Ladonna Trent sat staring at her computer screen, which was displaying the spam folder of her email account. There were five emails there. Four were advertising something called Rx Meds [At Your Fingertips Today!] and the other one was advertising fake watches. The emails were from a variety of names: Anibal Solomon, Rubin J. Keith, Ronda B. Clements and Ricky Charles.
The rather odd thing was that the last sender of one of the emails advertising Rx Meds seemed to be from herself. The name Ladonna Trent was neatly listed next to the subject of the email. Ladonna stared at the email a while longer, wondering what the odds of THAT happening were. She decided the odds were some big number to one. How odd that it should also happen today, of all days, her birthday.
Ladonna abruptly abandoned her computer, grabbed her coat, keys and cigarettes and dashed out the door, only remembering when she got to the end of the hallway that she should probably lock the door, especially as she actually remembered her keys this time. The door made a satisfying click when she locked it and Ladonna wondered how just a small, round, metal bar could lock a door so thoroughly. As she walked down the stairs of the building, for the elevator was broken yet again, she continued to marvel at the incident of the spam email. Why would a woman with her exact name be sending out advertisements? Actually, the advertisements probably weren’t sent by actual people, but just by some company’s computer, and the names were probably just generated randomly. Still, it was strange to see your own name advertising something like illegal medications.
As she stepped into the late morning sunlight outside her building, Ladonna wondered what she should do now that she was out. It was her birthday, after all, and she wanted to have a nice day in this city of strangers. She had just moved to the city a week before. She worked for a large company who did big and important things, though Ladonna didn’t quite care what those things were. She only cared about what she was supposed to care about – whatever her boss needed. She was one of the CEO’s secretary, which meant that she made him coffee, took his phone calls and made appointments. She never really cared what those phone calls or appointments were about. The Boss had moved here to run one of the local offices, and as she had nothing much tying her down in her old city, she came along.
The Boss had met his mistress at a café near her house, Ladonna knew, for she had made the appointment with the mistress herself, so she decided to head there for a cup of coffee and a smoke. The café was a pleasant place with little white tables out on the sidewalk for those lowlifes of the American society who still needed to puff smoke into their lungs. Ladonna didn’t really mind being one of them. She sat down at one of the tables and waited to be noticed by one of the laughing waitresses inside. Eventually one of those fresh faced young women came out, still smiling from whatever joke had been shared by her and her friends.
“Hi, would you like a menu or do you just want coffee?” She asked, her smile changing to a long practiced polite little uplifting of the corners of her lips.
“Just a coffee, thanks. And an ashtray, if you could be so kind,” replied Ladonna, imitating without realizing it the empty little smile. The waitress came back within minutes with the frothy cappuccino and a small ashtray. Ladonna thanked her with the fake smile again, and sighed with delight as she took a sip of the coffee. It was good, better than the ones she made herself at home. She took her cigarettes out of her coat pocket, shook one out of the soft pack, and lit it with the lighter that inhabited her jeans pocket perpetually. She took drags in between sips of coffee and enjoyed a moment of quiet in a public place, something she had not enjoyed for a long time. It was nice to go to a café on your own – she had always thought this, but she hadn’t gotten around to doing it in a long time. She watched the traffic flow by lazily, with the occasional halfhearted honk, for who could be rushing on a lovely sunlit morning like this? A homeless man across the street pushed his cart in a seemingly chipper way, though he was probably just rushing to the nearest soup kitchen before it closed. A woman with three blubbering children walked by, trying to wipe the nose of one, pull the other from the curb and stop the third from spitting out his food at the same time. Ladonna smiled indulgently on it all, knowing that it looked lovely to her only because she was in a good mood and thinking how nice it would be if good moods really affected the world in some way.
Her coffee and cigarette finished, she waved the waitress over, and asked for the bill. As the waitress was bringing over the bill, Ladonna noticed her name tag. It said RONDA on it. The name tickled her memory so much that when the waitress came back to take the money and her tip, Ladonna decided to ask her what her name was.
“Ronda,” She smiled and pointed at the name-tag.
“Yes, yes, but I meant what’s your full name?” Ladonna caught the look of confusion on Ronda’s face and added quickly “It’s just that you seem familiar and I was wondering if you were related to someone I know.”
“Oh, then my full name is Ronda Bantam-Clements. I got both my mom’s and my dad’s last name. Could you be related to one of them? I know my mom’s got a bunch of family she doesn’t speak to.” Ronda nattered on about her family history for a while before Ladonna cut her off, saying that she must have been mistaken and she didn’t know her after all.
Ronda Bantam Clements. Ronda B. Clements. How odd. Another of the spam emails that morning had that name listed as the sender. What a strange day this is, Ladonna thought to herself.
The discovery of Ronda B. Clements made up Ladonna’s mind. She would go and buy a lottery ticket. Who knows, she thought to herself, perhaps a coincidental day is all that’s needed to get lucky. Ladonna found a convenience store, and asked the large man behind the counter for a lottery ticket for tonight’s drawing. He looked at her strangely, as if it was a very odd request, before tearing off a ticket with numbers to be filled in and handed her a pen.
“Here, love.” The man said, revealing his strong English accent and his penchant for calling total strangers by pet names. Ladonna filled out the lottery ticket, thanked the man and was about to leave when she heard the tune of the beginning of the noon newscast come on the television across the counter. She hadn’t even opened her newspaper that morning, so she paused and looked at the off-color screen to listen to the five minute news edition.
“It’s twelve o’clock, and I’m John Irving with the news. Three people died and a fourth was severely injured last night in an accident involving a tractor. The details of the incident haven’t yet been released, but Ricky Charles, the sole survivor, exclusively told our reporters that the incident revolved around a drug induced cult act. More details will be released later.
In other news, ‘Cereals are in danger’ says specialist…”
Ladonna didn’t want to hear any more. She walked briskly away from the shop, shaking her head and trying to understand what was happening to make today so strange. Ricky Charles, the sole survivor of whatever freak accident happened with that tractor, was another of the names on Ladonna’s spam emails that morning, and Ladonna was getting uncomfortably aware that something strange was going on today. Something she could not explain, something she did not even know how to describe. After all, it might just be a very odd coincidence. But what are the odds of finding your own name on a spam email, finding another spam-sender serving you coffee and discovering a third as a name on the news? Something about today is definitely off, Ladonna decided.