I’ve got an unusual request to send out to our faithful blog readers. Don’t think I’ve lost my timid grasp on reality and don’t think I’ve converted to the dark arts when I ask this one thing....... how do I break the spell of three black cat crossings?
A black cat darted in front of me two weeks ago on my walk to work. It ran into the road, stopped, and watched me pass before going on its way. I thought nothing of it, except to remember a passing black cat meant bad luck. Not being of the suspicious kind, and not having a pinch of salt to toss over my shoulder to break the feline curse, I lodged the uneasiness into my brain’s X File and changed musical selections on my ipod.
Later that afternoon the same black cat appeared in the road on my walk home. It darted right in front of me. The whole thing was repeated the next day making a total of four black cat encounters. I felt and smelt a change in the air. The morning’s cool was scented with the smell of stale bread.
The Fates on Olympus High were bored and the Space Center was their remedy. Don't you hate being the Fates cure for boredom? I know we aren't the only ones they like to pester.
“OK Fortuna, let's see if we can work this out,” I said in sincerity. “Our small string of good luck shouldn’t have caught your eye. Look at everyone else that's had a long trail of success lately. The stock market has gone up. Play with them. Look at the Olympics! Many of those athletes are blessed with good luck. Wouldn’t they be better amusement for your scheming than a collection of unremarkable mortals in Pleasant Grove Utah with a few space ship simulators? Hardly worthy of your time, is it?”
The smell took a more acidic smell. I knew we’d had our chips. The Fates, like the fictional Death Eaters, were swarming. The trumpets from Olympus High were sounding the alert to gather the Gods. Fortuna was entertaining and this was a show not to be missed.
The next Tuesday I woke with a high fever and strep throat. The first card was played. I went to work, called my Doctor and pushed through the day rationing my swallowing.
The field trip arrived. We were one flight director short. An alarm clock failed to ring, or so we were told. I had a Galileo crew and no one to take the mission. A second card was played. Bracken Funk, a mere mortal with super human characteristics, was there to help in the Voyager. He’d had his gall bladder removed three days earlier and was living on a pain killers. I told him he would have to jump in and fly the Galileo. He jumped to his feet and went into action, clutching his side all the while.
I struggled through my crew's training, then started the mission. Part way through Midnight Rescue, just as the crew beamed the repairman off the satellite, the Voyager’s main projector bulb blew out. The large Tactical Screen went black. I heard the third card hit the table. Fortuna was proud of what she’d accomplished in just a few short hours. I ordered the spare projector pulled from storage. It was quickly mounted and the mission progressed. The crew was unaware of any problem. I told them, using the cover of my Tex character, that the intruder blew out the Tactical screen with his phaser. It fit perfectly into the story.
At the end of the mission the principal entered the control room.
“Two things,” she said irately. “One, I found this card out on the carpet.” She tossed the fourth card onto the bench beside me. “Clever,” I thought. The Fates used the principal to do their dirty work.
“Secondly, I’m assuming this is yours,” she said producing one of the Magellan’s Star War’s Blasters. She politely chewed me out for leaving it out so one of the school’s students could find it. She reminded me of the school’s ban on all types of weapons. Normally that isn’t a problem. Our phaser looks like phasers, not any kind of real weapon, but the Magellan's phasers are dark and could be mistaken for something sort of real, and I mean sort of with a stretch of the imagination. I apologised and promised it wouldn’t happen again.
A day later my Lincoln Battlestar’s “Service Engine Soon” light came on and the engine started doing funny things. A mechanic described it as ‘chugging’ the last time it happened. I popped the hood to see what my mechanically useless eyes could find. There, near the something or another, I found a fifth playing card lodged tightly near the battery. Its removal changed nothing. It was just a memento from my band of Olympic admirers that I hadn’t been forgotten. Luckily I walk to school, so I left the car in the garage. Mrs. Houston’s son Matt came to pick it up to work on it.
