I wanted a calm, peaceful Saturday. But my plans were interrupted by my sister Elena burst into the kitchen, yelling “It’s breaking news! Breaking news, Jade!”
“What?” I sighed, uninterested.
“Last night, three million dollars and three million bananas were stolen!” She exclaimed.
“Excuse me, but did you just say THREE MILLION BANANAS HAVE BEEN STOLEN or am I going crazy?” I replied.
“There was a huge shipment of bananas and other fruits going to the Fruit a'Palooza restaurant—well, shipments” Elena explained, “and all the bananas were stolen—along with one million dollars from the people who were sending the bananas!”
“Whatever,” I grumbled.
“Jade, this means we are going to Fruit a'Palooza,” she announced.
“What?” I exclaimed.
Fifteen minutes later, Elena and I strolled into Fruit a'Palooza. It was a restaurant that had mainly fruit dishes, or fruit with the dishes and it was very popular.
“Elena, how do you know that the whole thing wasn’t made up?” I challenged.
“Easy. I’ll ask someone. She walked to the cashier and casually inquired, “did someone actually steal three million bananas yesterday?” The man behind the counter started.
“Well, yes. Interestingly enough, everything else arrived safely,” he responded.
“And why do you need three million bananas?” She queried.
“Um…” he shrugged.
“Alright!” Elena bounded back over to me. “Next stop—the post office!”
“I can’t believe you dragged me into this,” I muttered.
“Into what? You’re not doing much,” she replied innocently. I rolled my eyes.
“Into walking around, asking pointless questions about a banana, of all things.”
“Not one banana. Three million.”
“Does it matter?”
I sighed for what was not the first and certainly not the last of that day. “How do you know this is the right post office?”
“I asked the cashier.” We were standing in a small, nondescript square building, plain and light brown with a few windows to let in a bit of light. Elena strode to the person behind the desk, a brunette woman in her late thirties. “Did shipments that had three million bananas in it arrive here without the bananas?” She asked.
“Why yes,” she glanced at Elena, her eyebrows drawn up into a suspicious arch.
“Why would someone want that many bananas?” Elena continued, oblivious to the woman's eyebrows ever-increasing height. “I mean, there were also strawberries and oranges, weren’t there? And all they took were the bananas?” I wondered where she was going with this. The woman was starting to look annoyed.
“That is correct. How do you know this?” She queried.
“Well, the news!” Elena declared.
“It’s already in the news?” the woman said, almost to herself.
“Well how else would I know about it?” Elena questioned.
“All right, if you’re not going to give me something to send then be on your way,” the woman challenged suddenly.
“Come on, Elena,” I called.
“Fine,” Elena came back and we made our way out.
“Where are you going to drag me next?” I sighed—again.
“I’ve run out of leads,” she replied, despondent. She sat on a bench near the post office. “There’s nothing I can do.” I was at a loss for words. I wasn’t sure why this was so important for her, but I hated seeing her so dejected. I sat beside her and put my arm around her shoulder.
“It’ll be all right,” I responded. “But—there’s something I want to ask you.”
“Go ahead,” Elena said.
“Why is this so important for you—Where are you going?” I exclaimed. She was halfway down the block already.
“Shh!” She replied. I was taken aback. What could it be? I stood up and crept over to her. She was all the way down the block now and peering around the building, although all I saw was a sidewalk. “Stay here,” she warned, and dashed off, then turned so she was at the back of the building.
Fifteen minutes later, she had not returned. It was worrying but she hadn’t said when she would be back. Still, I needed to know where she was going. I followed where I had seen her going and behold, a train and a track. I could see Elena's muddy footprints leading toward it so that’s where I went. But once I got closer, I couldn’t tell Elena's footprints apart from the many others. I would have to search each car. There were a lot of cars. I started with the closest one. I peered inside, unsure whether or not to hope for people in it. Regardless, there were none, and nothing at all in that part of the train. Same with the next three. It was odd, I thought, and decided to go farther down, as I was fairly far up a pretty good-sized train. I jogged to the other side of the train and saw…
A banana lying on the center of the floor.
And three crates filled with bananas.
“What in the world?” I exclaimed. I tried the next few, and they were much the same. Elena had suddenly flown out of my mind with this sudden and unusual discovery. I opened up another door, and saw many talk crates inside. All caution forgotten, I stepped inside and looked into a crate.
Predictably, more than one banana. Many bananas. I searched the others, and they all held the same thing—bananas.
If I had remembered caution, then things would have turned out differently and I would not have gone on an accidental train ride.
The train started, which made me start. I ran to the door, but then it slammed closed right as I reached it, making me lose my balance and fall onto the hard floor. “Ouch,” I grunted. I picked myself up and pulled on the door. It didn’t budge. “Now what am I going to do?” I asked aloud.
