Jack and the Pyramid

Jack and the Pyramid

By Emmett Leo

Masked

Jack is a kleptomaniac. He always has been. But when he isn’t picking your pockets, he’s a pretty nice guy. And if you know him really well, like I do, you know that when he’s tired, he doesn’t steal as much.

Once I joked that he should be a kleptomaniac, because of Jack from that fairy tale. He looked at me like I was crazy. But over the years the two of us have grown closer, all the way to best friends.

But Jack has never stolen anything bigger than, maybe, the farmhouse turkey that cost seven hundred pounds. It might seem like a lot, but no one noticed it was gone! It gave the two of us the best hours of our lives, and Jack only got grounded for a week.

Jack and I are nothing alike. He’s the class clown, and his goofy grin sends you a message: Do not trust this guy with fire or anything you value. I’m the small, shy kid that might not know how to talk.

Grown-ups always say not to join gangs, but if I ever do, it’ll be Jack and me, plus maybe Ray and maybe Christian. I have never been really popular, so that is kinda my secret dream.

But this is what they say, “Jack and Harrison, Jack and Harrison, Jack and Harrison. Steal, steal, steal.”

And it is my favorite thing in the world to hear, because it means they think I’m brave enough to steal even a pencil.

Cheated

It’s Jack’s fault. Everything. How my world flipped upside down and inside out.

Christian, Ray, Jack, and I were messing around at the lunch table and daring each other to do weird stuff. I had just dared Ray to sing the alphabet while holding his nose and then fart instead of singing “Z.” Several kids looked at him in disgust, but none of us cared. Then Christian made a mistake. He dared Jack to steal something.

Of course, Jack stole Ray’s cookie. But Ray wasn’t satisfied.

“Steal something bigger,” Ray said.

“Better hope it’s not something of yours,” I warned him.

Jack just grinned. Then Ray responded, and surprised us.

“I know it won’t be mine. Because the new part of the dare is that it has to be a teacher at this school.”

We all knew who Jack would steal from. Jack had always hated our principal, Mr. Foyman.

“Tomorrow at eight o’clock, meet me in the bathroom,” Jack whispered in my ear.

“What for?” I began to ask, but Jack was already off for recess.

Long story short: The next day, Jack stole Mr. Foyman’s phone. As Mr. Foyman noticed that his phone was gone, I walked by to meet Jack in the bathroom. Mr. Foyman stormed out and found me.

“But I don’t even have the phone!” I protested.

“‘The phone is in the trash. Go to The Room and sit down at the desk.”

The Room was a feared place that Mr. Foyman kept for students in trouble. It had no windows and a ceiling so low even the kindergarteners had to stoop. In one corner was a wood desk that you could get splinters from, with a bumpy chair. In the opposite corner, was a small flashlight. You were forced to do algebra sheets.

I walked in and sat down. The vice principal locked the door behind me, and a wave of dread washed across me.

Blamed

Algebra. In a dark room. My two least favorite things. I must have been in there a few minutes, but it seemed like a million years. The vice principal—the principal’s robot—finally dragged me out.

“We must discuss consequences,” said the principal’s robot, as every student called him.

I was pulled into Mr. Foyman’s office. I stood, but Mr. Foyman beckoned me to sit. He pulled out a huge blue book. It had one word on it, but with that one word, I knew I was dead. In bold letters, the word “behavior.” He flipped through it and showed me a page entitled “Stealing.”

“Look right here, Harrison. It says that stealing things for three hundred pounds or more gets suspension.” He waited a second, and let that settle in before he continued. “But it says right here that stealing something worth five hundred pounds or more is worth half a year of suspension.”

My heart sank. No Ray or Jack for five months.

“However, that phone was worth two thousand pounds, so I think we’ll settle for expulsion.”

My mouth opened, but I was speechless. Expulsion? No Jack, Ray, or Christian. Forever? Of course, I might not want to see Jack after what he’s done, but I might even miss the principal’s robot! Naw, scratch that last bit.

But my parents would be steaming mad!

“But I didn’t steal it!” I argued. “And anyway, the book doesn’t say that!”

“The book didn’t go up that high,” Mr. Foyman pointed out. “And I caught you walking away from my office.”

“I was going to the bathroom.”

