Possibilities . . .
by Jacqui Pitt
But flying fish prefer oceanic waters, usually tropical or subtropical temperatures! These were the last words to flit through Jake Sinclair’s mind before another kind of flying fish, this one of the frozen supermarket genus aimed at his neighbor’s head by said neighbor’s wife, smacked the teen in the face and knocked him to the ground.
“Jake! Jake! Are you okay?”
Jake groaned. Of course, he thought. The fish to the face had to be witnessed by Anastasia Rannen, the most beautiful girl in the school. Jake had nurtured a crush on her since that day in kindergarten when she loaned him the cerulean crayon that matched her eyes.
“Animalia…Chordata…Beloniformes…Fodiator…wingspanicus?” Jake murmered as his eyes fluttered open to see the girl of his dreams bent over him, the frantic look in her eyes warming him. As soon as she saw he was awake, she sat back on her feet, and stared at him.
“What were you just saying?” Anastasia asked.
“It’s the Latin name for a weird type of flying fish,” Jake replied. “I could have sworn…what happened?”
“You took a fish to the face,” Anastasia said simply.
“A what?” Jake asked.
“Mrs. Rasmutton threw a frozen fish at Mr. Rasmutton,” Anastasia explained, referring to their mutual neighbors. “Your face got in the way.”
“Why did she – you know what, never mind.” Jake used his arms to push himself to a sitting position. “I don’t want to know.”
“Um, Jake,” Anastasia began. “What’s that on your face?”
Jake reached up to his face, realizing why Anastasia was confused as soon as he touched his nose. Taking his hand away, he looked at the bright white goo smeared on his fingers.
“It’s a new sunscreen I’m testing,” he told her.
“One of your experiments?” Anastasia asked.
“You know about those?” Jake asked, shocked that Anastasia knew anything about him.
“Sure,” she shrugged. “We’re neighbors and friends, right?” At Jake’s astonished nod, she continued, “Plus, I heard you talking to some of your geeks, erm, I mean friends at lunch.”
“It’s okay, Stasia, I know I’m a geek. I’m even thinking about calling the sunscreen ‘Geek in Sun’,” Jake laughed, then clutched his hands to his head on a moan.
“Jake! What’s wrong?” Anastasia exclaimed, her hands flitting as though they didn’t know where to go or what to do.
“Laughter. Bad. For. Fish-smacked head.” Jake gritted out carefully.
“Oh! We’d better get ice on your face,” Anastasia said, standing up. Bending over, she helped Jake stand carefully, then turned him toward her house, wrapping her arm around his waist in support. “Let’s go have my mom take a look at your face and make sure nothing is broken.”
“Oh, I’ll be okay,” Jake halfheartedly protested as he carefully walked with her. He definitely didn’t want to leave Stasia’s side, but hated the idea of looking like a wimp in front of her. “I’ll go home and ice my face until my parents get home.”
Anastasia stopped walking, turned, and gave him a Look. She had started liking Jake in kindergarten when she realized that his eyes were the same color as her favorite green apples.
“Jake Sinclair, cut it out!” She ordered him sternly. “I saw you get smacked in the face by a frozen fish. You were knocked out of your mind enough to speak Latin when you woke up. Don’t be a doofus. You are not going home to be alone when you can come over and let someone help you. Got it?”
“Yeah,” Jake sighed. “Got it.” As Anastasia started them walking again, he quietly continued, “Stasia?”
“Yeah?” She asked.
* * *
Inside the house, Anastasia led Jake to the kitchen where her mom was finishing frosting a chocolate cake. Looking up as her daughter helped Jake settle into a chair, Mrs. Rannen set the frosting knife down and walked over to look at Jake’s face.
“What happened?” She asked, gently grasping Jake’s chin in her hand and tilting it slightly to take a better look at the shiner starting to appear starting at his left cheekbone.
“New migration patterns of Fodiator wingspanicus,” Anastasia grinned at Jake’s reply. Mrs. Rannen quirked an eyebrow at her daughter. “Translation?”
