JBvFb: 5. An Unexpected Phone Call

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

“I need you to stay away from him.  It’s classified so I can’t say much.  I know that this isn’t making any sense, just trust me,” Mark said in a low voice.

5. An Unexpected Phone Call

Jake’s plan was to sneak into the front door and bypass his usual route through the kitchen.  He would slip up the stairs into his bedroom and Mom wouldn’t even notice that he was home.  Then he could unroll the carpet and find out why it was so special.  He slowly walked up the few stairs that led to his sanctuary when he was startled by a sing-song voice calling him.

“Jak-ey!” Jake’s mom was a loveable geek.

“Be down in a second, Mom,” Jake called out and then sped up the stairs and shut the door hoping to have a few moments alone.

He wasn’t sure what to expect.  He was excited to open it and see what would happen, but there was a problem – the floor was covered.

Suddenly he looked around with fresh eyes.  The room was awash with clothes; the clean in a neat folded pile by the closet, thanks to Mom, and the dirty strewn everywhere but the hamper.  There were empty model car boxes, dried-out paints, and brushes stuck to newspapers.  Car magazines were scattered across the room in different stacks.  Crusty towels, inside-out socks, and wrappers were everywhere.  The wrappers were from his munchies – chips, candy bars, and cookie packages laying inches away from the garbage can.

The idea that he was a borderline hoarder had never crossed his mind before, but it was really starting to pile up.  Is that what his mom was always talking about?  Sure, she had complained plenty of times, and had provided several items to help bring order to the chaos: plastic organizers for his models, laundry baskets, a book shelf, dresser, and a desk – all of which were unused.  Nothing had mattered until he brought the carpet up.  It seemed wrong to meet his destiny in such clutter.

Carefully he placed the carpet on his bed.  Then, like a whirlwind, he shoved the clutter into the nooks and crannies of the room.  Finally, he set the priceless item on the ground, in the middle of the floor, wincing as he realized that he probably should have vacuumed up the snack crumbs.

Too late now, he thought as he slowly unrolled it.

His eyes were immediately drawn to the center of the carpet where a large golden tree with rich dark green and gold leaves seemed to wave at him.  Threads of cream, blue, and gold formed a river that flowed from the roots of the tree.

Surrounding the tree, patterns of color – greens, yellows, and even splashes of crimson red wove in and out of each other, as if they were part of a dance.  Never chaotic, always in perfect symmetry, the shapes and lines harmoniously filled the space. The edges were bound with a solid rope of golden thread woven in an intricate braid.

Jake looked over at his bed.  The blanket was askew and last night’s pajamas were strewn across the pillow.  His room was tided-up chaos while the carpet was well-ordered magnificence.

Jake had never seen anything so exquisite.  He looked back at the carpet and stared at it for several minutes, waiting for something to happen.  Nothing did.

He knelt beside it and traced his fingers over the golden accents.  Faintly, he thought he saw the tree’s leaves sway, kissed by a soft, summer breeze.  He crossed his eyes, trying to will the picture to move again.  It had been so slight that Jake wasn’t sure of the reality.

“Jake,” his mom called as she knocked at his door.

Carefully, he stepped around the carpet, not wanting to walk on top.  Somehow, he felt that this object was too great to just be walked on.  He opened his door a crack.

“Yes, Mom?”

Jake’s mom tried to push the door open, “well, let me come in, I want to talk.”

“No, I…uh, want to finish cleaning it first,” Jake said in a bit of a panic.

“You’re cleaning?” His mom raised an eyebrow.  “Who are you, and where is my son?”

“Ha, ha,” Jake said as he walked out of his room and closed the door.  “Let’s go downstairs and talk, I’m hungry.”

“Sure,” his mom said and began walking down in front of him.

Jake paused to turn the handmade sign on his door to “keep out”.  Three-year-old Millie couldn’t read yet, but she knew that there would be trouble if she went into his room when the angry T-Rex was showing.

Jake’s eyes had to adjust to the bright yellow of his mom’s kitchen, it was supposed to be a happy color, but it was just too much.  Another color would be on the walls soon enough, his mom was a project junkie.  Mom’s Halloween Chili permeated the air and Jake thought that his day might turn out to be good one after all.

“What’s fer eats, Ma?”  Jake said in a miserable impression of a cowboy about to get his grub.

“Chili’s almost done, partner,” his mom said.

“Mom, that sounds so lame,” Jake whined as he sat down at the table.

“What does?”

“Partner – you’re trying too hard.”

“Jake,” his mom rolled her eyes, “I’m just following your lame cue!  By the way, are you going to tell me about that black eye?”  She began to stir her Chili with a fanatic smile on her face.

Jake had been so engrossed in Farid and the carpet that he had forgotten all about Abel.

“Oh, yeah,” he said as his Mom set some carrot sticks in front of him.  Grimacing, he took a bite and then raced through the story about tripping in one breath.

