For Jake it was all a blur. He knew his father was not fond of his decision, but he didn’t expect Gustav not to see him off. Now he was being forced to step out into the world alone. Breathing a deep sigh, Jake boarded Spade Airlines and strode down the aisle, blind to other passengers. He couldn’t help but be bothered by his father’s disapproval. Why do I need to apologize for taking a different path--for having differing opinions? It’s a free country, isn’t it?
As families and friends flittered around him like a swarm of flies, Jake flipped open the Spade Street Journal. All the Spade stocks were up, of course. Investing was easy; Spade was the only game in town. The problem was: Jake was not picked to play.
“Last call for Spade’s Manhattan,” a female voice announced over the loudspeaker.
Standing from his seat, Jake tucked the Spade Street Journal under his arm and proceeded toward his gate.
Outside the window he saw the gold-painted plane with the Spade emblem—a large black spade. Jake strode confidently down the ramp, handing his ticket to a pretty, yet indifferent, counter attendant.
“Have a nice trip,” she said with absolutely no emotion.
Jake boarded, found his seat, and shoved his briefcase under the seat in front of him. He wished he had splurged for a first-class ticket. One day I’ll ride first class he thought, and not be stuck in the back with the rest of the cogs. He buckled his seat belt and gazed out the window as a crew in white coveralls loaded luggage into the plane’s belly.
Being his first time alone on the plane, he felt empowered with a sense of mission and definition of purpose. He could turn this trip into anything he wanted without having to answer to another. As he rested his head against the back of the seat, he finally smiled with ease.
A fresh, freckle-faced girl dressed as Little Orphan Annie—red dress with white collar and cuffs and patent leather shoes—sat beside him, while her homely and despondent parents settled into seats on the opposite side of the aisle. Annie looked up at Jake with wide green eyes. “Who are you supposed to be?”
Jake extended his hand to the young girl. “I am Jake Kramer.”
Annie refused his hand and slouched in her seat with her arms folded. “Oh, that is so boring!” She glanced at him. “Guess who I am supposed to be.”
It was obvious to Jake—she was dressed as Little Orphan Annie—but who she was, was another question.
“Who?” he asked.
“Little Orphan Annie, stupid. In Spade Land they have a contest where you can pretend to audition. I am going to pretend to audition and I’m sure I’ll get the part. You want to know why?”
“Why?” asked Jake.
The girl screamed her song in Jake’s ear while her spittle spritzed on his face. Jake wiped her saliva from his cheek.
“That is very loud,” he said.
“Thanks. That’s what everyone says. I can sing the loudest. That’s why I’m going to pretend to get the part.” Annie settled proudly in her seat.
Jake now wished he’d brought earplugs. Instead he pulled out Jonathon Spade’s autobiography, version two: It All Started in the Test Tube: Jonathon Spade, Engineered Genius and began to read. Suddenly a strange shadow appeared on the white, typed pages. Looking over his shoulder, he found a full-grown man dressed in a tiger-striped spandex leotard, shaggy red wig, and velvet cat ears. The man’s face was painted white along with a black nose and whiskers. Heavy liner outlined his narrow gray eyes.
“Spade’s autobiography, version four: Deep, Down and Dirty: Jonathon Spade, Hoes His Way to Success is the best,” said spandex-clad cat-man. “It has more sex, drugs, and rock & roll—real compelling shit, man.” He extended his furry paw toward Jake. “Hi. I’m Stew, but my friends call me Rum Tum Tugger.”
Dumbfounded by the sight, Jake pored over the man in the orange-striped leotard. Worn over the leotard was a T-shirt that read, “Rum Tum Tugger Rules!” Numbly he shook Rum Tum Tugger’s furry paw and answered, “Jake Kramer.”
“You can call me Tug,” said Rum Tug Tugger, resting his furry paws on the top of Jake’s seat. “What’s sending you to Spade Land, Jake Kramer?”
Jake hesitated, not wanting to give Rum Tug Tugger his disappointing life story. “Hmm, vacation.”
Rum Tug Tugger leaned forward and whispered in Jake’s ear. “Let me tell you, the ladies in Manhattan—you can’t get hotter action. Love those Jellicle chicks.” He ended with a whiny cat meow.
Jake forced his attention back to his book. “I’ll remember that.”
Rum Tug Tugger searched for the bodacious stewardess who was wearing a blouse two sizes too small. Her bust tugged at the placket, spreading space between her buttons, making her red brassiere visible. “Hey sweetheart, Rum Tum needs a drink!” He then gestured toward Jake. “And set my friend up with his poison.”
“I don’t drink,” said Jake quietly, trying desperately to maintain concentration on his book.
“You don’t drink, eh?” Rum Tum Tugger belched. “Everyone drinks. Don’t you ever get thirsty?”
“Well, I do drink, but . . .”
Rum Tum Tugger scrutinized Jake’s suit and tie. “You look a little uptight, man. Who are you supposed to be anyway?”
Jake sighed. “I am Jake Kramer.”
“Who’s Jake Kramer? I never heard of him.”
Beginning to show signs of irritation, Jake pointed to himself. “I am me! I am Jake Kramer!”
“Calm down, buddy.” Rum Tum Tugger patted Jake on the head with his furry paw. “Dude, you gotta be someone.”
At this point, Annie chimed in. “If you ask me, he is a big fat nobody,”
Jake turned sharply to Annie. “No one asked you.”
Just then, two little girls dressed in velvety white leopard-print leotards and fluffy white afro wigs on their heads ran up and down the aisle. They stop at Jake’s seat and screamed, “Rumble Teaser! Rumble Teaser!”
Annie crossed her arms defiantly. “He’s more like a Mungo Jerry.”
Everyone laughed even Annie’s despondent parents.
Jake collapsed back on his seat, just wanting everyone to leave him alone. “Okay. I’m a Mungo Jerry.” He buried his head in his Spade autobiography. “Whoever that is.”
Rum Tum Tugger plopped down in his own seat and kicked the back of Jake’s. “He ain’t no Mungo Jerry; he’s just a stiff in a suit—a cold, pathetic cog.”
Jake searched over the rest of the passengers—a family clan decked out in spandex leotard cat suits, several wise guys, a few men dressed as Yankees, and even one person in a large, hairy King Kong costume. What sort of madness is this?