JBvFb: 4. Farid’s Gift

Follow the posts over the next few days and read the sample chapters (the first six) of Jake Bowers Versus the Firebird.

Farid ignored the babble and went to the trunk of the car.  He opened it, and took out the same carpet from the morning. A shiver ran down Jake’s spine.  He needed the carpet.  It belonged to him. There was no longer a desire to run.  It was not dangerous; it was a tie to destiny.

 4. Farid’s Gift

During the rest of the day being friendless was a blessing as Jake kept his head down. He could have gone home early, the ‘accident’ was a perfect excuse, but Jake wanted to go to seventh period, to see Mr. Lewis.

In that class,  Jake took his usual seat next to students that he rarely spoke with.  They were all looking at him.  Normally, this would have made him feel uncomfortable, but he was jerked out of his inner pity-party when he noticed that Hillary Fischer staring intently at him as well.

She was cute, as girls go.

“Hi,  Jake,” Hillary shot him a quick smile. Then her delicate almond shaped eyes focused in on his bruise, and immediately intense worry crossed her face.  She tucked a strand of her silky black hair behind her ear, “How are you doing?”

“Fine,” Jake muttered and twisted in his seat so that he could watch her out of the corner of his eye.  She was inspecting him.  He could sense it more than see it.

“Ok, students,” Mr. Lewis called the class to order, “today we have a special treat, because we are going to move from our fascinating discussion on Africa and delve into the history of the Middle East.”

Jake stared at his teacher, waiting for a significant sign that he was – what had Farid called it … The Flyer?

No eye contact, small gesture, or nod to convey that Mr. Lewis was aware of the events of that morning.

“We will start with the mythology and legends of this great region and her peoples.  You must study where they have come from to understand where you are.”  This was one of the teacher’s favorite sayings.

“Some of the more interesting legends of the Middle East are the stories that came from Persia.  Maybe you’ve heard of stories like Sinbad the sailor, Aladdin and the cave of wonders…”

“Mr. Lewis,” Tabitha March, a beautiful black girl who played the class airhead a little too often, raised her hand and without waiting to be called on, blurted out, “Do we get to watch Aladdin?  I love that movie.”

Her tight black braids that curled into long ringlets danced as she sang in an obnoxiously loud tone, “I can show you the world…”

“That’s fine, Tabitha.” Mr. Lewis was trying to maintain the order of the class amidst the snickering students and dissonant singing.

“What we will be doing, rather than watching movies,” he glanced sternly over at the perpetrator, “is looking at the ancient legends and traditions of the people to understand their history.”

Jake’s head shot up and he stared at Mr. Lewis.  Was that the teacher’s signal to him, talking about the Middle East?  Jake grabbed out paper and pen to take notes, knocking his book off the desk in excitement.

Hillary looked over at him.  The same scary look of worry was etched on her face.  Scary, because it reminded him of the look of concern and care that his mother often gave him.

The door opened, interrupting Mr. Lewis again.  The teacher heaved a sigh and rolled his eyes as an office aide brought a note up to the front of the class.

“Jake,” Mr. Lewis called as he skimmed the paper, “the principal wants to see you in his office right now.”  The quiet chatter began again and Jake slowly got up.  He could feel his face getting hot.  “Take your books, Mr. Bowers.  You won’t be coming back to class today.”

Jake shot Mr. Lewis a quizzical look.  The teacher just nodded his approval.  Jake walked out the door as the students whispered to each other and watched him leave.

The principal, Mr. Mayer, was a very nervous, little man.  None of the students were intimidated by him.  Perhaps it was the three clumps of hair that were combed across his otherwise bald head or the way he always hunched his shoulders.

Jake watched in silence as the principal gobbled an overflowing handful of peanuts.  Some got in his mouth but the bulk ended up strewn down his shirt and across the desk.

How had this person ever become “Man Number One” at the school?

Principal Mayer looked down at his desk, grabbed up a stray piece and chewed it awkwardly with his front teeth.  Then with his thumb he picked peanut mush from his back teeth.  Finally, he looked at Jake and offered him some of the snack.

