Chapter 0: Decisions, Decisions

Scene 0.1: The Sun Sets Wrong 

Chris finished his run and started walking along the beach to cool down. The sun was going down now, and the February evening would soon turn cold, but he didn’t feel like joining the group roasting hot dogs just yet.

He sat down on the sand and gazed out across the ocean. He’d lived on this ocean all his life. He loved this ocean.

They say the Atlantic’s different.

Where did that thought come from? Of course the Atlantic was different. There were geologic differences between the east and west coasts. The continental shelf on the Pacific side was narrow, whereas that on the Atlantic side was wide. This caused differences in the waves and the beaches, and …

Why was he thinking like this? Going to Harvard was an incredible opportunity—even if it was on the east coast.

Even if it’s three thousand miles from family?

He heaved a sigh, determining to get these crazy thoughts under control, and deliberately turned his mind to the beautiful sunset. It looked like it was melting right into the ocean, leaving behind a whole palette of colors.

Just like a sun should set. At Harvard, the sun sets over land. How can you live in a place where the sun sets over land? That’s just unnatural!

“Stop it,” he mumbled to himself. “Just knock it off.”

Scene 0.2: The Spider

Chris was feeling more settled by the time he and his roommate, George, returned to their room that evening. Everyone at the hot dog roast had congratulated him on his acceptance to Harvard, and he was feeling great about it.

George was propping his surfboard against the wall when he noticed the new piece of paper on Chris’s memo board—an announcement Chris had put there on impulse. “Hey, man—new décor.” He stepped up to the board and cocked his head to read the lopsided announcement. Fingering his puka shell necklace, he read, “The Damour Footrace…six thousand miles? Now that’s a race!” He turned to Chris. “You thinkin’ about entering, dude?  It’s, like, not one of your goals, is it?” He pointed at the “Goals” sheet Chris kept neatly tacked to the board.

“Yeah. Well, no. I don’t know.” Chris grabbed his towel.  “Excuse me, I need to hit the shower.”

“Hey, what’s this?”

Chris turned back to see George gazing intently at the wall beside the board. “What is it?” He crossed the room to stand beside him. And then he saw it. It wasn’t large. It wasn’t pretty or bright or spectacular. It was just an ordinary house spider. But it had chosen to spin a web between the corner of the wall and one of the pushpins in the acceptance letter from Harvard, so that the web partially covered the letter.

“How long’s that been there?” Chris asked.

“Dunno, man. You’re the one that makes your bed every day.”

Good point.

“Look. It’s caught a fly.” Chris pointed to the small, struggling insect as the spider made its way to it and began trussing it up. For some reason, watching this normal behavior, something Chris must have seen a hundred times, made him very uncomfortable. “Eww,” he groaned.

“Bummer,” George agreed. He watched it for a few moments. “You gonna kill it? It’s on your trophy, man.”

Chris didn’t answer.

“You got a problem with spiders? I’ll kill it for you.” George took off a flip-flop and aimed it at the spider.

Chris caught his arm. “No. It’s not the spider’s fault. It’s the letter that’s in its way.”

George nodded as if Chris had said something sage. “That’s cool, man. The letter’s the one interrupting the natural course of life. Very deep.”

Sometimes George was smarter than he looked.

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