While visiting the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire with her father, Mackenzie spots a carnation pink and forest green tent— her favorite crayon colors. It stands in an out-of-the-way place under an ash tree. Her father is distracted by a bosomy woman dressed as a character from the Witcher, but she manages to drag him to the tchotchke table by the tent.
The merchant draws a set of dice from a black satin bag and hands them to Mackenzie, not to sell, but for her to wish on and roll. Depending on the roll, her wish might come true.
The wooden dice are old, chipped, and unexpectedly heavy.
The merchant tells her there are rules. Because Mackenzie has touched the dice, she must now roll them. She must name her wish aloud and repeat it. For her part, the merchant has to answer all her questions.
This is a creepy set-up. The dice are clearly enchanted. Mackenzie compares the dice to George Washington’s teeth—if he had wooden teeth. Who knows what’s real anymore? Do the dice determine one’s fate or merely reveal it?
The boy who rolled the dice before Mackenzie wished to be a dragon slayer. What will happen to him?
Mackenzie is unafraid. Her parents tell her she is the luckiest person they know. All the while, her father (for some reason only called “Mr. Burns”) tries to pull Mackenzie away from the dice and the merchant.
I liked the creepy atmosphere, though I found the “rules” around the dice a bit of a stretch. The ending was, for me, unsatisfying. The punishment did not fit the crime.
According to his blurb, author Thomas Gaffney was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He fell in love with horror and storytelling while reading a beat-up copy of Stephen King’s IT. Gaffney survived twelve years of Catholic school before embarking on several careers—including computer programmer, barista, and account manager—while writing in his spare time. His collection of short stories, Stranger Things Have Happened, was a 2020 Book Excellence Award winner for Horror, a 2019 Next Generation Indie Book Award finalist for E-Book Fiction, and a 2019 New Apple Literary official selection for Short Stories.
Gaffney compares himself to the character of Henry Bemis, a bookish man played by Burgess Meredith in impossibly thick glasses in the “Time Enough at Last” episode of the original Twilight Zone.
I hope his story is not as sad.
He currently lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with his wife and (he says) spends too much time and money in random coffee shops.
“Lucky” can be read here.
Author: Thomas Gaffney
First published: November 6, 2020, Theme of Absence