Cover Photo: As Luck Would Have It by Holly Woodward

As Luck Would Have It

Luck rhymes with ?

One day a blue parakeet flew in my window, sat on my lamp and sang until my cat got him.  She swallowed the bird whole, then gagged.  Fluffy choked to death on the songbird.  So I went with a gravy ladle into the far corner of my yard to dig a grave.  It started to rain.  After shoveling almost deep enough, I hit a hard lump.  I tried to dig around it and uncovered a clawed foot.

“Owwww.”  A hideous howl rose from the dirt.

I pulled the foot and loosed the hard-shelled creature.  With a shudder, I dropped it back into the hole.  It shook itself off, splattering my clothes with mud.

“What are you?” I asked. 

The beast looked up at me with one beady eye.

“Hard Luck.” 

“Sorry, already had enough of you.”  I turned away and started to dig elsewhere. 

But it pulled itself out of the grave and crawled over, its long tail unfurling behind like a rope.  Out of the hard armadillo shell poked the flat snout of a pig. 

“Wait, lady.”  It waddled after me.  “I’m sorry about your pets.  I’ll be a better one.  More stable.”  It rolled onto its back.  Tufts of old hair matted on its underbelly—no one ever cared for hard luck.

“No thanks.”  I let the dirt I tossed spray its face.

But Hard Luck wasn’t so easy to get rid of. 

It followed me when I went back to the house.  On the stairs, I gave Lucky a swift kick, then hopped away, clutching my broken toe.

“You aren’t getting, it, are you?” it said.  “I’m hard luck.” 

I slammed my door, engaged the alarm and left the beast staring through the front door, from my porch.

“You can just call me Hardy,” it screamed through the glass. 

I read the newspaper, until the rapping at my door.  I glanced up and saw a man at the entrance, blood flowing from his face. 

“What happened?” I asked through the window.  But I knew before he did what hit him: Hard Luck.  I looked outside and saw the beast beside the smoldering wreck, licking the brake fluid flowing down the tires.  Hardy slipped in when I opened the door to help its victim.  It doesn’t matter how good your security system is; hard luck will find a way in. 

I put an ad in the paper: “Did you lose your hard luck?”  But no one called to reclaim it. 

I got parking tickets though didn’t even own a car.  Lightning struck my house twice.  Hardy screened my messages and deleted the good ones.  Publisher’s Clearinghouse sent letters saying I would never be a winner, enclosing subscription offers without sweepstakes stickers.  People threw money in my coffee when I tried to drink while waiting for the bus, which flew by as if I were a ghost.

I took the pest out into the woods blindfolded, but hard luck is difficult to lose; it has been around forever and there’s no place it hasn’t been.  The thing clung to my pants leg and peed.

There was no need to leash my beast; it would never run away, though it often wandered off and dragged back trash, dying plants, and its old friends—people who had known hard luck a long time.

I no longer wanted to see anyone I cared about because I didn’t want to bring them bad luck.  We stayed home alone, together.

Hardy improvised songs:

Who put the jell in Jell-O?

Who put the fun in funerals?

Who put the hell in hello?

Who put the you in urinals?

“I can’t hear myself think,” I yelled.

“That’s a good thing.”

“Whatever doesn’t kill you,” he began.

I throttled him.  “You know you’re lucky I don’t kill you.” 

It pranced through the living room and sang “I Will Survive” in a high screech. 

What sex was it?  I lifted up its hind legs but couldn’t see anything.

 “I have no sex.  I’m Hard Luck,” it explained.

But I didn’t understand and tried to find a boyfriend.  Finally, I managed to meet a man who agreed to come home with me.  As I dragged him to bed, he escaped to go to my bathroom and Hard Luck was there, crouched on filthy paws over the stack of newly-washed towels, uttering a guttural growlpurr; lips curled in a grimace that revealed green gums and brown teeth.

I lay bed alone after he fled.  Hardy scaled up the coverlet with suction cup paws and curled up on top of my stomach, snorting through its snout in satisfaction.

“Well, we got rid of that wimp,” it said.

“I liked him.” I whined.

“If he runs at the first sight of me, he’s no good.”

