Ro, Jo, and Kato walked out into the back yard as the sun peeked over the horizon in the morning, turning the sky into a swirl of blue, pink, coral, and purple. The fort under the trees stood in deep shadow as brother, sister, and their blue-tick-hound-mutt friend headed for it.
Opening the door, they were shocked to find all of Team RoJo and Friends already around the table waiting for them. Everyone had some sort of breakfast before them, and at their own places were plates containing waffles and syrup for Jo, and an egg sandwich made on waffles for Ro.
"Cool!" Jo said, as he and his sister took their seats, digging into their favorite breakfasts. Even Kato found his dish with his regular food in it, plus a little bit of pulled pork Nana Terri had snuck into it, just as she'd snuck a little into Brie's.
"Okay," Dad spoke up, his plate already clean, his own egg sandwich in his tummy. "Since, I'm already finished eating, I will tell you about training. Everyone here has something really cool to teach you guys. Each day for the next couple of weeks, you will be training. You know how the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts get badges to put on their vests or sashes?" Dad said to Ro and Jo.
Both of their mouths full, they nodded up at their father where he stood at his place at the table.
"Good. Well, your training, since it's magical, will be a little bit different. You, my children, instead of badges, will be receiving dragon scales for each skill you learn."
Dad held up a sparkly orange scale that looked like it was from Sir WHIP's body. Ro and Jo looked concerned. "Doesn't that hurt to pull out?" Ro asked Sir WHIP.
"Well, it would if it was pulled out. But dragons, sort of like dogs shed their fur, shed our scales. I have been saving them for over a year, for this very purpose," Sir WHIP explained. "On each one Nana Terri drew a picture illustrating one of your magical skills. When you master the skill, the scale will be attached to your vest."
"Vest?" Jo asked.
Grandma Crystal held up two vests, an orange one for Jo and a purple one for Ro. "I made these vests for you a while ago. They are protective and magical themselves, but by the time you finish training, they will be covered with sparkly orange dragon scales, and will be even more magical."
"Wow!" Ro and Jo said at the same time, taking the vests from Grandma Crystal. "These are cool!" Jo said, as he and his sister shrugged into the vests, and the fronts of them closed up as if being zipped – but there was no zipper, of course, just magic.
Ro and Jo both shot a glance toward Grandma Crystal, and she winked.
"Are you ready to earn your first scale?" Gramps Blaze said to Jo who nodded, excited.
"Okay," Gramps Blaze said. "Let's see what you've got." He thought for a moment, and nodded, an idea occurring to him. "How about starting with putting all the dirty dishes in the sink?"
Ro and Jo both got up, not surprised that there was a chore to do, and began collecting up their plates, planning to come back for everyone else's.
"What are you guys doing?" Gramps Blaze said. "First, Ro, this is Jo's badge to earn, yours will come tomorrow morning, so you can relax, but pay strict attention, okay?"
Ro sat back down, nodding, and watched her brother continue to pick up dishes.
Gramps Blaze, (and most of the rest of Team RoJo's breakfast buddies), all shook their heads no.
"What?" Jo said, his eyes roaming to each person sitting about the table, and even Kato and Brie, beneath it.
"This is all about your power to move and change things by waving your hands or wiggling your fingers. Remember how I built the fort?"
"Sure!" Jo said, nodding. "It was cool!"
"Well, I'm going to teach you how to use your power over motion and transportation to change the fort into whatever kind of building you need."
Jo's eyes got big. "I can do that?"
"Sure! It just takes practice. And you kind of have to start small, so I thought getting the dishes into the sink without breaking anything might be a good place to begin." Gramps Blaze explained.
"Ohhhhhh!" Jo said, getting it. "So when you ask me to do a chore, you want me to do it with my powers – to practice."
"Precisely!" Gramps Blaze said, smiling, and everyone around the table nodded.
"Okay," Jo said, looking a little nervous. "Here goes!" He looked hard at the plate in front of him, and concentrated with all his heart. It rose up, and began to float in the air toward the sink.
Halfway there it wobbled some, and the fork clattered on the floor, but Jo got the plate into the sink gently, and it arrived unbroken. Then he concentrated on the fork, and it rose from the floor, flew to the sink and dropped in.
Ro's plate had no fork, and Jo moved it much more smoothly; it stayed level and he set it down on top of his own plate so gently it didn't even make a sound.
He went all around the table, magically clearing each person's dish, including Kato and Brie's, until he got to Gramps Blaze. All that sat before him was a crumpled napkin, which he'd used for his peanut butter bread, and his ever-present Marine mug.
Jo hesitated. He whisked the napkin into the trash can, of course, no problem, but Gramps Blaze's Marine mug was another story. It had been a gift from his friend Tara, and was very special to him. Jo knew he would feel terrible if he goofed and broke the cup.