“Mrs. Rasmutton threw a frozen fish at Mr. Rasmutton as he ran away from her. Jake’s face got in the way,” Anastasie said, grinning at Jake.
“What’s that Fodiator wingspanicus bit?” Mrs. Rannen asked, probing at the swollen cheekbone carefully.
“The scientific name for frozen fish that come flying at my head,” Jake said. “Ow! That f-freaking hurts!”
“Well, get him an ice pack, dear,” Mrs. Rannen commented as she released Jake’s face.
“On it, Mom,” Anastasia replied as she opened the freezer. Taking the frozen pack out, she wrapped it in a dish towel, then walked over to Jake and handed it to him. “He had the brilliant idea of going home by himself instead of coming here.”
“Oh, that’s not a good idea,” Mrs. Rannen told Jake. “You probably don’t have a concussion, but I’m not letting the child of my best friend be home by himself after taking frozen seafood to the face. Nope, not happening.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Jake knew better than to protest or argue. “That’s what Stasia told me, too. She’s very…determined.” He settled for diplomacy as he carefully touched the cold pack to his face with a hiss of pain.
“Of course she is. Takes after me. Just ask your mom,” Mrs. Rannen said, taking plates and forks out. “When we were kids, she fell and hurt her leg while we were climbing trees, and wanted to limp home with blood running down her leg.”
“So, smarts run in their family then?” Anastasia asked, grinning at Jake’s glare.
“And excessive stubbornness in yours, goober,” Jake shot back. Paling, he turned back to Mrs Rannen. “I’m sorry, I meant-”
“That my daughter comes by her stubbornness honestly?” Mrs. Rannen smiled at Jake as she sliced into the chocolate cake.
“Yes, m-,” Jake started. Breaking off, he looked at Mrs. Rannen consideringly. “Is there any possible way for me to answer that without sounding like a moron?”
“See, Mom?” Anastasia said. “Smart guy!”
Laughing, Mrs. Rannen placed a plate of cake in front of each of the teens and replied, “Good eye, dear. Now, it’s obvious what you need is a nice quiet afternoon that involves chocolate cake.”
“Thanks, Mrs. R.” Jake smiled gratefully. Picking up his fork, he speared some cake and carefully bit in. When he didn’t feel any pain, he dug in to the moist dessert.
“Any loose teeth?” Mrs. Rannen asked, pouring milk and setting it in front of each teen.
“Don’t think so,” Jake said. Wanting the focus off of himself, he asked, “So, why were you and my mom climbing trees?”
“Whose story do you want?” Mrs. Rannen asked, laughing as she sat down with her own snack of cake and milk.
“Both!” Anastasia and Jake chorused.
“Well, according to your mom, she had spotted a monarch butterfly caterpillar that she wanted to collect and examine before releasing it into the patch of milkweed behind her house,” Mrs. Rannen said.
“But Danaus plexippus lays its eggs on milkweed, not in a tree,” Jake mused.
“Geek,” Anastasia commented, grinning as Jake stuck his tongue out at her.
“Exactly – the part about the egg laying,” Mrs. Rannen corrected herself.
“No, it’s okay,” Anastasia told her mom. “Jake admits he’s a geek.” She tossed a crumpled napkin at Jake.
“Careful, Obstinate One,” Jake countered. “Geeks rule the world!” He tossed the napkin back at her.
“Now, now, children!” Mrs. Rannen commented. “Story time will end if you can’t behave.”
“Yes’m,” they replied, sticking tongues at each other from grinning mouths.
“As I was saying,” Mrs. Rannen continued, “Your mom claimed she had seen a monarch butterfly caterpillar on the apple tree next to my house, and climbed up to get it for ‘study before relocation’ – her words not mine, by the way.
“In truth, there was a boy who lived two streets over who delivered newspapers to the neighborhood. Your mom had a crush on him, but didn’t want him to see her, since she was so shy.” Mrs. Rannen smiled at Jake. “So, when she saw the boy coming on his bike loaded with papers, she climbed up the tree as fast as she could go so he wouldn’t see her.”
“Mom says she was the terror of the neighborhood as a kid,” Jake said.
“That was later,” Mrs. Rannen told him. “After she got over the shyness.”
