Jeremy Beans, age ten, lived in an ordinary house on an ordinary street. He had a mom, a dad, a younger brother, Samuel, age six and an older brother, Tyler, age twelve. His friends at school just called him Bean for short.
Samuel was kind of fun because he could be talked into playing games. Tyler was no fun because he was always gone Doing Things.
One day, on a Saturday, Tyler was gone with Dad, working on his school science project. Jeremy was home with Mom, Samuel and Beamer, their dog. His job was to get his room cleaned up. Probably the worst job in the world and the one he hated the most. He and Sam were in the living room and they still had fifteen more minutes TV time.
The doorbell rang, and he could hear his mom.
“I’ll get it.”
The door opened, and mom had a short conversation with the UPS man and brought in a brown paper package.
“Hum,” she said, walking to the kitchen table.
“Who’s it from?” Jeremy asked. He followed his mother. Samuel was crowding his elbow, looking too.
“Your uncle Al.” She frowned looking at the package. “You know, the scientist.” She went to get a pair of scissors. “It’s not Christmas or anyone’s birthday, I don’t…”
She opened the package and a brownish square fell out. She picked it up and looked at it, frown lines creased her brow.
“I don’t know…” She turned it over and over. “I can’t see what it is supposed to be. A picture…? It seems kind of heavy…”
Sighing she put the brown square down on the dining room table. Jeremy looked at it.
“Look, Mom. There’s a kind of design on this side,” Jeremy peered at the square.
“Maybe he is trying out some new art design or something. I don’t know, he always was a little weird,” she replied.
The telephone rang, and his mother turned her head.
“Can I have it, Mom?” Jeremy asked.
Distracted, his mother was walking to the kitchen. “Ah, sure. I guess.”
She disappeared into the kitchen and Jeremy could hear her talking to someone.
“What is it, Jeremy?” Samuel asked.
“It’s a…it’s a…hum. A kind of picture.”
“Let me hold it.”
“No, you’ll just break it.”
“No, I won’t!”
“Yes, you will, you break everything.”
“And don’t start crying either,” Jeremy commanded. “Come on, we’ll put it up in our room and I’ll let you help.”
They both walked the picture back to their bedroom. There was a little hook on the back of the picture.
“Sam, go get the small hammer and a couple of nails from the drawer in the kitchen. Can you do that?”
Samuel nodded and ran for the kitchen. Jeremy walked around their room trying to figure out the best spot for the picture. He finally decided to put it across from his bed, so he could see it. Then, maybe he could figure out what it was supposed to be.
Samuel came running back in with the hammer and two nails.
“Mom got them for me.” He held them out for Jeremy.
Jeremy placed the picture, the hammer and the nails on the dresser. He pulled out a short pencil, made a little X on the wall and hammered in one nail. He didn’t like the way it looked, pulled it out and hammered in another one.
Samuel leaned on the dresser, breathless. Carefully, Jeremy picked up the picture, looked at the little hook on the back and pushed the picture over the nail. They both backed up and looked at it.
“Now what?” Samuel asked.
“Now…I don’t know. It’s just a picture. It doesn’t do anything.” They stood back and stared at the picture a moment.
“I think Mom is making some cookies,” Samuel said.
“What kind?” Jeremy asked.
Jeremy put down the hammer and they both made a beeline for the kitchen.
Later that afternoon, Jeremy was taking a light nap and heard a humming sound. He opened his eyes and looked around. What? He looked over and saw the picture was humming and glowing. He got up and went over to it. It started to turn different glowing colors. The colors were neon like and reminded Jeremy of glow magic markers; hot pink, vivid yellow, acid green, red-orange and a bit of navy blue. They swirled around each other.
He put his finger on the surface. It was warm. With a zap! and pop! Jeremy was sucked into the picture. He fell on a soft surface. Shocked and scared, he got up and saw he was on some green grass in a misty clearing. Looking around it looked like the mist was beginning to clear.
This is some kind of small forest. But where? Curiosity overtook him.
Walking through the forest he came upon a large lake. It was very blue. Large, fluffy clouds filled the sky. In the middle of the lake a huge water fountain sprayed water in every direction. Jeremy gazed around himself in amazement.
