No Luck, No Chance, No Problem
Copyright Christopher Slater
Norman Blackberry was always excited about new opportunities. He was especially excited about new opportunities in places where people didn’t know him. Norman was always trying to escape his
reputation. He wasn’t mean. In fact, he was one of the most polite people you could meet. He wasn’t stupid. He was salutatorian at his graduation. If there was one word for Norman’s reputation, it
would be clumsyunluckyclutz (there actually is no single word to describe him). Norman never tried to find problems. They always seemed to find him. He stopped going to watch his high
school’s football team after lightning struck the bleachers he was sitting on. He was not hurt, but the city banned him from the stadium as a health hazard. He was the first patient in recorded
history to get food poisoning from a bottled water. He also set the record for most number of broken bones suffered in one year of gym class. Events like this had been occurring all of his life.
Because of this, no one wanted to be around Norman.
Looking around at the small community college campus, Norman was hoping that would soon change. There were lots of people here that didn’t know about his perpetual bad luck, so there was a chance
that he might be able to turn his reputation around. As he walked towards one of the buildings, he dreamed of what life might be like if it were just a little different. He pictured a large group
of friends hanging on his every word as he told stories about his many adventures. He imagined a lovely girlfriend who thought the world of him. He imagined his confident walk as he went into
classes where everyone hoped he would be there. He imagined that the door was open when it really wasn’t. Norman smacked into the closed door, bounced off of it, and rolled back down the steps. As
luck would have it, most of the students were standing outside of the building, socializing before their first class. The roar of laughter was deafening. Norman tried to laugh it off, but he knew
no one was fooled. He gathered up his books, gave a shy wave to the applauding crowd, and walk back up the stairs. He stood at the door for a moment, trying to figure out how to open it when his
hands were full of books. The people coming out of the building were not so patient. One flung the door open, hitting Norman, causing him to roll down the steps again, this time with a bloody nose.
Norman missed his first college class because of his trip to the clinic. Much to his surprise, his nose wasn’t broken. The nurse’s hand was broken, though. It happened when Norman set his books
down. He hadn’t even known she was sitting there. He was already banned from the clinic. His next class wasn’t until after lunch, so he decided to take a trip to the cafeteria and try to get
through it without injury.
Norman was almost successful in his attempt to eat lunch without incident. He went to the Subway in the food court and bought a meatball sub. It had always been one of his favorites. He very
carefully carried his meal to the table, managing not to trip or spill any of his drink. He sat down, rather proud of himself. He ate his meal with a ravenous hunger. It had been a long morning and
he was very hungry. When he had finished the foot long sub he was surprised to realize that he was still hungry. He had never eaten two subs at one meal, but he decided that he might as well eat
rather than have a rumbling stomach in class. He stood up to go purchase another sandwich and heard an odd thumping noise. He chose to ignore it and headed towards the counter. The first sign that
something was wrong came when people started giving him strange looks. Norman knew from long experience what would come next. Sure enough, there started to be a few giggles, then outright laughter.
Norman looked down to see that his shirt and pants were covered in red marinara sauce. He looked back over at the table and saw several meatballs on the floor. The reason that the sandwich had not
filled him up was because half of the meatballs had fallen out of the sandwich and into his lap.
Embarrassed, but refusing to show it, Norman continued to walk towards the counter. People were looking at him and laughing as he walked by. Norman just kept walking until something unusual caught
his eye. There was one young lady sitting at a table nearby. She was tall and slender, with long, dark hair. She had striking brown eyes that seemed to sparkle when she looked at him. She was one
of the prettiest ladies Norman had ever seen. On top of it all, she wasn’t laughing at him. She was looking right at him and smiling. Something in her face didn’t make him think she was amused. It
seemed more like she was smiling to encourage him.
Norman could do nothing but stare. Something about the young lady had truly captured him. It would have been better if he had stopped walking while he stared at her. Instead, he ended up walking
into the counter at the Subway. This brought a new round of laughter and a groan of pain from Norman. He looked back at the lady that had entranced him, but she and her friends were on their way
out the door.
“What can I do for you?” asked the worker at the register.
“One meatball sub please,” Norman replied.
The worker grinned mischievously. “You want a fresh one or do you want us to just scrape that one off of your shirt?”
