It was twilight, and Isaac was sitting on the front steps listening to Miss Marta’s rosebushes sing lullabies. The stars were just starting to shine, but it wasn’t dark or cold enough to go inside yet. A light breeze blew past and Isaac shivered a little.
Marianne and Charlie were at the choir open house at Charlie’s school. The flier he’d brought home said that seating was limited, so Marianne and Isaac had played rock, paper, scissors to see who went with Charlie. Isaac lost. They promised to give him a full report when they returned home.
He looked down the street, hoping to see a glimpse of headlights. The street was empty. Maybe he should go in and make some hot cocoa. If he started it now, it should be ready about when they returned.
Isaac stood up and looked down the street one more time. This time, he saw something. It was a single, blinking light. Definitely not Marianne and Charlie. Perhaps it was a cyclist? But the light turned and veered across the lawn of the neighbor several houses down. It looked like it was heading straight towards him.
He waited, worried that it was someone with an emergency. Whatever it was, they were still able to ride their bike, he told himself. So, it couldn’t be too terrible. Probably.
The light came closer and closer, but he still didn’t see the cyclist. Was it really that dark already? The streetlights came on further down the street, and then next to Miss Marta’s. He couldn’t see the blinking light anymore. Perhaps they’d just cut across the lawns on their way home and were now inside.
He reached for the doorknob. “Excuse me,” a robotic voice said.
Isaac turned around. A silver cylinder, the size of a soda can, was hovering in the air in front if him. A light on the bottom of the cylinder was blinking brightly. Facing him, there was a round window. Through the window, he could see black eyes watching him from a tiny blue face. “Hello,” Isaac said politely.
“Greetings,” said the voice from the floating soda can.
“Can I help you?” Isaac asked politely.
“Yes. We are hungry and lost. Do you have any food or star charts?”
“I’ll see what I can find. Would you like to come inside?” Isaac opened the door, and the soda can followed him in.
There were a few pieces of bread in the bag on the counter. Isaac pulled them out of the bag and held them up. “Can you eat bread?” he asked.
There was a burst of light, as though someone had taken a picture with the flash on. “Yes. Thank you.” the voice said. The bread disappeared.
“Do you need fruits and vegetables too? I hear it’s important to prevent scurvy on long trips.” The voice didn’t reply. Isaac rummaged through the fridge and held up a few different things. The light flashed and the carrots and oranges and zucchini disappeared. Isaac wasn’t sure how they were storing so much food in such a little space. “Do you need any more food? Do you need water?”
“No, we have enough now. Thank you. Do you have star charts?”
Isaac led the little flying can to his desk and opened up his laptop. He scrolled through a number of charts. It took a while for the aliens to figure out where they were in the galaxy, and where the galaxy was in relation to the rest of the universe.
“I understand now,” the robotic voice said at last. “We took a wrong turn at Alpha Centauri. Thank you for your assistance.”
“You’re welcome,” Isaac said. “Have a safe trip home.”
The little soda can disappeared. Isaac closed and put away his laptop. There was still some time to make cocoa before Marianne and Charlie came home.
He was just giving the mugs one last stir when he heard Marianne and Charlie close the front door. “Dad?” Charlie called.
“In the kitchen. I made cocoa,” Isaac called back.
Marianne and Charlie hurried in and picked up their mugs. “You missed out,” Marianne said. “It was great. They had the older children come and sing, and it was amazing.”
“They had cookies. I saved you one,” Charlie said. He pulled some linty cookie pieces out of his pocket. “Oh. It broke. It will still taste good, though.” He handed Isaac the pieces.
“Thank you,” Isaac said. “It was nice of you to remember me. What did the children sing? What else happened?”
Isaac sat back and smiled as Marianne and Charlie took turns telling him about the open house. It would have been nice to go too, but it turned out that he was needed here at home. Hopefully the little soda can ship full of tiny aliens would arrive home soon with stories of their own to tell. And maybe they would have their own loved ones waiting for them and happy to have them home, somewhere far, far away.