The Amazing Tale of Jen and Luke

Once upon a time there were two young children, Jen and Luke. Jen was in the 3rd grade, Luke in 4th. One day, upon entering a school bus to ride home after school, Luke was unable to find a place to sit in the bus. He walked up and down the entire aisle of the school bus, and no one had a place for him to sit. Luke looked up to the bus driver; she was checking out the various controls of the bus to safely depart.

“You can sit here with me,” said a small voice coming from behind Luke. Luke knew he could get in trouble for not being seated in the bus when it was ready to begin moving. He felt short on time. Luke turned to his right to see a precious young girl with brown hair in a white dress with pink and purple flowers on it, and he sat with her that day.

It was nice of Jen to let Luke sit with her, and he appreciated it. Jen was curious about 4th grade, and Luke told her all he could. During the next few weeks, Luke sat with Jen every day on the bus, and they got to know each other rather well.

Both children made exceptional grades and always finished their homework. Jen’s neighborhood was near Luke’s. The first school bus stop was not too far from their school, and nine children got off the bus there. Jen and Luke’s bus stops also both let off about nine children. Upon speaking of their parents, Jen and Luke realized that all four adults did not get off work until five, much less did they ever get home before then. Jen and Luke usually used this time to watch television or do home work or to take a nap.

“What if we get off at a different bus stop?” asked Jen. “That sounds like fun,” said Luke, “We could walk home together. I do not think it would be a big deal, so long as the bus driver did not notice.” “What if we ask her to keep it a secret?” asked Jen. “She could get in trouble,” said Luke. “As long as nothing happens to us,” said Jen, “I do not think anyone would know.”

The next day Jen and Luke spoke with the bus driver. She was not a school teacher, and everyone loved her. She had a great sense of humor. Their bus driver’s name was Ms. Elms. She was large and jolly, over 50 and still cool as hell. “We don’t want you to get into trouble,” said Luke. “Don’t worry,” said Ms. Elms, “If they catch us, we’ll just tell them you got off on the wrong stop by accident.” This idea amazed Jen. She was happy because she never really got to see certain parts of their city. “Don’t go through with this unless you promise you guys will walk home safely,” said Ms. Elms. “We’ll stay safe,” said Jen, and Luke knew he and his new buddy were in sure need of remembering to stay out of trouble.

That day (Tuesday) Jen and Luke got off at the first bus stop with other school children. They walked home, hand in hand, taking in the amazing scenery. Most of their trip entailed walking by businesses and safely crossing streets. When they eventually came to Jen’s neighborhood, Luke said, “That was pretty fun, and it is only 3:30 pm.” “I’ll still have plenty of time to do my homework,” said Jen. The two said their goodbyes and walked home safely.

The next day they nodded to the school bus driver and Luke gave her a green apple blow-pop when no one was paying attention. No one said anything; their secret was safe. All students seated and Jen and Luke able to speak, the bus was in motion. “I want to do it again,” said Jen. “Oh sure,” said Luke, “It was fun and we did not get caught. No harm done.” “On Tuesday,” said Jen. “Why the hurry?” asked Luke, “The shops in that part of town are not going anywhere, and we should not do it too often or we’ll surely get caught.”

“You are right,” said Jen, “Tuesday is a good day to walk together, though, because it is the one day our parents just don’t get home early. Also, there was something peculiar about the flower shop we walked by.” “That flower shop does arrangements for weddings and funerals, big expensive stuff,” said Luke, “I see their advertisements all over.” “Not that one,” said Jen, “The one that sells small gifts.” “Oh,” said Luke, “It did look interesting, now that I think about it. You mean the one with the baskets in the display window?” “Yes,” said Jen, “I want to go in there. It seems there may be a reason.” “Okay,” said Luke, and they both considered the next few days.

Friday evening, Luke asked his dad if he could do extra chores for some money. “What do you want the money for?” asked his dad. “I am not sure,” said Luke, “Maybe just to save or to buy a new book to read.” Luke knew this would be difficult, his dad would by him a book for doing chores in no time. “I know better,” said Luke’s father, “What’s her name?” Caught off guard, Luke said, “Jen. We are just close friends, but I want to get her something special.” “No problem,” said Luke’s Dad.

