The Flying Babalooskis ~ Part 1

Nine year old O.Z. and his best friend Jade find some money and run away from home together. When they discover that they risk being apprehended by adult authorities at every turn, they adopt some rather audacious disguises. And then things get really weird...

 
THE FLYING BABALOOSKIS
~~ A Fantasy of Sudden Wealth ~~
by  LAIKA PUPKINO
 
PART ONE: TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN
 
[Note: This story takes place way back in the 1990's, a when you could still run around airports acting kind of crazy. This will be important to remember when we get to Part III...]
 
.
CHAPTER #.1 /// A DEATH IN THE FAMILY
 
By now no one was saying a word. Ozwald Zengler sat in the cramped rear seat of the tiny import, fighting back the tears that had started to well up under his eyes. Outside the sloping rear window cars drifted backward in a silent stately waltz.
 
His mom's friend, Ellie Fisher, rode up in front, sitting primly on the forward edge of her seat as she pretended to sort through the contents of her purse. She was no doubt wishing that she had driven her own car to the hospital that morning, or that she hadn't come at all...
 
O.Z.'s mother was driving with an uncharacteristic aggressiveness, batting the turn-signal lever up and the down as she zigzagged across the freeway lanes, silently defying anyone to get in her way. Now veering down the offramp just a hair too fast, hurrying to get him home to whatever punishment awaited him. This was horrible!
 
It had been the weirdest and ugliest day of O.Z.'s life. Grandpa issuing that sudden keening gasp and falling back, his mouth hanging open- unsprung.
 
Then that team of nurses bursting in, working around the boy as if he'd been invisible, doing all the frantic emergency moves on the old man, but then quitting all at once. They had done all they could. His dying here at Port Angeles Hospital had been considered inevitable since he was wheeled into the intensive care unit back in May.
 
After some forms that his mom had to sign and other grim details, as he and she and Ellie had been leaving---crossing that strangely illuminated white-on-white lobby---he had tried to tell the two women about Grandpa's awakening. Mindful of his mother's grief, which he knew was a whole lot deeper than his own over this, he had tried to act fittingly respectful and somber when he said, "Grandfather spoke to me today."
 
He had no idea she would react like she did. She stopped with a jerk and roared, "He talked to you?!"
 
"He did. We talked. When you and Ellie went down to the cafeteria to..."
 
To get something to eat. He didn't like the intense way she was staring at him.
 
"Oh for Pete's sake! What do you mean talked to you? How could he do that? They said he was almost totally brain dead!"
 
O.Z.'s eyes were pulled to a rectangle of swirling color out across the shadowless whiteness of the lobby. It was a large t.v. screen set in the wall, on which a statuesque woman in an elegant gown with a slit up the side showing her long magenta legs glided serenely up to a display of mud-colored appliances in a rainbow snowstorm, gesturing at them vaguely with a huge green smile plastered on her face. People watched the game show complacently, as if there was nothing wrong with the television. O.Z. stammered, "But he did! He was! We did!"
 
"Ozwald, no! You hear me? There's no way! His brainwaves on that monitor looked like a damn .......... venetian blind! I can't believe you would go into one of your stories at a time like this!"
 
"I'm not, I swear! I was sitting there, coloring in my book. I felt like he was........ like someone was watching me and he was, Mom! He told me about when he was a police sergeant back in Queens and Bronkers and he-"
 
She gripped him by both arms, a bit too tight, "Honey, I know it was hard on you ........ Seeing your Grandpa pass away right there in front of you must have upset you terribly! And somehow you're remembering some other time that you and him talked about his
days on the force and you're just pretending it happened today. You know how you like to pretend!"
 
"No. He woke up! He said all kinds of stuff! Like first he asked me 'Where am I?'; and I said, 'You're in the hospital, Grandpa-' "
 
"I think this has gone on long enough!"
 
<=O=O=O=O=O=>
 
It was almost as if he had waited until he and the boy were alone together to regain consciousness. The slack, expressionless face was now suddenly wise and mischevious and hard- a lot harder than O.Z. ever remembered him being, a shut-up-and-listen quality, as if he knew he that didn't have much time. Like in the movies, how if the plot called for it, they always just managed to get the information out before slumping over.
 
