Category: Charlie’s Room

Charlie’s Room: An Unexpected Visitor

Marianne and Charlie loved to read. They would sit on the couch to read in the afternoon, and just tune out the world around them. When they were reading, they couldn’t hear anything.

The funny thing was that they would respond to questions, but their answers wouldn’t make any sense, and they wouldn’t remember later what they said. It was a little like sleep-talking, except they were awake. Isaac wondered if for them reading was like dreaming with their eyes open.

Isaac liked to read, too. However, he was able to hear the doorbell or the telephone when he was reading. If someone asked him a question, he could stop reading and answer the question and remember the conversation later.

One early December afternoon, when the weather was threatening snow but hadn’t yet delivered it, Marianne and Charlie were sitting side by side on the couch reading. They were bathed in the glow of the afternoon light streaming through the front window. Their eyes moved, and occasionally they turned a page, but otherwise they were as still as statues.

Isaac sat in a nearby chair. He had his book out, but he was daydreaming rather than reading. It was hard to focus on the page when there were so many things to think about. Just as he prepared to reread the third paragraph on the page for the fourth time, the doorbell rang.

Marianne and Charlie read on. Isaac sat up and looked around for a bookmark. He found a crossword puzzle magazine and closed it inside his book and set it on the low table nearby. And then he went to answer the door.

No one was standing on the doorstep. Isaac almost closed the door, when a giant white bird flew into the narrow opening and shoved passed Isaac into the house. Isaac pulled the door open a little wider and looked around quickly.

There wasn’t anything scary chasing the bird. There wasn’t anyone running around trying to find their lost bird. There weren’t any other white birds waiting for their chance to fly into the house.

Isaac decided to leave the door open while he found the bird and hopefully chased it back outside. First, he looked into the living room. Marianne and Charlie were still on the couch reading.

“Did the big white bird fly in here?” he asked.

“What kind of bird was it?” Marianne asked, still reading.

“I don’t know. It was big and white and inside the house.”
“Hmmmmm.” Charlie turned a page. “It was probably a chicken.”

“I don’t think so. I do know what chickens look like,” Isaac said.

“Of course you do,” Marianne agreed.

Isaac shook his head and left to check the kitchen. The bird wasn’t there. It was in Charlie’s room. Of course. It was in his closet sitting on a pile of shoes. It hissed at Isaac when he walked in the room.

“I’m afraid you’ll have to spend the winter somewhere else,” he told the bird. “I could maybe spare a corner of the garden shed, if you’re interested.”

The bird hissed.

Isaac left for a moment and returned with a large towel. “I’m going to drop this on you, and wrap you up and take you outside,” he said in what he hoped was a reassuring voice.

The bird hissed louder and tried to peck at him. Isaac wasn’t sure he was brave enough to try to catch the bird in the towel. He’d have to go rather close to that largish beak.

New plan. Isaac retrieved his hidden stash of oatmeal raisin cookies. He would be happy to share his treats with a hungry bird, especially if that meant the bird would be able to continue whatever it was doing before it came inside.

He broke a cookie and tossed half of it in the bird’s direction The bird snapped it up and ate it. Isaac waved the other half of the cookie invitingly and backed up.

The bird flew at him, and knocked him over. Then it took the other half of the cookie and ate it. Isaac curled around the cookie tin and got up, backing out of the room.

He opened the tin and took out another cookie and broke it. The bird turned and looked at him. Isaac hurried down the hall. He made it to the entryway before the bird knocked him over and took both halves of the cookie.

Isaac stood and brushed himself off. Then he opened the tin, took out a cookie, and tossed it out the front door. The bird followed it out. Isaac closed the door. And then he locked it just in case.

He looked out the back door. No bird. He slipped out and closed the door. He left the shed door partly open, just as he promised.

Then he returned inside. He paused, waiting for a moment to see if the doorbell would ring again. Nothing. Perhaps the bird was really gone now. Maybe it was just hungry.

He returned to the living room and sat down. He picked up his book. The magazine slid out and he lost his place. He sighed and put the book back down.

Marianne closed her book and looked up. “What on earth were you doing?” She asked. “You’re covered in crumbs and you have feathers in your hair.”

“We had an unexpected visitor,” Isaac said.

Charlie’s Room: New Growth

It was a chilly fall morning, the perfect weather for warm mittens and hats and scarves. The light at that time of day made everything glow. The colors of the last of the fall leaves seemed brighter, and the light streaming past houses and fences and branches shone a spotlight on unexpected things. As Charlie and Isaac walked through the drifts of crunchy fall leaves, one of these wandering morning sunbeams hit a dark greenish rock on the sidewalk.

