Category: Charlie’s Room

Charlie’s Room: Space Cats

“Tell me a story,” Charlie said. He leaned on Isaac’s desk, and a pen rolled off onto his keyboard.

Isaac picked up the pen and set it in the jar of pencils. “I’m working right now. Maybe later?”

Charlie slumped further and some papers crumpled under his elbow. “But I want a story now. Please? I’m bored.”

Isaac turned to look at Charlie. He knew that Charlie had homework to do, and books to read, and a yard to play in. But, he also knew that since the quarantine started everything was different and strange, and Charlie wasn’t the only one feeling unsettled. “Okay. I’ll take a break and tell you a story. How about some cocoa, too?” He shut down his computer.

Charlie followed him into the kitchen and started handing him the ingredients he’d need. He leaned in and watched the small bubbles form on the surface as Isaac stirred. “Is it done yet?”

“Almost.” Soon enough, Isaac was pouring the cocoa into mugs. He left the pot in the sink to soak. Marianne was in the bedroom on a phone call, so Isaac set her mug aside for her. He and Charlie took their mugs to the living room, sat on the couch, and turned to face eachother.

“What do you want a story about?”

Charlie thought for a minute or two. “Space cats.”

That was different. Space cats? “Alright. Space cats. Are they cat astronauts from earth? Do they live on the space station?”

“No.” Charlie frowned. “They always lived in space. They’re space cats.”

“Okay.” Isaac sipped his cocoa while he thought for a moment. Still no ideas. He needed more information. “Do they look like regular cats? What do they eat?”

“They look like regular cats except they’re purple. And they eat shooting stars, if they catch them. They chase them really fast.” Charlie waved his hand back and forth. “Really fast, like that, see?” He waved his hand back and forth a few more times.

“Got it. I’ll see what I can do.” Isaac set his mug down.

“Once, there was a family of space cats. There was a mom space cat, and a dad space cat, and a brave and smart little boy space cat. They lived in space and took naps on asteroids, unless they were in a hurry. Then they napped on comets and got where they were going really quickly at the same time. They were very smart space cats. The mom space cat was the smartest one of all, of course, so it was probably her idea.”

“But what about the shooting stars?”

“I’m getting there.” Isaac took another sip of cocoa, very slowly.

“Daaaaaaad,” Charlie said. “Finish the story.”

“Oh, alright. Let’s see, the space cats liked to nap on asteroids best, because that’s what they ate, so it was nice to stay close to their food. The type of asteroids they liked best were the ones that were fiery hot. They tasted better that way. They heated up when they go too close to a planet and were pulled through the atmosphere really, really fast.”

“Shooting stars!”

“Yup. But they had to catch them before they burned up all the way, and they couldn’t fly as fast in atmospheres, because gravity made things difficult. The little boy space cat was the best at catching shooting stars because he was the fastest. And then, one day, he had a great idea. He thought that they needed to think of a way to heat up asteroids without going into the atmosphere. And then he looked at the bright, shiny, sun”

“The sun is too hot for space cats,” Charlie said. “They’d melt.”

“Yes, and it wasn’t the same thing at all. But it was on fire without any atmosphere at all. He told his parents that they needed to find a way to set asteroids on fire without chasing them into the atmosphere all the time. They needed to find a way to steal a piece of the sun and carry it around with them. The mom space cat had an idea. She said that she remembered seeing a crystal on the other side of the galaxy that was strong enough to hold a piece of the sun. They rode a comet over and found the crystal.”

Isaac took a long sip of cocoa.

“Daaaaaaad.”

“Sorry, sorry. Let’s see. They got they crystal. And then the dad cat thought that if they sent it through the atmosphere and it got hot like a shooting star, it would be like having a piece of sun to carry with them, but not too hot. But they would have to catch it at just the right time. And who was the best at catching shooting stars?”

“The little boy space cat?”

