Lila tripped on the bottom step of the bus and fell hard on the top step, ripping her nylon and scraping a layer of skin off her knee. She gave a little cry but didn’t swear, because someone in the foggy past and told her that it was unlucky to swear. It must have been an aunt or uncle, trying, hopelessly, to help out their unlucky niece. The fall had made Lila drop her purse, which burst open and spilt its guts down the stairs and out onto the street between the curb and the bus. She hurriedly began scooping things up—a ragged notebook, pens, her wallet, old receipts, sunscreen, a shabby tube of hand cream, cough drops, old bus ticket stubs, and feminine products too—just to make things extra embarrassing.
Other people were waiting to get on the bus and a tall man with a briefcase pushed past her, nearly crushing her wrist against the bottom step. Of course, trust her luck to ensure that nobody helped her out and the bus driver wasn’t even very helpful, calling back to her after a moment, “hurry up maim, I’ve got a schedule to keep.”
“Sorry, sorry,” she called, unable to hurry her movements any more than she already was. Finally, she’d gathered almost everything—she’d left some of the receipts to blow away when the bus started up again, and after searching her wallet for her pack of bus tickets, she found a seat.
She examined her scraped knee with a surprising amount of calmness after what she’d just been through. When you were unlucky and clumsy, you got used to this sort of thing.
She happily arrived at work nearly twenty minutes early. After learning the hard way, she’d discovered that if she scheduled herself to arrive twenty minutes early to work, the things that invariably went wrong between getting out of bed and stepping into the office usually didn’t delay her long enough to make her late. She smiled wryly at the big man who sat in the chair beside her and was already talking into his headset phone in his slow gravely voice.
Lila answered a helpline for a computer tech company and would help customers over the phone, walking them through processes to help them repair and upgrade their computers. She, of course, got all the nasty people, but at least bad luck didn’t stop her from being of service even to them. And her fellow workers liked her because with her taking all the annoying folks, they had less unpleasant calls to deal with. So she was happy.
She wasn’t at all surprised that she was missing twenty dollars from her wallet. Or that her checkbook had gone missing after the bus incident. But she wasn’t too upset.
Because as long as she knew she could never trust her luck to be good, it was comforting, in a backwards sort of way, to know be able to count on her luck always being bad.