His grandfather, a plainclothes detective, had been what they call a cop's cop. Stolid, red faced, potato-nosed, incorruptible ........... who one day, seeing the opportunity, had stolen a large sum of money. No, that's not right. Had appropriated the loot during a raid on a gambling operation in New York way .back in the late 1950's. Had just picked it up during the confusion as the smoke was clearing and thrown it in the trunk of his big grinning Chrysler. If any of the defendants had missed the money they didn't complain. It only would have been used as evidence against them...
 
And then had held onto it, taking the money out slowly over the years, for things like those emergency loans to O.Z.'s folks that he somehow always managed to scrape together. Because your average (What had he called them? Gazelle? No-) goonzel who
holds up a bank or whatever is dumb to suddenly start living it up, buying a new Cadillac
convertible and rounds for all the boys down at the corner tavern. Or to tell the one or two people he is sure he can trust. These are the ones who get caught.
 
So Grandpa had told no one. Not even Grandma, in the years before she died, except in a very vague way; that she should never worry about the bills getting paid. But now he was disclosing this incident to his nine-year-old grandson...
 
Who dutifully tried to tell his mother about it, but had barely started when she blew up, shouting, throwing a real fit! Oblivious to the fierce scowls of the two old ladies who ran the hospital gift shop. She would not hear any of this crazy stuff about her pop having been a crook!
 
<=O=O=O=O=O=>
 
He caught her watching him in the rear-view mirror. He had the overpowering urge to start again, to plead, to swear to God .......... But one look from her in the mirror told him him not to. 
 
His mom's friend turned on the all-news station, low- a faint urgent barking backed up by frantic beeps and mechanical clattering noises. Everything seemed unreal. Cars, houses and buildings muddled by outside his window like back-projection in a film.
 
Had he even told her about the bag of money? If he did she hadn't been listening. She had been so quick to become indignant and cutting and sarcastic. It was so monstrously unfair! That his own mom was so ready to brand him a liar, a player of cruel and insensitive pranks!
 
O.Z. had found himself reduced to tears and childish whining, that: "He did! He did so! He did so talk to me!"
 
His looking her straight in the eye and telling the truth had counted for nothing. He thought of that fat little cartoon guy from the beer commercials, bug-eyed and sweaty and uneasy looking; and he had to grin ruefully at the the truth of the old man's trademark complaint. He muttered, "Don't get no respect..."
 
"What was that?!"
 
.
#.2 /// JADE
 
O.Z. lie face down across the foot of his bed, gazing down at the two dozen SPACE GOONS scattered across the floor. He had been so intent on collecting all 99 of them, nagging his folks to buy this one or that one for him, eating cereals he didn't even like if he could get one free inside; but right now he could not even say why this had been so important. He saw that---despite minor variations in shape or the number of heads or hands or tentacles---they were all pretty much the same. All with that same constipated grimace and goggling eyes. Kid's stuff. Totally dumb. No wonder nobody took him seriously...
 
He sighed. He would go over to his grandfather's house, find the money and show it to them! Toss it right in their smirking faces! "One of my stories, huh? Here Mom, eat your salad! It's good for you-"
 
He startled guiltily as his door swung open and his mother leaned into the room.
 
"You have a visitor," she said flatly, and was gone.
 
His friend Jade Thompson came in. Jade was ten, a year older than O.Z. She had green eyes, fine red hair that fell to her bony shoulder blades, and a smattering of freckles. She lisped slightly from where she'd lost her two front teeth in a skateboard accident. She jabbed a thumb in the direction his mother had gone and wrinkled her nose, "What's the matter with her? I come over here to get away from that kind of stuff!"
 
She listened gravely as O.Z. told her about his day. He went on about it at great length, having had a lot of time to dwell on his injuries, and concluding with...
 
"-And she didn't say, 'What if you're right?' To her there was never even a tiny- speck of a chance that I might be telling the truth; It was just 'Shut up your lying little mouth!' But no ......... it wasn't even like she was calling me a liar! It was more like I'm stupid and crazy and don't know the difference between what's real and some cartoon show!"
 