“Hmmm,” his mom tapped her wooden spoon on the side of the pot as Jake got up and went to the pantry, “that’s not what Mr. Mayer said.”

“WHAT?”  Jake whirled around to face her.

“Yeah, he seemed to think that this Abel kid was pushing you around.”

“Oh, he told you that, huh?” Jake grabbed a bag of flaming hot corn chips and a two liter grape soda from the storeroom closet. He walked to the cupboard over the sink and grabbed a glass and some ice from the freezer.  His mom’s eyes were focused, tracking him as he walked around.

“Jake,” she said expectantly.

He opened the drink. “Where’s Millie?”

“She passed out in front of the TV.  I’d wake her, but she needs her sleep so she’ll be ready for tonight’s sugar fest!  Don’t think I can be swayed so easily by your change of topic there, mister.”  She reached into the cupboard above the stove and grabbed some salt.  “By the way, you’re going to have to take Millie with you tonight.”

“What? I thought Dad was gonna to do it.”  Jake’s voice cracked as he said it.

“He’s still at that convention in San Diego, so, big brother is going to save the day.  Yay!!”  His mom forced a fake smile.

“Why don’t you take her?” Jake said through a mouthful of chips. “You know this is one of my last Halloweens, and I was going to fill the bag!  Millie is so slow.  I’ll never make it if I have to drag her along.”

“Sorry, hon, I have to stay and pass out candy,” she took a bite of the Chili, which was too hot.  She grimaced, and turned down the temperature on the stove. “I need you, Jake.  Millie is just a baby and Halloween is for them.  Come on, I’ll buy you a bag of candy at the grocery store.”

“Oh, gee, thanks!” Jake said sarcastically.  “Part of the fun of Halloween is the hunt, Mom.”

“I know, babe, I’m sorry.  Mille needs this.”

Jake nodded his head and slurped down a swig of soda.

“Now,” his mom said as she rinsed her hands and wiped them on her frayed apron. “Talk!”  She sat down next to Jake and placed her hand on his right arm.  “What’s going on?”

“Well, there’s this kid at school, Abel Black, and he’s been teasing me.”

Then the phone rang.

“YES!” Jake smiled, and his mom pointed a finger at him.

“We’re not done,” she said as she grabbed the house phone.

“Hello? … What?  I’m sorry…who?”  She covered up her other ear, trying to hear the speaker.

“No, that’s better.  Yes, I can hear you,” she said and looked at Jake with a grin.

“Yeah, he’s here,” she nodded at Jake.

“Who?” Jake mouthed.

She shook her head, like it was a big secret.  “No, no, he’s fine.  Yes, I’m sure.  He’s right here.  Do you want to speak to him?”

His mom held the phone over her chest for a moment and said, “Jake we are going to finish this conversation.”

“Sure,” Jake said reaching for the phone.

His mom held the receiver away from him, “I’m serious, Jake.  We need to talk about it.”


“It’s your Uncle Mark,” she said with a grin and handed him the phone.

Jake was a little bit shocked.  He hardly heard from Mark since he’d been deployed and for him to call today… it was all very strange.

“Hello?” Jake said.

“Hey, Bud,” came his Uncle’s familiar voice.  “I just got your e-mail.  How are you?”

He sounded really concerned.

“I’m doing okay,” said Jake.  “I know, I know, Mark! I need to stand up for myself; it’s just that he came out of nowhere –”

“Hang on,” Mark said, cutting Jake off.

Then Jake heard his Uncle talking to someone else, “No, no, take the whole squad.  It’s fine.  Yeah, I’ll be there in a minute.” Then he turned his attention back to Jake.  “You there?”

“Yeah,” said Jake, “I’m just so glad you called.  It’s been such a weird day, and I really need to talk.”

“Jake, sorry I have to hurry.”

“Well, why did you call then?”  Jake wondered.

“You saw the Gullwing driven by an Arab guy named Farid, right?  I need you to do me a favor –”

“Yeah,” Jake said.

“I need you to stay away from him.  It’s classified so I can’t say much.  I know that this isn’t making any sense, just trust me,” Mark said in a low voice.

“Um, ok,” Jake said thinking about the carpet in his bedroom and the conversation he overheard.

“Thanks,” Mark was noticeably relieved.  “Tell your Dad to quit being such a physics geek or his little bro will have to come and pound on him!”

“Yeah, ok,” Jake said.  He was completely dejected.  He was hoping for some advice or comfort.

“I’ll call or write more when I have time.  Bye! Love ya, kiddo!”

Mark hung up.

“Bye,” Jake said to the empty line.

“What was that all about?” His mom had been fiddling with her spice rack during the conversation, but now she sat down next to him.

“I wrote Mark an e-mail today during school, and I guess he was just calling to see if everything was okay.”

“And is everything okay, son?”  His mom probed him with her concentrated parental stare.