"It's empty, Jo, and my last cup. Go ahead and put it in the sink," Gramps Blaze said.
Jo still hesitated, looking a little unsure.
"What's up, dude?" Gramps Blaze said.
"Hey," Gramps Blaze said, and when Jo looked up, he locked eyes with him. "It's okay. I trust you. You're getting really good with your powers. Go ahead."
Jo smiled a nervous little smile, and stared at the mug which began to rise into the air before Gramps Blaze's nose. A moment later it arrived at the sink and settled onto the pile of dirty dishes there.
Jo breathed out a sigh of relief.
"So?" Mom said. "You gonna just let 'em sit there?" She was smiling, so she was just letting him know that he wasn't finished.
Jo stared at the faucet, and it began to turn, the lever moving over to the left for hot water.
"Don't forget to stopper the sink," Dad reminded.
Jo stopped, and looked at Gramps Blaze, and the old wizard smiled and said, "You don't have to actually be staring directly at an object to make it move. Just picture the stopper – you know what it looks like, right?"
"Right," Jo replied.
"Well, you just picture it in your mind, and when it's clear enough, picture it moving into place."
Jo closed his eyes, and concentrated on the stopper in the drain beneath all the dirty dishes.
Everyone in the room, including Jo heard it clink into place in the drain. But before he could begin filling the sink again, Gramps Blaze said, "Wait. If you use your powers to wash all these dishes separately, it will take forever. I have a better idea. Open the doors to the fort and the back porch."
The fort door swung open, as did the door to the back porch.
Ro ran to the house and stood in the doorway that opened into the kitchen, and watched the dishwasher door open. Then each plate, cup, and all the silverware filed across the yard in mid-air, into the kitchen, and carefully lowered into the dishwasher's racks.
And this time, Jo moved all the dishes at once! When the sink in the fort was empty, he concentrated on the dishwasher detergent in the cabinet under the kitchen sink. He filled the little cups in the dishwasher door, closed their lid, set the dishwasher's wash cycle, and closed the door.
Ro clapped from her place in the doorway and gave her brother a double thumbs-up when the dishwasher whirred into action.
Everyone around the table in the fort clapped for Jo.
It was his first training test, and he'd passed with flying colors…
Or perhaps we should say, passed with flying dishes.
But there was more to learn before receiving his sparkly orange scale.
"Okay, well done, Jo, but that was just the small stuff. Learning to control your powers – the basics."
"Will I ever be able to move the fort through the air and change its shape like you do, Gramps Blaze? You've got big powers!"
Jo and Ro looked back at Gramps Blaze sitting and smiling. "So do you guys, you know," he told his grandchildren. All I did was move the wood, and nails and stuff around until it built the fort, and then set it down here in your yard. I just do the magic a little faster because I'm an old fart, and I've had a ton of practice. You're already getting it, Jo. You just need to train, same as I did when I was young."
"But my powers are not as big as yours, right?" Jo said.
"Nope. Yours are bigger than mine."
Jo stared at the old wizard's face to make sure Gramps Blaze wasn't pulling his leg. He did that a lot; he was a real kidder that Gramps Blaze. But there was no twinkle in his eye right now, signaling a joke. No twitching of his beard, meaning he was about to laugh. Gramps Blaze was dead serious.
"How can our powers be bigger than yours, Gramps Blaze? You're a wizard!"
"Because your powers, are a combination of everybody on both sides of your family, including mine. All of us have bestowed our magical powers upon you."
"Really?" Ro asked, and the awesome responsibility of having such amazing powers dawned on her. It was really cool, but it was a little bit scary, too.
"Yes really," Gramps Blaze said, and everyone else in the room nodded along with him when Ro and Jo looked around just to be sure.
"But until now, would couldn't do anything magical," Jo said.
"Have you ever tried?" Nana Terri asked softly.
Jo and Ro thought about it, and shrugged. Jo said, "Actually, no."
All the grownups smiled, knowing the kids hadn't tried to do anything magical, because if they had, everyone in the room, no matter where they were in the world would have felt it, and known - instantly.
The kids looked at one another and shrugged. "Maybe I should try something," Ro said, but not really sure what that something might be.
"Try something right now. I know you've been thinking about a question you want to ask me, Ro. Ask me with your mind," Grandma Crystal suggested.
"You mean without saying it out loud?" Ro asked.
Grandma Crystal nodded. "Yes. Just think the question real hard while you stare at me, and see if I get it."
"Since we all got powers from everybody, will I be able to move stuff with magic like Jo?" Grandma Crystal said, repeating the mind-to-mind question that Ro had asked her.
"Right!" Ro said, smiling.
"Well," Grandma Crystal explained. "You both got powers from everyone, and while you will be able to each do small things that the other is capable of, we went with your strengths when we gave you powers. And you can each use the specific powers you have in many ways, so you can accomplish many of the same things, but you will do it differently. Because variety is the spice of life."
