Coincidences Come in Bunches is a humorous short story by Russell MacClaren that reflects on life in this world were people have so much in common.
In 1925, my grandfathers met at the New York Stock Exchange. The meeting was fortuitous for me. If it hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be here telling this story. This auspicious meeting took place in an elevator car that got stuck on the way up to the trading floor—a common problem for the antiquated contraption.
“What happened to your hand?” Grandpa Fred asked Grandpa Mac after their car halted between floors.
“Lost it in the war. Not that it’s any of your business.” Mac’s scowl turned to a grin when Fred showed him his hook. “And what happened to your hand?”
“Hunting accident,” he said and continued without pausing. “I buy Gant Perrin gloves in pairs when all I need is one. And they cost a fortune.”
Mac countered, “I pay full price for Belleville shoes and don’t have a right foot.” He swept back the overcoat he was wearing with his new Blackthorn shillelagh and revealed the wooden stump below his calf.
Fred looked at Mac. “Put your hand to mine.” Their palms and fingers matched perfectly, a fact that brought smiles to both.
“No right foot,” said Fred. “My left leg is just a peg. What’s your shoe size?”
“That’s my size too! By the way, I’m Fred.”
“Call me Mac,” grandpa MacClaren insisted.
They tried to shake hands, laughed, then bumped knuckles.
Fred studied Mac. “Maybe we could… we should ….”
“Exactly my thought,” said Mac. “We’d be fools to waste good shoes and gloves! Do you live in the city?”
“Stay at the Waldorf,” Mac answered.
“Me, too!” Fred hooted. “Got kids?”
“A girl,” Mac replied, “eight years old.”
“I’ve got a ten-year-old boy,” Fred countered.
They exchanged business cards and departed fast friends, planning an informal get-together.
In time, the two became business partners, buying and selling stocks with the best dealers in the exchange. Their rise seemed fairy tale until tragedy struck. In 1928, their wives went over a cliff in Fred’s new Rolls Royce Phantom. I lost both grandmothers that day, without having had a chance to meet them.
After their wives died, Fred and Mac liquidated, retired to cottages near each other on Lake Erie. Living through the depression in luxury tantamount to kings. Dad told me, they often donated to civic projects, homeless shelters soup kitchens, and sometimes they put out food for hobos.
In 1939, Mac’s daughter, my mom, married Fred’s son, my dad. They’d been longtime friends before becoming sweethearts. My grandfathers got together and bought them a beautiful home in Napa Valley where they settled to raise our family.
Interestingly enough, there’s a sequel to this story.
While visiting New York in ’65, I got stuck in an elevator with the lady who is now my wife. We shared tales, and it turns out that her grandfathers, like mine, were both missing an arm and a leg, and they met in an elevator that had broken down between floors at the stock exchange. Her grandmothers were cousins, mistresses of her grandfathers who eventually became their wives and gave birth to children who married each other and became her parents. Now I ask you, with so much in common, wouldn’t you assume destiny had prepared my wife and me for one another?
As members of the human community there are many more similarities than differences in people. Life repeats itself and is born again in others when we reflect on how similar we are. And I submit to you that we live in a wacky world where coincidence abounds and connects us together with a strong but loving bond!