One afternoon Isaac retrieved the Christmas ornaments from the dusty storage area in the garage. He dusted the box off with an old worn towel and brought it inside. He left the towel on the washer and carried the box into the living room where Christmas carols were playing quietly. “I found it!”
Marianne and Charlie looked up from the artificial Christmas tree Isaac brought in earlier. Assembling it was a bit of a puzzle, and they both loved the challenge. Marianne smiled. “I knew you’d find it eventually. Just leave it over by the couch.
Charlie giggled and pointed. “Dad! There are cobwebs in your hair.”
Isaac reached up and tried to feel the cobwebs. Marianne stood up and turned him around by the shoulders. “Go take a shower and clean up. We’ll be fine.”
“All right.” Isaac left them to their tree puzzle and carols. He started to run the shower, waiting for the water to heat up.
It didn’t heat up.
The water remained ice cold, long after it would normally be much warmer. Isaac turned the water off and went down the hall, passing the living room. Marianne and Charlie were singing along with “Silent Night.”
Isaac hummed along and continued through the kitchen to the laundry room. He opened the cupboard and checked the water heater. It was in good working order.
He went back to the bathroom and ran the water again. Nothing. He checked the shower head for invisible frost creatures. He’d never heard of them, but that didn’t mean that they didn’t exist.
Fortunately or unfortunately, there weren’t any. Unless they were microscopic or insubstantial. He paused to consider that. Were there really insubstantial beings? Would that make them ghosts? How could you tell if they existed?
If the only way to tell was by a cold shower, maybe there were ghosts. But it would be better to rule out other things. He left the water running and went to check and see if the kitchen sink only ran cold.
The music was off when he passed the living room. It was oddly quiet. Isaac peeked inside.
Marianne and Charlie were frozen in place. Charlie was handing the top of the tree to Marianne, who was standing on a kitchen chair and reaching for the bunch of branches. Isaac hurried into the room.
They felt warm to the touch, but solid as rock. They didn’t move. Isaac raced back to the bathroom and tried to turn the water off. The tap wouldn’t move. The water continued to make the sound of the running water, but remained as frozen as Marianne and Charlie.
Isaac tried calling Wendell, Wizard Extraordinaire, but his phone wouldn’t turn on. The lights wouldn’t turn off or on. The front and back doors wouldn’t open. He wasn’t hungry or thirsty.
Everything was frozen. And yet, oddly, he felt tired. He felt like he’d been awake for days. The more he thought about it, the more tired he felt. He laid some towels out on the carpet and fell asleep.
When he woke up, he could hear Christmas carols from the living room. Marianne and Charlie were laughing together about something. The water was still running in the bathroom.
Isaac stood up and raced into the living room. He hugged Marianne and Charlie. “Hey!” Charlie said. “Now I’m all dusty!”
“Why haven’t you started your shower yet?” Marianne dusted off her clothes. “If you leave the shower running for too long, you’ll run out of hot water.”
Isaac looked down at his dusty clothes. “Right. The shower. I should check on that.”
He dashed down the hall to the bathroom. He opened the door and steam billowed out. The mist was a little denser than he expected. How long had the water been running hot?
He turned down the tap until the temperature was just right. Then, not sure what else to do, he took a shower and washed the cobwebs out of his hair. He tossed his dirty clothes and the towel bed he slept on into the wash.
Marianne and Charlie were still putting ornaments on the tree. “Can I help?” he asked.
Charlie handed him a long bead garland. “You’re good at arranging this, so I saved it for you.”
They all sang along with “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “Silver Bells.” There was leftover corn chowder with rolls for dinner. They drank cocoa in the living room with the lights off so that they could watch the blinking lights on the tree.
Isaac read a bedtime story to Charlie and said prayers with him. Marianne was in the living room reading. Isaac went to his room to call Wendell. He described the problem, worried that there was something wrong with him or his house or his water heater or the water…
Wendell laughed. “Oh that’s just a time bubble. They happen sometimes. Usually they don’t last very long and nobody notices. You just happened to be stuck in the center of a rather large bubble.”
“So what should I do if it happens again?” Isaac asked. “Is it dangerous?”
“Just wait it out. They’re not dangerous at all,” Wendell said. “Just confusing if you’re not expecting it.”
And so, years later, when he started to wash the dishes and the water wouldn’t heat up, he wasn’t surprised to see Marianne and Charlie frozen in place at the scrabble board. He just took a nap, knowing that it would pass. And it did.