Darlings of Destiny by Bill Baber

Tina Conrad attributes everything in her life, good or bad, to blind luck. She draws no distinction between luck or choice, decision or chance. The way she sees it, luck is the trump card.

Lately she has been suffering through a run of- even by her standards- extremely tough luck. A year ago, she thought she had turned her life around, thought the chips were finally coming her way. She quit drinking, stayed away from cocaine and as a result, stopped sleeping around.

She landed a job working the bakery counter at Safeway. The pay wasn’t bad and the benefits were great. She rented a cute little two bedroom place near work and started seeing a guy named Danny, a truck driver who delivered to the store twice a week and stopped for a donut when he did.

But then the economy turned sour. Her hours got cut and she had to give up the house. Danny lost his job and moved to another city to look for work. He was the nicest guy she had ever known. She had thought they might settle down and start a family. The only place she had to go was the couch at her friend Renee’s.

Renee cocktailed at a place called the Boom- Boom Room. She got Tina on part time. It was pretty much a dive where lots of low life’s hung out. The temptations were too great and soon Tina was drinking again. She quit showing up for her job at Safeway and got back into the blow.

That’s how she met Tran. He was of mixed Asian ancestry- Chinese father and a Vietnamese mother. Something about that made him cruel and bitter. Tran dealt hard drugs and harder women. He was thin but muscular, menacing without ever speaking much. Tina thought his expressionless, brooding eyes were cold and dark as shotgun barrels. There were tiny Chinese characters that fell like teardrops tattooed at the corners of his eyes. When Tina asked him what they meant, he pointed to his right eye and responded;

“Chance and luck are illusions.”

Pointing to his left he continued;

“Fate and destiny are all that matters.”

“You see,” he concluded, “Everything in this life is pre-determined.”

Tran began fronting cocaine to Tina. It wasn’t long before she was deep in the hole. She lost her belief in luck. Maybe she had never had any, good or bad. Tran soon convinced her that heroin was much cheaper than blow. At first, she just snorted it. She liked the mellow nod better than the wiry buzz of coke. Before long, she was skin popping and within weeks she was a vein nailing junkie-controlled by Tran and his horse.

She owed Tran lots of money and he turned her out. Sadly, she thought this was her destiny. One night, a trick beat her severely. Because her face was bruised, she couldn’t work the street so Tran kicked her around some. She tried to OD that night but Renee found her unconscious and called an ambulance.

While she was in the hospital, she pondered the luck, fate- chance, destiny question. Was it fate that she was here? Or was it luck that she was still alive? All she knew was that it was a message from somewhere and she was sure as hell going to stay straight.

Tran came to see her the night she got out of the hospital. He told her she owed him five hundred bucks and wanted to know if she was ready to go back to work.

She replied by pulling a .25 semi-auto from her purse. She pointed it at him and those cold eyes locked on her. For the first time, she saw him smile.

"You know,” she said, “I don’t know if it was luck, destiny or chance that caused us to meet.”

She pulled the trigger until she heard the click of the firing pin on an empty chamber.

“But what I do know you dead son of a bitch is that it sealed your fate. I suppose it was all pre-determined.”

The next day, she got a letter from Danny. He was living in L.A, making good money and wanted her to join him there. She liked to think that was pre-determined too.

Bill Baber has written for alternative weeklies in northern California and
Oregon. His fiction and poetry have appeared in “The Source,” “Literary
Harvest,” “The Flash Fiction Offensive” and the online edition of “The High
Desert Journal.” He currently writes about the Central Oregon outdoors for
roll35.com. He lives in Bend with his wife Robin and a very spoiled dog.


Richard Godwin said...

No spare meat here. Like it.

Anonymous said...

Nicely done. A good writer at work here.
Terry Butler

Jen Steffen said...

I want to say funny, but that's not the right word. It's an apt portrayal of the roller-coaster of life, even it shows mainly the extreme ends of it. Well done.

Anonymous said...

So the chamber was empty and she didn't really shoot him, right, but it gave her power and her luck changed. I like the Noir-ish quality of the spare writing. Nice!

Bruce Harris said...

The perfect FFO story.