“I have a present for you,” Charlie said at dinner.
“What is it?” Isaac asked.
“It’s a surprise,” Charlie said.
Marianne frowned. “Do I get a present?”
“You got one last week,” Charlie said. “Don’t you remember? I made you a picture of a bear.”
“The one where you glued macaroni onto paper and painted it?”
“That’s the one.”
Marianne smiled. “Oh, I really liked that one. Thanks again.”
“Do I get a picture, too?” Isaac asked.
“You’ll just have to wait and see.”
“I think I need to eat a little faster.” Isaac took a large bite of mashed potatoes.
“Isaac! That’s terrible manners,” Marianne said. Charlie laughed.
After dinner, Charlie hurried into his room and returned with an uneven, oval-shaped paper that had yarn streamers trailing from one side. As Charlie rushed into the living room, the streamers seemed to float on the breeze.
He handed the paper to Isaac. It was thick, textured paper with a lovely, abstract, pastel design painted on one side in watercolors. There were holes punched along the flat-ish side of the oval for the yarn to attach in long tendrils.
“It’s lovely,” Isaac said. “Absolutely beautiful. What is it?”
“It’s a jellyfish,” Charlie said. “I made it at school. Mine was the best one.”
Isaac held it out at arm length. “It is wonderful jellyfish. Thank you, Charlie.” He gave Charlie a hug and put the jellyfish on his dresser while he decided where to put it more permanently.
When he returned to the living room, Marianne and Charlie were putting their coats on. “Are you going out?” he asked. “I thought we could play scrabble.”
“We’re going to the garden center,” Marianne said.
Charlie cheered. “It’s time to start planning the garden.”
“Don’t wait up,” Marianne said.
Were they really going to stay out that late? “How late is the garden center open? I thought it closed kind of early.”
Charlie laughed. “It was a joke, Dad.”
“We might get ice cream cones afterwards, though,” Marianne said.
“Really?” Charlie jumped up and down. “Let’s go!”
And so they left. Isaac finished the dishes and swept under the table. He returned to the living room to get the book he’d been reading, but it wasn’t there. He’d left it on his nightstand.
In his bedroom, the jellyfish was floating by the window, yarn streamers trailing behind it, in an invisible current. It kept bumping against the window. Quietly, Isaac walked up beside it and looked out the window.
He didn’t see anything unusual. It was a pretty, sunny day. There were white puffy clouds in the sky, and somewhere a bird was singing.
Was it looking for something to eat? What do paper jellyfish eat? He went to his desk and brought back and assortment of little circles from the paper punch and crayon and pencil shavings on a paper towel. He put them next to the paper jellyfish.
It hovered closer to the paper towel for a moment, and then went back to softly bumping into the window. Isaac looked back out. The shadows were long. Soon it would be sunset.
“It’s not really safe out there for a paper jellyfish,” Isaac said softly. “There’s rain and wind and squirrels and dogs and all sorts of scary things.”
The jellyfish kept trying to get out the window.
“If I let you out and you fly away, what will I tell Charlie?”
Isaac watched the jellyfish. Maybe he could take it outside and see what it wanted. “I’ll take you out,” he said. “You can’t get out that way, there’s a screen on the window.”
He reached out for the jellyfish, and it dropped into his hands like a normal, lifeless paper jellyfish. However, once he was out in the backyard, it jerked up out of his hands.
It hovered there for a moment. Isaac considered snatching it back and taking it inside. Surely it could learn to like living in the house. He’d figure out what it liked to eat and make a nice play area for it.
As he imagined playing fetch with his pet jellyfish, it started floating higher. He sighed and stepped back. It flew up and away towards the pink sunset-colored clouds. “Goodbye. I hope you find what you’re looking for.”
He watched until he couldn’t even see it as a dot high in the sky any more. Then he went back inside. Maybe he’d make himself a cup of cocoa to sip while reading his book and waiting for Charlie and Marianne to come home.