“Look, that rock is glowing.” Charlie hurried forward and scooped up the rock to show his dad.

Charlie’s back was mostly turned against the light, and the light touched the edges of his hair, giving him a halo. Isaac smiled and looked into the mitten nest. “It is a nice rock. It’s sort of leaf shaped. I like it.”

Charlie looked down at the rock. In the shade, it wasn’t nearly as interesting. “I guess so. Can you hold onto it for me? I would have to take off my mittens to unzip my pockets.”

“Sure.” Isaac took the rock and they continued their walk. When they walked in the door, Marianne was waiting for them. “There you are! I was about to go look for you.”

“Did you need help with something?” Isaac unwrapped his scarf and started folding it up.

“You both forgot, didn’t you?”

Charlie’s eyes grew wide and he grinned. “It’s greenhouse day!” He looked down at his pile of coat-mittens-scarf-hat, and shuffled over a step to tug off his shoes without untying them. “I need to change into my garden club tee-shirt!”

Meanwhile, Isaac put his folded scarf into his coat pocket and found the rock. “Wait,” he called.

Charlie was already halfway down the hall, but he stopped and looked back, eyebrows raised. Isaac held out the rock. Charlie rolled his eyes, but he came back to snatch it from Isaac and hurry back down the hall.

“How long will you be gone?” Isaac asked.

Marianne shrugged. “It depends on how many people signed up to give tours. We may be late. Charlie has a list of questions to ask. This may be the year we finally decide to build our own.”

“I could come along and take measurements.” Isaac wasn’t as interested in the contents of all the greenhouses, but he liked the idea of a new building project.

“We can do that. I already have the tape measure in my purse. You really need to get the doorknob fixed before someone gets stuck in the bathroom for good.” Marianne patted his arm. Then she turned to yell down the hallway to Charlie. “Are you coming? It’s time to go.”

Charlie came racing around the corner, wearing his garden club shirt. He wiggled back into his shoes while pulling on the coat-mittens-scarf-hat pile. Marianne dressed warmly as well, and opened the door. In a moment they were off on their adventure.

It didn’t take long to change out the old, worn-out doorknob. Isaac twisted the knob, and watched to see if everything was working well. It was.

Next job on his fix-it list was the drawer pull on Charlie’s dresser. He examined it a few days ago when Charlie complained about it. It was cracked down the center and had to be replaced.

When he entered Charlie’s room, his eyes were drawn right away to the leaf-shaped rock on the floor by one of the legs of the loft bed. It was sitting in a stray beam of sunlight and looked like it was glowing. Isaac smiled and picked it up to move it to the desk. As he straightened up, he noticed an odd twig that looked like it was growing out of the bed leg.

He leaned in and examined it. How strange. That definitely had not been there before. He set the rock on the desk and decided to worry about it later.

Turning to the dresser, he fixed the drawer pull. It didn’t take long. When he turned around again, the twig had sprouted leaves.

Isaac stepped closer and looked more closely. There was another twig growing higher up on the other side of the bed leg. He turned and narrowed his eyes. The desk chair beside the still-glowing rock had also sprouted.

He picked up the rock and took it out to the garden, just in case. Things out there were supposed to grow. He came back in to clean up his tools. The bed and desk chair were already back to normal.

Later that day, after he cooked dinner for Marianne and Charlie, they all sat down to eat. Charlie happily told them about all his favorite greenhouse features and what he’d grow if he had his very own greenhouse.

“I took a lot of notes and measurements,” Marianne said. “I also have some phone numbers and permission to come and look again if we need to.”

Isaac smiled. “Perfect.” Then he turned to Charlie. “I had to take your rock outside.”

“What rock?”

“The greenish one from our walk. The one that looked like a leaf?”

Charlie shrugged. “Oh. That one. Huh. Let me tell you more about the greenhouses.” He didn’t mention the rock again.

The next day, Isaac looked out in the garden when he was filling the bird feeder. The rock was gone. He was okay with that.

Charlie’s Room: The Apple

One of the apples was different from the other apples in the fruit bowl. Isaac could feel it the moment he stepped into the kitchen. It wasn’t just different in the way that all apples are different from each other.

