Tuesday, May 10, 2011


I’m lucky, or so I’m told. I don’t win lotteries or pick winning stocks. I live when others don’t.
My lucky streak began on my twelfth birthday. Then again, perhaps it started earlier and I just didn’t notice, but on the day I turned twelve it was hard to miss. The sky was clear, but the roads still were wet from a brief dawn rain. It was the day of a soccer match and the goalie’s mom picked me up at my house. She drove me, her son, and one other teammate toward the playing field. We three kids were in the back of the minivan with the goalie and one other teammate when a text came in on the driver’s cell phone. She diverted her eyes from the road to read the message and drifted into the path of a concrete truck. The truck driver swerved to avoid us, but that only cause the truck to skid on the damp concrete and roll. I was the sole survivor of the ensuing collision. The text, by the way, was from the team coach; the match had been cancelled because the grass was too wet. Though the van folded in a way you wouldn’t think possible, somehow it left me safely in a pocket. The EMS workers who pried open the van and let me out marveled that I didn’t have a scratch. To be on the safe side, they packed me into in an ambulance anyway. On the way to the hospital, the ambulance slid off the road on a sharp bend and hit a tree. I was the sole survivor.
Yeah, I’m just lucky as hell.
My luck struck again when my mom’s new boyfriend Bob took us waterskiing. He didn’t really like me, but he pretended he did to please my mom. After lunch, she wasn’t feeling well, so she didn’t join Bob in the boat for the next round of skiing, even though by law a pull boat always should have an observer as well as a driver. While glancing over his shoulder at me on the skis, Bob failed to notice a shallow water marker.  The boat struck a rock. He was flung forward out of the boat and hit his head on the windshield on the way, which must have knocked him unconscious. He drowned. I was unhurt.
As you can see, my good luck tends to be a little hard on the people around me.
Over the next several years, people dropped like flies in what for me were near misses. There was a lightning strike in the park, a shark attack at the shore, a rattlesnake bite in the woods, a tornado that obliterated the neighbor’s house, and many more. All just skirted me and struck someone nearby instead. I always had met the victim, or, in the cases where there were multiple fatalities, at least one of the victims. I never suffered an injury.
I hoped I would leave my cursed luck behind when I left home, but the pattern persisted at college. Only one month into the first semester, students smoking weed accidentally set fire to their dorm room, which was across the hall from mine. The fire spread rapidly. I had no trouble getting down the four flights of stairs and out of the building. By some quirk of air flow, an envelope of clean air surrounded me the whole way. Nine other students were not so lucky. They died of smoke inhalation. Scores of others coughed and wheezed around me on the lawn in front of the burning dorm.
“It’s all my fault,” I muttered to myself.
A sooty faced young woman overheard me and asked, “Did you start the fire?”
“No, but it’s my fault anyway.”
“What do you mean?”
I don’t know why I chose to answer, since I never had discussed my luck with anyone before. Maybe no one ever asked about it before. I described to her my history of escaping disasters unscathed. She listened patiently until I finished.
When she was sure I was done, she answered, “Total nonsense!”
I was surprised by her vehemence.
“It’s horrible you’ve been through so much,” she went on, “but none of it was your fault. I’m Margie by the way.  The universe just doesn’t work like that. There are no jinxes. Coincidences simply happen sometimes. That’s why there’s a word for them.”
“They happen around me a lot. I’m Dustin, in case I didn’t mention it.”
“You didn’t. Hi, Dustin. Look, all you’ve experienced are just random events. Pure chance. Nothing more.”
“But what are the odds against all those things randomly happening around me?”
“I’m not sure you understand odds. When we say the odds against something are a thousand to one, that means it definitely will happen one out of a thousand times. There are billions of people in the world. Some of them are bound to experience a series of narrow escapes. The odds don’t prevent it. They demand it. Remember that woman who won two state lotteries? There was nothing supernatural about it. Rare things happen. You seem to think you’re a jinx. You are not. There is no such thing. And don’t count on walking away from any future accidents. Maybe you won’t. You really aren’t charmed.”
“Only charming?”
“I wouldn’t go that far.”
Margie made me feel much better. Everything she said was perfectly sensible. Perhaps to prove she wasn’t superstitious, when I asked her to go out with me, she agreed. Despite all that I had told her, she wasn’t afraid.
We grew close in the weeks that followed and she helped to keep me sane. Margie assured me it was not my fault when the bleachers collapsed under us during one of our team’s football games and killed several of our classmates. Both of us walked away unharmed. She said it was just one of those things. When I missed my flight back home for Thanksgiving weekend and the plane crashed with more classmates aboard, that wasn’t my fault either. It wasn’t my fault when we left a restaurant before being seated because we decided the line was too long, and a natural gas explosion then destroyed the building. It wasn’t even my fault when Margie’s roommate tripped on a curb in front of us and fell under the wheels of a bus.
By then I began to suspect that Margie was wrong. Whether you want to call it a jinx, fate, or an outlier point on a probability bell curve, I was hazardous to the people around me. I brought them ruin and walked away scot free. Margie didn’t deserve that. I cared about her too much to watch anything like that happen to her. So, one night, I steeled myself and broke up with her. Margie was furious.
“You’re crazy and hopeless and I give up on you!” she shouted.
She stormed out of the dorm. Less than an hour later she was killed by a mugger. The mugger took eight dollars from her pocket.
I should have realized. None of my closest friends or family ever had suffered harm around me. Only those who were more distant ever died. By breaking off our relationship, I had sealed Margie’s fate.
In a funk, I went downtown and sat on a bench in order to prove to myself that my luck was real. This was rather rude, of course, since the expected catastrophe would befall others, not me. A woman of about 30 caught my eye. She had pale skin, dyed black hair, and all black clothes. She appeared mad, or perhaps high. She twirled and skipped along the sidewalk touching the people she passed with a finger. A middle-age woman, distracted by the touch, failed to look at traffic when she walked out into the crosswalk; she was struck down by a taxi.
The madwoman, who now stood next to me, giggled as people gathered in the street around the accident. She reached toward me with a finger, but stopped before touching me.
“Hello, brother,” she said. She turned and smiled at me once more as she gamboled off.
Coincidence, you might say. A chance encounter with someone overdosed on meds. I don’t think so. I don’t buy it. I have a destiny, and, I’m not alone. The dark-haired woman truly is my sister. The universe has assigned us a job. Who is to say it is not for the best? Perhaps our victims need removal. Perhaps in our lethal touch we somehow alter the stream of events and thereby prevent something far worse. Who are we to argue with the universe? We have a duty. My sister is right. We shouldn’t fight our destiny. We should embrace it – even make an effort to perform our task exceptionally well.
My father still lives in the same town as my mom. He works at the Twin River nuclear power station. He has offered to pull some strings and get me a summer job there. I think I’ll take him up on it.

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