The Spoons of Jupiter
by Tim Miller
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3, 4
Ms. Wagner, a math teacher, wearing all black for her role, came around the corner. “Boys, you’re going to miss the start of the assembly!”
We washed our hands and ran over to the assembly just as they were dimming the lights. We walked down the aisle. I couldn’t see anything. I slowed down, trying to see if there were any seats. It was packed.
Then Vanessa Welter and Becky Sorenstein waved toward us. They’re both pretty good-looking, even it they are a little snobby. C.B. is real good with the ladies, using his sense of humor and all. He went right over and sat down, pretending to accidentally sit on their laps first. They started giggling.
There was only one open seat. So I kept walking. I had walked all the way to the front row and now didn’t have a seat. Of course I was blocking people’s view of Dean Early’s introduction, a real captivating orator. Glen Smith, another humanitarian, calls me “Lurch.” Sure enough, he calls out, “Lurch, down in front.”
I stood there awkwardly with that frozen feeling. A lot of people were laughing. Then Dean Early snapped me out of it. He paused from his profound address, to say something else that will probably always stay with me.
I think I was on the verge of something really pathetic, like crying or telling everyone what I really thought of them, when an arm out of nowhere reached out and saved me. Sure enough, good old Mr. Fair grabbed me by the shoulder and pulled me down into his seat. He winked at me, and then headed over to lean against the wall.
I drifted back out into an orbit, floating around with all the things that were spinning in my head. I kept hearing Dean Early, telling the senior class, “Tom Bedlam, you’re going to be late for your own funeral.”
Once it was over, I did my vanishing act again. I was near the exit, so I slipped out after they turned the lights on. I headed straight to the parking lot. I have a 1978 Buick LeSabre. It’s the color of brown crap. For a while I used to drive quite a bit on the weekends, going out with everyone while they drank. You can bet I had a lot of friends. But then Will Boone, the starting QB, threw up in the backseat. I can still smell it, mingled with pizza.
I almost turned around and went back. Maybe I could still find Cindy. I was about to turn around, too, when someone called my name.
Of all people, Jason Shinman and his hat. He came running up.
“Damn, man, you gotta work the afternoon shift? You really bolted outta there. Can’t wait to leave this hell-hole?” He laughed a plastic laugh.
I didn’t say anything.
“It’s a good thing you’re so tall; I could see you amongst the cars.”
I almost punched him right in the brim.
“Anyway, man, are you going to prom?”
“I don’t know yet.”
“Well, I wasn’t going to go, since it’s so expensive, but then this afternoon outta nowhere this girl asked me.”
I don’t even know why I asked.
“Cindy Butterfield. I guess she has a college boyfriend or something that screwed her over at the last minute. You could say I’m doing her a favor. She already has the tickets so I don’t even have to pay. I’m pretty psyched.”
“Yeah, well, thanks, but there’s one problem.”
“Oh yeah, what’s that?”
“Well, I’m supposed to be delivering pizzas that night.”
“Do you think you could cover my shift, if you decide not to go? It should be a big money night.”
“I’ll let you know.”
He said something else, but I just walked away. I had to. I didn’t want him to see me cry.
As you can see from my visual aid, the numerous Jovian moons exhibit an astonishing variety of features. Many are captured asteroids that have changed little in the past 4.5 billion years, but others have shown extensive signs of past, recent, or ongoing activity. So if you get captured next time you play Capture the Flag, don’t despair, at least you won’t be held for billions of years!
I got in my pizza-puke-smelling brown Buick and drove off. I didn’t look back. I was driving pretty blind, I was so angry. I was lucky I didn’t get into an accident. I was thinking about what it would be like delivering pizzas to people’s prom parties. I started driving faster and, before I knew it, I was almost at my house before I realized I had to go to the shrink, the one I’ve been going to since my mom died.
I drove over to his office and took the stairs up. When I got to the office though, there was a young guy with a beard standing next to my shrink.
“This is Jared,” Dr. Hilgenberg said. “He’s my new associate, and I thought you might try talking to him this afternoon.”
“Sure, whatever,” I said.
“It’s nice to meet you,” he said.
We shook hands. I noticed he had the word “breathe” tattooed to his thumb.
“There’s a little meditation garden in back of the building. Why don’t we go there?”
“Sure, whatever,” I said again.
“Follow me.” He led me out of the office.
We went down the stairs and out a back door, then followed this gravel path around the building and back through some trees where there was a small opening with plants and a little fountain and a bunch of different stacks of balanced rocks.
“Have a seat,” he said, indicating a bench. We sat down and he started.
“The most important thing I can do for you today is listen,” he said. “To make you feel heard and, hopefully, understood.”
I nodded and stared at a stack of rocks.
“Is there anything upsetting you? Anything you want to share?”
I was quiet for a minute just listening to the trickle of the fountain. Finally I said, “What’s the point? I never get anywhere talking about it. It just goes round and round.”
So I took a deep breath and told him about it. The whole sordid drama starting back at Q-hall.
When I was finally done he went over and picked up a large rock with a big jagged point.
“Is it fair to say that the experience you just shared with me is like the side of this rock. Sharp. Painful to touch?”
“Let’s say this rock represents the memory you will have of not going to prom, and that not only do you have to carry it your whole life, but you will have to build on it in forming intimate relationships.”
He set the rock down with the sharp point up. “Would you agree that it would be hard to stack another rock on this? To try to build anything or reach another level?”
“What would it take, then, to make this large, jagged rock, to change it so it is more like this one over here: smaller. Flat. Smooth. Easy to build on?”
“True, that would work.” He laughed. “But I left my jackhammer up in the office.”
He paused for me to say something; when I looked away he started again. “I think that’s a good starting point for next week. You mentioned Faulkner and Joyce. Well, I would like you to try to write about this experience, maybe put it into a story. Use your sense of humor. As you write it, or maybe when you’re finished, see if you can view this experience differently, one that can be a foundation for understanding.”
He held out his hand. “And please bring it in,” he said as we shook. “I would like to read it.”
I got in my car. For the first time since I started going to a shrink, I actually didn’t feel worse leaving. When I got home, there was a message from C.B. on the answering machine.
“Hey Creeps, heard Shinman asked Butterfield. That’s what you get for screwing around all day. But give me a call. I think we might still have a date for you. Hal’s girlfriend has a friend from Lowland Park. Call me.”
When he said Hal, that’s when I remembered that I had to do a presentation tomorrow, senior ditch day, the last day of school, on of all things: the moons of Jupiter.
So in conclusion, together we can take a bird’s eye view of Jupiter and its moons. I know there aren’t birds in outer space, but just go with it. Looking down, (indicate poster) we see in the center the awesome gas giant Jupiter, the fifth planet from the sun with a mass two-and a-half-times that of all the other planets in the Solar System combined.
Orbiting relatively close to the planet are the four large Galilean moons that orbit in prograde motion, or the same direction as Jupiter’s rotation. (Indicate and show motion.) Farther out are two smaller moons that also orbit in prograde motion. Then, as we get further away, we see a tangled mess of smaller moons that orbit in retrograde motion, or the opposite direction of Jupiter.
It is possible, and even likely, that someday there will a collision amongst Jupiter’s outer moons. Especially if they find a moon amongst the retrograde that orbits with prograde motion. This could be quite a spectacular astronomical event, even greater than the time Mr. Fair bumped into Paul Deagan!
Th-th-that’s all folks! The information in this report comes from NASA and my encyclopedia at home. Are there any questions?
Author’s Note: On 17 July 2018, the International Astronomical Union confirmed ten more moons around Jupiter, bringing the total number to 79.
Copyright © 2018 by Tim Miller