Luck

The kids at school started calling Benji by the nickname “Luck” in fourth grade after a series of events that happened one week in mid-April.

It started Monday, when he narrowly missed getting hit by a car while waiting at the bus stop. It swerved at the last second, hitting an unsuspecting squirrel instead.On Wednesday, he was reading quietly in the shade of the three-story building during recess when a janitor who was applying a coat of paint to the edge of the roof had a heart attack, dropping an almost full can of paint to the ground. The paint can landed only four feet from where Benji sat. Benji was in the nurse’s office changing out of his paint-spattered clothes into some spares from the “Oops Box” when paramedics wheeled Mr. Pete’s body out under a white sheet.

Thursday, he tripped over his untied shoe lace and spilled the contents of his lunch tray on the cafeteria floor. As he tried to scoop smashed lasagna, iceberg lettuce and canned corn from the linoleum, he’d found the pale, wrinkled tip of someone’s thumb. After confirming the presence of the kitchen staff’s thumbs, the principal decided it must have been in one of the massive cans of bulk corn.

By Friday, April 13th, his classmates spoke of Benji as a legend, a tall tale, a folk hero.

“I heard he almost bit into that thumb!”

“I know a girl who has a friend who has known him for years. She says he’s always this lucky!”

Benji hadn’t liked the nickname “Luck” but his nine-year-old brain hadn’t been able to articulate exactly why. Arguing it only seemed to encourage them, so he tried to ignore it. As “Luck” took hold as his new handle–even the teachers started using it–it seemed to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Things always ended up working out in his favor.

In seventh grade, he became the first alternate when he tried out for Math League. Only a week into training, Joey’s parents split up and his mom moved him to Chicago to live with his grandmother. Benji got his spot on the team. His grandmother passed away in the middle of his senior year, leaving him an inheritance that would cover tuition to the four-year college of his choice. He was home sick with the flu instead of on his usual commute when two subway trains collided due to a faulty track switch.

Luck seemed to follow him everywhere.

His friends and family thought it was amazing. They loved to tell stories of his charmed life, but all Benji could hear was sorrow and loss in the tales. The squirrel … the janitor … the anonymous factory worker … Joey … his grandmother … the regular passengers on the 8:30 M-line … they had all suffered so Benji could experience his “luck”.

This lifetime of luck flashed through his mind when his cell phone rang at 10:38 pm four days before his 58th birthday. The glowing blue screen read, “DR. ASHER”. Benji sighed as he hit the green button and lifted the phone to his ear.

“Hello?”

“Benji! You’re in luck! They’ve found you a heart.”

*4/14/18 prompt: luck (from Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Friday prompt on 4/13/18)

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