“That’s right. So they sent the crystal into the atmosphere, and he caught it at just the right time, when it was shining its brightest. Then they took it back to an asteroid and used the crystal to cook dinner. A long time later, when it stopped glowing as brightly, what do you think they did?”

Charlie bounced on the cushion in excitement. “They sent it into the atmosphere again and caught it when it was just right!”

“That’s right. And they lived happily ever after.”

Charlie grinned and drank the last of his cocoa in one big gulp. “That was a good story.”

“I think it turned out well. You had a great idea.”

“Like the little boy space cat!”

Isaac nodded. “Just like him. You should write down our story so you don’t forget it. We can make it into a book.”

Charlie jumped up. “I’ll draw pictures, too. It’ll be the best book! We can put it on the shelf with the dinosaur books, and you can read it to me at bedtime.”

Charlie raced away, and Isaac finished his cocoa. He stood to take his and Charlie’s mugs to the sink. Just then, Charlie peeked around the corner. “Dad?”

“Yes?”

“Thank you for telling me a story.”

“Of course.”

And Charlie raced away again, apparently no longer feeling bored and unsettled. Isaac took the mugs to the sink, and smiled when he saw that Marianne’s mug was gone. He hoped her phone calls were going well. Then, feeling less unsettled himself, he went back to work.

Charlie’s Room: Cleaning Up

In the middle of the night, the wind started roaring. Isaac woke up from an awful dream where he was chased by lions, and it took a few minutes for him to figure out what was happening. Rain hit the window in bursts and sounded like the drumming of fingernails on the glass. Every once in a while, there was a strange, high-pitched whistle.

It was difficult to fall back asleep, so he went to the kitchen for a drink of water. Earlier in the evening, the full moon was visible. It hung bright and luminous and unreal somehow, like a sticker placed on top of the sky. Now, he couldn’t see it at all. The only light was from the streetlights, and the shadows wavered and danced in the yellow-orange glow, distorted by the rain tossed against the window by the wind.

The wind roared even louder, like an invisible ocean coming in to shore. Isaac glanced at the clock. He had an early meeting at work and couldn’t stay up late. With a reluctant glance back at the shifting shadows, he went back to bed. After a while, he fell asleep.

In the morning, it was still dark when he left the house with a cold muffin wrapped in a napkin for later. He swerved around branches in the street as he drove to work. The sun was just coming up as he arrived. He had to watch his step. The sidewalks were littered with papers and wrappers that had been blown against the buildings in the night.

After a busy day at work, Isaac was starving. The muffin wasn’t enough to cover breakfast and lunch. He spent the drive home imagining the wonderful sandwich he would eat when he arrived home. It was going to have everything he liked on it. Lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles, and whatever else he could find in the fridge that would fit on a sandwich.

The sidewalks and yards in his neighborhood were covered in debris from the storm. It would take a while to get things cleaned up. His home was no exception. When Marianne and Charlie didn’t call out to welcome him home when he stepped inside, he knew right away where to find them. They were in the garden.

Marianne had her hands on her hips, and she was shaking her head. Charlie was on his knees, inspecting the bottom of a trellis. Isaac hurried over. “Is everything okay?” he asked.

Charlie stood up and brushed off his knees. “I think so. We just have a lot of clean up to do.”

Marianne smiled. “Welcome home. I’m afraid that we need to put you to work right away while it’s still light out.” She pointed to a box of trash bags on the ground nearby. “Can you get a bag and start picking up in the front? We’ll take care of things back here.”

Ignoring his grumbling tummy, Isaac grabbed a bag and some gloves from the shed and got to work. It didn’t take long to get the front yard picked up. He looked around, pleased at the neat, clean yard, and thought about going inside and eating that fabulous sandwich. Surely there would be cheese in the fridge. He would add two slices, or maybe three.

And then he noticed the yards around him. Mr. Johnson would have a hard time picking up trash while leaning on his cane. The Simonsens worked until late. Maybe he could clean up for just a little bit longer.

