Charlie’s Room: The Closet Door

When they first moved into their little house, Charlie’s room was missing the closet door. “We don’t need a closet door,” Marianne said. “He’ll just pinch his fingers.   Leave it be.”

But Isaac liked to finish things, and so that unfinished closet door bothered him, just a little. Not all the time or even all that often, but sometimes he’d look into Charlie’s room and see straight into his closet, and then he’d think that maybe they did need a closet door after all.

One rather nice Saturday, Charlie was invited to a birthday party. “It’s at a pizza place,” he said. “With games. So I need to bring lots and lots of quarters for the games.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll take him,” Marianne said.   “I want to talk to Joey’s mom about a playdate next week, and she’ll be there.”

The party would take hours, and Isaac was home alone again. He decided to go on a walk.   It seemed to be yard sale season, and every so often Isaac would come across a table full of books or baby clothes, or a row of kitchen chairs.

Two blocks away, on the corner, someone had left a closet door at the curb with a sign taped to it that said, “free.” It was just the right size for Charlie’s room.   Isaac picked it up and carried it home, with several stops to readjust his necessarily awkward handholds. At least it was lightweight.

It didn’t take long to prop it on the wall next to Charlie’s closet. Luckily it still had its hinges, and he somehow happened to have the right size screws in his toolbox. Were those from when he took apart the crib or from the cabinet remodel? It didn’t really matter.

He plugged in his power drill and got to work. He used chairs and a shelf of books to hold the door in place and zip, ziiiiiiiiiip-zip, it was done. He swung the door open and closed a few times, admiring his work.

On its seventh swing open, he noticed that something was odd inside the closet. There was a strange shadow behind Charlie’s neat row of shirts and coats and superhero dress-ups. Isaac pushed his hand through to see if the wall felt damp. He really didn’t want to try to deal with plumbing issues ever, if he could help it.

Nothing was there. There was no dampness and no wall. He pushed his entire arm through the hanging curtain of clothes and there was nothing there. He pushed his way through with both hands and the clothes brushed along the sides of his arms and face for an absurdly long time.

And then he realized he was pushing through pine tree branches. “Aren’t I too old to go to Narnia?” he thought. But he felt a little giddy. He’d always sort of hoped he’d find his way to Narnia, even now that he was grown up.   “I just need to be very careful who I talk to, and it will all be fine,” he told himself.

He kept pushing forward, hoping for a glimpse of a lamp post, but it felt like he’d been walking for hours through the forest, and he hadn’t seen anything out of place. Just when he was considering turning around, he smelled something peculiar.   Gingerbread? He walked a little more quickly. Licorice? Mint? He entered a clearing, and there at its center was a little house, covered in candy.

“Nope, I know this story,” he thought. He turned around and began to push his way home.   He hadn’t gone too far when giant chicken legs barred his path. He looked up to see a ramshackle hut perched on top of the legs.

“I know this story too.” He darted around the legs and started to run. He burst through the closet and tripped over his drill.   Ouch. He sat up stiffly. “That was not Narnia,” he said out loud. He allowed himself to feel sad for a moment. Then he picked up the drill and took down the door. There was no weird shadow at the back of the closet.   He patted it to be certain. All solid.

He put away the chairs and books and screws and drill.   Then he reattached the note to the closet door and carried it back two blocks to the corner where he found it.   When he got home, Marianne and Isaac were pulling into the driveway. “Did you have a nice walk?” she asked.

“It was okay,” Isaac said.