If It Wasn’t For Bad Luck
She steps up the stairs cautiously because her heels could slip and there’s a line of people behind her. After all the mayhem that’s been biting at her rear as she’s moved amongst the nation the last few months Sandra is now finally exercising some caution.
Though the foundation of the stairway is sturdy each step is wobblier than the last. It doesn’t help that she has a duffle bag full of dirty clothes, another even bigger bag full of makeup and hair products, and also a giant backpack that acts as a portable hoarder hive. Whatever debris remained from Sandra’s incursions on other people’s lives has a new home on her back. Except of course for the real messy stuff; she just left that within those people’s personal space to fester and disappoint to no end.
As Sandra finally makes it onto the plane she exhales in immense relief. Now all she needs is a place to sit and somewhere nearby to cram her scourge above.
“Hi!” she says to a flight attendant. “Can I just sit anywhere?”
The flight attendant examines this boulder of a woman, dressed in a bright red dress revealing far more than necessary. Sandra’s cleavage is inches from the attendant’s face. And her purple hair sticks straight up and touches the ceiling of the plane. Her makeup clings desperately to her face in spite of the sweat cascading down it. And of course, there’s the giant bags of “god-knows-what.”
“Uh, no, dear,” the flight attendant says. “Your boarding pass has your assigned seat printed on it.” She grabs it from Sandra’s hand and examines it briefly. “It says row X. You’re in the back.”
“Ha ha! Just like the blacks!”
Sandra mercilessly finds her way to the rear of the plane. Now with a fuselage of strangers that resent her being around she manages to wedge herself into a seat. It’s on the aisle of her row so she tucks her feet in with care so as to not trip any more stewardesses carrying trays of drinks to thirsty and anxious passengers. She exhales deeply and wipes away her sweat from her forehead. The bit remaining in places she has trouble reaching, under her arms and elsewhere, give off something pungent, something mysterious, maybe not normally found in nature, but more likely on the “FAIL” shelf of an underground science lab.
To her right are a boy and a girl in matching blue and pink Hawaiian shirts respectively, and across the aisle to Sandra’s left are their parents, also in Hawaiian shirts, Dad’s black and Mom’s red.
“Oh, my God,” Sandra says to the two kids. “Don’t the both of you look so cute! You must be going to Hawaii too!”
“Yeah! We are!” the girl exclaims. “I’m going to get to see a volcano!”
“Hopefully the villagers need a sacrifice and I can push you in,” says her brother.
“Boy!” Mom whispers sternly from across the aisle. “What did I say about offering your sister to heathen gods?”
The boy sighs. “Only in emergencies.”
“Right,” Dad chimes in. “And so far we haven’t left the ground so there’s no need to get hasty, Boy. If it looks like a ‘water landing’ feel free to throw juice on her and appease Poseidon.”
“Dang it,” says the boy, and kicks the seat in front of him.
“Wow,” says Sandra. “You guys are a lot of fun! I can tell this is going to be a really awesome trip. Have you ever been to Hawaii before?”
“Are you kidding?” asks Dad, as he pushes the button for the flight attendant. “Ever since Boy and Girl showed up 8 years ago I haven’t been able to get five minutes away from work to read a sports page, wrench my car, or even take a shit.”
“Oh, Dear, don’t be so vulgar,” Mom says to her husband. “You’ve crapped out on almost everything you’ve tried to do since we’ve been married.” She turns to Sandra. “Don’t mind him, hon. He just gets like this when he’s relaxed.”
“Damn straight,” says Dad. “If the stewardess would show up I could finish myself off and pass out.” He reclines back in his seat. “I hate flying.”
“Oh, me too,” says Sandra. “I’ve been doing so much of it lately. It’s, like, totally insane. I just can’t figure out how to stay in one place longer than, well, let’s see, I was in Oklahoma for, like, a day before the tornados hit!”
“So it was your fault!” Dad jokes.
“We lost our house and our dog!” the girl exclaims.
“My bike flew through the air and hit a grandma!” adds the boy.
“It wasn’t the greatest house, but, it’ll be missed all the same,” explains Mom.
“Yeah, well, the insurance paid off big,” Dad says. “That’s how we were able to take this trip.”
