Marianne pulled the big, blue rubber band off of the bunch of asparagus and dropped it into the junk drawer. She took the asparagus to the table and held it out like a bouquet. “Let me show you the best way to cut up asparagus.”
Charlie glanced over at Isaac, who was cutting up carrots. “But dad has the cutting board.”
“We don’t need a cutting board.” Marianne held up a stalk of asparagus and began to snap it into pieces.
“Let me try.” Charlie held out a hand for a stalk of asparagus. He quickly snapped it into pieces. “This is fun. Why aren’t carrots so easy to cut up?”
“Maybe they would be if they were as skinny as asparagus.” Marianne picked up a thinner carrot and snapped it in half. “See?”
After the asparagus and potatoes and carrots and cabbage were cut into pieces and added to the soup pot, Charlie took the ends to the compost container in the sink. He turned and pulled the junk drawer open. “Hey, where did the rubber band go?”
“It should be somewhere in there.” Marianne put a lid on the pot. “You saw me put it in.”
“I know. But it’s not there.” Charlie turned to Isaac, who was wiping down the table. “Dad, you saw it, right?”
“I did. Were you thinking about the rubber band when you opened the drawer?” Isaac went to the sink to rinse out the sponge.
“How does that make a difference?” Charlie pushed the things in the drawer around. They made a scraping, rumbling sound as they moved around the drawer. “It’s not here.”
“Close it and try again. Think about the rubber band.” Isaac started drying the table with a kitchen table.
“But that won’t work.” Charlie frowned. “Either it’s there or it’s not. Thinking about it isn’t going to change that.”
“Just try it and see,” Marianne said. “Who knows?”
Charlie closed the drawer. He squeezed his eyes closed and opened the drawer again. He looked down. “It’s right there on top. How did that happen? It wasn’t there when I closed the drawer. It doesn’t make sense.”
“Maybe you didn’t see it,” Marianne said. “Sometimes that happens to me, too.”
“But it was right on top,” Charlie said. He swung around to glare at Isaac, who was hanging up the kitchen towel to dry.
Isaac, feeling the glare, turned to face Charlie. He laughed. “Don’t get mad. It’s just how junk drawers work. Their random structure attracts chaos. Once it reaches critical mass, it functions as a portal to the in-between.”
Charlie stopped glaring. Instead, he looked confused. “Is that like another dimension? I thought those weren’t real.”
“If they are, I don’t think that junk drawers are portals to them,” Marianne said. “I think someone would have noticed by now.”
“People don’t pay attention to junk drawers, because they think they already understand them.” Isaac shrugged. “I think there are more things out there than we understand right now. Sometimes that’s because we aren’t willing to look at what’s in front of us.”
Charlie twirled the rubber band between his fingers. “Huh.” He dropped the rubber band back into the drawer and closed it. Then he closed his eyes tightly and opened the drawer again. He looked down. “It didn’t work. I wanted an ice cream cone.”
“Before dinner?” Marianne smiled and shook her head. “It’s a good thing it didn’t work. After all our effort making the soup, you would have spoiled your appetite.”
Charlie turned to look at Isaac. Isaac smiled. “It only works for things you put in the junk drawer. Otherwise people would have unlimited change, and then our currency would destabilize.”
Charlie nodded. “So it just means that it’s easier to find things and you have unlimited space?”
“As long as the assortment is sufficiently random.” Isaac pulled some bowls out of the cupboard and handed them to Charlie. “Do you want to help me set the table?”
They set the table, and later sat down to a lovely dinner of vegetable soup and crackers. After dinner, they cleared the table, and there was enough time before bedtime to watch a dinosaur movie. They settled in with popcorn.
Partway through the movie, Charlie sat up straight and turned to look at Isaac. “Wait a minute! Is that where you hide the Christmas presents? In the junk drawer?”
Isaac smiled. “Maybe.”
Charlie clapped his hands together. “Now I know where to look for them! I know the secret of the drawer.”
“Only if you know exactly what you’re looking for,” Isaac pointed out.
Charlie slumped in his seat. “It just doesn’t make sense.”
Marianne laughed. “Don’t worry about it. Look, it’s your favorite part of the movie.” They turned back to the screen and forgot all about the junk drawer.