Edison looked out the hotel room window just in time to see a speckled chicken fly by. Seconds later, the chicken slowly floated up outside the window sill. It hovered with its narrow beak pressed against the glass. Staring. “That’s odd,” thought Edison. The bird wasn’t flying. It seemed to hang from an invisible thread.
Another chicken soon joined the first one. That was beyond odd.
Edison kept his eyes fixed on the chickens. He moved very slowly, groping for his camera.
Several things happened at once. Edison pressed the shutter button, his sister Charlotte opened the door, and the chickens dropped out of sight.
“Did you see that?” gasped Edison. “The chickens? Outside the window?” He wrestled the window open and dangled out, batting at the palm trees to get a better view. He saw emerald green hills fringed with white beaches surrounded by turquoise water. No chickens.
Charlotte was two years older than Edison. “What on earth are you talking about?” She rolled her eyes in the way big sisters do. “Close that window right now before bugs get in. The mosquitoes here are big as bats.”
Edison eased off the window sill with a whump, and pushed his glasses back into place. He obediently pulled the window shut and wished his sister would shut up. But she prattled on.
“Mom and I are taking the shuttle into town. First day in the tropics! I get to go to a local dance thing called a jump up. You have to stay here. With dad. Ha. I’m going to look for some kids to hang out with.”
Charlotte was sociable in a loud and bossy way. Her wide mouth was usually open, revealing large teeth covered with an intricate lacework of metal braces.
“Don’t mess with my stuff,” she commanded, referring to the heaps of clothes and shoes that littered most of the room. Charlotte spun out the door. Her long blonde ponytail swished like a racehorse at the starting gate.
Edison headed out into the hotel corridor to meet his dad for breakfast. He took one last look out the window for the speckled chickens, half afraid that he’d see their beady black eyes glaring from above their scrawny necks. What could be weirder? It didn’t take Edison long to find out.
Edison and his dad had barely taken a bite of their pancakes when the waiter glided back to their table.
“Dr. Jones, you have a phone call.”
A few minutes later, Edison’s dad returned from the hotel desk trailed by a gray-haired woman.
“Sorry son. I wasn’t supposed to start meetings until tomorrow, but it looks like they want me there right away.” He gestured at the gray-haired woman. “This is Mrs. Petrie. She’ll keep an eye on you until your mother gets back.”
“Hello dearie,” Mrs. Petrie spoke with a soft British accent. She wore a huge straw hat that made her look rather like a stout mushroom. Hot pink toenails peeked out from her sandals.
“Pleased to meet you,” recited Edison politely. Sensing that the woman was about to pat him on the head, Edison took a step back and ducked.
“Well, I’m off,” said Edison’s dad. “Have fun.” He scanned the courtyard, noting the elderly tourists snoring on shaded lounge chairs. “Don’t worry, your mother should be back with Charlotte before you know it.”
Mrs. Petrie settled into a chair, opened a book and was soon fast asleep. Edison sipped orange juice and idly dragged his finger around his plate making designs in the leftover pancake syrup.
The minutes dragged by. The only thing moving was an oversized bee-bodied insect that droned like a B-52 bomber as it circled the sleeping hotel guests. Somewhere in the distance a radio played the newest Elvis Presley song. It was 1956. Edison recognized the bluesy melody. Heartbreak Hotel was a worldwide hit.
Edison’s eyelids were beginning to droop when a boy walked backwards into the middle of the courtyard. Yes, backwards. And that wasn’t the strangest thing about him. The boy appeared to be a little older than Edison. From his coffee-colored complexion, Edison guessed that this strange person was an islander, not a tourist.
What attracted Edison’s curiosity―aside from the fact that the boy was walking backwards―was the odd gadget the boy held up to his forehead. It was a clear plastic half-circle, the kind of thing you use for drawing arcs and angles in geometry class. A straw was taped to the flat side and a rusty old fishing lure dangled at the end of an attached string.
The boy stopped, looked at his feet and then goose-stepped to the old stone tower. With the plastic contraption still held to his head, the boy shuffled backward again, stopping in the same spot.
Edison tried not to stare. It wasn’t at all polite to stare―especially at crazy people. He looked to Mrs. Petrie for some explanation, but she was making little puffy snores under her great mushroom of a hat. Edison became mildly alarmed as the boy squinted in his direction and then walked over.
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