That weekend Luke cleaned the backyard for his dad and re-stacked a leaning woodpile. His dad gave him a twenty. He thanked his dad and promised to do well in school. On Monday, Jen and Luke spoke briefly with Ms. Elms, mentioning that they only wanted to get off the first bus stop on Tuesdays. Ms. Elms agreed to it, and Luke gave her another green apple blow pop. “Where do you get these?” asked Ms. Elms. “When I stay with my grandmother,” said Luke, “She gives me a 50 ct. sack of them for mowing her yard.” “Are they all the green ones?” she asked. “No,” said Luke, “There are purple one’s and pink ones, too, but I save the green ones, because there are fewer of them in the bag.”

Once seated, Luke and Jen spoke about school and their parents’ jobs and everything, made it home safely. Tuesday afternoon came and Luke and Jen got off at the first stop. They made their way to the small gift shop and went inside.

Full of fading shadows and small antics, the store was an amazing realm of splendor. Jen and Luke investigated the shelves – Luke noticed a row of dark blue vanilla-scented speckled candles with a small sign which said Homemade with Perfection. Jen was looking at a rack of post cards and noticed a small shelf with diaries. One caught her eye. Luke looked to the back of the small store and noticed a counter with a register. No one was there. “Let me get the diary for you,” whispered Luke. “It’s seven ninety-five,” said Jen, “Surely your lunch money cannot cover that?” “I did some chores over the weekend,” said Luke, “In case we found something here.” “Smart thinking,” said Jen, and she handed the diary to Luke. Luke looked at it and handed it back to her.

The two checked out most of the rest of the store on their way to the counter. Luke noticed a crystal pyramid up on a shelf behind the counter, nearly out of sight. The two children waited patiently in front of the register, and heard a woman’s voice ask, “May I help you?” She came from around the corner slowly, scooting in her rolling, thickly padded chair.

“We wanted to check this place out,” said Jen. “I would like to buy her the diary,” said Luke, thinking the vendor must be some kind of a mystic fortune-teller. “I happen to be a mystic fortune-teller,” said the nice old woman. Jen thought it was kind of funny but refrained from laughing out of respect. “And do you see anything you want for yourself?” asked teller. Her name was Ms. Starble. “No thank you,” said Luke, “Interesting candles.” “My nephew thinks he is going to conquer the world with their manufacture,” said the nice woman. “I suppose I may get one then,” said Luke, and he went back for a dark blue homemade vanilla candle with little glitter-specks of silver shavings.

While waiting on Luke, Jen asked about the crystal pyramid. “What is your young friend’s name?” asked Ms. Starble. “His name is Luke,” said Jen, “And my name is Jen.” Luke found a nice small candle and picked it up to make his way back to the counter. “Luke,” said Ms. Starble, “I am closing early today. Please, flip the ‘Open’ sign on the front door and turn its latch.” Luke did as instructed and brought the candle to the counter.

He handed the twenty to Ms. Starble. He meant business. Ms. Starble opened her register and printed out a receipt and handed the receipt, ten dollars, and some change to Luke. Luke kept the ten and the receipt and offered the coins to her. “You asked about the pyramid,” said Ms. Starble, “It is special.” “Is it for fortune-telling?” asked Luke. “Not really,” said Ms. Starble, “But it does posses an amount of magical power.”

“What can it do?” asked Jen. “Why?” asked Ms. Starble. “Just wondering,” said Jen. Luke gazed upon it and considered just how powerful it could really be. “It can be used for time travel,” said Ms. Starble. “Can we try it out?” asked Luke. “You will have to keep it a secret,” said Ms. Starble, “And you will also have to figure out how to get it down.” Jen laughed a little and Luke asked to come around the counter. The teller let him and he found a small step-ladder and got the crystal pyramid down.

The pyramid was ‘set’ in an old-wood, round frame and stained and polished with a  dark blue enamel. He placed it on the counter and the three humans stood above it, gazing upon its four lustrous sides. Jen and Luke looked to Ms. Starble. “Is there a reason you two would like to travel in time?” asked Ms. Starble. “What if we were grown ups,” said Jen, “So Luke and I could walk down the street together?” Ms. Starble laughed a little and looked to Luke. The pyramid amazed Luke, and he asked if it was even possible. Ms. Starble said it was and both children anxiously awaited the magic. Ms. Starble raised her arms high in the air and said, “Okay Mr. Hocus Pocas, Smooky Wooky Alakashzam!” and Luke and Jen vanished.