“Cool!” enthuses Sandra. “I’m borrowing some money from a friend. I have a lot of friends. I love all of them so much. They’re all so giving, but I’m trying to pay them all back. That’s why I went to Oklahoma, because a friend there said I could babysit for her and that she’d pay me and I could stay at her house. First night there, the tornadoes hit! I hid in the closet with her baby. I don’t know how I survived. The whole house got ripped right off of us!”
“Oh my god!” says Mom. “What about the baby?”
Sandra looks at her feet. “Well, it wasn’t my fault, I tried to hold on, but the wind tore her away from me. I held on as best I could. But, I was afraid her arms would rip right off in my hands so I let go. She flew away like she was shot out of a cannon. I think she was hit by a bicycle mid-air.”
“My bike!” the boy says. “I got that for my birthday!”
Dad sits up and looks at her suspiciously. “You just… let go?”
“Yeah, or, you know, SHE let go, maybe.” Sandra shakes her head. “It was so horrifying.”
“I’m sure it was, hon,” says Mom. “I’m sure there was nothing you could do.”
“There, there,” says the girl, patting Sandra on the shoulder, her hand now a little sticky.
The flight attendant arrives and tells them to prepare for take off. She takes a drink order from Dad, gives Mom a blanket, tells Sandra to move her feet out of the aisle, and asks the boy to please stop kicking the seat in front of him.
Sandra wipes a tear from her eye. “Thanks, you guys. It’s just, that, OF COURSE this would happen to me! Everywhere I’ve been going lately things have just been going wrong.”
“Like your dress shrinking in the dryer?” snarks Dad. He is repulsed and yet can’t take his eyes off of Sandra’s cartoon character rack.
“Maybe she ate the baby,” the boy adds.
“Shh!” quiets Mom. “Go ahead, hon. What else has happened?”
“Well,” Sandra begins as the plane goes into the air. “It started about 9 months ago. I was in Pittsburgh, working at a hair salon. I was doing a dye job on this girl’s hair and got distracted. My friend had called and said he was outside with a present for me. I tried to tell him, no, I’m working. This job is really important! But when I looked outside he was standing there with my favorite cotton candy vodka. How the hell could I say no to that, right? I should know better, sweets have got me into trouble so many times before, but I couldn’t resist. This woman’s hair would still be there when I got back. WRONG. When I finally returned I discovered that I had left the bleach in way too long! Most of her hair broke off in my hand. She was furious, but I was like, ‘listen lady, you knew what I was doing to your hair, you should have got up and said something, or rinsed it out yourself! You’re not paying me THAT much!’ So she ended up giving me and the shop a bad Yelp! review!”
“A bad Yelp! review isn’t that bad,” the girl says.
“Honey, you got great hair, but you don’t know dick about it. The shop immediately folded under because you can’t have even ONE bad Yelp! review. And so the owner and her husband had to file for bankruptcy and they ended up getting a divorce. The husband had nowhere to go and no money so he had to go stay on his buddy’s couch.”
“Oh dear,” says Mom. “That is awful.”
Dad cracks open one of the several single-serving bottles of vodka he ordered from the stewardess and pours himself his first in-flight drink. “Meh. Could be worse.”
“Yeah, well, the buddy had a bad gambling problem. He owed a bunch to the Chinese mafia. Dog racing, or something, I think. They came to the house one day looking for the buddy, and when all they could find was my boss’s husband there they cut of his balls instead!” Sandra starts to cry.
“Jesus,” Dad says. “Right when he got them back, too.”
“Sometimes,” the boy says, “when I sleep on my Buddy’s couch I just stay up late playing XBOX. Did his buddy at least have XBOX?”
“No!” Sandra says, still mortified with herself. “No XBOX!”
“Fuuuuuck,” the boy says, eyes wide.
“What happened after that?” asks the girl.
“After that I still didn’t have a job, but my friend in Miami said she was going to visit her mom in Yonkers for a while who was dying of blood cancer and that I could stay at her place until I figured out my next move.”
“You gave her mom cancer?” asks the boy.
“Shit, I didn’t even think about that! But, no. No. She is, er, was, Jewish and I think they have weirder blood than us, so that probably had something to do with it.”
“Ok, so you’re in Miami,” Dad says. “What’d you do next? Bet on the Dolphins to win the Super Bowl?” He chuckles to himself.
“No,” Sandra says. “Don’t be ridiculous. Fish can’t play baseball.”
Dad shakes his head and sips his drink.
“What happened, hon?” asks Mom.
