September 2006

Spells is us

By David Feela

Recently I purchased a book from a thrift store titled “The Good Spell Book.” When I first saw it on the shelf, I thought it was a text about vocabulary, though the grammar of its title confused me. As it turned out, the book has nothing to do with spelling. Instead, it’s about casting spells – Gypsy spells – love charms, magical cures, and (as the subtitle phrases it) “other practical sorcery.” I almost put it back on the shelf, but something convinced me to pick it up. No, not the dark forces of Satan’s legions – just my insatiable curiosity.

My mother taught me everything she thought I needed to know about Gypsies. She conjured their image as a warning and if I didn’t behave properly, she claimed the Gypsies would steal me away. Steal me to where, I had no idea, though plenty of days during my childhood I believed being whisked away to the woods would have been more fun than cleaning my room or taking another bath. There’s never a good Gypsy around when you need one. Or a circus.

But I probably didn’t need the book of spells. I am married to a Russian woman whose grandmother was probably part Gypsy. She walked out of Russia during the first World War, gathering orphans along the way. Nomadic tendencies would accurately describe her lifestyle. She read cards, threw salt over her shoulder, and a favorite meal consisted of a slice of bread, a layer of goose grease, and a thick slice of raw onion. While she claimed the diet kept her healthy, I suspected it only kept those with contagious germs at a safe distance.

We decided we should try one, for the spell of it. The book offered a smorgasbord of choices, including charms for love, health, and happiness. We decided on a spell for wealth – specifically, an “easy money spell.” A friend stopped by, so we offered to let him in on this thousand year-old lottery.

The book gave simple directions: “Light a green candle. Let it burn for five minutes, then blow it out. Rub your hands in the smoke and imagine money coming to you.” I pictured a fat wad of greenbacks as fresh as a head of lettuce. You see, the most I’ve been blessed with is a living wage and a lively imagination.

But I received this e-mail the following evening from my brother:

Just a short note to let you know that I'm sending you a check for $50. This comes from an unexpected source. I received a letter several weeks ago from Blue Cross/Blue Shield for Dad. The letter indicated a resolution of the tobacco settlement here in Minnesota of which Dad was a beneficiary, but he died. So I called Blue Cross to let them know he was deceased. They indicated we could still get in on the settlement. I'm glad I saved those old papers. Don't spend it all in one place! :)

That’s not the half of it. Our friend, by the end of the week, closed on the sale of his house without a hitch, received an offer for a high-paying teaching job overseas, and submitted an offer that got accepted on a house in Pennsylvania he’d been dreaming of buying. And did I mention that I got fifty dollars? Pam, of course, continues to hang out with me, but we have still the book and who knows, there may be spells that even I can’t imagine.

David Feela is a teacher at Montezuma-Cortez High School.