Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Lava Field

The floorboard creaks as Fortune makes his way downstairs. There are two small steps followed by one bigger one followed by ten more small ones until you get to the first floor of the house. When Fortune takes showers sometimes the shampoo gets in his eyes and it starts to burn. He uses a towel and washes his eyes out as best he can but sometimes the burning seems to stay forever. Whenever this happens Fortune thinks that he might not be able to open his eyes again and he will be blind.
Fortune is afraid that he will end up walking around for the rest of his life squinting and smelling like Pert Plus. Surrounded only by darkness and various shapes made out of that same darkness. Fortune practices walking down the stairs of his house with his eyes closed. He walks through the entire house and learns how many steps it takes to get from places like the TV to the phone: four straight, eleven left, two straight. Just in case one day he can’t open his eyes ever again.
Or something even worse. Like if the house caught on fire and he couldn’t see anything but smoke and flame. Or if a bunch of robbers broke in and blindfolded him and he needed to escape to help save his family.
Fortune reads the headlines of the papers. The articles always say something like, “no one ever thought something like this could happen here,” or, “she was just a kid and didn’t really know what to do in that situation.” Fortune doesn’t want to become that type of story. Fortune wants to be ready for anything. Anything ever.
Downstairs in the living room Fortune’s mother is standing on the brown carpet in bare feet watching digital clouds drift across the nation. The clouds swirl across the Pacific ocean. They cross the state of Ohio and over the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. A man in a grey suit looks like he is pulling the storm front along the shores of the Great Lakes with his bare hands. Fortune’s mother curls her fingers around a glass of milk.
“What are you doing Fortune?” She asks and takes a sip of her milk.
“Mom, I have to be prepared for anything,” He says opening his eyes in front of her.
“You have to be prepared for anything huh? What’s going to happen? Do you know something I don’t Fortune Alabama?” She asks.
“Maybe. I’ve counted how many steps that it takes to get from everywhere in the house to anywhere else in the house. I was just checking to make sure it hadn’t changed.”
“Well has it?” she says.
Fortune twists his big toe into the sole of the slipper. “No. It still takes me five steps to get from the bottom of the stairs to the couch. I guess the house hasn’t grown.” He sits down on the couch and watches satellite images of the eastern seaboard appear on the TV. It’s boring. He takes one of the pillows into his arms and tosses it to the floor, then another, then two more, then another.
“ why are you throwing my pillows on the floor? What are pillows on the floor going to prepare you for other than learning how to pick them back up?”
He stands up on the couch and looks at his mother, turns his head and jumps off the couch landing on one of the pillows on the floor. He stands on the pillow for a brief second, scanning the floor for his next jump. A few seconds pass and he spots it. He takes the jump and moves from one pillow to another without ever touching the brown of the carpet.
“What if the whole carpet just suddenly turned into lava and the pillows were the rocks sticking out. I need to be ready just in case I am ever caught in a lava field or a flood and I don’t get burned alive or sucked under water. See,” Fortune points to the brown carpet underneath his mothers slippers, “you would already be burnt.”

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