In one of my fiction classes, my professor passed around fortune cookies. We each had to create a story from our fortune. My fortune read, “Discriminating mind leads you in the proper direction.”
Discriminating Mind Leads You in the Proper Direction
Cleo stood beneath the orange glow of the streetlight, giving her yellow umbrella a red tint. She could no longer feel her shivering fingers. The rain in her frizzy hair slipped off her bangs to mingle with the cold sweat on her cheeks. Her eyes were set on the tail lights of the crinkled piece of metal that used to be a car. She was almost home from her yearbook club meeting at school when she crossed paths with some of the neighborhood’s outcasts.
Moments before, Jack, Morgan, and Jose stumbled toward Jack’s 1991 Pontiac Grand Am. Cleo watched as the rowdy group of teenagers went for the driver’s door. A few minutes earlier, they were nagging Cleo to come for a “joy ride” with them, but she shook her head and said no from across the street.
Jack, with his lazy black eyes that were being overtaken by red, repeatedly pulled on the door’s handle, baffled by why the door wouldn’t open. Morgan peered inside the window with his hands cupping the sides of his curly, dark head and shouted, “I’m going to sit in that seat!” over and over again. Every time Morgan repeated himself, Jack became more frustrated and pulled harder on the door’s handle and mumbled words even sober Cleo couldn’t understand. He had created his own language and when he spoke, almost squatting as he used all of his drunken strength to pull the handle, it sounded like he was about to cry. Jose was hunched over with his hands in his pockets behind the other two as he eyed the mysterious door. A sly grin staggered across his face when he fingered what he knew were the keys in his pocket. He slowly put together the words, “I am the best,” in a thick Spanish accent and faltered forward with the key in hand. Jack tilted his head at the sound of the jingling and he turned around, still clinging to his car’s handle. Morgan was too busy pressing his face up against the window explaining how he was going to sit in the driver’s seat or never allow himself to breathe again.Jose made his way between Jack and Morgan, holding the key as high as he could into the night. The moon shed light upon its tip. Morgan slammed his palms on the window and turned his head when Jose pushed him aside.
“What?” he screamed when he saw the glowing key.
He stumbled to the ground, then looked up at Jack, who loosened his grip on the door handle and eyed the uncovered treasure.
“That’s why,” Morgan stammered.
“This is my car! This is my car!” Jack stepped away from the door and made eye contact with Cleo, who gripped the streetlight’s pole with one hand and her umbrella with the other. Her tiny body trembled.
“And it does not like you because you do not like it!” Jack jammed his index finger into the air, in Cleo’s direction. Cleo stepped back, frightened.
The 11-year-old girl was told to stay away from “the crazy, drunk teenagers” by almost everyone in the neighborhood–they were no good. She didn’t like them because of what she had heard; she didn’t like them because of what she’d seen. They were loud, they always blasted their disgusting music. They were dirty, she’d seen them throw garbage on the ground. They were rude to anyone, including each other. They smoke and drank for fun. Throughout her life, Cleo was taught not to associate with people like them.
“Give me it!” Jack demanded as he swatted at the key. Jose grinned at Jack as the key in between his damp fingers fumbled around the keyhole.
“This is my car!” Jack yelled, arms outstretched.
Morgan sat between the two, back pressed against the door, and looked at the feet of whoever shouted. To his surprise, the door swung open and hit him in the back of the head. He laid face down in a puddle for a few seconds before he groaned and turned onto his back to see the four dancing legs that hung out of the open door. Morgan got to his unsteady feet and limped over to the open door; sludgy water dribbled down his face. He spotted the glistening key on the ground and smiled as blood trickled down his fat lip. He picked it up and leaned over Jack, who was wrestling Jose beneath him, to put the key in the ignition. He stared at it stupefied when the car did not start.
“This isn’t real! It’s fake!” Morgan hollered.
“That bastard has it?” asked Jose. He scrambled around beneath Jack, barely able to see. Jack had pulled the strings on Jose’s sweatshirt so tight that his hood engulfed his face.
“It’s mine!” Jack yelled and pushed Jose’s head beneath the steering wheel. Jose’s face smashed into a pedal. Morgan angrily twisted the key around in the ignition as he tried to get it out, but started the car. He smiled a bloody smile and laughed wildly as the car shot into the woods.