And now we fast forward to today. For a reason unknown to any of us, Fortuna and the Fates lost interest in us for a couple of days. Things at the Center were fairly normal until this afternoon.
The phone range at 1:00 P.M. It was a dad wanting to confirming his son’s 2:30 P.M. mission in the Voyager. I told him the Voyager already had a 2:30 P.M. mission booked by another group. That’s when it all hit the fan. Of course, according to them, it was our fault the reservation was wrong. I had a mother fit to be tied and a crying boy heard loudly and clearly over the phone. I was sure she’d written the time incorrectly in her planner but arguing the point was pointless. I went to Bracken, my miracle worker, and asked if he would be gracious enough to stay this evening and run a special mission just for their group. He said yes. I looked down and found the Jack of Hearts on my planning book. I took the card, ripped it into dozens of pieces and tossed them into the trash. I know you’re thinking that was bold and foolish thing to do but it was done, the Fates be damned.
At 3:00 P.M. the ships were well into their afternoon missions. In the school's front door appeared another group. The mother apologized for being 30 minutes late. They’d driven down from Bountiful for a birthday party and had gotten lost in American Fork. I told her she didn’t have a reservation. We we already had a group in the Odyssey. I checked the reservation book. She wasn’t there. Her son explained he emailed a reservation on February 3rd. He admitted he hadn't gotten a confirmation. I showed them an email I sent telling him the Odyssey wasn’t available. He said he didn’t get the email. There was nothing I could do for this group. They left very disappointed. Many of the boys were angry, considering their Saturday was ruined with all the travel time from Bountiful to Pleasant Grove and back. It was Fortuna’s sixth card.
“Well played, well played,” I mumbled to myself as the group left.
The seventh card struck half way through the Voyager’s 2:30 P.M. mission. The left Security Computer failed in the middle of the mission. It was a frantic rush to get that computer swapped out with a spare during the few minutes between the Saturday afternoon mission and the special mission Bracken was running for the upset earlier group. We got the computer in place shielded by a sheet of black plastic when it became apparent it wasn’t seeing the network. After several minutes we realized I’d not plugged the ethernet cord into the computer. We took the desk apart, connect the ethernet cord and put it all back together again while the crew trained for their mission.
Fortuna’s final card for the day hit the school instead of the Space Center. At 5:30 P.M. Roger, the school’s custodian, showed me the school’s large walk in refrigerator’s compressor was bad. The temperature in the fridge was 55 degrees! All the food for next week’s school lunches would spoil. We spent an hour on possible solutions, finally settling on moving as much of the food into the school's side by side refrigerators. They are at the school as I type working on other solutions.
I’d had enough of Fortuna’s cards. I drove home. The phone was ringing as I walked into the kitchen. It was Bracken.
“This is Bracken. The Voyager’s sound system just died in mid mission. What do I do now?”
I sat in my chair. “So, this is how we are playing this out,” I mumbled. I told Bracken to swap mics and cables with another ship. He did. The sound system was resurrected.
It is now 8:00 P.M. on Saturday night. We are done for the week. I’m waiting to hear from Bracken on the day’s final report.
I’m hoping the Fates and Fortuna will take next week and realize we are all such small fish in the grand scheme of things and leave us alone. Someone else - perhaps even you - deserve their attention. I wish them on you. In fact, as I close this post, I’m going to leave my laptop open to my email contacts page. Perhaps your name will tickle their fancy. Beware of black cats and be cautious if the smell around you resembles moldy bread. If so, don’t call me! Pass it forward my friend. Pass it forward.
P.S. I must thank the following for going above and beyond the call of duty this week and saving everyone’s bacon.
Bracken Funk. What can I say. He’s a trooper, working right out of surgery. An inspiration to everyone at the Center.
Alex Anderson. Great Set Director and all around member of the Indispensable Club.
Jon Parker. Another member of our illustrious Indispensable Club. He is always willing to stay and do whatever needs to be done to keep the Center up and running AND he always finds time to keep my water bottle full of ice cold water. Thanks Jon.