Fame and Misfortune

Millions long for immortality who don’t know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
– Susan Ertz

This rainy Sunday afternoon, Chloe sat at her typewriter. She had decided this morning that what the world needed was a great American novel written by a woman. And that woman, she’d determined, would be she. This Sunday, unlike other Sundays, she knew exactly what she must do.

And that was to begin typing a great story. Sure, she’d not attended the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, but the kind of fiction that came from most of their graduates smacked of too much collaboration, too much work-shopping, too many chefs stirring the soup. How could any of them ever write that unique Great American Novel if all of them produced group-developed stories that all sounded alike?

For the moment, Chloe was suffering from writer’s block. She needed a good first sentence. Reaching for a hand mirror that sat next to her computer, she grasped it absent-mindedly, and losing her hold on it, watched it fall toward the floor in the grip of gravity. Unable to catch it, she watched the mirror shatter.

Bending over to examine the damage, Chole was somewhat surprised to see that instead of reflecting a dozen separate images of her entire face, the way it did when it was whole, the mirror pieces showed her bits of her face, half a left eye, a diagonally sliced nose, lips separated in four uneven segments.

This seemed odd to her, seeing her face fractured like this. Perhaps, it hit her, this could make a good beginning for her story. What, she wondered, would make that catchy opening sentence?

She pondered this for a bit. How about, “It was as if someone had taken a scalpel and randomly sliced up the woman’s face.”

Picturing the act of cutting up a face caused her to shiver. A feeling of dread came over her, too, as she remembered the rule of bad luck visited upon those who had the misfortune of breaking a mirror. It was seven years of bad luck, she recalled, glancing at Buffy, her three-year-old terrier-chihuahua mixed dog, who, she thought in passing, was 21 years old in human years.

Seven years. Thank goodness she wasn’t very young, she thought. If you have seven years of bad luck when you’re seven years old, that bad luck will plague you for half of your life yet to come. When you were 35, as she was, that awful sentence would haunt you for only one-sixth of your life.

If it had to be, she thought, frowning into the parts of her face, then it had to be. Such was the ill fortune of those who broke mirrors. That was the rule.

At that very moment, sooner than she realized it could begin to happen, as she picked up a glass shard, she cut her right forefinger. The bleeding, the gush of it, surprised her. Standing to rush to the bathroom, she sliced up the heel of her left foot. Leaving a trail of bloody footprints, she hurried down the hall and, jumping into the bathtub, turned on the water.

She watched as it ran red down the drain and waited patiently for it to clear. When it finally did, still sitting on the edge of the tub, she reached for a towel, thinking about how all of this was great material for her novel.

Recalling what her mother once said about never reaching for anything you could move closer to, Chloe felt herself slip on the tub’s edge and topple backward onto the tile floor.

The last thing she saw was the pool of dark red blood flowing from her head out into her field of vision. The last thing she felt was the velvet soothing of Buffy’s tongue lapping her cheek.

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