I had to call my insurance company the other day to file a claim. Crouching on my kitchen table, I explained eagerly to the agent on the phone that when I got home from work I discovered that my floor was made of lava.

The following morning they sent out a claims adjuster, and I followed him as he hopped from the doorway to our couch and stood on the cushions while he scribbled notes onto a form on a clipboard.

After a moment on the couch, he stepped gingerly onto the coffee table and then onto an ottoman. He squatted down low, and hovered his hand a few inches above the lava for a fast second to confirm its heat, and quickly pulled it away. He scratched his chin with the tip of his plastic insurance pen and considered the scene for a moment.

“This is pretty bad,” he said, and jotted down a few more notes. “When did you say this happened?”

I explained that I had found it the previous night when I'd gotten home from work.

“Interesting,” he said and paused for a moment while he leafed backward through the paper on his clipboard. “My notes say it was during the day?”

“I found it in the evening after work,” I repeated. “But it must have happened during the day.” I started to lose my balance as I spoke, so I spring-boarded one foot onto a book that I’d left on the floor, then bounced onto a chair in the kitchen, where I stood on its seat. The blades of the ceiling fan rotated nearby, just below my eye-line.

“So you called right when you got home?” he asked.

I began to explain that of course I did, but then I paused and recalled that I might have taken a shower first.

He repeated the shower part while scribbling notes, carefully making sure he’d heard me correctly.

“So you get home. The floor is lava. You take a shower?”

I explained that I had come from tennis, and it was tournament night, and I had been sweaty.

He tapped the end of his pen against his temple and scanned the notes. “I thought you had just come from work.”

With a hint of impatience, I explained that I go to tennis directly from work, which is my normal routine. I apologized for my omission.

“And how did you get to the shower.”

“What?”

“The floor is lava, right? How do you get to the shower.”

“The books,” I said, a little embarrassed. I gestured to the pathways of books that ran through the house. I had arranged them approximately a step length apart, standing on each to lay down the next. These crude pathways ran into the bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen, and allowed me to live somewhat normally while navigating the molten floor. The insurance man scanned them with his eyes.

“Of course,” He said. “I would have done the same thing.” Then he paused suddenly as if an important detail had just occurred to him. His eyebrows raised in a crooked arch. “And the shower isn't lava?”

I explained to him that I didn’t understand the exact mechanics of it, but the shower somehow appeared to be its own thing. “The shower is like its own thing,” I said, and I gestured to the pathway of books and invited him to check it out if he wanted. He waved me off with a flick of his pen and a smirk, as if to say, this ain’t my first rodeo.

I watched him write more notes for a moment, then cleared my throat and cut to the chase. “Is this covered in my policy?” I asked.

He underlined something he had written with a few hard strokes of his pen, then looked up at me.

“Lava floors are always tricky,” he explained and wiped a thick bead of sweat from his brow. “First we'll need to identify the source of the lava. If it's internal – which isn’t necessarily uncommon – it should be no problem. BUT,” he said, and paused glancing out the window. “If the lava came from outside the house, that's where there can be some gaps in coverage.”

“What kind of gaps?” I asked.

“Well, for example, if it came from a known active volcano, it would fall under disaster insurance, which I don't see here in your policy. So unless you have a disaster policy from another carrier, that would likely be an out of pocket expense,” he said flatly. “But—” he started again, and his tone improved to a hint of optimism, “if the volcano was on a neighbor's property, we can always go after their insurance for damages. So try not to worry. There're usually options.”

I joined his gaze over the living room floor and out the window. From where I stood on the kitchen chair I could see over my neighbor’s fence, and a gentle breeze was blowing the swings on their kid’s playset. Beyond their yard, a yellowing cornfield rolled gently over a small hill. “That makes sense,” I said. “But I’m pretty sure there are no volcanoes around here.”

“Exactly,” he said with an assuring tone. “That's why we won't jump to any conclusions until we get an inspector out here.”

After another moment of scribbling some notes, he said that he had all the information he needed, and I’d get a call soon to schedule a visit from an inspector who specializes in what he called, “these kinds of things.” He stepped off of the ottoman and back onto the coffee table, then sprung with one foot off a book and out the front door.

I stepped off my chair and onto another thick book, then sprung off one leg to meet him outside on the stoop. I thanked him for coming out and watched as he walked towards his white fleet car, then yelled after him to ask when he thought the inspector would be able to make it out. He said it shouldn't be more than two days. Astonished, I asked what exactly I was supposed to do until then.

“If your claim is approved, any hotel expenses will come out of your deductible,” he yelled back. “Or,” he chuckled, “you can keep hopping around on books.”

He slid into his car, started the engine, and backed out of the driveway. Despondent, I spun back into the house, hopped across several books and flopped backwards onto the couch. For a long moment, I stared at the beams of the ceiling while molten rock hissed around me.

Insurance, I thought. What a goddamn racket.

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