1 Bendtsen Bethany Bendtsen Fiction Writing I 18 September 2013 Journal Rewrite The foreboding shape stared up at him from his morning bowl of Cocoa Puffs, illuminated against the translucent whiteness of the milk. It was enough to put the fear of God into him and a shiver ran up the length his spine. Even since childhood, he had been very attuned to this type of sign, the kind that others overlooked, but never had he encountered such a grave omen. Felix wanted so badly to reach his spoon into the heart of the figure and swirl it away, yet he knew that that this would be useless. Altering the shape would not eliminate the peril it foretold. He would have to alter the course of his day, and likely his week, to exercise additional caution. Some had called him crazy for following such signs, but on more than one occasion the appearance of a portent at a critical moment had saved his life. His own family had tried to get him treated for schizophrenia, but Felix knew that the signs he saw were very much real, and no treatment in the world would convince him otherwise. That morning he called in sick to work; it was the only practical thing to do. He spent all of the morning and afternoon fortifying his personal protections. He burned sage, dug out his framed collection of four leaf clovers and returned his rabbitâ€™s foot to the cord around his neck. The spirits had been looking on him favorably lately, and he was quite unprepared to ward off bad luck of this magnitude. Felixâ€™s supply of garlic was shockingly low, though he dared not run to the grocery store to replenish his stock, and he could not find his lucky horseshoe despite hours of searching. That night, lying in bed, Felix pulled the shoe box from under his bed and
2 reread all of his recent fortunes from the Chinese restaurant around the corner, hoping to find some clues as to his future on the tiny bits of paper. The next day, he tried to call in sick again. His boss gruffly informed him that Felix only had two vacation days left. It was not uncommon for Felix to run out of vacation days by this point in the year, but he knew December 13th was going to fall on a Friday, and he couldnâ€™t squander his remaining time off. At 7:49 that day, Felix left his apartment with his socks, underwear and button-down shirt inside out, determined to capture every potentially fatal detail in the surrounding environment in his memory. His route to work took much more work than usual, as he refused to take elevators, public transportation, or any street with a name including either the numbers four or six, his unlucky numbers. As he walked the forty-odd blocks to his office, he kept his eyes skyward, scanning the surroundings buildings for falling objects that might crush him. Nothing out of the ordinary happened to him after he arrived to work sweaty and anxious, other than a reaming from his boss for refusing to attend meetings in conference room 913. The subsequent day, he took the same precautions, though his boss insisted he wear a suit jacket to hide his inside out shirt. Again, nothing extraordinary occurred; he did see one latter being used by a construction crew, but he easily avoided it. The stress of his ultra-alertness caused a bothersome tick to develop in his right eye, but that could also have been due to his increased consumption of caffeine. The tiniest noise sent him cowering under his desk in fear and he compulsively knocked upon every wooden surface he came near. A woman in the break room commented on the overwhelming stench of garlic, but, for the most part, his coworkers had learned to ignore his eccentric behavior. On the fourth day since seeing the shape in his cereal, he was awakened in the dark hours of the morning by a sudden sound, but he could not decipher whether the noise had originated in the world of his sleep or in reality. By the time his alarm rang
3 Bendtsen and he untangled himself from the sheets several hours later, Felix was already exhausted. A life full of microwave meals and Ben & Jerry’s had left him ill-equipped for the succession of stairs and city blocks he had covered, and the constant aroma of garlic on his skin was causing him headaches. Had he risked a jinx by looking in the mirror that morning, he would have cringed at the prominent dark bags under his eyes. It was more difficult to scan the buildings for falling objects that morning due to the worsening of the tick in his eye, but nevertheless he arrived to work safely. Reading performance reports, he longed for the weekend, when he could hole up in his apartment again, with only the threat of house fires or natural disaster to plague him. More than once awoke face down on his desktop with drool trailing across the stack of report still to be read. As the hands on the clock finally finished their journey to five o’clock, Felix abandoned his work, leaving it strewn on his desk unfinished, hoping only to return home to his bed in one piece. His wish seemed likely to be fulfilled, until he stood on the corner of Farwell and Edison Avenue and it all went awry. He was waiting for the light to change when he saw it. At first, he stood frozen, not trusting his eyes, as the little black cat came bounding towards him. His mind couldn’t calm his racing heart fast enough, couldn’t tell him that it was just a kitten escaping momentarily from its home as its owner opened the front door to welcome a visitor. He never had time to consider it might otherwise be only a figment of his unreasonable imagination. No, in his frazzled state, Felix did the only thing he could to avoid the feline crossing his path; he bolted into the street. Not even when he heard the din of screeching breaks did he realize what a momentous error he had made. In the moment that the car collided with his body, he recalled the noise that had awoken him from sleep that morning. It was the hooting of an owl, he was certain now, the harbinger of death, who had first shown itself in his morning bowl of Cocoa Puffs.
Published on Sep 18, 2013