Some apples have stripes, others spots, others have splotches of color or a subtle variation in hue. The can be all different shades of red or yellow or green, sometimes with little speckles or stripes of brown or white. And then there are all the differences in size and shape and taste.

This apple was different in all of those normal ways. It was splotchy red and yellow, and it was missing its stem. It was largish for an apple, and roundish.

It was also watching him. He couldn’t explain how he knew. He could just feel the weight of the stare when he was looking elsewhere. Of course, when he looked right at the apples, they all seemed completely normal.

He wasn’t sure which apple it was at first. When he walked in, Marianne was next to the fruit bowl, filling a pitcher with water from the faucet. “How was work?” she asked.

“It was fine. Hey, where did you get those apples?”

Charlie looked over from where he was setting the table. “We have more apples? I hadn’t noticed. What kind did you get?”

Marianne turned off the faucet and carried the pitcher to the table. “They had bags of mixed apples at a discount. We eat so many apples that I bought two bags. The apples that didn’t fit in the bowl are still in their bags over there by the fridge.” She gestured towards the fridge with a nod of her head.

Isaac walked over and peered into the half-full bags of apples, but they all looked like completely normal apples. He felt someone watching him again, from the direction of the fruit bowl. He glanced over, and Marianne and Charlie were at the table.

“Can I have an apple?” Charlie placed the last fork on the table and hurried to the fruit bowl. He picked up a large red and yellow apple. It slipped and he just managed to catch it. “Woah. Got it.” He walked towards Marianne.

Isaac was watching Charlie and not the fruit bowl. The apples in the bowl weren’t watching him. That’s when he knew which apple was different. “We’re about to eat dinner,” he said.

“Oh. Right. Maybe after dinner?”

Marianne laughed. “We’ll see.”

But after dinner, Isaac suggested a movie night with popcorn and Charlie forgot about the apple. Isaac did not. Once Marianne and Charlie were watching the movie, Isaac slipped back into the kitchen.

He took the apple out of the fruit bowl and moved the bowl over by the bags of apples. Then he set the apple on the counter by itself. He crouched down so that he was at eye level.

“Hello. I’m not sure if you understand me, but I want you to know that this isn’t really a safe place for you. We eat apples here, and you look like an apple.”

Suddenly two small shiny black eyes were looking back at him. Isaac blinked. He’d suspected this wasn’t a normal apple, but it was still strange to see it looking back at him.

“Is there something I can do to help you return to wherever you came from? Blink once for yes and twice for no.”

The apple blinked twice.

“Okay. Will you be able to leave tonight?”

The apple blinked once.

“Do you need anything?”

The apple blinked twice.

“All right then. I’ll leave you alone. Good luck with your journey home.”

Isaac left the kitchen to watch the movie. They laughed at the funny parts and cheered at the exciting parts and quoted all their favorite lines. When Marianne and Charlie left to get their pajamas on, Isaac took the popcorn bowls back to the kitchen. The apple was gone.

Isaac checked all of the other apples, but none of them watched him or responded when he spoke to him. He decided that meant they were safe to eat. He put them all away and went to read a bedtime story to Charlie.

The next morning, Charlie hurried into the kitchen, his hair still messy from sleep. “Where’s the big yellowy-red apple? I want to eat it with breakfast.”

“It’s gone already,” Isaac said.

“That’s too bad. I guess I’ll eat one of the stripey ones instead.” He did.

Isaac didn’t eat any of the apples. It just seemed wrong somehow.

Charlie’s Room: Little Mittens

Every evening when the weather was cold, Isaac left out a saucer of milk on the counter. Marianne and Charlie both asked about it a few times. He told them it was for passing hobgoblins who often migrated this time of year.

He really wasn’t sure whether they believed him or not, but they accepted it as a seasonal part of his bedtime routine. When the leaves changed colors and the air grew crisp, it was time to take out the little white saucer. They smiled when they saw it.

“It is getting a little chilly out,” Marianne said.

“It’s officially fall now,” Charlie agreed. “Dad’s leaving milk out on the counter.”

Some mornings the milk was gone. Some mornings it wasn’t. He never knew when hobgoblins or even brownies or fairies would be passing through. So, he always made sure to leave out the milk.

One morning, the milk was gone, and next to the saucer was a tiny pair of black and white striped mittens. Isaac, who had been reaching for the saucer, paused and looked around. No one in sight.

Perhaps they were just waiting for him to leave the room before coming back for their mittens. He quickly washed the saucer and put it away. Then he left the room for a little while. He could eat breakfast later.