Isaac cleaned quickly, quicker than he’d expected, and made his way back around to Miss Marta’s yard just as the sun was setting. The shadows were long and the light seemed heavier somehow. He reached for a plastic cup that was leaning against the base of a pine tree, when he saw something small dart forward through a gap in the iris leaves nearby. He froze.

The something small froze too. It was a little man, dressed in a green that was a perfect match for the leaves behind him. The man was clutching a small cast-iron pot, the size of a tea cup, to his chest. It was filled with golden odds and ends, things like buttons and bracelets and tooth fillings.

Narrowing his eyes and scowling, the man clutched his pot of gold tighter. “You can’t have it. It’s mine!”

Isaac took a step back and held up his hands. “Of course it is. I’m not sure that I even own any gold.”

“Well you can’t have mine.” The man stepped back, two big steps, while watching Isaac. “And don’t try to catch me and ask for wishes. I’d make them all turn out terrible, you know.”

Isaac nodded. “I understand. I’ll leave you and your gold alone.”

“You’d better.” The man took a few more backwards steps and then turned. Three more steps. He was fading into the shadows. Just then, Isaac’s stomach growled loudly. The man paused and turned back to look at Isaac.

Isaac smiled. “Sorry about that. Busy day.”

The man looked at Isaac’s bag of trash and the plastic cup nearby that Isaac hadn’t picked up yet. “I see that. I won’t grant you any wishes, but I can gift you some food.” He frowned. “But it’s only because I feel sorry for you.”

He waved a hand at Isaac, and suddenly Isaac was holding something wrapped in brown paper. When he looked up from the parcel, the man was gone. “Thank you,” he said anyway.

Isaac took off his gloves and unwrapped the parcel. Inside there was a sandwich with everything he liked on it. It even had three slices of cheese. It was delicious.

He finished picking up Miss Marta’s yard and went home. The streetlights were coming on. He threw the trash bag into the outside trash can and went inside. Marianne was in the kitchen, stirring a pot of soup and humming. Charlie was setting the table.

“That took you a while.” Charlie set out the spoons.

“I picked up a lot of trash,” Isaac said. “I picked up around the neighborhood a little.” He washed his hands at the sink.

“I’ll bet you’re starving after all that work.” Marianne tasted the soup and added a little salt. “It’s almost ready.”

“I had a sandwich,” Isaac admitted.

“While you were out?”

“Someone gave it to me.”

Charlie put the cups on the table with a smile. “Was it nice?”

“It was the best sandwich I ever ate.”

Marianne smiled. “Well the sandwich might have been nice, but wait until you taste this soup!”

The soup was wonderful. Isaac couldn’t have wished for better.

Charlie’s Room: Sick Day

Marianne was feeling sick. Isaac kept waking up to hear her coughing in the middle of the night. By morning, he felt like he hadn’t slept much at all. His throat was sore and he felt sort of floaty.

He was pretty sure he was sick too.

After tucking the covers back around Marianne, Isaac put on his slippers and trudged down the hall. He could hear Charlie coughing. Isaac sighed. It was going to be a long day.

He called in sick and then called the attendance line for the school. Then he started cooking some oatmeal. He finished cooking breakfast as Marianne stumbled into the kitchen, looking half awake.

“Sick day today,” he said. “I called in to excuse Charlie and me. You probably should call in sick too.”

“My afternoon meeting is just a phone call,” Marianne mumbled. “I can do that.”

“Okay.” Isaac turned off the stove and dished up some oatmeal. “Orange juice?”

Marianne made a face. “Sounds terrible. My throat hurts. It would be like lemon juice in a paper cut. Throwing up orange juice would be awful, too.”

“Good point.” Isaac put the pitcher back in the fridge. “Would cocoa be better?”

She shrugged. “I think so.”

Charlie woke up late and Isaac reheated everything while Charlie sat at the kitchen table with his head buried in his arms. “I don’t feel good.” Charlie’s voice was muffled. “I don’t want to go to school today.”

