It was a cold, crisp, clear winter day. It was the kind of day that sent the children scurrying outside to play, and then sent them back in an hour later, rosy-cheeked and ready for cocoa. Charlie had spent his hour outside building a snowman to watch over the dormant garden.
He was proud of his creation and checked out the kitchen window often, to make sure it was still there. “There was barely enough snow,” he said once again. “I used every patch of snow in the front and back yard to make him. He’s almost as tall as me. Well, as tall as my shoulder, anyway.”
Isaac had spent the morning on paperwork and bills. All the talk of snowmen was making him jealous. “Do you want to go to the park? There might still be some snow there, and I could help you make another snowman.”
Charlie looked out the window again and hummed a thoughtful note. “I think I’m done. It was cold, and Mom said we could paint pictures of dinosaurs later.”
And so, Isaac went to the park alone. He had a carrot in his pocket, and was already imagining the colossal snowman he would make. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much snow left in the park. It had been trampled mostly into slush and nothingness.
Isaac scraped together enough snow from around the edges of the park along the fence and under the trees and bushes to make one tiny snowman. He sat it on the bench under the trees. Then, he snapped the end off of the carrot in his pocket to make a smaller carrot nose.
Some twigs made excellent arms. Now all he needed was some gravel eyes. Isaac looked around. A few feet away from the bench, he saw a black pebble. It was flat and roundish and the perfect size.
He picked it up, and suddenly he was standing next to a stone chess table that appeared in front of the bench. Isaac dropped the pebble in surprise. Where had that come from?
After walking all the way around the table and seeing nothing more unusual than the table itself, Isaac examined the board carved on its tabletop. It looked like a game was in play. He watched for a while, but the pieces didn’t move. Maybe the game had been abandoned?
Well, if it was him sitting in the snowman’s place, the next move seemed somewhat obvious. He nudged a pawn forward. The air seemed to vibrate with the bright crashing sound of cymbals. A large rabbit appeared at the other side of the board. It was all black except for one paw that was white.
“Ha!” it said, pointing its white paw at the snowman. “Finally you fell into my trap…” Its voice trailed off and it wrinkled its nose. “What have you done to yourself this time? I must say that it’s not a good look.”
The rabbit hopped closer. “Hey. That’s not…” The rabbit narrowed its eyes and looked around. Its dark eyes met Isaac’s gaze. “Did you touch the board?”
“I’m sorry,” Isaac said, feeling guilty. “I thought the game was abandoned. I’ll put the piece back.” He pushed the pawn back into place.
The rabbit stomped a foot. “Humans are always getting into things that they shouldn’t. How did you even call the table here?” It looked around. “Oh. Of course.” It nudged the pebble back into place with its foot.
The table and rabbit both disappeared. Then the pebble disappeared as well. Isaac looked around. Nothing else had changed. He waved his arm through the air where the table had been standing. There was nothing there.
Isaac turned to look at the snowman sitting on the bench. It still needed eyes. “Do you want to meet the snowman at my house? I bet you could be friends. I think this bench is taken, anyways.”
The snowman didn’t say anything. Isaac picked it up and took it with him. He picked up some nice pieces of gravel from the road on the way home. The snowman now had ovalish gray eyes. He set it in the garden next to Charlie’s snowman.
Isaac called Charlie out to see his snowman. “Look, they’re friends,” he said proudly.
Charlie grinned. “I think my snowman is the dad and yours is the little boy. That’s funny.”
“They can be friends too,” Isaac pointed out. “At least sometimes.”
“If course.” Isaac started walking back to the house, and Charlie followed him. “In fact, let’s do something fun right now.”
The answer seemed somewhat obvious. “Let’s play a game of chess.”