Chapter 17: The Jokester
“Catch Bongo,” Charlie said. Bongo bounded and caught a berry between his fingers. He gobbled it right up.
“My turn to throw it,” Jeffrey said. Jeffrey threw a berry straight up and it landed in front of Jeffrey’s feet. Charlie giggled.
“Try again,” Charlie said.
“I will,” Jeffrey said. He launched one into the air, but it sailed over Bongo’s head.
“I can’t throw. I’m not good at it,” Jeffrey said.
“I bet you could if you attempted once more,” Charlie said.
“What if I use magic to assist you?”
“Magic doesn’t exist.”
“And who told you that?”
“Of course Oliver told you.”
“Why do you say so?”
“Because Oliver doesn’t believe in anything. He’s no fun. Oliver likes to make everything realistic, calm, and his annoying way. Don’t listen to him.”
“So magic exists?”
“Sure,” Charlie fibbed. “Go try it again and I’ll say the magic words.” Jeffrey picked up a snowball and gazed at Charlie.
Charlie grabbed his own chunk of snow and stood behind his brother. “Abra-cadabra,” Charlie said. Jeffrey threw his snowball, but so did Charlie at the same moment. Charlie’s traveled straight to Bongo who caught it in no time.
Jeffrey cheered. “You’re right, magic does exist! I threw it and Bongo caught it!”
A snowball fell right in front of them, Jeffrey’s own snowball.
Charlie paced back while Jeffrey studied it. His eyebrows lowered and lowered. Jeffrey turned to his brother, with steam smoking out of his ears. He fumed as Charlie made his getaway. “You get back here. You threw that to Bongo, didn’t you?” Jeffrey said.
“I might’ve had a trick up my sleeve,” Charlie said.
“How dare you!”
“Oh come on, Jeffrey. Even you knew you stink!”
“Hey! I didn’t say that!”
“I’m telling Oliver,” Jeffrey said.
“If you do, I won’t share any of my next cake with you,” Charlie said.
“Oh yes I would. And I’m planning on making a cinnamon apple cake next—your favorite,” Charlie said. Jeffrey covered his mouth and gasped.
Ah, back when the Rubin household filled with warmth from the kitchen. When one could smell a fresh treat arriving from the oven; whether they sprinkled and rolled cinnamon or powdered sugar over doughnuts and cookies or poured shiny chocolate glaze over layer cakes. A love of culinary work struck Charlie at a young age for when he was little, he often watched Betty do many of the house chores when they didn’t play. None of them caught his attention like cooking and baking.
“Whisk the eggs a little faster, Charlie,” Betty said.
“They may fly out of the bowl if I do,” Charlie said.
“No eggs will fly out in my kitchen no matter how fast you whisk them,” Evelyn said.
“There,” he said.
“Charlie, it’s great so far. Let me put it in the oven. I know this dessert will please your father.” Evelyn popped the sponge cake into the oven.
“Oh Betty, I’m so pleased he’s getting a week off so we can spend more time together. We need time as a family,” Evelyn said.
“Certainly,” Betty said.
“The cake has finished baking. All we have to do is roll it up and then…” Charlie said.
“And then we have a Swiss roll,” his mother interrupted.
“Never forget the filling,” Betty said.
“How could we ever?” Evelyn said.
“We couldn’t!” Charlie said, “that would be like Father carrying his briefcase without his papers inside.”
Evelyn giggled and hugged Charlie. “You know your daddy.”
“Why don’t I get the paper so it doesn’t stick to the counter,” Betty said.
“I got it, Betty. Let’s put the filling on,” Evelyn said.
They squirted their orange filling on top. Charlie spread it across the cake with a spatula. He stuck his finger in for a taste, but Evelyn caught him in the act.
“Hold it, mister. No frosting for you.” She held him back with a hug. “On three we roll. One, two, three!” she said. Together they rolled.
“All finished,” Charlie said.
“Well done,” Betty said. “I shall bring it into the dining room to surprise everyone.”
“Splendid for sure. In good timing as well. James should arrive any minute,” Evelyn said. “I’ll go carry Jeffrey and Eloise down to welcome their father.”
“Can you manage holding both at once?” Betty asked.
