Red Boots, Green Pencil
Sighing heavily, Jupe bent to zip his soft and supple red
boots. He just loved touching the fabric, contemplating
the specks of light that danced on the smooth red surface. A familiar voice pulled
him out of the trance and forced him to put them on. He got up and marched towards
the mirror. He got up to gaze at himself in the mirror, dismayed by the sad, black
Gelert staring back at him. A rebellious strand of hair fell in front of his eyes,
making the image all the more despondent. He pushed it back behind his ear, hoping
it would hold as long as he would have to face his father. He grabbed a tatty
notebook and stuffed it on the inside of his jacket.
Jupe's father had already prepared breakfast
and was frantically cleaning a tray with a sponge.
"Already up? I've only been awake for three hours.
How energetic you are."
"Not everybody wakes up when all is still dark
and fast asleep." Jupe sat down and poured some freshly squeezed orange-juice
into his glass. James sat down in front of his son. He tore big chunks out of
his bread and absentmindedly let his fingers pass along his dark-green tie.
An awkward silence nestled itself between the both of them. Ever since Jupe's
mother had died a couple of years before, he had been alone with his father
in this large house. He loved his father, but somehow this proved to be a great
and hard thing to do.
"Don't you have a test today? Did you study enough?"
asked his father's forehead, taking into account that the remaining part of
his face was buried in the newspaper.
"Yes, I do. But it's a really boring class and
I have enough credits to pass the class anyway." James's brown face appeared
magically as he thrust aside the newspaper.
"It's not just about passing, son! The most important
is to get good grades. Surely you know that? It's a very important subject if
you are going to become an engineer. It's not because it's boring that it's
not important. We don't always get to do what we wish and that's not how life
Then life is badly organised , thought
Jupe. His father looked at him with a stern face. Jupe was his only child and
he carried the burden of becoming the pride of the family.
Jupe nodded while his father, satisfied with
himself, continued reading the paper. Normally he would have said something
out loud to object to his father's views, but today he didn't feel like it.
Instead he busied himself with prodding the poor cereals that floated in his
bowl. With a sigh he let his spoon fall with a clatter and made way for the
"I'm going to school now. I'll see you tonight,
dad." A distant mumbling allowed Jupe to presume that his father had heard him.
He opened the door and listened to the familiar click that indicated the door
had fallen shut: thus grew a small feeling of freedom, which Jupe enjoyed whenever
he left the house. He walked onto the street and felt the wind rustle through
his hair, freeing the rebellious lock he had hidden from his father.
His magical red boots took him down the street.
He knew that as he walked a dozen pair of eyes were following him, muttering
from behind their perfect flower-printed curtains. Muttering to themselves how
he, Jupe, was the disgrace of their 'respectable' neighbourhood. Personally,
he couldn't care less about what others thought. He had once cared because that's
the way he had been raised. When his mother passed away it became clear to him
exactly how phoney this little world was. He felt good but the mutterers
are the ones who feel insecure and feel they need to bring others down.
He turned right and heard the familiar buzzing
of a thousand students meeting on Monday-morning: chattering about what they
did, heard or bought. As he passed the entrance gate a group of young girls
giggled at the weird last-year student with his ridiculous red boots. He whirled
around and smiled at them. They stopped dead, not a whisper escaped from their
lips as they contemplated the generous smile of someone they were mocking a
few seconds before. He walked on grinning, towards his usual bench near the
trees. He sank onto it and took out the book he was reading for the 333thd time.
He flipped to page 18 and continued where he had left off. A strange shadow
appeared on the white pages and the black letters faded in front of his eyes.
He looked up and smiled at Khyala. She was looking down on him whilst brandishing
her legendary smile. She had the reputation to always get what she wanted and
she owed all of that to her dashing smile. A million red curls, dangling pleasantly
in the wind, bordered her face.
"So, you really are going for esentricty?" she
said, pointing at his blue jeans.
"First of all, it's 'eccentricity,' and second
all my black pants are still drying," answered Jupe with a malicious grin on
"Don't make fun of me!" Her eyes shot
daggers at him. It suddenly felt as if the whole schoolyard was watching them.
The faintest whisper or movement would make the bubble burst; the black Gelert
and the yellow Aisha would attack each other. After enjoying the silence both
friends burst out in hysterical laughing. Khyala sat down next to Jupe as the
bell rang. Sighing, they both got up and moved towards their classroom.
The class settled down with the usual scraping
of chairs and mumbling. But the noise was quickly halted when all of them received
test sheets. Jupe looked around him and saw everybody scribbling furiously while
others were about to have a nervous breakdown. He, however, could not even pretend
to care about this one piece of paper that could destroy his life.
How utterly amazing isn't that, he thought. This one bit of yellowish
paper holds the power to destroy people's future or to destroy the harmony and
happiness they have known till now. He stared at his test and just resisted
the urge to crumple it and throw it at the teacher's head. That wouldn't really
be something he'd actually do, sometimes he just wished it were. Instead he merely
got up and walked out of the classroom, as if it were the most normal thing to
do. He had learnt like a hunt-down fox all year, in a few days he would graduate
and this test wasn't going to stop him. He felt astonished eyes darting on his
back and smiled at the teacher's transfixed face.
