Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Crossword Puzzle

When Fortune opens his eyes he hears something. Something familiar. He can hear the sound of his mother. She is screaming. She is in the mall and not far from where he is sitting.
Fortune stands up and starts to run towards the noise. He knows it is her. She is yelling the way she yells when she yells about the basement. Fortune pushes through a crowd of people, then another, then another. His mother is getting louder. Fortune can make out the muffled sounds of his father now too. Their voices get louder as the crowds of people get thicker. Fortune feels like he is pushing his way through a parade. He is pushing his way between a thousand huge elephants. And then he sees them.
His father is standing in front of a furniture store. His shirt is ripped across his chest. His chest is red. He is scratching his beard and sipping on a Coke can and holding his mother’s crossword puzzle book in his hand. The crowds of people that Fortune was pushing through are all standing around his father too. They are all watching Fortune’s father as if they were watching something important on the TV. There are some people who have their hands over their mouths. There are others who are pulling their children away.
Fortune can see his mother. She is just inside the store, lying on a couch in the display room. The couch is grey. She has her hands on her face. Her hair is sticking up like she just rubbed her feet across the ground and created a lot of static running through her body. Fortune hears people in the crowd say things like: “Oh my dear lord,” and “How could they do that in public?” and he doesn’t know what happened or what they are talking about but he doesn’t need to. He can see it in his father’s eyes. He can see it in the way his mother curls tightly into a ball at the top end of the couch.
The Coke finishes nicely on Jeff’s lips. He turns around and sees Joanne lying on the couch. This damn book. This fucking book. Jeff waves to the crowd of people that came over after they heard Joanne scream as she ripped at his shirt. He just wants for them to go away. There is nothing going on anymore. There is nothing to see. A woman got upset that is all. He tried to hold her back as best as he could and she fell backwards on her own. She couldn’t control herself.
Jeff takes the crossword puzzle book and opens to a random page. He can’t believe it. He just can’t believe it. The whole damned thing is filled up with this shit. All this time she used it as a cover up. She was doing this right before his very eyes. He even helped her solve some of them and she played along like she was really filling the puzzles out. Joanne lies on the couch and she has trouble breathing in and out. She watches Jeff stand next to a bench in the hallway of the mall. His shirt is ripped, chest exposed; with her puzzle book open, reading the lists and lists of her greatest memories. She filled the entire book up with her sorrow. She has been quickly losing her happiest memories and writing them down helped her remember them during the harder times.
She put everything in there. Every single memory that they ever made together. She wrote down all sorts of words. Some of them he will remember instantly, others he probably can’t remember at all. Some words are: “Mountains,” “Devils Tower,” “24 beer night”, “racoonsstealcoffee,” and “paddle boats.” He will have no idea what to make of all of them. She wonders what he is thinking about as he reads it. She wonders if he regrets every time that he cheated on her without her knowing. She wonders if he is thinking about every time he came home and lied to her about seeing Rod Stewart and Bill Clinton together at the bar.
She has dreamt of this moment. There were so many times she had just wanted to leave the book out for him to see. One time, she thought of leaving it underneath his pillow. She even thought of just giving it to him one night and asking him to read it out loud to her. Joanne wrote down her greatest memories in her crossword book this whole trip and for months before hand. They were happy memories that helped her through sad times. They were all she wanted back. She just wanted Jeff to see them, to watch them make him shrink before her eyes.
Joanne looks past Jeff and into the crowd. She sees Fortune staring directly at her. She gasps and stands up.
Jeff notices his wife move for the first time in ten minutes. He glances over to Joanne and she is staring into the crowd. Jeff looks over his shoulder, into the crowd and sees Fortune see him. Fortune looks terrified. Both Joanne and Jeff move towards Fortune.

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