Where the heck?
Then, slowly from around the other side of the fountain, through the water mist, he saw the outline of a large, masted ship. It was moving his way.
He realized his mouth was hanging open and shut it when, faintly, in a distance, he could hear Samuel calling his name.
I should get back to my room, Jeremy thought.
The next moment he was standing in his room. He turned around and around. The lake was gone, the ship was gone, the forest was gone.
He stared at his hands and then the picture and shook his head. Wow! This is something! The first instinct was to run to mother and tell her about the picture.
No, she’ll just take it down and give it to dad and then he will send it back to Uncle Al. Maybe not just yet.
“Samuel, I’m in here,” he yelled.
His younger brother appeared around the corner looking frustrated.
“Jeremy, where have you been? I’ve been looking for you everywhere. Mom wants to go to the store.”
“Store, ah, sure. Let’s go.” Jeremy hustled his brother out of the room and glanced back nervously at the picture. To his relief, it had returned to its dull brown color. No hint of the neon glow was visible.
Later, that evening, Jeremy sat on his bed and stared at the picture a long time. Getting up he went into the kitchen. Mom was making dinner.
“Mom, where is that envelope the picture came in?”
“I think I put it in the paper recycle bin. In the garage.”
Jeremy opened the door to the garage and went out. The three bins were lined up like waiting soldiers against the wall. The green bin for garden stuff, the blue for recycle and the grey for regular trash.
He pushed the lid open and peered inside. On the top of a bunch of paper, sat the yellow envelope. He pulled it out and looked at it.
The envelope was addressed to him which was surprising. He hardly knew his uncle Al and had maybe met him only a couple of times. Seemed like the guy was always busy off somewhere, doing something. Not much time for family visits.
The labels on the envelope were hand written in black ink. There was his name, Jeremy Beans and their address. In the left corner it read: Dr. Alfred Beans, Kitt Pk., Tohono O’odham Nation.
What the heck? Jeremy thought to himself. Something to do with kittens?
He didn’t want to ask too many questions in case his parents decided It Meant Something, and he had to start telling them more about the picture.
Mr. Beans got home with Tyler and they all sat down to their spaghetti dinner. Mrs. Beans poured herself and her husband each a glass of red wine.
“Ah, red wine,” Mr. Beans commented. He nodded to his wife, “good for the heart.”
“Yes, dear,” she replied with a smile.
“What kind of meat is this?” he asked her.
“85% lean from the health-food store.”
“Perfect,” he commented and dug in. “Looks like Tyler is well on his way to getting his science project underway for the next big school science fair. I think he is going to do us proud.”
Tyler said nothing and kept shoveling food onto his plate. Both his parents beamed at him. He ignored them.
“So, anything happen around here today while we were gone?”
“We got a picture from Uncle Al,” both Jeremy and Samuel said at the same time.
“Whoa, whoa, slow down. A picture? From my brother?” Disbelief showed on his face. “Alice?”
Alice Beans shrugged. “Some little brown thing that came in the mail. I don’t know. Maybe he is taking up art or something.”
“Art?” David Beans looked at his wife, incredulous. “Al doesn’t have an artistic bone….”
“Well, I don’t know,” his wife replied. “He’s your brother. I gave up trying to figure him out a long time ago.”
“Humpt.” David Beans got some French bread off the plate. “Maybe I’ll look at it after dinner.”
Jeremy dropped his fork, then picked it up. He didn’t want his dad to do something with the picture, like take it away. Glancing at himself in the mirror over the sideboard, he saw nervousness. He was definitely going to have to keep his cool.
Later in Jeremy’s bedroom, they stood in front of the picture. Mr. Beans, Tyler, Jeremy and Samuel all stared at the little brownish square.
“So, what do you think it is?” Mr. Beans asked.
Jeremy gave a non-committal shrug and moved away. He plopped on his bed and picked up a baseball and started tossing it from hand to hand.
Tyler touched it and lifted it away from the wall, looked underneath and placed it back against the wall.
“It’s not a canvas, it’s much heavier.” He looked at his dad. “I could test it in my chem lab in the garage if you want.”
