Prose Header

The Spoons of Jupiter

by Tim Miller

Table of Contents
Table of Contents
parts: 1, 2, 3, 4

part 1

And those who fare reasonably well may carry with them inner wounds, a sense of emptiness and regret at having missed self-defining, confidence-inducing early experiences that cannot, in the final analysis, be recaptured. — Awakening Children’s Minds, Laura E. Berk

* * *

Notecard #1

Good morning. As of today (insert date of presentation May ____, 1996), scientists have discovered 17 moons around Jupiter. There are probably more that haven’t been detected yet.

The ones of most scientific interest are the Galilean satellites. These were the first objects found that didn’t orbit either the Earth or the Sun. The other moons and the rings of Jupiter comprise less than one percent of the total orbiting mass.

The moons are named after either lovers (hubba-hubba!) or daughters of the Roman God Jupiter or his Greek equivalent, Zeus.

I don’t tell her how fat she is. Yet she needs to remind me every time I see her in the hallway to stop growing. I’m the Sears Tower, that’s me. My sister’s friend. Fat-ass Raquel. I ignored her and kept walking. The only problem was that I kept walking all the way down the hall, forgetting the whole reason I headed down Q-hall in the first place: to ask Cindy Butterfield to the prom.

So I broke my back and got a drink from the drinking fountain, all just to turn around. I headed back up Q-hall, the way I had come. I could see down the hall; there was a bottleneck around a crowd of girls yapping away like a flock of squawking birds. So I inched around them with everybody else. I tend to blend in, even though I’m an ogre.

I nodded hello to this junior, Jason Shinman, a real turd. He delivers pizzas at the same pizzeria I do and wears his hat brim so low that you can’t even see his eyes. He barely even saw me, or maybe he pretended to barely see me. That’s probably why he wears his hat so low: so that he doesn’t have to say hello to people he doesn’t want to. A lot of that stuff goes on at my school. I kept creeping towards Cindy’s locker.

All of a sudden, out of nowhere, my hands started sweating and my heart began thudding like mad, like it was trying to get out of my chest. So I stopped and pretended to be looking through my Physics binder. A freshman girl walking behind me, about half my size, bumped smack into my ass. Her friends all laughed because she had bumped into a skyscraper.

I tried to laugh at how ridiculous the whole thing was: having to ask a girl I hardly know a week before the prom, a girl I’ve barely spoken to during four years, a girl who has a boyfriend in college in Arizona who at the last minute decided he doesn’t want to come all the way home to Chicago for a high school prom and she supposedly told her friends to tell my friends that I should ask her because she really wanted to go and already had a dress and we could go with the group as friends and they needed an extra couple to pay for the limo so all I had to do was ask her. Everyone was depending on me.

So there I was, frozen in Q-hall, getting in the way of everyone trying to get to class. I was like the Scarecrow in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Not the movie, but the book by L. Frank Baum.

There’s a part where Dorothy and her friends are on a raft, traveling to the Emerald City. The water gets real deep and it’s hard for them to steer with the branches they’re using as poles. So the Scarecrow reaches way down and pushes real hard, only to get his pole stuck in the mud. Before he can pull it out, the raft is swept away beneath his feet. He’s left clinging to his branch in the middle of the river. His friends are whisked away and he’s left all alone, suspended over the rushing water. He starts wallowing in self-pity, lamenting his situation, because he’s even more useless than when he was stuck to a pole in a cornfield. The best part is that the Tin Man can’t even cry for him, because he’d rust.

And that’s exactly how I felt, clinging to my science binder in the river Q-hall, stranded, with no one to cry for me.

I looked up at the clock and saw that I only had a minute before the second-period bell. I snapped my binder shut and started walking. As I approached her locker, I caught a glimpse of her talking. She’s an all-right looking girl. I mean she’s no knockout, but she’s not bad-looking.

I couldn’t believe it. Of all the people she could be talking to: Jessica Meddleson. Jessica is the best friend of a girl I used to see, Lizzy Silverthorne. Not that I ever even dated Lizzy; we were just friends for a while, until things got awkward. She has a boyfriend — some soccer player from another high school — and, truth is, I tried to kiss her once. I was really faced at the time. I apologized like mad, but the damage was done. We had this long phone conversation where no one really said anything.

Since then Jessica has regarded me like I have an elephant trunk instead of a nose. I could tell Jessica saw me out of the corner of her eye. I enjoy talking to her like I enjoy a good sinus infection. It would have to be after 2nd period, I told myself, and glided right past them.