Jade shook her head, "Your mom hates cartoons, except maybe those corny safety ones like Danger! Stranger! or Hypothermia Isn't Cool. Do you think you're in trouble?"
 
"I'm not sure. She was really mad about it, though. I don't think she would let me go out anywhere. I wouldn't even want to ask! So do you want to watch t.v.?"
 
"Sure. Put it on eleven."
 
Since Tony Spagnolini had moved away in October, Jade was O.Z.'s closest friend. He had never considered that he might end up with a girl for a best friend, but somehow they just really hit it off. Jade could be very girly at times, but she was never sickening about it like some girls were. She also had a side that loved gross jokes and gory movies and monster trucks, and that would only take so much before she socked you in the nose; but without that edge of hostility---just looking for things to get all offended over---that Tony seemed to have. And her sense of humor was a national treasure, even if most people didn't get it. O.Z.'s parents just loved Jade; and Jade's folks seemed to tolerate O.Z. about as much as they did anybody.
 
It was afternoon, the beginning of summer vacation. They watched the last ten minutes of X Files: The Animated Series, and then Bionic Barnyard Commandos. They talked about the money, then about which of the technologically enhanced farm animals from the cartoon show they would want to be, and about what would be the ideal way to spend the long vacation ahead of them, if money really were no object.
 
Jade knew that under all his joking around O.Z. was still very upset. She had always envied him for having the family he did, parents who were sane and rarely screamed for no reason. But now she felt sorry for him, because it was clear that he had no inner defenses against this sort of domestic turmoil. This was clearly tearing him up! 
 
She listened, suspending her disbelief for the time being, knowing this is what a person really needed at times like this. Jade had been the target of groundless accusations and mean spirited remarks for as long as she could remember. It had long ago forced her to accept the baffling illogic of adult behavior.
 
Ozwald talked about of his grandfather's last few minutes, and how urgent he had sounded about this bag of money. Jade asked, "Did he say if it was for you, or your mom, or for who?"
 
"Yeah, and for my dad too. For all of us. But not to tell the I.R.S."
 
"Well I think you should get at least half of it, just because she didn't believe you and made such a stink about it. If it wasn't for you they'd never even find out about it!"
 
"Hey, that's right!"
 
<=O=O=O=O=O=>
 
At about five o'clock he went around to the kitchen, the back way, trying to sneak them some graham crackers and chocolate milk. But his mom was there at the kitchen table, on the phone, with her back to him in a cocoon of cigarette smoke, with the light shining through her messed up hair. Talking to his dad---who would just now be finishing up his day at the swimming pool supplies shop he owned---about this sudden worsening of their son's "problem".
 
O.Z. listened in shocked disbelief. What was she saying?! How could she be telling
him that? She was distorting it all to hell!
 
He knew it was true that he made up stories, about the mad scientist across the street creating hideous cyborg zombies out in his garage, stuff like that. But on a certain level he would always admit he was playing, expecting you to roll your eyes and grin at the wild tales he spun...
 
He listened in nightmare dread as she ranted on about him, inflating his readiness to invent situations and events---the "imagination" his teachers had praised---into some awful mental disorder! How the boy was going to grow up like that loser, Uncle Jack, unable to hold a job and usually mooching off of whatever dizzy girlfreind he was living with at the moment. 
 
She said that if Doctor Abrams could not straighten him out they should think about putting him in a structured environment. Maybe a military academy. Because whatever they were doing they were doing they were doing it wrong. This was almost as bad as his "u.f.o. encounter" at summer camp last year, that had sent all his cabin-mates out, patrolling the grounds all night with baseball bats in defense against the invaders!
 
She started to cry. And then O.Z.'s father must have suggested that she was overreacting, because she stiffened and barked, "You weren't there, Roger! That crazy story he told about my dad when Daddy ........ I mean he wasn't even cold yet! Is that normal? And then you should have seen the crazy tantrum he threw down in the lobby, when I oh-so-tactfully tried to talk some sense to him!"
 
O.Z. fled back to his room in terror.
 
Jade jumped up, "What's the matter! What happened?!"
 