Norman went back to his car before his next class. He grabbed a jacket and buttoned it up to hide some of the stain. It worked for the most part, but the temperature was in the upper nineties and
the jacket was a warm one. Norman had probably sweat off five pounds by the time he entered a classroom. His face was read and his shirt was soaked. Now he couldn’t take off the jacket because of
his sweat-stained shirt. It was like a never ending cycle for him.
Norman found a desk, sat down, and looked around. He continued to look around several more times. Something there didn’t seem quite right. Suddenly, it hit him. “I’m surrounded by nerds!” he
exclaimed, not quite realizing he had said it out loud. Everyone with taped glasses and a pocket protector turned towards him with a scowl. He shrank down in his seat until he hoped he was
invisible. Eventually the other students turned back around and continued their debate on who the best captain was on Star Trek.
The professor finally arrived. He looked like he fit right in with his students. Tall, thin, and with glasses so thick that NASA had offered to buy them from him, he stepped up to the front of the
room and growled “Q’aplah!” Everyone in the room answered in kind, except Norman. He just sat there, wondering what in the world was going on. For once, he didn’t feel like the biggest
geek in the room.
It had taken twenty minutes for Norman to realize that he was not in his psychology class. In fact, he was sitting in on one of the stranger courses offered at the school: Speaking Klingon for
Beginners. He had to have one of the other students explain to him that it was a made up language for the Star Trek shows and movies. He had gotten up to leave and was ridiculed with names
like qu’ahom and patakh. He couldn’t decide whether to be insulted or not.
After checking his schedule, Norman realized that he had gone into the correct room number, but in the incorrect building. He finally found the correct building and classroom. He was already half
an hour late, so when he opened the door, all eyes turned towards him, including a pair of sparkling brown eyes. Norman stopped in his tracks. The young lady from the food court was sitting in
class with the same smile, looking at him. He could swear that her smile was speaking to him. You’ll be fine, it said. Just give it time.
As he stood in the doorway, staring, he heard a new round of laughter. It took him a moment to tear his attention away from those eyes. Then he became a little more aware of the world around him.
He had the distinct feeling that someone was behind him. He could hear them breathing. He could feel them staring at the back of his head. Worst of all, he could smell them. It wasn’t a horrible
smell. In fact, it was very familiar. The scent of ivory soap mixed with corn oil from cooking. Never in his life had he wanted that smell to be anywhere other than here. He slowly turned around.
It was like waking up to a nightmare come true. Behind him stood none other than his mother.
Normally when he had this nightmare, Norman was standing in front of the class in his underwear. He couldn’t help but check to make sure he still had all of his clothes on. Thankfully, he did. But
then the nightmare returned when his mother reached up and hugged him, loudly proclaiming “Oh, my little boy is in college! I can’t believe it! You are just growing up so fast!” Norman managed to
squirm out of his mother’s grasp. No one in the class was making a sound. It was as if they were all too shocked to believe that this level of embarrassment could really happen to an eighteen year
old. “Honey, I just stopped by to remind you that you promised to run by the grocery store and pick up some milk. All right, I will admit it. It was just an excuse so that I could come by and see
my sweet boy on his first day of college.” Then, in the final act of social death, she reached up and pinched his cheeks. “Now you just go on in there with all your little friends and have a good
Norman’s mother walked away, still emitting that high pitched squeal of delight that mother’s are known for. Norman made his way to an unoccupied seat, not daring to look towards the girl with the
brown eyes. He was certain that even she would not be able to encourage him after something like that. The class was still in shocked silence as he got out a paper and pen to take notes. Even the
professor seemed surprised. Finally, after a full minute of the loudest silence Norman had ever heard, the professor continued his lecture. “So, as I was saying, class…the classic case of an
overprotective parent is usually characterized by behavior like…well…like that!”
Even Norman had to admit that he was glad when the first day of college was over. It had been rough even by his standards. He didn’t look forward to going home and seeing his mom. He could never
quite bring himself to tell her how much she had embarrassed him. He knew that it would devastate her. Still, if she showed up again, he thought he might exit through the nearest window, no matter
what floor he was on.
