Charlie’s Room: the top hat

“Let’s all go on a walk,” Isaac said one Saturday morning. “It’s not too cold, and it’s not raining.”

Charlie looked out the window, nose pressed to the glass. “It’s muddy,” he said.

Marianne laughed.   “Then wear your boots, Charlie. I think it’s a great idea.”   She handed Charlie his coat. “We can’t be out too long. We need to eat lunch before Charlie and I go to the library to read to a pet. Boxy would be sad if we didn’t show up.”

Charlie put his coat on with a huff and found his boots in the back of the closet.   “Okay. But last time it was muddy a car drove through a puddle, and it sprayed me with yucky muddy water. It was awful.”

Isaac patted his back. “It’s all right. I’ll walk between you and the road. As long as you don’t run ahead, you’ll be fine.”

It was a beautiful day. Rain from the night before was still in little beads on the clover and bushes. They glowed like tiny jewels. The air smelled fresh and clean, and the sun glowed brightly.

“This is nice,” Charlie said. He ran ahead again and paused by a sign stuck into the weeds at the base of a stop sign. “Look, a yard sale. Can we go?”

“I don’t have any money with me, Charlie,” Marianne said.

“I have a few dollars,” Isaac said. “Let’s go.”

“Yay!” Charlie said, and he held out his hand.

Isaac opened his wallet and pulled out two dollars. “That’s it. You know, you don’t have to spend it now. You could save it and buy something later.”

Charlie laughed.   “Nah. Come on!” He raced ahead, and Marianne and Isaac hurried to follow him.

They had to remind him several times to wait. At one point, he ran back and hid behind Isaac when they went past a big puddle and several cars were coming. Isaac’s shoes and socks got all wet.

At the yard sale, Charlie began bustling around, digging through boxes and checking prices.   Finally he decided on a worn, lopsided top hat. “Look, it’s like the ones magicians use,” he said.

“Are you sure?” Marianne asked. “I think it smells funny.”

“It’s exactly two dollars,” Charlie said. “It’s perfect.”

“You could save your money,” Isaac said. “I think someone sat on that hat.”

“Nope,” Charlie said. He bought the hat.

They went home and ate tuna fish sandwiches, and then Marianne and Charlie went to the library to read to Boxy. It was a pretty great day. The next day, Marianne found a half-eaten apple on the kitchen floor.

“Charlie,” she said. “If you can’t finish your apple, put it in the compost bucket. It doesn’t belong on the floor.”

“It wasn’t me,” Charlie said. “Maybe it was Dad?”

“Not me,” Isaac said.

Marianne rolled her eyes and picked up the apple. “It was obviously somebody,” she said.

A few days later, there was a hole in the bread wrapper and a hole looked like it had been carved into the loaf. “Do you think it was mice?” Marianne asked in a hushed voice.

“I haven’t seen any signs of them,” Isaac said. “Let’s keep the food put away just in case. We’ll see if there are any more problems.”

“Let’s feed the rest of this loaf to the ducks,” Marianne said.

The next Saturday morning, Marianne was watering the red geranium that used to be her grandmother’s. She set the watering can down with a thump. “Isaac!” she yelled.

Isaac came running.   “What’s wrong?”

Marianne pointed a shaking finger at the plant. “Something has been nibbling on my grandmother’s geranium. That is the last straw. I’m taking Charlie to the bug museum and you are going to find the mice or locusts or groundhogs or whatever it is that is doing this.” She turned and grabbed his sleeves. “Please Isaac. Make it stop.”

“I’ll do what I can,” Isaac said. He gave her a hug. Then he helped her pack Charlie off to the museum.

Isaac got two slices of bread out of the cupboard and set them in the middle of the floor.   Then he sat on the counter and waited quietly. He was mentally going over his to-do list for work on Monday, when he heard a soft, thumpy, shuffly sort of noise in the hall.

A tiny white bunny with black spots hopped to the middle of the kitchen and started nibbling on the slices of bread. He let it eat for several minutes. When it started slowing down, he hopped off the counter.

The bunny jumped and then bolted out the kitchen door. Isaac chased it down the hall to Charlie’s room. It jumped into the top hat sitting on the floor, leaning against the desk. Isaac picked up the old top hat and looked inside. No bunny, of course.

Isaac took the hat with him to the bedroom and took his wallet off the dresser. He flipped through the cards and found a business card near the back. It had a phone number under the words Wendell, Wizard Extraordinaire. Isaac called the number.

Wendell appeared at the front door minutes later and was quite happy to take the top hat.   “This is a classic,” he said. “I can’t wait to see how they did it.   Thank you!”

Isaac called Marianne and told her it was safe to come home. “What was it?” Marianne asked.

“Something living in Charlie’s top hat,” Isaac said. “I’m afraid I had to get rid of the hat.”

“Ew. I don’t want to know. And he put that on his head? I’ll have to check his hair. Ew.   No more yard sales,” Marianne said.   “We’ll be home soon. Thank you for taking care of it for me.”

“No problem,” Isaac said. “I’ll see you soon.”