Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Parking Garage

A loud metallic whine cuts through the silence of Fortune’s sleep. He tries to hide from it, pulling his blanket up over his face, wishing to fall back into a dream, but the noise comes back again and again until he is forced to open his eyes. He wakes up to a puddle of drool on his pillow and more cars than he remembers parked around the van. Fortune squints through the window and realizes he isn’t even in the same parking lot that he fell asleep in. The McDonalds is gone. They are in some type of parking garage and parked on one of the high floors. Fortune knows this because where the picnic area used to be is now a railing, and beyond the railing is a huge building with a sign that says: MALL OF AMERICA; and beyond the building is the sky. The sky is clear and full of birds.
There is something familiar about the landscape. Something real. Something that he feels he can touch.
“The Mall of America! We are already here!” he shouts. Fortune knows a lot about the Mall of America. He knows about the indoor amusement park, and the underground aquarium, and that it’s where they filmed the scene in, “The Mighty Ducks” where they skate through a mall. Fortune is excited because “The Mighty Ducks” is one of his favorite movies. But no answer comes from the front seat. Fortune looks up and the seats are empty. His parents are gone and he is alone in the van.

Jeff couldn’t sleep in the rest area parking lot. He tried but quickly decided to drive through the night because all the stillness in the air was making his head hurt. His family was asleep around him. Neither of them, he thought would wake anytime soon.
In the early hours of the morning for the first time all day the roads were quiet. For the first time all day Jeff felt truly alone. Steering wheel in hand, waiting for the road ahead of him to vanish so that he could drive straight out into nothingness. Jeff simply followed the signs north.

It was 6:35 A.M when Joanne woke up and found herself in the parking lot of The Mall of America. She was furious. Jeff had driven through the night and risked falling asleep at the wheel. But why? For what?
When Jeff woke up Joanne was yelling at him about being careless and heartless and stupid. Then she went quiet and opened her door. She got out and looked into his eyes through the window. Then she turned towards the entrance of the mall and began to run.
Jeff checked on Fortune who was still sleeping. And Jeff didn’t think that it was a bad idea to leave him there and go running after her. He didn’t think that they would be gone long at all. He didn’t think that Fortune was going to wake up anytime soon. And he didn’t think anything bad was going to happen to anyone.

If something bad had happened, the bad guys would know where Fortune is and they might be coming back for him. He takes his backpack and starts stuffing it full: his shovel, a can of soup, a box of macaroni and cheese, two cans of soda and a spare change of clothes. He knows that he can’t stay sitting in the van. He has to go look for his parents and he has to be prepared for anything. Anything ever. The newspaper has taught him that people who sit alone in cars get robbed or hurt. He knows how these things work. These are the types of things that are written about in newspapers. He reads about them every day. The robbers, the murderers, the kidnappers, the people lost in the wilderness for days. Fortune knows that every day there are people all over who are robbed or killed and taken away by someone else and that these things are read one day and recycled the next. Fortune doesn’t want to be recycled. Fortune doesn’t want to be written about at all.

They aren’t sitting behind it. Or in front of it. They aren’t playing hide and seek underneath the van either. His parents aren’t ten cars down from the van or ten cars up from the van because Fortune walks ten cars in each direction and doesn’t see a thing. He calls out their names but they don’t call back. He holds his breath and listens carefully for any sound of them. He hears: babies screaming, cars driving and horns honking. Fortune sees a Ford Ranger and leans up against its side. All the thoughts about robbers and murderers start to make him feel small and sad. He wants his pillow. He tries to open the door of the van but the van is locked. He tries hugging himself but it isn’t the same. He stops thinking about bad things happening to everyone and he says out loud, “Everything is ok. They just went inside. Nothing bad has happened. Mom loves shopping. She just couldn’t wait. It makes perfect sense. Nothing bad has happened. They just went inside. Everything is ok.” It would also make sense if his parents had left him and gone into the mall because it was breakfast time and they were hungry. Sometimes his father gets really hungry and has a hard time waiting. Fortune takes his first steps towards the entrance of the mall.

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