Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
”Miriam’s been out here for twenty minutes, and she wonders why this isn’t easier. Here she is, tight white T-shirt--a tight, white, wet T-shirt with no bra in sight--and her thumb out for a ride. Prime, Grade-A Road Trash, she thinks. And yet, nobody stops.
A Lexus speeds past.
‘You’re a dick,’ she says.
A white SUV rumbles by.
“You’re a superdick.”
A rust-fucked pickup approaches, and she thinks, this is it. Whoever’s driving this junk-bucket is sure to think he can score with this thin slip of road pussy.”
To say that Miriam Black is living on the edge is almost a laughable understatement. Here she is, standing out by the side of the road, a living breathing woman, in dire circumstances, sporting a she-must-like-it-rough black eye, and she can’t get anyone to even slow down to take a lingering, leering look at the dark smudges of her cold induced erect nipples.
What’s a girl got to do?
The white elephant of a question is, how does a woman find herself in so much trouble that even a potential rapist, stopping to spirit her away, is a relief?
As she will tell you, her body is no temple. There is no vestal virgin lurking behind the zipper of her jeans. The laws of the universe are clear: ass, grass, or gas, no one rides for free.
Her life has always been a kaleidoscope of varying degrees of trouble, but recently somebody turned the fan on high and shit started flying at her faster than she could flutter her eyelashes.
She needs some ”zen and the art of repression.”
Her boyfriend, Ashley Gaynes, who is not her boyfriend, is carrying a suitcase full of stolen meth. He is a real asshole, too.
”’I figured you might be able to push it.’
‘Me? Are you kidding?’
‘You look...like you maybe do meth. Or did.’
‘No,’ she seethes, ‘I look like I do heroin--and I don’t do that either. I have all my teeth and I don’t smell like cat piss, so don’t think I’m some basehead tweaker fuckface.’”
Yeah, he is a gem.
There is also Ingersoll, whom we will just call the Hairless Fucker, well, because he is hairless, and his two hench people, Frankie and Hannah, want and need to hurt Ashley because they want the meth back.
Miriam turns out to be a pleasant surprise. She has something that is much, much more valuable to Hairless Fucker than a suitcase full of meth, even if that meth was blue and made by Walter White. It isn’t, but if it was, it still wouldn’t be more valuable than what Miriam can do.
She can tell you when you are going to die.
Now if you are a unmitigated, unequivocal asshole like the Hairless Fucker, you know your demise is probably going to be heinous, gory, and probably have something to do with fucking somebody over.
If you can know when you are supposed to die, maybe you can avoid the whole damn thing and live to a ripe old age in the Cayman Islands.
In Miriam’s experience,
”Fate is an immovable object.”
There is no changing your destiny. Your life has already been woven, and the fates are plucking the strings. ”All of our lives are just a series of events carefully orchestrated to culminate in whatever death fate has planned for us. Every moment. Every act. Every loving whisper and hateful gesture--all just another tiny cog in the clockwork ready to ring the alarm for our ultimate hour.”
There is the possibility that Miriam is wrong. What if we could change our fate by making different decisions? On the day we are supposed to be splattered all over the front of a Greyhound bus, what if we stay home, locked in the bathroom, curled up in the tub, waiting for a new day to dawn? Does the bus crash through our house and splatter us anyway? Or does the Grim Reaper find us, snickering at our feeble attempts to trick him, and we are found in the tub split from head to toe by a weapon that the coroner can’t identify because it hasn’t been used to cut wheat in a hundred years?
Would you want to know?
Me, you’re asking me?
No way, no how. I want to be the most surprised person on the planet when my heart explodes in my chest, or a burst vessel sprays hard pumping blood all over my brain pan, or a meteorite blows through my head at a thousand miles an hour. Knowing the ending would certainly screw up the middle pages of my autobiography.
Miriam needs to get away, as far as she can, from the Hairless Fucker and from Ashley Gaynes. The only problem is, she can’t ever run far enough or fast enough to outrun herself. The same old face will still be staring her in the face in Milwaukee as it was in Phoenix.
You will cringe. You will laugh. Your sphincter will pucker. Your stomach will churn. Your head will ache. You will emerge from the pages of this book a different person, tasting tarnished pennies in your mouth and needing to spend the rest of the day with the shades drawn, Tom Waits on the turntable, and slowly working your way through a bottle of Jack Daniels.
Wait! Miriam?!?! Is this how I croak? Shit! No, no, for the love of Odin, don’t tell me.
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