Carson opens his first savings account shortly after his sixth Christmas. He'll invest better than his mother. She buys him a Voltron Deluxe Warrior set and he shrieks and squeals for YouTube videos. The Voltron lions find their place in his bed. Carson wants Voltron sleeping bags, Voltron blankets, clothing, food. Weeks later, everything changes. Voltron dies and a void fills Carson's heart. Not that Carson believes in hearts. When Carson colors his sixth Christmas, he uses orange crayon. The drapes, the carpet are orange—surely. His mother's orange hair. His father in England purchasing an orange Bentley, or an orange cravat. Nobody knows what Carson's father does at any moment. Carson's certain his father wears black ten-gallon-hats with orange robin's feathers in their band and silver and black bolo ties. Voltron has no orange lion. And Carson's house isn't orange though he once wore orange sneakers for an elementary school play in which he was court jester. Which isn't why he's lying on squeaky hide-a-bed beneath an orange comforter in his brother-in-law's attic. Not his brother-in-law yet, brother-in-law-to-be, and from the attic, Carson's mother is certain, Carson will discover his brother-in-law-to-be's secrets and end his sister's engagement.
"Carson, you simply must come down from there."
Carson's sister doesn't take seriously his refusal to socialize. The orange comforter has the fleur-de-lis pattern which Carson admires. He considers painting the fleur-de-lis pattern on his condo walls or his leather sofa. He could purchase fleur-de-lis throw pillows. A fleur-de-lis tattoo on his neck would be a fantastic political statement. But which side of the neck? Perhaps the front? The fleur-de-lis there, golden, over his esophagus. Carson's sister has no tattoos. She is Barbara. Barbara spends time in several boarding schools. She earns a high school diploma. Rather than university, Barbara cashes in her trust fund and starts a t-shirt factory. She begins with blank t-shirts from her Goodwill outlet. She applies decals and sells them at Etsy as 'vintage'. Carson's mother approves. To her, real labor is a waste. But to make something? That is 'true purpose.' Carson wonders what true porpoise is. That his mother never flew in Flipper for his birthday is a great disappointment. Nevermind that Flipper was a suicide. That there were many Flippers—even within one episode. Carson feels that Flipper is a betrayal of the American ideal. He doesn't know what the American ideal is but it has something to do with thumb-wrestling and compound interest. Barbara teaches Carson thumb-wrestling at the Hawaiian vacation villa. Sugarcane and pineapple. Behind the east wing where their bedrooms are, the grass and beyond it the pumice fields. He, shirtless and barefoot. Barbara in her bikini and wide black sunglasses. "You say, 'one, two, three, four, I, declare, a, thumb war.'" Down the pumice fields, a beach and Carson wants Barbara's sunglasses. Wants to prance along the surf. He loses the thumb war. One of many. There are no thumb battles or skirmishes. Their mother hires only three servants for Hawaiian vacations, and the vacations only last three weeks, and only twice a year. The nanny Ms. Collins visits her children in Portland. Their father sends vacation emails, to be read on New Year's Day and Easter. 'We have consolidated our interests in Shandong Province. We have a considerable stockpile of resin. Rising oil costs may provide a new income source.' For his sixteenth birthday Carson receives his very own ten-gallon-hat. He wears it to Barbara's Halloween party. "I'm an oil baron," he says. Barbara's roommates stroke his fuzzy cheeks. They make him lemon drops and cosmopolitans. It's a sleepover and Carson wants to thumb-wrestle Barbara's roommates but they want to play scrabble and drink black russians. Carson never again finds his black ten-gallon-hat.
Barbara decides to marry Samson. She abandons her t-shirt factory and begins reading pregnancy books. When their mother asks if she's pregnant, Barbara says, "I'm sterile." "Can that be true," their mother wonders. "Go find out," she says. Carson buys a plane ticket. He's in Phoenix. It's summer and one hundred ten degrees. In the rental car, Carson listens to Tupac Shakur's 'Me Against the World.' He eats Chick-Fil-A from a strip mall. Carson watches girls in bikini tops, then drives to Barbara's house. There are cacti. At the gate Carson types in the secret pass code. He knows that somewhere nearby is a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. He meets Samson. "I thought you would have longer hair." There's an awkward silence. Samson's in real estate. He either buys or sells it. He may do both. Carson researches well. Samson has several DUIs. It's okay—Arizona doesn't care. You can bring liquor into restaurants. Carson considers starting a craft spirits company. The idea of pocket spirits. Tiny bottles. Bracelet charms maybe. Phoenix seems primed for little liquors. That's what he'll call them. Not Phoenix though, Scottsdale. No pumice fields here. Scorpions. Skinks. Ten thousand birds squawk you awake. Carson reminds Samson of the DUIs. "You motherfucker," Samson says before punching his nose. Barbara wonders at the blood but neither Samson nor Carson will tell. "Let's go to the beach," Barbara says. But there are no beaches in Arizona so they go to Dairy Queen for Blizzards. "I bet you're a Butterfinger man," Carson says. "I'll smack you again," Samson whispers. "I'll pull your goddamn long hair," Carson answers. Carson flies home. "He's a dangerous vigilante," he tells his mother. His mother emails his father. The will is changed. Contingencies, contingencies, contingencies. Carson should've joined the navy. He'd wear a white uniform. Sailor hat. Rooster and pig tattoos on his legs, a star on his foot. Sail the seas in a clipper ship. Samson there with his Saracen sword and eye patches. Eye patches make Carson soft and watery. He wears an eye patch every day for two years. Ages seven to nine. He develops a rash around his eye, treats it with Neosporin. "You'll lose your eye, for god's sake," Barbara says. God doesn't care about Carson's eye. God only cares about Brett Favre's eye. Brett Favre doesn't wear eye patches. Brett Favre throws footballs to a robot. Carson could kill him if it came to a pistol draw. In the navy, they'd never meet.