Charlie’s Room: Nesting

It began sometime before the night that Marianne wanted to start a shopping list and couldn’t find a pen. Marianne liked to keep an ongoing list on the fridge. “The fewer things my brain is trying to remember at once, the less I’ll forget,” she explained.

But the pen she kept in the silverware drawer was gone. She peeked into the living room where Isaac and Charlie were playing Scrabble. “Have you seen my pen? The kitchen pen for my lists?”

Both of them looked up. “It wasn’t in the drawer?” Charlie asked.

Isaac shrugged. “I haven’t seen it. I have some pens in the mug on my desk. Take one of those.”

The mug only had three pens in it, but she just needed one. She added garlic to the list and stuck it back on the fridge.   Automatically, she dropped the pen in the silverware drawer and forgot about it.

Two days later, Isaac opened the oatmeal container and shook it a bit.   Almost gone. He looked in the silverware drawer. No pen. So, he went to his desk, where he knew that he had a mug full of pens. No pen. He pulled open the drawer and found a pencil and added oatmeal to the list.

He measured the oats into the water and then the milk, salt, and cinnamon.   By the time he’d finished cooking the oatmeal and Marianne and Charlie sat down at the table for breakfast, he forgot all about the pens.

That evening, Charlie lost his homework. He had finished an essay about why he wanted to move to Australia someday and left it on his desk. “I finished my homework,” he told Marianne. “Can I call and see if Peter wants to go to the park?”

“Let me proofread it first.”


Marianne set the bowl of batter on the counter and rinsed and dried her hands. “Lead the way.”

She followed Charlie to his desk. The essay wasn’t there. Charlie opened and closed the drawer and crouched down to look underneath. Meanwhile, Marianne looked in his backpack that was leaning against the chair. “It was just here,” Charlie said. “Right on my desk.”

“It’s not in here.” Marianne put the backpack down. “You’re running low on pens and pencils.”

“I borrowed some from Peter today. Mine weren’t in my pencil case when I got to school. Now my homework is gone, too. Where did they go?”

“I don’t know. We’ll ask your dad when he gets home. Maybe he’ll have some ideas.”

Charlie frowned. “Does this mean I can’t go to the park with Peter?”

When Isaac got home, Charlie was waiting by the door. “Dad, I can’t find my homework. I just went to the kitchen to get mom, and when I came back it was gone.”

Isaac changed his shoes. “That is really strange. I’ll help you look.”

“But I already looked everywhere.”

Isaac straightened up and smiled. “Then you get to help your mom with dinner while I look.”


Charlie rushed away. Isaac looked in Charlie’s room. He looked around the desk and then checked Charlie’s backpack. The pencil case was empty. He’d have to add pens and pencils to the list.

Where to look next? Well, if he were a piece of paper, where would he hide? Probably with other pieces of paper. Isaac looked in Charlie’s folder of drawings and in the craft closet. Then he went to his desk and looked in the bottom drawer .

Inside, there was a mass of pens and pencils resting in a nest of shredded paper.   Isaac could see the word Australia written in Charlie’s handwriting on a piece near the top. The pens started to click menacingly and a few of the pencils hissed. Isaac slid the drawer closed.

Luckily, the important information was already scanned and saved.   Otherwise doing his taxes next year would be tricky. So, now what?

The old pens in his bedroom that were missing their caps hadn’t moved at all, neither had the pencils missing their erasers. They’d have to make do with those for a little while. How long did it take for pens and pencils to finish nesting? He’d had no idea they nested at all.

He peeked into the kitchen. “Charlie, I’ll help you rewrite your essay. I have some pens and pencils in a cup in my room.”

Charlie sighed. “You couldn’t find my homework? That stinks.”

“Come on. Get it done and I’ll go with you and Peter to the park after dinner.”

Charlie trudged down the hall to get a pen and get started.