“Nothing at first. Everything was great. I was taking care of the house, watering the plants, feeding the cats, taking out the garbage, doing all the things you’re supposed to do when house sitting.
“But then I met some kids who liked the same music as me and liked partying and I got kinda sucked into their whole thing. Instead of looking for work so I could start saving up the money to pay back people I still owed I spent all the money my friend had left me for cat food on booze and cocaine!”
“Drugs!?” shrieked the girl.
“Hey, hon,” Mom interjected. “Can we try to keep the stories PG-13?”
“Oh, shit! I’m SO sorry! Sorry, Boy and Girl. Don’t do drugs, ok?”
“Yes, kids,” says Dad, finally starting to relax with his head back on his seat. “Listen to the crazy lady.”
“Anyways,” Sandra continues, “I don’t know what happened. It was like I blacked out on life completely. I didn’t show up to interviews, I quit working simple jobs people got me as favors, I even burned a pile of the remaining money my friend had left me! I literally set cash on fire!”
“Did you light a cigar with it like Uncle Scrooge?” asks the boy.
“No!” Sandra says, hysterical. “I didn’t even think of Duck Tales!”
“Shitty,” says the boy, and kicks the chair in front of him.
“Go on, hon. What happened next?”
“My friend finally got back from New York and I hadn’t cleaned a thing! The cat was missing, there were empty vodka bottles everywhere, trash had piled high to the ceiling, the toilet had overflowed with raw sewage inches deep all over the carpet, kids were squatting in her bed, and the city had condemned her house! I had been sleeping at my friend’s place down the street because I just couldn’t manage the energy to clean up. It was horrible” She wipes some tears off her face and some sweat from her forehead. She shifts to her right so she can wipe her armpit. Neither kid is thrilled with the smell. “I just love her SO much, you know? And I couldn’t do anything right. What is wrong with me? Why am I like this?? I just keep disappointing the people that mean so much to me!”
“If you did that to my house I’d beat you like a runaway slave,” Dad assures.
“I know,” sniffs Sandra. “I fucked up. But that’s not even the worse.”
“Worse than eating the baby?” asks the boy.
“She didn’t eat the baby,” says the girl. “She dropped it into a tornado.”
“Yeah,” says Sandra. “Worse than all of that.”
Mom is munching her honey roasted peanuts and watching Sandra like a $3 movie.
“So what happened next?” she asks.
“I had no choice. I had to go back to Sacramento. I dreaded moving back in with my crazy mother but I didn’t know what else to do.
“But then I called this guy I met at a party once in San Francisco and he said I could come stay with him. I barely knew the guy, but he wanted to help and I was so excited to go to a new city. A new start, you know?
“I promised I’d find a job as soon as I could and pay him back for flying me out and everything. But, I had so much trouble finding a job. Everything was so far! Like, so many blocks. I tried the buses, but still, it was so overwhelming in that city. I just started partying and trashing the place again. He was gone at his girlfriend’s a lot and then just stopped coming back hardly at all.
“So one night I decided, ‘Sandra, we’re finally going to figure out what your deal is’, why I’m cursed with this Sysiphisian landfill of an existence.
“I encircled myself in black candles, burned a bundle of nightsage, covered myself in pigs blood, and carved a Oijoia board into his hard wood floor with my nails.”
Dad sits up again and looks at Sandra. “Say what?”
“I asked the Oijoia if anyone was there for me to talk to. My hand pulled from my body and slapped ‘yes’. I asked who it was and then the room dropped like 60 degrees. It was freezing. A wind blew through the candles and knocked me over, but the candles stayed lit. When I sat back up I asked again, ‘who are you?’ My hands started slapping down on the letters again.
“A. S. T. A. R. O. T. H.
“I asked what he wanted. Why he had been tormenting me. Why he wouldn’t just leave me alone. How much more do i have to suffer? Then all of a sudden I started hearing laughing, like, cackling in my ears. So many different voices all at once just screaming in laughter.
“Laughing at me.
“That’s when I blacked out.
“When I came to I was naked and upside down in a giant rosebush. I made my way back to my friend’s apartment. All my stuff was piled up outside the door.
“I kept on banging on the door and begging him to explain to me what happened. When he finally let me in he was furious. He couldn’t even look at me. I asked him, begged him to please, tell me what I did wrong. I would never do anything to jeopardize my relationship with him. He had been so good to me, I owed him so much. He was my last chance.