"They think I'm nuts! My mom wants to stick me in a military academy! My God- that's like the army!"
 
"No it's more like jail. In the army at least they pay you. You mean she's serious?"
 
"I never saw her like this! Now I'll have to move away from you and from all my friends at school! Or else she wants to send me to some crazy doctor. They'll put me on medication and I'll end up like Judy the Cootie!"
 
Jade distorted her posture and face to resemble Judy 'The Cootie' Wilson, the star outcast at John Ford Elementary School, "Den you gedda go special clazzes, huh-huh-huh-huh!!"
 
"That's not funny! Listen, Jade, we've got to get that money. We gotta get that money so we can-"
 
"Run away!"
 
"Yeah! I mean NO! We'll come back here with it, and then show my folks that it wasn't just some story, and then- What do you mean, run away?"
 
"Well we could, couldn't we? Then your folks couldn't have you put away."
 
"But once they see I was telling the truth it'll be okay."
 
"Maybe," said Jade darkly. "And they'll put your share of it away in the bank for you and only give you five dollars at a time after asking you a thousand questions about what do you need it for, and didn't you go to the water slides already last week? That's if they don't turn it all in to the police because it was stolen!"
 
"But he took it from crooks! He said that's not like stealing from regular people, it's like the good people getting it back. And anyway there's this thing ......... some Statue of Lamentation, that makes it his money! I don't know, Jade. I don't think we should run away."
 
"I don't mean forever, just for a week or so. It's what, the ninth? Run away 'til-"
 
"Yeah, but they'll worry!"
 
"And be sweet as lambs when you get back. My sister ran away five or six times, and my parents were always nice to her when she showed back up!"
 
"That's not what I hear. They kicked her out when she was seventeen!"
 
Jade winced. She knew her household was the talk of the whole block but she didn't like to be reminded of it. "Ivory turned into a real witch-with-a-capital-B there for a while. Messing around with drugs, stealing checks from them and trying to cash them and stuff. I'm never going to be like that. But just once wouldn't hurt. We could have a blast! Go anywhere, do anything! Fly to New York and ride horses in that park they got!"
 
"Would they even let us on a plane? By ourselves, I mean?"
 
"My Dad says the joker who has the bucks can do any damn thing he wants!"
 
"He also says the government faked sending those guys to the moon. And that fat people farting causes more pollution than cars..."
 
"Yeah, you're probably right. They wouldn't let us on. But we could go down to Pierpoint Landing and feed the seals. Or just hop on an RTD bus and see where it goes. There's a whole world out there!"
 
O.Z. stood up, "What the hell. I'll pack."
 
"Don't bother, we can buy what we need along the way. Just write them a note."
 
<=O=O=O=O=O=>
 
When he realized that he was actually doing it, had committed himself to this, O.Z. felt a bit sick to his stomach. Hadn't his mom grieved enough already today? He wrote in his note that he would be careful out there, and not to worry.
 
They went out the back door, crept around the side of the house, and ran the five blocks to his grandfather's house. The small white wooden one story house had seemed spooky before, but it did now. Three newspapers lie on the lawn- white, beige, yellow. He threw them into the trash can. Both he and Jade were small for their age, and could fit through the high little service porch window with ease. They climbed up the pantry shelves to the trap door that led to the attic.
 
In a way O.Z. had almost hoped the money wouldn't be there, beneath the last of the sheets of plywood that cut paths across the rafters in that cramped and stuffy crawlspace. But it was. A maroon suede satchel with a strap across the top, stuffed with bundles and bundles of twenties and fifties and hundred dollar bills. They couldn't tell by looking if it was a thousand dollars or a million. But an old discolored filing card with a column of tiny figures on it---he recognized his granddad's neat, bump-like penmanship---showed that there was just ninety-two thousand dollars left, down from $177,330 in 1965.
 
O.Z. grinned down into the open jaws of the satchel, his face illuminated as if by the glow from a pirates treasure. He looked at the money. He looked at Jade.
 
Jade arched an eyebrow and said, "Let's party!"
 
