Tag: dreams

Charlie’s Room: Cleaning Up

In the middle of the night, the wind started roaring. Isaac woke up from an awful dream where he was chased by lions, and it took a few minutes for him to figure out what was happening. Rain hit the window in bursts and sounded like the drumming of fingernails on the glass. Every once in a while, there was a strange, high-pitched whistle.

It was difficult to fall back asleep, so he went to the kitchen for a drink of water. Earlier in the evening, the full moon was visible. It hung bright and luminous and unreal somehow, like a sticker placed on top of the sky. Now, he couldn’t see it at all. The only light was from the streetlights, and the shadows wavered and danced in the yellow-orange glow, distorted by the rain tossed against the window by the wind.

The wind roared even louder, like an invisible ocean coming in to shore. Isaac glanced at the clock. He had an early meeting at work and couldn’t stay up late. With a reluctant glance back at the shifting shadows, he went back to bed. After a while, he fell asleep.

In the morning, it was still dark when he left the house with a cold muffin wrapped in a napkin for later. He swerved around branches in the street as he drove to work. The sun was just coming up as he arrived. He had to watch his step. The sidewalks were littered with papers and wrappers that had been blown against the buildings in the night.

After a busy day at work, Isaac was starving. The muffin wasn’t enough to cover breakfast and lunch. He spent the drive home imagining the wonderful sandwich he would eat when he arrived home. It was going to have everything he liked on it. Lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles, and whatever else he could find in the fridge that would fit on a sandwich.

The sidewalks and yards in his neighborhood were covered in debris from the storm. It would take a while to get things cleaned up. His home was no exception. When Marianne and Charlie didn’t call out to welcome him home when he stepped inside, he knew right away where to find them. They were in the garden.

Marianne had her hands on her hips, and she was shaking her head. Charlie was on his knees, inspecting the bottom of a trellis. Isaac hurried over. “Is everything okay?” he asked.

Charlie stood up and brushed off his knees. “I think so. We just have a lot of clean up to do.”

Marianne smiled. “Welcome home. I’m afraid that we need to put you to work right away while it’s still light out.” She pointed to a box of trash bags on the ground nearby. “Can you get a bag and start picking up in the front? We’ll take care of things back here.”

Ignoring his grumbling tummy, Isaac grabbed a bag and some gloves from the shed and got to work. It didn’t take long to get the front yard picked up. He looked around, pleased at the neat, clean yard, and thought about going inside and eating that fabulous sandwich. Surely there would be cheese in the fridge. He would add two slices, or maybe three.

And then he noticed the yards around him. Mr. Johnson would have a hard time picking up trash while leaning on his cane. The Simonsens worked until late. Maybe he could clean up for just a little bit longer.

Isaac cleaned quickly, quicker than he’d expected, and made his way back around to Miss Marta’s yard just as the sun was setting. The shadows were long and the light seemed heavier somehow. He reached for a plastic cup that was leaning against the base of a pine tree, when he saw something small dart forward through a gap in the iris leaves nearby. He froze.

The something small froze too. It was a little man, dressed in a green that was a perfect match for the leaves behind him. The man was clutching a small cast-iron pot, the size of a tea cup, to his chest. It was filled with golden odds and ends, things like buttons and bracelets and tooth fillings.

Narrowing his eyes and scowling, the man clutched his pot of gold tighter. “You can’t have it. It’s mine!”

Isaac took a step back and held up his hands. “Of course it is. I’m not sure that I even own any gold.”

“Well you can’t have mine.” The man stepped back, two big steps, while watching Isaac. “And don’t try to catch me and ask for wishes. I’d make them all turn out terrible, you know.”

Isaac nodded. “I understand. I’ll leave you and your gold alone.”

“You’d better.” The man took a few more backwards steps and then turned. Three more steps. He was fading into the shadows. Just then, Isaac’s stomach growled loudly. The man paused and turned back to look at Isaac.

Isaac smiled. “Sorry about that. Busy day.”