Jeremy’s heart skipped a beat.
“No, no,” David Beans waved his hands in the air. “Probably just some experiment my older brother was working on that didn’t work, and thinking it was kind of pretty,” he gave a little laugh, “thought our young man here might like it.”
Jeremy was studying his baseball closely.
“But it’s not pretty,” Samuel added. “It’s ugly.”
“Well,” Mr. Beans shook his head, “gift horse and all that. The envelope, I understand, was addressed to you, Jeremy.” He turned and looked at his son. “You want to keep it?”
“Yeah, I guess,” Jeremy was casual, “something different.”
“Okay, then. Well, I think Mom has some dessert. Last one’s a rotten egg!”
The trio scooted out of the room quick march. Jeremy sat and stared at the picture. When he was sure they were gone, he got up slowly and walked over to the picture. He touched it with his forefinger. In that one little spot, a faint orange glow appeared and there was the slightest hum. He quickly pulled his hand away and walked out of the room, closing the door behind him.
Next day, dad was back to work, and mom was busy in the kitchen with a shopping list. Her big purse was on the countertop with her keys and hot coffee mug. Her notebook with the list stuck out of the bag.
“Samuel, Jeremy, here please!”
The two shuffled lazily into the kitchen.
“Ok, it’s less than two weeks before school starts and I have to go get your supplies. Jeremy you still want the thin notebooks with the wire ring on the edge, right?”
He nodded at her.
“And Samuel, first day of first grade. How exciting! We’ll get you lots of crayons and colored pencils.” Samuel bobbed on his toes. “Now, Tyler is in charge when I am gone. Let’s not park in front of the TV all day, ok. Go outside and ride your bikes or something. Get some air.” She gathered up her stuff.
“Where’s Tyler, Mom?”
“He’s in the garage working on his project. Call if you really, really need something. If you’re good, I’ll get Subways for lunch.”
“Yay!” Sam jumped up and down.
“Okay, kiss, kiss.” She leaned down and kissed Sam. She tried to kiss Jeremy, but he leaned away at the last minute. “Okay, later.”
Jeremy stood at the glass slider and watched as his mom get into the SUV and pull out of the driveway. When she was gone he ambled out to the garage with Samuel at his heels.
“Whatcha doing?” He asked his older brother.
“Nothing you would have any interest in so scram,” Tyler turned back to a tiny arc welder and kept dripping bits of metal on a metal plate.
“Okay, well then we’re going down the street to see Sean.”
“Whatever,” his brother waved at him. “Don’t get killed. And, don’t make me call an ambulance.”
“Sure,” Jeremy slowly left the garage, walked down the driveway, circled back to the front of the house and went back through a side door.
“I thought we were going to Sean’s,” Samuel complained. “I think they have a new puppy.”
“Be quiet.” Jeremy went back into the room he shared with Sam and closed the door. “Now you can’t tell anybody about this, okay. If you do, I’ll tell Mom and Dad it was you put the hamster in the toilet.”
“It was an accident,” his brother protested. “I was just trying to teach him to swim.”
Jeremy rolled his eyes and then peeked out the door one more time to be sure Tyler wasn’t lurking in the hallway.
“Go sit down,” Jeremy pointed. Samuel sat on his bed.
Jeremy went over to the picture and laid his full hand on it. The picture immediately began to glow and hum.
“What’s that!” Samuel jumped off the bed.
“Shush, Tyler will hear you.” Jeremy put a finger to his lips. The size of the picture got bigger and the neon colors came back. The humming got louder.
“Come over here and hold my hand,” Jeremy held out his hand and the younger boy took it with reluctance. “Now hold on.”
Jeremy pushed against the portal and both boys fell through and landed on green grass.
“Wow! What just happened, where are we?” Samuel got up and turned around and around in amazement.
Jeremy got up and brushed himself off. The portal hung in the air and still glowed, but the humming was gone.
“Okay, let’s just use our scout skills like Dad taught us to map where we are so we don’t get lost coming back.” He looked up at the sky, the huge fluffy clouds were still there, moving lazily through blue sky with a slight wind. “The sun comes up in the east and sets in the west. Where’s the sun now, Samuel?”