.
#.3 /// THE CRAWLING EYE
 
They sat at the base of the screen at the Monte Vista 12-plex, watching the credits roll upward over shots of water blurring over wet round stones and down little waterfalls. The elegant script of the credits rose to the sound of a string orchestra playing a cold, funereal composition. And they could tell already this was going to be a great film: Michael Bay's lavish big-budget remake of the 1950's monster classic The Crawling Eye.
 
The camera followed the stream higher and higher into the mountains, through snow and trees and jagged cliffs. A spotted doe stared into space, her ear twitching spastically...
 
O.Z. felt under the seat to make sure the bag was still there. He wondered, "What about your folks? Shouldn't you have left a running-away note too?"
 
"What's the point of doing this if you're gonna worry the whole time? 'Cause if you are, I'll just go run away by myself. Have a good time for free down at the beach!"
 
Jade could sense O.Z. sulking alongside her in the dark so she added, "Come on, this is gonna be fun! I'm sure your rents and mine have got together by now and figured it out. Pass me some Bon Bons, por fay-vor..."
 
O.Z. ran a hand over the zigarrut of paper boxes on the seat next to him until he touched a cold one. He pried it from the stack and rattled it at Jade until she took it. He smiled as the credits faded into...
 
Outskirts of a pretty Swiss village. Two burly men in lederhosen and stupid little hats cutting an immense felled tree with ta two-man saw against a backdrop of distant pines and mist.
 
"Let's take a break, Hans."
 
"Ja. Goot idea."
 
Hans stuffs the bowl of an elaborate hand-carved pipe full of black tobacco. The camera glimpses something huge and wet and bulbous slithering around behind them. Stopping. The alpine wind whistles...
 
"We sure bought a lot of candy," marvelled O.Z.
 
"We can save the rest for breakfast. Ooooh look! It's gonna-"
 
Pounce. Schl-l-l-l-o-o-rk! AIIEEEEEEEEE!!!
 
They paid their way into the The Beanie and Cecil Movie, but the third film was R-rated so they had to sneak in. Which was just as well, because it was an absolute bore, and as far as they could tell had nothing to do with the title Is There Life On Mars? It started out with a woman committing suicide in her apartment and went downhill from there, with all of her friends arguing and giving a lot of long speeches about how they had lost their dreams; that is, whenever they weren't suddenly ROCKING OUT- flailing around in an embarrassingly goofy fashion and shouting "Wooooo!" to a series of hoaky classic rock songs to show their renewed zest for life...
 
The kids knew it had to be getting quite late, so they left before it was over, exiting down a catwalk mesh corridor behind the screen---where they lingered a bit to watch colored bits of the movie wash over them---and then down a disorienting little hallway that let them out onto the broad walkway that surrounded this unfamiliar mall.
 
Based on the time's that Jade's sister had run away, they had figured that any search for them would start in their own neighborhood, so they had ridden a bus to another suburb halfway across the Los Angeles basin. It was late. The vast floodlit parking lot was almost completely deserted.
 
"That Al Pacino was great as Cecil the Sea Serpent!"
 
Jade giggled. "Yeah he was! So where are we going to sleep tonight?"
 
"It's too bad we just can't stay at my Grandpa's house. But you're right, that would be the first place they look..."
 
"My sister lives over in L.A., I'm sure she'll put us up."
 
"Whereabouts in L.A.?"
 
"Downtown. The L.A. part of L.A...."
 
"Won't she just call your parents?"
 
"Not if we promised her it's just for a couple of days, and then we'll go home. She's really cool! And I'm sure she'd rather have us at her place than running around on the streets."
 
"Why didn't you mention before this? I been bustin' my brain trying to figure out where to go."
 
"I was kind of hoping we would come up with something that was more, you know---an adventure---than to just go to visit someone you already know. Also I'm not a hundred percent sure how to get there. We went to visit her there once. I think I can find it..."
 
.
#.4/// SIXTH AND LOST...
 
A church tower bonged midnight. They had sat at the bus bench in front of the MONTGOMERY WARD eating pumpkin seeds for almost an hour before realizing that this bus line was no longer running.
 
They called a cab company, and minutes later a taxi pulled up. Jade asked, "How much would it cost to go downtown?"
 