The man looked at Isaac’s bag of trash and the plastic cup nearby that Isaac hadn’t picked up yet. “I see that. I won’t grant you any wishes, but I can gift you some food.” He frowned. “But it’s only because I feel sorry for you.”

He waved a hand at Isaac, and suddenly Isaac was holding something wrapped in brown paper. When he looked up from the parcel, the man was gone. “Thank you,” he said anyway.

Isaac took off his gloves and unwrapped the parcel. Inside there was a sandwich with everything he liked on it. It even had three slices of cheese. It was delicious.

He finished picking up Miss Marta’s yard and went home. The streetlights were coming on. He threw the trash bag into the outside trash can and went inside. Marianne was in the kitchen, stirring a pot of soup and humming. Charlie was setting the table.

“That took you a while.” Charlie set out the spoons.

“I picked up a lot of trash,” Isaac said. “I picked up around the neighborhood a little.” He washed his hands at the sink.

“I’ll bet you’re starving after all that work.” Marianne tasted the soup and added a little salt. “It’s almost ready.”

“I had a sandwich,” Isaac admitted.

“While you were out?”

“Someone gave it to me.”

Charlie put the cups on the table with a smile. “Was it nice?”

“It was the best sandwich I ever ate.”

Marianne smiled. “Well the sandwich might have been nice, but wait until you taste this soup!”

The soup was wonderful. Isaac couldn’t have wished for better.

Future Not-Telling

When Dylan looked into the mirror as he brushed his teeth, it wasn’t his face looking back at him. Stumbling backwards, he reached for the doorknob and took a deep breath preparing to yell for help.

“Stop. I won’t hurt you. I’m you from the future.”

Dylan stopped and looked at the mirror. “You aren’t me. You’re old.”

The man in the mirror winced. “Ouch. I was a mean little kid. I’m not old.”

Shrugging, Dylan opened the medicine cabinet, swinging the mirror towards the wall. He tapped around the back looking for a power supply or some kind of electronics.

“Don’t you want to hear about the future?” The voice called out from the other side of the cabinet door.

Dylan closed the door again and faced the man in the mirror. “Like what?”

“Before we begin, I do want to point out that I’m not old.”

“You have a beard.”

The man rubbed at his beard and frowned. “Beards are cool in the future, you know.”

“It doesn’t look cool. It looks old.” Dylan was pretty sure after all that this was not him from the future. He wouldn’t ever have a beard, even if other people said it was cool. He opened the cabinet again to figure out how the trick was done. He knocked on the back of the mirror.

“Dylan, Dylan, Dylan,” the voice said. “Stop that. I can prove I’m you. I’ll tell you something no one else knows.”

Dylan swung the mirror back partway, still holding onto the edge of the door. “Like what?”

“Um. I don’t know. Oh, wait. You dream all the time that you can fly. You have nightmares about carnivorous flowers. You cheat when you play solitaire.”

“Whatever.” Dylan crossed his arms. “What do you want, anyways? It’s not like I’ll really become you anyways. Not now that I’ve seen how stupid I look with a beard.”

The man in the mirror stroked his beard again. “I told you, it’s cool. Wait and see.”

“So, why are you here? Do you need to warn me about something?”

“Hmmmm.” Old Dylan thought for a moment.

Dylan rolled his eyes. “Did you forget why you came here? Told you you’re old.”

Old Dylan pointed at him through the mirror. “That’s it. I’m not telling you anything. You get to suffer.”

“I thought I was you.”


“So you’ll suffer too.”

Old Dylan smiled. “Yeah, but I’ve already lived through it.”

“But maybe you could tell me some stocks to invest in or something and we’d both be rich.”

“You’d just waste all the money before I could spend it,” Old Dylan said.

“That’s what you think.”

“I’m you too, so you think it too. Hah!” Old Dylan crossed his arms across his chest.

Dylan swung the cabinet door open and knocked on the back of the mirror.

“Knock it off, that’s annoying and loud.”

“You’re old, old, old, old, old old, old.”

“That’s it, I’m leaving.”