“It’s a sick day today,” Marianne answered. “We’re all staying home.”

“But what if I still feel sick tomorrow?” Charlie asked.

“Luckily, tomorrow is Saturday. You wouldn’t go to school anyway.”

They decided to stay in pajamas and watch movies. Marianne and Charlie went to set up nests of blankets and pillows in the living room. Isaac promised he’d join them shortly.

After leaving the dishes to soak, Isaac pulled out his family recipe book. It was the one his grandmother had put together for him when he was finally old enough to hold a knife steady and chop vegetables. It was a huge book, and all of the recipes were handwritten.

It had everything from the family cocoa recipe to great-great-aunt Betty’s wood polish. Today, he flipped through the pages and stopped at the elderberry cough syrup recipe. It didn’t cure colds instantly, but it did seem to keep them from lasting longer.

He dug through the cupboards and fridge to pull out the dried elderberries and honey and cinnamon bark and cloves and ginger. As he chopped and boiled, he started to relax. Just the fumes were helping him to feel better.

He added a good spoonful of the syrup to mugs of peppermint tea. While they cooled a little, he popped some popcorn. It took a couple of trips, but soon he was snuggled into his own little nest watching movies.

That night, Isaac woke himself up coughing, but Marianne seemed to be sleeping better. When he got up in the morning, he could smell pancakes. He stumbled into the kitchen, yawning. Charlie was already there waiting. “I think I feel better than yesterday,” Charlie said. And then he coughed a few times. They all laughed.

The sick day became a sick weekend. They stayed in pajamas and watched movies and drank peppermint tea with elderberry syrup. By Sunday evening, Marianne and Charlie were feeling better. Isaac was pretty sure he was well enough to go to work in the morning.

“So, this cough syrup is a secret family recipe.” Marianne held up the nearly empty jar of syrup.

“I don’t know that the family recipes are secret. We just never seem to be able to share them. Something always happens, and we get distracted. I think it’s a charm on the book.”

Marianne put the jar down. She looked puzzled. “What book?”

“The family recipe book my grandmother made. The one with all the handwritten recipes.” It was right there on the counter.

“I don’t think I’ve seen that one. You’ll have to show me later.” Marianne looked out the window.

Isaac nearly pointed out that the book was right there. But, as he opened his mouth, Marianne was already marching to the back door. “Charlie,” she yelled over her shoulder. “Get the spray bottle. There are cats digging in the garden again!”

She ran out the door, and Isaac picked up the recipe book and took it back to his desk. He shut the drawer with a sigh. He knew that Marianne wouldn’t ask about it later. He wasn’t even sure she could see it.

Perhaps Charlie could? Maybe they could try a recipe from the book sometime. Charlie was certainly old enough to chop vegetables.

Charlie came running through the kitchen with the spray bottle of water and hurried out the back door to join Marianne. Isaac watched them through the window as they chased the cats away from the rhubarb bed. They certainly seemed to feel all better. The sick days were at an end.

Charlie’s Room: The Red Hat

One year, soon after Charlie was born, Marianne gave Isaac a red knit cap for Valentine’s day. “Did you make it for me?” he asked.

“No, I bought it at the market. But it looks warm, doesn’t it?”

Isaac put the hat on. It was warm and soft and just the right size. “I love it!” he said. And he wore it often. February was still quite cold, so he wore it many times that year.

They also took pictures of baby Charlie sleeping inside the hat. The brim was pulled up near his chin, and he looked like he was in a tiny sleeping bag.

Isaac loved his red hat. He was careful with it, and didn’t loan it out to anybody. And yet, years and years later, the hat looked worn. It wasn’t nearly as red or soft. There were spots where the yarn was stretched thin and matted.

One morning, as Isaac was getting ready to leave, Charlie looked up at him and frowned. “You need a new hat, dad.”