“Eat bananas!” A cheerful voice announced. A boy who was a little younger than me popped up from a crate I hadn’t checked yet. I screamed. “Not so loud there! They’ll hear us!” He exclaimed.
“Who are you, why are you in a crate of bananas, and who are they?” I asked rapid-fire.
“I’m Ernest, they are the people who stole the bananas, and I’m here because a few days ago, I saw this train and decided to investigate. There were a bunch of monkeys in the train, and then this man came in and I asked him ‘why are there monkeys here?’ And he said ‘It’s a secret.’ But I kept on asking and asking, so he brought me to this other person who said they were experiments and they were bringing the monkeys home and they needed food. Then she said I couldn’t tell anyone. Then they were called away to do something, then the train left and I was stuck here! Yesterday the bananas came in and so I’ve been here ever since.”
“Okaaaaaay,” I responded.
“Do you believe me? I wouldn’t lie. Why would I?” Ernest seemed disappointed.
“It’s a lot to wrap my head around,” I replied, “so Ernest, my sister was trying to figure out something about the bananas. Have you seen her? She’s around the same age as you, her hair's this crazy mixture if pink, purple and blue, and she’s wearing a red sweater.”
“I saw someone who matches that description yesterday. She was helping them load the bananas into the car.
“That’s not right. She was at a friend’s yesterday,” I remarked.
“Maybe she was lying,” he suggested.
“But why would she help people steal bananas?” I said. Ernest shrugged.
“Well, you might want to hide in a crate in case the people come back. What’s your name, anyway?” He queried.
Several hours later, the train stopped. Ernest warned me not to get out, but I had to know what was going on. However, before I could get out, the crate I hid in got carried to—somewhere. I had no clue where. On the bright side, I could hear someone giving some sort of pep talk or speech.
“We have been very successful in our endeavors, thanks in no small part to our volunteers—” there was applause here. “And our hardworking crew. We’ve finished with our experiments and now it’s time to go on to greater heights. We will have an army who will obey us completely, so long as we pay them—in bananas! And now that we have three million bananas and the funds, we’re all set for the next phase. We may be needing more volunteers, however.” Why did she seem so down when she talked about volunteers? Weren’t they a good thing? I wasn’t even sure what was going on. I guessed it was either a top-secret government experiment or illegal experimentation on the monkeys. Whichever, I was thoroughly confused. I peered out the handle of the crate. A small, toned woman with honey blond hair was the one making the speech. She stood in front of a small crowd, and to the side were several younger people—including Elena, I realized. They all looked miserable, a contrast to the grinning crowd next to them. “Now we will bring the bananas to the monkeys, and they will become indebted to us. We will have our army!” The crowd cheered. “Volunteers, would you be so kind…?” The volunteers walked to the crates. I ducked down. Soon the crate got picked up again, and once the crate got set down I looked through the handle. Monkeys were crawling to the crates, and the volunteers were taking off the lids. It was only a matter of time before I was discovered, and as soon as I had the thought, the lid disappeared and Elena was staring at me.
“How… why are you here? You’ve got to get away!” She hissed. In way of answer, I replied:
“What’s going on here?”
“These people are doing illegal stuff, and these monkeys will devour you if you’re in the…”
“What! A person!” Another volunteer shrieked.
“Um… hi?” Ernest greeted.
“Please don’t let the monkeys devour Ernest,” I whispered to Elena.
“All right, get out of the crate, Ernest!” Elena called. Seeing no other option, he did. “Get out of the crate, Jade. We’re making a break for it, ” she said out of the side of her mouth. I knocked the crate over, crawled out of it and scrambled to my feet. I grabbed Ernest’s hand and Elena grabbed my hand and we sprinted like that for a few moments, before Elena dropped my hand and I dropped Ernest’s. Someone yelled after us and I heard the pounding of feet behind us. We ran harder, hearts in our throats.
“Where… we going?” Ernest puffed.
“Need… tell… someone… ‘bout this… follow me,” Elena replied. She headed for a car by the side of the road and pulled keys out of her pocket. Ernest yanked the door open and Elena jumped inside and inserted the keys. I turned to see three people chasing us, two men and a woman. And they were almost there. I shoved Ernest into the car.
“Go! I’ll distract them!” I shouted, and slammed the door closed. Elena, who most certainly would not have left me behind had she been thinking clearly, stepped on the pedal and was on her way. “Hey! Over here!” I jumped up and down waving my arms wildly. Then I realized how this was obviously a distraction. I noticed a small crate near me. I picked it up and threw it at the three people. The lid flew off and bananas slid out, right in the path of the three. They slipped, tripped, wobbled and fell on their faces. I used my momentary advantage to chase after the car Elena and Ernest were riding away in, but I wasn’t looking where I was going and I tripped on a banana. I fell flat onto the hard asphalt and lay for a moment, stunned. Then I pushed myself up and was surrounded by the three people.
