“Dad, were you always tall?” Charlie asked one day.
Isaac fit a piece of sky into the puzzle with a smile. “What do you mean?”
Marianne reached across the table for a mostly yellow piece. “I’ve never seen a baby as tall as him, so I doubt it.”
“That’s not what I meant.” Charlie sighed and turned the piece he was holding sideways and tried to fit it into the roof of the birdhouse. It didn’t fit.
“I think that’s part of one of the branches. The brown is more gray and less green,” Marianne said.
Holding the piece up, Charlie squinted. “I think you’re right.” He scooted around the end of the table and started trying to fit the piece in a different spot. “I was meaning that everyone says I’m short, and I was wondering if Dad was short too when he was my age.”
“He’s not short now,” Marianne said. She gave up on the yellow piece and picked up a piece with a stripe of brown down one side. “I was always short when I was younger. Then I was normal. Maybe you get the shortness from me.”
“I worried about being short once. I worried about it for about a month. Luckily, my school had a leprechaun as an exchange student. After standing behind him in the lunch line, I realized I wasn’t really short after all, and I haven’t worried about it ever since.”
“A leprechaun?” Charlie asked, putting down his puzzle piece.
“Mmm-hmmmm.” Isaac placed a piece of sky that had the edge of a bird’s wing. “He wore a little green suit and had a big bushy beard and was as tall as the top of my knee without his top hat.”
“He had a beard? In elementary school?” Marianne raised an eyebrow, looking skeptical.
“Yes, but I think he was rather young in leprechaun years. I’m not really sure how that works.” Isaac found another piece of sky and bird.
“Could he do magic? Did he have a pot of gold?” Charlie asked, paying no attention to the puzzle.
Isaac looked over at him and smiled. “Of course. I told you he was a leprechaun, didn’t I? He could pop around to wherever he wanted to go, so he was always first in line. He kept his gold at the end of the rainbow where it’s safest.”
“If it was just sitting there, what kept people from taking it away?” Marianne found the last piece of the birdhouse roof and put it in place.
“Rainbows always seem just as far away no matter how quickly you walk or drive, right?” Isaac began.
“But he could pop over to it, so he’s the only one who could get there,” Charlie said loudly while grinning. “It makes sense.”
“Aha!” Marianne said. Isaac and Charlie turned to watch as she fit a branch she’d been working on separately into place in the puzzle. She nodded. “I knew I could attach it eventually.”
Charlie looked back down at the pieces and found a piece with a line through it. He handed it to his mom. “Is this the end of a branch?”
“Yes, and I know where it goes,” she said. “It’s nearly the end when the pieces start going in fast.”
“Because there aren’t as many places they can go,” Charlie said, handing her another piece. “How long did the leprechaun stay at your school, Dad?”
“Just for the rainy season. I think he had to stay close to rainbows.” Isaac put the last plain blue piece into the sky.
“Why don’t we get exchange students?”
“I don’t know. Budget cuts?” Isaac handed a piece of branch to Marianne.
“We never had exchange students at my school, either,” Marianne said as she fit the piece in place. “Maybe it was just a special program at your dad’s school. Or maybe your dad is just telling tall tales.”
Marianne tried a piece, turned it, and placed it somewhere else. “A story that’s exaggerated. There was probably someone shorter than him in school, but the kid wasn’t knee-high with a beard. Leprechauns aren’t real, of course.”
“Oh.” Charlie handed her the last piece.
Marianne handed it back. “Why don’t you do the honors?”
Charlie put the piece in place. The puzzle was done. “Puzzles always go faster when Mom helps.”
“We all have our talents.” Marianne smiled. “I can’t run as fast as your dad does.”
“Well, I thought I could run fast until that first gym class with the unicorn exchange student. He ran so fast that he made us all feel like we were standing in place.”
Charlie laughed. “I get it. That one’s a fast tale, right?”