I failed the pilot’s exam again? Maybe it’s just not meant to be.
But how do you steer?
It steers itself!
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Leslie looked up from her coloring book in shock. “I can do that? Can I be more than one thing?”
Grandma smiled. “Of course dear. You can be anything you want to be.”
Wow. Leslie felt overwhelmed with the possibilities. She’d always wanted to fly, so part of the time she’d have to spend as a bird. But which one? Owls could stay up all night, but swans were so pretty, and hummingbirds could fly so fast.
Breathing underwater would be neat. She could explore the bottom of the ocean if she was a shark or a dolphin. If she was an octopus, she’d have arms. Lots of arms. Maybe she could gather up treasure from a sunken ship and buy her own house. She’d buy the yellow house next door, so she wouldn’t have to walk too far to go to bed after Mom made dinner.
Cheetahs could run fast. She’d win all the races if she was a cheetah. Being an elephant would be handy in a water fight. Penguins were always dressed up and didn’t have to wear anything scratchy.
Could she be more than one thing at a time? How often could she change? Did everyone else change into what they wanted when they grew up? Why didn’t they tell her sooner?
“So, what would you like to be?” Grandma asked again. “Have you thought of something?”
Leslie nodded. “A bird so I can fly and an octopus. I’m not sure what else. How many can I be?”
“A bird and an octopus?” Grandma laughed. “I’m afraid that you can’t be either one.”
“So what are my choices?” Leslie asked. “Are unicorns on the list? I think they can do magic, and that would be pretty neat.”
Grandma shook her head. “No animals. You’ll have to stay a person like the rest of us. I was asking what job you want to do when you grow up.”
Leslie stood up and put her hands on her hips. “Grandma, you asked me what I wanted to be, not what I wanted to do. It’s not the same thing.”
“You’re right. I’m sorry. I should have spoken more clearly.” Grandma patted the empty space on the couch next to her. “Will you come sit by me and tell me what job you’d like to do when you grow up?”
Leslie climbed up on the couch and snuggled next to Grandma. She thought for a moment. “Maybe I could be a fairy, because they have magic and can fly. Or I could be a princess. I like dressing up and tea parties. Being a superhero would be nice. They have magic powers, too. But they can only do some magic things, like flying and seeing through walls. Fairies can do lots of magic things and can dress up in twirly dresses too, so I think being a fairy would be best.”
“You have to be born a fairy or a princess or a superhero. Just like you have to be born a fish to be a fish, or a bird to be a bird.” Grandma smoothed Leslie’s hair and smiled. “Isn’t there something you’ve always wanted to do?”
“I wanted to eat cake for breakfast this morning.” Leslie thought for a moment. “And I want to do magic and fly.”
“What would you do with magic?” Grandma asked.
“I would help people. And I would magic cake on everyone’s plate, even at breakfast. If someone was sick, I would magic them better. And if I wanted my dress to be a different color, I would change it. I could change it to rainbow colors if I wanted. And if someone wanted to be a unicorn, I would change them into a unicorn, but only for a day, because unicorns don’t have hands, so it’s hard for them to color in their coloring books.” Leslie remembered that she hadn’t finished coloring and slipped off the couch and started coloring again.
“If you want to help sick people, you could be a doctor or a nurse,” Grandma said.
“Maybe.” Leslie kept coloring.
“If you like to color, maybe you could be an artist.”
“Maybe.” Leslie didn’t look up.
“If you like pretty dresses, maybe you could be a seamstress or a fashion designer.”
“Maybe.” Leslie finished coloring and turned the page. It was a picture of a penguin, but her black crayon was lost. She could color it a different color, but she didn’t want to. Leslie closed the book.
“So what do you want to do when you grow up?”
“I think that when I grow up, I will be Leslie. I’ll figure the rest out later,” Leslie said. She put the lid on the crayons and stood up.
“I think that’s a great plan,” Grandma said. “After you put away your crayons, would you like to have a tea party?”
“Of course I would. All little girls named Leslie who live in this house love to have tea parties. Especially if there’s cake.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” Grandma said.
There was cake at the tea party.
