Coincidence and the Beastly Babe

One of the things that comes up quite often whenever mystery lovers hang out is coincidence. How much is too much? If coincidence plays an aspect of resolution, is the book at all believable? I think so. I’ll tell you why. And then I’ll tell you why again.

In the first place, coincidence happens. If you don’t see coincidence in your own life, you’re not looking in the right place at the right time. In real life -- not novel life -- coincidence is the spark, the spice. It’s the unlikely made whole and real. And it binds the loose ends together.

I was put in mind of this recently when having dinner with a friend. We were talking about how young women -- and most especially girls -- can be the most beastly creatures on the planet. Since she and I are both creatures of that ilk, we know what we’re talking about in the beastly babes department.

She told me a story that shames her, even three decades after the fact. More. She told me about being nine or thereabouts. She and another young beastly babe were given positions of some responsibility at their school. One girl, even younger than the two of them, drew their wrath for no reason that she can now recall. “She had these huge sad eyes,” she told me, “she was like this little scared rabbit. Maybe a mouse. But with big eyes.” The younger child moved, I guess, like a victim. And our young beastly babes were hunters. They went straight on the attack.

“We told her we’d kill her,” my friend tells me now, these many decades later. She says it quietly, to the table. Her risotto and her wine forgotten for the moment. Her cheeks are red with the admission. Her eyes filled with shame. “To scare her. You know. We told her, if she got in our way, we’d find her and we’d kill her. We didn’t even know her name. I don’t know why we said that. I really don’t. And we never would have done it, we would never have actually killed her, but...” and here she hesitates, just for a beat. And her voice slips even lower “... but she didn’t know that.”

So cut to 20 years later. My friend lives in a different city: not the one in which she was raised. And she’s partying. She meets another partier and they talk about -- I dunno -- Teen Spirit or Doc Martens or Lollapalooza or whatever was happening in that moment 14 years ago. And they have a nice connection. You know, like people do. People who will be friends. And as the friendship develops, they realize they have the same hometown. And they went to the same school. Coincidence enough, right? But this girl -- this younger girl -- has these incredible large eyes...

Now my friend does not know absolutely and for a fact that the woman she is still friends with more than a decade after Kurt Cobain left the building is the same person she terrorized when they were both children. She’s not wanted to bring it up for fear, I guess, of seeing some of that old horror in those beautiful, wide eyes. She values this friendship, yet she maintains what she feels is an awful secret.

Now if I wrote that whole scenario -- or you did. Or someone else -- you just wouldn’t believe it. And depending on your wiring and the way you view the world, you might even throw the book against the wall and say, “That would never, ever happen.” But it can. It will. It did. And so much more.

In my own writing, I find myself pulling back from coincidence, not entirely, but a bit. I don’t do this because I don’t believe. But some people choose not to. If you’re one of those -- one of the skeptics who don’t see coincidence -- I beg you to open your heart and let the possibility of coincidence in. Life is too short to deny ourselves the magic of the everyday.


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