Isaac had to stay at work late to work on a project. Luckily it meant that he didn’t have to come back in until after lunch tomorrow. He yawned. He was definitely going to sleep in as late as possible.
The streets were usually crowded when he drove home from work. Today they seemed empty. Maybe everyone disappeared while he was at work and he was all alone in the city? He stopped at an intersection and watched a car drive through from left to right.
Of course he wasn’t alone. That had been a strange think to think. He must be more tired than he thought. He turned up the radio to a station that played popular music. The strange lyrics and simple melodies kept him awake as he finished driving home.
He hung up his coat and left his shoes in the entryway. He walked quietly through the house to the kitchen in his socks. He poured himself a glass of water and walked around as he sipped it. The streetlights left patches of golden light in the kitchen and living room, but otherwise the house was dark and silent. Everyone had gone to bed hours ago.
He left the glass in the sink and went down the hallway, lit by both the nightlight plugged into the hallway wall and the nightlight in Charlie’s room, shining through his open doorway.
Isaac stepped inside to check on his son. Charlie was sprawled out on his loft bed, one hand hanging over the side of the bed. Isaac smiled. Charlie’s hand would feel all pins and needles in the morning if he left it like that. He went to tuck the hand up on top of the comforter and paused.
Charlie’s hand was covered in little green dots. What did it mean? Was it some sort of strange tropical disease? Perhaps there was something festering in Charlie’s seashell collection. Were you supposed to bake everything in the oven to kill germs? Surely he’d read that somewhere.
Isaac glanced at the seashells, huddled together in a dark corner on top of the bookshelf. They did seem a little menacing. What if Charlie lost his hand and they couldn’t get a prosthetic for him that would work while he was swimming? Could he swim one-handed? Charlie loved swimming. He’d find a way to make it work.
What if it wasn’t a disease? What if it was a curse? Cutting off his hand wouldn’t save Charlie from a curse. But Isaac had a business card from a wizard and he could call him for help. Charlie would be okay if it was a curse.
But what if he’d been bit by a radioactive spider? When he was younger, Isaac had heard kids talking about it. Apparently it had happened to someone and the poor kid ended up being part spider. Isaac wasn’t really sure how that worked. Did he grow extra legs? Eat bugs? Sleep in corners?
No matter what, Isaac and Marianne would love Charlie and help him through it. Whether he lost a hand or grew six more, they’d find a way to make sure Charlie would live as normal a life as he could. He would grow up happy and well-adjusted. It was all going to be okay.
So, he’d just wake up Charlie long enough to find out what happened and spend the rest of the night planning. He didn’t have to go into work until after lunch. Isaac yawned. Wow. He was really tired. He’d better get started.
“Charlie,” he whispered. “Charlie, wake up for a moment.”
“Dad?” Charlie said sleepily. “You’re home.”
“Charlie, you have green spots on your hand,” Isaac said.
Charlie looked at his hand. “It’s marker. From making my science poster. I was illustrating the life cycle of dandelions. I’ll show you in the morning.”
Marker? Isaac felt so relieved. And very, very tired. “Okay. Go back to sleep, Charlie. I love you.”
Charlie smiled. “I love you too, Dad. ‘Night.”
“Good night,” Isaac said. Charlie rolled over on his side. Isaac slipped out of the room. Marker. He certainly worried about silly things when he was tired. He was going to sleep in tomorrow and do his best to not have to work late again. His heart couldn’t take the extra stress.