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 them.

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 Penguin.

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