071: Portals

Billy Joe, Marshall, and Alba found hundreds of puddles on the surface of the school blacktop. The rain had come and gone quickly. The children had been eager to meet and play at the school. Water had collected in the subtle irregularities. Some of the puddles were perfectly round. All of them reflected the sky and some piece of the surrounding school buildings.

“Man it’s like a million damned schools,” Billy Joe said.

“It’s like eyes,” Alba said.

“It’s like my bed,” Marshall said.

This is fairly ripe. What happens next depends on the writer and their particular approach to a type of story. Maybe you like horror stories. Maybe you like putting children into jeopardy and pulling them out of it. Maybe you like putting children into jeopardy and leaving them there. Some writers, for example, would have asked that at least one of the children in Jurassic Park become taste on the buds of a Velociraptor. Maybe this is a hypertext of a science fiction flavor waiting to happen: each child falls into a different puddle, entering a new reality, and the children meet up with their alter egos and as adults Alba says, “The human body is like a machine,” and Billy Joe says, “More like a divine being,” and Marshall says, “I don’t know. I’d say it’s more like a chair.”

One version of the story may involve fantasy. Alba hears a voice. The children follow the sound to a particular puddle and see a woman in a reflected school window. She’s wearing a robe and she’s pretty, reminding the children of the Good Witch. They find the structural source of the reflection but see no woman in that “real” window. The woman trapped in the puddle yells something like “Find the puddle, find the key.”

Adventure proceeds.

Maybe the puddle image becomes an anchor or a prop. The children proceed through life and every event is related to the multiple puddles on the schoolyard blacktop and so the puddles become a significant antecedent in their plot lines. On a plane to Bagdad, for example, Alba in her fatigues thinks back to the peaceful puddle image, wishing that things had turned out differently. Marshall does the same. Maybe he’s on a train. He’s lost his means of identification and the border and its murderous guards are soon to appear. He remembers Alba and Billy Joe and the amazing phenomenon of all the puddles. He doesn’t want to return to his childhood. He’s simply scared shitless. When he’s scared, he remembers the puddles because he was scared shitless of being sucked into them or he was scared shitless of something crawling out of them, as he was scared shitless of what boney-hand creature might be living under his bed at night (or in his closet). And now the border is fast approaching, his means of escape now placed in Jeopardy. Of course, you know what he’s thinking.

Billy Joe’s brother used to tell Billy Joe that there were times when you mustn’t ever close your eyes. Never ever open your eyes on a mirror, so don’t close them when you go to the bathroom at midnight. Never close your eyes when you drive. Never close your eyes during sex. If you close your eyes, you’ll forget what you were about to say on the phone. Never ever close your eyes in prison.

Billy Joe always remembered Alba’s metaphor.

Of course, since the blacktop is all wet and puddled over, the children go home. Marshall’s mother makes them a snack. They eat the snack at the kitchen table.

“So, how did it go at the playground?” Marshall’s mother asks.

Alba says, “It was too wet. We couldn’t do anything.”

“Wet?” the mother says.

“From the rain,” Marshall says.

“What rain?” the mother says. “And by the way, where’s your little sister?”

Adventure proceeds.

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