The Lunch Time Café was classy. Jen and Luke were sitting across from each other over garlic toast and iced water. They held a pleasant conversation over occupations in America. Their table was outside, and the day endured a hint of spring. Jen and Luke continued to share conversation, as any adult couple would, and their server came to them. Luke looked to Jen who said, “I have had a nice time.” “How much do I owe?” asked Luke, and the server said, “Compliments of the house, Mr. Strong.”

About that time Jen felt as though a spell was wearing off. She and Luke heard a man choking while sitting at a table inside the café. A man tried to give the choking man the Heimlick Maneuver, however it did not work and the man died. Jen and Luke looked to each other and the cloudy scene faded slowly.

Jen and Luke re-appeared before Ms. Starble who had fallen asleep on the counter. She came to and asked what they were doing. Jen laughed a little and Luke said, “We need you to lock us out. We must be going.” Ms. Starble locked them out and they returned home safely, before 4 pm.

Jen loved her new diary and wrote a few lines in it every night. Luke did not really know what to do with the candle and planned to give it to his dad for Father’s Day. Luke gave Ms. Elms a grape blow-pop on Thursday, and Jen and Luke discussed the death of the man at the café.

“Our time travel could have had something to do with whether we are meant to be together,” said Luke. “I think we already knew,” said Jen, “How could the man have died choking if he was not choking?” The two thought about it for a moment, and they decided he had an allergic reaction. “The peanuts,” said Jen, “He was eating peanuts just before he turned red and started choking.” “You’re right,” said Luke, “Maybe we can go back and save him.” “Who knows,” said Jen, “We will have to try to.”

Time flew by and it was Tuesday afternoon. Jen and Luke nodded to the bus driver as they got off at the first stop. The children made their way to see Ms. Starble. She was there and they tried to explain what happened. “We must go back,” requested Jen. “I am unsure that I fully understand your story,” said Ms. Starble. “Do you have something to write on?” asked Luke. “Sure,” said Ms. Starble, “How was the candle?” “I am going to save it to give it to my dad on Father’s Day.” “That way you have time to consider its origin?” asked Ms. Starble. “Possibly,” said Luke, knowing he may have a few things to consider.

Luke sketched out a picture of the café and thanked Ms. Starble for their first journey. It being a Tuesday, he happened to have a strawberry blow pop and offered it to Ms. Starble. She accepted the blow pop, and Jen and Luke explained the mysterious story of how a choking man died while he was still able to breathe. “You two must need to return there after all,” said Ms. Starble as she enjoyed her blow pop. “You may get the pyramid down,” she said to Luke, and he got it down and placed it on the counter. Ms. Starble said, “Okay Mr. Hokus Pokas! Can you please save-us a chokus!” and Jen and Luke vanished.

Once again, they sat across from each other at the table outside dressed casually. Luke raised his hand, getting the attention of his server. “How may I help you?” asked the server. “I do not think the man in there should eat those peanuts,” said Luke. “Why?” asked the server. “Please,” said Luke, “At least ask him if he possibly has a risk of an allergy.”

As the server looked to his right, he saw one of his fellow employees sitting a small platter of peanuts down in front of the large man. Jen and Luke’s server gave them the benefit of the doubt and spoke with the server setting the peanuts down. The large man’s server asked if he knew of any allergens he may have for peanuts. “That is none of your business,” said the large man. “Sir, we are not willing to offer peanuts with your meal if you are going to have an allergic reaction to them.” The man did not have much to say. They brought him toast instead.

Jen and Luke’s server came back to them. “How did you know?” asked the server. “Lucky guess,” said Luke, and Jen smiled upon him. The scene faded and Jen and Luke appeared before Ms. Starble. She was awake and waiting to hear what the children had to say. “He made it,” said Jen, “The man was not allowed to eat the peanuts.” Jen and Luke thanked Ms. Starble, and the children made their way home.

Jen and Luke decided to get off at the right bus stop for a while, and they only went to see Ms. Starble on rare occasion. They grew up together, making good grades and enduring healthy relationships. She became a nurse and a concert violinist, and he became an architect. The Strongs raised four beautiful children, and everyone lived happily ever after.

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