Face, Meet Sidewalk

Violet’s Luck

Posted on: June 25, 2011

They were eating dinner when a butterfly floated in and landed on the meatloaf. Dave immediately went to swat it away, but Violet stopped him.

“No!” she shouted, a little too loudly. “It’s good luck!”

“It is?” asked Dave.

“Yes, I’m sure of it!” Violet replied.

She was not, in fact, sure of it at all, but since it seemed pretty odd that a monarch would even approach the house, let alone find the one broken screen and sneak into the kitchen, it somehow felt lucky. Violet had always believed in luck; this seemed as good a piece of evidence as any.

“I’ve never heard that one before,” Dave shrugged, tucking back into his food.

Since the night Dave rescued Violet from certain death (well, from what she had thought was a burglar, but turned out to be simply a miscommunication), the two had struck up an unlikely friendship. She now knew Dave was, except for two roommates he found in a classified ad, alone in the city. He visited at least once a week, usually for dinner, and more often than not found something in Violet’s house or yard to fix.

Her house was always immaculately clean, but Violet was finding it difficult to keep things in the same pristine repair that Frank had. She was nervous about climbing on step stools, so she often left burnt-out light bulbs in place for weeks. The bathtub caulking was peeling a bit, the paint chipping here and there, even if the threadbare carpets never saw a speck of dust.

Since Dave had been visiting, though, she saw the house through the eyes of a stranger, and for a time, the house that had for so long felt comfortably worn, like a favourite pair of shoes, began to feel shabby.

Soon, Dave started doing things around the house. Maybe he felt obligated, Violet couldn’t tell. She never asked, he just rooted around in the basement or the closet looking (always with permission) for the tools. The first time, he replaced three light bulbs. Since then, he had fixed a leaky tap that had dripped for years, removed and rehung her living room drapes so she could wash them, and screwed down the loose basement stair, which he had called a “deathtrap”. Each time, she tried to pay him, and each time, he refused, so she settled for feeding him instead. He seemed happy with the arrangement, even if Violet felt it was a little one-sided.

But that’s the way the cookie crumbled, when it came to luck, Violet thought. So often, luck was fickle, almost partisan in its (her?) custom. Despite its relative austerity, Violet considered her life to have been blessed with a disproportionate share of luck. Her time with Frank, however brief, a fulfilling career, a comfortable house with a nice view. Good friends, among whom she now counted a scruffy 23 year old university student. Decent neighbours, except for that busybody, Gus. Not much to complain about, really,

The problem with an extended period of good fortune, of course, is that eventually it runs out. Violet believed that each good person was entitled to a certain amount of luck in life (bad people were entitled to none, but that was another thing altogether). If you used your quota too early, your golden years were likely to be miserable. While luck was a lovely experience while it happened, one must be prepared for the day it would end. She was always on the lookout for those omens that heralded a change. One never knew.

She never dared to tempt luck. She had been known to risk life and limb so as not to leave a found penny unclaimed, and was always scanning the grass for four-leaf clovers. She had not decided whether karma brought on fortune’s demise, or if there might simply be random, fateful forces in the universe that swung the pendulum whichever way it needed to go to even out the average. She refused to use phrases like “With my luck…” so as not to insult whatever power determined where the sun shone on a given day. She tried not to draw attention to the fact that she had really had more than her share over the years. Modesty and humble gratitude truly seemed the best policy.

So when Dave began coming around, she felt she ought to tread very carefully. It was just good to have his company, someone puttering around, to hear noise in another part of the house and know it was not just Ethel but an actual living, breathing human being who would answer her questions and eat the meal she prepared. It gave Violet an excuse to break out her battered Better Homes and Gardens cookbook for the first time in years, to make something other than toast and tea. Dave was a poor student, not quite starving, but certainly happy to have a hot, home-cooked meal now and then. In the name of luck, or karma, or whatever you wanted to call it, Violet could throw together a pot of soup or a tuna casserole.

Dave, for his part, seemed to feel the same way, although it was one topic that never came up. Even when Violet insisted he just sit and drink the iced tea she brewed specially for him, she could see he was itching to do something, to fix something. He was restless, that boy. It was almost like doing him a favour to give him a task.

Today, he had recaulked the bathtub, and done an excellent job of it. As usual, he politely refused when she tried to pay him, but gratefully accepted the inevitable offer of dinner. There were rarely leftovers on nights Dave came to visit. She wondered if he ever ate anywhere else, so great was his enthusiasm for what Violet considered to be fairly simple cooking.

As they watched the butterfly slowly open and close its intricately marked wings, she wondered for perhaps the billionth time when (not if) her blessings would be swept away. She felt profoundly grateful for the butterfly and for Dave, and absurdly, to her horror, tears welled in her eyes. Reluctant to look away from the butterfly, but wanting less to explain the tears to Dave, she busied herself clearing plates.

When she’d wrestled her emotions back under control, she turned back to the table. Dave was standing, leaning over his empty plate, gently encouraging the butterfly to move onto a paper napkin.

“What are you doing?” she asked, alarmed.

“I’ll put him outside,” Dave said, holding the napkin and the butterfly perfectly still, as if they were explosive. He moved toward the back door and opened it carefully with his left hand. He draped the napkin on a shrub just outside the door and came back in.

One part of Violet wanted to cry again. Her lucky charm! What was he thinking, throwing it to the breeze like that? Didn’t he realize her days were numbered? Old ladies needed all the help they could get!

But another part knew that to set it free was the best thing they could do. She allowed herself a moment to grieve, then reminded herself that the butterfly would bring more goodness being out in the world, where it belonged.

“Maybe I’ll come Thursday and fix that screen,” Dave said, nodding at the butterfly’s ingress. Violet nodded, agreeing with her head, if not her heart.

“Write down what you need, and I’ll go to the hardware store,” she replied, hoping she sounded suitably grateful.

They said goodnight. As she shut the door behind Dave, Violet glanced at the shrub where he had placed the butterfly. It was already gone. She crumpled up the paper napkin and went back inside to wash the dishes.

 

 

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