The Dead: Book 16 (frag. 1)

Submitted by Ken Watts on Thu, 11/20/2008 - 13:28

"LIFE," BEVERLY THOUGHT, "gets more bizarre every day."

She stood by her car in the driveway, staring at her house, and wondering how she came to be so unbelievably unlucky.

Now that she actually thought about it, it wasn't just the last few days—getting run over by a semi, losing her boss's keys, knocking a glass of water all over the keynote speaker at the conference.

No. It had been going on her entire life . The time she found her lottery ticket two hours—two hours!—after the deadline. The time she was the only person at the party who ate the shrimp. The time her brother got the measles just before her prom.

And this.

The odd thing, the thing that broke the pattern now she thought of it, wasn't that everything, always, went wrong. That was the ground, not the figure.

The odd thing was that she had survived all of those mishaps.

Was it likely, was it even plausible, that a person who suffered such horrible fates every single day of her life would have survived them all—would have even managed to have a generally normal, middle-class, life, in spite of all the slings and arrows?

The more she thought about it, the less sense it made.

If anyone else had stained half their face purple on the day of their first job interview, or had managed to lose their first mortgage payment (in the form of cash) two days before it was due—if anyone else had had that kind of thing happening every two minutes their entire life, they would probably be on skid row.

This realization seemed important to her: more important than the incredible scene before her eyes. It meant something, something enormous.

She was just on the verge of...

"Ma'am?"

...and something about the elephant was vaguely familiar...

"Ma'am?"

The officer took her arm.

"You probably should step back a bit."

Thank God the kids were safe at school.

But that thought—the one about the kids being safe—brought her back to the larger puzzle.

Why wasn't she in a constant state of worry about the kids? How could she go through life collecting disasters, as she did, without constant fretting that her children would be the victims of the next one?

She didn't, of course. She hardly ever worried about them at all in any deep sense, unless there was a very particular reason.

It probably had to do with the fact that she never worried for herself. She tended to think of the kids as invulnerable, just as she was.

That was it, of course. She was invulnerable, so far, anyway. No matter how much, how regularly, went wrong. So why wouldn't she assume the same about her kids?

It didn't make sense, of course. She should, by now, be feeling that her odds were running thin—that she was overdue for a tragedy.

She stared at the roof.

One day something like this would happen, and she would be in the house, or her kids would.

But she couldn't get herself to take the thought seriously.

Something was about to happen. The ropes were in place. The man in the brown leather jacket—the one with the goggles and scarf—waved to the gentleman in the top hat.

The policeman approached her again.

"They're about to start, Ma'am. You should step a little farther back."

She nodded, absently, remembering why she had returned to the house in the first place.

The cookies.