Read an Excerpt
Jared juggled the remote controls for the TV and DVD player, watching them spin in the air between his hands. He was standing on the back of the couch, balanced above his sister's head.
"Would it kill you to sit still?" Daphne growled.
Jared didn't answer. Sometimes he thought it would kill him to sit still. His energy might build up inside him until he exploded. But mostly, he thought it was more fun to annoy Daphne than it would be to sit on the couch.
Suddenly, he spotted something interesting in the background of Daphne's princess movie. There was a guy standing in the middle of the crowd and juggling, and he was juggling even better than Jared could. Jared jumped down from the couch, narrowly missing Daphne's head.
"Who is that?" he said.
"Get out of the way. I
can't see," Daphne said.
"But who is that guy?"
"He's the court jester. Now move!"
Sometimes sisters could be so rude, Jared thought. Then he sat down to watch the movie. Well, he sat upside down on the couch with his hair brushing the floor. But he was watching the movie seriously this time.
The jester was acting crazy. He was dressed in a bright apple green and purple costume. His hat had two points, each decorated with a jingling bell. As Jared watched, the jester juggled, told a joke, and did a perfect back flip.
Wow! He could do everything Jared did, except better! He even looked a little like Jared-lean and lanky with reddish brown hair and a scattering of freckles. But of course, Jared didn't generally wear bells on his head.
"Why is he doing that stuff?" Jared asked. After all, the jester didn't seem to be a big part of the story.
"It's his job," Daphne said.
Jared's eyes opened wide. "That's his job?" he repeated.
Daphne ignored him, but Jared was used to that. He just kept talking. "Daphne, how can it be his job? He gets paid to juggle?" Jared had a lot of experience with juggling. Some people (okay, mostly his mom) yelled at him, some people laughed, but no one had ever, ever paid him.
He poked Daphne's shoulder again and again until she finally looked at him.
"It's his job to entertain the king and the queen," she said, swatting his hand away. "He tells jokes and stuff."
Jared peered closely at Daphne to make sure she was telling the truth. Her eyebrows always wiggled when she lied. But no-her eyebrows were completely still.
"You're telling me that this guy gets paid to juggle and tell jokes," he said.
"And he does flips, and plays tricks on people, and stuff like that. Now go away," she said.
Jared didn't go away, but he did stop talking. He needed to think things over.
People were always asking Jared what he wanted to be when he grew up, and he always said whatever popped into his head. Firefighter, or police officer, or doctor. Every kid in his class wanted to be the same things.
But a court jester! That was something completely different. And he already had the skills. He ticked them off in his head:
- He could juggle. He could even throw his mom's plates in the air and catch them before they fell. Usually.
- He could do flips. He'd been taking gymnastics since he was five. (Some theory of his mother's about burning up his extra energy.)
- He could tell jokes. Even if Daphne didn't think they were funny.
It was possible that he was born to be a court jester. He could only think of one problem: he wasn't sure they really existed. Jared knew that the palace in Daphne's movie was just a painted backdrop. But were there real palaces, or real kings and queens who still had jesters?
"Do you think there are still jesters anywhere in the world?" he asked Daphne.
She shrugged and rolled her eyes. Jared knew what that meant. Even if she knew, she wasn't going to tell him.
As soon as she turned back to the TV, Jared stuck out his tongue at her. He didn't need her, anyway. He could ask someone else.
He wandered into the kitchen, where his dad was making dinner. He seemed busy. The oven timer was going off, the potatoes were boiling over on the stove, and there was a faint whiff of something burning.
"Court jesters are cool," Jared announced.
"Sure," his dad said.
"Do you know if they still exist anywhere in the world?"
The timer was still buzzing, and his dad ducked around Jared to pull a casserole out of the oven.
"Never met one," he said.
"But there are still kings and queens in some places, right?"
"A few of them," he said. "Can we talk about this later?"
"Okay, but you should see this guy in the movie. He does everything! He juggles, and does flips, and. .
Jared trailed off, not sure if his dad was really listening.
"Maybe you'd better find out more about it," he said.
Jared stomped out of the room. He was trying to find out more, but his dad and Daphne were no help at all. There was only one other option, and Jared didn't have much hope...
He found his mom finishing her work in the living room. She was leaning over the coffee table with a red pen in one hand. The other hand was rubbing her forehead. It looked as if she was marking tests from the grade nine math class she taught.
"Mom, have you ever seen a jester?" Jared asked.
"What? Oh, a jester. That's a guy in a funny hat. He's on the extra cards in a deck -- the ones you don't usually play with."
"That's a joker."
"Same thing, isn't it?" His mom finished checking one test and moved on to the next.
Jared groaned in frustration. "I'm talking about real life. Are there real-life jesters?"
"Can I think about this later? You wouldn't believe what a crazy day I've had. .
Jared stomped away without waiting for his mom to finish. His family had to be the most useless family in the whole universe. He was talking about his future, about a possible career, and they didn't care.
He narrowed his eyes. He wasn't going to let them discourage him. He would just have to find some other way to investigate.
That night, Jared couldn't sleep. When he closed his eyes, all he could see was a jester doing handsprings across the insides of his eyelids. And the more Jared thought about it, the more exciting jesters became. He found himself wishing that he could close his eyes and wake up inside a palace. After all, if he was going to be a jester, he could start right now. He could even quit school. He wouldn't need to do math equations or speak a second language to juggle pins and tell jokes.
Jared thought about jesters so hard for so long that his head began to feel hot.
Finally, he crawled out of bed. He crept into the hallway, then counted his way down the stairs. One, two, three, hang onto the handrail and stretch over the squeaky fourth stair, then safely down.
The house was completely quiet. Convinced that everyone else was asleep, Jared popped his sister's movie into the DVD player and sat down to watch. A few minutes later, he was positive that he was meant to be a court jester. He grabbed the remote to watch his favorite scene one more time.
Suddenly, the lights flicked on. Jared blinked in the brightness, squinting to see who was standing in the doorway. It was Daphne.
"I can't believe you sneaked out of bed," she said. "And to watch my princess movie. You're weird, and when I tell Mom in the morning, you're going to be