Cursed

My own family thinks I’m cursed. I’m not. Sure, I have an uncanny knack for accidents. I once gave myself a black eye while clipping my toenails. I’ve nearly ruptured an ear drum trying to put a shirt on. If there’s something to knock over, into, break, spill, tangle, fumble, flop, snap, crack, or scramble, I, Colton Clutts, will find a way to make it happen. Even my shadow is a tripping hazard. It’s been that way for as long as I can remember.

But cursed? Nope.

I’m pouring cereal when Mom walks in and gives my shoulder a squeeze. “Colt, how are you doing sweetie?” she says, glancing at my sister Abby. They’re trying hard not to laugh, it’ s annoying. Whatever. I get back to damage control.

“I need to make sure that video didn’t—” My phone buzzes across the table. A text from Zach.

Dude u r famous

Abby only shakes her head. “If only you had listened to me.”

She’s at her usual spot at the dinner table, a deck of playing cards spread out in front of her. Cards she thinks could have “protected me” from falling off the stage last night at rehearsals. I was attempting to flit across the stage—because I’ve been cast as a fairy and I’m told fairies flit—when I stumbled a few steps too far and took a bit of a spill. Spill as in I plummeted off the stage and into a ladder that knocked onto a podium which crashed into a stack of speakers. I pull up the link on my phone. Great. It’s all been posted for the world to see.

More Crunch on the counter. “I’m too busy for make believe.”

“Suit yourself,” she says with a giggle.

I shovel in three bites. Abby’s smile reaches for her ears. I drop my spoon into the bowl. Clank. “What?”

“Get it? Suit. Yourself?”

Mom pours her coffee. “Oh sweetie, don’t worry, it happens to your father too.”

“Oh my gosh,” Abby gushes, “Remember when he Dad off the ladder hanging the Christmas lights?”

“Or when he got tangled up in the mini-blinds,” Mom adds, and they’re off, reliving every mishap, pointing and giggling. I ignore them and get back to my phone, 2,268 now. I scroll to the comment section. (Tip: if you ever find yourself on YouTube, do not read the comments. Some things are better not seen).

Mom and Abby continue to live it up. “What about when he hit himself in the head with the golf club?” my own mother says, abandoning her usual guise of neutrality. From there they go on about the day Dad came home with that big hulking lump on his head. He’d been golfing with some guys at work, and well, the details are sketchy.

“The Clutts family curse,” Abby whispers. “I’m sure glad I’m protected. Aren’t you, Mom?”

My sister thinks she’s a witch. She talks nonstop about curses and spells, hexes or jinxes while she keeps tabs on the moon and casts all sorts bunk spells then makes up excuses about why they never work. If that’s not bad enough, she’s got a black cat named Spook who hisses at anyone not named Abby. She asked for a cauldron for Christmas.

Seriously.

It started last Halloween. She dressed up and never came out of it. I told her being a witch is no way to survive middle school, but she didn’t listen to me? Nope. No one listens to me.

Mom sips her coffee, says that she is, lending legitimacy to Abby’s foolishness. But I can’t help myself. “So what about Dad?” I say, crossing my arms to hide a prickle of chill bumps. “Why can’t you ‘protect’ him?”

Abby holds up four jacks, tilting her head at me like I’m dense. “I’m afraid it’s too late for Dad. He’s too old and his curse is too strong.” She leans in closer, getting all super dramatic. “But there’s still hope for you. Maybe.”

My parents try to roll with Abby’s uh, witchiness. My dad calls it goth. Again, I’m not sure if it does her any favors in middle school, but when it comes to the curse—if there is such a thing, which there’s totally not—she’s been spared. Anything she does (besides casting spells), she does well. Violin. Dance. Chinese Checkers. She’s otherwise perfect. So our parents ignore the fact that she would have been burned at the stake a few centuries ago.

I try to scoff but it’s like I can’t find my breath. But I can’t sit here and let my younger sister clutter my head with family curse nonsense. The slips and scrapes over the years. Dad coming through the ceiling from the attic. His blackened fingernails whenever he uses the hammer, how he sometimes falls up the stairs. He spills and splatters, nicks and dents. Dad can crack fine china from three rooms away. And I’m his only son. Where Abby got Mom’s sandy blonde hair, I inherited my father’s dicey relationship with gravity.

“Colt,” Mom says, breaking my trance “Just remember, the best thing we can do is to take caution. Slow down. That’s what I tell your father. It’s what Grandma told Papa. And what Great Grandma…”

“Mom, I got it.”

“He’s got it all right,” Abby says, staring at my phone. She swipes and replays the video. Again the crash of the cymbals. The howls of laughter. “He’s got it bad.”

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