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You can just peel open your skin & become the stars.
`-Nesreen Jaber


The two look at one another, -completely mystified. Jupiter stretches her arm to touch the girl’s face & asks, ‘What is your name?’ ‘Atlas.’ Jupiter repeats the name in her mind three times: At-las At-las At-las ‘It is very nice to meet you Atlas; you are the first of many on this adventure of mine.’ ‘Adventure?’ ‘You oughta’ know a lot about that.’ Jupiter’s eyes begin to dart all over Atlas’s body, first at her swollen lip and then at her half-shut right eye. ‘You must not wear your helmet a lot, do you?’ ‘Helmet?’ ‘Oh-maybe you call it something different. It’s what you wear on your head when you ride a bike.’ ‘Bike?’ ‘Oooh, maybe you call bikes something different as well. That’s very likely.’ Atlas begins to think maybe her mom is right about aliens. ‘Yeah, bikes, ‘ya know: those things with two wheels and a bell on the handle if you’re real lucky?’ ‘No. We do not have bikes here.’ Jupiter leans up and stares at the scorched sand, wondering why on Earth she is sitting on a pile of peanuts. The land looks a lot like Summa. She landed in a weeded field; long, sporadic tufts of grass spike up randomly. A forest of sorts borders the horizon with trees she is unable to readily identify. Jupiter stands and dusts off particles that scatter themselves on her shorts as well as nibbling on the pile of peanuts she landed upon. She tugs at the bottom seam of her t-shirt and shrieks at the site of a large animal hopping across the field. Atlas rolls her eyes. ‘Oh come now. You have bikes, but you don’t have kangas?’ ‘Kangas?’ ‘A kangaroo? Come on now, mate. Where ‘ya from?’ ‘No way, dude. You have to go first! I’ve traveled so far just to meet you.’ Atlas says nothing and looks firmly back at Jupiter. ‘Fine, I’ll spill first, but then you have to answer all of my questions. Deal?’ Atlas turns her head to the side and squints a little. ‘Just say “deal” and we’re good.’ ‘Umm, d-eal.’ Jupiter opens her mouth and takes a step forward. Her legs crumble beneath the weight of her body for she never gained a bearable equilibrium from the trip. She lands on the ground with a thud and her head begins to swim. Sounds of Frankie knocking all around the time machine fill her head as her eyesight begins to fade. Atlas kneels next to Jupiter and slaps her cheeks. ‘Wake up! Come on, you can do it. Wake up!’ Jupiter falls into a dream, one in which repeats the cluster of happenings that transpired before she crash-landed in 18th-century Australia. *** Jupiter sits barefoot, curling her toes as she eats chocolate pudding & sprinkles from a star-dusted, cobalt blue bowl, marveling at the beginning of yet another sunrise, a habitual ceremony she never tires of. Summa, Nevada rests at the valley of a mountain. The sun’s first spill of light over the edge of the mountain’s peak satisfies Jupiter’s first curiosity of the day. She leans back on a wooden beach chair, each plank a different hue of yellow: lemon chiffon, egg yolk, pineapple soda, un-mellow yellow. Sitting in such a chair makes Jupiter feel as if she is in the absolute center of the sun’s core. Just as she settles in for the view, Clyde Fox walks right onto the veranda that wraps its way around Jupiter’s home. ‘Well, well, well. Look what the dog dragged in.’ Clyde Fox winks and tips her hat to Jupiter. ‘Hello, my sweet love. How are we this morning?’ ‘The day has just begun, Clyde. I feel happy now that the sun is up.’ Clyde Fox removes her hat. ‘Hey, Jupe. Word around is Jerome’s almost finished with that invention of his.’ She opens her eyes so wide Clyde thinks the eyeballs in Jupiter’s head will roll out of her skull, onto the floor, and out into the river. ‘No way, dude. He said it would take years.’ Clyde Fox smiles putting her hat back on and, as she walks off the veranda, looks back at Jupiter. ‘Maybe he was wrong.’ Jupiter watches Clyde Fox float into the horizon. She sputters with her hands for just a moment and then reaches for her walkie talkie and presses a side button. ‘Frankie Epic, this is Jupiter Boots. Do you copy? Done.’ A split second passes by and then: ‘This is Frankie Epic. I copy. Done.’ ‘Clyde Fox just told me Jerome is finished. Done.’ Frankie Epic’s giggle chimes in and out over the radio waves. ‘Jupiter, everyone knows that. Done.’ ‘I DIDN’T KNOW THAT SHOULDN’T I BE THE ONE THAT KNOWS THAT? done.’ ‘Well, you know now. Grab your boots and meet me in the back right corner of the Yard. I think I found something. Done.’ ‘AyAyAy, what a day this is turning into. I’ll be there in 17 minutes. Done.’ Jupiter sets down the walkie talkie and stands. She reaches for the sky, stretching every muscle and limb from her fingers to her tippy toes, like an alley cat at dawn. Shaking her head, waking herself up, Jupiter darts to the mudroom at the edge of her home. Opening the door, she stumbles over cowboy boots, tennis shoes, biking shoes, plush cotton slippers, those strange toe shoes that fit like socks, sequenced red flats, bright yellow rain boots, black stilettos, river slip-ons, hiking boots. She bends at the knee, shuffling through the mound of soles to find the left and right white-laced shoes. An ankle bearing shoe made out of thick canvas top stitched into a waffle bottom gum outsole. These shoes are perfect for the Yard: the thick sole defends against litter while maintaining the lightness necessary for climbing the summit of any trash pile. SUCCESS. Jupiter laughs as she ties up the mini strands of rope looped through the metal eyelets. She thinks of the machine and slips her shoes right back off. She opens the door leading into the house and runs to her bedroom. Jupiter swings the closet doors open so fast they sway for a few seconds. Brushing the hair out of her eyes, she stands on the tips of her toes to reach the top shelf where she keeps the bioluminescent rain boots Jerome crafted for her exact foot size. Jerome told her that in a time of desperation, should she tap the tip of the boots together, she shall return to his humble garage, safe & sound in the machine. Jupiter thinks back to the moment Jerome told her that the North Star shined the brightest so guide us home. He also said the North Star no longer shines for us, as it has burned out exquisitely. Ex-quis-ite-ly. Ex-quis-ite-ly. Ex-quis-ite-ly. She grabs the boots and stuffs them inside a backpack. A smile drenches across her face as she throws the bag over her shoulder and leaves, once again, tying her canvas shoelaces. The sun rises higher as Jupiter darts across the veranda and leaps off the stairs, rushing to her bicycle. She steps over faux cherub sculptures, a busted mandolin, uncorked wine bottles, & compost bins. Jupiter swings her right leg over the frame of the bike and takes off. Jupiter rides along the narrow path that leads to the front yard. Swerving into the right turn, her foot snags the patch of sugar snap peas and rips a stem from the root. ‘DARN IT.’ She halts the bike, picks the plant from the pedal, and eats the pod. Then she is off once again. Jupiter’s front yard, like every yard in Summa, overflows with snow peas, carrots, beets, lettuce, squash, sugar snap peas, peppers, watermelons, and wild flowers. Summa’s ancestors created an irrigation system for the agriculture by digging a human-made river that flows from Lake Mead through the town. The large stream of sacred liquid doubles as a form of transportation. Free of charge, fantastically bright yellow and hot pink tubes sprinkle themselves along the water for yearning occupants planning to go nowhere fast. Canoes are anchored to wooden posts every half-mile or so for urgent matters. ~ Frankie Epic sits atop the Yard’s highest summit, enjoying the pinnacle position in which he is situated, paying close attention to the form of his crisscrossed legs. One movement could spark an avalanche of flying aluminum cans and worn tires. He scans the southern edge of Summa anticipating Jupiter’s dazzling descent down Devil’s Hill. The talk of legends states that if one can ride from the peak of that hill, hands in the air, without so much