“I kept insisting he tell me what happened, but he just wouldn’t budge. He just kept looking at the floor, shaking his head, muttering, ‘you fucked up, I can’t believe it. You fucked up.’
“I didn’t know what to do. It was like he was possessed by some dark anger that wouldn’t let go. I haven’t talked to him since, but he finally sent me an email. I couldn’t believe what I was reading, but it must have been true for him to hate me so much. I mean, this guy had loved me just the day before.
“Well, what did it say?” asks the girl. “What did you do?”
Sandra reaches under her seat and pulls out one of her enormous bags. “It’s on my phone still.” She unzips the bag and fumbles around for the phone eventually finding it. She exhales heavily then begins reading.
” ‘Sandra. You are unbelievable. I can’t believe you would pull an act so outrageous, so extreme, so completely heinous that no human could conceive it and be able to go on with herself. I have been trying to forget it, but the severity of it combined with your petulant insistence I recount it to you disgusts me to no end. So, here is what happened. And let it be the final word between you and me.
” ‘At about 2 AM that night you showed up at my girlfriends house howling, shrieking, banging on her front door. You sounded like an animal ensnared in its own entrails. I knew it was you which made me ever so reluctant to open the door, but I was afraid you’d startle my girlfriend’s neighbors so against my better judgement I opened the door. Guess what you did next? Covered in blood, completely naked, you told me that you were Julie and that you had something to tell me. Julie, Sandra. JULIE, my DEAD wife who had killed herself two years ago, that I told you about in complete confidence, something I’m not prone to talk about to anyone ever. I don’t know what the hell is wrong with you, what kind of sick disgusting things you get off on, mooching off people’s good will, getting at their most personal emotions, then exploiting it for your own amusement, but you won’t ever do it to me again. Do not contact me. Do not even think about me. You are a waste.
“Oh my gosh,” says the girl.
” ‘P.S.’ ” Sandra continues. ” ‘You ate my last Drumstick, you disgusting pig.’ ”
“Now that’s fucked up,” concludes the boy.
“I didn’t even know the bitch!” Sandra buries her face in her hands. “And now Astaroth has attached himself to his place, haunting his dreams, attacking him in his sleep and telling him he’s going to rape his soul in hell!”
The family stares at Sandra, blinking, all wondering what’s going to happen next.
“Anyway,” Sandra continues, “I’m just really glad I met you guys. I just need a little
help to get my shit together now that I’m in Hawaii. Thanks, you guys. I won’t disappoint you.”
“Excuse me?” asks Dad.
Sandra looks at the kids. “We’re gonna have so much fun, you guys! Ever had a Mai Tai?!”
The plane lands safely in Hawaii a few hours later. The rest of the flight was uneventful. Dad drank and eventually slept. Mom tried reading the latest Stephen King, but things got a little too real so she took a Valium instead. The girl colored in her books, and the boy played his video games. Sandra just sat there and smiled the whole way.
“Well, uh, Sandra,” starts Dad. “Looks like you got a lot of bags.”
“Is that where you stash the bodies, you loony bitch?” asks the boy.
The pilot comes over the PA. “Well, folks, we made it into Hawaii a little earlier than expected, but it seems we won’t be making it to the tarmac. The airport is apparently more crowded than usual. We’ve been instructed by traffic control to go ahead an unboard here. They are rolling up the stairs as I speak, so just hang on tight people and we’ll all be out of here before you know it.”
“Holy crap,” says Dad, looking out the window. “It’s just a bunch of islander types crowding up the entire runway. What the hell?”
“Maybe there’s a massive luau and they want to bury Sandra under the sand for a few days,” says the boy. He turns toward the front of the plane and cups his mouth with his hand. “Move out of the way! King Kong’s main course, coming through!”
“We’re just going to get out of your way, hon, and meet you down at the baggage claim” says Mom to Sandra. “Take your time though. This airline always takes FOREVER to unload the baggage. Come on, kids. Grab your things. We’re outta here.”
“K! Thanks guys.”
The family snatches their belongings and book it pass the passengers in front of them for fear of their lives.
Just then Sandra notices that the girl left her coloring book behind. Being the gracious and eager leech that she is she grabs the book and races to catch up with the family.
She takes the first step off the stairs out the plane and raises the book above her head.