But later, when Charlie and Marianne were ready for breakfast and they all went into the kitchen, the little mittens were still there. Charlie picked them up and stuck his fingertips into the mittens, stretching them out of shape. “I know Aunt Doris still things I’m little, but this is ridiculous.”

Marianne laughed. “Aunt Doris didn’t send those. They look like doll mittens. I wonder where they came from.”

“Some hobgoblins must have left them,” Isaac said. “It’s the right time of year for them, and the mittens were right by the empty saucer this morning.”

Marianne smiled brightly and nodded. “That’s right, the hobgoblins. And they report to Santa, don’t they? So you’d better be good, Charlie.”

“I thought it was elves that reported to Santa.” Charlie frowned. “And I’m always good. When am I not good? I don’t need goblins watching me.”

“Maybe we could bake cookies for the goblins later.” Marianne started shuffling through the box of cookie cutters. “They’d have to be little cookies, of course.”

Charlie sat up straighter. “Cookies? Sure. We could bake some for the goblins and some for us, right?”

“They’re hobgoblins,” Isaac corrected, but they were too busy hunting through the cookie cutters, and he needed to leave for work. He let it be.

That evening, he left the mittens and cookies by the saucer of milk before bed. After reading to Charlie, he joined Marianne in the living room. She looked up from her book when he sat down.

“Goblin mittens? That was such a cute idea. Where did you find them?” she asked.

“Hobgoblin mittens. They were there by the saucer.” Isaac shrugged.

Marianne laughed. “I see. Well, I look forward to seeing if they leave anything behind tomorrow.”

The next morning, there was a little thank you note by the saucer. The mittens and cookies were gone. Marianne and Charlie started leaving small things for the hobgoblins from time to time, and the hobgoblins always left a thank you note. However, they never left behind any more mittens.

Charlie’s Room: Fall Doldrums

Marianne and Charlie were working in the garden. Isaac was inside, trying to convince himself to get something done. So far, he wasn’t very successful. After lunch they were going to a local harvest festival, so he needed to get his to-do list done soon.

It wasn’t that he didn’t want to do anything. He very much wanted to sit down with the mystery novel he was in the middle of reading. He wouldn’t say no to a nice cup of cocoa, either.

Unfortunately, he needed to do paperwork and dishes and vacuuming before lunchtime. Normally, each job wouldn’t take all that much time. He just couldn’t seem to get started.

Isaac didn’t mind dishes, and the sink wasn’t really all that full. Vacuuming was one of his favorite jobs. It was always such a zen moment to trace lines into the carpet and listen to the chant-like hum of the vacuum. As for the paperwork, well, normally he could at least sit down and power through it all.

Today he didn’t want to do any of it. He considered bribing himself with chapters of his book between chores. They didn’t seem any more appealing.

Maybe he needed a short nap before he started? Isaac changed into his pajamas and climbed into bed. He laid there and tried to shut his mind off. Nope. He wasn’t at all tired.

What was wrong?

He changed back into his clothes and made the bed. He wandered into the living room and looked out the front window. The street outside was lined with trees, and most of them were dressed in brightly colored leaves.

A gust of wind blew through the trees, and red and yellow leaves tumbled passed the window. He watched them twirl down the street. It was definitely fall.

Isaac snapped his fingers. Fall. That’s right. It was a time of year when nature slowed down, and Isaac had always been sensitive to that.

Unfortunately, at the same time as the world seemed to move more slowly, people sped up. There were so many holidays to prepare for. His schedule seemed to get so much busier this time of year. Maybe he was pushing himself too hard.

Could the tasks wait? Probably. But he really should make the attempt. Especially with the dishes, as they tended to pile up quickly.

With a sigh, he decided to at least start the chore. He called Cousin Reginald and worked while he listened to Reginald’s latest adventures. He finished the last dish as he listened to the story of Reginald’s annual protest at city hall for pumpkin rights.

He started vacuuming as Reginald sang the song he’d written that he was sure would be a critical success and ignored by the ignorant masses. He accompanied himself on his out of tune accordion. Isaac finished vacuuming at the same time Reginald’s very long song ended.

“Dissonance is so underappreciated. There really should be much, much more of it in modern music,” Reginald said.

“It certainly had a lot of dissonance,” Isaac agreed as he put the vacuum away.

“Were you humming in the background? It was a nice touch. I knew you would appreciate my work.”

Isaac decided not to mention the vacuum. “I’m always impressed by how much you manage to get done.”