“How did that happen?” Anastasia asked, leaning forward, her cake forgotten in her interest.
“You know I told you she climbed the tree as fast as possible, right?” Mrs. Rannen said. At their nods, she continued,
“Well, she went up fast, but didn’t stay up long, and ended up coming down even faster.”
“She fell out of the tree?” Jake asked.
“Right onto the paperboy. Knocked him right off his bike,” Mrs. Rannen confirmed.
“Oh, poor Mrs. Sinclair!” Anastasia exclaimed. “What happened then?”
“She jumped up, and started babbling about Danaus plexippus and apologizing like crazy. Then she started limping toward home, three houses down,” Mrs. Rannen answered.
“What did you do?” Jake asked, grinning. “Besides not letting her, going by your daughter’s actions, that is.”
“I helped the paperboy up and we talked her into letting him wheel her home on his bike,” Mrs. Rannen replied. “He said he knew first aid and offered to help stop the bleeding. I, being the good friend I am, accepted on her behalf, of course.
“Then I took off for my house and got the first aid kit.”
“You left them alone?” Anastasia asked. “Good job, Mom!”
“Of course I did, dear,” her mom said. “What kind of friend would I be if I didn’t put her in an uncomfortable situation with her crush who had offered to play knight in shining armor?”
“When I got to your mom’s house,” Mrs. Rannen told Jake, “Your mom was only red instead of bright red, and they were actually having a conversation. So, I handed over the first aid kit and said something about having to go home before I skedaddled.”
“I wonder what happened after that,” Jake wondered.
“Well, from what I gather, good things,” Mrs. Rannen told him. “Five years later, after they had graduated from the same college, they got married.”
“My dad was the paperboy?” Jake asked, incredulous, trying to imagine his parents meeting that way.
“Probably, unless you know of some other guy your mom married,” Anastasia teased him.
“Yep, it was your dad,” Mrs. Rannen told Jake, smiling. “They never told you that story?”
“No!” Jake replied. “They just said they met on the sidewalk in the neighborhood where they lived during high school.”
“Well, they did,” Mrs Rannen told him, getting up when the phone rang in the next room.
“Yeah,” Anastasia added. “They met on the sidewalk when your mom fell into his arms from the tree!” She added a flair with her arms and fell dramatically to the floor.
“You are a doofus, you know that?” Jake asked.
“You’re the doofus, I’m the goober,” Anastasia told him, getting off the floor. “Remember? Why do you call me that, anyway?”
“You ate peanuts as a snack every single day in kindergarten,” Jake replied. “Goober is another word for peanut.”
“You call me peanut?” Anastasia asked indignantly.
“You’re not exactly huge, you know,” Jake told her. “And it’s a nickname, not an insult.”
“But, peanut?” Anastasia exclaimed.
“Would you prefer Arachis hypogaea?” Jake asked.
“Let me guess, scientific name?” Anastasia said.
“Yep!” Jake replied.
“I’ll stick with goober,” Anastasia said. “I can’t believe you remember what I had for snack in kindergarten.”
Jake blushed. Opening his mouth to reply, he stopped cold as Mrs. Rannen returned and handed Anastasia some cash.
“That was your mom on the phone, Jake. We’re going to grab some dinner out together and reminisce.” Mrs. Rannen told them. “I told her we had been talking about how she and your dad met, and we decided the four of us should go out like we used to…have grown-up time.
“The money’s for you two to order pizza, Anastasia,” Mrs. Rannen told her daughter, walking toward the door to the garage. “I’m going to pick up your dad now. We’ll be back in a few hours.”
“Cool! Pizza night!” Anastasia exclaimed. Turning to Jake, she asked, “You in?”
“Sure,” he said. “My face hurts less, Mrs. R. Thanks for your help.”
“Oh, my pleasure dear,” Mrs. Rannen replied, smiling as she left the kitchen. “Maybe today will be a story to tell your own children some day.” She clicked the door shut behind her, leaving her words hanging in the air.
Cerulean eyes met apple green; possibilities filled the room.
© 2010 Jacqui Pitt