Dylan knocked on the back of the mirror a few more times. When he didn’t hear anything, he swung the mirror back in place. Old Dylan was gone.

Years in the future, when beards were actually cool, Dylan didn’t grow a beard. But he was interested in time travel. He studied it extensively, with the firm belief it would someday be possible. When he joined a team inventing a way to visit the past through mirrors, Dylan volunteered to be the first test subject.

He convinced them to allow him to check in on his younger self so that they could see the effects of visiting a past self firsthand. After a bit of reflection, he decided to grow a beard just for the occasion. He thought it would be best to complete the loop. Plus it would be funny.

“You can’t tell your younger self anything about the future, you know,” the lead researcher reminded him. “You signed an ethics agreement.”

“Don’t worry,” Dylan said. “I won’t tell me anything.”

Charlie’s Room: Voting

It was the middle of the night. A surprise rainstorm filled the room with the soothing sound of rain pitter-pattering on the window, like the sound of distant fairy drums. The light was dim, despite the streetlights.

Isaac snuggled back into the covers and closed his eyes. Unfortunately, somehow sleep seemed just out of reach. He couldn’t recapture the edges of his dreams. The more he tried, the less he could remember and the more awake he felt.

He sighed and slid his feet into his slippers. Maybe he could make himself a nice cup of cocoa and sit in the living room and watch the rain for a bit. He walked quietly down the hall, pausing at Charlie’s door to hear his even breathing.

At the kitchen doorway, he paused. Just above the quiet drumming of the rain, he could hear an odd murmuring. He peeked inside the kitchen, but couldn’t see anyone there. Maybe he was imagining the voices.

He stepped into the kitchen. The voices sounded louder. Another step, and he could understand some of the words. It was difficult, as the voices spoke at once, stacked on top of each other.

“I’m just saying that after the dish ran away with the spoon, they lived happily ever after. Who doesn’t want that?”

“Did you see the mug that lost his handle? It’s dangerous living here. Last week, a measuring spoon got caught in the garbage disposal for a second time. He’ll never be the same.”

“But it’s safer here. Dishes that wander around in the wild face dangers on every side. There’s no dishwasher in the deep woods, my friends.”

“Why can’t we get packed away like the good china? They spend their days chatting and meditating in their own top-of-the-shelf retreat. What makes them special? They should take their chances in the cupboards like the rest of us.”

“It’s fine for the silverware to go adventuring. They’re stainless steel – practically indestructible.”

And then there was a whistling sound that tore through the chatter. Was that the kettle? As the whistling died out, the kitchen was silent again, except for the sound of the rain hitting the kitchen window.

“I believe we should vote on it,” said a quiet voice that seemed to echo through the kitchen. “Do we stay here, where the challenges are known, and we are mostly treated with respect? Here we have places to live, friends nearby, and the joys of dish soap and running water.

However, if we leave, we are heading into the unknown. There is risk for uncertain rewards. Perhaps we’ll live happily ever after in some hidden hot spring dish-and-spoon utopia where no one is chipped or caught in the garbage disposal. Or we may be dashed to pieces as soon as we hit the sidewalk. There are no guarantees. Stay or go, we’ll decide together. Weigh the risks, and we’ll vote.”

There was silence for a time. Isaac was nervous. Would he have to buy all new dishes and silverware in the morning? How much would that cost? How would he explain it to Marianne and Charlie? Charlie hadn’t meant to drop the mug. How could it have led to this? Or would this have happened anyway? Were they doomed to a lifetime of paper plates and plastic forks after each new set of dishes left?

“It is time. Do we go? Ayes?”

A few voices called out “Aye!”.


Many voices yelled “Nay!” There was some grumbling, but the voices soon quieted.

“That is it then. We are decided, for now. We can revisit this in a year.”

The voices stopped. The rain sounded loud in the quiet kitchen. Isaac wasn’t sure whether it would be all right to go in. What if the dishes found out he’d listened in on their discussion? Would they be angry?