Isaac put his hands up to hover protectively next to his hat. “I love this hat. It’s as old as you are, you know.”

“Yes, yes.” Charlie rolled his eyes. “I’ve seen the pictures.”

“It’s hard to believe you were that small, right?”

“I got bigger because I got older. Just like your hat got older.”

Isaac covered his ears. “I didn’t hear that.”

“Mom!”

Marianne came out of the kitchen drying her hands on a towel. She looked at Isaac and frowned. “You need a new hat.”

“See?” Charlie folded his arms across his chest and smiled.

Isaac stepped towards the door. “I really have to go now. Maybe we can talk about this later.” He opened the door and stepped outside. “Bye.” He closed the door and hurried to his car.

When he arrived at work, he left the red hat on his desk. It almost felt like he was sitting at the bedside of an old friend who had been given a terrible diagnosis. “Don’t worry,” he told the hat. “You have plenty of good years left. I’ll bring home a movie and some ice cream and they’ll forget all about this terrible new hat idea.”

The movie and ice cream distraction idea seemed to work. They had a fun evening, and nobody mentioned hats once. Isaac hid the hat under his pillow just in case.

He was pretty sure they wouldn’t get rid of his favorite hat without his permission, but he didn’t want to take any chances. There was that one time that his mom threw out his favorite boots just because there was a hole in the toe. For weeks before that he stuffed newspaper inside and his foot had stayed mostly dry and his socks were only a little stained by the newspaper ink.

It wasn’t that he had a hard time throwing things away. Not usually, anyway. But when something had enough good memories attached to it, it was hard to give it up.

Things that were well-loved had a certain glow about them. Miss Marta’s gray shawl had that glow. So did one of Mr. Johnson’s ties that was covered in tiny elephants, and Charlie’s lucky socks, and Marianne’s tiny green earrings. To Isaac his hat glowed brightest of all, but that might just be because it was his and he loved it best.

The next morning, when Isaac put the red hat on, Charlie frowned, but he didn’t say anything. Marianne stepped out of the kitchen to say goodbye. She looked at the hat and frowned. But she didn’t say anything about the hat either. Isaac relaxed. His hat was safe.

A month later, it was Valentine’s day. Isaac hummed happy birthday to his hat as he put it on. He was looking forward to an evening of pizza and board games.

Marianne and Charlie met him at the door after work. Charlie held up a lumpy present wrapped in shiny red paper and taped closed with what looked like most of a roll of tape. “I just finished your present.”

Isaac finished putting his coat away and changed out of his shoes. Then he took the present and examined it from all sides. “Let’s go sit on the couch. That looks like it may take a little while to unwrap.”

“You aren’t going to try to open it without ripping the paper, right?” Charlie tugged on the present. “I’ll open it. You take too long.”

Isaac kept a tight hold on his present. “It’s my present. Unwrapping it is part of the fun. Enjoy the journey.”

Marianne sighed. “Let’s go make cocoa. He’ll still be unwrapping when it’s ready.”

Luckily, Isaac discovered a corner where the tape was applied less densely, and soon enough he was able to slide out a soft, bright, red, knit something. “Is this a hat?” he asked. He wasn’t sure how he felt about a new hat. Could he really replace his old hat and all the memories it represented?

“Of course it is.” Charlie grinned. “I made it for you myself. Mom helped.”

Isaac looked down at his new red hat. It glowed even brighter than the old one. “I love it,” he said.

Charlie’s Room: Visiting Miss Marta

“Do you have your coat?” Isaac asked. “And your toothbrush?”

Charlie rolled his eyes. “You already asked that.”

“I think I’m worrying too loudly. I didn’t hear you before. What did you say the last time I asked?”

“I have them. Mom gave me a list to pack with, you know. I have everything I need. Are you checking that Mom remembered to pack everything, too?” Charlie folded his arms across his chest and raised his chin.

Isaac smiled. “I asked her too, but she said to stop asking and check on you.”

