I’m not very superstitious. I might believe in signs and symbols, but mainly that’s because I think we can act on what we want to see and believe, much like we read a horoscope and take away only what applies to us.

But two days ago, when a black cat took the trouble and danger to dart in front of me on Bee Caves Road, I admit to feeling a chill. As his sleek little body dashed across the four-lane road, he actually turned to look at me for a moment, as if to say, “Fear me!”

I immediately began counting the bad things that happened.

Remember how happy I was to find the box that just fit my contest entry, therefore making me feel positive and happy about submitting the book?

The day of the black cat I went to the post office to mail off a second entry, this time a novel. I picked up the flat rate postage box, same as a few days before, but when I tried to shove the manuscript box inside it, it DIDN’T fit.

I then noticed an almost identical box next to it, same markings, slightly larger, which didn’t say “Flat Rate.”

I had a terrible feeling I had done something very stupid.

The post office lady confirmed it. I’d mailed a regular postage box with a Flat Rate label. I had underpaid by probably $4.

I asked her what would happen. She was very sympathetic, because if the box gets returned, the contest deadline will have passed and I won’t be able to submit it–therefore wasting all the paper and printing and postage. “Well, if you’re lucky, no one will even notice,” she said, plastering labels on a pile of photography portfolios. “The minute I saw these new style boxes, I knew this was going to happen–people would do exactly what you did–mix up the flat rate box with the regular ones.”

She expertly flipped the envelopes over, already noting they were photographs and stamping “do not bend” all over them. “But the good thing is, the people who empty out the parcel slots aren’t trained for the windows, so they probably won’t notice either. It might get through.”

“What if it doesn’t?” I asked.

“I will sit postage due for ten days at their post office, then get returned.”

“Too late to send it back.”

“Yep.”

I thanked her and left the counter.

On the way back home, in almost the exact same spot on Bee Caves Road, a fuzzy white cat darted across the street. I slammed on my brakes and couldn’t believe it. Another cat? Another dash across a huge road?

I drove on, wondering about this, if the white cat negated the black cat. Or if the white cat meant my luck had turned back to good.

It’s been six days since I mailed the first contest entry with the wrong postage. In the next week it will either be returned or I will get the post card saying it was safely received.

NOW you can wish me luck.

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