Halloween was over, but Charlie’s costume was still hanging in his closet. “I can be a dinosaur all year,” he said. “Not just on Halloween. Dinosaurs can be part of any holiday. I can be a dinosaur on Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years… It’s not like vampires or pumpkins or witches. Those are just for Halloween.”
Isaac put the book he was reading on the shelf. “It’s good that you picked such a versatile costume.”
“Yeah. It would be different if witches and wizards were real, though.” Charlie snuggled into his pillow. “If they were real, I’d get a flying broom for my costume and I’d use it every day, not just holidays. Do you think they’d ever invent flying brooms?”
Isaac settled back into his chair. “I’m not sure about flying brooms, but I saw a flying vacuum cleaner once.”
Charlie laughed. “Dad, that’s just silly. There’s no such thing as flying vacuums.”
Raising an eyebrow, Isaac asked, “Did you want to hear the story or not?”
Charlie stopped laughing. “Please tell me the story. I’m sure it’s five hundred percent true. Maybe even six hundred percent.”
“Let’s not get crazy. It’s only two or three hundred percent true.” Isaac and Charlie laughed, and then Isaac sat up a little straighter in the chair. “It all happened a long time ago on a dark and stormy night. I was driving home from a business trip, but it was raining so hard that I could barely see the road.”
“How long ago?” Charlie asked.
“I don’t know. Several years at least,” Isaac said. “You weren’t in school yet, and I called you to tell you goodnight before I started driving.”
“So what happened?”
Isaac tapped his cheek with a finger. “Let’s see. The rain was pouring down and it was scary. I had to drive really slow so I wouldn’t drive off the road, and I couldn’t even tell if there were any other cars on the road. I knew I couldn’t keep driving like that.”
“What did you do? Charlie asked. “Did you find a place to stay? A hotel or a haunted house or something?”
“I decided to pull off to the side of the road and wait until the storm calmed down.” Isaac looked out the window. Moonlight glowed from a clear sky, so different from the storm he was describing. “Rain hammered on the roof of the car and the wind shook it. The sky lit up briefly, followed by the crack of thunder. Luckily, I was safe and dry in my car. I felt like I was all alone in the middle of the woods and that there was no one for miles and miles around. In some ways it was oddly peaceful.”
“There is a distinct lack of flying vacuums in this story,” Charlie said. “I feel cheated.”
Isaac laughed. “I’m getting there. As I said, I was in the middle of a terrible storm, but I felt safe and warm and peaceful, and so I fell asleep.”
“Really. And when I woke up, the storm was gone and the sky was clear, and a full moon was shining down, just like tonight.”
Charlie scooted to the edge of his bed to look out the window. “Wow. That’s pretty.”
Isaac nodded. “It is. And as I looked around, I realized that I must have made a wrong turn somewhere, because I had no idea where I was. So, I started my car and made a U-turn. And, as I paused, looking down the road to see if there were any turns ahead, something flew across the road, high enough to brush through the treetops.”
Isaac nodded. “That’s right. It was someone riding a flying vacuum cleaner. I only saw it for a few seconds, but I’m certain that’s what it was. The person riding it was all bundled up in a yellow raincoat with a matching hat, so I don’t know what they looked like, but the vacuum glowed in the light of the moon, and even from inside the car, I could hear it making that vroomy sort of vacuum sound.”
“But it wasn’t plugged in!” Charlie protested. “That doesn’t make sense. It shouldn’t have been making any sounds.”
“It shouldn’t have been flying either, I guess, if you go by what normal vacuums do,” Isaac pointed out. “But, it was flying and vrooming, like a big metal purring cat. If big metal purring cats could fly, of course.”
Charlie laughed. “That’s so silly. I would like a flying broom, though.”
“I think it sounds a bit uncomfortable,” Isaac said.
“I’d add a bicycle seat, I think.” Charlie settled back under his blankets. “But since there aren’t any flying brooms, I’m glad I dressed up as a dinosaur. That’s what I’ll be thankful for at Thanksgiving.”
“You can be thankful for lots of things at Thanksgiving.” Isaac stood up and turned out the lights. “We can make a list later.”
“Okay. ‘Night, Dad. I love you.”
“Good night. I love you too.”