Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Murders aren't for children

Jupiter woke up to the sound of people chittering and shifting feet. She lifted her head from the bench where the grooves had carved lines in her face while she'd been napping. Their individual voices webbed together to make a wall of sound in her periphery. Jupiter blinked and turned towards it. A long, thick, clustered line of people snaked out of Karnival Diner towards her bench.

She got up and tottered around to look at the front window, still rubbing her eyes from sleep.

"FREE WAFFLES- 9am-12pm"

So thats what all the hullabaloo was about.

"Jupiter! Mom it's Jupiter!"

She heard one voice poke out from the wall.

She turned to see where it had come from and saw Moses frantically tugging on what appeared to be his mom's sleeve. She was ignoring him and casually swatting his hand away without pausing in her conversation with another person of similar age standing next to her. Moses glanced back and made eye contact with her. His frustrated expression dissolved into a smile and he gave up on his mom's sleeve and waved. Jupiter lifted her hand in acknowledgement, but made a point to turn away immediately, not wanting to invite an interaction from him at the moment.

Moses didn't notice the subtle dismissal and ran over.

"Hi! I didn't know you were coming!" he said clearly enthused by her surprise appearance.

"I didn't mean to. What's going on?" she asked rather dryly.

"FREE WAFFLES!" screamed Moses and threw his head back and arms into the air as if the waffles were falling from the sky.

"Oh, who-," even Jupiter had a hard time concealing excitement for waffles, but she played it off with a fit of coughing.

"Yea! Want to come have some with me and my parents?" Moses asked and his head bobbed as if by nodding his own head he willed hers to do the same.

"Why not," she said quietly and somewhat to herself.

"YES!" and Moses grabbed her hand and pulled her towards the woman he'd been tugging on.

"I've been waiting for this for weeks! I don't get it, they have so many waffles and they're just giving them away! I would eat them ALL! But I'm happy they are, I mean why complain!" Moses jabbered on as they waited in line, and as they got seated, and as they ordered. Jupiter was more quiet. She had bigger things on her mind and none of the family's conversation seemed relevant. School, friends, the pool, none of it was interesting enough to hold her attention.

But then Moses' dad said something that seemed to send a shock through her fork and she dropped it on the plate with a clatter.

"I heard they caught the culprit from that murder at Winthrop Place a while back. Some old kook probably."

The waffle in Jupiter's mouth suddenly solidified and she found it very difficult to swallow, something like swallowing cotton balls.

"Oh that was horrendous and rather spooky," said Moses' mom with an expression somewhere between concern and disdain. "I don't really think that's a topic for the breakfast table and certainly not around the children."

Jupiter wondered what they would say if they knew her secret. Murders aren't suitable for children, but Jupiter guessed she was never much of a child anyways.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Hedgehog's Assistant

Jupiter and Moses sat in their usual spot in the playground. Moses let out a giggle.

"What?" asked Jupiter. Moses laughed harder.

"What?!" asked Jupiter again, a bit more annoyed and getting impatient.

"You-your hair, its its all standing up," Moses barely got the words out before dissolving into a fit of laughter. Jupiter looked up and she could see the ends of her hair floating towards the plastic walls of the yellow tunnel.

"Its just static," said Jupiter dryly. Moses caught his breath and said, "y-you look like, you look like my pet hedgehog!" and he began laughing hysterically again.

"If you don't stop laughing, I won't tell you my secret," Jupiter said with an air of superiority, like that of an older sibling burdened with an immature child. For an 8 year old, Jupiter acted a bit curmudgeonly at times.

Moses gasped, his shoulders stopped shaking, and finally all that was left of his hysterics was a badly hidden smirk. "Ok, what's the secret?" he asked.

"I got invited to a party. And its a murder mystery party," said Jupiter beaming with satisfaction. Moses wasn't impressed.

"A party? That's not that exciting, I've been to one of those before. They had cake, but I have cake at my house too," he said.

"Not just any party though, its a secret and only very important people were invited. And you don't go as yourself, you have a kind of..." Jupiter struggled for the word. What exactly was she supposed to do at this party?

"A what? A what?" asked Moses. He was intrigued now.

"A character," said Jupiter finally. She smiled, thats what it was. She was a character in a pretend story. Only this story was real.

"How come you got invited?" Moses asked.

"What do you mean? Because I'm the professor, that's my character. They couldn't do it without the professor," Jupiter said as if this were the most obvious thing in the world.

"No, I mean, how come they picked YOU to be the professor?" asked Moses.

"Well, I mean, they um-" Jupiter was stumped. She hadn't actually been invited by whoever the mysterious host was. She'd found the invitation on the top of a very full trash can in the park. But she didn't really feel like admitting that to Moses, not when he was so impressed and she felt so important. There must be some reason she would have been invited... Finally, she settled on, "because I'm special."