“Yes. All I must do is help Eloise get hold of the railing and she can come down on her own,” Evelyn said.
“My, they’re growing fast,” Betty muttered.
Evelyn removed her apron and sauntered out the kitchen. “Kids, get ready. Father’s coming. Father’s coming!”
“When? When?” Oliver and Lizzy jumped up from a card game and hurried to the staircase.
“Any minute. Clean up your game,” Evelyn said.
“Ooh I can’t wait,” Lizzy said.
“Ellie, Jeffrey, up in my arms you go. Your Father is coming home. I’m so excited.”
“I’m ho-ome,” James said, shutting the door and removing his coat.
“Daddy!” Lizzy said.
“Father!” Oliver said.
“Oh James! You’re back,” Evelyn said. She swooped him in her free arm and pecked him on the cheek.
“It hasn’t been that long, has it? I’ve been at the house all this time,” James said.
“Yes, but you’ve arrived when we sleep and left before dawn. With five children, we need a father around.”
“You will have one for the next seven days without interruption,” James said.
“Pappy!” Ellie said.
“Darling,” he said. He lifted Ellie into his arms.
“Father, would you like to see my Swiss roll? It’s cooled and ready to eat,” Charlie said.
“Well, why not? Dessert as a family sounds great,” James said. They headed into the dining room and gathered around the table.
“Hey Lizzy, it’s the ugly duckling and that yellow thing in Oliver’s hands,” Charlie said.
Lizzy giggled. “Charlie, that was a mean one.”
“I learned it from Ruth,” Charlie said.
“Since when would anything from Ruth have good use?” Oliver said.
“I found it funny,” Charlie said.
“I didn’t ask,” Oliver said. He placed Quacker into the water. “Now, where’s Jeffrey?”
“He met up with Ellie,” Lizzy said.
“Knock knock,” Charlie said.
“Not again!” Lizzy said.
“Come you two. Let’s teach Charlie some good jokes to tell,” Oliver said.
“I learned plenty from Father,” Charlie said.
“So what good jokes do you know, Oliver?” Lizzy asked.
“Knock-knock jokes?” Charlie asked.
“No, Jeffrey uses those.”
“How about riddles?” Lizzy asked.
“More like word-puzzles.”
“Then what do you know?” Lizzy and Charlie asked.
“Sorry, but they’re much too complex for you all to learn.” Oliver said.
“You just said you wanted to teach me new jokes.”
“C’mon, Oliver. I’m almost nine and he’s almost twelve. We can learn one or two.”
“Not today. I changed my mind.”
“I don’t need to learn jokes. I can go practice my magic tricks,” Charlie said.
“Bye, Charlie,” Oliver called.
“Well…” Lizzy said.
“Now I can tell you a few of them. You can handle them, but not your brother. He wouldn’t understand,” Oliver said. Lizzy snickered.
Pranks, jokes, and magic tricks; all a collection of things Charlie liked to do. When he left Lizzy and Oliver, he stole one of Oliver’s miniature decks of cards.
“Now who can I show my trick too? Oliver…no, he’d think that the trick stinks. Lizzy…but she’s with Oliver. Wait! I can show Ellie and Jeffrey! This will amaze them,” Charlie said. “Ellie! Jeffrey!” He headed down the hill where Jeffrey played with Bongo and Ellie.
“What, Charlie?” Ellie asked.
“Sit down. I have a magic trick to show you,” Charlie said.
“Show us, show us!” Ellie said. Jeffrey hobbled to them.
“I guess if you two want to see it this bad I’ll have to.” Charlie mixed the cards one more time. He glanced to see if his siblings looked his way.
They had their eyes fixed on the cards. What should I do? They can’t look at this part.
“Woah! A flying rabbit! Over there.” Charlie pointed to the sky. His brother and sister’s gullible heads cranked over.
“Where?” Jeffrey asked. Ellie gazed across the sky. Charlie peeked at the bottom card.
“Oh you missed it. Now, back to the real magic. Ellie, pick a card, any card,” Charlie said.
“Why don’t I get to choose?” Jeffrey asked.
“Because…you got to last time,” Charlie said.
“What do I do now?” Ellie asked.