“East?” The younger boy asked.
“That’s correct. It’s to our east. Let’s stack some rocks here just to make sure we know this is the spot. The lake should be over there through those little woods.
“Yeah, it’s a big lake, very cool. Last time I was here, there was this ship…”
“You were here before?” an incredulous Samuel asked. “Ooo, you didn’t tell Mom and Dad, you are going to be in so much trouble….”
“Hey. I told you before, this is our little secret. I mean, it came from Uncle Al. How bad can it be?”
Samuel shook his head.
“So, what. You want to stay here and wait for me?”
“Alright then, let’s do these rocks and go.”
They made a small marker with stones like Mr. Beans had taught them.
That done, Jeremy set off at a brisk pace in the direction he remembered the lake to be. They got through a short grouping of trees and …
“There it is, just like I thought!” Jeremy grinned at his brother. They moved down toward the lake. The enormous fountain was still there, in the middle, spewing giant columns of white, foamy water.
They came to the edge of the water. Samuel leaned over and touched the surface.
They stood there and admired the beautiful blue surface and then, like the last time, a large, masted ship started to come around the fountain in their direction.
“Jeremy,” Sam pointed excitedly, “a boat, a boat!”
“It’s not a boat, stupid, it’s a ship. A three-master, in fact.”
They both watched astonished as the ship sailed, seemingly by itself, up to the beach where they stood.
There was a large rope hanging over the side.
“Look, Samuel, a rope. We can climb on that way.” Jeremy started to wade out into the water.
“What if we need a ticket and don’t have one? They might throw us off.”
“Oh, come on scaredy cat.”
“I’m not a scaredy cat.”
“Look, Jeremy, there’s a little walkway.” Sam pointed.
A landing pier that Jeremy had not noticed before was to their right. It led right up to the ship’s side.
“Ok, come on then.”
They hurried over and ran down the pier. Jeremy pushed Samuel up the rope and climbed up after him. Pretty soon they were onboard. There didn’t appear to be anyone else there.
“Look!” Jeremy yelled, “the steering wheel.” He ran toward it. There was a large black hat perched on top of the wheel. He pulled it off and stuck it on his head. It fit perfectly.
“What about me?” Samuel whined.
“Look, there’s a red scarf thing over there. You can put that on and be part of the crew.”
Samuel ran and got the bandana. Jeremy helped him tie it around his head.
“Would you look at us?” Jeremy laughed. Samuel did a little jig around the deck.
“Where to now, Jer?” the little sailor asked.
“I don’t know. Maybe I’ll just try to steer this thing….”
To his amazement, the wheel responded to his touch and the ship began to move. Slowly, Jeremy turned the wheel and they ended up circling the fountain. Palm trees on the shore bobbed their head in salute as the boys sailed past.
“This is so fun!” Samuel ran from one side of the deck to the other, looking over the side.
“You better not fall in,” his brother yelled at him. “I don’t want to have to fish you out.”
This would be so cool to take home and show to Tyler. I bet that would show him a thing, Jeremy thought to himself.
As if on cue, there was a slight shudder to the ship and ever so slowly, the front end started to lift. Jeremy realized with shock that they were pulling out of the water into the air.
Samuel grabbed a mast. “What are you doing?” he screamed.
“We’re…uh…flying!” his brother replied.
They were completely airborne now and Jeremy steered the ship around the lake a couple of laps.
“Jeremy, I think I want to go home,” Samuel said, “this is kind of scary.”
“Okay, no problem,” Jeremy was more uncertain than he sounded. “Home it is.” He headed the ship back to the beach, past the grove of trees and toward the portal. He figured they were going to have to jump off the ship when it got close to the portal and let it go flying off into space.
However, a curious thing started to happen as the ship approached the portal. The entire ship started to shrink and get smaller. Jeremy and Samuel also began to shrink down.
Samuel ran to his brother and clung on for dear life.
Jeremy had nothing to say. The ship was shrinking, and it seemed to be pointing itself to the portal almost without his help. They got right up to the little hanging square.