They couldn't fail him and he knew that. He had
been a model student and was by far the smartest of his class. His red boots
led him into the deserted hallway and in the distance he heard a "You go, Jupe!"
from Khyala and a "Miss Khyala, please sit down and be quiet!" from the still
When Jupe came home he was delighted to see his
father had gone out to work. He dropped his bag in the entrance hall, took a
few steps back and stared at the scene. His father was an absolute control-freak.
James would rather be late for his job than leaving a particle of dust lying
on the coffee table. But when Jupe was alone he enjoyed a bit of sloppiness.
Going up to his room he threw his black vest on a chair after having extracted
the scruffy notebook from it. He flipped through the tattered pages and stopped
at the very last page of the small notebook. The black gelert picked up a green
pencil and wrote just one more sentence before shutting it. I'm finished!
. He looked around to make sure he was still alone and extracted a large,
leather-bound book from under a loose floorboard. He copied that same sentence
in a gracious handwriting and completed with two more words: 'The End'. Jupe
closed the book with a loud snap and put it back in its safe hiding-place. Just
as he replaced the floorboard he heard nearing footsteps, he whirled around
quickly and saw his brown Puppyblew trotting into the room, madly wagging its
"You gave me quite a startle there, Shake." Jupe
smiled and opened his arms towards the Puppyblew to pet it. He sat cross-legged
and Shake nestled himself in Jupe's lap, where he instantly fell asleep and
softly snored. Jupe stroked the brown fur, his mind wandering off.
"I wish you could talk, Shake. You would be the
only one that cares about me and actually understands me."
"We both know that's not true," called a familiar
voice. Jupe looked around and saw Khyala's upper-body heaving itself through
his bedroom window. Jupe got up, disturbing Shake who grunted, but fell back
asleep anyway, and helped Khyala in the room.
"You do realize normal people knock or ring the
"Amazingly enough, I do. But I know your dad
doesn't really like me and I didn't know for sure that he was away." She peered
further into the room as if she expected James to pop up from behind a closet
or bookshelf. "So," she said, settling herself on the rug next to Shake, "have
you thought yet about where you want to go?" Jupe raised a brow. "Well, on vacation,"
she said indignantly as Jupe still didn't seem to understand. "Oh, seriously.
After Graduation, Jupe. We got three whole months of freedom before college!"
"College?" asked Jupe.
"Really, I'm finding it hard to believe that
you are the smartest boy in our class! Yes, college. Don't look at me that way.
I intend to go to college too. I've already applied to the Faculty of Finer
Arts." Jupe nodded, it was true that Khyala was very gifted when it came to
drawing, arranging colours or just having plain brilliant ideas.
"I think you'll do great there, but you know
even artists have to be able to speak in a correct way." He grinned at his best
"Sure, make fun of me. You will be able to help
me. When it comes to using academic gibberish you're the best." Jupe frowned
once again. "How can I help you when you'll be far away to college?"
"Really, reconsider the smart thing. Jupe, you
have to go to college! You are very smart, you have every right to study on
and you don't have to choose whatever your father wishes. You can't keep relying
on him. You are very smart; I'm sure that you could get several scholarships!
You don't depend on him." She eyed him doubtfully as worry spread across her
"I know," said Jupe, "I know, but I guess I've
never really thought about the fact that I could major in anything else but
engineering. I wouldn't even know what to study, Khyala!" his voice became tense.
He sat down and placed his face in his hands. Khyala would've sworn he was crying,
but knowing Jupe only too well she thought it better not to ask him. At long
last she crept closer and put a hand on his knee.
"Jupe, listen to me- listen to me," she said,
shaking his knee and forcing him to look at her, "I think…I think you should
study literature or something of the kind, whatever involves writing and eloquence.
You can't be frightened of your father. And then, which is the most important
of course, you'll be having classes in the same faculty as mine." She smiled
Jupe shook his head and grimaced. "Ah, that was
a smile. I'd bet my head on it (even if it's not worth much, yes!). C'mon Jupe,
stop feeling sorry for yourself." She quickly looked at her watch. "I have to
go now, but I want you to meet me tomorrow morning at my house, we'll discuss
our trip! And I won't take 'no' for an answer," She said sternly as she disappeared
through the window.
Jupe quickly descended the stairs and picked
up his bag from the floor and swung it onto a hook next the door. The door creaked
and his father stepped into the house.
"Hello dad," said Jupe casually, his eyes darting
to the hook that seemed to be giving in to the bag's weight.
"Don't play innocent with me!" barked his father.
