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Dear Bradshaw,

For the first time in my teaching career I’ve agreed to teach a student in my apartment. I always insist on conducting lessons at people’s houses or offices because when I’m in my apartment I’m the king of my castle, which means I read, write, play the harmonica, joke with Jimi, take naps, i.e. anything but work. But as Martina has a job interview next week and wants to do only six lessons, I’ve made an exception. In fact, it worked to my advantage yesterday as it was pouring rain when the hour was up, and when she left, I was already home… and dry.

However, before she left, with ten minutes left in the lesson, when Jimi moseyed out of the bedroom and joined us in the living room, Martina’s eyes popped open as she covered her mouth and said, “Mamma mia, you’ve got a black cat!”

“Yeah, why?” I asked. “Are you superstitious or something?”

“Of course, I’m from Sicily.”

“So if I grabbed an umbrella and opened it right now, that would bother you?”

“Yes!”

I considered doing it, to prove superstitions are nonsense, but this was our first lesson and, well, what if something terrible happened to her after the lesson and she blamed me?

“Is she all black?” Martina asked, twisting the ring on her finger around and around and around.

“No,” I said. “She’s got a white spot just below her neck, and another on her stomach.”

“I don’t see them. Where?”

I stood up, walked over, and then lifted Jimi, exposing her stomach.

Martina pressed her palm to her chest, breathed a sigh of relief, and said, “Oh, thank goodness.”

“Really?” I said, dropping Jimi. “That makes a difference?”

“Yes, of course.”

“You know, for us Jimi is good luck, and I think if she was all black, she’d be even better luck.”

“That could be.”

“And you know what else? I open my umbrella inside the apartment all the time and nothing bad has ever happened as a consequence.”

“Of course not,” she said, waving her hand as if shooing a fly. “You’re from California.”

“Is that it then? People from California can open umbrellas in the house but people from Sicily no?”

“That, and other stuff.”

“Have you ever thought,” I asked, pointing a finger at my temple, “that maybe it’s all in your head?”

“Of course.” She nodded. “But that doesn’t change anything.”

“What about the evil eye? Do you believe in that?”

She was silent as her jaw dropped and eyebrows arched.

“No, it’s not possible. That too?”

“I told you I’m from Sicily.”

“Well, you can stop looking at me like that. I’m an English teacher, not a witch doctor.”

By then, Shaw, the lesson was over. But we’ve got five more to go and I hope she doesn’t change her mind. After all, it’s the end of summer and I need the money. Besides that, I’d hate to have to curse her with irregular bowel movements or incurable halitosis. Ha ha. HA HA. HA HAHA HA HAHA HA AHA AHAHA!

 

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