Notecard #2

The planet Jupiter’s four largest moons are called the Galilean satellites after Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei, who first observed them in 1610. The German astronomer Simon Marius claimed to have seen the moons around the same time, but he did not publish his observations and so Galileo is given the credit for their discovery. Like Mr. Fair always says, your work doesn’t count if you don’t turn it in!

These large moons, named Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto, are each distinctive worlds. They are nearly spherical in shape and are roughly the same size as Pluto, which, as you can tell from Jon Olson’s presentation, would’ve been a much easier choice! Side note: It’s not good to be absent the day topics are chosen.

I had to run to get to physics, too. “WAAALLKK!” some teacher yelled. Sure, and get a detention. No thanks. I made it just as the bell rang. Mr. Fair, my Physics teacher, faked like he was going for the detention pad. Then he winked. I joke around with him quite a bit. He’s got a real good sense of humor. Like when he’s about to grade quizzes, I’ll joke how I’m going to invest in red pens. Something like that will really make him chuckle.

I sat down and Mr. Fair began to drone on about roller coasters. The class had recently gone on a field trip to an amusement park. I cut school that day, something I’ve been doing a lot lately.

Towards the end, Mr. Fair called out my name along with Jaime Kaven’s-who’s had mono and been sick for a month-because we were the only ones who hadn’t done our presentation on any topic from outer space. Everyone else went like ten years ago. She hadn’t gone because she was sick for over three weeks. I almost did it yesterday, but, if you really must know, I got stoned before school with my friend Hal. We were getting in his car on our way to school when suddenly I remembered the presentation. Hal thought it was hilarious that I had to get up in front of the class all baked.

“What’s it on?” he asked.

And I accidentally said the “spoons” of Jupiter, instead of moons. That made Hal laugh even harder. He laughed the whole way to school so that I was all paranoid.

“You’re gonna say spoons, you’re gonna say spoons, you’re gonna say spoons!” he taunted.

I ended up cutting that day as well. My grades are pretty lousy. The only leverage Mr. Fair has left is that I have to do it to graduate.

There was enough time for one presentation and Mr. Fair asked who would like to go. He did it sarcastically, as if it would be a miracle for one of us to volunteer. Jamie said she wasn’t ready and needed one more day for her visual aide. Her topic was the craters on the moon.

I just sat there. My speech was all ready, too. So finally Mr. Fair rolled his eyes and flipped a coin and, sure enough, Jamie lost. She shot me a dirty look, then stood up and started babbling about how she forgot some poster and how she had an amazing visual aid that her uncle’s friend from NASA sent her and it won’t be as good without it but she guessed she would go today. Then, on her way up to the front of the class, she did something that really gets under my skin. She told us, before her speech, how boring it was going to be.

I shouted out something witty as hell. I suggested that she could use her face as a visual aid. She has bad acne, all splotchy and red. I didn’t even realize I was saying it. It just slipped out. I looked over, and Mr. Fair was sending me to the Dean’s office with an implacable face and pointing finger. I figured I could squirm out of it, but he wasn’t budging.

“Tom Bedlam, to the Dean immediately,” he said calmly. “And your presentation is tomorrow or you’ll need a summer school registration form.”

Notecard #3

Io is the most volcanically active body in the Solar System. Io’s surface is covered by sulfur in different colorful forms. As Io travels in its slightly elliptical orbit, Jupiter’s immense gravity causes “tides” in the solid surface that rise 300 feet (100 meters) high on Io, so better think twice about where you set that beach chair!

This generates enough heat for volcanic activity and to drive off any water. Io’s volcanoes are driven by hot silicate magma. Io has 23% of the mass of Jovian moons.

I had to wait in the office for about five years. Finally, a robot that looked similar to Dean Early called me into his office and told me to have a seat. They played a recording through the ceiling while the robot’s lips moved. I uttered the correct sound waves, so that the robot signed a paper. Then the robot dismissed me with a stern monotone.

Notecard #4

Europa’s surface is mostly water ice, and there is evidence that it may be covering an ocean of water or slushy ice beneath. Europa is thought to have twice as much water as does Earth. This moon intrigues astrobiologists because of its potential for having a “habitable zone.” Life forms have been found thriving near subterranean volcanoes on Earth and in other extreme locations (like Mr. Fair’s classroom) that may be analogues to what may exist on Europa.

Europa has 12% of the mass of Jovian moons.

Proceed to part 2...

Copyright © 2018 by Tim Miller

Home Page