Jakup The Jay by Estée Kessler
urban fantasy, new adult,
novel (approximately 45000 words)
Release Date: 11/14/2013
When Riley’s mother rudely interrupted his comfortable summer of snacking and TV reruns, the notion he was about to enter the world of the supernatural never occurred to him. Drafted by Jakup, a scrub jay and freelance familiar for Witches local 723, he discovers psychic abilities he didn’t realize he had. He agrees to join Jakup as part of an unlikely interspecies team deputized to confront paranormal plots. Not all the creatures of his new shadowy world are friendly. Their job would be to sort the good guys from the bad guys and stop them.
I pried open one eyelid. The light coming through the blinds was painful and blinded me. The stars on my ceiling, left over from my middle school fixation with astronomy reflected the light directly at that eye. I turned over to one side and contemplated the cheesy graphics I’d made Mom put on the wall. Was I ever that stupid?
I ran my tongue over my teeth. Some tomcat must have used my mouth for a latrine. I opened my bedroom door and stumbled down the hall to the bathroom. Damn, this is a long hall—haul? I did my body functions thing, scratched my ass, hefted my junk, and peered into the mirror. The reflection didn’t look as bad as I felt. Time to head for bed.
Back in my room, I scrunched the pillow, shut my eyes, and relaxed. Then a noise penetrated my half doze. The sound of car wheels coming up the driveway. Oh shit, Mom’s home.
I peeked out the window to reconfirm. The maternal unit was back. I glanced around the room trying to spot my pants. She’ll have my head if she catches me still in my boxers at this hour. I leaned over and lifted one cheek to brush off the potato chip crumbs under my shorts. I headed to the leather recliner in the den where I remembered hanging my favorite pair of Dockers. On the way, I tried to guess which parts of my usual mess would send her off the farthest. I shoved several copies of ‘those’ magazine Jess loaned me under the cushion of the couch where I’d sat. What else? I opened the deep drawer in the ratty old end table and dropped in a pile of empty wrappers, dirty dishes, and some herbals I favored.
No time to vacuum. I lifted the corner of the fake Persian rug and swept in the small stuff on the floor. I picked up my shoes and socks. Make that sock. One was missing. I raced for the bathroom to comb my hair and check to see if my two-day stubble still qualified as fashionable or needed attention. Somehow, between the reruns, talking on the phone, and surfing the web, I’d lost track of time. Now she was home, and no doubt I was about to receive installment twenty-seven of the “Why don’t you do something constructive?” diatribe.
Two steps out the door I stumbled over Buster. Damn. I didn’t want to make the effort to put the over-weight mutt outside and instead shut the door to keep him out. My shoes went flying and my khakis slipped halfway down my legs because in my hurry I didn’t take time to button and zip. I got to my knees to redress myself. Too late. The two trouser-clad legs atop a tapping sandaled foot filled my line of vision.
She swept past me, and I followed without saying anything. No other option was available. She lifted up the rug and opened the drawer. Shooting me a disgusted scowl, she bent over to lift the cushion where I’d stashed my borrowed periodicals.
“Riley Rose. You are a disgrace.”
Past experience told me when she used that tone of voice, I better not argue.
“Your days of lying around, emptying my refrigerator, and watching daytime TV are at an end, boy. Either you get a paying job or a worthwhile volunteer job, or you can get your butt back down south and live on the beach until your apartment’s available in October. I am tired of picking up after you. You decide. Free ride is O-V- E- R.”
“Okay, Mom, okay, okay, okay. How was I supposed to know you felt this way? You’re always telling me how you missed me, and I should come home more.”
Seesh, I thought I was doing my parents a favor by showing up for the summer. When I was always at college, which was most of the time, I was diligently pursuing the record, or near record, for longest lasting unbroken course of collegiate study. Apparently, I misunderstood them. I didn’t fancy living full time on the beach or toting trash at some fast food joint and opted for volunteering instead.
The trick was what did Mom mean by ‘meaningful’? She “helped” by driving me to the Slave Labor Center where the staff welcomed me like a long lost son. Even now, I can’t explain why, out of an entire page of meaningful (Mom’s word) and unpaid slave (my words) “opportunities”. I selected Baby Bird Rescue—certainly not prior experience. A onetime campaign to put a garter snake into my buddy’s bunk at summer camp does not come close to making me an expert on wild life. The director’s eager acceptance of my unqualified assistance should have been a clue. A cause in such desperate need of bodies must have drawbacks.
The head bird watcher, a chunky old lady in a flowered shirt and baggy jeans, scheduled me for training the next day. Fortunately, how much time I wanted to volunteer was up to me. I told my mother I would be saving innocent wildlife at least once a week for four hours. Why mention I never intended to do a minute more? How long I worked on my duty day was my little secret. What I picked up from the training was a new word—aviary, which turned out to be a place for birds. Resigned, I prepared to put in my time.
The greedy little “darlings” complained constantly—loud, demanding and always on -deck for another snack, screaming at me every twenty minutes. Nothing is more shrill or piercing on the ear than a baby bird. I stayed busy during my hours of servitude, which meant I didn’t get bored. Fair enough, but something to look forward to? Not so much.
Three weeks as an indentured servant did nothing for me. My final week in birdie hell started on a cooker of an August day. I had to leave a riveting rerun on Nickelodeon and bolt to make my appointed hour at rescue central. I mounted my moped par-broiled and sweaty, and arrived the same way at the outdoor aviary. To top off my misery, on the way up I had to spit out a fly that flew into my mouth, and now my mouth tasted of insect guts and dung.
Generally, when I entered the place was clamoring with a noise level averaging somewhere between a hundred-ten and a hundred-twenty decibels, equivalent to a heavy metal concert. My only consolation, the main building was worse. Today, not a peep, (pun intended). Total silence. Unsettling silence. Devoid of sound. Something was up. My “What’s-going-on?” button shot up to the top of the scale. I acted as taken back as an overeager suitor knocking at the wrong door.
“I drove all the way out here to an empty aviary and no one bothered to let me know?”