Looking back, it seemed obvious that the movie would be a mistake. Charlie had an active imagination and was already a little afraid of the dark. But he had asked so many times to see that old, old vampire movie, and he’d never had any problems with the dinosaur movies.
It had been three days and Charlie was still having nightmares. Everyone in the house had dark circles under their eyes, and Isaac and Marianne had decided to take turns staying up with Charlie.
Charlie was suspicious of even the tiniest shadow. But the abnormally bright nightlight Isaac bought yesterday hadn’t helped. Today, Marianne had bought a lovely dreamcatcher at a craft fair.
She showed it to Charlie and explained how it was going to trap his bad dreams so that he could sleep well. Charlie helped her hang it above his bed. “I hope it works on vampires,” he said.
“I think it works on everything,” Marianne said.
“Good,” Charlie said.
That night it was Isaac’s turn to sit up with Charlie. Isaac read him a chapter from Minnow Cheese Sandwiches, and when Charlie asked, he read another. “One more chapter?” Charlie asked again. He yawned.
“I think it’s way past your bedtime,” Isaac said.
“Just one more. Please. Just one,” Charlie said.
Isaac looked around for his bookmark. “I already read you one more, Charlie.”
Charlie sat up and clasped his hands together. “I won’t ask again. Just one more, please?” He yawned again.
Isaac sighed. “All right. One more. But only one more.” He read the next chapter.
“It can’t end there. That’s a terrible spot to end a chapter. You have to read the next one,” Charlie said.
“I have to, huh?” Isaac asked. “I thought you said you wouldn’t ask for another chapter?”
“That was before I knew the chapter was going to end like that. You can’t leave it like that. Read the next chapter please, Dad? I can’t sleep without knowing what happens next.” Charlie frowned and folded his arms together. He tried to hide a yawn.
Isaac laughed. He looked down and saw his bookmark and picked it up. “Charlie, you do have to try to sleep sometime. This isn’t healthy. It’s getting late.” He put the bookmark in the book, closed it, and put it on the shelf.
“But Dad,” Charlie said. “I can’t sleep. I’m not tired.”
“Have you tried counting sheep?” Isaac asked.
“What?” Charlie looked confused. “Sheep?”
“Just lie back, close your eyes, and imagine sheep jumping over a fence. They can be any size or color. The important thing is that you need to count each one as it jumps,” Isaac said.
Charlie laughed. “Does that really work? It sounds weird.”
“Just try it and see,” Isaac said. “Don’t worry, I’ll be right here.”
Charlie stretched out on the bed and closed his eyes. “One,” he said. He opened one eye.
“No peeking,” Isaac said.
“Fine.” Charlie folded his arms over his chest. “Two, three, four five…six…seven…eight, nine, ten…eleven…” Charlie’s arms relaxed.
By twenty-five, he stopped counting. He was asleep. Isaac pulled the covers up a little higher. He turned his head when he saw movement from the corner of his eye. A tiny sheep with electric blue wool was caught in the dreamcatcher. Isaac laughed softly.
“You don’t look like a bad dream,” he said. “Did he fall asleep while you were mid-jump? It looks like your wool got caught.” Isaac pulled the strings a little wider. The tiny sheep leapt up and disappeared.
Isaac smoothed Charlie’s hair and turned to leave. He turned off the light. The room was still brightly lit by the nightlight. Isaac smiled. “Good night, Charlie,” he said softly. “Sleep well.”