as a glance at the handlebars, all the way down, one can attempt any feat. Frankie and Jupiter almost always reroute their course of action in order to fly down that monstrous wave of hard-dusted ground, hands and eyes drawn upward. Jupiter’s success rate is optimal, having never fallen. Frankie spilled once, wiping out half way down the hill. Frankie’s bike could feel his hesitation, and not trusting his energy, began to wobble out of his control. He choked and pulled the brakes, catapulting himself ten feet forward. Road rash gnawed his body as he slid across the sandy, rocky ground. Ahhh, there she is. A smile peels across Frankie’s face as he watches Jupiter fly down Devil’s Hill. He thinks back. “You shouldn’t have lost your nerve. You have to be sure of yourself in this life.” He smiles deeper. She’s right, and gosh, I do need to wear my helmet. Frankie Epic & Jupiter Boots have been best mates for a lifetime. Frankie tries to remember their first memory together, but nothing comes to mind. Jupiter has intertwined herself so closely to his world that it’s difficult to pinpoint the beginning of their story. The pair have found themselves in many binding agreements. Jupiter refuses to reject opportunity; no favor too trivial, no dare too bizarre. For instance, she and Frankie stay up once a month, all night long, guarding jalapeños. Roberta Sway is a medicinal healer on the north side of Summa who insists cottontail rabbits and pocket gophers are after her peppers, but only on the night following a full moon. Roberta cannot stay up if the sun is not out because moonlight is bad for her skin, so she asks Jupiter to watch over the precious plants & scare away any mortal creature that dares even thinking about a pepper heist. Jupiter helps people get down from things. Skinny Wicked has a tendency of climbing Summa’s old water tower, insisting he can find liquid in it, and his father, Harlem, asks that Jupiter talk Skinny down. Skinny isn’t trying to hurt himself, he just gets too hopeful sometimes and lingers at the top. He finds descending the ladder too overwhelming after finding the water basin empty. It’s not that Harlem can’t do it, he just feels likes Jupiter has more patience for the habit. Summa’s residents have micro agreements with Jupiter, many are routinely tended to, and others arise haphazardly. Frankie tags alongside Jupiter whenever he is not off gallivanting through his own adventure. Jupiter tears into the junk yard, pebbles and dust shroud her as she hops off the bike. She snatches the walkie talkie hanging from the left handlebar. Before she gets the chance to press the call button, static cracks and then Frankie’s voice cries out, “Up here! Done!” and hurls a dirty diaper at Jupiter from above. She glances up at the sound and sidesteps the flying joke. Frankie sails down the mountain of garbage, raining such a downpour of trash on Jupiter, she has no other option than to simply take the onslaught. She giggles. ‘Gross. What did you find?’ ‘I think I found a parachute, deployed, obviously, but if we can figure out a way to…’ ‘OUCH! What the-‘ Jupiter’s elbow hits something sort of hard & it bent a little upon her impact. She turns to look at the obtrusion and covers her eyes from the light reflected. ‘Like I was saying, if we can figure a way to-“ ‘Ohhhmygosh, Frankie, stop talking.’ Jupiter’s arms begin to swim through a sea of plastic bottles, disposable canteens slide into new mountains all around the thing. Frankie turns and immediately joins in the pursuit of unearthing a monster of real historic legend. The two stand back in awe: a peach colored, rusted automobile stares back at them. Jupiter moves around the mechanism, ooh-ing and ahh-ing. She has never seen such a word, let alone, chrome-plated on a machine: DeVille. De-Ville. De-Ville. De-Ville. Frankie snaps his fingers. ‘I think this is a, umm… He scratches his head. Cadillac! Yeah, I recognize that little emblem from a manual I flipped through at Jerome’s. It’s on every single car they ever made. Weird, huh?’ Jupiter nods. ‘Uh huh.’ She grabs a wire hanger and jimmy’s the trunk’s lock. It pops open, spraying dust all around the two. Sitting in the center lays a milk crate full of vinyl records preserved in air tight plastic sleeves. Jupiter can hardly believe it. She thinks of Jerome’s garage turned laboratory. Miscellaneous science experiments are sprinkled throughout the lab: a mini wind turbine that pulls on a series of belts to refine cooking oil into bio-diesel; busted out of shape by the west wind, no longer in use. A reassembled toaster capable of fitting the width of a doughnut, still in use. A record player with dual CD capability & though the CD selection is limited, the vinyls are nearly extinct. Frankie dances all around her and grabs the hair on his head. ‘Jerome is going to FREAK.’ He launches an all-out investigation. ‘Look at this one.’ Frankie gasps, pulling out Fresh Fruit in Foreign Places by Kid Creole & the Coconuts. ‘We have to give this to him, first thing, okay?’ Jupiter nods her head as she lifts the crate and straps it to the plank extended above her back bike tire. Frankie mounts his bike and the two head to Jerome’s. ~ Jerome sits upright on a work bench. His large-frame glasses magnify the sea-water blue eyes that sit deep in his skull, he is a sleepy person. Jerome’s favorite subject is time and justifies spending all of his building a machine capable of traveling through its realms and continuums. He has worked for many years in spite of his understanding the improbability of its success. The machine itself is the size of an adult coffin with colorful tubes spiraling out of the back. Spaghetti-like tendrils attach themselves to a generator. It is cobalt blue. An initial glance suggests the generator is a single entity, but look a little closer. A thin, stringy chord attached to the right side of the box crawls the length of the cellar, up the wall, through a hole in the ceiling, the width of the hallway, and spills out of the cracked-open sliding glass door to stretch the span of the yard, reaching a set of solar panels. The solar farm takes up the entirety of Jerome’s yard, harnessing energy to power his home, as well as his manic love for the machine. The Origin of Species, Essentials of Oceanography: Edition 14 and zoological entries torn out from an Encyclopedia Britannica cover almost every inch of Jerome’s work station. His most treasured curiosity lies within the nature of the sea, the motion of the ocean. He daydreams for hours imagining the sight: thousands of olive ridley sea turtles ascending the shore of Gahirmatha Beach to lay eggs or a single lion’s mane jellyfish undulating in the boreal waters of the Pacific Ocean. Jerome frequently gambles, offering promises of sobriety and optimism as sacrifice to the alleged Spirits above in exchange for the chance to see a school of Atlantic spotted dolphins soaring through the waters. Jerome removes his glasses and begins to rub his head. He has solved the longest physical issue with the machine and has since continually thrown peanuts into the contraption, punching in year 1789, and giddily celebrated the disappearance of said peanuts. Though he begs the Universe for innumerable visions of life on Earth, he is petrified of being the first to use the machine. For this means he could actually be able to get in it and see anything, see everything. Jerome stops indulging in such fantasies the moment he realizes the likelihood of him landing on a sea vessel in the middle of an orca-migration is immeasurable. His fear of landing anywhere else in this World’s history is the one imagination that halts his urge to utilize the machine and has therefore requested Jupiter’s spectacular assistance. Just then, Jerome hears a knock on the garage door. Ahh, speak of the Devils. ‘Come on in you two.’ Jupiter laughs and unties the rope from the metal hook rooted in Jerome’s yard and pulls to manually lift the door. The sunlight startles Jerome, his doughnuts popping out of the toaster the same moment the sun reaches his face for the first time that day. He puts his arm in front of his face to guard against the light. Frankie hollers. ‘Jerome, my main man. How’s it?’ Jerome smiles. ‘What’s up, Jerome?’ Jupiter asks as she hops onto a work bench and snatches a doughnut. Jerome peers at Jupiter and back to Frankie, looking just passed his shoulder, eyeing the milk crate strapped to Jupiter’s bike. Jerome adjusts his glasses and squints. ‘Those aren’t what I think they are… Are they?’ Frankie hardily slaps Jerome’s back. ‘Go on Jerome. Take a look.’ Jerome practically skips to the crate and begins to sit each record on the ground side by side and begins to alphabetize the random vinyls. ‘OH, WHAT A DAY! WHAT AN ABSOLUTE TREAT!’ Frankie and Jupiter smile at each other. ‘Ohh, oh my my my my my. I cannot thank the two of you enough.’ Jupiter crams a bite of doughnut into her mouth. ‘No worries, dude. Our pleasure.’ She winks. ‘Hey Jupe, guess what?’ ‘You’re going to finally hook the record player up to that speaker of yours and play music for us all?’ ‘Well of course, you goober. But what else?’ Jupiter smiles at Frankie, anticipating the news. ‘The machine works and is ready when you are.’ Frankie moon walks across the edge of the laboratory, bubbling over with excitement brought on by this very special day. Jupiter fumbles and loses grip of the doughnut, chocolate icing staining her shirt as it falls to the ground. She quickly retrieves the sweet treat and blows on her breakfast, saving it from the compost bin. ‘I knew you’d figure it out. Let me in, let me go.’ Jerome walks into the lab and takes Jupiter’s right hand. ‘Heavily understand that I am not aware of where this will send you. You could end up in the Amazonian Rainforest or inside and Orca’s belly. Do you understand what an Orca is Jupiter?’ ‘No.’ ‘These ginormous sea beasts called whales, of all different kinds, used to live in the sea before It happened. They are very beautiful, to say the least, but are a force of nature to be respected.’ ‘I got it. Let me in.’ ‘Heavily note this could suck us all into a vortex of non-existential reality.’ ‘Sounds fun.’ Jupiter mentally repeats the phrase. Non-Ex-is-ten-tial. Non-Ex-is-ten-tial. Non-Ex-is-ten-tial. ‘You’re a silly one, I’ll give you that.’ Jerome looks off for a while, the noise from Jupiter and Frankie fading out. He takes a moment and finally turns to Jupiter, placing his hands on her shoulders and delicately adds: ‘Jupiter, the likelihood of you ending up somewhere horrific is extremely possible – things are much better now. I need you to understand you could zap somewhere… Well, Not safe.’ Frankie laughs. ‘You tryna’ talk her out of it, or what?’ Jerome’s eyes widen. ‘No, no, no, no, I just—‘ Jupiter hops off the work bench and places her hand on Jerome’s bald head. ‘I understand Jerome. I accept my fate.’ She kisses his cheek and heads towards the back of the laboratory, near the cellar. She finds the latch that opens the door. Frankie smiles deeply and follows Jupiter’s lead. As the two descend the steps, their eyes widen to the comparable size of baby watermelons. They cannot believe the monstrosity of the machine. Jupiter tightens the straps of her backpack to hold firmly onto her body and grabs the handle on the door’s contraption. Jerome follows the two and takes a seat at the switchboard. He smiles thinking of the best possible outcome: Jupiter flying through the time-space continuum only to land on a boat, witnessing a school of dolphins swimming in and out of the water’s waves. That would work just fine with him. ‘Okay, my love. Step on in.’ Frankie cheers and dances all around the machine. Jupiter climb’s in and takes a seat, focusing on the drum of Frankie’s pitter-pattering around the metal box. Jerome punches in 1-7-8-9 & Jupiter is off. ~ Jupiter wakes up to a splash of water on her face. It’s dark outside, but the moon and her boots dimly light the surface of the ground. Jupiter touches the throb on her forehead and looks up to see the little girl from earlier bending down next to her, whispering something fierce. ‘At-las.’ ‘Are you-'

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