Isaac finished reading the latest chapter of The Mystery of the Overcooked Eggplant. Charlie blinked sleepily over at him “Is that it then, Dad?” he asked. “I thought he’d at least figure out who left those fingerprints on the window by the end of the chapter.”
“ I think he would have if he hadn’t been distracted by the missing left shoe,” Isaac said. “Maybe he’ll figure it out next chapter.”
“All right,” Charlie said. “’Night, Dad.”
“You’ve brushed your teeth and said your prayers?” Isaac asked. He slipped the book into its spot on the shelf. Then he paused and looked at the shelf again.
“Yep. With Mom,” Charlie said. He turned on his side and snuggled into his pillow.
Isaac pulled a bright blue book off the shelf. “Charlie, where did this come from?” he asked.
Charlie rolled over and opened one eye. “Dunno. I haven’t seen it before.” He rolled back.
“Okay. Good night Charlie.” Isaac took the book with him. He turned out the light. “I love you.” Isaac slipped through the door.
“Love you too, Dad,” Charlie said softly. Isaac pulled the door mostly shut. He turned out the hall light and the night-light turned on, dimly lighting his path.
Marianne was throwing an assortment of things on the bed. She smiled at him as he came in. “Hi. I’m going to take a very long bath. Do you need anything before I go?”
“Just a hug,” Isaac said. He hummed as he hugged her. She laughed.
“What book is that?” she asked when he let go.
Isaac looked down. The book had swirly silver writing on the front that said The Waiting Book. “I don’t know,” he said. “It was on Charlie’s bookshelf. I’ve never seen it before.”
“Is it from the library?” Marianne asked.
“I don’t think so,” Isaac said. “It doesn’t have any library markings.”
“How strange. We’ll have to ask Charlie about it in the morning,” Marianne said. “Well, I’m off. I’ll see you in a few hours or so. Let’s see. Candles, matches, book, chocolate, bathrobe…” Marianne continued to mutter to herself as she gathered her things and headed for the bathroom. The door clicked closed behind her.
Isaac sat down on the bed and opened the book. Everything swirled around him and suddenly he was somewhere else. He got a quick look at a room with white walls and a few chairs and bookshelves. A few seconds later, someone grabbed his wrist and everything swirled around him again.
They landed in a dark, musty room. There were candles and books and jars filled with strange things. Isaac could smell something burning. There was a puff of smoke and Isaac looked down. The book was at his feet. It looked a little charred.
He bent to pick it up. “Don’t touch that,” someone said, grabbing his wrist. Isaac stood back up and the man let go. He looked tired, and a little scruffy and very angry. He cupped his hands around his mouth and started yelling. “Come out here now, you crazy wizard. I found your stupid book.”
A young man came around the corner of a bookshelf, pulling a robe over his tee shirt and jeans. “Nicolas, I expected you back yesterday. What happened?”
Nicolas huffed and folded his arms. “Your great waiting room idea? Someone has to open the book to let the last person out. And the book hops to a random location every time it’s opened. It didn’t work.”
The young man looked over at Isaac. “And who is this?”
“The person who opened the book after me. I brought him with me so he didn’t get trapped too. I think it broke your book.” Nicolas pointed to the slightly burnt blue book. Everyone looked at it for a moment.
“Yes, I think it does need some fine tuning,” the young man said. Nicolas rolled his eyes. The young man laughed and patted his shoulder. Then he held out a hand to Isaac. “Hello, I’m Wendell, wizard extraordinaire.”
Isaac shook his hand. “I’m Isaac,” he said. “Innocent bystander.”
Wendell laughed again. “Thank you for rescuing my uncle. My grandmother would be terribly upset if I lost him.”
“I rescued him,” Nicolas said.
“Well, in any case,” Wendell said, “let me give you my card in case you ever need a wizard.” He handed Isaac a small business card with Wendell, Wizard Extraordinaire, written above a phone number. “Now I’ll send you home.”
Wendell waved his hands in loops and swirls and suddenly everything was swirling. Isaac was back on his bed, holding a business card. He could hear the water running in the bathroom, so he hadn’t been gone long. He looked at the card again, and then picked up his wallet. He put the card inside and put it back on the dresser.