 “You are no good, either.”

“Without me, you wouldn’t have any luck at all.”

“Great.”

“When things can’t get worse, you can relax, at last.”  He patted his belly.  “There are advantages to having me: you learn who your real friends are.”

“Nobody,” I muttered.

“But you see how strong you are.”

“More fun to be weak,” I said.

“When all hell breaks loose, you won’t have to worry about going there, anymore.”  Hard luck was always dispensing wisdom.

I turned on “Lifestyles of the Sickeningly Rich.”

At shots of the gold faucets in someone’s yacht, I turned to Hardy.

“You’d have more fun with the rich.  They have more things to play with.  Here you only have Fluffy’s old cat toys.”

Hardy drooled at the sight of a banquet with lots of fine crystal to crack. 

“Can, can you hook me up with that?”

 

I looked through the paper and found an ad:  Cleaning Woman needed by Filthy Rich.

When I arrived for the interview with Hardy in a bag, the woman made me wait in the foyer while she talked on the phone.

“Egad, she has gone so downhill.  The other night, in that green gown, she looked like a big pupa among the social butterflies.  She actually ate the food.”

I opened the sack; Hardy stuck its head out, ears perked.

“Getting ideas?” I whispered, nodding toward the smorgasbord.

Hardy nodded, then slithered out.  I’d knotted its tail so it wouldn’t be so obvious. 

“Now you have bigger rich to fry.”

It nimbly leaped to the buffet, thick pads of dirty fur trampling through pastries. 

“She claims a jeweler replaced her diamond ring with a fake.  I think her husband gave her a cubic, and she’s trying to save face.  The only thing that could save her is a mask.  And I don’t mean facial.  She might as well wear a mask, as she’s blind as a bat.  Everyone in town except she knows her husband’s sleeping with his secretary.  Well, I have to run, the Crown Prince of Switzerland is here.”

Hardy scampered behind the floral display as she walked toward me.

“So you want to be my charwoman,” she said, looking me over.  “What is that ugly sack?”

“Oh, small potatoes.”  I closed the bag Hardy had jumped out of, thinking she’d seen the turds at the bottom.

“No carbohydrates in the house!  I don’t want any fat, lazy staff.  But I mean that sack you’re wearing.”

“I’m sorry.”

“You will wear a uniform, anyhow.  We are important people with better things to do than clean up after ourselves.  You will stay here and work from six in the morning until midnight, seven days a week.  Your main reward will be seeing how happy we are.  Is that clear?”

Behind her, Hardy lifted a leg to the potted fern.

“Perfect,” I said, smiling so wide that even she looked surprised.  I rose to go.

Lucky shot me a wounded look as I turned to leave, but its fur paws were sunk into the Brie and paté. 

Of course, I never showed up for work.  From home, I followed the woman’s demise in the gossip columns.  And Hardy phoned me at night, racking up her cell phone bill. I missed him, a bit.  He was reliable; good luck flirted, then disappeared.

She threw money at the creature to try to scare it off; but the more money you throw at hard luck, the harder it sticks. 

Her husband ran off with her lover and all the money.  Her daughter wrote a memoir called “Mother of All Bitches.”  Her son took his trust fund and went off to fight with the Taliban.  She propositioned her butler and he sued for harassment.

The IRS arrived on her doorstep.

“Too late, I lost all my money,” she said.

“You still owe us.”

She had all her jewels replaced with blue light specials at KMart.

At a charity ball, she asked everyone, “If you don’t want your desserts, I’ll take them.”  (That ran in the gossip column under the heading, Just Deserts.)

Her plastic surgeon said, “There is nothing I can do for bone ugly.”

At night she slathered cream on her face; Hardy licked it off.  She lost her hair.  At church, during a sermon on prayer, she blurted out, “I’m afraid to talk to God because he says the rudest things back.”   During a polo match, her wig flew off and scared the ponies.

That night, she lay in bed alone and listened to the hiss of society crossing her off their lists.

Hard Luck phoned. 

“She’s as broke, alone and ugly as I.”

“Thanks, I feel much better, now.”

“I told you, I’m faithful,” Hardy sang back.    

writer, artist, teacher, dreamer