Due to a hole in my pants pocket, I’ve switched my lighter, keys, and loose change to the left side and it’s unbalancing my life.
They found each other, years later, random chance, funny coincidence, sheer luck, destiny or whatever you want to call it. Neither could believe it. Neither ever told the other how they felt, too much in the way. So as aged and drifted apart, went to school, got jobs in other cities, each figured that was that, a missed opportunity, another dull ache for the collection.
But here they were, who knows how many years later, standing two feet apart, unsure, excited, surprised, elated at one of the many rest stops along the endless run of tedious highway between two somewheres.
Dzinski tossed his cigarette to the lake, then cursed himself as the nearby raft of ducks fought over it, all quacks and wings flapping, churning the already turbulent waters, until the winner choked it down triumphantly.
Movement to his right drew his eyes, the man he was trailing and had lost reappeared, now carrying a briefcase heavy enough to cause him to lean to one side. Dzinski counted to twenty five and started after him.
A block away, four masked men jumped the man, barking and fists connecting, until they ripped the briefcase from his near lifeless body and ran.
He woke up, sweating, trembling, from a bad dream that he couldn’t quite remember now, in the three-quarter darkness of the bedroom, the orange glow of the nearby street light coming from behind the nearly leafless branches swaying in the wind and in through the half-open slit of the curtain.
The man at the front of the room told them to close their eyes, sit up straight and follow their breath. Deer had no idea what to do, so she waited until the room quieted and then tried to match the rhythms of inhalations and exhalations around her.
After seventeen in and outs, the man spoke, but Deer couldn’t be sure he still stood in front of them. His low, rumbling voice said to imagine their lives as walking a path meandering through the wood and to remember their breathing.
Deer crunched through the snow under her feet. Squinted as the sun reflected off its surface. Saw her breath come out in clouds. Heard the bare branches scrape against each other when the wind rose. Smelled the crisp nothing smell of winter. Felt her cheeks redden.
A mile or two in, the voice from everywhere said to stop walking, to see they were coming up to an intersection, the path they walked would soon split in two. It said to pause, to look left, right, up and down. Then it said to turn around and study the path they just came from.
Deer looked back and saw only unbroken snow.
Coyote put the book down, noticed the spine was about to split in half, so instead he placed a loose cigarette between the pages and closed it. He wandered into the kitchen, unaware of why he had stopped reading, but certain the answer was somewhere between the chipped linoleum floor and the cupboards.
He’d been leaving the stove on after taking away the kettle. But the elements were black. Water dripped from the sink, but no louder than usual.
Stepping outside, his hands moved reflexively to his right pocket, pulled out his lighter, and realized he left the cigarette inside.
The bull was at the window all night.
Nose against the glass, his hot breath fogging it and his hoof constantly tapping, in that slow, irregular way.
My wife rolled over and said if I just ignored him, if I didn’t get involved, he’d give up and leave. I was about to say how I’ve been trying to ignore him, but she’d already fallen asleep again.
I burrowed under my thin pillows, pressing them hard against my ear, turned away from the window and pulled the blankets up over my head.
Could still hear the bastard tapping though.
Every morning, Skunk rolled three dice.
It started out as just harmless hobby, a silly superstition, but it flourished into a fixation, the most important part of his morning ritual. He’d pick up the three dice from his bowl of loose change and other good luck charms and them once, and only once, no take-backs. Then he’d plan his day around what numbers showed on the die’s faces.
There was one particular combination he hoped to see every morning. Four two five. The first time he rolled those numbers was the morning he first met her. Bumped into her really, knocking her coffee out of her hand at the bus stop. She could have been angry, could have yelled at him for not watching where he was going, for ruining her jacket, and she would have been right. But all she did was smile at him and Skunk couldn’t hardly get the words to move past his lips, but he apologized and offered to get her another one.
On cue, before she could answer, the bus pulled up and she got on, saying some other time maybe, she really needed to get to work, that she was already running late and Skunk nodded dumbly and watched her go.
As the bus pulled away, he heard a knock from the window and looked up to see her wave and smile at him. He waved back. Sometime in the twenty minutes before the next one showed up, he realized she was likely trying to let him know he was missing his bus.
Four two five came up again a few weeks later. He saw her having lunch on a restaurant’s terrace just down the street from his office as he walked out of the bank. Skunk thought it was quite the coincidence, but then his memory snapped to the dice and he realized both times he’d seen her, the numbers had been the same. He groped hopefully at the idea that it was a sign, but he also knew how crazy that sounded.
Unless he had proof.
This could just be luck or the random chaos of the world sloshing up over the cup’s rim. If it could happen once more, he’d know it wasn’t a fluke. That it was something real. That it was serendipity, or even fate.
So every morning, Skunk rolled his three dice, hoping for four two five.
Ma said it didn’t matter that he’d run off.
She said she could work as well as any man, and that as long as she could walk upright we’d never go without, but we did, plenty. I never complained cause complaining never put more food in the pot. There was what there was. Stew at the start of the week, and a thin broth by the end, with maybe a heel of stale bread between us
I don’t know how many nights I laid in bed, trying to quiet my near empty stomach and cursing the man who left us.
Some mornings, starting the day off on the right foot is piece of cake, but sometimes you just can’t get the ball rolling, and when you do, it rolls off the wrong side of the bed. You feel under the weather and are racing against the clock to get to work.
You know your boss will have you between a rock and a hard place if you show up late again; he’s always had a chip on his shoulder concerning you. There’s nothing you can do really, except keep your chin up and make sure he knows haste makes waste.