It was a slow show. The type of show where artists and craftspeople spend most of the time talking to each. My booth neighbor was Josh, a ceramics artist. We were trading art and craft business horror stories. We both had some good ones. There was the poorly planned show on Plum Island. By noon everyone demanded show fees back. By two PM a macrame artist had woven a hangman’s noose for the show’s producer, and by three the producer had fled the show. Josh added his stories to mine, and we passed an hour talking. At some point, I mentioned how a client had stiffed me on final payment. Josh smirked and told me “that doesn’t happen to me much anymore.” “Oh?” I asked. Josh settled back in his chair, and related this story:
Back about three years ago. I was reading a post from a guy in New Jersey who had trouble getting paid. The client ignored all requests for payment. In frustration, He sent a note saying that he’d activate the curse at the end of the week. The curse? Yes, the curse he’d placed just for this sort of eventuality. A week went by, the second week, no cash. Week three rolled around, and he got paid. The client had a pinched nerve, his dog bit him, and he had the shingles. He cashed the check and called the client to tell him they were square.
I asked Josh If he had ever thought about doing something similar? Then he told me the rest of the story:
I went down to a local Botanica and asked about having something like this done. On my fourth visit, after buying lots of candles, incense, and oils, the owner admitted that something might be arranged. From the back room, his grandfather emerged. The owner asked about my request. The old man shook his head no. The translation from the owner was that his grandfather would never do such an evil thing. After much discussion, grandfather agreed that he could whip up something that translated as ” a certain avoidance of good fortune.” No ill-wishing, no tragedy in the family, just a certain avoidance of good fortune. I smiled paid the requested cash and walked away with the little scribble the old man gave me and the activating ritual.
But Josh, I asked, have you ever used it? “Once. The client laughed at me. Then I told him where to find the mark on the bottom of the piece. I described the effects of the curse – nothing dramatic, but, that raise you wanted? Instead of five percent, it was two. Instead of a great steak, it always came out overcooked. Forget about good weather on your vacation, or finding out that your auto repair was under warranty. Just a certain avoidance of good fortune. He paid later that week.
I thought about this lot. Sailors and their wives made up a good percentage of my clientele; they can be superstitious. They replace old coins in mast steps when rerigging, do arcane things when changing a boat name and I’ve even seen men surreptitiously pour libations to Neptunus. If I told a client to look for a scratched rebus on a boat portrait or an eagle they’d assume that I’d cursed their boats. I’d have an unfortunate accident in a boat yard.
I’ve thought about his little squiggle and the certain avoidance of good fortune a lot. But, in the end, all I’ve done is increase the size of my down payments and asked for cash in advance for anything under five hundred. It’s safer this way.