"Oh." That answer satisfied Moses. "Do you think I could come?"

"Didn't you listen? It's for the most important people. And besides, you don't have a character," said Jupiter.

"Oh... right, yea I forgot about that part," said Moses dejectedly and he turned his gaze out the hole in the tunnel. Jupiter realized he probably felt left out. Everyone wants to be important she supposed, but that wouldn't make sense. Not everyone could be or else it wouldn't be special anymore. But perhaps she could let him come. A professor's assistant! Important people have assistants didn't they? And besides, Jupiter was a little intimidated by the fancy writing on the invitation. It was very adult. Maybe it wouldn't be such a bad thing to have an ally amongst the mystery.

"Well actually, I could use an assistant," she said.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Fire and Ice

Jupiter pondered this new development as she walked back toward the playground, balancing her bare feet on the curb. The cement was cold and stung her toes. She tugged the sleeves of her sweater over her wrists and puffed smokey breath into the air. She concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other, but the image of the dragon consumed her mind.

It was huge, with spikes from the crest of its head to the spade shaped tail. Chains tethered it to the ground, and men, minuscule in comparison, heaved desperately on the iron muzzle caging its snout. Jupiter had only seen it from afar, through the slit in the wooden fence, but even from there, she saw the strength of its jaw rip through the metal and the flames swallow the men and muzzle whole. She shuddered, partly from the cold and partly from the heat she could still feel from the blast of flames. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

For one night only

"Come on, this way," Moses grabbed Jupiter's hand as he started to run but she shook it off. She kept following him though. Secrets were so intriguing.

"Where are we going?" she called after him, but he didn't answer. The only sound was of their bare feet slapping the cracked sidewalk. They ran further where the shops became fewer and the emptiness between them became bigger. And then suddenly, the emptiness was gone. Instead, it was filled by a village of white and red striped tents, all clustered around one great big one. People swarmed and yelled so that their voices made a cacophonous wall of noise.  

"A circus..." Jupiter sighed the words and they hung there, suspended in awe. 

"It's here for one night only!" Moses looked at Jupiter's face, bounced on his toes, and beamed. "Pretty neat huh?" 

Jupiter snapped back to look at him. "So this is the secret?" she said, her voice regaining its air of cynicism. "Everyone knows it's here, its huge."

"Oh, what? Oh, no this isn't the secret." He smiled. "Come with me." Moses plunged into the crowd, grabbing Jupiter's hand. This time she let him. 

Friday, August 26, 2016

#1-(Picasso's Airstream)- The day started with...

The day started with rain. It made a puddle at the bottom of the slide, so Jupiter walked over to the see-saw even though there was a boy already on it. She stood there for a minute without saying anything, her proximity and stare asking for permission to join in. The boy just kept jumping with the see-saw, which was pointless she thought. You can jump anywhere without sticking your butt on a see-saw.

"Don't you want someone else to sit so you can go higher?" she said.

"Nope," and he kept jumping.

She walked over to the other side and when he jumped up, she sat down on the seat.

"Hey!" he yelled as his feet left the ground and flung up in the air, throwing him off balance. "I said I don't want a partner!"

"Fine." Jupiter stood up and he came crashing down with a thud. She winced, it looked kind of painful and she hadn't meant to hurt him, just give him a little resentful knock. But she turned her back on him all the same and started to walk away.

"Hey wait a minute! You can't just walk away like that," he called out.

"Sure can," she said without interrupting her stride. The boy scrambled up and ran to catch up to her.

"But that was sort of mean and I didn't even do anything to you."

Well now she felt bad. What was she supposed to say to that? She had sorta been mean, not that he hadn't deserved it. But she stopped walking and turned to look at him. He was pasty and white, and the freckles that were smudged on his face and the shaggy hair that surrounded it seemed much too dark in comparison. His pale and vaguely translucent skin was stretched over the outline of bones without much to fill in and gave him a sickly and faded look. Like maybe he'd been drawn in color pencil and then someone tried to erase him but only succeeded slightly. Except for the shockingly green eyes. Jupiter liked to look people in the eye whenever possible. His eyes were otherworldly and she found it hard to look away.

"Why were you mean to me?" he asked after a minute calling her back to the present see-saw dilemma.

"You were mean first."

He looked like he was about to protest, but instead said, "What's your name anyway?"

"Jupiter Jackson. What's yours?" she replied.

"Jupiter? Like the planet?" he said with an air of amusement, ignoring her question.

"No, like the place. Its in Florida. My mom met my dad there."

"Oh, well I'm Moses. I've heard of Florida, maybe we should be friends."

"Sure," she replied, her voice devoid of real interest.

"Since we're friends, wanna know a secret?"