picked up his book, and read the first sentence of the next chapter. Then, he fell asleep.

Of course, he didn’t realize he’d fallen asleep until he woke up later, startled out of sleep when he dropped his book. Marianne laughed. “You’ve been sleeping for a while. I guess the book wasn’t as interesting as you thought.”

“It was the rain…” Isaac stopped and listened. “The rain stopped.”

“It put us to sleep, too,” Charlie said. “We just woke up.”

“Sometimes an afternoon nap is just what you need.” Marianne smiled and began to gather up the papers on the couch.

“Since we took a nap, does that mean we can stay up late to watch a movie? Dad doesn’t have work tomorrow, and I don’t feel at all tired anymore.” Charlie jumped up and did a little dance. “See, full of energy.”

“That does look like a wide awake sort of dance,” Isaac said. “Do you think there are falling-asleep dances?”

“I wonder what that would look like?” Marianne thought for a moment and shook her head. “I don’t usually think of dancing as something that would put you to sleep.”

“Maybe if it was the kind with the long, slow music,” Charlie said. “You know, the sleepy kind of music that doesn’t seem to go anywhere.”

Isaac thought about the little dots of color and the humming and the rain. “I think you’re right. The music does matter. So, what kind of music is wide awake music?”

Charlie didn’t have to think about that at all. “The theme song for the newest dinosaur movie! We can watch it right after dinner, and we won’t feel at all sleepy.”

He was right.

Charlie’s Room: The Queen of Hearts

One morning, Charlie and Marianne left early to go to the garden store. Isaac was left behind to do paperwork and possibly spend some time reading if he got done early. Knowing Charlie and Marianne as well as he did, Isaac was pretty sure they’d go straight from the garden store to the garden in the backyard. His chances of having extra reading time were pretty good.

In fact, there wasn’t much paperwork to do, and Isaac was on the couch with a favorite novel fairly quickly. There is something about rereading an old favorite that is comforting, like a warm blanket on a cold day. Isaac was quickly wrapped up in what he was reading.

He had no idea how much time had passed when he heard some noises in the kitchen. Had Marianne and Charlie already returned and were now coming in from the garden? He looked at his book. He was only two chapters in. That shouldn’t be enough time for a typical garden center trip.

Something clattered on the floor in the kitchen. Isaac looked around for a bookmark and called out, “Is everything okay in there? Do you need some help?”

There was no response. Odd. Isaac grabbed one of the playing cards spread out on the end table. It looked like someone was playing a game and had left the cards out. He looked at the card he picked up as he marked his place in his book. The card was blank.

It sounded like someone was hitting the refrigerator with a wooden spoon. Isaac dropped the book on the couch and hurried into the kitchen. Someone actually was hitting the refrigerator with a wooden spoon.

She was thin, paper thin, and unnaturally tall. She looked like the drawing of the queen of hearts from a deck of cards, given a lower half and brought to life. But she didn’t look like a normal, living, breathing person. She looked like a living drawing, still two dimensional and drawn with dark black lines and colored in.

The kitchen was a mess. Flour, broken eggs, and milk puddles surrounded the paper queen. A cookie sheet was laying on the open oven door, dotted with odd looking misshapen lumps of dough.

“Can I help you?” Isaac asked.

“The knave of hearts stole my tarts. They must be replaced.” She pointed at the counter.

The jack of hearts card was propped up against a vase of lilies. The jack was munching a red heart that looked a lot like the one in the corners of his card and smirking.

Isaac frowned. “How did that happen?”

“Our cards were left out on a summer’s day.” She turned to the kitchen. “I would like to bake more tarts, but your kitchen is nothing like the one I’m used to.”

“I don’t know about tarts, but how does heart-shaped cookies sound?” Isaac asked.

“That would do.”

“Right. Let me find the recipe.” Isaac stepped over the mess and flipped through the pages of the family cookbook. “Here we are. I’ll get things ready.”

Grabbing a towel, he wiped up the mess, put the cookie sheet in the sink, and closed and preheated the oven. He rinsed and dried the cookie sheet, and began to mix up the cookie batter.

He rolled out the dough, and dug through the cupboard for the cookie cutters. “Which size?” He held up three different heart shapes.

“That one.” She pointed to the largest, plainest cookie cutter.

Isaac cut out the cookies and put them on the cookie sheet and into the oven. “Would you like them frosted?”

“No need,” the queen said.

They waited in silence, watching the oven. The moment the cookies were out of the oven, the queen picked up two very hot cookies in each hand and vanished.

“But they were still hot,” Isaac said to the jack, who was still propped up against the vase. Jack shrugged and looked over at the cookies still on the pan.

