Isaac came in to check Charlie’s homework. “You did really well, Charlie,” he said. “I think you just need to look at this one again and you’ll be done.”
“Thanks Dad,” Charlie said. He took the paper back. “Which one? Oh. Right. I knew that.” He fixed the problem.
“Great job.” Isaac smiled. “Now go put it in your bag, and then please help your mom set the table.”
Charlie started stacking up his papers. A marble rolled to the center of the desk. It was pretty, clear on the outside and blue and white and green in the middle. “Where did that come from?” Isaac asked.
“The marble? I found it on my way home,” Charlie said.
Isaac picked it up. “It’s a nice one. Have you ever played marbles?”
“No.” Charlie put the papers in his backpack. “Do you want it? I don’t need it.”
“Thank you, Charlie.” Isaac smiled. He’d raised such a nice boy. It was probably mostly Marianne’s influence. But maybe he’d helped a bit too. He hoped so.
“After I set the table can I play a game on the computer?” Charlie asked.
“Of course you can,” Isaac said.
Charlie rushed out of the room. Isaac looked at his new marble. “Hello?” said a soft, high-pitched voice. Was it coming from the marble?
“Are you a who?” Isaac asked. He looked at the marble closely, trying to see their tiny civilization. Was there a speck? How would it cling to the side of a marble? Maybe it was inside the marble. But how would he hear it?
“A what? Stop turning me around. I’m starting to feel sick,” the voice said.
“Oh sorry,” Isaac said. “How many of you are there?”
“I don’t feel comfortable telling you that, tall person,” the voice said. “But I do need your help.”
“How can I help?” Isaac asked.
“I’ve been separated from my family. We weren’t planning on staying long on your planet, and I’m not sure how much longer this environmental suit will last.”
Isaac looked at the marble. It was an environmental suit? Was the white and blue and green center an alien? “You need me to get you back to your ship,” Isaac said.
“That’s right. We landed in a hole next to a rock,” the voice said. “It was by an area with tall grass.”
“How big was the hole? How big was the rock?”
“Bigger than me,” the voice said.
This was going to be difficult. He needed more information. He went into the kitchen. The table was already set. Marianne was stirring something on the stove. “Is that lentil soup?” He leaned in. “Smells great!”
Marianne smiled. “Thanks. It’ll be ready soon.”
Isaac gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek and left to find Charlie. Charlie was in the living room on the computer. It looked like he was playing that game where everything was built out of blocks. “Look out for that spider,” he said. The spiders in the game were big and a little scary.
“They don’t do anything in the daytime,” Charlie said. That sounded a little ominous.
“Where did you find the marble, Charlie?” Isaac asked.
“It was in the gutter two houses away. On this side of the street,” Charlie said.
“Thank you,” Isaac said.
He went outside and started walking towards Charlie’s school. Two houses away, he held out the marble. “Does this look familiar?” he asked. “Which direction did you travel?”
“It doesn’t look the same from this high up,” the voice said. “Could you take me closer to the tall grass?”
Isaac crouched next to the lawn. The marble directed him right, left, left, right, right, left, forward. Eventually they found a small pebble next to a fist-sized hole. “That’s it!” the voice said.
Just then, the neighbor drove up. He got out of his car. “What are you doing?” he asked.
Isaac dropped the marble down the hole. “I dropped something,” he said.
“What did you drop? Do you need any help?” the man asked.
“No, I’ve got it,” Isaac said. “Thanks.”
“No problem,” the man said. He went inside. Isaac sat back. A few minutes later, a little metal disk the size of a tuna can floated out of the hole and hovered a few inches above the grass. Then it shot into the air, up up up.
“Safe travels,” Isaac said softly. Then he went home.