“No thanks,” Jake shuddered as the door opened and Abel Black strutted into the office.

“Please, sit down, Abel,” Mr. Mayer said as he motioned to a chair next to Jake.  Abel sat down, took a look at Jake’s black eye and began to stifle a laugh.

“You do know why you’re here don’t you?” The principal began.

Both boys sat silently.

“Well,” Mr. Mayer went on, looking from one student to the other, “It seems you two were in a bit of a fight.”

Jake wondered who hated him so much that they would make things worse by telling the principal.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, sir,” Abel piped up, a wide grin spreading across his face, “my buddy tripped and I tried to stop him from falling into the locker, but it was too late.”

“Jake, is that what happened?” Mr. Mayer glanced nervously at Jake’s forehead, never establishing eye contact.

Jake thought for a moment, not sure what to do.  Would Abel lay off if he agreed?  A glance at the principal who couldn’t look him in the eye, made Jake wonder what protection the man could supply if he told the truth.  The tick of the clock’s second hand magnified in the room.  Unseen by the principal, Abel began to push his foot down onto Jake’s.

“Yeah, Mr. Mayer,” Jake began, “I hit the locker.  Sometimes I can be kinda clumsy.”  It wasn’t the total truth, but then, it wasn’t a full lie either and it seemed to satisfy everyone in the room.  The foot crushing stopped and Mr. Mayer leaned back in his chair.

“Ok then,  Jake, you can go now.  Mr. Black, I’d like to speak with you a little longer, please.”

Jake didn’t know how much time he had before Abel was released.  His best bet was to hide out until the rush of students leaving for the day could camouflage him.  Not wanting to face the inquisitive stares in his history class, he walked to the computer lab at the library.

“Hi, Mrs. Gates!” Jake called to the near-sighted librarian.

She peered at him through glasses that made her eyes comical and waved in annoyance.  The only thing that the white-haired woman wanted to do was read.  She didn’t care who was in the library, as long as they were quiet and kept their questions to a minimum.

Jake walked over to the computer section. Mark was far away, but somehow he knew that writing to his uncle might help make sense of everything.  He logged into his e-mail account and stared at the cursor for a while before finally writing.

Hey Mark,

Are you keeping busy over there?  I sure miss you.  School sucks.  Today a bully hit me.  If you were here, I know you would take me to Kendall’s for ice cream and teach me to fight back. 

Today, a girl in my class (who usually talks to everyone except me) smiled at me, and I didn’t know what to do.  If you were here, you’d coach me on what to say to her.

I can’t tell anyone here about all of this.  Dad’s being a real dork lately. He keeps talking about some weird theory he’s working on and he wouldn’t care anyway.  Mom would freak out, so you’re the only one I can talk to.   I hate how far away you are.  Why does the Army need you more than me?

Do you remember the car that we saw right before you left, the Gullwing from the Monterey Races?  I actually saw that car this morning, parked outside of my school.  It was in PERFECT condition too.  You would have loved it.  The owner was this Middle Eastern guy who sold carpets.  It was a coincidence because I’m wearing your army uniform today for Halloween and we saw the car together.  Funny, huh?

I miss you.  I really do.  Write soon and stay safe so that we can go camping. 

Your nephew,

Jake

Just as he hit send, the bell rang.

Cautiously, Jake looked out the front doors of his school.  Though he couldn’t see Abel anywhere in the sea of students scrambling for freedom, he decided to go the longer route home, just in case.  Jake kicked fresh leaves out of his path as he walked, enjoying his first bit of good luck that day. The air felt crisp until a cloud moved and he felt the sun’s heat over the cold.  Jake turned his face into the light and closed his eyes, enjoying the radiance of the fickle friend who would all too soon grow distant and cold until the spring.

Jake rounded the corner to start up his street when he saw the Gullwing parked just down from his home, as if it had been waiting there for him.  He turned, ready to run and find another way, when he heard someone call out to him.

“Hey, you there!”

Jake froze and slowly faced Farid.

