Today I have sneezed about forty-seven times and experienced two pretty weird coincidences.
After I left the law office this afternoon, I found myself with a bit of time to waste, so I wandered into the Book Den East, the used bookstore down the street from my house. I browsed the fiction section for a few minutes, mostly reading spines and backs and rejecting books. I picked up one that had an interesting cover and begun to read the first few pages. The story took place in 1980 in LA, just after John Lennon had been shot, and the narrator was complaining about everyone playing the Double Fantasy album to exhaustion in the wake of the biggest tragedy to hit hippies since patchouli. I got bored by page three and put the book back.
I picked up another book and although I hadn’t originally thought I’d be interested in it, I found myself suddenly at the bottom of the tenth page and decided I ought to buy it because the mildew smell in the bookstore was making me sneeze.
Book in hand, I walked into town, where for the first time in about a month, I checked my mail. In the box was a suspicious (and by suspicious I mean potentially expensive) envelope directed to my father’s estate. When I opened it, it revealed a letter demanding five thousand dollars, sent by a collection agency on behalf of Sears & Roebuck. Knowing that my father was not one to have outstanding debts or to shop at Sears, I called the number. As I was dialing, I noticed that the letter was addressed to the estate of John H. Holmes. My father was John E. Holmes. I mentioned this first to the agent.
It turns out that John Henry Holmes, an unfortunate soul who lived last in North Carolina and spent his last days buried in debt in Fort Worth, Texas, and John Evans Holmes, a brilliant and impatient genius who peppered Cape Cod and the Islands with beautiful metal work and lived his entire life in New England– died on the very same day, many states apart.
Realizing that I did not have to shell out five grand to Sears, I heaved a huge sigh of relief (of course I promptly sucked it back in when I opened the bill from the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, who charged me nine hundred dollars to tell me I didn’t have Strep).
Having exhausted all options for entertainment in Oak Bluffs, I got on the bus and headed home. I flipped open the new book I’d bought, and picked up where I’d left off, near the end of the first chapter. At the beginning of the second chapter, the narrator and her daughter set out on the cross-country road trip from Los Angeles to Georgia that the first chapter had set up. While she drove, the narrator flipped radio stations. She stopped on one when the DJ said the station was playing all Beatles songs—and then changed it when she realized they were only playing the Double Fantasy album. It was then that I realized that the book was set in 1980, shortly after John Lennon had been shot.
What are the odds of picking up two books on the same day, and finding that they are both set in the same place, during the same year, and within twenty pages both mention with similar disdain the same John Lennon album?
I guess they’re probably about the same as the odds of two men in different states with the same first and last name dying on the very same day.