I’m obsessed with luck. Always have been.
I have a lucky number. Twenty. I own it so completely that if I ever hear you counting and you don’t say, “eighteen…nineteen…twenty-one…twenty-two…” you can be sure a cease and desist order is on the way.
I once owned a lucky pair of shorts that I wore under baseball uniforms and hockey gear, and I never washed a single win out them. They were the exact kind of shorts my mom spent half my childhood warning me not to be caught in at the doctor’s office or the morgue. But I wore them anyway, until the holes outnumbered the fabric. Ah, who am I kidding? I still own them. I might even still wear them. Just not to my annual physical. In leap years.
I’ve prescribed to daily routines, pre-game rituals, prayer, astrology, and fortune tellers. I’ve enacted witchcraft, gypsy spells, hexes, voodoo curses, and outright sorcery to try and get my way. I’m the sucker you see at the mall tossing quarters in the water fountain even while the janitor sucks up the treasure with a Wet-Vac. I’m THAT guy.
But none of the charms ever did a thing to sway my luck in either direction, because luck doesn’t work that way. In fact, luck doesn’t work at all–because luck doesn’t exist.
There. I said it.
It hurt a little, but it’s true. Luck is a ghost. In its material form it’s just our own perceptions at the precise moment after something surprises the shit out of us. Like, if you hit the game-winning grand slam: “Yay! I’m a certified Leprechaun!!” Or if you “win” the honor of working this Saturday: “Damn, man, I’m like the modern-day Prometheus.”
Take my “good fortune” for example–a brand of agonizing torture my childhood friends nicknamed “Morelli Luck.” If you want to truly understand “Morelli Luck” go to your nearest bank teller and have a million, crisp hundred dollar bills laid in your hand. Then, have said bank teller immediately dip the same hand in a pool of molten lava. Feel that? Good.
The first time I put a name to this kind of luck I was at a Little League banquet–one of those beef and beer jobs where everyone gets trophies and ugly, satin jackets with their names spelled wrong on the back. That and they raffle off a bunch of crap nobody needs or wants. Except, at this particular banquet, there was one coveted object on the prize table: an autographed Ozzie Smith baseball. My hero.
I sat through two hours of my dad (who happened to be the emcee that night) rattle off ticket numbers that didn’t match any on the wrinkled strip of red cardstock I’d burned into my retinas. And I watched countless teammates rise to the stage to retrieve their badminton sets or frozen steaks or movie passes. By the time my dad held up the Ozzie Smith ball and talked about how “the Wizard’s” autograph would one day be worth millions, maybe even zillions, I’d already given up hope and tossed the wrinkled ticket in my rice pilaf.
Then he read off the winning numbers. “Seven!” I took a sip of water and stared into space. Unimpressed. “Four!” That sounded vaguely familiar, but I wasn’t ready to bite. “Four!” Wait a minute. I fished the ticket out of my rice and wiped it with a cloth napkin. “FIVE!”
Holy shit. I looked at my ticket in disbelief. The numbers 7-4-4-5 were printed across the top in bold, black numbers. I wobbled to my feet and held the ticket in the air. “That’s me!” I shouted, because that’s what you do when you’re a freaking idiot. A hundred knives and forks scratched across plates at the same time.Then silence. My eyes panned up to the stage and met my father’s.
Where I expected to see a smile, there was an open mouth and the distinct impression–a pallor maybe–that Dad might puke all over the microphone. And in that moment, I knew there was only one person in the entire banquet that couldn’t–simply couldn’t–win that baseball. And he happened to be holding the winning ticket up in the air and screaming “IT’S MEEEE! IT’S MEEEE!!” like a mental patient.
That’s when the booing started. It was long and it was deep and it was loud. The shrieks and the screams and the wild accusations shot across the beer hall like bullets. Bullets that I ducked and dodged on my way up to the stage and all the way out to the parking lot. With my Ozzie Smith autographed baseball in hand, of course.
What can I say? They gave me a proper Bronx cheer, for the eleven-year-old kid they thought had rigged the Little League raffle. Only I hadn’t, and neither had my father.
We were just lucky, I guess.