It crossed the cabbie's mind that they might be runaways, but they had none of the telltale paraphanalia that somebody running away usually lugged around---the backpacks and sleeping bags---but just the one valise and a sack of junk food. "Civic Center? About thirty five bucks. You kids got any money?"
 
 O.Z. cackled maniacally, "We got LOTS of money!?"
 
"Yeah? And what are you doing out so late?"
 
"We went to the movies," said Jade innocently. "And when we came out we found out there weren't any more busses. Good thing we didn't buy that, uh ....... anniversary present for our folks that we were shopping for. It's so hard to figure out what to get for someone, you know? So we do have about fifty bucks..."
 
The driver mumbled something about these negligent jackasses letting their kids run around loose all damn night, then reached back and opened the back door for them. "Okay, let's go."
 
They went up the last bit of some tributary freeway to the I-5, then on into downtown, but
Jade found her memory deficient. She figured she would recognize the big square three story apartment building if she saw it, but all these dark industrial side streets and decayed storefronts under orange light looked the same to her. She told the driver she might be able to find it if he drove back down the freeway a few miles and started over.
 
The cabbie had shut his meter off when he realized they were lost, but when the boy kept insisting they would pay him no matter how long it took he reactivated it. This whole deal was smelling fishier and fishier to him. He sorely hoped that they didn't try to stiff him for the fare after all this. He said in slow measured words, "You don't know where you live..."
 
"We just moved here," said Jade.
 
"Can you call them, maybe?"
 
"No. She doesn't- Uh, we don't really have a phone yet."
 
"Don't have a phone. And don't know where you live," he nodded. Pulled over to the curb and sat straight arming the wheel.
 
The jig was up.
 
"Let's just pay him and get out of here," whispered Jade. She was fairly sure that they could find her sister's place from here.
 
But O.Z. didn't like the looks of this neighborhood and didn't want to leave the safety of the cab. "Couldn't you just drive around and we could sleep in back? We'll pay. I bet we could find it in the morning if we had some sleep."
 
Jade punched him furtively in the ribs, "He's just kidding! We can walk home from here. It's right .......... Well hey! Wouldja look at that?!! It's right over there! Pay the gentleman, Brother Dear."
 
O.Z. opened the satchel's mouth wide. "How much? Thirty-six dollars? Let's see ....... Here's a twenty. And another twenty- No wait, that's a fifty! It's dark in here, what's this? Wow, a thousand dollar bill! I never saw one of these before!"
 
Jade edged the door open and slid out. "Just give him two twenties."
 
"But he's been so helpful. Here Mister, take a fifty! And a twenty- that's your tip! You have a real good evening now."
 
"What the hell is going on here?!" shouted the driver.
 
O.Z. babbled, "We're rich kids, see? Very rich. Our father's a ......... He's a shiek! From over in ........ uh, Jordan. Here, have some ....... some of our almonds. We export these!"
 
He tossed the driver the box of candy and bowed several times, him palms pressed together like some fawning subcontinental servant before they turned and fled- into the orange streetlampy wackadoo *He^L^p mE cEc^I^L* no-telephone j-j-j-j-j- rich kid streets of 2:00 o'clock a.m.~~~~~>
 
<=O=O=O=O=O=>
 
They ran, leaping a series of tattered bundles that turned out to be sleeping people, and ducking behind a building into a weedy lot- where a dozen ragged silhouettes stood around an old 55-gallon drum with a fuming greasy fire pouring up from it.
 
"Hey! Meat for the stew!" cheered a gravelly voice.
 
They heard the chorus of scary laughter that followed, but weren't within earshot long enough to hear: "Ernie, ya twisted bastard! That was mean!"
 
.
#.5 /// IMPRESSARIOS IN MINIATURE
 
The sky was sending up fingers of purple and royal blue over the eastern tenaments when they found Jade's sister's place- having survived a long night full of lunatics and robbers and murderers (real and imagined), as well as escaping the patrol car that kept doubling back to get a second look at these two trembling big-eyed waifs, but could never seem to find them...
 
