“Tell me a story,” Charlie said.
He leaned on Isaac’s desk, and a pen rolled off onto his keyboard.
Isaac picked up the pen and set it in the jar of pencils. “I’m working right now. Maybe later?”
Charlie slumped further and some papers crumpled under his elbow. “But I want a story now. Please? I’m bored.”
Isaac turned to look at Charlie. He knew that Charlie had homework to do, and books to read, and a yard to play in. But, he also knew that since the quarantine started everything was different and strange, and Charlie wasn’t the only one feeling unsettled. “Okay. I’ll take a break and tell you a story. How about some cocoa, too?” He shut down his computer.
Charlie followed him into the kitchen and started handing him the ingredients he’d need. He leaned in and watched the small bubbles form on the surface as Isaac stirred. “Is it done yet?”
“Almost.” Soon enough, Isaac was pouring the cocoa into mugs. He left the pot in the sink to soak. Marianne was in the bedroom on a phone call, so Isaac set her mug aside for her. He and Charlie took their mugs to the living room, sat on the couch, and turned to face eachother.
“What do you want a story about?”
Charlie thought for a minute or two. “Space cats.”
That was different. Space cats? “Alright. Space cats. Are they cat astronauts from earth? Do they live on the space station?”
“No.” Charlie frowned. “They always lived in space. They’re space cats.”
“Okay.” Isaac sipped his cocoa while he thought for a moment. Still no ideas. He needed more information. “Do they look like regular cats? What do they eat?”
“They look like regular cats except they’re purple. And they eat shooting stars, if they catch them. They chase them really fast.” Charlie waved his hand back and forth. “Really fast, like that, see?” He waved his hand back and forth a few more times.
“Got it. I’ll see what I can do.” Isaac set his mug down.
“Once, there was a family of space cats. There was a mom space cat, and a dad space cat, and a brave and smart little boy space cat. They lived in space and took naps on asteroids, unless they were in a hurry. Then they napped on comets and got where they were going really quickly at the same time. They were very smart space cats. The mom space cat was the smartest one of all, of course, so it was probably her idea.”
“But what about the shooting stars?”
“I’m getting there.” Isaac took another sip of cocoa, very slowly.
“Daaaaaaad,” Charlie said. “Finish the story.”
“Oh, alright. Let’s see, the space cats liked to nap on asteroids best, because that’s what they ate, so it was nice to stay close to their food. The type of asteroids they liked best were the ones that were fiery hot. They tasted better that way. They heated up when they go too close to a planet and were pulled through the atmosphere really, really fast.”
“Yup. But they had to catch them before they burned up all the way, and they couldn’t fly as fast in atmospheres, because gravity made things difficult. The little boy space cat was the best at catching shooting stars because he was the fastest. And then, one day, he had a great idea. He thought that they needed to think of a way to heat up asteroids without going into the atmosphere. And then he looked at the bright, shiny, sun”
“The sun is too hot for space cats,” Charlie said. “They’d melt.”
“Yes, and it wasn’t the same thing at all. But it was on fire without any atmosphere at all. He told his parents that they needed to find a way to set asteroids on fire without chasing them into the atmosphere all the time. They needed to find a way to steal a piece of the sun and carry it around with them. The mom space cat had an idea. She said that she remembered seeing a crystal on the other side of the galaxy that was strong enough to hold a piece of the sun. They rode a comet over and found the crystal.”
Isaac took a long sip of cocoa.
“Sorry, sorry. Let’s see. They got they crystal. And then the dad cat thought that if they sent it through the atmosphere and it got hot like a shooting star, it would be like having a piece of sun to carry with them, but not too hot. But they would have to catch it at just the right time. And who was the best at catching shooting stars?”
“The little boy space cat?”
“That’s right. So they sent the crystal into the atmosphere, and he caught it at just the right time, when it was shining its brightest. Then they took it back to an asteroid and used the crystal to cook dinner. A long time later, when it stopped glowing as brightly, what do you think they did?”
Charlie bounced on the cushion in excitement. “They sent it into the atmosphere again and caught it when it was just right!”
“That’s right. And they lived happily ever after.”
Charlie grinned and drank the last of his cocoa in one big gulp. “That was a good story.”
“I think it turned out well. You had a great idea.”
“Like the little boy space cat!”
Isaac nodded. “Just like him. You should write down our story so you don’t forget it. We can make it into a book.”
Charlie jumped up. “I’ll draw pictures, too. It’ll be the best book! We can put it on the shelf with the dinosaur books, and you can read it to me at bedtime.”
Charlie raced away, and Isaac finished his cocoa. He stood to take his and Charlie’s mugs to the sink. Just then, Charlie peeked around the corner. “Dad?”
“Thank you for telling me a story.”
And Charlie raced away again, apparently no longer feeling bored and unsettled. Isaac took the mugs to the sink, and smiled when he saw that Marianne’s mug was gone. He hoped her phone calls were going well. Then, feeling less unsettled himself, he went back to work.