“Jeremy, we’re going through!” Samuel yelled in Jeremy’s ear.
Then with a little Pop! sound they were through the portal and back in the boy’s bedroom. There were the two twin beds, made up with matching orange and brown plaid coverlets. Samuel’s Ted Bear was still on his bed. Jeremy’s baseball and mitt were on his bed. San Francisco baseball posters were on the wall. It was like they had never left.
“Jeremy, we’re back home.”
“Yeah, we are,” Jeremy whispered. “But, we’re small and we’re still on this ship.”
“Ooh,” Sam said.
The ship was floating through the air unaided.
“Can’t we just get down now?” Samuel pleaded.
“Just a few more minutes. Let’s see where it takes us.”
Jeremy could still steer, and he circled the bedroom. The ship then, seemingly with a mind of its own, headed toward the door. Jeremy thought for a minute they would hit the door and fall off.
Again, to his amazement, with a slight Pop! sound they were through the door and out in the hallway.
Beamer was lying down in the hallway having a morning snooze. Leisurely, they sailed over his head. With a jerk, sensing something, Beamer woke up and caught sight of the ship. He jumped up and started barking. Jeremy steered the ship higher, so Beamer couldn’t get it with his teeth. This close he could see the dog’s tawny brown/gold eyes and shaggy brown fur. They kept sailing down the hall and Beamer ran after them, nails clicking on the parquet flooring.
Soon, they were in the dining room and Paws, the cat, came around the corner to see what was going on. Shiny black fur with four white paws, he jumped up on the dining room table and started swatting at the ship.
“Paws stop it! Stop it,” Jeremy yelled at the cat who ignored him. They were about to sail past the dining room table when Paws did a giant leap and hooked a set of claws into the side of the ship. The ship began to list dangerously.
“Sorry, pal. Hate to do this.” Jeremy dropped two planks down and a surprised Paws fell to the floor. Recovering quickly, both animals kept chasing the ship.
“Look, Jer!” Samuel exclaimed, “the kitchen window.” Indeed, the kitchen window had been left open and this one had no screen. Jeremy steered the ship right through the open window.
Outside now, the cool autumn breeze buffeted the ship. The sails on the mast blew out to their full extent. Jeremy steered the ship around the backyard several times.
“Can I have a turn?” Samuel asked his brother. “I haven’t had a turn yet.”
“Well, I guess. But don’t run into anything.”
Happily, Samuel grabbed the big wheel. They were nearing the apple tree when there was a screeching sound and Jeremy looked up. In the sky, dropping quickly was the neighborhood hawk.
“The tree!” he exclaimed and jerked the wheel of the ship into the branches of the tree. The hawk whizzed by and screeched.
“Boy, that was close.” Samuel said. “You take it back,” and he stepped away from the wheel and sat down. “How are we going to get back now with that bird and everything?” He plopped his chubby face in both hands.
The ship balanced precariously on a tree limb.
“I know.” Jeremy started to whistle. “Call to Beamer and Paws, they can come out through the dog door.”
Both boys started yelling for the animals as loudly as they could. In a flash, Beamer was scooting through the dog door with the cat fast behind. Beamer spied them in the tree and started jumping up and down barking. There was another screech, higher up and the sound faded away.
“I think we’re okay now,” Jeremy peered up through the branches. “Let’s go.”
Samuel was holding onto the front of the ship and Jeremy turned the wheel and steered it out of the tree and back toward the house. Beamer kept barking and Paws was following close, doing the stealth bomber thing.
Jeremy steered the ship back inside and straight back to their bedroom. With another Pop! sound they were back in their room. Jeremy steered the ship back to the picture and told Samuel to climb off. Sam jumped down to the dresser and Jeremy followed him. The ship seemed to pause for them. He patted it one last time.
“Time for you to go home now, old thing.”
Promptly, the ship sailed back into the picture which closed behind it. There was a slight sucking sound. Sam and Jeremy jumped off the dresser just as they resumed their normal size. Jeremy looked, and the picture had returned to its dull brown color again.
They both lay on their beds laughing. There is a slight knock on the door and it opened. Tyler stood there.
“What’s going on, you two?”
