Isaac’s lunch break was longer than normal, because the fire alarm wouldn’t stop shrieking angrily. There wasn’t any fire, as far as anyone knew, but the alarm kept ringing even when it shouldn’t be possible. The office workers huddled together outside the doors, chattering.
“They cut off all the power. Removed the batteries. What is it running on?” someone said loudly.
Everyone began speculating. “Maybe it’s solar powered?” “Maybe it has a mini generator?” “Maybe it’s wireless?”
The building manager stomped over. “Maybe it runs on the mutterings of idiots. Go away and check back in an hour.”
Isaac’s office manager pushed forward through the crowd. “What if it’s still going off in an hour?”
The building manager rolled her eyes. “Then you need to go home for the day.” The crowd cheered and dispersed.
So, Isaac had an extra hour. It was not really enough time to go home and come back, and he’d already eaten lunch. He peeked into the windows of the antique shop as he went past, but he’d had some rather bad luck buying things there, so he kept walking.
He ended up browsing the shelves of the discount store. Everything was jumbled together on the shelves, so he just wandered up and down the aisles not looking for anything specific. He looked at lamps decorated with polka dots and plates covered with stars. He smiled at the tiny curtains and giant pillowcases. And then he saw the sidewalk chalk.
Charlie loved to draw. Sidewalk chalk would make the driveway his canvas, and they could wash it off when he was done. He would have so much fun. Isaac reached for the chalk, then pulled his hand back.
What about those movies and television shows about the dangers of sidewalk chalk? There was one where people fell through the drawings into different worlds. And another where the drawings came to life. Isaac knew that people said that it was meant to be fiction, but he’d seen enough strange things in his life to be just a little nervous.
But this looked like normal chalk. Surely, if the store had problems with the chalk, they wouldn’t sell it, right? This was mass-produced chalk, after all. By the time it ended up in a discount store, any problems with the chalk would have already happened. Isaac bought the chalk and went back to check in at work.
When the hour was up, the workers gathered at the door and waited. Everything seemed quiet. The building manager opened the door. “Go ahead and go in. It’s all right now.”
People began to yell out questions from the crowd. “What happened?” “Why was it still ringing?” “Was it wireless?”
The building manager rolled her eyes. “It’s still under investigation. Just get back to work.” And so they did.
That evening, Isaac brought home the sidewalk chalk. Charlie was thrilled. Marianne left to run some errands while they drew pictures on the driveway in the late summer sunshine.
To Isaac’s relief, none of the pictures came to life or turned into portals to other worlds. They drew giraffes and dinosaurs and palm trees and told each other stories about what they drew. It was a lot of fun.
“This palm tree is lonely.” Charlie set down the green chalk and picked up the blue. “It’s on a deserted island. It’s hoping someone will get shipwrecked and come visit.”
“If you drew another palm tree, then no one will be lost or lonely,” Isaac said. He picked up the red chalk.
Charlie looked over. “What are you drawing?”
Isaac colored in the red circle he drew. “An apple. It’s going to be a present for a mouse.”
“Hmmm. That makes me think of apple pie.” Charlie drew a brown circle and colored it in. With the chalk in one hand, he placed his other hand on the circle he’d drawn. “I wish I had an apple pie. It’s been forever since we had pie.”
Before Isaac could respond, Marianne drove up and parked by the curb. “I’m home,” she called as she opened the car door. “Come help me bring in the bags. I bought some pie for us to eat once everything is put away. It’s apple!”
Charlie grinned and ran to the car, leaving the chalk behind. Isaac gathered the chalk up and put it back into the container. Maybe the chalk wasn’t as safe as he’d thought. He could call Great-Aunt Bethyl this evening. She could check it out for him, and if there were any problems she had the resources to check all the other chalk sets that had been sold who-knows-where.
He’d deal with that later. For now, he needed to help with the bags and eat pie. He smiled. If the chalk could really grant wishes, it’s a good thing Charlie had wished for pie and not a dinosaur. Pie was much easier to deal with.