Featured Story, Week of June 24, 2018: "The Row of Billy O'Doddy" and "Devil's in the Details"
Each week we feature a story written by one or two of our group members at our weekly meetings. For this week's featured stories, we all chose from an encyclopedia of superstitions and wrote using that superstition as an inspiration for our story. We had 20 minutes to write.
The row of Billy O’Doddy
By Bryan Mahoney
Superstition: Extra toes are considered good luck
Billy O’Doddy had a sixth toe on his right foot which he named Shilly O’Bree and he took it with him wherever he went.
He made a spectacle of themselves at the market employing his uncanny ability to plunge his hand into a stack of beets and pluck the one golden prize from the bunch. It was said he’d never had a bad day at sea and the wind came always abrupt at his back.
Billy’s sows always produced the finest bacon, his orchard dropped the fattest apples, his well had the cleanest, crispest cool water found anywhere in the Dingle hills.
Now there was a farmer named Thomas Rand who’d watched Billy for some time, jealous of the uncommon luck that befell his neighbor.
One early Sunday morning, after Billy had taken up the spree with a few fellows the evening before and woke up fresh and revived as a newborn calf, Thomas eyed our Billy at church. Thomas’ ire rose significantly when he saw Billy O’Doddy accidentally fed a coin from the tray of communion wafers.
“That’s it,” Thomas said. He exited the pew and knocked the offering plate into the lap of Mrs. Tooltulley who was blind as a mole and mistook the incident as a sign from God that she should get into the ceramic plate business.
When Billy arrived home from church there was Thomas, taking up a fair share of space on Billy’s front porch. He stood with arms crossed and a scowl that could break a ragout.
“Your rarefied luck is a blessing you might think to share,” Thomas said. “And I have a keen thought your Shilly O’Bree might be the cause.”
Billy crossed his feet, as if to shield the offending toe.
“Aye, that may be,” he said from the safety of his hedge. “But I’ve grown quite attached to her, as the saying goes.”
He could see in Thomas’ eyes the man meant to separate them regardless.
They met in a raucous cloud of wet rural dirt and desperation. Thomas sought to share the uncommon fortune of Mr. O’Doddy by displacing Shilly O’Bree from his foot; Mr. O’Doddy sought to keep all his bits in their original arrangements.
Their tussle continued to the road where Mrs. Tooltulley was walking home. She was distracted by thoughts of ceramics and tasteful floral patterns. She didn’t see the row until it nearly rolled on top of her, the two men entwined in the ugliest fight since the Sweeney brothers blamed each other for the fire at their whiskey still. In her nearsightedness she mistook the men for a bear she must castigate, and prepared her purse for bludgeoning.
It landed with a tweedy thud twice, thrice upon Billy. Thomas caught her purse on his chin, knocking his jaw clean past his forehead. He went down in a muddy “whump,” while
Billy emerged with nary a smudge.
It was, far as we know, the only time anyone thought of separating Billy O’Doddy and Shilly O’Bree.
Devil's in the Details
By Erik Day
Superstition: Ways to ward off The Devil
It was a big wooden bust, painted red, with the goofy classical Pan-adaption. Horns, goatee, handlebar mustache. This particular one had a shit-eating grin and he seemed to be looking right at me. My companion looked at the bust, then looked at me and giggled. "Oh, you are in trouble!" I stared back at her. "Oh? How so?" "It's the devil!" She laughed. I patted it's head as we walked on. "I'll live." "Don't you know? It's an omen! Now you need a counter-charm." "Don't you work at Cal Tech?" She shooshed me. "It's all the rage!" "Four hundred years ago, sure." "No! I got this in my charms and curses class!" "Of course." I noted she was wearing a "Ravenclaw" sweater. "Okay, I'm intrigued. What's a counter-charm and what are we un-charming?" "Well, to prevent going to hell or meeting the devil, of course." "How would you even know?" "Hell? Devil? C'mon!" "Okay, I know I'm supposed to play along but we're already walking in Van Nuys, in August, so too late there. And the devil himself gave me the stink-eye – that's what you call it, right – and let me go. Problem solved." She rolled her eyes. "This isn't hell. Hell is being unemployed in Tempe in August. So how do we avoid that?" I shook my head. "A question for the ages. I give. How?" "Well, first, knock on wood." I looked around the sidewalk. "Fresh out. Got anything?" She patted her pockets. "Actually, no." "Dang." For a joke, she was taking this uncomfortably far. She tapped her chin, thinking. "Okay, another one is 'spit three times'!" "I totally would but there's a city ordinance against that. Public sidewalks and all." She looked around, making sure there were no officers patrolling the industrial neighborhood, and did a quick spit. I rolled my eyes. "That's one." It took a second for the second and some real effort to conjure spit for the third – which she promptly choked on. "I don't think that counts." She held up a hand. "Okay, okay, okay… uh, touch iron!" "I thought that was for ghosts." "Yes! I thought you were a skeptic?" "I watch 'Supernatural'." She reached for the iron fence and it sparked, arcing to her fingers. Even in mid-day sun, we both saw the flash. "OW!" "Are you okay?" She shook her head, holding her hand. "Minor burn." I held her hand and looked at it: "Wash it when you get home. Watch for infection. Probably an electrical short." She looked up and down, but saw nothing connected. "What? How?" She started reaching for it again and I slapped her hand. "What are you doing?" "Maybe it was a–" She up at me with big eyes. My hand was by the metal pole, or at least where the pole had been a moment ago, but it had fallen off – and flung back about twenty feet. I looked back at her. "How odd."