Big Billy – My old wife’s tale

Minnie’s gonna want my head on a platter, so I better tell yis this fast.

Now, Minnie got a whole system of complicated superstitions she swears by.

I’ll give yis some examples – ya don’t put new shoes on a table, and ya don’t ever Big BIllyput money on the bed. I don’t know where these kind of ideas come from, but I know she never came up with them herself, because Joan and Evelyn and a bunch of her other friends are the same way.

There’s times, like if I’m changin’ out of my pants or somethin’ and I scoop the change out of my pocket and go to put it on the bed, she’ll come flyin’ from across the room and catch every penny in her hands before it hits the comforter.

What are you doin’?! she’ll yell at me, after she bounces off the bed and lands on the floor with a mitt-ful of change.

One time a few years ago, we were out to get groceries and that, and she got Little Bill a new pair of sneakers for goin’ back to school. When I was carryin’ the bags in, I just scooped them all up, carried them in, and put them all down on the kitchen table.

Did you get all of them in one load? she said to me right sweet. And just as I was about to answer yes and show off my muscles, she realizes the new shoes are in one of the bags on the table and she jumps over the dog, pushes me out of the way, finds the bag as fast as she can and throws it on the floor.

Shoes on the table! she yelled. Are ya mental or what?!

I forgot, I said. Where did that come from, anyway? What happens if you put new shoes on a table?

She scowled at me and through her squinted eyes she said right serious – I don’t want to find out, mister. Do you?

Well now, how do ya argue with that? Minnie accepted that we’d end up with bad luck of some kind and that was just gonna have to be good enough for me.

And don’t ever get her started on crows. One crow sorrow, two crows joy – that’s all I know of it. But Minnie can go on and on. Four crows this, five crows that.. One of these days I expect her to look at the telephone wire and say, Eighteen crows, that means Earth’s gonna be hit by a comet.

Don’t get me wrong, now – not all of her superstitions are about bad things. She got some pretty good superstitions that don’t exactly make a lot of sense either, but I’m OK with them because they usually cheer her right up when they happen.

LIke if she’s sittin’ down watchin’ TV or somethin’ and the palm of her hand gets itchy, she lights up like a Christmas tree because she thinks that’s a sure sign she’s about to come into some money. I seen her in some awful rotten moods, mad at me for this or that, and then her hand gets itchy and her whole mood changes – all the crankiness lifts right away. Sometimes she’ll even jump up scratchin’ her hand and go downtown, convinced she’s about to find a winnin’ lottery ticket on the ground or somethin’.

Another one she don’t mind too much is if somebody spills some salt on the table. Now if it was anything else – sugar or pepper or anything – we’d get a big yellin’ lecture along the lines of, Do you know how much a thing of sugar costs nowadays?

But if it’s salt, she gets right excited, picks up what she can, tosses it over her shoulder, and waits for the good luck to come any minute. If you’re standin’ behind her, though, when she gets on one of these salt-throwin’ jags, and you get yourself blinded for a few minutes until you can cry the salt out of your eyeballs, then it’s pretty hard to see where the good luck comes in.

And if you’re ever sittin’ down, havin’ a nice cup of tea or somethin’ and you can’t figure out why Minnie just started screamin’ like she seen a ghost, chances are that means there’s a black cat in the yard. She got an awful fear of black cats, so what she does is, if she sees one, she makes me run out and catch the cat and then bring it to the back door where she can watch me inspect it.

There gotta be some white on him somewhere! she’ll yell at me, as I turn the wrigglin’ cat over and it shreds my arms and hands all to hell. C’mon, Billy! Find a white spot! she’ll yell at me, like I got some kind of control over what colour the cat is.

There! she’ll yell in relief when we finally get the cat turned over and see it got a big white spot under his belly. Then she’ll give me hell for manglin’ the cat all around and she’ll bring it in and give it a saucer of milk.

I’d say this happened with about a dozen cats over the years. And there’s even been a few cats where Minnie swears she seen a white spot on it, even though I didn’t, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that she never invited them cats in for milk. Hours later, in bed, I’ll be just about asleep when she’ll poke me and ask right desperate, That cat wasn’t really all black, was it, Billy?

Anyways, all of this is a long way of sayin’ I might be a dead man when Minnie gets home and discovers I accidentally put my hammer through the bathroom mirror while I was tryin’ to put up a new mini-blind in the bathroom.

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