Thank you Ma’am

Thank you Ma’am or What you never wanted to know about luck and misfortune

Lisa Spreckelmeyer /

When you’re young you don’t think about things which put pressure on you. You try to avoid special situations, but sometimes you can’t. The reason for this is destiny, accompanied by luck and misfortune.

I was 14 years old when I had to learn my lesson. It was a cloudy, frosty winter day, the sun hadn’t made it to shine through the dark haze of the sky above all of us. “Grotto”, this was the way we called our little village, didn’t know what this daytime would bring. In fact it was only a run- down, blotted and apparently unfriendly district, filled with normal people, nice and bad ones, like in every town. But I knew about that day. All trials and tribulations of adolescents flew away in contemplation of the coming incident. Aunt Mathilda’s visit was imminent. For me it was inexplicable how fast the time had run. One year goes so quickly when you know that something horrible will happen again and again.

I sat in my room, prepared like a little choirboy before a performance, neat clothes, neat hair, and when I looked into the mirror I thought: “Oh my god. I won’t survive.” Like every year my mother was a whirling fettling machine. It wasn’t enough that our house was tidy, it had to shine like the biggest diamond in the world. My father fled into his workroom, my sister did her hair and sang a song. She looked forward to see Aunt Mathilda. She was really looking forward to see a chunky, loud and obtrusive person! My last memories were of bad nature. I saw a big body that lunged at me, colorfully dressed like a parrot. It was my aunt who wanted to welcome me. Depressed I gazed around the room. Choirboys have no responsibilities like this. They go on stage, look sweet, sing their songs and are happy about the applause. So, what was the reason for this kind of horror in my life?! Suddenly I wished to be one of them. The bell rang and meanwhile I also heard the tinkle of something I would like to call fortune. A dark, eerie and calamitous tinkle. It told me that this day wouldn’t end with happiness and peace. From downstairs the noises of my happy mom, sister and aunt reached the massive door of my room. It absorbed a lot, but not everything. I had to face the truth: My time had come. Slowly I left my safe hiding-place and stepped down the stairs. What I saw was indescribably. In front of my mother and my sister I saw a woman. A beautiful woman with long red hair and clothes which seemed to be those of a normal person. And above all: She was slim. My mouth opened when she looked at me with a mixture of surprise and cheerfulness. “Ricardo, is that you?” she asked. I nodded paralyzed. “I can’t believe it. After the drama of last year…” Without finishing her sentence she hugged me. The “drama of last year” was the synonym for an occurrence nobody of the family wanted to talk about. Like every year I had wanted to escape from the meeting and after spending the whole day with people my parents didn’t want me to talk to, I had stood in front of my shocked aunt Mathilda refusing to enter the house as long as she was there. Not very nice, but honest. Her new appearance had the same effect on my father like it had had on me minutes before. He hugged her with so much speechlessness that my mother only shook her head and told us to sit down at the table. Dinner was prepared. While the male fraction of us observed the “new” family member, the female ones wanted to know everything about Mathilda’s, apparently, new lifestyle. “You look so good!” Mary, my sister, raved. “I don’t know how you could make this within one year!” Mathilda smiled and fetched the hanger of her necklace. It had the form of a five pointed star. “A pentagram”, she explained. “I met an old woman when I came home after the visit here. She had rented the apartment below me and I helped her a few times, when I saw, that her groceries were too heavy for her, for example. In return for that she wanted to teach me her art.” “Her art?” Mary was all for it. “What do you mean?” Mathilda leaned forward and whispered something into Mary’s ear. Her eyes grew wider. “Magic?” she proclaimed and our aunt began to laugh. “No, girl, no. It isn’t magic. I only learned to teach my senses and to live my life in unison with the nature. I can explain symbols and sometimes tell the fortune.” In my head a bad foreshadowing began to grow. Yes, my aunt looked like a human being now, but it seemed as if she had swapped her brain for that. While the others were talking I decided to eat silently and to disappear into my room before something crazy could happen to me. This was my plan. But now, ladies and gentlemen: The entrance of misfortune!

My aunt had left the table when I finished eating, I didn’t waste an idea where she was. The only thing I noticed was the fevered look of my sister, directed behind me. Was Mathilda there? Her witch- symbols had alarmed me. What would she do? Read my thoughts, transform me? First I didn’t move, then I thought about the fact, that attack would be the best defense. It was like I could feel her breath behind me, so I nearly jumped from my chair and actually hit something. My aunt was standing behind me, as I had thought. What I didn’t know was that she had held a mirror in her hands. “Ricardo, are you mad?!” my mother screamed, when she heard the sound of breaking glass. She gripped my arm and pulled me aside. “Look what you’ve done!” A lot of broken fragments were lying on the floor. While I looked at them my mother placed a hand brush into my hand. “You know what you have to do now, boy.” Embittered I stared at the ground. As if I were the only one who destroys something sometimes! I felt that my mother wanted to say more, but she didn’t. Aunt Mathilda caressed her shoulder and smiled mysteriously. “Linda, Linda, Linda. Don’t be so hard. He didn’t do it on purpose, right, Riccie? And besides: It attracts bad luck when a mirror is broken. You have to wait 7 hours until you clear the fragments, otherwise your misfortune will stay for seven years. I don’t think that you want that, my dear. So, let him go. He’s appalled himself.” Appreciative she took the broom, after she had led me out of the room. When she returned, I was paralyzed a second time. It seemed like my fate was against me, every time my aunt was near. My mother would bluster, my sister would laugh at me and my father would bury his face in his hands and sigh! For me it was enough. With big steps I ran into my room, changed, did my hair and slipped through the window. I didn’t want to see my true-coming vision.

