Retaliation

“Is it growing, Mom?” Tony said, concern in his voice.

* (The name of this painting is “California Street.” See below for artist and detailed publishing information.)

Retaliation in Red

A Short Story

            No one knew how the red spots got there. They just appeared one day, and they were spreading. People’s brains were worn thin from trying to figure it out. The spots grew on the street and slid up along the walls. Sometimes it got in your hair if you weren’t careful.
            Mildred Lee took her ten-year-old son Tony to the cable car that day. As she dropped him near the cable car stop it seemed there were more red dots on the streets than last week and even more than yesterday.
             “Is­­­­­­­ it growing, Mom?” Tony said, concern in his voice.
              “I don’t know,” she said glancing at her watch. “But I gotta run or I’m going to be late for work. Hop on the cable car and I’ll see you tonight, Honey.”

But she would not see him as he was that morning. No. Tony ran after the cable car, but he didn’t reach it because he slipped on the red goo and got a mild concussion. When he woke up he was in a land far away. It was red. The sun was red. Tony’s clothes were red. His hair and skin were red. The people around him were red. They wore red clothes. Bright red. Cinnamon apple red. He was afraid at first, but then, he realized it must be some joke his friends had played on him. He was not hurt. And the color would wash off. He was sure of it. The people seemed friendly enough but they smelled funny, so he wanted to leave right away, but how?

Tony seemed to have found a way out of the red city, because the next thing he knew he was standing outside his home.


            “Hi, Mom,” Tony said, skipping into the house through the kitchen door. Tony’s mom fainted. Who faints anymore? Well, she did.

She came to with smelling salts that Tony’s dad administered. He whiffed some himself.

“What happened to you?” both Tony’s parents said at the exact same time.

“I don’t know. I was running toward the cable car and I slipped. When I woke up, I was in another place. And I was red. But then I fell asleep again and I woke up outside the house, but I was still red.”

“Well, I hope this washes off,” Tony’s mom said, licking her thumb and rubbing it on the back of Tony’s arm. Nothing changed. Tony was still red. Very, very red.

“Tony! Who did this to you?”

“I don’t know. I think it’s kind of cool,” Tony said admiring his face in the dining room mirror.

“It’s not cool because it’s not washing off. I’m calling the school.”

Tony scratched his red head with his red fingers. “I never made it to school that I remember.”

“What? Where were you?” Tony’s dad said. “Now don’t make up stories.”

 “The place was different. Like, the people there were red, and the buildings and streets were red.” He paused. “Even the dogs were red.”

“Maybe you slipped and passed out. You were dreaming is all. Now let’s see if we can get this off you. Come with me, young man,” Tony’s mom said. Then to her husband, she said, “Call the Sedgwick’s.  Their son is in Tony’s class. See if he was at school.”

While Tony’s mom scrubbed Tony’s skin with every thing from spot remover to cleanser and steel wool, Tony’s dad had called five other kids’ parents. It took several tries as the lines were busy. Finally it was determined that out of those five, the three children who were anywhere near that particular cable car line were red. All reported going to the same strange place where Tony went where people, clothes, and dogs were red. And all the children had remained red with no amount of washing that would alleviate the stain. The children peed red.
           Finally Tony’s mom stopped scrubbing. Tony was crying. She was crying. And the next morning Tony’s mom and dad were red, along with everyone else in San Francisco. The lobsters had retaliated. But they didn’t like the taste of humans, so they let them live.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

* Please note: Do you see the red spots on the street? The story popped upon the page from this wonderful piece of art! This post is a pure fantasy riff on the above painting in the book Bay Area Scene Paintings by Gordon T. McClelland & Austin D. McClelland, Copyright 2018. No disrespect is intended.

Page in Book: Page 26 and Cover

Artist: Jade Fon

Title: California Street

Year: 1950s

Media: Watercolor and gouache

Book Description: Looking down California Street from Nob Hill with China Town on the right side, the business district down below and a section of the Bay Bridge is visible through the towering canyon of buildings.

Luck

Great Success = a little more talent + a lot of luck ~ Daniel Kahneman

green trees beside body of water
Photo by Jonathan Petersson on Pexels.com

Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman in his  2011 (my copy) book Thinking, Fast and Slow says “Success = Talent + Luck.” Malcolm Gladwell in his 2008 book Outliers says it a little differently, but basically that, “…  outliers in a particular field reached their lofty status through a combination of ability, opportunity, and utterly arbitrary advantage.”

“Great Success = a little more talent + a lot of luck” ~ Daniel Kahneman

In the U.S., we like to reward hard work. We want to say that people who put in Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 hours” (from the Outliers book) of practice and toil will be successful. People who expend this much time hope to be successful. And they may be successful—if they are lucky.

Leaving so much to luck is a hard pill to swallow!

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We would like to know that at the end of the athlete’s daily three-, four-, or five-hour practice sessions for ten or more years, the athlete will take a Gold Medal at the Olympics. Wait. They have to get to the Olympics first. Sometimes they luck into it by doing particularly well on one day of trials. Alternatively, someone else breaks a leg or sprains an ankle. Good luck. Bad luck. It’s luck.

Johann Sebastian Bach wrote his famous musical pieces in the 1700s. Talented. Yes, but he was lucky enough to be born into a musical family. However, both his mother and father died (bad luck!) when he was nine, but he moved in with his older brother (good luck) because it led to some (fortuitous) events that enhanced his musicality to our benefit.

In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell recounts the 10,000 hours + lucky paths of The Beatles and Bill Gates and many more successful outliers—in this case, people who are “situated away from or classed differently from a main or related body.”

Tony Robbins has another view on luck:

“The meeting of preparation with opportunity generates the offspring we call luck.”~ Tony Robbins

The difference is that Tony Robbins seems to imply that preparation and opportunity have a causal relation to luck.  Gladwell (and I think Kahneman) would argue that you’re lucky to be in a position to spend your 10,000 hours of preparation in the first place—like Bach, maybe. It’s a nuanced, but important variation in viewpoint.

I offered a similar sentiment, coming from yet another position in my May 23, 2018, post entitled “Life’s A Crapshoot.” I was not looking at success at all,crapshoot but rather that luck is a fact of life from the very beginning. (I was adopted.) We want to have control over who we are, but we do not. Sometimes that’s great. Sometimes, it’s terrible. Either way, it is frequently plain dumb luck.

It looks like Daniel Kahneman,  winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences,  Malcolm Gladwell, and I agree!

Bottom line: I wish you luck. Both kinds. Why? Because sometimes it is by bad luck that we happen on to good luck. I also encourage you to spend your 10,000 hours to master your art, craft, science, etc., but I don’t want you to think that’s your only path. We have many multiples of 10,000 hours during an average lifetime. Perhaps you want to try your luck at something else. There’s no harm in trying. In fact, it may very well be your luck to fail at the first attempt so you can succeed at whatever’s next.