“Well, it’s harder in the fall, of course. But I rebel against all of that. Changing seasons won’t keep me down! In fact, I think I’m going to go march through the local park to make sure all those fall leaves can see that they can’t stop me. Bye.”

Isaac put his phone away. There was just the paperwork left. He looked out the window. Brightly colored leaves flew passed the window. Were they watching him?

Maybe Cousin Reginald had the right idea. He grabbed the paperwork and brought it into the living room. He dumped it all on the coffee table and moved the table right in front of the window.

“Look at this,” he told the leaves. “I’m getting my chores done and you can’t stop me.”

It was kind of fun to be defiant, even if he was fairly certain the leaves didn’t care. Every time he finished filling something out, he held it up to the window. “Hah! I got this done, too!”

Sooner than he thought, he was done. He checked the clock. He had plenty of time before lunchtime, and nothing else he really needed to get done right now.

And so he curled up on the couch with cocoa and his mystery book. The leaves continued to pass by the window, but Isaac ignored them. Fall had no power over him today.

Charlie’s Room: Changing Seasons

After a long morning of paperwork, Isaac was ready for a nap. He changed into his pajamas and got into bed in the middle of the day. He had a list of things to do as long as his arm and wasn’t doing any of them. It was marvelous.

Just as he fell asleep, Marianne came in. “Are you feeling sick?”

“Hmmm?” Isaac dragged himself away from the dream where he’d just remembered the secret of how to fly. “Just tired.”

“Okay. Well, you have a nice nap then. Charlie and I are going to the garden center. We want to plant some garlic today.”

“Have fun.”

“You too.” Marianne left and Isaac slipped back into sleep.

When he woke up sometime later, the light in the room was different. It was brighter and warmer. He sat up and looked around suspiciously.

Usually, a nap during the day meant waking up with a bit of a headache and feeling like his head was packed full of cotton. Or gravel. But not today.

Today he felt like he could leap out of bed and run down the hallway and he’d have energy left over and his knees wouldn’t hurt. He looked down at his hands. They looked smaller.

He jumped out of bed and looked in the mirror. As he’d suspected, he looked a lot younger. He looked Charlie’s age.

It was strange. Being young again, he now realized how old he normally felt. That was a little depressing. He decided not to think about that or about how he was going to manage a grown up life if he stayed looking this young.

Instead, he decided to run outside and play. He put on sweatpants and rolled up the legs, and a sweatshirt and rolled up the sleeves. Then he shoved on a pair of Charlie’s sandals and ran out the backdoor, only remembering to close it at the last second.

Charlie and Marianne weren’t outside. They were probably still at the garden center. However, Miss Marta was out in her yard raking leaves. “Hello,” he called.

She came over and looked over the fence. “Well aren’t you looking young today? It must be the change in the seasons.”

“Do you think it will last long?”

“No.” Miss Marta sighed. “It never does.”

“Do you need help raking your leaves?”

Miss Marta smiled. “What a polite boy you are! I can take care of the leaves. They’re almost already done. But I could use your help with Toby. He needs a nice walk. Let me go put him on his leash, and I’ll bring him to the front gate.”

Isaac met her there. Toby, a fluffy little black dog, was running in circles and wrapping his leash around her ankles. Miss Marta stepped out of the loops of leash and handed the end to Isaac.

Isaac spent the next hour running behind Toby as they explored the neighborhood. It was amazing how a tiny change in perspective made everything seem new and interesting. When they passed by, the park was empty, so they stopped there to play.

Toby was great at fetching sticks and bringing them back. Just like when he was younger, Isaac pretended he was a professional pitcher as he threw the sticks. Every throw was perfect, of course.

And then he felt the first drop of rain hit his arm. When did it get so dark? Where did the clouds come from?

He clipped Toby’s leash back onto his collar and they hurried home. He returned Toby to Miss Marta. “I hope you had fun today,” she said.

“Lots of fun.”

The rain drops were falling closer together. Just as he reached his front porch, it started to pour. The rain was falling so hard that it was like trying to look through a waterfall.

Suddenly, the sandals were pinching his feet. Isaac took them off and went inside. He put them back in the closet. When he looked down again, his feet were their normal size.

Isaac unrolled his sleeves and pant legs with a sigh. Old again. Being young was fun while it lasted. Feeling nostalgic, he made himself a cup of cocoa and sat in the living room to watch the rain and wait for Charlie and Marianne to return home.

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