“Without showing me, show it to Jeffrey. Then put it on top of the deck so I can reshuffle,” Charlie said.
“Ooh, it’s a…” Ellie slammed her hand over Jeffrey’s mouth. Whew! Close call.
“Here.” Ellie planted the card on top.
“I’ll shuffle the deck,” Charlie said. Really though, he cut the cards and kept track of Ellie’s card.
“What next?” Jeffrey asked.
“I will go through each one until I find the one Ellie picked,” he said. Charlie flipped the cards face up and laid them before the eyes of his siblings. Charlie lifted one card in front of them.
“Was this your card?” Charlie asked.
“How’d you know?” Jeffrey asked.
“Amazing, Charlie.” Ellie clapped. “Can you believe it, Alice?”
“What’s happening over here?” Lizzy asked.
“You missed it. Charlie showed us the most spectacular magic trick,” Ellie said.
“You guys say all his tricks are the best.” Lizzy giggled.
“She just takes it for granted. Lizzy doesn’t know what she’s talking about,” Charlie said.
“Attention all Rubin children! Meet me at the top of the hill this instant,” Oliver said.
“I wonder what it is,” Ellie said.
“Race you guys there,” Charlie said.
“I’m already ahead,” Lizzy said.
“Hey, wait up,” Jeffrey said.
“There you all are,” Oliver said. His siblings formed a half circle around him. Lizzy smiled, Ellie mumbled some things to Alice, and Charlie and Jeffrey looked confused to why they were there.
“I love it here, Oliver. May we please stay another day?” Lizzy asked.
“Alice and I wish to as well,” Ellie said.
“As do I,” Charlie said.
“And I,” Jeffrey said.
He peered at each one of their sparkling faces. They smiled and glimmered. When he got to Lizzy, he couldn’t help but smile too. “Well, we can stay one more day after today. So long as in two days…”
“Thanks, Oliver,” Lizzy interrupted.
“Yay,” Jeffrey said.
“So, what were you going to say?” Charlie asked.
“Not important. Why don’t you all enjoy the region before two days roll around,” Oliver said.
The first three years of life for Oliver Jacob Rubin were a cup of tea. Mom and Pop spent every minute gazing at their little boy. Then around the corner one more arrived, and then another, and two more after that. With each new addition to the Rubin family, less and less attention floated to the oldest of the bunch. So as attention seemed to drift off, he started to give it to himself.
“Attention!” Oliver said, marching down the red staircase. “It’s time we headed into the snow for battle,” Oliver said.
“Oliver, could you be quiet? Your brother and sister need to nap,” Evelyn said.
“You mustn’t wake them. No one can be happy when they’re screaming,” James said.
“Well, I’m going outside,” he said. He crossed his arms over his chest. “You won’t hear from me then.”
“Yes, dear,” Evelyn said. “Make sure Charlie and Lizzy keep warm.”
“What about me?” Oliver muttered to himself.
Back outside, Lizzy and Charlie shivered in their puffy snow clothes.
“It’s cold, Oliver,” Charlie said.
“Don’t act like such a sissy.”
“Can I go back inside?” Lizzy asked.
“No. I’ll give you a lift,” Oliver said. “Off we go, into the snow!”
Oliver turned back, but Charlie hadn’t taken a step down the stairs.
“Charlie, what are you waiting for?” Oliver asked.
“I don’t want to go,” Charlie said.
“Charlie!” Oliver said.
“Charlie!” Oliver said.
“What?” Charlie said.
“Did you use my deck of cards for your magic trick?”
“Hand them over,” Oliver said.
“Don’t you have three other decks packed in the backpack?”
“Yes, but I need four for spite-a-malice. May I please have my cards back?”
“Here,” Charlie said.
“Great. Don’t touch my stuff ever again. Who wants to play spite-a-malice?” Oliver asked.
“Me!” Jeffrey said.
“You don’t even know how to play,” Oliver said.
“Jeffrey!” Ellie giggled.
“I’ll play with you, Oliver,” Lizzy said.
“Perfect. How ’bout we go to the cave so the cards don’t get blown away?”
“Works for me,” Lizzy said. “Coco, stay with Ellie.”