It was with great relief that they trudged up the stairs and down the dim hall to #337, where Jade's finger on the buzzer summoned a man she had never seen before; a stubbled, roly-poly face peering over a few inches of brass chain like a chin strap...
 
"Who? Ivory Thompson? No, I never- Oh, her! I'm getting her mail still. She moved out about a month ago. I heard she got a job up in Ventura somewhere, galley girl on a fishing boat. If you find her, tell her to file a change of address with the post office. I'm sick of getting her junk mail! I gotta sleep-" he said and abruptly closed the door.
 
O.Z. leaned wearily against the brownish wall. "He was nice enough, considering we woke him up. Now what do we do?"
 
<=O=O=O=O=O=>
 
They came across a library, the largest they had ever seen. Ancient and forbidding with ornate woodwork and sinister black wrought iron chandeliers high overhead. But it had a cozy children's section (the strips of plaster wall between the tall, narrow windows painted with enormous grass blades and yellow flowers, pudgy caterpillars and bees and lady bugs, all smiling madly...) where they found a pair of vinyl mats and took a long nap, after first scattering open books around themselves so they would look like legitimate library patrons.
 
They woke up hungry. This at least was no problem. They walked, searching for a McDonalds or something. The gritty boulevard was rumbling with dozens of huge yellow trucks (hauling dirt away from what would be a new stretch of the L.A. subway system.
 
"We need a place to sleep tonight. And I need a bath," said Jade.
 
"We could get a room. At that neat hotel they went to in that movie- remember that? When the one guy went to have an affair when his wife was in the hospital? With the peacocks in the lobby and those glass elevators with the lights all over 'em going up and down like rockets! It was the only good thing in that whole dumb movie!"
 
"I know what to get you for Christmas when it comes out on video. This is only the tenth time you told me how much you hated it! It wasn't all that bad. And you had to feel sorry for ........... Well a couple of those people anyway!
 
They had come to a stop outside an antique shop. Jade was carrying the bag now. She shrugged her bony shoulders, "I don't think they'd let the two of us check in to that hotel. Even though we got all this money, were like fugitives or something. Sooner or later the cops will grab us, just because we're kids! It's like the whole world is looking out for kids out on their own or doing anything strange..."
 
Suddenly O.Z.'s eyes grew big and he yanked wildly at her sleeve, his other hand pointing, "That's it! That's it! That's it! Look!"
 
In the window of the antique shop, up on a pastel pegboard partition behind a scintillating neon jukebox, was a poster from the end of the 19th century; an ad for a circus showing a photograph of a pair of midgets in Wagnarian Viking outfits, and the words:
 
.
.
***** ((( IMPRESARIOS IN MINIATURE ))) ****
 
See the famous Crebari's- Emil and Rosa
performing HIGHLIGHTS from
 
THE WORLD'S GREAT OPERAS!!!
 
1 sh. 4 p.
.
 
Jade read it twice, but still couldn't figure out what was so special about it. "What? You want to go to the circus? That we go sleep at a circus?"
 
"No- we are the circus! We could be midgets! We could say we're with the circus, or we work in the movies. Grown up midgets!
 
Jade stared at him,"I hate to say it, but that has to be about the dumbest idea I ever heard!"
 
"Why not? We're both small for our age. We'll just have to talk like-"
 
"But we don't look anything like midgets. Our faces, I mean. We just look like kids."
 
"Not if we wore a whole bunch of makeup, like them, and had on old people's clothes! I wear some weird out-of-style slacks up to here," O.Z. drew a line across his breastbone, "A-a-and one of those wig things, what do you call them?"
 
"A toupee? I don't know about this," droned Jade. She wasn't sure that midgets, boy midgets, even movie star boy midgets went around in heavy pancake makeup. But then she considered that since there weren't a lot of movie star midgets running around town, maybe nobody else would know much about this either. She was still very sleepy, and wished she was thinking clearer. "But wouldn't people notice we don't act like adults?"
 
"Not if we acted like crazy rich big shots! I mean look at Michael Jackson......... he acts like some weird kind of kindergartner. But they let him run around doing anything he wants. I hear he paid cash once for a toy store, and kicked everyone out so he could play! It's like what your Dad says about having lots of bucks! Did you see the way that cab driver got all quiet when I paid him double what the fare was?"
 
