Spill (Fiction)

The drink burned her skin as it splashed against her arm and fell to the floor. It had soaked through the green blouse she had bought with her mother a year ago on sale and only worn that day because she was behind on her laundry. A boy ran by woman, causing her cup of liquid chocolate to dislodge from her fingers. He had seen a comic book shop at the end of the street that had recently relocated from two blocks north because of an argument with the landlord involving his sister.

The mother of the boy sees the collision and quickens her pace to grab him. She recalls how similar the boy’s nose is to that of his father’s, whose sudden death had caused her to move into the suburbs with her child. Their new home was far away from his favorite comic book store. The woman who was burned winces at the pain as she turns to see the mother hurry after her child and imagines her own mother, now sitting in a mothy chair in a retirement home in southern California, thinking of how different her life might have been had she chosen not to bear the child of the man who had abandoned her. That man is drinking at a pub in Munich and wondering how his life may have been different had he not left his American lover to return to his Bavarian wife.

As the drink drizzled from the cup to the concrete street below, the liquid coca beans and sugar cane reflected on their respective births in Tabasco, Mexico and Campos, Brazil and the resulting journey that had led them to fuse inside the kitchen of a Starbucks and be purchased by the woman with the green blouse at 10:32 AM on a Tuesday morning after letting a couple behind her in line go ahead as she decided if she wanted a tall or grande sized cup. She chose the grande.

The marshmallows that sat atop the drink fell to the floor like dice from a game of Yahtzee and as the cup clashed with the floor, the sound made the boy turn and notice what he had done, causing him to gaze at the woman’s blue eyes and pale skin and his first thought was of sitting in the back of his father’s classroom on the day they learned about the Holocaust and he considered that if there was another one, this woman would survive and he and his mother would not.

The hot chocolate fell into pools on the ground and filled up the miniscule holes in the concrete, seeping into the crack between that slab and the next, being pulled down by some strange unknowable force until it reached the soil underneath upon which once sat dirt roads and rushing rivers and cotton fields not unlike the one which had forced the boy’s forefathers to this hemisphere in January of 1732.

The woman in the green blouse notices that it was the passing boy that knocked the drink from her arms and thinks of the date that she’s late to meet and the permutations of worlds the future could hold and of how nice it might be to have a child in the distant future. The DNA in the boy’s body takes a moment to recognize the portions of it from his mother, and his mother’s father, and it realizes that each of its strands are a piece of an invisible family tree.

The carbon atoms inside all three people present take a moment to reflect on their births in each of their respective stars and the journeys each of them took to arrive in the fingertips and livers and flakes of skin of the woman, mother, and son crowding around the overturned cup of hot chocolate.

The soil into which the hot chocolate sunk thought of all the other patches of soil beside it, and the molten layers beneath it, and the fantastical circumstances that had clumped all these rocky pieces together at such a perfect distance from  the bubbling ball of plasma in the sky upon which all the little leaves that had sprouted up from that soil over the centuries had feasted upon so that animals of all kinds above could consume them and one day develop to construct coffee shops that, in the eyes of the woman in the green blouse, were really only good for hot chocolate and apple cider in the winter so that one day, a boy without a father and a woman without a father could bump into each other on the corner of a comic book store and the woman could feel the singe of a new burn as the marshmallows rolled out like dice and the liquidated chocolate would drool into the ground and the carbon atoms in each of their bodies could further speculate upon how the stars that had made them must have formed in the early eons of the universe after the entirety of everything began a never-ending accelerating expansion from a dot smaller than a dot smaller than a dot and everything led to this moment.

The mother ran to her son and pulled him over to the woman in the blouse, instructing him to apologize. He did so, willingly, and the woman in the blouse accepted his apology with grace. The sting on her arm was not nearly as bad as it had seemed a moment ago. As they were about to leave, the boy looked down at the spillage and pointed out that the puddle created looked vaguely like the head of Mickey Mouse. The face stared up at the boy, demanding his attention. He called over his mom and he took a picture on his mother’s phone before the three of them helped clean up the mess. Then, they continued to walk in their separate directions, never to see each other again except in the form of the unrecognizable avatars that inhabit our dreams.

Later, the mother would examine the photo. She would take note of the marvelous coincidence of the shape before deleting the image from the device’s memory.