One morning, Isaac woke up, and he wasn’t feeling well. This was unfortunate, because it was his day off. Charlie and Marianne spent the last week planning a hike, now that the weather was finally warmer. They packed their backpacks and lunches and chose the perfect hiking-through-the-woods outfits.
But Isaac didn’t feel well. He didn’t have a fever. He wasn’t throwing up or coughing. He didn’t have any sharp pains anywhere. He wasn’t dizzy, not really. He just felt tired and yucky and awful.
“Maybe it’s allergies,” Marianne said. “Your allergies do seem worse in the spring.”
“Maybe you’re just getting old,” Charlie said. “You did just have a birthday not that long ago. Maybe it finally kicked in?”
Isaac sat up a little straighter. “I’m not that old.”
Charlie raised his eyebrows. “Hmmm. I don’t know. How old is old? You’re older than me.”
Marianne laughed. “So am I, and I feel fine. I don’t think that’s it.” She turned to Isaac. “You know, maybe you’ve been working too hard lately. I think what you need is a lazy afternoon.”
“A lazy afternoon? What about the hike?” Isaac had his own backpack waiting for him, and he’d already applied a generous layer of sunscreen.
“You’re obviously not feeling well. You took your temperature twice, you keep checking your eyes in the mirror, and you haven’t finished your oatmeal. You love oatmeal.” Marianne shrugged. “If you’re not feeling well, you won’t enjoy the hike.”
Isaac looked down at his oatmeal. It was normally his favorite breakfast, but today it looked awful. “But it was supposed to be a family hike.”
Charlie patted his arm. “We’ll take lots of pictures. It will almost be like you were there. There will be other hikes, you know.”
“We’ll be fine. Now, if you’re staying home you need to rest.” Marianne folded her arms and raised an eyebrow. “No doing anything from that long to-do list that you keep. Just rest.”
Charlie nodded. “Maybe you could take a nap, too. Old people like naps.”
Isaac frowned. “I’m not old.”
“Of course not.” Charlie took another bite of oatmeal.
Marianne smiled. “Now that’s all settled, we need to go soon. Isaac, I’ll leave your lunch in the fridge.”
Not long after, they finished their breakfast and left. Isaac saw them off, and returned to his half-eaten bowl of oatmeal. Somehow it looked even worse than before.
Maybe he would take a nap. Not because he was old, of course. It just sounded especially nice right now. He scraped out his bowl of oatmeal and left the bowl in the sink to soak. Then he changed back into his pajamas and went back to bed.
Hours later, he woke up. The house had that heavy silence that only empty houses get. Golden bars of sunlight streamed from the windows, gilding things in an afternoon glow. He felt a little better.
Isaac sat up slowly and stretched. Without his to-do list hanging over his head, he felt alarmingly unrushed. He wasn’t quite sure what to do with his time.
He could read a book or watch a movie or take a bath. He could stare out the window at the clouds. He could take a bath. He could take another nap.
Isaac went back to the kitchen and took his lunch out of the fridge. He ate his sandwich and thought. What did he want to do? What was the perfect activity for a lazy afternoon?
Isaac called Great-Aunt Bethyl. “Hi, I have some time free this afternoon and thought I’d call and catch up.”
They spent an hour talking about current events and life in general and their lives in particular. It was a wonderful phone call. Finally Great-Aunt Bethyl got another call and had to go. “Call again sometime,” she said. “This was really nice.”
Isaac called Cousin Reginald and listened to him read his latest poetry. He even called Aunt Doris and listened to her tell him how to be a better parent. Isaac’s ear felt sweaty from being squished against the phone, but he’d really enjoyed the calls.
He pulled some cookies out of the cupboard and ate them with milk. He made sure to dunk the cookies in the milk, filling the milk with sweet, soggy crumbs. It was perfect.
He made spaghetti for dinner, and while it cooked he listened to the radio. He made up words to the classical music and sang along loudly. It was a lot of fun, and not at all embarrassing when there was no one to hear him.
Marianne and Charlie came back just as dinner was ready. Isaac greeted them with a smile. “I’m glad you’re home. Did you have fun?”
“Yes, and we took lots of pictures,” Charlie said. “What did you do?”
“I made some phone calls and ate cookies,” Isaac said.
“That sounds nice,” Marianne said. “It looks like you’re feeling better.”
“I think I am,” Isaac said.
“Did you take a nap?” Charlie asked.
“I did,” Isaac said.
“I thought so,” Charlie said. He nodded. “Sometimes old people just need a nap.”
“I’m not old.”
“Of course not,” Charlie said.