"I think he was more confused than anything..."
 
"Well then once we're big shot movie star circus dwarfs we can confuse everybody!"
 
.
#.6 /// PLAYING DRESS UP
 
At the Salvation Army Thrift Shop they found some great outfits. They got a toupee for O.Z. and a Jane Meadows wig for Jade, and a big drawstring bag full of used cosmetic odds and ends in various stages of dessication.
 
They found an ugly black creepy corridors-under-the-hospital looking cane, which they fought over, each hobbling down the aisle to the sock bin and back, arguing about which of them could use it more convincingly, then wound up not buying it after all. But it did remind them of how they would need to remember to move rather slowly, and to walk sort of hunched over...
 
<=O=O=O=O=O=>
 
O.Z. had reluctantly left the satchel at the front counter when the lady had said that they
couldn't take it inside the store. But now there was a different woman at the register, who
insisted that they couldn't get it back without their ticket. The green "check ticket" that Bernice must surely have given them...
 
Black dread blossomed in the pit of O.Z.'s stomach. He knew something terrible would happen the instant he let go of the satchel!
 
The woman swung the maroon bag up over the counter and more or less dropped it onto him. She laughed and swayed like a motorized funhouse dummy as she rang up their purchases- "Boy! I really had you going, ah haw haw haw haw! (Two dollars.) You shoulda seen the look on your face- HA HA HA HA HA! (Fifty cents.) Ho ho hee hee har!! Oh mercy! (What's this? Makeup? A buck for the whole bag...)
 
She really did look crazy. As they left she was screaming to someone at the back of the store about the look on the little putz's face when she pulled the check-ticket bit on him!
 
Out on the sidewalk, O.Z. brandished the satchel like a weapon. "I'm going to buy that stupid place and fire her stupid ass!"
 
"I don't know if you have enough money to do that, not if you want that sailboat," Jade grinned. Then she said consolingly, "But that does go to show you that we shouldn't worry too much about how we act. She sure didn't act very adult!"
 
<=O=O=O=O=O=>
 
Some of the clothes were still too big for them so they went to a tailor, tipping him heavily to rush their order ahead of all the others, saying that they were going to be in a play that afternoon at the fancy private school they attended up in Bel Air. Being rich was wonderful!
 
O.Z. had a fringe buckskin cowboy jacket and a ruffled Mexican tuxedo shirt to go with his checkerboard slacks, and a string tie with a brass clasp (representing the mission at San Juan Capistrano) that must have weighed two pounds. Jade wore a black lace shawl and a long black dress with a hundred buttons down the front, and a hat that seemed to be made entirely out of feathers- which all combined made her appear somehow both exotic and frumpish.
 
They made themselves up in the alley using a jagged section of mirror jutting up from a trashcan. Jade did herself up in kabuki white, with lipstick ranging upward almost to her nostrils. Then she painted O.Z. from his collar to his hairline with this bronze stuff so that he looked like- well they weren't sure what, but it did look old, in the manner of something artificial and weathered; or like an attempt to cover up some even greater disfigurement that it wouldn't be polite to mention. And with his toupee parted down the middle, and with his eyes completely hidden behind the sort of massive green angular wrap-around disposable sunglasses that opthamologists give patients whose eyes have been dialated, and with Jade pursing her lips, showing off her two missing front teeth ......... they were pretty much able to obscure their childlike features.
 
<=O=O=O=O=O=>
 
And they did it. They rented an apartment for a week, in the same building that Jade's sister had moved out of, for $145!
.
 
.
END OF PART ONE. TO BE CONTINUED...

 

Nice to see this here

This story, Tim's Healing a Princess, and Edeyn's questions about posting general fiction were big reasons I went ahead with my plans for Fictioneer. :)

Good job, Laika, and thanks.

- Erin

Send In The Clowns

Never mind, we have them here in these two wacky kids.

May Your Light Forever Shine

This is the line that goes on the book jacket...

"once we're big shot movie star circus dwarfs we can confuse everybody"

I roared. :)

Hugs,
Erin

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