It was spring break for Charlie, and Isaac once again wished that grown up jobs followed the school schedule. The weather was finally starting to warm up, and it would have been nice to have a day at home with Charlie and Marianne. At least the days were finally getting longer again, so there was more time to play outside in the evenings.
Charlie came running when Isaac got home from work. “Dad, guess what? Mom and I had a board game tournament, and I won. So I’m the new King of Clue.”
“Does that make you a master detective?” Isaac asked as he changed into his slippers.
“I think so,” Charlie said, bouncing in excitement. He held out a deck of cards. “Look what I won. Mom gave them to me and taught me how to play solitaire. It’s a game I can play all by myself whenever I want.”
“That’s great!” Isaac said. “Why don’t you show me how to play?”
“Okay.” Charlie grabbed him by the wrist and started pulling him towards the living room. “C’mon, Dad. You’re too slow.”
They sat at the couch, and Charlie took out his deck of cards and flipped through the first few cards. He grabbed one of the cards and handed it to Isaac. “Here, it’s a joker. I don’t need it for solitaire. There were two of them, so I gave one to Mom, and this one’s for you.”
Isaac smiled at the picture of a happy looking man in a funny hat and set it beside him on the couch. “Thank you, Charlie.”
“Uh huh. Now watch. You need to shuffle the cards first so that they’re random.” Charlie divided the deck in half and then smooshed the two halves together again a few times. “There we go. Now watch and see how I set out the cards.”
Charlie narrated as he set out the cards and started the game. He played until he got stuck. “Can you see anything I missed?”
“Nope,” Isaac said. “I think that’s the end.”
“Oh well. Do you want to watch me play again?” Charlie started to gather up the cards and turn them around until they were in a stack, facing the same way. Then he started to shuffle the cards again.
“Sure. Then we can go help Mom make dinner,” Isaac said.
Charlie started to set out the cards. “We’re having sandwiches today, and chips. Mom let me pick.”
Isaac sat back in his seat. “That doesn’t take much time to prepare.”
“Mom said to just wait until she called us. Now watch and see if I miss something.” Charlie played another round of solitaire. This time, he won.
“Dinnertime,” Marianne called as Charlie was shuffling the cards again.
Charlie shoved the cards into their box and jumped up off the couch. “Mom, I think I’m the King of Solitaire now. I won again.”
“Wow, maybe we’ll have to have a Boggle tournament tomorrow,” Marianne said. “I think I can beat you at Boggle.”
“Never,” Charlie said. “I will win all the games, wait and see.” They walked together into the kitchen, with Isaac trailing behind them, holding his joker card and feeling a little jealous. He loved to play Boggle.
The next morning, Isaac saw the joker card on his nightstand and added it to his wallet. He shuffled off to work with a sigh. Sometimes it wasn’t very fun to be responsible. He was grateful for his job and his family, of course. He just felt a little down.
During a break between assignments, he pulled out the joker card. The little man on the card blinked and leaned forward. “Hey buddy,” it said in a tiny, gruff voice, “you look like you could use a good joke.”
Isaac blinked. The little man waved. Isaac nodded. Apparently he wasn’t imagining things. “Uh, yes. Actually a good joke is just what I need.”
“What is black and white and red all over?” the little man asked.
“Good one. Wrong answer though,” the little man said. “I was thinking of a sunburned penguin.”
“That’s good too,” Isaac said.
The little man bowed. “Thank you. Would you like another?”
“Why did the boy sleep with carrots under his pillow?”
Isaac thought for a minute or two. “He thought he’d get hungry later?”
“No, he wanted to feed the nightmares.” The little man chuckled at his own joke. “Another?”
“No, I need to get back to work,” Isaac said. “Maybe at lunch time?”
“I’ll be here.” The little man adjusted his funny hat and leaned back into his original pose.
Isaac put the card back into his wallet and smiled. Suddenly the day seemed a little brighter. Maybe he’d play the winner of the Boggle tournament when he got home. If he won, would that make him the King of Boggle? Isaac smiled and hummed as he opened up the next folder on his desktop.