Cross Your Fingers God Bless
Ron Currie, Jr.
Because she was not a superstitious person, in the days leading up to
her solo hike in the thickly wooded ridges Annie ignored several
warnings proffered by the universe regarding what was about to happen.
Because she did not believe in premonitions, she was not given pause
when she flipped open a magazine at her podiatrist's office to a
two-page spread about staying safe while hiking, and in particular
staying safe from wildlife attacks.
Because her notion of existence made room for nothing but the banally
palpable, on the long drive to the trailhead she failed to register a
roadside sign that read "BEAR Collision Specialists."
Because she was raised in a rational age that had little use for the
supernatural and/or extrasensory, when the cosmos—practically
screaming at her now, and Annie's third ear as deaf as you
like—threw a wooden carving of a bear from the bed of the
pickup truck in front of her, she simply slowed, drove around it, and
continued on her way without a second thought.
It was only later, trapped in the envelope of agony her body had
become, rendered incommunicado by both morphine and the tube in her
trachea, that these things came back to Annie and she recognized them
for what they had been, saw them gleaming in the haze of consciousness
like lodestars, suddenly the only true things in existence.
And so then her world became nothing but Ouija and omen, good winds and
bad vibes. She left the hospital with a face pieced together just well
enough that people could stand to look at it. For months, she drank her
meals. She gave much thought to buying a veil. She wore customized
shoes designed to accommodate the new difference in the length of her
legs. But she was not unhappy. She passed the time mostly alone,
turning over tarot cards and remembering the first glimpse of the bears
as she reached the end of a long turn in the trail: the mother, huge,
black, wet-snouted, and the two cubs, harmless and helpless as stuffed
playthings. Which, of course, explained the mother's fury in protecting
Annie didn't blame her a bit.
As that first winter came on her old friends fell away, some gradually,
some all of a sudden. One might have imagined that grief drove them
off, or else that they found her too difficult to gaze upon for more
than a few seconds, let alone the amount of time necessary for a cup of
coffee or, God forbid, dinner. But that wasn't it. Not really. They,
like her, had been raised in a rational age. Many of them held degrees
in the physical sciences or mathematics. They never attended church.
The only invisible thing they believed in was the air in their lungs,
and so what cleaved them from Annie was, in fact, her new
credulousness, her good cheer, her refusal to be saddened by the
illusion of this new, teeth-grinding circumstance. She struggled to
explain the unseen, and her old friends looked at her ravaged face and
the violent hitch in her stride and felt the brand of pity that the
well reserve for the crippled. They imagined that the only possible
explanation for her rapture was that she'd been rendered daffy by
trauma, poor soul. And so one by one they left her, backing away and
speaking pleasantly to cover their unease, much as one is supposed to
behave when encountering a wild animal in the woods.
Ron Currie, Jr.'s first book, GOD IS DEAD, won the Young Lions Fiction Award from the New York
Public Library. His most recent novel, FLIMSY LITTLE PLASTIC MIRACLES, is now out in paperback from
W i g l e a f