“You can tell her I’m just fine.” Charlie patted his suitcase.

“If you need help with anything…” Isaac paused in the doorway.

“I think Mom is calling you,” Charlie said. Isaac laughed.

All too soon, Marianne and Charlie had the car all packed and they were driving away. Isaac waved even after they turned the corner. Finally he dropped his hand with a sigh.

“Home alone?” Miss Marta was leaning on the top of her back gate.

“They’re visiting Marianne’s Aunt Doris for a week.” Isaac walked across the front lawn.

Miss Marta nodded. “And you have work and couldn’t go with them.”

“That’s right.”

Miss Marta stepped through the gate and wiped her hands on her apron. “Why don’t you come on in for a cup of cocoa? You look like you aren’t ready to go home to an empty house. I feel that way sometimes when my grandson goes home after a visit. I think it’s the contrast that does it. Most of the time I’m fine.”

Isaac followed her inside as she chattered. Already he was feeling a little better. Miss Marta reminded him of his grandmother. She radiated that same feeling of ancient wisdom and watchful care.

The hot cocoa tasted nearly the same, too. “Does your cocoa have mint in it?”

“Lavender. It’s calming.” She sat in the chair next to the couch, clutching her own mug.

Isaac looked around. There were photographs everywhere. Most of them seemed to be taken in places far, far away. “Did you visit all of these places?”

“Oh yes. When I was younger, I did a lot of traveling. There were so many interesting places to see.”

Shifting his mug to one hand, he picked up a small picture from an end table. He blinked, squinted, and looked again. It was a colorful marketplace, with a number of stalls selling things like cloth and fruit. In the background, it looked like there was a dragon peeking out from under a tablecloth. “Is that really a dragon?”

Miss Marta leaned forward. Isaac turned the picture around and held it out so that she could see it better. She smiled and leaned back in her chair. “It looks like one, doesn’t it? I don’t really remember. I do remember someone was selling books at that market, and I bought as many as I could carry home.”

“It is difficult to fit everything into your luggage.” Isaac set the picture down and sipped his cocoa.

Miss Marta smiled. “I had my ways to make it work.”

“Magic?”

“Perhaps. Or maybe I just sent everything to myself through the mail.” She grinned a little wider.

Isaac smiled too. Ancient wisdom, watchful care, and a sense of humor. Just like his grandmother. He settled back into his chair. He said, “Tell me more about your travels,” just like he used to say to his grandmother, “Tell me a story.”

And Miss Marta did. And Isaac didn’t feel quite so lonely. That evening, Charlie and Marianne called to tell him they arrived safely.

“And we stopped for lunch on the way. Did you do anything fun?” Charlie asked.

“I visited Miss Marta. She gave me cocoa and told me about the pictures in her living room.”

“I guess that could be fun,” Charlie said.

“It was.”

“I’m glad you’re not sad.”

“Me too.” Isaac smiled at the phone, even though Charlie couldn’t see it.

“When we get home, I’ll send her a thank you card,” Charlie said. And even though he was home alone, Isaac decided this day was one of his top ten favorite days ever.

Charlie’s Room: Fireworks

Marianne and Charlie were making a house call. One of the neighbors had some sick potted plants and they needed some expert help. Charlie was rather thrilled to be considered an expert.

“Should we bring something to check the pH of the soil?” Charlie asked.

Marianne laughed. “I’m sure they used potting soil. Besides, what would we bring? We’ve never tested the pH of our soil.”

“Good point. I’ll go comb my hair again.” And Charlie was off.

Marianne shrugged. “He’ll be fine once we get there. There’s nothing like plants to take away stress.”

“Even if the plants are sick?” Isaac asked.

“Hmmmm. I don’t know. We’ll have to see.”

After they left, the house was much quieter. It was also colder. It was especially cold outside, and it was taking a while for the house to warm up again. Charlie let all the warm air out taking so many trips back inside for things he forgot.

