Her blue and purple striped shirt was faded just like her jeans. She was a medium built girl with a square shaped face and two curly ponytails above her ears that seemed frozen in time. They were always in the same spot; they never moved. Her earrings were small round hoops just large enough to fit her pinky finger through.
Her brother was a scrawny boy. His big elbows and knees were over-sized compared to his arms and legs. His hair was wild and uncombed with lint from his bed covers in the front.
Joanne and Max were silent as they tossed a ball to each other on their front porch. Cars moved up and down the street complying with the speed limit but ignoring the pedestrians. Not one car slowed enough to let a pedestrian enter the crosswalk. Instead, drivers blew horns warning them to stay out the way.
Sirens from a speeding police car pierced Joanne and Max’s ears. Their game of catch abruptly stopped. The ball flew free and bounced down the stairs. Their hands pressed against their ears muting the sound of the siren while their eyes followed the car. Now, they were standing at the edge of the porch leaning against the rail. A new realm unfolded before their eyes.
The police car disappeared. It had driven into some kind of bubble vortex. The front of the vehicle disappeared first, then the middle, and the words “Pico City Police.” The last thing they saw was the tail lights. The car was gone. Had anyone else seen that? Max looked at Joanne with his lips moving. She was sure he was talking, but she couldn’t hear a word. She grabbed his shoulders and shook him. Still, no sound came out. She called his name, “Max!” His eyes looked puzzled. Joanne could tell that he couldn’t hear her either.
Max suddenly remembered his ball was in the road and dashed down the steps. He picked it up. In the middle of the street with his arms extended outward, his hands and the ball disappeared. They had entered into a bubble vortex. Max’s hands were gone, just like the police car.
Joanne rushed into the street and grabbed Max around his chest. The strong vortex lifted his body. Only the tips of his sneakers remained on the ground. He went higher and higher, and Joanne held tighter and tighter. She held his waist wishing that he had worn a belt. She was losing the battle and needed a better grip; her hands couldn’t hang on any longer. Max’s blue sneakers were now eye level with Joanne. The white star on the side of it was huge from this close view. Joanne leaped up and wrapped her arms around Max’s bulging knees. She was not going to lose her brother. The vortex’s suction grew stronger, and Joanne tightened her embrace. She was pulled inside headfirst. Stuck partially between the bubble vortex and home, she felt a heavy pressure on her chest. A voice inside the bubble said, “Relax.” It was Max. She could hear him again. “Are you okay?” she asked. “Look,” he said, “over there.” Her body relaxed and glided into the vortex.
In front of them, stood a house like theirs, but better. The grass was greener, and the windows had flowers. The paint was bright, and the porch had new red bricks, not worn and chipped like the ones on their home. They thought the best thing about the house inside the vortex was the pool with the slide they had always dreamed of getting. The vortex had everything they ever wanted, even past Christmas gifts they wanted but didn’t get.
The place was weird but inviting. They entered the house and called, “Mom? Dad?” No answered. They didn’t’ see anyone else. They could do anything, and no one would tell them to stop. It was just them.
Joanne and Max wondered where the police car went. “Was there a door to get into the vortex with the police car?” Joanne wondered. Did the officer’s vortex make him happy? Maybe people not committing crimes would make him happy.
Joanne reached up and scratched her ear. Her pinky finger slid through the center of her hooped earring and accidentally pulled it off. The tug on her ear woke her. She sat up in her bed. It was all a dream. She inhaled the familiarity of her room, took a deep breath and fell back to deep sleep.
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