“I think you’ve had enough sweets today,” Isaac said. He picked up the card and went back to the living room. He stacked up the cards on the end table adding the jack of hearts to the pile, and put the cards in their cardboard box.

Then he pulled the card out of his book. He’d read the book often enough that saving his place didn’t really matter. The queen of hearts smiled up at him. He smiled back, and put the card in the box with the others.

Isaac left the box of cards on the shelf in Charlie’s room and went back to the kitchen to finish making the rest of the cookie dough into cookies. He frosted them and added sprinkles.

Marianne came in from the backyard as he was washing the last of the dishes. “Cookies!” Charlie rushed to the counter and leaned over the plate. His hand hovered over one of the cookies. “Can I have one?”

“Yes, of course.”

Charlie grinned and grabbed the cookie.

Marianne picked up a cookie with a smile. “I love these! What’s the occasion?”

“The world needed more cookies,” Isaac said. “It was an emergency.”

Charlie’s Room: A Mysterious Package

There was a box on the front steps when Isaac got home from work. The mailing label clearly had their last name and address, but Isaac didn’t remember ordering anything. Perhaps Marianne was expecting a package. He picked it up and carried it inside.

Charlie met him in the entryway. “Dad! You’re home. What’s that?”

Isaac held out the box. “I think it’s for your mother. Do you want to take it to her?”

“Mom!” Charlie ran into the kitchen with the box.

Isaac changed his shoes and followed Charlie into the kitchen. He went a little more slowly and quietly, but that happens as you get older. You learn to save your energy for other things, like late night movie marathons or long days at the office.

Marianne held up the box when he came in. “What’s this?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t order anything.”

“Neither did I.” Marianne frowned. They both looked at Charlie.

“It wasn’t me! I’m not allowed to order things.”

They looked back at the box. Marianne shook it gently. “Maybe someone sent us something. Let’s open it and see what’s inside.”

Inside the box, there was a single shoe. The left side was bright red, and the right side was bright blue. Marianne picked up the shoe and turned the box upside down. A packing slip drifted gently to the floor.

Isaac picked it up. “It looks like there’s only supposed to be one shoe. Someone ordered a left shoe, but it doesn’t say who.”

“What kind of shoe is it?” Charlie asked.

“It’s a bowling shoe.” Marianne smiled. “We haven’t taken you bowling, have we? I can’t remember the last time I went bowling.”

“Is it fun? When can we go? Tomorrow? Next week?”

“We’ll have to see when they’re open,” Marianne said. She set the shoe back in the box and set it on the counter.

“I’ll email the company and let them know that we didn’t order this. I imagine someone is really disappointed they didn’t get their shoe today.” Isaac checked the packing slip for contact information.

He sent the email and forgot about it as they got ready for dinner. After dinner, they started a movie marathon. Charlie fell asleep before the first movie was over.

The next morning, the box was empty. Isaac noticed, and wondered where the shoe went. He moved the box to the edge of his desk so that he’d remember to ask, and then started going through the bills and balancing the budget. An hour later, the box was completely forgotten.

Two days later, Isaac received an email, telling him that the information appeared to be correct, the shoe was paid for, and so the company wasn’t worried about a single misplaced shoe. Isaac put the box in the recycling and forgot all about it.

A month later, in the middle of the night, Isaac woke up and went to the kitchen for a drink of water. The moon was nearly full, and the kitchen was brightly lit. He didn’t need to turn on the light. Just as he stepped into the kitchen, something growled.

He froze. The growling grew louder and louder. Something emerged from the wall next to the stove and raced across the kitchen floor. It was the bowling shoe, on wheels, with a little man inside clutching a steering wheel and cackling with glee. There were nice seats and all the appropriate bumpers and mirrors and such, as far as Isaac could tell.

The car disappeared into the opposite wall, and the growling sound faded away. Isaac waited a few moments longer. When nothing happened, he got his drink of water and went to bed.

At dinner the next day, he asked. “Do you remember the bowling shoe?”

“Whatever happened with that? Marianne asked. “Did you send it back?”

“No, they said to keep it,” Isaac said. “But then it disappeared.”

“A mouse stole it to live in like the old woman in the shoe,” Charlie said. “There’s a picture like that in one of my books.”

“I wonder if it ended up in the recycling by accident?” Marianne looked concerned. “Did they charge us extra on our last bill?”

Isaac leaned forward. “Actually, a tiny person made it into a car. I saw him driving around the kitchen last night.”

Marianne and Charlie laughed.

“I wish I remembered my dreams,” Charlie said. “I bet I dream of really funny things, too.”

“I don’t really remember my dreams either.” Marianne sighed. “I guess you get that from me. Sorry, kiddo. Luckily, you are good at using your imagination when you’re awake, so I don’t think you’re missing out. Right?” She turned to Isaac and smiled.