At last, he went in and carefully made himself a cup of cocoa, handling the dishes much more carefully than usual. He cleaned up after himself and went to the living room to watch the rain. Watching the rain and sipping cocoa was always soothing.

He looked at his mug as he set it on the side table. He was glad the dishes had decided to stay. From now on, he’d take better care of them. He wondered if the furniture ever voted on leaving. He looked around. It wasn’t good to take anything for granted.

Perhaps he should take better care of everything that was his. It seemed like a good plan. He’d tell Charlie and Marianne in the morning. For now, he’d watch the rain for just a little longer. He was already feeling sleepy again. It would be nice to get a little more sleep.

Charlie’s Room: Lost Socks

One night, Isaac woke up from an odd dream where he could fly underwater, feeling suddenly very thirsty. So he slid his feet into his slippers and softly walked down the hallway to the kitchen. He didn’t need to turn on the light, because the full moon filled the room with a bluish light that made everything seem unfamiliar.

Isaac filled his glass at the tap and looked around the kitchen as he sipped the lukewarm water. It was one of those strange nights where fairy tales begin. On a night like this, little elves made shoes and Cinderella lost her slipper and Rumplestiltskin danced around a fire.

But nothing had happened by the time he finished drinking his first glass. So, he turned to the sink and filled it again. This time, he saw something moving at the other end of the kitchen.

Setting his glass on the counter, he quietly walked through the shadows. He stopped and crouched to peek around the edge of the table and saw a line of oddly-shaped beings of different shapes and sizes, none taller than a foot. They were traveling from the laundry room across the kitchen to the sliding glass door.

The first creature reached the door and didn’t pause. It hopped up and through the door as though the glass wasn’t there. The next followed.

Isaac squinted and leaned forward. Were those all socks? In the moonlight, they seemed monochromatic, but as far as he could tell, there wasn’t a match among them. This then wasn’t some sort of Noah’s Ark story where the socks were being saved two by two. That was probably a good thing, because any disaster that would destroy socks wasn’t likely to be good for people.

Isaac wanted to crawl forward and see where the socks were going, but he didn’t want to interrupt the socks. The stories mostly agreed that interrupting a fairy tale in progress didn’t go well for the interrupter. So he waited and watched.

Fortunately, it didn’t take long for the line of socks to come to an end. Isaac waited a few minutes after the last of the socks hopped through the glass door. Then, sticking to the shadows as best as he could, he circled around to peer around the edge of the door.

In the light of the full moon, the mismatched socks were dancing around the dandelions in the lawn. There weren’t many, because Marianne tried to dig them up when she saw them. She said that dandelions were not allowed that close to the garden, because they spread so quickly once they went to seed.

Isaac liked dandelions. The lawn in the park was all dandelions this time of year, and the sight made Isaac smile when he passed by on his walks. It was like concentrated cheerfulness to have so many dandelions together, like sunshine in a flower form.

Isaac did not dig up dandelions when he saw them.

The socks seemed to agree with Isaac. They continued to dance around the dandelions, twisting and leaping faster and faster. The groups scattered and reformed in different combinations. Isaac quietly tapped the rhythm of the dance on his knee.

Were they dancing to music? Could socks hear music? Before this night, Isaac didn’t know socks could dance. Was there a way to open the door or a window to check and see?

And yet, he didn’t want to risk interrupting. Curiosity wasn’t a good character trait in fairy tales. Maybe he could open the front door? It was on the other side of the house, away from the dancing socks. But what if the socks were dancing there, too?

He could check out the front window first. He backed up slowly until he could stand up out of sight of the glass door and walk to the living room. He peeked around the edge of the front window. No socks.

He opened the front door slowly, quietly, carefully. No music. He quietly closed the door and went back to the kitchen. He carefully looked out the glass door again.

The socks were gone.

Was it because he opened the front door? Was their dance done? Did they return to where they came from? Did they go somewhere else? Where would a group of mismatched socks go? Perhaps all the neighborhood socks met in the park for a community dance.