“Me?” He mouthed.

“Yeah, kid, get over here. I want to show you something.”  The foreigner’s English was flawless, though he had an interesting accent.  He smiled, a warm and welcome smile, not a pretend greeting plastered on to fake out strangers.

Jake looked around to plan an escape route just in case Farid tried anything.  Coach Fischer lived across from where the car was parked and an old man walked his dog a few yards away.   It seemed safe enough.

“I saw you this morning.”

“Yes,” Farid nodded and pointed toward  Jake’s eye, “but this morning, you didn’t have that.”

“Oh, yeah,” Jake said stupidly. He wanted to say something clever to impress the man because was still in awe of the car.

“That’s an unbelievable car, Mister, er – sir.”  Jake began to walk cautiously toward the Gullwing.

“My name is Farid Samir Yousif,” Farid stated with his hand outstretched.  “You may call me, Farid.”

“I’m Jake.  Jake Bowers,” Jake said as he shook Farid’s hand.  “Jacob Evgeny Bowers.”

He wasn’t sure if he was supposed to use his full name or even what to say. “Yeah, Evgeny is a family name.”

The man raised an eyebrow.

Jake grimaced.  “It‘s not my favorite.  I prefer Jake, just Jake, but sometimes my family calls me Jeb, you know ‘a poor mountaineer barely kept his family fed’ you know, because of the initials, only that’s JED and mine is JEB, but it’s close so we…” Jake stopped to watch Farid’s reaction to the verbal diarrhea.

Farid flashed another brilliant smile and began to laugh.  “Well,  Jake, you like the car do you?”

“Are you kidding, it’s a 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL, Gullwing, in perfect condition, it looks like.” Jake took a step toward the car, and then froze, not wanting to seem too eager.

“Were you at the Monterey Historic Races in August?” Jake asked and then wondered if he should have said it.  “Mercedes–Benz was the Marque this year.”

Again, Farid smiled, delighted with Jake’s knowledge.

“Yes, I showcased her there.  Please, please,” he motioned for Jake to take a closer look.

The old man was still on the street, waiting for the dog to do its business, so Jake stepped closer to look inside the front seat.  Everything was in its original condition – radio, steering wheel, seats, it even smelled like a new car.  Jake noticed that there was a stack of small carpets in the back window.

“It’s fantastic!  Mind if I took a look under the hood?”  Jake asked.

“Uh, perhaps not today, my young friend,” Farid took on a peculiar look, which scared Jake enough to take a step back.

“It’s not as clean, as I would want it to be for an enthusiast like you.  Maybe another time.”

They looked at each other for an awkward moment.  Jake couldn’t really think of anything else to say.

“I wonder if I can be permitted to give you something.  It is a treasure of great worth,” Farid said.

“Um, no, that’s ok.  I don’t really need anything.  I gotta get going anyway.  Lots of homework, you know, sorry!” Jake began to back away.

Farid ignored the babble and went to the trunk of the car.  He opened it, and took out the same carpet from the morning. A shiver ran down Jake’s spine.  He needed the carpet.  It belonged to him. There was no longer a desire to run.  It was not dangerous; it was a tie to destiny.

“This,  Jake, for some reason, must be given to you,” Farid said through gritted teeth and Jake wondered if the man was serious.

Then with a sigh of resignation, Farid said, “it is priceless and must be cared for.”

“Where did it come from?” Jake asked.  He was afraid to make any movement. Afraid that Farid would change his mind and take it away.

“All in time.  All in time,” Farid stated. “You must take it and we will see what will happen.”

“What will happen?” Jake’s question was barely audible.

“Maybe nothing, maybe something.  Take it, and we shall see.”  Farid motioned to Jake to hold out his arms.  Then, lovingly, like a father allowing a child to hold his newborn, Farid cradled the carpet and placed it gently in Jake’s arms.  The rolled carpet was about four feet long, and surprisingly heavy.

“I’ll be watching you, young  Jacob.  Protect this carpet and remember where it came from. It is worth more than your life.”  Farid hissed.