“Right,” he said. And the conversation moved on. They never mentioned the shoe again. But sometimes at night, when Isaac heard the growling sound of a nearby car, he wondered if the sound was coming from outside or inside. He was never sure.

Charlie’s Room: Childhood Wishes

Marianne and Charlie were doing their weekly craft project. It looked like it involved yarn and big round plastic looms. Apparently this project was meant to be a secret. The moment the looms came out, Charlie said, “Dad, I think you need a long walk. Come back in an hour or so, but not less than an hour.”

Isaac liked walks, and he was pretty sure that the secret was meant to be a nice surprise, so he didn’t really mind. He put on his coat, changed his shoes, and left. It was a lovely day. The sun was shining and the plants were green and flowering.

He tried to whistle along with the bird songs. Wouldn’t it be nice to arrange a composition nearly entirely from bird songs? You could list them as the co-authors. How would it be to have written a song alongside robins and blue jays and crows and sparrows? It would be awesome.

Unfortunately, Isaac wasn’t really sure how to write music. He would need to spend some time figuring that part out. Mentally, he tucked the idea into his to-do list. The list was getting rather long. He’d need to transfer it all to paper soon before he started forgetting things.

Isaac turned the corner so that he could pass by the park. He hoped that the lilacs were still blooming. He paused when a little brown bird darted close, landed right in front of him, and looked up at him, waiting.

“Hello,” Isaac said. “Isn’t it a beautiful day?”

The bird bobbed it’s head.

“I don’t have any food to share with you. Next time I’ll remember to bring crackers.”

The bird fluttered its wings and hopped back. Then it launched itself in the air. It flew forward, following the sidewalk, and Isaac watched it go, expecting to see it turn and land in a tree nearby. Instead, it turned and flew back, landing at his feet again. It chirped at him.

“Hello again. Did you forget to tell me something?”

The bird fluttered its wings again, and then turned and hopped away a few feet. It turned and chirped. It hopped and turned and chirped once more. It waited and looked up at Isaac.

“Do you want me to follow you?” He asked, feeling a little uncertain.

The bird bobbed its head.

“Then lead the way.”

The bird flew into the park and Isaac followed it. He had to jog to keep up. He was feeling rather out of shape, and hoped that the bird didn’t need to go very far. How long had it been since he last went running? Too long.

The bird followed the path and stopped at the empty basketball courts. There was a lone basketball sitting at the edge of one of the courts. The bird hopped up to perch on the ball. It chirped at him.

“Is this ball in your way?”

The bird fluttered its wings and chirped at him.

“Do you know who it belongs to?”

The bird bobbed its head.

“Do you need me to look for them?”

Flutter, chirp.

“Do they need help?”

The bird bobbed its head.

Isaac looked at the bird closely. “Is this your ball?” The bird bobbed its head twice. “Are you a person that was changed into a bird?” The bird hopped and bobbed its head. “I’m going to need to call for help.”

Luckily, in his wallet he still had the business card for Wendell, Wizard Extraordinaire. He called, and Wendell agreed to come right away. In moments, the air unzipped itself and Wendell stepped out. He looked at the little bird perched on the basketball and the bird looked back.

“Oh, good. It’s just a childhood wish,” he said.

“That’s good? Is it easy to fix?” Isaac looked at the little bird, feeling hopeful.

“Of course. It would probably fix itself in a few minutes. But, since you’re both feeling anxious, I’ll fix it now.” Wendell wiggled his fingers and muttered something. Suddenly, there was a little boy standing on the basketball.

The ball started to roll and the boy jumped backwards. He looked at Isaac and Wendell with his eyes opened wide. Then he darted forwards, grabbed his ball, and ran away. “Thanks, mister,” he called over his shoulder.

“He probably caught a falling leaf and made a wish,” Wendell said. “It happens all the time.”

“Will he be okay?” Isaac asked.

“Of course. He’ll forget that it really happened by the time he’s home and think it was all a daydream. Childhood wishes are like that.”

Isaac smiled and wondered about some of his childhood daydreams. “I really appreciate your help. I wasn’t sure what to do. Thank you so much for coming.”

Wendell smiled and shrugged. “That’s what I do. I’m happy to help. It was good to see you.”

“It was good to see you too.” Isaac chuckled. “Even though I only see you when there’s a problem I need help with, I’m always glad to see you, because that means the problem will be solved. Well, I won’t keep you away from whatever you were doing. Please send me your bill when you get a chance.”

“Thank you. Stay well,” Wendell said. He unzipped the air and waved as he stepped through. Isaac waved back and the air zipped back up.

Isaac checked his watch. He still had another half hour of walking to do. Where would he go next?

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