Grandmother says there’s a horrible curse on our family. She told me that seven and a quarter generations ago, in my great-great-great and so forth grand-daddy’s time, my idiotic ancestor angered the gods by pouring a jug of water on a cat, and we’re still living with the consequences. Apparently, cats are our family’s sacred animal or totem creature or something, and it’s blasphemy to so much as spit in their direction, even if you’ve had a really bad day. Anyway, Grandmother claims that our family is doomed to suffer the effects of the gods’ curse for all eternity, except that she’s been spared because she has about a hundred cats and makes sure they never go outside when it’s raining.
Mum says Grandmother’s senile.
I’m not so sure. I mean, Grandmother is ancient – like a hundred and three – but sometimes I go along with her to the doctor’s when mum is at work and he always compliments her on her health. He says that if all of his patients were as spry as she was, he’d be out of a job. There’s nothing wrong with her as far as I can tell, and her mind must be alright because she makes a lot more sense than mum most of the time when I talk to her. Except when it’s about the curse.
Grandmother’s pretty vague on the exact terms of the curse. We play this game where I bombard her with questions, trying to coax details out of her, but she’s evasive and doesn’t elaborate much, and the story’s always changing. Once, I got excited when she told me that the curse never affects anyone who is under the age of twenty-two, because the ancestor who started it all was twenty-two when he fooled around with the jug of water and the cat, and gods have specific rules that they have to follow when making curses. It was the first time that I’d managed to get something concrete out of Grandmother on the subject, but then a couple of weeks later she changed the age to twenty-four and claimed that she’d never said otherwise. It’s so frustrating!
I’m interested and just a little bit worried about the exact age at which the curse is meant to kick in. Even though I’m a scientist and don’t believe in superstition, and therefore know that the whole thing is folktale nonsense, Grandmother seems so certain and always looks at me with such a tragic look in her eyes that I can’t shake off this terrible premonition. I have dreams about it sometimes at night, when I wake up sweating. When I tell my mum about this, she just laughs at me and says that since she’s well past her twenties and nothing bad has ever happened to her, I have nothing to worry about. I told Grandmother and all she said was of course not, because it’s my dad who carries the cursed blood, and he disappeared when I was two under mysterious circumstances.
My twenty-second birthday is in just a few hours and I know I’m silly for even thinking about it, but when I went to drink my usual glass of water before bed-time tonight I found a cat hair floating on top, and we don’t own a cat. It’s probably nothing and I bet it’s from my clothes when I visited Grandmother two days ago, but I’m a little bit scared. No doubt if you’re reading this you’re laughing at me like my mum was earlier this evening, because it’s obvious that curses aren’t real. Are they?