The Second Chancelucky in Line
I’ve been reading a lot of Haruki Murakami lately and enjoying it. I’m also worried that it’s starting to affect my regular life. As I’ve mentioned, I write fiction some times when I’m not blogging. Judging from the last few months, I must have been writing a lot of fiction :}. I certainly haven’t been blogging.
Anyway, a couple months ago I was looking to see what the deadline for the University of Iowa’s Short Story Collection competition happened to be this year. I’d entered the year before, but I knew that I didn’t have much of a chance. I used the competition more as an opportunity to put together something that looked like a collection than a serious run at winning it. I opened the web page and much to my shock the winner was Kathryn Ma, someone I actually knew. As it happens, Kathryn went to both the same college and graduate school that I did. We weren’t good friends, but we certainly knew one another. She’s a terrific writer and very deserving. One of the shocks was that I had no idea that she wrote at all. I later learned that she didn’t start until she was 40.
Had someone told me that the winner of the Iowa contest would be a Chinese-American writer who set stories in Northern California and the same writer had gone to school x and school y at such and such a time, I would have started celebrating. Certainly, that could only have been me. Slightly less odd, the judge for the contest was Curtis Sittenfeld (American Wife) who went to the same high school I did and attended the same college that Kathryn and I went to though ten years later. After the publication (part of the prize) of All That Work and Still No Boys (Kathryn’s collection), I sent her an e-mail through Facebook and decided to go to one of her readings in Berkeley. I’ve been to any number of readings by authors, but I don’t know that I’d ever seen anyone who had prepared quite as well as Kathryn. She thanked the owners of Mrs. Dalloway’s , the bookstore/garden supply store hosting the reading, delivered a brief-engaging talk about her history as a fiction writer, read a selection from the book that she timed out at exactly 8 minutes (I assume that’s an ideal length somehow), and answered questions with poise and charm for the 30 or so people there.
I bought a copy of her book then got in line to have her sign it. After a minute of standing in line, a younger Asian man inadvertently stepped in front of me. Eventually, he turned around and I think it dawned on me that he’d cut in front of me and he offered to switch places. I told him not to worry about it. We waited our turn, then he came up to Kathryn and she said, “Who do I make this out to?”
The guy says “Sign it to Chants Lucky.”
My eyes-widened and I imagined the books flying off the shelves and rearranging in odd patterns.
Kathryn says, “Oh, you’re Chants Lucky. Thanks for your e-mail.”
“The guy finishes his visit and turns to leave, but I get to say, “Is your name really Chance Lucky?”
He nods then takes off.
My turn comes up and I tell Kathryn, “You’re not going to believe this, but I’m Chancelucky. You know we went to X and Y together.”
Kathryn smiles and acts like this happens a lot. We catch up a bit in the way that 2 people who barely remember one another might. She signs my book and says, “Ah yes, Chance Lucky with two C’s right?”
I compliment her on her memory (it does make me feel a bit better, end the visit since there are several people behind me in line several of whom may also have names Chants Lucky, Ciance Lucky, Chans Lucky, Chentz Lucky.
As my friend and I left the bookstore, it occurred to me that I should have stopped Chants Lucky to get his story. I would then have learned a bit more about alternate universes etc. and maybe gotten published in some journal of theoretical physics for Star Trek fans who also read Murakami. I didn’t. Maybe,I was afraid of the possible anti-matter matter explosion from a Chance encounter of this kind.
Instead, maybe I'm fated to stay the second Chance Lucky waiting in line to talk to Kathryn Ma. It may be all that's holding the cosmos as we know it in place.