If there was a silver lining to the very dark cloud that was his college reputation, it was the lady with the brown eyes. Norman could not stop thinking about her. It wasn’t just because she was
beautiful. Norman wasn’t that shallow. It was because of the look that she had given him several times that day. She wasn’t looking down at him. She wasn’t laughing at him. She wasn’t trying to
pretend he didn’t exist. She wasn’t even trying to pretend that she didn’t see him fall over in his chair (that happened shortly before the psychology class was dismissed.) She knew that he had
messed up, but she smiled anyways. Whenever he saw that, Norman was almost able to forget how clumsy and unlucky he was. Almost.
Before he made it home, Norman made a decision. He was going to try and meet that young lady. In fact, he almost felt confident enough to ask her out. That was a major leap for Norman. He had not
been out on any dates. Most people were scared to be in the same zip code as him, much less have any sort of social contact with him. It was amazing how long rumors of him spreading chicken pox to
his entire fourth grade class had stuck with him. Most girls were afraid to get into the same vehicle as Norman for fear that something might explode or some illness will be spread, and they will
be part of it because they were near Norman Blackberry.
Despite these problems, Norman thought that it might be worth trying to ask this young lady out. She looked like she might understand. She might be forgiving. She might give him the time of day.
Norman said all of these thoughts out loud. He was in the habit of talking to himself, especially when driving around. He came to a stop sign and hit the breaks. They squealed a little, but Norman
didn’t notice. He was still carrying on his one man conversation. People crossing the street in front of his car kept looking at him, wondering if he had a small headset or if he really was just
talking to himself. Norman paid them no mind. If he had, he would have seen the brown-eyed lady walk in front of his car and smile warmly at him. He also would have known that she wasn’t all the
way across when he hit the gas and started driving again. He ran over her foot, breaking three toes. He never knew it and didn’t even stop.
College can pass by pretty quickly. Before he even knew it, a month had passed by and Norman had still not spoken to the brown-eyed lady. He had discovered her name. Vanessa. Vanessa Humphries. He
only had one class with her, so he only saw her on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. In fact, the next time that he saw her, she was on crutches. He didn’t know why but he hoped she was all right.
When he saw her talking with a group of friends outside of the Humanities Building, he tried to walk up and talk to her. When he approached, one of Vanessa’s friends saw him coming and shrieked.
The others picked up Vanessa’s books and hustled her away. He wasn’t certain, but he thought he heard Vanessa yelling something about it not being his fault.
This scenario continued until almost October. Still, things were looking up for Norman. He had convinced his mother to never visit the school again. He had learned to pack extra napkins to prevent
ruining his clothes. He had even learned a little Klingon to be able to converse with the nerds. His psychology class was going especially well. No matter what disorder they were learning about,
Norman seemed to be aware of a good example. It was often things that he saw in people around him. Many of the students whispered that it proved how he could drive people nuts. The professor had
taken a liking to him until he asked Norman to come to the front of the class one day to demonstrate multiple personality disorder. Norman was only too happy to oblige. Norman leaned casually on
the chalkboard, not realizing it was reversible. The chalkboard spun around suddenly, knocking Norman off balance and smashing into the professor’s head. The professor still showed a wonderful
demonstration of multiple personality disorder: first was Confused Man, followed by Speechless Man, followed by Angry Man. He was about to introduce Norman to Violent Man when the bell rang. Norman
beat a hasty retreat out of the classroom. He was down six flights of stairs before he knew it, and, realizing he was out of breath, he sat down in the lobby to rest.
When he heard the elevator ding, he looked up without thinking. Still hobbling, but at least without crutches, Vanessa stepped out and headed for the door. She didn’t see Norman in the lobby.
Norman watched as she left, still unable to understand why he couldn’t get her out of his mind. Did she really understand him? How could she? They’d never met. Surely she couldn’t understand what
it was like to be the first person sent to the hospital after being attacked by a large-mouth bass. Who could, except Norman?
Norman slowly got up and walked towards the outside door. He stepped out and looked around. The leaves were turning. The colors were beautiful. Someone was sitting on the campus lawn playing a
guitar softly. There were workers going around the campus gathering leaves to put into large, wheeled trash cans. They all seemed to be so happy. And then there was Vanessa. She had hobbled a
pretty good distance, but Norman could still see her. Then, to his surprise, Vanessa turned around. She looked right at him and smiled. It was that same encouraging smile that he had seen before
that seemed to make her eyes shine. At first, Norman couldn’t believe that she was looking at him. He turned around to see if anyone was behind him that she was trying to smile at, but there
wasn’t. When he turned back around, Vanessa was still looking at him. She gave him a little wave, and then continued to walk across campus.
