Mama named me Lucky because she was tired of bad things happening to her. “I needed some luck in my life,” she says, “and along you came.”
Daddy never really loved me, but he swore that he tried.
“I wanted the world for you, sweetheart,” he said, “but I can’t give it to you.” Then he walked out the door and we never saw him again.
Daddy was one of the bad things that happened to Mama before I came along.
“You’re made of luck,” Mama says.
“I’m made of skin and bones and muscles, silly,” I say.
Mama doesn’t know about things like what humans are made of because she doesn’t believe in science. Luck is all Mama needs, and she says that luck and science go together like a cat and a hot bath.
I want to be a scientist.
Mama doesn’t come to the science competition. She doesn’t see my project win first place.
“You know how I feel about your ‘facts,’” Mama says.
“My ‘facts’ won me first place,” I say. I hold up my shiny blue ribbon, but Mama won’t even look at it.
“You won first place because you got lucky.”
I slam my door with such velocity that the walls shake. Mama doesn’t know about things like velocity.
Daddy ends up famous after all. He gets second place on a TV competition for singers, and now he’s touring the country.
“Lucky bastard,” Mama hisses at the TV.
There was nothing lucky about Daddy’s success. Mama wouldn’t let me watch the show, but I remember his voice from the lullabies he used to sing me. He was good. He was real good, and that’s a fact.
Mr. Bell picks me for the summer science camp offered at the community college. Eight weeks in a real laboratory. Eight weeks of real science. Eight weeks where Lucky is just my name and not what I am. There’s no place for luck in a laboratory.
“Mama, please,” I say. “This is my dream.”
“What about my dream?” Mama says.
“And what’s that?”
“You, Lucky. My little Lucky Charm.”
“I’m not made of luck, Mama.”
“Of course you are.”
“I’m made of skin and bones and muscles.”
“I’m made of facts.”
“I’m made of Daddy as much as I’m made of you. It’s called genetics.”
Mama shuts her mouth.
She doesn’t see me off.
I pack my bags and eat my breakfast and walk to the bus stop by myself. In the bus, I watch the world rush by through the smeared window. I watch the sunlight hit the leaves and I wonder how much energy those leaves are creating right now. I watch the river rush and I wonder how many of those water drops have been on top of mountains and under the earth and up in the sky. I watch a baby deer stumble after a mama deer. Her legs are thin and shaky, but it won’t be long before they grow thick and strong and able enough to carry her wherever she wants to go.
And then—a billboard for a concert in a casino an hour away.
Daddy’s got on a fancy tuxedo and a gold watch that’s probably real, and he’s holding a real microphone instead of the hairbrush he used when he performed for Mama and me in the living room. On the billboard, he looks real happy. Happier than I ever saw him.
We pass the billboard and continue to the laboratory—the real-life, no-luck-needed laboratory where I am made of skin and bones and muscles just like everyone else—and I am happier than I have ever been.
I want the world for you, Mama, but I can’t give it to you. ▲