Houdini

Sam, Aaron, and I lived in our apartment in college during our junior and senior years. During this time, Law 7 was consistently invoked, and after graduation, we looked for Membrillos which is probably still buried in the yard. One other story had to do with our decision to have a cat. I have always been allergic to cats, but at the time I thought I might have outgrown it. So, one day, Sam and I did some research and discovered there was a woman from a satellite city nearby who’d cat just had a litter, and she was giving away kittens for free. 

We hopped in Sam’s car and began the drive. 

The hero’s journey is a template used in storytelling that was coined by Joseph Campbell to describe the various stages for constructing a myth or adventure. There are up to and including seventeen different stages in which the protagonist(s) leaves their home to venture out into the world, meet various other characters, learn valuable lessons, vanquish foes or achieve something, and return home a different person/people. The original Star Wars film, The Matrix, and The Hobbit are all examples that follow the hero’s journey. 

Let’s imagine Sam and I were following a hero’s journey of sorts when we went to get our cat that morning. We were in the left lane of an intersection. Sam had been driving; what he didn’t realize was our lane was left turn only, however, the sign had been obscured by tree branches. When the light turned green, we drove straight ahead, and the car to our right tried to make a left turn. He hit Sam’s car, though unlike my accident years later, there was just some superficial damage. 

“What do I do?” Sam said. 

In retrospect, I don’t think he was asking me for my opinion, but rather it was an automatic response. 

“Go,” I said foolishly. It’s been over twenty years since I’ve thought of this, and I still don’t know why I counseled Sam to keep going. Thankfully, he didn’t listen to me, and both cars pulled over to the side of the road. 

The other driver got out of his car. He looked a little like the character actor Raynor Scheine whose most well-known role was as Ace Ventura’s hacker friend Woodstock. Anyway, as you can probably imagine, “Raynor” was pretty irate. I remember Sam calling the police to report the accident, and he and Raynor jawing at each other. I vaguely remember Sam saying something along the lines of “Like I really wanted this to happen,” to Raynor as sarcastically as he could. I don’t remember Raynor’s exact response, but he did say the phrase “I wish I had my gun,” loud enough so both Sam and I could hear it. 

Thankfully, a police officer pulled up. He calmed the situation, took everyone’s information down, ticketed Sam, and we were soon on our way. There weren’t any more hitches the rest of the way to the woman’s house. The cat and her litter were outside in the backyard; we selected our kitten and returned home. 



Epilogue

That evening, after we brought the kitten home it disappeared. We spent the next few hours searching for it, and eventually found the kitten hiding within a hole in the fabric at the base of the couch; that was how the cat got the name, Houdini. I also discovered I was still allergic to cats, so we kept Houdini for a few weeks before we gave her to Aaron’s then-girlfriend/now wife. Houdini ended up living with Aaron, his wife, and their children for the next eighteen years. 

Sam decided to fight his ticket since the turn left sign had been obscured, so he pleaded not guilty during the arraignment. Unlike what I’ve seen on television or in films, there were about twenty-five people who got in line. One at a time, they walked up to a microphone, the judge read out the charge, and they pleaded guilty or not guilty. 

Since Sam pleaded not guilty, he’d have to return on a later date. Both Raynor and I were served to show up. When I saw Raynor again, he had looked even more weathered and beaten down than on the day of the accident. He had two sets of prescription glasses he wore around his neck; one to see far away and the other to read. He also carried a cushion with him for when he sat. 

In the end, Sam’s not guilty verdict was held. 

I think I still have the summons saved somewhere. It’ll be added to my shelf of collectibles when I leave my papers and whatnot to The James Sprunt Community College Library. 



Andrew Davie has worked in theater, finance, and education. He taught English in Macau on a Fulbright Grant and has survived a ruptured brain aneurysm and subarachnoid hemorrhage. He has published short stories at various places, a chapbook with The Daily Drunk, crime fiction novellas with All Due Respect and Close to the Bone, and an upcoming memoir. His other work can be found in links on his website https://andrew-davie.com/

Categories: Essay

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