Norman was in a state of complete and utter bliss. She had waved at him. He was happy to the point of being giddy. He was suddenly on top of the world. All of the accidents,
broken bones, lightening strikes, animal attacks, and poor clothing choices that had ever affected him didn’t matter any more. In a fit of recklessness, Norman hopped up on the rail of the steps
and started to slide down. He was grinning from ear to ear. That feeling of complete joy is probably what kept him from really thinking his actions through.
The stairs leading out of the Humanities Building were steep. So was the railing. Norman was giddy when he first started sliding down the rails, but that giddiness quickly changed to terror as he
picked up speed uncontrollably. Norman let out a little squeal before he reached the bottom of the rail, because he saw where he was heading. At the bottom of the rail was one of the large wheeled
trash cans the workers were using to collect leaves. With no way to stop, Norman closed his eyes as he flew off the rail and landed in the trash can, neatly folded in half with both his arms and
legs sticking out of the top of the can.
The trash can began rolling with the momentum that Norman had picked up. Norman had absolutely no control over where it was going. It proceeded along the sidewalk and down a hill. Picking up speed,
Norman began to realize not only the danger he was in, but the danger to others. He started to hear people yelling at each other to get out of the way. He felt a bump and then heard what sounded
like a squirrel moaning. A few students even threw trash into the can as it sped by.
Norman was pretty sure that whatever good fortune he had built up was being flushed right down the drain. This became even more clear when he head someone yell “Vanessa! Get out of the way!”
Vanessa turned around just in time for the trashcan to crash into her. Vanessa, the trash can, and Norman fell over in a tangle of arms, legs, books, leaves, paper wads, and two empty Coke cans.
It took Norman a few seconds to gather himself. He was dizzy and in pain. When he looked beside him and saw Vanessa lying on the sidewalk, that pain tripled. He immediately stood up and started
muttering apologies. “I’m so sorry! I couldn’t stop! Are you all right? Are you hurt? Are you single? I mean…are you all right?”
It took a moment, but Vanessa slowly sat up. She looked up and saw a very nervous Norman stretching out his hand to help her up. Despite the throbbing in her foot and the scratch on her head, this
made her smile. She accepted Normans outstretched hand and pulled herself up. It was the first time that Norman had really gotten to look at her up close. She was taller than he was, with dark
black hair that cascaded halfway down her back. She was wearing a pair of wrangler jeans and boots. Norman stared at her for a moment, and then realized he was staring. He mumbled something about
helping her and bent over to pick up her things. He started reaching for her books and noticed where she had dropped a hat. A cowgirl hat. He picked it up, more out of curiosity than anything.
Vanessa reached over to take it from him, lightly brushing his fingers when she did. Norman had to fight against passing out he became so light-headed. Vanessa put the hat on and Norman almost
passed out again. He had never been big on the whole country look, but it worked perfectly with Vanessa. Realizing that he was staring again, Norman started to stammer. “I’m….uh…my name
is…uh…what’s my name again.”
Vanessa laughed lightly. “Hello, Norman. My name is Vanessa.” She held out her hand for him to shake. Before he even knew what he was doing, Norman took Vanessa’s hand and kissed it. As soon as he
realized what he had done, Norman dropped Vanessa’s hand and lifted his head up, prepared to be slapped. When no slap was forthcoming, he opened his eyes and looked at Vanessa. She was blushing.
Norman knew that he needed to say something, but he wasn’t sure what. “I…uh….well…what was my name again?”
Vanessa smiled that smile once again. “I have been wanting to talk to you for so long, but I never seemed to find the opportunity. I was wondering if you might be available on Friday night for a
date?” Norman heard the words, but it took him a minute to realize that he wasn’t the one saying them. In fact, Vanessa was asking him out.
Vanessa seemed to know that there was no way that Norman would be able to answer. The chances that he could put together a syllable, much less an entire sentence, were pretty much nil. She wrote
her address and phone number on a small piece of paper. She placed it in his hand and whispered as she walked past. “Pick me up at seven, please.”
Norman never knew that she had left. The shock had been too much for him. A few second after she had walked by Norman finally passed out, falling back into the trash can and continuing to roll,
much like Norman, to destinations unknown.
© Copyright 2016 clslater. All rights reserved.