Then Farid scratched his curly black hair, softened his expression and motioned for Jake to go. “Take care of this, my greatest possession.”

Jake began to walk toward his house, but then turned to look again at the carpet salesman.

“Thanks,” Jake said.

Farid was leaning against the car, his face had gone pale.  When he noticed that Jake had stopped, Farid waved him on with a forced smile.

Jake walked away, faster this time.  He needed to see what the carpet looked like and didn’t want Farid to change his mind.  Without a second glance, Jake sprinted awkwardly up the hill toward his house.

Farid’s stomach churned uncomfortably as he watched Jake go.  In a swift move, he got into his car.  He needed to talk to someone.

“Call Graham Kent,” Farid said to his car console.

“Calling Graham Kent,” the car said back in a gentle feminine voice.

The phone rang twice and a man with a proper British accent sharply whispered, “Hello?”

“It’s Farid, can you talk?”

“Just a moment.”

Farid listened to the quiet noises on the other end of the line as he watched Jake, already halfway up the hill to his house, stumble over the carpet, nearly tripping.

“This is a jolly nuisance, Farid,” Graham Kent breathed into the phone, “your timing couldn’t be worse.  Bowers and the ruddy US Army have set up shop in our backyard.  Zharka’s in a frightful mood.  It’s got everyone on edge.”

“And is that unusual for her?” Farid shot back.

“No,” Graham laughed, “that’s true.  So, what is going on?”

“We may have found the Rider of Tangura,” Farid said slowly.

“Really?  Well, that’s marvelous!”

“I’m not too sure,” Farid said as he watched Jake.  The carpet got tangled in the Halloween lights and cobwebs that decorated Jake’s front entryway.  Farid got an eyeful of plumber’s crack as Jake leaned down to unplug the lights to try and unravel everything.

“Why?  This is what we’ve been waiting for,” Graham’s enthusiasm was tangible over the phone.

“He’s not Middle Eastern,” Farid said pointedly.

“What?” Graham was noticeably confused.

“He’s not of Middle Eastern descent,” Farid repeated in an agitated tone.

“How is that even possible?  Can he fly Tangura?”

“I don’t know.  Tangura … reacted to this boy.  The carpet hasn’t reacted to anything in centuries, but this kid shows up and it’s like the carpet has awoken,” Farid was circling the streets of Jake’s neighborhood, not wanting to draw too much attention to the fact that he was staking out the Bowers’ home.

“Rex told me to give him the carpet,” Farid finished.

Graham snorted, “Rex Lewis is a fool!  To give that carpet to just anyone without knowing for sure if he’s the Flyer … it’s insane!”

Farid shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

“Yes, well.  We’ll see.  I’m watching this boy very closely.”

“Have you talked it over with Riverwalk?” Graham pushed his point further.

“Riverwalk is on an expedition in the Himalayas, and you know how hermitic he goes when he’s excavating for Ân Dhúins. I haven’t been in contact with him for over two weeks.”   There was a pause and then Farid changed the subject.  “What has Zharka got you doing?”

“Oh, she’s having me build a new prison,” Graham said flippantly.

“You can always leave, no one would blame you,” Farid said.

“Yes, but I can do so much more from here.  I’d better go, they’ll be wondering where I am,” Graham said.

“I’ll keep you posted,” Farid said.

“Oh yes, watch out for scorpions,” Graham warned.

Farid ground his teeth, “When did she start using them?”

“It’s been since Prague, she’s got a new guy.  He’s gifted, Farid.  Almost as technologically brilliant as you, old man! Ta, for now.”  There was a click on the other end of the phone.

“Bye,” Farid said to the empty line, and circled the car back around to watch  Jake’s house from a distance.


Want to read more? Check out the samples at your favorite retailer (by clicking the picture below), or read the next chapter tomorrow!

Open Doors

 


Other Chapters

Chapter One: The Ziggurat
Chapter Two: Monterey Historic Raceway
Chapter Three: The Gullwing

3 thoughts on “JBvFb: 4. Farid’s Gift

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