Black Cat- Calls

Paul McDermott finds that tempting Fate can be an occupational hazard.

Recently, a friend purchased a second hand car. Jusifiably proud of the new acquisition, he pointed out the many splendid features for the 'deluxe' model from '71: the vanity mirror, the padded sun-visor, the personal flow-through airconditioning. He was incredibly lucky to find it, the second car he looked at, what a bargain.

He mentioned it was owned by a little old lady who only took it out to get the shopping once a week. As proof of this he pointed to the St Christopher medal on the dash. It was a black disc about an inch in diameter sitting slightly out of view beside the steering wheel. I remember him saying, 'It's quite a good little St Chr is', as he prised the medallion off the dashboard to give me a better look. I only had the medal in my hand a second, before we ran into a wall.

If one were superstitious one might make a connection between the taking of the medallion from its rest ing place and the subsequent smash. Certainly this was the view of the owner, who now has several clustered over the dashboard of his newest car. I couldn't help but think it was nothing more than coincidence. I cannot recall seeing anywhere that St Chris topher has to remain on the dash or swing from the rear vision mirror to be effective. Is the tiny safety officer off duty when he is in your hand? I thought Ol'Chris had failed in his function because, in fact, he was still in the car.

There wil b e numerous times when you will be forced to make a decision between coincidence and an event preordained by destiny. No matter how extreme the circumstances, I have always sided with the haphazard nature of Nature. But sometimes, even with all the will in the world, it is hard to prevail against the undeniable truth of a situation.

One such incident occurred in London several years ago when I was working in theatre. On of my fellow performers mentioned, while we were backstage preparing for a show, that earlier in the day he'd tried to avoid a black cat. He didn't succeed. The pesky critter got in front of him and, with malicious intent. crossed his path. I was amazed that a mature, educated adult could place any faith in an old wives' tale. A heat ed discussion ensued where I wilfully walked under a ladder, smashed a small mirror and performed numerous other feats of stupidity to prove nothing would happen: there'd be no plague of frogs, no tsunami from the sink would engulf us.

My companion s refused to agree with me, their response was simple: 'You wait.'. I decided to throw down the gauntlet. I shouted the name of the Scottish play - Macbeth.

To say the name Macbeth backstage is an anathema, according to theatre folklore. The traged y is said to be cursed and the mere utterance of the word will bring down the wrath of whatever powers there may be upon the poor players: death, destruction, loss of income, failure to reporoduce. In some circles, to even think it is considered dangerous . But to run around half-naked, screaming it out in a variety of ludicrous voices while pretending to be Isadora Duncan, Richard the Third and a Womble is an insult to every sensibility - akin to throwing a pressed ham at the Almighty.

My friend's threats of imminent devesation failed to impress me. I took to the stage fearlessly while they followed with some trepidation.

Needless to say, the night was splendid, the show an unqualified triumph. We came off stage and drank three pints of bitt er to the fables of the theatre. Four days later, the guitarist broke his arm, the company lost thousands of pounds on cancelled shows, and we returned to Australia in disgrace.

Fortune, fate, circumstance, coincidence were not blamed for these inc idents - I was. To this day I maintain my innocence. It had nothing to do with me. It was not the mocking of Macbeth, the walking under a ladder or the smashing of the mirror that caused these tragedies. It was one thing and one thing only - that damnabl e black cat.

Typed up by Lisa (H):Yeah, cats will get you every time....

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