“Hey! Little girl!” she screams. “You forgot your–”
And with that Sandra slips and tumbles down the stairs, letting nothing stand in her way. When she hits the bottom the earth begins to shake.
The girl points up at the large hillside just north of the airport.
Steam starts fuming out of the top of the mountain. The ground starts shaking harder. Everyone in the vicinity is panicking, travelers and natives alike. Women are screaming, kids are running frantic, men are desperate to figure out what they can do to protect their families and are scanning their surroundings for anything that may provide safe shelter. Dad’s family huddles around him, and he points at Sandra.
“It WAS your fault!”
Sandra is lying on her stomach looking around aghast at the chaos she has caused. She can taste the seething hatred in the hearts of this family she loves, and she can sense that everyone else around her, all know, all can feel, that she is to blame for their forthcoming demise.
“Oh, no, not again! What is wrong with me?!”
“Nothing is wrong with you, my child.”
An old native Hawaiian man presses his hand reassuringly on Sandra’s shoulder. She feels an overwhelming calm envelop her body.
“We’ve been waiting for you. You are the one the prophecy foretold.”
“Oh, god…” Sandra moans.
As the earth continues to shake, and the beast within the mountain pushes itself closer to its emergence, several other natives walk confidently toward Sandra. They encircle her and lift her carefully over their heads and begin walking to the volcano. One bounces off of Sandra’s bosom, but he’s right back up again. The task still remains.
“Be still, my child,” the old man says. “We knew you would come this day. You have been blessed by our gods. Your death will be a glorious and an envious one.”
“My DEATH?! Where are you TAKING me?!” Sandra screams. Her dress is barely still attached to her body. “Somebody help me! PLEASE!!”
“No can do, hon,” Mom shouts at her. “But, it was such a pleasure meeting you! Don’t clog the volcano now, you hear?”
“Yep!” Dad agrees. “I’m not wasting my insurance settlement money on saving your cursed ass!”
“Watch your step, guys!” shouts the boy.
“Yeah!” agrees the girl. “She’s forsaken!”
After a few moments, with the earth still shaking, the villagers have taken Sandra so far up the mountain with such haste that she is no longer visible to the family.
“Mom?” asks the boy.
“Why can’t I push her in?”
“Aw, honey. Normally I’d let you, but I don’t want you to fuck this up. I’m here to work on my tan, not burn alive in an lava landslide, you know?”
“Hey,” says Dad. “Maybe next time you can push your sister in. Whaddya say, Champ?”
“Man,” says the girl. “Fuck you guys.”
Sandra is screaming like a banshee being slowly crushed feet first by a steam roller. She struggles to free herself from the clutches of the natives beneath her but it’s impossible. They do put her down a moment and she stops screaming. Once they pry the enormous bag from her back they pick her back up again and proceed to the top of the volcano. Sandra is greasy with sweat. Some of the villagers pinch their noses as they carry her.
“Hey, you guys,” she pleads. “Please, we don’t have to do this. I’m not the person you think I am. I’m just Sandra. From Sacramento!”
“We know exactly who you are, Sandra from Sacramento, “says the old native man. “You are the feast our lord has been craving. The one he awaits. Only you may satiate his hunger. There can be no one else. He grows angrier the longer he waits.”
As they reach the mouth of the volcano the earth begins to shake even more violently.
“He knows you are here.”
The villagers hoist Sandra even higher up above their heads. She peers into the volcano and can see the lava roiling below. The heat is unbelievable. Sandra is sweating so profusely her makeup finally begins to wash off. As her hair starts to singe the Aqua Net fused into it ignites and all of her mane catches afire. Sandra screams even louder.
“Oh, God, why is this happening to me?!!”
“This is not happening to you. This happens because of you. When you arrived on our island you awoke a sleeping giant who’s slumber alone is powerful enough to wrought much destruction here. Once you have given yourself unto him then his ferocious snores will end and our island will be at peace forevermore.”
“Well,” Sandra, accept as she stares out across the beautiful Hawaiian sky. “At least it’ll be nice to be wanted for a change.”
And with a few words from the old man in his native tongue, Sandra is heaved into the volcano. Her screams fall into oblivion and then abruptly end, echoing upward until, at last, only silence remains.
Birds return to their trees. Rolling rocks find their mark. Waves are heard in the distance.
And all the world is still again.