The houses all around me were illuminated. I looked around and once more I couldn’t understand why the whole world thought, that our “Grotto” was such a bad and sad place. People didn’t like to come here, most of them forwent it. Due to the old and ugly houses and some dark figures which stand at the corner of every town, city and village, they were afraid that something would happen to them. When my mother had told us that we would change move, we hadn’t been very happy either. But that was years ago and we have learned that the exterior wasn’t everything. A black cat crossed my way when I reached the entrance of the supermarket. “Thank you, Aunt Mathilda. Now I’m even scared of black cats”, I whispered nervously. Even if I wasn’t a girl, I wanted to buy some chocolate to allay my nerves. In the market I found four bars, they nearly smiled at me. But when I tried to reach them, a large woman came between us. She grabbed three of them and punished me with a nasty look, because I eyeballed her stunned. At the cash desk I had to stand behind her and I also had to see how the bars of chocolate disappeared in a shrill green handbag, which couldn’t attract attention even if the color was able to blind other people: It was too small, the woman was too big. I don’t know why, but I also bought a colossal, white plastic bag. The exit was near, when I suddenly saw the woman one more time, applying her green bag on a window ledge and arranging a lot of schedules in her purse. The next thing I know is that I ran very quickly. I followed a little path into an abnormal big forest and the next thing I saw was an old house. It stood in the middle of nowhere, but smoke came out of the chimney, so somebody had to be there. I stopped and this was a bad idea. All at once the large woman stood behind me, trembling because of too much rage. Slowly the awareness of having done something wrong weaseled closer. I swallowed, I downed my eyes, I bit into my plastic bag and I touched a subject which could never be a bar of chocolate: The green handbag! Momentarily the time didn’t want to decay, but this phase didn’t last long enough. The next instant, the large woman lunged at me, she nearly caught me. But I could escape, into the spooky house. My brain and my body argued. The intelligence really wanted to give the bag back to his owner, the physical side didn’t unhand. I was desperate. Because of three bars of chocolate I would never had stolen a hand bag, it was all because of Aunt Mathilda’s witch- madness! She must have had bewitched me as a revenge for last year! A curious laughter was audible from behind me, it sounded raspy and somehow tinny. It was an old woman who stared at me. Around her neck I noticed the same necklace as Aunt Mathilda had worn. “Ricardo. On the run from misfortune?” she asked amused. Without asking she took the green handbag and carried it out of the house, directly to the large woman. The two talked a while, then she came bag, a meaningful smile on her face. “Thank you, Ma’am”, I murmured. This situation couldn’t be more difficult! I was standing in the house of a strange woman who was a witch like my aunt, who had ostensibly hexed me before, what had had the effect that I bought chocolate and a plastic bag, because I wanted to steal more chocolate from a woman who had bought the other bars before I could. This was crazy and I only wanted to be at home, no matter if my family would be angry or not. This moment I missed them. The old woman stood there motionless. “Ma’am? Are you all right?” She didn’t answer. “Thanks for all you’ve done, but I have to go now.” Carefully I crept around her to leave the house when I heard her voice. “Ricardo, do you really want to go? I was a big help, wasn’t I?” A shiver ran down my back. She knew my name. I didn’t notice that before. “You were, Ma’am.” What was her aim? “So, why don’t you stay until the meal is prepared?” Because I didn’t want to be impolite, I looked at her a last time. Her smile had become mad, horribly mad. “What’s there for eating?” I asked with a misgiving I couldn’t choke down. Behind me I heard how somebody, or rather something, locked the door. Curtains dozed in front of the windows. The fire of the fireplace grew, it grew so high that it seemed to fill the whole room. The necklace of the old woman flew towards my legs and I felt how it corded them up. She bended forward and came closer, a pentagram appeared on her forehead. “You are there for eating, Ricardo!” Her laughing and my scream became one, terrible noise. I wanted to beat her, kick her, I wanted to be free and while I attempted it, I made it to score a hit. And a second one. A third one. It couldn’t take long until I was free. Suddenly something hit my face. It hurt and felt like I had felt it before, a kind of familiar pain… When I opened my eyes, I saw a ghastly face, full of anger. “Mary?” A second time she slapped me in the face. “Are you awake now?” she bleated and looked at her arm. “You hit me, you little idiot!” “I’m sorry, I thought you were an androphagous old woman!” “It was a dream, blockhead. I heard you screaming. And now you should better prepare yourself. Aunt Mathilda will be here in half an hour.” My room! I hugged my pillow and was happy to be alive! What a horror, only because of my aunt. Aunt Mathilda… The dream taught me to respect her person, even if she was weird most of the time. As Mary had told me to, I prepared myself and I was looking better than ever. A car drove in front of the house and the person who dropped out was chunky, obstrusive and dressed like a parrot. No witch, only my good old Aunt Mathilda.


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