The morning Charlie left for his camping trip with his cousins, he raced around the house trying to find everything he needed. “Where’s the flashlight? What’s a mess kit? Why would I want a compass?” Marianne was out meeting with a client or sponsor or something, so Isaac tried to follow behind Charlie and help him out.
In the end, he left with a lumpy backpack, a sleeping bag and pillow, and a smile. ‘Thanks, dad!” he called over his shoulder. “Oh, by the way, my light’s out. I think it needs a new light bulb.”
“Wait!” Isaac said. Charlie paused, halfway into Marianne’s sister’s minivan. “You didn’t give me a hug.” Charlie rolled his eyes and ran back.
“I love you, Dad,” he said, but it was all muffled in Isaac’s shirt.
Isaac understood anyway. “I love you too, Charlie,” he said. He waved until the car turned the corner. He waited a little longer, because maybe they’d come back for something Charlie forgot, or maybe Charlie would decide not to go after all.
But they didn’t come right back, and Isaac went back inside. It was the start of a four-day weekend. The house was a mess and the weather was beautiful. Isaac forgot all about the light bulb. He did get the house picked up before Marianne got home, though.
The next evening, Marianne had some sort of conference to go to. Isaac puttered around the house, looking for something to do, when he remembered the light bulb. He grabbed a box of light bulbs and a stepladder and had to juggle them a bit to open Charlie’s door.
He left the new light bulbs on the bed and struggled a bit with the ladder. “It’s too bad Charlie’s not here,” he thought. “I could ask him how many dads it takes to change a light bulb.”
He paused. “Just one because we’re awesome like that.” Isaac laughed out loud and reached for the bulb. It made a strange shuffling sound as he unscrewed it. It was surprisingly heavy. Was there something inside? He shook it gently and it shuffled some more.
He set it on the bed and put in a new bulb. The light worked fine. He held up the old bulb. There was a lumpy shape inside, as big as a golf ball. Hmmm. Time to perform surgery.
He found a hammer and chisel and set the bulb in a pie plate on the table. With one big swing of the hammer, the end of the light bulb was gone, leaving a round glass ball with a slightly splintered end. He picked it up and looked inside.
It looked like there was a funny-shaped gray rock inside. He tipped it out into his hand. Some bits of wire hit his hand first, and then he caught what looked like a lizard statue. It was cold and hard.
He held it closer to his face. It twitched. He nearly dropped it. How had a lizard ended up in the light bulb? How had it survived the heat inside without drying up into lizard jerky?
Perhaps it was some sort of fire lizard. Isaac was pretty sure he’d read about something like that. They lived in volcanoes or something. He turned on his desk lamp and made the little lizard a bed out of foil. He pushed the lamp as close as he could and left a dish of water nearby.
He watched for a bit, but nothing happened, so he left to make dinner. When he came back, the lizard had somehow crawled into the lamp and curled around the bulb. “That hardly looks comfortable. I’d offer you the oven, but we can’t keep it on all the time.” The lizard squeezed the bulb a little tighter.
Should he call the zoo? Were fire lizards common? What did they eat? Moths and bugs attracted to the light probably. “Do you need me to find you some moths?” he asked the lizard. “You know, to help you get your strength back up?”
The lizard squeezed itself even tighter around the bulb and suddenly, pop!, it was inside. “Oh, that’s how you do it!” Isaac said. “That’s amazing. I really should learn more about lizards sometime.” But, he had other projects planned for the evening. By the time Charlie and Marianne were home, he’d forgotten all about the little lizard. Until months later when his desk lamp needed a new bulb.