“No, you were coming out of my office. You were hurrying away.”

“I had to go real bad!”

“Be quiet.”

Stranded

I have to walk to my new school. It’s called CS, short for Cairo School. It’s several kilometers from my apartment in Maadi. Today is my first day there.

The walk is long and hot, but I don’t notice the heat. I’m too nervous to notice even a nuclear bomb dropping beside me. Will there be bullies? If there are bullies, will they bully the new kid? What if no one’s nice to me? These questions fly through my head like paper airplanes on the whole walk there.

When I get there, I ask people where Mr. James’s classroom is. A few kids look at me weird, but so far, so good. Mr. James’s classroom is underground.

There is no teacher there yet, but there are five rows of desks. Six other kids were already there. They are sitting at desks. I find one in the back with no name on it. I sit down, and scribble Harrison on it with a sharpie.

Next to me are desks labeled “Jamie” and “Hassan.” When Hassan sits down, he nods to me. I nod back, but no one speaks.

As soon as Mr. James comes in, I see why no one has spoken. I have a sudden urge to bow down and call him “sir.” But the morning passes fast. Because I daydream through the whole thing.

Next is recess. I am heading to the football game when a big kid comes over. He looks twice my size.

“Hey, punk,” he said in a deep voice. Half a dozen kids his size are behind him. “Where d’you think you’re going?”

“To the football field,” I stutter.

“Hurry up,” he says, and shoves me in that direction. I walk faster, and his thugs laugh behind me.

When I get to the match, there are too many players already.

Dragged

I can’t sleep. I can’t stop thinking about the kid who shoved me. I asked Hassan who he was, and he said he was Manny, the leader of the bully gang. Hassan had seemed pretty nice, but not my kind of guy.

It must be midnight when I hear a knock at the door. I let it go; figuring whoever was out there would give up. But the knocking doesn’t stop. Eventually, I put on some clothes and answer it. It’s Jack.

“Come on!” he says, and races down the stairs of the apartment. I make a split-second decision, and bolt after him.

We shoot out of the apartment building and sprint down the street northwest. A few bawabs look at us weird. I smell baladi bread, and realize how hungry I am.

After a while, we slow down to a jog, and switch a few streets. Before I know it, we’re right next to the Nile. Jack dives in, and I reluctantly follow like a madman.

The water is as dirty as ever. The current pulls at me, but Jack seems to fly over the water. Then we’re out and running through the streets again. I start to tire, but Jack doesn’t show a sign of exhaustion. A minute later, I see Jack’s destination. We are running straight toward the Great Pyramid of Giza. Then we climb up it. At the top, a green pole stretches to the clouds.

Halfway up, I look back. The Nile glimmers like a gem in stone. The Cairo Tower stretches above the tops of buildings. My beautiful city. Then I keep climbing.

Jack climbed up the pole—no, beanstalk—at the top. I follow him, but take a few rests. Now Jack is up in the sky.

Scared

I hear a deep booming voice yell from the top. I dodge as a gold swan falls to earth. Then Jack falls. Somehow he grabs the plant and slows his fall, but not enough. He slams into me and stops falling, but now I’m zooming to the earth. I too slow my fall, but I slam into the pyramid hard. When I look up, a face in the sky yells in that deep voice, “Come back, thief!”

When Jack comes down, I talk to him.

“Two favors,” I say, “Never climb a beanstalk again and put Mr. Foyman’s phone in a drawer in his desk. He’ll think he’s lost it.”

Jack nods, “Third time. Original, Burj Khalifa, and here.”

“You’re Jack?”

He nods. I gasp. We both head home.

Eventually, things were alright. Our plan worked, and I’m back with Ray, Jack, and Christian. But Jack couldn’t stay.

“I can’t stay with you,” he said. “You know my secret.”

But I can’t stop myself, so I ask, “What did you steal from the giant?”

He sighed, “A gold egg.”

I started to walk away, but Jack stopped me. He pulled out a golden egg-shaped ball.

“Here,” he said. “You saved my life.”

“Yeah,” I responded, “But you stole it.”

“A life is more important than a gold egg.”

I nodded, and took the egg.

He moved to Nepal, and I wonder if there’s a beanstalk on a mountain there.

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