When Isaac arrived home from work, Charlie was playing outside. Miss Marta, from next door, had her grandson Thomas visiting for a week, and he kept knocking on the door asking to play with Charlie.
Thomas was younger than Charlie, and loved to play outside. When Isaac walked up to the front door, he could hear shrieks of laughter from the backyard. Isaac smiled. It sounded like they were having fun.
Instead of going inside and changing his shoes, Isaac left his things just inside the front door and detoured around the side of the house. He let himself in to the back yard through the gate and looked around for Charlie.
The boys were playing in the mud under the old apple tree. Grass didn’t grow well there, and it looked like the boys poured buckets of water over the exposed dirt. They were muddy from head to toe.
“What are you doing?” Isaac asked.
Charlie looked up with a grin while Thomas continued patting the mud into little lumpy discs. “We’re making pizza.”
Thomas set the disc he was working on down next to a half dozen similar lumps decorated in small piles of grass and leaves. Isaac pointed to the greenery. “Are these the toppings?” he asked. Thomas nodded.
“The grass is the cheese, and the leaves are pepperoni,” Charlie said. He wiped his muddy hands on his equally muddy pants.
Isaac picked up one of the leaves. He wasn’t sure what kind of plant it came from. Hopefully it wasn’t poisonous. “You’re not really eating those, right?”
Charlie giggled. “Dad! That’s silly. They’re just pretend.”
Thomas looked up. “I want real pizza too.”
“Me too.” Charlie jumped up and tugged on Isaac’s sleeve, leaving muddy fingerprints. “Please!”
Isaac tried to wipe some of the mud off. “Charlie! You got me all muddy.”
“Oh.” Charlie frowned. “Sorry.”
Isaac sighed. “It’s okay. Hopefully, it won’t stain.”
Thomas looked down at his muddy clothes. “I’m muddy too. Do you think I’ll get in trouble?”
“I hope not.” Charlie tried to wipe some mud off his shirt. It smeared in streaks.
Isaac laughed. “I don’t think that’s going to work. Why don’t you boys get all cleaned up and I’ll go pick up some pizzas. I’ll invite Miss Marta to come too.”
“Mom already started making baked potatoes,” Charlie said.
“Baked potatoes will keep well in the fridge. We’ll have them tomorrow,” Isaac said. “Now, go and get cleaned up. Leave your shoes outside, and make sure your clothes end up on top of the washing machine.”
“Me too?” Thomas asked.
“You’d better ask Miss Marta where she wants your dirty clothes, but I’m sure she doesn’t want muddy footprints inside her house,” Isaac said.
“Let’s go so Dad can get the pizza.”
Thomas looked at his careful handiwork. “What about our pretend pizza party?”
Isaac smiled. “I’ll take a picture of you boys with your pizzas, and then we’ll leave them in the sun to bake.”
The boys liked this idea. They posed with their mud pizzas and then hurried off to shower and change. Isaac had to change, too, and treated the muddy spots on his sleeve with stain remover.
“I’m going to get pizza for tonight. Did you see the mud pizzas the boys made in back?”
Marianne closed the fridge and folded her arms with a sigh. “Is that what they were doing? I was trying to not let all the mud get to me.”
Isaac gave her a hug. “You did a good job. I know you hate big messes.”
“I already started dinner, you know.”
“It’ll keep. Less work for tomorrow, right?” Isaac let go and pulled out his keys. “Go see the pizzas. They’re really cute. I’ll be back soon.”
After the fun real pizza party with Miss Marta and Thomas, it was past bedtime. Isaac tucked Charlie into bed, but there wasn’t time for a whole chapter of the book they were reading.
“Dad, did you know that Thomas is a lot younger than me?”
Isaac put the book aside and stood up. “He is, isn’t he?”
“I like when he comes over to play because it makes me feel like almost a grown up. I’m pretty old now, aren’t I?”
“Almost grown up, but you have a few years left of being a kid.” Isaac turned out the light.
“I’m glad. I like being a kid, too. Grown ups don’t like getting muddy.”
“Then it’s a good thing you’re still a kid. Good night, Charlie. I love you.”
“Good night, Dad. I love you too. Today was fun.”