“Thank you, Reverend Hauer, for that kind introduction. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming out today on this sad occasion as we bid goodbye to a husband, father, brother, and friend. Keith was my friend going back all the way to childhood. It’s odd, how two lives can go in such different directions. It’s odd how one life can be so thoroughly dominated by, well... superstition. I know, in this day and age we’re not supposed to pay much heed to superstition or things like luck, but when we look at Keith’s life, and the way he died... what else are we supposed to think?
Keith was born on a Friday- the thirteenth. A lot of people think that’s an unlucky day. As a matter of fact, he was born at 1:13 in the afternoon. The thirteenth minute of the thirteenth hour of the thirteenth day. And he passed away on a Friday the thirteenth too. The story goes that his parents, thinking they could cancel out the bad luck of being born on that day, hung a horseshoe near his cradle. The problem was that the ends were pointing down, which is considered bad luck. It’s a curious pair of words, bad luck. Keith could never recall who it was who gave him that nickname. I can’t recall it either, but at some point, that’s how he was known: Keith “Bad Luck” McGraw.
When he was eight, Keith’s parents took him to see a musical. Back then everyone was seeing Phantom Of The Opera. I don’t know why, really. If you ask me, musicals are a form of torture. Subject a terrorist to watching endless singing in musical theatre, and he’ll be crying inside of ten minutes. I mean, I can do perfectly fine with actual theatre, but when all those people start singing for no reason at all, I’d much rather listen to fingernails on a blackboard. Wow. I see from the looks of some faces here that you’re into musical theatre.
Anyway, I digress. Keith’s granddad, who was something of a practical joker, had told him in advance to say one word over and over once he arrived at the theatre. It’s just a word, really... a name, in fact. The title name of one of the great plays in theatrical history. But if you say that word in a theatre, it’s seen as a sign of bad luck. That word was Macbeth.
So there was Keith, eight years old, saying Macbeth over and over again in the lobby. As he told the story, his parents finally got him to shut up before they went into see the show, but if you believe in the bad luck idea of the word where theatres are concerned, the damage was done. That very night during the performance, the Phantom kept coughing, the leading lady lost her voice in the middle of one of the songs, and the chandelier crashed onto the stage in a way it wasn’t supposed to, starting what the papers called the Great Concert Hall Fire of ’91. Fortunately it didn’t spread to other buildings, but try telling that to the stage company, the orchestra, and every employee of the building who saw their workplace go up in smoke.
Bad luck seemed to follow Keith. Strange that it wasn’t contagious. I mean, his parents both had decent, responsible jobs, nothing ever seemed to go amiss for them. His friends, well, we never seemed to suffer bad luck by proxy. There’s that old superstition about black cats crossing your path. Well, I don’t know what to think of it, but if I put much stock in that, why would I have black cats myself? And I do. No bad luck’s ever come of it for me. Good job, happy marriage, no real worries. And yet it seemed that way for Keith.
I still remember countless times, we’d be walking down the sidewalk, and out of nowhere, a black cat would come out, and walk in front of Keith. Not just walk in front of him, but zig and zag in front of him, crossing his path repeatedly. It wouldn’t cross over to in front of me- just him. This was happening when we were growing up. It kept happening in our teens.
It was the same thing with him constantly spilling salt, or inadvertently walking under ladders. When he was sixteen he worked in a mirror factory- at least until he accidentally broke ten mirrors at once. I guess when you do that, you earn decades of bad luck. It started very quickly. Old Man Sedgwick, that miserable old bastard, fired him on the spot. Oh... Mr. Sedgwick! I didn’t see you there. Still holding grudges, are you?
Keith didn’t know that stepping on graves was a symbol of bad luck- or he wouldn’t have used the cemetery to be his usual short cut home when he was growing up. If we’re to believe bad luck accumulates, that’s a whole lot of running across someone else’s grave. Bad Luck McGraw hadn’t clued into that one until he was late in his teens, was coming home one night, didn’t pay attention to where he was going, and fell into an open grave. Keith spent most of his teen years in one form of bad luck or another. Had himself an acne attack on prom night, failed his driving test six times before he finally pulled it off, barely squeaked through high school exams.
There came a point when Keith’s luck finally seemed to turn. For whatever reason, the black cats stopped crossing his path over and over again, he stopped spilling salt and went out of his way to avoid ladders. He liked to say that it all changed when he got himself a lucky rabbit’s foot when he was nineteen. He got involved with Lauren, who of course he later married. Keith went off to the Air Force Academy, got through the four years and went into the USAF as a pilot. He even had his own bizarre sense of humour about all those superstitions, and kept his nickname- Bad Luck was stamped onto his flight helmet.
Well, I suppose bad luck runs out, but so does good luck. Keith flew combat missions for years, was in line for a promotion, and then it happened. He was down at MacDill AFB down in Florida, scheduled to do some flight exercises with other fighter pilots. Apparently he forgot his lucky rabbit’s foot. He was the thirteenth plane to take off for the exercise. We don’t really know all the details about what happened, what with the military still investigating things, but we have a few details.
You know, I keep thinking back to a day when we were thirteen. We went out to the state fair, stopped by one of those fortune tellers. She gave me the usual routine response that you expect out of fortune tellers- you’ll have interesting experiences, find happiness and success, that sort of thing. Then she looked at Keith. Her face completely changed, and she spoke in this tone that I can only describe as shocked. She said, you will die in a horrific way and be torn to pieces.
It seems something went wrong up in that cockpit, and Bad Luck McGraw clicked the wrong button. The plane went out of control, hurtling out of the exercise area, and Keith ejected. It turns out that the plane ended up crashing into a park in Tampa. Fortunately nobody was hurt, but it seems that it smashed right into a statue of the governor that had just been erected there last week, a statue that ironically was titled The Glorification Of Governor Scott, The Greatest Governor Ever. On a side note, Governor Scott’s something of a self absorbed jerk. I’d use another word to describe him, but this is a church, after all.
Now, while that plane was busy destroying Governor Scott’s statue, Keith was descending to the earth by parachute. It should have been a lucky day for him, surviving whatever went wrong up there. Only thing is he ended up coming down not on safe ground, but somewhere else. Off shore. Where, as it turns out, thirteen great white sharks were hanging out in the Gulf of Mexico.
Air Force search and rescue did find some of what was left of him, anyway. It didn’t take long for them to get out there, but it was too late. When a person’s been ripped into pieces by thirteen sharks, there’s really nothing even the best doctors can do.
Bad Luck McGraw has gone off to that great place in the sky. We can only hope that it was quick, as horrific as it was. Maybe his bad luck has gone with him. Well, at least Lauren got some good luck... wait, Lauren, don’t cry, I know, this is such an awful thing to have happened. I don’t mean to say that this was good or anything. All I’m trying to say is that there was a silver lining. Keith did sign a life insurance policy last month that gives you ten million dollars in case he ever met a bad ending. So as of yesterday... Lauren’s unbelievably rich!”