I’m not superstitious. Nobody should be. I tell Ira every day I walk him to the theatre.
Fluffy feather-like snowflakes sail down from the grey December sky. The lighter in my hand spits and hisses sparks. The paper of my cigarette catches fire, one drag and my lungs fill with hot, dry smoke.
I thumb Ira’s number in my phone. It goes straight to voicemail. „Fuuu-it’s Ben. Again. Come on. I’m freezing.” The drama group will give me a chew-out for this.
A stressed X-mas shopper bumps into my shoulder, bangs his presents against my shin and thigh, only to shove me aside. That’s Mad Friday for you. Jeez. “Courtesy never killed anybody!” I shout at the back of the shopper. Nobody stops, nobody says sorry.
It’s my third time around Ira’s block, and nothing’s improving. My toes are ice cubes by now. I need a coffee without the omnipresent Jingle Bells. I sigh and redial Ira’s number. This insufferable jerk is supposed to show up forty minutes ago. I flick my cigarette butt into the street. This isn’t how you treat your unofficial bodyguard/human rabbit foot.
He’s jinxed. That’s what everybody says. It’s pure coincidence, that’s what I say, but nobody ever asks the janitor. They pay me instead. I walk him to the rehearsals. That’s it. Easy bucks.
This arrangement is necessary because he shows up banged up and mangled to the rehearsals. On a particularly bad day, a taxi driver abducts him, steals his money and shoes. He has to get back from Throng’s Neck to Manhattan, barefoot. Being the lead does mean, you have to show up with your garderobe, and your limbs intact, a broken nose and a black eye aren’t optional. That’s an epic pile-up of coincidences, I admit.
“Finally!” His worn out bomber jacket and the red cap, he’s always wearing, exit his apartment building. “Ira!” I wave, and his lean silhouette stumbles towards me, as fast as he can. The crowd around him reacts by shoving and shouting. I catch him before he kisses the concrete.
“We’re late,” I grunt, and all Ira has to say, is that he’s cursed. He shrugs apologetically as if that explains everything. “Let’s get going,” I drag him down the street.
“You don’t believe it?” He asks. “I swear, I’m cursed.” His big grey eyes shine from his pale face.
“Bullshit!” His grave look stops me from laughing my head off. His nervous hands run around his chin and breast to hide in his pockets.
So I ask him. “Bad luck, or no, spill it.” He says it’s his grandpa’s fault.
“When I was very young, I disappeared in the woods, behind my grandparents’ house. Grandma told me what happened, see I was only five. The search party tried to find me, but I vanished into thin air. The day most of them wanted to give up, a huge white crow appeared. It circled them, flew from tree to tree, calling.” His voice trembles. Funny, I can’t tell if he’s angry or about to cry.
“Grandpa was so annoyed by the calls; he shot that bird. He had a temper, that’s what grandma said. She ran to look for the injured bird. Instead of the crow, she found me. Unconscious. Hurt.” Ira kicks an empty can. It hits a little dog, which jumps with a yelp. Ira continues unfazed.
“See?” He pulls down his zipper, tugs his thin orange scarf away, to show me. His grey T-shirt slides down, revealing his pale chest. A small circular snow-white scar flashes on his breastbone. “I was that lucky white crow. And my grandpa shot me.” Grievous look settles in his otherwise young face.
“White crow, my ass!” I almost fall for that, but Ira is an actor. He’s pulling my leg. I don’t swallow his bogus story.
His destiny is tainted since that day. Ira believes every word of it! His gaze wanders off into the distance. I can only pity him. Man, artists are a special lot. As a peace offering, I give him a cigarette and fire.
Somebody screams. The tortured howl of an engine, honking and shrieking tires roar right behind us.
pic original artwork (Fairytale 1/ ink on paper), by DRRD