H. Michael Casper (H to his friends) was always in the right place at the right time. Lottery tickets purchased on a whim…would win. Raffles, radio contests--you name it. Always the thousandth guest or the millionth customer. Even those lucky coins at the supermarket checkout line. One year, he had so many of the brightly colored tokens he decorated his Christmas tree with them (which he won as a door prize at the office Christmas party). Luck was on his side. Luck was his lady every night. Until, a package arrived on his doorstep.
The package had no return address. Inside the package was a doll, a small wishnik doll to be precise. With lucky horseshoes on the soles of each foot. It was a good luck doll.
Someone's idea of a joke, H thought, placing the doll on the fireplace mantle. A little more luck couldn't hurt.
Or could it?
The doll stared at him with wild hair and wide grin, as if to say luck was crazy, luck was insane. It appeared as if the doll wanted to wink, but was prevented from doing so by its rigid construction. H thought nothing of it.
Within a week H had wrecked his car, was laid off from his job of twenty years, and had developed a rash that just wouldn't go away. There was also the flooded basement, the three broken mirrors, and his television was struck by lightning. Not only had his luck dried up, it appeared to have turned black and was oozing bad juju.
Meanwhile, the wishnik sat atop the fireplace mantle, its eyes feral-looking, its grin nearly touching its ears. H did what any right-thinking person would have done. He built a fire and threw the wishnik into the flames.
He watched it burn.
Hair ignited, rubber melted, but the grin, shaped like a lucky horseshoe, seemed to stay put as the flames grew, flaring up in orange tendrils like strands of wild hair, and flaring out like a yellow tongue, extending beyond the hearth, licking a stack of nearby newspapers and setting them on fire.
H ran, but the flames appeared to have a life of their own and beat him to each exit, zigzagging in continuous Ws along the walls and across the ceiling. The flames were accompanied by a hideous insane laughter, as if luck itself were mocking his very existence.
Which seemed to be at an end, thought H, as the smoke overcame him and he collapsed on the living room floor…
…only to wake up in a hospital room five days later, wrapped from head to toe in gauze, with over ninety percent of his body burned. A nurse leaned over him.
“You're a lucky man,” she said.
H nodded, thankful to be alive. There were several bouquets of flowers in the room, along with Get Well Soon balloons hovering near the ceiling.
“Someone left this here for you. Isn't it cute?”
The nurse held up a wishnik doll and waggled it back and forth. Its yellowish hair danced like flames, its eyes appeared to glow red.
The nurse needed to call the doctor because H just wouldn't stop screaming.
Kurt Newton tries to let the story dictate how long it wants to be. Sometimes that means a very short story, sometimes it means a novel. One thing for sure is he's written a lot of them--both large and small. News about his latest can be found at http://kurt-newton.livejournal.com.