Skywriting at Night

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Chapter 4

     The next day was Saturday. Normally a day of rest, a day of play, a day of later morning starts. But not today. Combing his short hair for the third time, Jet hoped the tug of the black plastic comb would stretch his hair to what he considered a more respectable length for a twelve year-old. His parents were downstairs—his mother shuffling around the kitchen wearing a Day-Glo pink quilted bathrobe and matted fuzzy blue slippers while his father sat at the kitchen table ostensibly reading the newspaper but in fact mesmerized by the morning show on TV, or more correctly, the rising and falling of the co-host's chest, which gave new meaning to the phrase boob tube.

     Hearing the sound of hushed footsteps creaking through his parent's bedroom, Jet softly stepped from his room and peeked around the corner. He could see his brother Job tiptoeing towards his mother's dresser, sliding the top drawer open ever so slowly. He froze in place as each squeak seemed to echo through the house, announcing his presence to the world. Jet watched in silence as his brother reached into the drawer and pulled out a pair of white cotton briefs, holding them gingerly between his hands, then rubbing them slowly up and down his arm, savoring their soft touch. Momentarily satisfied, he folded them neatly and placed them back in the drawer, then pulled out a yellowed and tattered bra. Gently putting it to his cheek, he closed his eyes and lolled his head as he slid the slick fabric across his face.

     "Je-et! Jo-ob! It's getting late," their mother called from downstairs.

     Startled, Job jumped up from the bed, dropping the bra on the floor.

     "I'm getting ready, Mom," he called back, snatching the bra from the floor and hastily putting it back in the dresser drawer before slipping out of his parent's bedroom.

     Jet was back in his room re-combing his hair when Job hurried into the hall bathroom, quietly closing the door and trying to turn the thumb latch that hadn't worked since long before they'd moved into the house.

* * * * * *

     "Good morning, Jet," his mother said, tearing out an ad for the Shroud of Turin Golf Shirt from the Weekly World Scene, a tabloid full of half-truths which made up the bulk of her reading on current events.

     "Morning, Mom. Morning, Dad."

     "Good morning, Job," his father said, his eyes glued to the co-host's tightly sweatered chest.

     "I'm Jet."

     "That's good," his father said, still not looking at his son, "did you sleep well?"

     "Yeah," Jet said, "I slept real tight but you shoulda felt the damned bedbugs bite."

     "What do you want for breakfast?" his mother asked.

     "Nothing."

     "You've got to eat something."

     "Why?"

     "Because breakfast is the most important meal of the day," his mother told him for the one thousand two hundred and fifty-fifth—or was it fifty-fourth?—time.

     "Okay, how about scrambled eggs?"

     "No eggs today," Erta said, "what else do you want?"

     "French toast."

     "No French toast."

     "Pancakes."

     "No pancakes."

     "How important can breakfast be if I can't have eggs, French toast, or pancakes?" Jet asked.

     "This isn't a restaurant," his mother said. "You can have cereal, oatmeal, waffles, or cinnamon toast. Just like every day."

     "I'll have important cinnamon toast," Jet said.

     "Where's your brother?" his father asked, turning to his son as the TV screen cut to a male reporter whose thoracic anatomy held absolutely no interest.

     "You mean Jet?" Jet asked.

     "No, I mean Job," his father said, "you're Jet."

     "He's in the bathroom."

     "Job!" his mother called out, "your breakfast is getting cold."

     This was the absolute wrong way to get him to come down to eat, for he, like the whole family, knew that no matter what they ate for breakfast it was virtually impossible for it to get cold. After all, while the cereal started cold and could only get warm, the oatmeal, waffles, and cinnamon toast were never more than lukewarm at their hottest. One day perhaps a Nobel Prize-winning physicist would uncover the secret to why the they had the only water in the world that boiled at one hundred degrees Fahrenheit and the only toaster that could burn bread without heating it up.

     The Banker house was full of such miracles.

* * * * * *

     Jet’s mother was very familiar with miracles. Roberta Jacqueline Banker, or Erta as she’d been called since she was a baby, was currently in the throes of the sixth of seventeen religious sects she would join during her life.

     She was a religious mutt, her father having been of vaguely Jewish descent while her mother was raised a staunch Roman Catholic, though by the time Erta was born they’d both succumbed to adult religious indifference. Had Erta been a male she would have been circumcised at birth, but strictly for health reasons. And, were it not for a swimming accident her mother had as a young child which left her with a dread fear of any body of water deeper than two inches, Erta would have been baptized.  As it was the mere thought of dipping young Erta in water, even holy baptismal water, filled her mother with the fear that her baby would have the dubious honor of being the only child in history to drown while being baptized.

* * * * * *

     Erta placed a yellow plastic plate in front of Jet. On it were two slices of toasted Wonder Bread coated with margarine, sugar, and cinnamon. Jet poked his finger under the sugar and powdery cinnamon.

