What is fortune? Many equate fortune to wealth. I learned long ago that wealth and fortune are two different things. I was fortunate in the sense I was wealthy; I had everything I wanted and even all I didn’t want, and through rain, sleet or snow, at the end of my childhood, a bottomless trust fund awaited me. Other people relate fortune to destiny and mine sprawled out before me like the red carpet before a king: college, then family business, and money, oh so much money; an easy fate for an easy life.
The school bell rings, slicing through my reflections like my mother’s knife through the pineapple upside-down cake she requested from our pastry chef for my last birthday. As kids pile into the halls, I stop and watch them, the geeks, the brains, the populars, the nerds, the dweebs, the class clowns, the drama club, the chess club and the jocks. I see Jason, the younger version of me, surrounded by his buddies, rowdy, spinning a football in his hand as he saunters down the hallway. Jason won’t get called out; Mr. Amos, the new principal is nothing compared to the tour de force of respect Mr. Dieter commanded back then. The school bell rings again, and the crowd dissipates, leaving the hall empty and quiet, good for silent introspection, something I seldom did then, but now do nonstop. I remember the parties, the joyrides, the dates, the good times I thought were endless…
I’m bored. I suppose I could look in on Ms. Stevenson in social studies, but like then, I seldom attend class now, though I’ve never lacked brains, only interest. I flitted from private school to private school until none would have me. I found contentment in public school where I could fly by the seat of my pants and no one blinked. That was my fortunate life. Those were the days when I was young, wild and carefree.
Mr. Gibson is a funny little man, like those yapping, nervous little dogs, and I peek into his classroom. Back turned, he’s writing something on the board. I steal a glance at the students; the nerds are taking notes, the mean girls are texting and giggling, but most are trying to stay awake. Jason sits at the back, flinging spitballs at the kid in front. I don’t like that kid; his name’s Baxter.
There are two kinds of weirdos or outcasts, kids who are neither here nor there. The good weirdos are the hippie, artsy or kooky type. They take up unusual hobbies like glassblowing or soap-carving; they smile often, keep to themselves and won’t hurt a fly. Then we have the strange weirdos, the creepers, the people you wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. They are the ones that freeze you with their unnerving stare, never smile, say disturbing things in class and slither down the hallway in a stench of hatred and disdain. Baxter is a creeper. Back then Dorian was the creeper.
I smirk when Mr. Gibson turns to the door, as if looking for something through the little square glass window. I bang on the door and the sound thunders through the room. Mr. Gibson jumps like a startled cat and so do the students. Jason even swallows his spitball. Mr. Gibson opens the door and peers out. His hand trembles a little and I snigger against the wall. Mr. Gibson closes the door and returns to his class. He’s afraid now, and the class is nervous; spooky things happen here. Only Baxter is unaffected.
His icy expression sends me back to the day the wheel of my fortune spun out of control.
“He’ll do it, you know,” Mr. Dieter whispers behind me, “Baxter is the new Dorian.”
“I know,” I say.
“Only a matter of time,” his voice floats down the hall and into the teacher’s lounge.
I know, though I wish I didn’t. Nowadays I know so much more. It’s ironic how I used to think I knew it all, but since my fortune changed, I now know everything; past, present and future. At the drop of a hat I knew every word, every story, every fact, the whole kit and caboodle. I also know every mistake. Though I encourage the kids to improve, the message doesn’t always get through, and never to the Baxters or Dorians of the world.
Baxter is late today and I know why. How do I stop so many destinies from spiraling into darkness?
I see Jason cutting class and heading out, and in him, I see myself just before my doom.
I was walking down the hall on the last remaining days of senior year, playing hooky again, when Dorian ambled through the main entrance. He had a strange look in his eye and I thought, “Uh-oh”.
He pointed a black hole at me. A flash of light, a boom and my luck oozed out of me in a river of gooey red on the school’s linoleum floor. For the first time in my life I shared the same fate as others, or rather, others shared my fate.
“There’s still time,” Mr. Dieter says beside me. Like me, he knows everything, and we know Baxter hasn’t left home yet, he’s still pulling on his hunting clothes and packing the weapons: handguns, rifles, knives.
Jason is out the school door, but he’s the only one.
The others gather beside me. We all know what’s about to unfold. Kismet brought Macy and Dorian together at the library, then he hunted Griffin into the supply closet. Jonas fell by his locker. Mrs. Moritz pushed Janice out of the way, but not quick enough to save herself; it was futile because Dorian shot Janice as she ran.
“We must do something,” I say.
“What?” Janice the science geek says, “We are only air now.”
“We can move things,” Jonas, who was on the track and field team, pumps his fist.
“We can bang things,” Griffin smiles (he was a drummer).
“We can pull the fire alarms,” Mrs. Moritz chimes in (she taught music).
“We can cause a power outage,” Macy piped up, she was in the drama club and now likes to fumble with the auditorium lights.
“We must hurry,” Mr. Dieter looks at us and nods, “Baxter’s coming.”
Kids spill into the hallway and flow out the doors. Mr. Amos, the principal, yells for calm and order, but no one hears amidst the flickering lights, the clanging water pipes, the wailing fire alarms and slamming locker doors.
We cheer. Only Mr. Dieter is not with us. He’s messing with the traffic light at the end of the street.
Tomorrow the newspapers will say Baxter Morgan ran a red light and perished when he collided with an oncoming dump truck. The police will speculate about the arsenal of weapons in his car.