They brought me to a small room, to the woman who had given the speech.
“Hello,” she greeted. “Do you know what is going on here?”
“Um… are you illegally creating a monkey army?” I asked.
“Well, some people put it that way.” She conceded, scowling. “How did you get here?”
“Uh… the train.”
“Do you know the two kids who left in the car?”
“I met the boy a few hours ago. The other is my sister,” I responded carefully.
“Ah. I see. Now, time to drop the bomb—you cannot leave here. This is top secret.” She announced.
“Ernest and Elena left.” I stated.
“We are tracking them down at this very moment. They will not get far.”
“So, what will I do for the time being?” I pried.
“Stay here,” she decided. To make sure I stayed there, they tied my wrists and legs to the chair I was sitting on. I must have stayed there for hours, although I couldn’t tell. The woman came in and out many times, while I just sat there. In two words, I’d say those hours were mundane and stressful. I had no clue what happened to Ernest or Elena and nobody told me anything. Nobody even looked at me, except for when they gave me water. Then, at the height of my boredom, I heard muffled people frantically explaining something to someone. I couldn’t care less who they had been conversing with until a brawny policeman knocked down the door and hopped inside.
“Who are you and why are you here?” He demanded.
“Um—I’m Jade and I’m here because my sister hadn’t come back for fifteen minutes so I checked the train and then it started and I hid in the bananas with another kid and my sister and him escaped a while ago but I distracted them…” I recounted. The policeman nodded and cut loose my bonds.
“Your sister led us here. To make sure you’re really her sister, describe her,” he interrogated.
“Her name’s Elena, her hair is pink, purple and blue and also in a really long braid, her skin tone is similar to mine… and her middle name is Anne,” I summarized. He accepted this and brought me through the halls to the sunset, where several police cars and one or two motorcycles were. Elena pushed the door of one of the cars open and sprinted toward me.
“Jade! You’re okay!” She threw her arms around me and I returned the embrace.
“Elena! How did you convince all these police to come here?” I cried.
“It took forever. Nobody believes anything from people under eighteen these days!” She lamented, “but eventually Ernest and I convinced them.”
“Where is he, by the way?” I questioned.
“Back at the station. I insisted on coming along but he wasn’t so sure,” she remarked.
“Go back to the car,” a brunette policewoman interjected, “it’s not safe out here.” Elena rolled her eyes and pulled me into the car.
“So Elena—where were you yesterday? Were you really at your friend’s house?” I probed.
“Yes and no,” she twisted her hands, “I did go there, but only Kat's dad was there. He asked if I would help him with something and I agreed—I didn’t know I’d be helping steal bananas! Once I was there, he told everyone I was a volunteer and then I couldn’t figure out how to leave, the place had been filled with people!”
“And today?” I hinted.
“Well, I didn’t actually see it in the news. It was supposed to be kept quiet for as long as possible but I needed to know… and when we were by the train, well, I thought I had seen a man who I’d seem yesterday so I went to check and he made me come…” she trailed off. “Am I a bad person now?”
“Elena, you didn’t want to do it. You were forced into it, so I don’t see how that makes you a bad person,” I interpreted. She smiled.
“Thanks—” her apology was a cut short when a fist struck her jaw. Her head hung limp and I shrieked. The driver turned around and the honey blond woman turned around.
“Don’t move or make a sound, because if you do I’ll have a shoot you,” she threatened, holding up a gun. I gulped, my heart racing. What could I do? There was nothing, not with that gun she had. But out of the corner of my eye, I glimpsed the brawny policeman striding towards us. The blond woman rolled down the window.
“Drop the gun!” The man shouted.
“Whatever you say,” she smiled, dropping her arm yet maintaining her hold on the gun while simultaneously reaching in her coat pocket and whipping a throwing star at him. He ducked, then held his gun at her.
“Shoot me and I shoot her,” she asserted lazily, aiming the gun at my head.
“Drop. The. Gun,” he commanded, sweat beads forming on his brow.
“That worked out really well last—” she didn’t get to finish her sarcastic response before a BANG and she squealed in agony, then dropped the gun. The brunette policewoman lowered her gun a bit. The man glanced at her a little belatedly.
“What, Hank?” She breathed, then strode to the blond woman and handcuffed her. “You’re under arrest,” she declared.
Elena, Ernest and I were all escorted home in due time. The police had found the group guilty of illegal animal experimentation and theft among other things, so they were all headed for trial.
This experience had given me the realization that I had been taking too many things for granted, including my own sister. She had always been getting on my nerves but now I was more thankful for her and the little things every single day.