Reader's report their own rubbish curses from crummy enchanters
The author's personal experience with family crsese - y shoelaces never stay tied. For more on this, go to the Jasperland page: Rubbish Curses from Crummy Enchanters
I am indebted to the following readers who responded to my Rubbish Curses from Crummy Enchanters page and submitted a few of their own.
We go first to Bettina Burghardt, who submits this excellent short story, and my thanks to her:
My Own Special Curse
"Ma'am, could you step aside, please?" asked the UPS guy. Behind the pile of boxes that he balanced in his hands, I could just make out the tips of what must have been a magnificent mustache.
"Oh, I'm so sorry," I gushed and flattened myself against the wall, making room for him, the boxes, and the 'stach to get through.
It was by no means a rare occurrence for me, being asked, yelled, or cursed at to get out of the way. It's been like that as long as I can think: The moment I stop moving and stand still, I'm in somebody's way. In our grocery store, at the mall, in train stations and airports, at farmer's markets and yard sales. When I reach for the sugar, I hear: "Could I maybe just ...?" When I stand in line at the coffee shop, somebody elbows me out of the way trying to grab a straw.
Let me describe a typical morning commute - let's say last Tuesday. I got to the subway platform and absolutely nobody else was there. I put my bag on the ground to wait, and before two minutes had gone by a young man with a soul patch, dragging an enormous suitcase, made me pick it back up so that he could manoeuvre his cargo into pole position. Next, a bewhiskered father with a baby stroller wanted to get past and I moved out of his way, only to be told, politely but sternly, by an elderly gent with a handlebar moustache that I was getting in his way and would I please? So I gave up, shouldered my backpack and walked up and down the platform until the train arrived. If I keep moving, everything's fine. It's the only way. I've tried everything else.
I've been wondering why I have to deal with this, when nobody else seems to have this problem. For the longest time, I thought this was my "special talent," only being able to juggle pineapples or hit a high C would've been so much nicer. Now it's been brought to my attention that my predicament may be the result of a curse, more specifically a "rubbish curse cast by a crummy enchanter." And that raises some frightening possibilities.
So here's the thing. My great-grandmother, Benedicta Zaremba, was a woman with a big heart, and all other bodily dimensions proportionate to it. One day, I've been told, she went from her little farm in Jentschwitz to the market town of Reichenbach in the Owl Mountains, intending to sell some surplus geese. On her way, she had to cross a creek by way of a rather smallish bridge. And this is where she came face to face - or rather bosom to bosom - with another woman, whose heart was not as generously endowed as Benedicta's. Although my great-grandmother was heavily burdened with squawking geese (amongst other things) her opponent refused to give way, claiming she was "unaccustomed to putting the rabble's needs above her own". Normally my great-grandmother, being a rather meek person, would have yielded, but this must have been the one occasion where she had enough of being pushed around. She just sat down, determinedly blocking off that bridge, and ignored the other woman's harangue. And she had a lot to say, none of it civil, culminating in a curse, predicting poor Benedicta's imminent death so she'd never again stand in someone's way. In the end, the woman retreated in high dudgeon and my great-grandmother got herself - and her geese - to the other side of the creek and thence to the market.
Fortunately for me, Benedicta's descendant, the woman's (dare I call her a witch?) curse missed its mark, as my great-grandmother lived a long life and raised eight daughters and a son. However, I now have to face the possibility that the curse was not totally without ramifications: What if it skipped two generations, lost some of its power and hit me, making it impossible for me to stand without being in somebody's way and forever trying to get out of it?
Thursday last, I decided to leave urban life altogether and remove myself to a rather underpopulated area: Wadi Rum in Jordan. I'm standing here now, enjoying the solitude, marvelling at the red stones and sand so familiar from movies like Lawrence of Arabia and The Martian. I can feel the tension flowing out of my body ... but I also feel something else: hot breath on the back of my neck. I turn around and look into the beautifully be-lashed eyes of a magnificent camel. "Afwan, Miss," a camel driver with a Fu Manchu says politely. "Could you please let us pass?"
The witch, I've been told, was rather hirsute. But that could not possibly have had any effect on my life, could it?