They stared at him innocently. “Nothing,” they both said at the same time.
“I thought I heard some funny noises. And why was Beamer barking like that?”
“Well, I better not…”
“You know, Tyler. You sound just like Dad.” Jeremy said to his older brother.
“Yeah, and your point?”
Tyler closed the door with an expression of disgust. They could hear footsteps retreating down the hall.
“I don’t think you’re a moron,” Samuel said to Jeremy.
“Well, thank you, Sam. That’s very nice.”
“What’s a moron?”
Jeremy laughed then Sam laughed. They both rolled back and forth on their twins.
At least for Jeremy, he couldn’t wait to go back in the portal again
It was a Saturday and Jeremy Beans, aged ten, was very bored. Dad was working ‘overtime’ whatever that meant. Mom was gone shopping and then to yoga class. Tyler was in the garage with his newest girlfriend.
Plus, Sean, his best friend from school was down with chickenpox and it was Absolutely Forbidden to go anywhere near him. Not even to sit and just talk to him.
Bored, bored, bored. He lay on his twin bed and threw his favorite hardball from hand to hand. His eyes came to rest on the little dull brown square hanging on the wall across from his bed.
A month ago, the mysterious package had arrived via UPS to their house. The envelope was addressed to him and was from their Uncle Al. Their uncle, a scientist, lived somewhere up in the northern part of Arizona. Jeremy didn’t understand why his uncle had sent the package to him. He hardly knew the man and had met him maybe twice in his life.
Uncle Al did research with stars and planets. Jeremy thought hard. Planets? Well, something like that. He yawned and stared out the bedroom window. It was fall and the air was clean and bright. The leaves of the maple in their back yard were starting to turn brown and yellow. When they drifted slowly down to the backyard it would be his job to rake them up. But, not quite yet.
He liked autumn. His favorite time of year actually. Halloween was just around the corner. He was working his brain to come up with a really good costume for this year. Sean would be better by then and they could go Trick or Treating together. His younger brother, Samuel, would of course whine and insist on coming along. Maybe they could park him with his mother just one more year. Tyler, his older brother, now officially a teen since summer wouldn’t want to go.
Tyler was insufferable most days. But now with the new girlfriend…. Sally Sweet – Jeremy called her. The girl’s name was really Sally Swenson, but Jeremy like to shorten it. He could hear Tyler and Sally in the garage. She was giggling.
“Gag,” Jeremy said out loud. He tossed the baseball at the trashcan and it landed inside with a Whump!
“Landed in one,” Jeremy crowed and jumped off his bed to retrieve the ball. He could hear the TV in the living room blaring cartoons. Samuel, age six, would be glued to the set.
Jeremy wandered over to the brown square on the wall. He put a tentative finger to the square and once again, it started to glow with a slight neon orange color. The familiar humming sound started. He glanced over at the digital clock on the bedside table. 10:30 a.m.
Hum, he thought to himself. How long would Mom be gone? He got out his wristwatch and put it on. He did the numbers in his head. She had been gone thirty minutes already. She would go to yoga, that was an hour, at least. Then, shopping. That would be an hour and then drive home. He pulled out a pad and added it up. That would probably give them until 1:30 p.m. He would tell Tyler they were going to the baseball field to practice with the bat. He would even pull out the bat to make it look real. Set the timer on his watch so he didn’t forget the time. They could be back in plenty of time.
He sat and thought. Did he really want to take Samuel with him? No, he didn’t. But if he disappeared, Samuel might come looking for him. Then, Jeremy pondered, if he didn’t find his older brother, Sam might panic and blab. Yeah, blab. That would be majorly bad. Mom and Dad would take the picture away for sure and then…
Jeremy went to the closest and pulled out his bat. He swung it a couple of times for practice. He stuck the baseball in his back pocket.
Water bottle, yes. He found his small backpackand stuck the water bottle in there. Then, going to the kitchen, he pulled open the big cupboard. Hum…. peanut butter crackers, yes. Apples, right. Chocolate bar. Oh good, Mom got the kind with almonds. He loved those. He stuffed them in the pack and shrugged the bag over his shoulders.
to be continued…