Serial – Episode 2 of “20th”


Part 2

We’ll find out together if we think this little experiment is working, I guess.


Tim didn’t want to be lucky.

People were always telling Tim how lucky he was. Friends from school who had seen some positive thing come his way. Acquaintances who heard some rumor that he was a guy good things happen to. People on the street who saw news reports about how he survived being struck by lightning.

These were people that didn’t know Tim. They hadn’t been with him his whole life. They hadn’t seen the peaks and troughs, hadn’t watched the sine wave of his experience. The only woman who knew the width and breadth of it all was gone now. She had told herself that the only reasonable explanation for her son’s lot in life was that she had done something to curse him. Some evil in her life had caused a punishment to be meted out onto her son. The fact that he had survived and that his sister had grown up alongside him relatively safe and sound was what had kept her together. But on Tim’s 17th birthday, when Janet went missing, she broke apart. She began a long downhill slide that ended in a bottle of pills when Tim was 20.

Dave was now the only one that had been around long enough to know the score. And he had only been around for the past seven years. He’d never have the full picture, but Dave knew as well as Tim did that to be lucky was not a blessing.

Luck is fickle and indiscriminate. Highs and lows alike. It’s not all good luck. Luck is supposed to be indiscriminate. There are more than six billion people in the world and they all get a taste. Infants, saints, heroes. It doesn’t matter. Luck is supposed to be random. Any time, any place. You’ll never know when fortune will smile or scowl in your direction. So you live your life the way you always do. You do what you like how you like and when you like to. What’s the point of planning around luck? Random and thoughtless. It’s a force of the universe. How can you account for that? There’s no reason a person should have good luck or bad luck. They are simply experiencing what they are experiencing.

But it’s different for Tim.

Tim is a lucky person.  In as far as he can estimate, he is the only lucky person alive. There are people that luck affects in more extreme ways in others, but they don’t count. That’s like saying that people that fall of cliffs are more affected by gravity than everyone else. Matters of extreme luck for Tim are regular as clockwork. Once a year, every year, for the last 28 years of his life. And why should this year be any different.

June 20th.

It is the the day he was born. Arguably the single most defining day in his life. Rivaled only by the day he would eventually die, which would be a 20th. Hopefully not this one.

Janet is born. Dad becomes a paraplegic after being hit by a car. Dad dies.  Tim loses his virginity. Mom kills herself. He’s struck by lightning. Tim wins a tidy sum in the state lotto. Every year, every June 20th.

No one notices. They miss the connections because the events don’t always affect Tim directly.  His father being hit by a car and dying on the same day years later was chalked up as a fluke. The fact that it was his son’s birthday is considered a freak accident. Just one of those things. This confluence of events made his mother’s suicide seem that much more expected. Each occurrence is viewed as a compartmentalized item for most. Anyone who would have been a part of Tim’s life long enough to make the connection is simply dead or gone.

Tim was in his early teens when he made the connection. His mother already knew. It was why she couldn’t sleep, what gave her the haunted look that made her so alien to all his friends. It wouldn’t be until his late teens that the two of them would be able to discuss it openly, and by then it was too late for him to save her.

It would be so much easier if he could just lock himself in a room every year and wait things out in silence. He’d take a sleeping pill, lock the doors and wake on the 21st, safe and secure. It was futile, though. Mom learned that the hard way as well. After Tim was lost in the woods for two days during a camping trip for his birthday, she must have put two and two together. The next few years she grounded him on his birthday and confined him to his room. But Tim didn’t have to be around for an event to affect him. His school exploded after a gas main broke. His father died the next year.

His mother tried then to let him lead a normal childhood, convinced that she couldn’t do anything but suffer quietly and pray. She hoped that Tim’s final 20th would come a long way off into the future and that not too many of those days would bring misfortune. Any chance of a normal life faded when Tim inevitably discovered the pattern in his life. He saw the pattern and it immediately instilled a continual sense of dread in him.

364 days a year were only prelude to a day where he would either be treated to some present, or have another piece of his heart torn from his chest. Tim was careful not to dwell on metaphors like that, unless they became literal through some involuntary act on his part. Who was Tim to say thinking something that was fruitless. It seemed that the normal rules didn’t apply to him.

Nature doesn’t make straight lines. Patterns of this singular fashion simply do not occur in the world. Did Tim cause this? Did god? Tim wasn’t even sure if he believed in god, even with all this. What was happening to him felt too much like something out of Greek myth. Maybe he believed in a pantheon of gods who were using his life as their chessboard.

It was impossible to enjoy life on a day-to-day basis because anything he loved would immediately become a prime candidate for destruction. Would someone he barely knew die on the 20th? Maybe. But what would he care? Would his new girlfriend be hit by a semi on a drive over to visit him on his birthday? Now that was a possibility.

Every joy had fear skipping along behind it, kicking at its heels.

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