Isaac finished drinking his water and left the glass in the sink. He went back to bed. Even though he thought he’d be up for hours thinking about dancing socks, he fell asleep quickly.

He woke up early, when dawn shone through the windows leaving orange patches of light on the wall. Slippers on, he hurried to the kitchen to look out the window. The dandelions had all gone to seed in the night, and were now white puffs floating above the lawn on their stems like clouds in a green sky.

Marianne came into the kitchen behind him. “What are you looking at?” She leaned in to look over his shoulder. “Are those dandelions? Oh no!”

She rushed off, probably to change and go dig up all the dandelions she could find before breakfast. Isaac shook his head and started measuring water for oatmeal.

Isaac’s Adventures Underwater: Chapter Thirteen

“Do you both live in this house?” Isaac asked, once the song was over.

“Of course we do, it’s our house,” Hannah said.

Anna nodded. “It’s our house, so we live here.”

“So who lives in the other house?”

Hannah and Anna looked confused. “What house?” they asked in unison.

Isaac unfolded the map and showed the picture of the two houses. “I could only find your house, though. I didn’t see any signs leading anywhere else.”

“Oh, that house.” Hannah jumped up and grabbed Isaac’s arm.

Anna jumped up and grabbed the other arm. “We’ll take you there.”

Isaac stood up and allowed the two girls to lead him through the bushes and down a steep hill. They stopped in front of a wall of overgrown rose bushes.

“She doesn’t do much yard work,” Hannah said.

Anna nodded. “She mostly just sleeps. She’s the queen of dreams, you know.”

Isaac, who had been contemplating the sharp thorns on the nearest rosebush, turned to look at the little girls in horror. “You mean she can’t go home?”

Hannah shrugged. “She is home.”

Isaac shook his head. “No, I mean the home she had before she came here, where her family is. She can’t go back?”

“She is home.” Anna put her hands on her hips. “Hannah told you that. They’re all in her dreams now.”

“What do you mean? What happened?”

Hannah stepped closer to Anna and put her hands on her hips too. “She became the queen of dreams and took a nice nap and then went back.” She looked at Anna.

Anna continued the story. “But too much time had passed. Her parents and her sister and brother had all grown old and died. Her baby cousin was a great-grandpa. So, she couldn’t go back, not really.”

Hannah smiled. “So she came back here and she dreams about them, and in her dreams they’re real. So she doesn’t want anyone to wake her up.”

Anna smiled. “She has a great big sword and would probably kill anyone who tried. She’s really scary.”

The girls continued smiling, but Isaac frowned. It was an awful story. He hoped it wasn’t really true. Isaac looked at the wall of rose bushes. “So, no one would throw a party anywhere near her house if people are scared to wake her up, right?”

“We could check, but we’d probably hear them screaming from here if they did,” Hannah said.

“She wakes up if people are too noisy?”

“Doesn’t everybody? I do,” Anna said. “Especially when Hannah snores.”

“I don’t snore, you do.” Hannah glared at Anna.

“Do not!”

“Yes, you do. I wish I had a giant sword too.”

“Can we see over the rose bushes from the top of the hill?” Isaac interrupted. He didn’t like where this argument was going.

The girls turned to glare at Isaac, then looked back up the hill. “Maybe,” they said in unison.

Isaac hurried back up the hill. He walked along the top of the hill until he found a spot where he could look across the rest of the island. There was an empty overgrown garden, the red roof of a far away house, and a deserted beach beyond it. The party wasn’t on this island.

Hannah and Anna trudged back up the hill. “Time for cheese curds,” Hannah said happily.

“Yay!” Anna said.

“Wait, can you tell me the best way off this island?” Isaac asked. The girls were already pushing their way through the bushes back to their yard. Isaac chased after them and tried not to worry about the story they told. He would get home and see his family again. He got home last time, after all.

Start at Chapter One

The Artist Who Lost Himself and Stole His Own Painting

“And what do you want to be when you grow up?” the teacher asked.

“I’m going to be an artist,” Oscar solemnly declared.