Isaac decided to wear his warmest fuzzy socks. He trudged down the hall, trying to decide whether he needed a sweater as well. He reached for the bedroom doorknob, but pulled his hand back quickly. Static electricity. He should have done less trudging across the hallway carpet.

Isaac reached for the doorknob again, and pulled his hand back again. More static electricity? But he hadn’t even moved. That wasn’t how it was supposed to work.

Had someone set up some sort of trick? Isaac examined the doorknob more closely. He didn’t see anything stuck to the doorknob, and there weren’t any suspicious wires, either.

However, there was a strange shimmery sort of spot just above the doorknob. Isaac leaned in and squinted. He could just barely make out a round lizard-y sort of shape. And it appeared to have wings.

A dragon? How did a small, mostly invisible dragon end up on his bedroom doorknob? He was fairly certain there wasn’t a dragon in the house before. From what he could tell, life was a little more shocking with a little dragon around.

It probably came in out of the cold. But why the doorknob? Did it need metal to perch on? Maybe it would set things like wood or cloth on fire.

Isaac hurried to the kitchen and returned with a nice two-handled pot, and lots of pot holders. He set the potholders on the carpet, several layers thick, and put the pot on top. Then he took a big step back.

“Look at this pot,” he said softly in his most encouraging voice. “It looks much more comfortable than that slippery doorknob. I bet you’re pretty uncomfortable perched up there. I’ll just go away for a little bit, and you can sit in that pot there, where you’ll be able to rest.”

From what Isaac had sort of seen, the dragon seemed to have a large head and small wings. He was pretty sure it was a baby. That probably meant that there was a mother dragon somewhere out there looking for it.

He didn’t want anyone burning the door down to get inside. Or the roof. He needed to attract the attention of the mother dragon somewhere safe so that she could take her baby back home to wherever invisible dragons lived when they weren’t perching on doorknobs.

What would amplified static electricity look like? The answer seemed clear. Fireworks.

There were a few small fireworks somewhere in the garage leftover from their New Year celebration. It had been cold and they all wanted to go inside early. Isaac found the right plastic tub and opened the metal tin inside.

He sorted through the fireworks left. There was one that made a crackling sound but didn’t shoot any sparks high in the air. That would probably be best.

Time to see if the baby dragon was in the soup pot. Isaac stopped by the kitchen for the pot lid. And a lighter. When he returned to the hallway where he’d left the pot, he was a little surprised to see that the top layer of potholders was smoking.

He’d returned just in time! He put the lid on the pot and ignored the muffled screeching. He put the firework and lighter in separate shirt pockets. He picked up the pot with some of the extra potholders and raced to the entryway.

Should he stop for his coat? The potholders were already getting warm. He stepped into some boots and somehow managed to maneuver himself and the pot through the front door.

The driveway was clear. Isaac set the pot down in the middle of the driveway. He set off the fireworks. Then he took the lid off the pot and hurried back the the front door. The screeching was louder.

It wasn’t long before there was a rush of warm wind and a thump. The screeching stopped. The pot tumbled over on its side. There was a crackling, electric sort of sound and another rush of warm wind.

And then it was very, very cold again. Isaac shivered as he hurried over to pick up the pot and bring it inside. He was relieved that his bedroom doorknob didn’t shock him when he went to get his fuzzy socks and a giant sweater.

He was warm enough to leave the sweater on the couch by the time Marianne and Charlie returned. They chattered about the house call as they prepared dinner together. Charlie was pretty sure that once the neighbor stopped over-watering the plants, they’d recover.

Marianne opened the drawer of potholders. “What happened to the potholders? They look singed!”

“Invisible dragon,” Isaac said. “It was just a baby.”

Marianne looked at the potholder on top. “It must have been a very round invisible dragon.”

“It was in a pot,” Isaac explained.

“Of course,” Marianne said. “Why didn’t I think of that?”

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