Unlucky In Little Things by Richard King

Story type: Essay

They say it is better to be born lucky than beautiful. Which contains, by the way, only small consolation for those of us who have been born both lucky and ugly. For, after all, to have been born beautiful is a nice “chunk” of good luck to build upon, and anyway, if you are a woman, constitutes a fine capital for the increase of future business. But to have been born lucky is much more exciting than to have been born beautiful; moreover the capital reserve does not diminish with time. All the same, I don’t want to write about either lucky people or beautiful ones. There are already too many people writing about them as it is. I want to write about the unlucky ones–because I consider myself one of them. I do so in the hope that my tears will find their tears, and, it we must drown, metaphorically speaking, it is a crumb of comfort to drown in company.

Most unlucky people when they speak about their ill-luck always refer to such incidents as when they backed the Derby “favourite” and it fell down within a yard of the winning post. True, that is ill-luck amounting almost to tragedy. But there is another kind of unlucky person–and about him I can write from experience, because it is my special brand of misfortune. He is the unlucky person who is unlucky in little things. After all, not many of us back horses, and presently fewer of us than ever will be able to do more in the gambling line than play Beg-o’-my-Neighbour with somebody’s old aunt for a thr’penny-bit stake. Let me give a few instances of this ill-luck, in the hope that my plaint will strike a responsive chord in the hearts of those who read this page.

(a) If I am sitting on the top of a ‘bus and a fat man gets on that ‘bus, that fat man will sit down beside me as sure as houses! (b) If I am sitting in a railway carriage hugging to my heart the hope that I may have the compartment to myself throughout the long non-stop run, for a surety, at the very last moment, the Woman-with-the-squalling-brat will rush on the platform and head straight for me! Or, I have only to see the Remarkably Plain Person hesitating between two tables in a restaurant to know that she will invariably choose mine! (c) If there is a bad oyster–I get it! If a wasp flies into the garden seeking repose–I always look to it like a Chesterfield couch! If one day I have not shaved–my latest “pash” is sure to call! Should I invest my hard-earned savings in Government Stock it is a sign for an immediate spread of Bolshevism, and consequent depreciation in all Government securities. If one day I plan to make a voyage to Cythere–I will surely catch a cold in my head the night before and, instead of quoting Swinburne, shall only sneeze and say, “Dearest, I do hope I didn’t splash you!” I fully expect to wake up and find myself rich and famous–the day I “wake up” to find myself dead! And of course, like everybody with a grievance, I could go on talking about it for ever. Still, I have given a sufficient number of instances of my ill-luck for ninety per cent. of people to respond in sympathy. The “big things” so seldom happen that one can live quite comfortably without them.

But the “Little Things” are like the poor–they are always with us; or like relations–perpetually on the doorstep on washing day. Perhaps one ought to live as if one were not aware of them. To have your eyes fixed steadfastly on some “star” makes you oblivious, as it were, to the creepy-crawly things which are creepy-crawling up your leg. The unfortunate thing, however, is, that there seem so few stars on which to fix your gaze. If you are born beautiful, or born lucky–you have no use for “stars.” To a certain extent you are a “star” in yourself. But for nous autres there only remains the exasperation of Little Things which perpetually “go wrong.” The only hope, then, for us is to cultivate that state of despair which can view a whole accumulation of minor disasters with indifference. When you are indifferent to “luck” it is quite astonishing what good fortune comes your way. Luck is rather like a woman–it is, as it were, only utterly abject before a “shrugged shoulder.”

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