Jake wasn’t sure how she would take the news.  He’d just taken something from a total stranger, the same man that his uncle had just called to warn him about.  Then there was the fact that he might have overheard a conversation where two adults were talking about them and that he might be some sort of “Flyer”, whatever that was.

“He’s just a jerk, Mom. A big bully.”  Jake decided to talk about Abel, and not the other stuff, until he figured out what was going on.  He knew that if he told his mom, she’d immediately have him return it, and he just couldn’t do that.

The story about Abel started to flow.  He’d never be able to talk to his absent-minded professor father this way.  Jake told his mom everything, except for the nickname, not wanting to involve her in any feeling of guilt.

“So, what does he call you?”  She had radar for what bothered him.

Jake thought for a moment and then said, “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt.”

“But where’d he get that name?  You haven’t even let us call you that for a year now—” she stopped short, brain calculating.  Jake looked down at his food.

“Jakey, how long has this been going on?” She looked angry.

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you, Mom.  Don’t get mad –k?”

“Oh, sweetie, I’m not mad at you.  I’m mad at anyone who hurts my baby.”  She got up, walked over to the chili and stirred it with a clenched fist.

“Mom,” Jake spoke slowly. “Black’s never done anything like this before,” he said as he pointed to his bruised eye.

His mom thought quietly for several seconds, her hands loosening the death grip on the spoon ever so slightly.  “Yeah, but he’s been hurting you.  Teasing is still abuse, mental abuse.”

At the word abuse, Jake began to worry about the involvement of professionals – psychologists and policemen.  He’d seen enough after school specials on TV to know where this conversation was going.

“Mom, it’s ok. Really.”  He walked over and gave her a hug. “No harm done, I’m all right.”

“No harm?  Jake, you didn’t feel that you could share this with me.  A year?  What, you don’t feel like you can talk to me?”  She began to cry.  Jake had been afraid of that reaction.

“Mom,” he said, trying to think of a way to comfort her, “I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want you to get upset, to feel like it was your fault.”

“Why would I think it was my fault?”  She looked at him, confused.

“Well, I think that he got the name from you.”

She stared at him blankly until he told her the story.

“So,” she said slowly, “you didn’t tell me, because you didn’t want to hurt me, not because you don’t trust me?”

“Yeah.”  He said, realizing how true it was.  He loved his Mom.  She hugged him, and he went back to his drink.

“Oh, I’m so relieved,” she began to wipe her hands on her apron.  “Now, I’m going to make a quick call to Mrs. Black and – ”

“WHAAAT?”  Jake choked on his soda.

“Well, we have to straighten out this mess.

“No, Mom! Please don’t do anything –” Jake was now frantic.

“Honey, it’s ok, I—”

“Mom, really, that’ll make things worse.”  He was getting desperate, searching for something that would change her mind.  “Wait ‘till Dad gets home, put me in therapy, let me deal with it.”

“You will?” She questioned skeptically.

“Yeah, I’ll deal with it,” his heart slowed down as he realized that he may have successfully swayed her.

“How?”  She was like a machine gun when she found a target, never letting up.

“Well,” Jake stumbled for a moment, until he remembered her favorite phrase, “I’m gonna open up a dialogue!”

His mom gave a reluctant smile.

“I’m serious,” she said, knocking him in the shoulder with a playful punch, “this is a really big deal, and I’m not sure if I should just leave you to ‘deal with it’.”  She said “deal with it” sarcastically and made air quotes.

“No, Mom, really, I’m going to talk to him, and –” he swallowed thinking fast, “a counselor.”

“Well,” she said thoughtfully, “I’ll wait to call Mrs. Black until I talk to your father.  We’ll see, okay?”

Jake nodded, feeling fine about this new development.  He was sure that his Dad wouldn’t care.  For the first time in over a year Jake knew that the world which was about to open up to him because of the carpet was larger than Abel Black and his pathetic threats.

“Eat some carrots now, Jake,” she pointed to the pile on the table and grabbed the chips and soda to put them away.

“Sure, Mom, whatever you say.”  She turned back to look at him and he shot her an angelic look.

“Oooh, you’re naughty –,” his mom shook her head and walked toward the sink to rinse off the dishes.

“See you in a few, Mom. Gonna hit the homework.”

She turned and gave him the skeptical mom look again and he shot back the angelic face for a second time.

“Don’t watch too much TV, remember, no trick-or-treating if your homework’s not done, partner,” she called after him.

“Yee-haw!” Jake called back as he climbed the stairs, and opened his bedroom door.  When he looked into his room, he immediately froze.

The carpet was floating three feet above the ground.

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

night flight

Other Chapters

Chapter One: The Ziggurat
Chapter Two: Monterey Historic Raceway
Chapter Three: The Gullwing
Chapter Four: Farid’s Gift


2 responses to “JBvFb: 5. An Unexpected Phone Call”

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