One of the best things about fiction is that Life can turn out exactly the way we want. Characters act the way they should, and say the perfect thing at the perfect time… and 2-year-old boys get to live.
I started writing this book two months after my son Jake died. I wrote it so his brothers, 7 and 11 at the time, would remember him, and the loving, creative ways they played with, and helped, him. I wrote it in the hopes that it would be cathartic, or therapeutic, for me. And I wrote it so Jake might inspire, or help, or touch, other people. A decade later, I still believe he can.
Originally titled “THE LATE, GREAT SUPER JAKE,” the book has gone through numerous titles and even more iterations, the most radical being that – unlike the real little boy – the fictional Jake lives. Now titled “SUPER JAKE & THE KING OF CHAOS,” here’s a little glimpse into what the story has morphed into over the years…
Super Jake & The King of Chaos
It doesn’t matter if my audience is nine-year-old Superheroes with plastic hammers and shields, or ninety-year-old great-grandparents with white hair and walkers. Everybody loves magic. Especially me.
Today’s show is for a dozen three-year-old girls. Princess Leia is poking Pocahontas; Belle is whacking a ballerina with a balloon; and Snow White is screaming for her mommy.
Welcome to my world.
Today’s birthday girl, Wendy, is a blue-eyed blonde dressed like Cinderella (except for the pink ribbons in her hair). Since I always do my research ahead of time, I already knew what her costume would be. So the first question I ask the group is, “Have any of you heard of Cinderella?”
Wendy gives me a giant smile while the girls around her shriek, “Wendy is Cinderella!”
I act surprised. “Wow! No way!” More shrieks. “Anyone know what she left at the ball?”
“Her glass slipper!” Princess Leia shouts.
“Exactly. And I happen to have a glass slipper right here in my hat. Who wants to see it?”
Twelve girls screech in unison and rush towards me for a better view. I raise my wand with a flourish, tap it over my sparkly black top hat, and pull out…
“SpongeBob!” the girls cry out, giggling and pointing.
I put my hands on my hips. “Freddy! What’s this doing here?”
My seven-year-old brother freezes, caught eating candy from my stars-and-moons-covered box.
Believe me, having him in my act was not my idea. I’d been doing magic shows for over a year, since the beginning of fifth grade, and loved every second of it. Then school ended, summer started, and my kid brother had nothing to do.
“Ethan, why don’t you put Freddy in your act?” Mom suggested. “He could be your assistant.”
Sometimes I think her favorite thing to do is find new ways to ruin my life.
This time, though – faster than you can say “Abracadabra” – I explained why her latest idea was even worse than usual. My favorite reason was, “What if I accidentally saw him in half?” No loving parent could possibly argue with that. Right?
The next day, Freddy pranced into the living room wearing a top hat, black shirt and pants, and a red bowtie. The top hat practically covered his eyes, and the bowtie was crooked. It was like staring at myself in one of those funhouse mirrors, where everything is exaggerated. And scary-looking.
“Doesn’t he look wonderful?” Mom gushed.
“He certainly does.” Dad smiled, then put his arm around her waist and pulled her close.
I hate mushy stuff as much as anyone, but my parents used to be like that all the time… until Jake was born and Mom got nervous and Dad got sad and everything changed.