“And what else?”

“Just an artist, nothing else.”

Oscar loved to paint since he was very small. He especially loved drawing on the walls, as high as he could reach. When he drew on the wall, his artwork was still there the next day, making the world beautiful.

Of course, his parents tried to hide the pens and pencils and crayons and markers. Oscar always found something to paint with. If he couldn’t find paints, he’d draw with make up. When that was hidden, he painted with ketchup or soap or shampoo or deodorant or toothpaste.

His parents gave up. “When we move out someday, you are going to help us paint the walls.”

Oscar grinned. “That sounds wonderful. I’d love to!”

“We’re going to be painting them white.”

“Just white?”

“Just white. Nothing else.”

Oscar was horrified. “Who would want plain white walls? I’d be happy to paint something much, much better.”

When he finally finished art school, Oscar went door to door selling portraits. Despite his talent, it took a long time to be successful. He persisted. Eventually, he saved up enough money to have a studio to paint in.

He didn’t have to go door to door to sell his paintings any more. People came to him asking to buy them. He finally had all the time he wanted to paint. And so he painted a lot.

He painted beautiful, realistic still lifes. He painted apples and partridges, pears and playing cards, water glasses and plums. He painted lovely, inviting landscapes. He painted deserts and mountains and oceans and forests. He added cows and geese and camels and elephants. He painted on canvases and walls of all sizes and shapes.

“Maybe you were right about this art thing,” his dad said one day on a visit to his studio. “Some of these are really good. Do you ever paint anything for advertisements?”

His mom looked at the walls, all covered in paint and shook her head. “You never did grow out of that, did you?”

“Out of painting?” Oscar asked.

“Out of painting on the walls.”

Oscar sighed. “They’re murals, Mom. People pay me to do them, so I have to practice somewhere.”

And then one day, Oscar wanted to move on and paint something grander. Something that was better than anything he had ever painted before. He wanted to paint his magnum opus.

Right away, he was faced with a difficult decision. Would he paint a still life or a landscape? After some thought, he made a decision. Why not both?

He painted a room with large windows. The windows looked out on a lovely forested hill on the edge of a charming village. Friendly animals peered through the branches of the trees. The room was filled with all the things he liked best. Art supplies and canvases, photo albums and his favorite paintings. Food and flowers.

It all looked lovely, beautiful, realistic, and inviting. Just like Pygmalion, Oscar fell in love with his art. He spent hours staring at the perfect room with the perfect view and sighing.

He couldn’t paint anything else. It was a crisis. His parents and friends and customers and teachers all visited, but Oscar refused to look at anything but the painting.

And one day, when he reached out to touch a perfect pear, his hand met empty air. The canvas was a door instead of a window. Oscar stepped inside and made himself at home.

“Oh look, Oscar painted himself inside his last painting,” his mom said. “I wonder where he went.”

“We’ll leave him a note,” his Dad said. “I think he should paint some pictures to advertise that new toothpaste. Mint fields in the sun or something. I’ll include it in the note.”

But Oscar stayed in the painting. He was declared missing, and eventually, his parents came and collected his things. They sold his painting to a museum. Oscar was not pleased.

The moment the painting left his studio, Oscar hid out of sight when people were around. He didn’t think he could sit still long enough to fool people into thinking his painting was normal. If they knew they could come inside, everyone would want to come of course. It was his magnum opus. But, he really didn’t want any company.

In the museum, people were around all day. They were noisy and pointed and took pictures. Even worse, some people scoffed and said that his painting was boring. Oscar sat out of sight and fumed. The museum didn’t deserve his painting.

One night, he slipped out of the painting, plucked it off the wall, and left. He took it back to his parents’ house and hung it in his old bedroom. They returned it when they finally noticed, but he just stole it again. And again. And no one seemed to notice it happening.

They finally gave up. Left in peace, Oscar could finally start painting again. He left his new paintings in his old bedroom. The museum was thrilled to buy paintings that didn’t steal themselves. Everyone lived happily ever after.