Ro and Jo nodded, not completely understanding, but before they could ask more questions, Gramps Blaze said, "Okay, everybody outside. Time for Jo to earn his Sparkly Orange Scale."
Ro and Jo leapt up and bolted out the door. Jo could hardly wait to find out what he would learn to do.
Once outside, Gramps Blaze said to Jo, "First of all, everyone needs seat – some of us are in no shape to sit on the grass, much as we would like to." His crazy gray eyebrows lifted as he smiled at Jo.
"Oh! Me! I can do that, I think."
A moment later, the stackable lawn chairs on the porch rose into the air, floated across the yard, unstacked, and landed softly in the grass in a semi-circle before the fort. Everyone except Jo and Gramps Blaze took a seat.
"Hey Jo, would you do me a favor?" Ro thought the question into his mind, practicing her own magic.
"Sure," Jo said aloud to her.
"Would you bring me the Team RoJo journal and pen?" she asked, again with her mind. "Please?" she remembered her manners.
Jo smiled, and soon the purple book with the wisteria on the front and Ro's way cool Starry Night pen floated out he porch door as it opened, then closed, and into Ro's waiting hands.
"Thanks!" she thought to her brother.
"Sure!" he answered aloud.
Everyone smiled at the magical cooperation between the siblings, and then turned their attention to Gramps Blaze.
"Okay, Jo; I think we need the fort to become a gym inside for you guys to exercise to make your bodies as powerful as your magic."
"You mean like a gym in school?" Jo asked, thinking what a big thing it would be to move all that stuff.
"Exactly," Gramps Blaze said, smiling.
"Bring all the stuff in the school gym here?" Jo asked, his eyes wide.
"Of course not; that would be stealing. Your powers are bigger than that. You not only can move stuff that you can see, but you can move molecules – the little bitty pieces of stuff that make things what they are. You can move them around and make things change into what you want them to be."
"Wow! How do I do that?" Jo said, astonished.
"Okay. Look at the fort, closely," Gramps Blaze instructed.
"Now," Gramps Blaze said, standing beside Jo and taking hold of his hand. "Look into the fort's parts. The wood, the nails, the paint, and look closer, until your mind is sort of inside the wood, nails, paint and stuff." Gramps Blaze, holding Jo's hand, and sharing his thoughts with the boy, thought himself inside all the parts of the fort.
Jo saw himself as all the teeny weeny little pieces that made up the boards, the nails, the paint, the concrete slab beneath it all.
When Gramps Blaze felt that Jo understood and could do that, he knew he was ready to take the next step.
"You know your mind is in all the parts of the fort, right?" Gramps Blaze said to Jo.
"Uh huh," Jo answered, trying to still concentrate on the magic.
"Okay then. You're ready to change the fort into what you want."
"How?" Jo asked.
"Just concentrate and picture all the little bitty molecules changing places, changing colors, changing into the exercise equipment and stuff like in your school gym."
As Jo stood with his eyes closed and concentrated, everyone in the seats in front of the fort smiled, seeing the small building begin to glow. And there was sound coming from within its walls. Things inside were changing!
After about five minutes, everything went still inside the fort and Jo opened his eyes. He looked up at Gramps Blaze, and the old wizard smiled down, pride in his eyes at his grandson and magical student.
"Let's see how you did!" Gramps Blaze said, and nudged Jo toward the door of the fort.
"It still looks the same," Jo said.
"Well of course. The outside doesn't count. It's what you create on the inside that matters," Gramps Blaze said.
When Jo opened the door, the whole Team RoJo group bunched up behind him, so they could see too. He smiled wide.
Everything was changed! There was a weight bench, tumbling mats, even a small set of bleachers along one wall just like at school!"
Jo looked at the outside of the fort, and then in through the door at the massive gym his magical powers had created. "How can this big gym, with a basketball court and everything, fit inside this little fort?"
"Because it's magic," Dad said. "And thank you for the basketball court! We can shoot some hoops!" Jo high-fived his Dad.
Inside the fort/gym everyone went.
Before Gramps Blaze got started on Ro and Jo's training, he reached in his pocket and pulled out a sparkly orange scale and attached it to Jo's vest, using magic of course. "You are learning how your powers work, and you have brought about a big change with them. Speaking of which, do you think you can change everything back?"
Jo smiled and nodded. "Pretty sure!"
"Just don't forget to get my mug out of the dishwasher when it's clean." Gramps Blaze smiled. "So I don't forget to take it home with me."
Jo looked down at his vest, and beamed with pride. His first scale!
TD / 6/4/2016
Next week, join Team RoJo & Friends when it will be time for Ro to earn her first scale – it will be quite an adventure!