- Go under the bed.
Under Mother’s bed is a light bulb, a pink sweater, a safety pin and an umbrella. Also, I’ve got Gold-n-Treasure marshmallow bits, and three pillows. Even stuck at home, all in all, I’ve got a pretty good hideout.
I move the hideout into the living room. Mother is reading Ladies Home Journal. “It’s bad luck to open an umbrella in the house,” she says matter-of-factly. “But that’s just superstition. You can break that rule.”
I leave the warmth of the radiator and go outside. It is the first summer in our new apartment, after Mother’s breakdown. An oil slick runs below the curb, blue purple green yellow orange dark blue pink red in a spilt rainbow. I walk around, toward a lake of puddle. I splash. It starts to rain.
I have the umbrella to keep me dry.
When you’re lucky, you can break rules.
2. Wear the green vest.
I graduate from Sparrows and that means I’m a Forest Craft Girl now. In the dark with candles and rows of girls, we have a ceremony and sing Kum Ba Yah. Some girls have badges all over their new vests, round ones, square ones, triangles. The only badge I have is the old brown sparrow in a light blue circle.
My best friend Ruby Nickels never got her green vest. She quit. When you’re lucky, you don’t have to quit.
3. Make up Recipes.
If you stand on the kitchen counter you can reach way back into the cupboard. There’s a lot of old stuff. In a see-through bag there are marshmallows.
Chop three mini marshmallows.
Break five Triscuits. Put in bowl. Put in sixteen raisins.
Put in eleven pieces Gold-n-Treasure cereal.
Sprinkle red cupcake sugar on top.
4. Play in the dark.
We turn off the lights. I do six jumping jacks. I walk around like a clown. My brother clicks the flashlight, off, on off, on off. It makes a fast-motion movie like we’re Laurel and Hardy.
We make shadow shapes. Eagles are easy. Theodore makes a fantastic shadow dog. My fingers don’t close all the way, so my dog has a hole in its face.
I hold the flashlight to my chin. In the mirror my face turns red with blood.
5. Go to Safeway.
Mother is by the milk with her big wool coat, brown comfortable shoes pointing down the aisle. She looks past the cottage cheese, small curd. “Christy! Where are you? Christy!” She says it like I am getting killed. A teenager is watching.
“I’m right here behind you,” I whisper.
It happens again by the creamed corn.
6. Use the Sparrows Telephone & Address Book.
Count rings. Twelve for Kendall. Fifteen for Jennifer. Untwist the pig tail cord on the phone. Twenty-four for Lisa May. Lisa May said she would be home, and we could probably play sometime. Six more for Lisa May.
Stop at forty-seven.
7. Get my birthday present.
Mother talked to Grandma and didn’t tell me, and Grandma talked to Mother, and now it has shown up, leaning on the porch rail, tied with a white bow.
“It’s a Schwinn,” says Grandma.
It has a yellow banana seat. It’s just my size. “Yay!”
“Just look at you,” said Grandma. “Just look at you riding around. You’re quite the lucky little racer.”
Having a bike means, if I have to go to a foster home, I can ride away fast.
8. Go to the corner drug store.
Me and Mother cross the street. She reaches for my hand. Nobody is looking, so I take it. The rules run different for Mother. She knows rhymes and rules and bad luck, but pays no attention.
When she paints with watercolors, she makes her own lines and goes outside them. We are swirls of paint, flowing where no one else can see.
The light turns red for the cars and the walk sign with its walking person turning white, and we walk slow across the street. There are her tan panty hose, and her brown comfortable shoes. Her shoelaces are tied in small bows.
Mother squeezes my hand.
I squeeze back.
Trapped in the darkness, tucked in the creases of my palm, puffy and hidden; it is there: all the luck in the world.