Isaac was walking to his car after work when his phone started ringing. “Hello?” he said.
“Hi Dad,” Charlie said. “Mom and I are buying everybody sandals to wear. I already picked some out.”
“That sounds like fun, do you want me to meet you there?” Isaac asked.
“That’s okay, we’re almost done. If you tell me your shoe size I’ll get you ones that match mine. Mine are red,” Charlie said.
“That would be wonderful, Charlie. Mom knows my size. Will she have red sandals, too?”
“Maybe. She can’t decide, and we’ve been here forever. She said I could use her phone to call you, but I can’t talk long. I hope we’re almost done.”
“I’m sure it won’t be too much longer,” Isaac said. He had reached his car and was now fumbling around in his pocket for the keys. Ah, there they were. He unlocked the door.
“Dad, I left you a present on my desk,” Charlie said.
“What’s the occasion?” Isaac asked. “It’s not my birthday.” He sat in the front seat and leaned back. It had been a long day.
“It’s because I love you of course,” Charlie said.
Isaac smiled. “I love you too Charlie.”
“Well, I’ve got to go. Mom wants the phone back. Bye!” Charlie hung up.
Isaac drove home feeling much happier than he had just a few minutes before. He arrived home to an empty house. Charlie and Marianne were probably still out shopping. Isaac put away his work things and checked the dinner menu.
He left some potatoes in a pot of water on the stove. It would take a while for them to come to a boil. While he was waiting, he could see what Charlie left for him. He went to check Charlie’s desk.
The scrabble game was open on one side of the desk. Beside it there were some of the letter tiles, spelling out ‘HI DAD’. Next to the tiles was a smooth, flat, gray rock. Isaac chuckled and sorted through the pouch.
He changed the message to ‘THANK YOU CHARLIE’. Then he picked up the rock. It fit nicely into his palm. It was one of the river rocks Charlie had collected on their last camping trip.
He remembered finding this one. It was just below the surface of the river near their campsite. When he’d brought it back to camp, Marianne said it might make a nice skipping rock. She was the skipping rock champion. Charlie hadn’t liked the idea. “I’m not going to throw it away,” he said. “I’m going to keep it. It’s a nice rock.”
“You are a nice rock,” Isaac said. “You can hold down the papers on my desk for me. But which desk? At home or at work?”
The rock started to move. Two tiny eyes appeared and looked at Isaac. They blinked. The rock moved again, and then it shifted. There was a tiny gray man standing on the palm of his hand.
Color started fading in, and the man looked less and less gray, as though he were standing in his own personal sunrise. “Hello,” Isaac said.
“Hello,” the little man said. “I’m sorry to say that I cannot accompany you to your desk. My time is up.”
“Were you under a curse?” Isaac asked.
“No, I’m a member of the royal fairy family. Fairies turn their leaders into river rocks to teach them wisdom and patience. Luckily I’m not in the direct line for the throne, so I only had to be a rock for a century or two,” the little man said.
“Why are you telling me this?” Isaac asked.
“I can tell that you have magic of a sort so it’s allowed. I waited for a chance to tell you thank you.” The little man bowed. “Thank you. It was nice not to wake up at the bottom of a river.”
“It’s really Charlie who saved you,” Isaac said.
“Can you thank him for me? Now that I’ve changed, my assistant will be here any minute to escort me home.”
“Of course,” Isaac said. “Is there anything you need?”
“No, thank you,” the little man said. They stood in silence for a few minutes. Then, there was a popping sound. A little person with large purple butterfly wings was fluttering in the air in front of them, carrying a large pair of blue wings. He fluttered over and attached them somehow to the back of the little person on Isaac’s hand.
“Goodbye and thank you,” the little man said. There was a double pop and both of the little people were gone. Isaac smiled and went to check on the potatoes.
Over dinner, Charlie asked, “Did you like the present?”
“Yes, thank you for sharing it with me. He was glad not to be back in the river, and he said thank you.” Isaac said.
“The rock did?” Charlie asked. “Huh. Do you want to try on your sandals after dinner? They have blue stars on them. Just like mine. Let’s wear them tomorrow.”
“I don’t think I can wear them to work, but I’ll put them on after work. If they fit.”
“They will,” Charlie said. And they did.