We go next to Bart Harlan, who tells me that he has something similar, but refers to them as 'Lame Superpowers', something that we too fully understand here at Fforde Towers. "As fictional as they might sound," says Bart, "there is solid evidence that each of them is real."
Over to Bart:
"One friend was biking through a park, had stopped at the halfway point for a bottled water, and was having difficulty holding it on his return home. After a mile or so of frustration, he thought it would be easiest to tie it to the frame, so he stopped and said to himself (but out loud) "what I really need is a piece of string" . . . and guess what was sitting on the ground right in front of him: a piece of string just long (and clean) enough to safely tie the bottle to the bike. Over time he tested just how strong - and how very restricted - the "what I really need is (x)" power was. It could not be used to ask for any amount of money, for any living thing, or for anything valued more than about $20. It was most effective when the request was for something that could be used as a tool or accessory: the string to tie the bottle, a bit of metal to use as a screwdriver, some rigid plastic as a scraper, a couple of short bits of wire, etc."
"Another friend's lame superpower/rubbish enchantment was to always be the last one served at a restaurant. That power was so obvious to all of us that we always let him order first, whether at a counter or at the table. Our efforts never mattered, his food was the last to arrive over 80% of the time. Then, on the rare occasions he wasn't served last, we all applauded and told him to go buy a lottery ticket that night (and told the person who had been served last to be extra careful on their way home)."
"My superpower is having convenient parking spaces open up for me, and it was passed to me genetically from my dad. He'd had it since before he met my mom, and it was a running joke for them even before I was born. They had an X-Files kind of attitude about it: dad's "mulder" continuing to provide proof, mom's "scully" in perpetual doubt/denial no matter how many times she'd witnessed it. The closest she came to admitting the power was one Christmas Eve (in the early 80s) at a local mall. She told him to just drop her off at one of the department store doors, but on their way there he told her that they'd have no problem finding a spot. They did the usual back and forth kidding about it, and the complete lack of available parking along the way only confirmed mom's disbelief. Of course you can guess the outcome: the closest possible parking spot to mom's desired destination opened up just seconds before they arrived."
"A few years later, I was telling that exact story to a friend at college as I was driving him to a different mall during its busy weekend hours. I only facetiously added that I had the same power (even though it hadn't particularly manifested to me yet), and he reacted with the normal level of doubt. His reaction made me double down on my claim, so I said that a spot was about to open up "right there". As I waved my hand in the general direction of where we wanted to park, the brake and reverse lights lit up on a car directly in front of the mall door we wanted, just one space from the end. His jaw literally dropped (and I was a bit surprised too)."
"The very next weekend, he was driving a group of us (to a nice restaurant, I think) and was excitedly telling the others that anecdote. Everybody laughed along, without any signs of believing the story. As we got close, I decided to chime in and claim it was true - just for fun. Of course they all snubbed the idea, so I just nodded my head, repeated my claim, waved my hand - and a space opened up right by the door. That event "sealed the deal", and it became 'a thing' for all of our remaining years at college. It was well-remembered by that core group of friends when I rejoined them after several years of working in another city."
"New friends joined the core group, and the legend of my parking space power had grown among them to sound almost ridiculous - except that it usually worked. I was actually introduced to a few of the 'friends-of-friends' over the years as "the guy who gets us parking spots". As our weekend habit was gathering at the first friend's house to ride together to a restaurant, I was usually asked to 'clear our spot' as we neared our destination. It worked at least 90% of the time - admittedly with varying degrees of difficulty. On the rare occasion it didn't work, I'd pretend to be sick, distracted, or make some funny excuse why it didn't work. For several years, the power never failed twice in a row. One time, we were all too distracted to think about it until we had arrived, and the lot was rather packed. They all pretended to be worried and told me 'oh no, this one is tough, you gotta focus and try hard this time'. So I played along, squinted, made a bold twirling wave of my hand and said "OOGA BOOGA!" - and three sets of brake & reverse lights immediately lit up on the closest rows. Everyone roared with delight."
"Even years after my job separated me from them again, some have told me that when they have a tough time finding a parking space, they'll invoke my name and one opens up. And though I don't try it as much as I used to, especially when it's just myself, it still kicks in when we all happen to ride together again..."
- Written by Bart Harlan - to whom my thanks.