Jupe backed away his eyes widening. His father seemed to get bigger and more
imposing as he came forward. "Do you care to explain this?" he boomed, brandishing
an empty test sheet at his son. Jupe felt his legs weakening. "So, did you have
a fine day otherwise? I tell you how mine went! I had an appointment at your
school with the teachers from your most important subjects, to know what your
prospects are for college and then I got THIS shoved in my hands. I know you
must have been under a lot of pressure these exams, but that's not a reason
to ruin your chances of getting into college." James threw his coat on a chair
(yes, he was that angry) and ran his hands through his thick brown hair.
Jupe just stared at the floor, sometimes daring
to glance at his father. "How-how do you expect to do well in college if you
pull off things like this, boy." He grabbed Jupe by the shoulders in a friendly,
fatherly way. "I-I just want you to have a nice life, to achieve something.
You are so clever, Jupe. I only have your best interest at heart, you know that,
"I do, I do know that, but," he hesitated, "I'm
not going to be an engineer." James felt as if someone had stabbed him with
a knife, he felt a stinging pain in his side and brought a hand to it. Jupe
made a move forward to help his father but James backed away from this devilish
creature that wasn't his son anymore. "But…why-how…Jupe, you wanted this…" stammered
"No dad, you wanted this. I've-I've taken
my decision now. I'm going to study literature and journalism." James let out
another gasp of pain.
"Look, we've both had a very hard day, let's
just go to bed now. If you're hungry just make yourself a sandwich . I'm going
straight to bed." Jupe watched his father clamber up the stairs and slam his
bedroom door. Oddly enough Jupe did feel hungry. He felt perfectly fine
as if all his worries had left the room with his father.
The next day students could already receive their
diplomas if they wished. Of course they then wouldn't have the extremely pompous
official ceremony but for some odd reason Jupe and Khyala didn't seem to care
about that. After having yelled several improper things towards her mathematics
teacher, Khyala dragged Jupe towards the faculty of Finer Arts, where he enlisted
for Literature and Journalism under her watchful eye. It was but late in the
evening that Jupe and Khyala reached his house.
"Don't forget to pack. I'll see you in the early
morning. You got that, Jupe?
Early," she said, as she kissed him goodnight on the cheek. As he closed
the door behind him he couldn't help but notice that the house was completely
dark. His father must have been home and yet he hadn't lit any of the lamps. Jupe
switched on the light in the entrance hall and saw his father sitting on a chair
in the very middle of the hallway. James seemed to be fumbling with something
and it took him a while to notice his son.
"Well, hello there, son," he said in an odd voice
unlike his own.
"Dad, are you sick? Shall I get-"
"No, no. I'm fine, dear boy. I've been cleaning
a bit today. I took a stroll in your room. I thought you might have been taking
some sort of vitamins during the exams that clouded your good judgement. Well,
let me tell you: I didn't find pills, but I did find this," James threw
whatever he had been fumbling with in front of Jupe's feet who could now distinctly
feel his heart thumping in his chest. "I understand that you are young, I understand
you need to explore your possibilities, your talents. But I can assure you that
this is not the way you will get anywhere in life." James got up and
picked up the four scruffy notebooks. He stared at them with pure contempt as
if he was holding evil in pure person. Jupe didn't care about the notebooks,
but what if his father had discovered the loose floorboard. Jupe knew that he
would do anything to keep his novel safe.
James walked into the living room, still holding
the notebooks, flipping through them. He still didn't seem to believe that his
son's handwriting was scattered over those hundreds of pages.
"Dad," started Jupe, who followed him at a safe
James whirled around with a furious look on his
face. "Don't you ever, EVER call me that again!" He spat on the floor,
turned around and threw the notebooks into the fire. The dim fire that had been
burning crackled with delight as it devoured its helpless prey.
"I won't let you destroy your life, Jupe," he
said, clinging onto his son. Jupe freed himself from James' desperate grip.
"I know. You are already destroying it for me!"
Letting his father grasp the meaning of those
words, he climbed the stairs to his bedroom. He kicked his door open and started
stuffing clothes and some dear belongings into his largest backpack. He freed
his novel from its hiding-place and stared at it. The surface was smooth and
black, the title read:
Red Boots, Green Pencil
A novel by
He stroked the title with his finger as a faint
smile nestled itself on his lips. He picked up Shake and descended the stairs
James slowly turned around and horror spread
across his face as he saw his only son ready to leave forever. The both of them
stared at each other for a long time and even Shake kept quiet, picking up the
"Bye James," said Jupe in a calm, cool voice
as he made his way to the door. "In my eyes you have ruined your life
and I'm not going to let you do the same to mine."
Jupe opened the door and walked into the cool
night air, His rebellious lock dangling pleasantly in front of his eyes and
Shake trotting merrily next to him.
James heard the click of the closing doors and
sank on the floor, his head to his knees. He had lost the dearest thing, the
only thing that was worth living for.
As Jupe turned the corner of the street he heard
a long, low and bestial howl of physical and mental pain.
Note: Many thanks to Laurelinden who was kind enough to edit this story,
without her it would never have been published.