For no other reason than a profound taste for the absurd, Ivan Bidditch liked to trace back the important events in his life and discover the preposterous coincidences on which they depended.
At twelve …
At eighteen, he landed his first job because of a few lines in the small-ads of the local rag. The tabloid had been mistakenly dropped through his letter box by a spotty teen, who was covering for the regular paper boy, who the day before had forgotten his rain coat and had caught a chill . . . An unexpected rainstorm had determined his whole career. And what a career that was.
At twenty four, he was pressed by an overbearing aunt into attending an amateur-dramatics production of Alice In Wonderland at the local village hall. On his way there he was caught in a traffic jam, caused by an overturned muck-spreader, and arrived after the curtain had gone up. He was shown to an uncomfortable seat at the back and was soon joined by another late arrival, who a week later became his lover; a year later his spouse. A road plastered in liquidised cow shit determined who became his wife. And what a wife she was.
To Ivan, who took a demented view of the past, it sometimes seemed as if whole hideous periods of history turned on things as innocent as an early spring or a late train.
Six million Jews, he once figured out, might have survived the 1940s if the woman who later became Hitler’s mother hadn’t stopped on the way home because she liked peonies and met the man who introduced her to the man, who . . . A simple cluster of peonies growing in a window box—what a sight that must have been.
At fifty, after a narrow escape, Ivan realised these determining coincidences were stupid things to think about, and he quit thinking about them. A million what-ifs that he no longer cared about. His next great act, he knew, would be determined by an infinite number of coincidences that came before it—he refused, however, to ponder them. But what an amazing act that would be.
As Ivan Bidditch lay dying on the floor of the twisted carriage, though, surrounded by bloodied corpses, he couldn’t help but come to the conclusion that the coincidences that preceded this final act of brutality did matter, and he wanted to get them straight in his mind—before he died.