– Jared was always mom’s favourite.
– You know what mom told me? She went to the shoe store with him. They had a “going back to school” sale.
– Oh, come on! He’s starting university. That doesn’t apply to him! Plus, I can’t believe he went with mom.
– Shush! I’m telling the story. Anyways, he comes in, goes straight to the women’s section, sees a pair of low boots he likes – suede, red, low heels. He is admiring them. Mom waves at a salesperson and whispers his size. The lady is in the back, looking for the box. Jared hadn’t seen mom calling the girl or anything. He says “Can we get a servant to help?”
– Nooooooooo! I would’ve died! Everybody heard, I assume?
– With his booming voice? Yeah. They all acted as though nothing had happened. Very professional of them.
– Did he buy them?
– I didn’t ask. I was too busy berating mom for treating him like a little prince since he was born.
Susan is shaking her heading in disbelief.
– You know I believe in reincarnation, right? Don’t make a face, your turn to listen. In Portrait class, we have to research the art of portrait through the ages. I read about this painter who narrowly escaped death. He had painted a gay prince in Bavaria with his lover in a bathtub. There was a picture of the painting. Vivid kitsch colours. The prince was wearing a ruby red robe and soft red boots. Does that remind you of anybody?
– Oh, come on. That’s what I find stupid about this reincarnation business. Everybody is some type of prince or other.
– The guy really looked like Jared though. Same eyes, but the prince had extra padding, even a double chin. Did you know that court painters fleshed out their male models to make them look “healthy”? They found letters from court artists discussing the trade.
– Ha, Photoshop before Photoshop even existed. Funny how human nature stays the same through the ages. I guess the definition of what healthiness looks like varies through time, though.
– Speaking of health, I’m hungry.
– Let’s grab something before you get ‘hangry’.
– As if.
They’re walking through the mall, window-shopping. They point at high-heeled red shoes and giggle. The food court is bustling. They order thai and find a table. They dressed carefully, trendy above all. Maybe others will be hanging out. They spot a well-groomed youth, panhandling. “It’s Andy! He’s begging!” He’s keeping a low profile, approaching harried females, who presumably will be touched by his acne-riddled face and politeness as he extracts a bit of money from them.
– Who was HE in a previous life? A beggar, no doubt.
– A musician, a bard?
– What about the mother with the very obedient brainy kid at the table?
– A schoolteacher! (mimicking a stern voice) Children, sit up!
– (together) EAT YOUR GREENS!
They wave at Andy to come and sit with them. He’s bought two hot dogs and a milkshake.
– Nice hair.
He runs his fingers in the slicked-back hair, grimacing.
– What a man’s gotta do to eat in this town!
– How’s business?
– You’re not eating healthy food.
– Gotta feed the acne if I want to make a living!
– So, girls, I got enough for some weed if you’re interested.
They exchange glances.
– Maybe. Where?
– The park across from the church one hour after I’m done eating.
– All right.
They head to the park early and sit on the swings waiting for him. On the adult side of the park, there are a bunch of clipped bushes – some type of art. Closer to them is a skateboarding bowl. There are a few guys, one who seems pretty good. They walk over – it’s Andy. He’s gotten out of his schoolboy clothes and is wearing a gray hoodie and bad boy low-slung jeans. His bangs hang limply over one eye, the other sparkling devilishly. They wave and he glides over to where they are, hopping off in front of them and flipping the board expertly, catching it as it flies up in a spin. He gets out of the bowl reluctantly.
– You know skateboarding started out in empty pools? You have to watch “Dogtown and Z-boys.”
The girls are trying to act cool, but he can tell they just want a toke. He does too, so they gather back at the swings and share a few joints. They swing, waiting for them to take effect.
– How’d you get in the begging business?
– How’d you get in the police? I didn’t know they recruited so young.
She pouts. Looks at her shoes. Looks at his shoes.
– Nice Converse!
– Thanks. We shan’t stay too late. Your friends the cop will come sniffing at sunset.
They keep swinging, looking at the wonderful colours as the sun sets the sky ablaze. The colours are incredibly vibrant, shimmering, undulating.
– I can see the light waves. Can you see the light waves?
She waves her hands in front of her. Her sister is swinging hard, Andy is standing on his swing, going high.
– Watch me go higher and higher!
They laugh. Andy jumps off. “I can fly!” He lands softly, somersaults and lies down on a grassy hill. The girls flank him, look at the stars twinkling faintly.
– I am falling into the sky, whispers one. “Me too,” says the other. They stay as more stars come out. They make up constellation names and laugh. The grass tickles them. Headlamps pick them out, a voice is heard and footsteps approach.
– Evening, folks. Enjoying the fresh air?
They come to their senses.
– Yes, officer, but it’s getting chilly. We were just getting ready to head home.
They walk home together, the three kids. At the door of the house, the girls both give Andy a long goodbye kiss on the cheek at the same time. “Thanks for the lovely evening,” as they disappear in the house.
He walks off in the sunset, whistling.