     "Mom," he said, "isn't the butter supposed to melt?"

     "Don't be in such a hurry," she told him, "it'll melt."

     "But I don't want to wait for a heat wave, I want it to melt now."

     "Don't be so smart and eat your breakfast," she said, then yelling up the stairs, "Job! You're going to be late!"

     "Dad, what's the melting point of butter?" Jet asked.

     "Huh?" his father said, turning his head but leaving his eyes on the newspaper..

     "What's taking your brother so long?" Erta asked Jet.

     "Is butter an animal, vegetable, or mineral?" Jet asked his father.

     "Do you think he might be sick?" she asked.

     "Must be," Jet’s father said.

     "Must be what?" Jet asked.

     "You think he is?" Erta asked.

     "A vegetable," Jackson Robert said, "what else?"

     "That's your son you're talking about," Erta said, aghast.

     "No, that's butter he's talking about."

     "Butter's not a vegetable," she replied.

     "Then you’re right; he must mean Job," Jet said.

     Jackson Robert stared at the television as Jet used his finger to mix the sugar, cinnamon, and butter into a light brown sandy greaseball.  Erta turned and walked up the stairs to retrieve Job.

* * * * * *

     Jet's father hated being called anything other than Jackson Robert. Use both names at all times, please. After all, he'd been fortunate enough to have been given two names he liked, the least people could do was use them both. It helped maintain a certain sense of order to his life, and if there was anything Jackson Robert liked in his life it was order.  Order in his job, order in his home, order in his life and name. He always put the cap back on the toothpaste, lifted the toilet seat before going to the bathroom, put it back down after he was finished, placed everything back in the medicine chest, and made sure the toilet paper always rolled out from behind the roll. If all these small details were in order, could his life be far behind?

     If at any time he felt his life was approaching disarray it was a simple matter to cure it—just put everything back in order. Have an argument with his wife? Straighten up the den. Sit at his desk wondering why he was stuck in a dead-end job? Tidy up his desk. Wonder where his life was heading? Polish his shoes.

     Jackson Robert's Rule of Order:   Chaos breeds chaos, order begets order.

* * * * * *

     When Erta got to the top of the stairs she saw that the door to Job's bedroom was wide open.

     "Job, what's taking you so long?"

     She looked in, but Job wasn't there. She walked into Jet's room, but he wasn't there either. The door to the bathroom was closed tight.

     "Job, are you in there?"

     She was puzzled by the silence. She went into her bedroom, then into her bathroom. Still no Job. She went back to the hall, stopping as she heard small, quiet moans coming from the bathroom.

     "Are you okay?" she asked, getting concerned.

     The cadence of the short moans was broken by slight gasps. Worried, Erta reached for the handle and turned the knob. As she opened the door she heard Job sob, "Oh, Diana!", and realized what she was about to find just a nanosecond too late to stop herself. The door swung wide as the laws of momentum won out over Erta's slow reaction time. There was Job, sitting on the closed toilet with his pants bunched around his ankles, his head thrown back, his mouth open wide, and his right hand furiously pumping his teenage erection.

     Had Jet been the one to open the door on this steamy tableaux of pubescent ecstasy he would have been overjoyed to discover that his brother had found a new, and by his way of thinking, improved way of handling life's frustrations.  Literally. Had Jackson Robert been the one in the doorway, he would have thought "There, but for the grace of God, go I". Had Job’s Aunt Doris been the lucky discoverer, she would have clucked her tongue and said, "Don't you know you'll go knock-kneed if you keep doing that?" Erta, with her limited presence of mind said, "Just what do you think you're doing?", almost as if she expected an answer. But before Job could respond—and he would have, not knowing a rhetorical question when he heard one—Erta turned and walked downstairs.

* * * * * *

     "You'd better go talk to your son," she announced as she marched into the kitchen. Jackson Robert was busy watching his favorite co-host introduce the third weather forecast of the morning.

     "I said go talk to your son," she said firmly as she abruptly switched off the television.

     "What did he do?" Jet asked.

     "Now," she said to her husband, ignoring Jet.

     "Talk to him about what?" Jackson Robert asked, more than a little confused.

     "Your son was in the bathroom," she said, groping for words, "doing his...playing with....uh, spilling his seed."

     "Helluva time for gardening," Jet said before he was silenced by simultaneous glares.

     "Talk to him," Erta said, turning and leaving the room.

     Jet and his father sat quietly. Jackson Robert shut his eyes tightly and sighed. The sound of the living room television being turned on drifted into the kitchen. His Holiness Charles—just Charles—of the Church of the Blessed Current Event was interpreting the morning’s news to fit the Book of Revelations, just as he did every day.

     "Want me to talk to him?" Jet offered.

     "You stay put," his father said, standing up, sighing again, and walking towards the stairs.

     "Be gentle," Jet said, "he's at a difficult age."

 

Chapter 5 ]



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  Skywriting at Night - a novel by Mad Dog

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