"Ladybug Luck" In Tropic Magazine (Sunday Herald) By J.N. McHale (Aug. 11, 1991)

Besides my stair-step children, souvenirs of a short-lived marriage, I had two precious relics from the divorce -- a medal of valor presented with flourish by friend Helen Muir, and a ladybug pin for good luck from my sympathetic editor. The medal was tucked away in my lingerie drawer, but the pin came out for airing when I felt the need for a talisman.

My friend Terry's party invitation pressed the ladybug pin into service. Not that its magic had worked as yet. Selling a package deal with four kids is like trying to nail mercury to a wall.

The little darlings would ask my date, "Are you going to be our new daddy?" And then they'd watch him vanish before their eyes.

A second pitcher full of vodka martinis was stirring as I arrived at Terry's and I sank into a beanbag chair next to a very tan man named Joe, who said he was her stockbroker. I interviewed him like he was one of my stories for The Daily News. Joe asked if he could see me the next night.

The shocker was, he just wanted to visit, sitting in the Florida room while the kids watched TV. Joe became a nightly habit with dinner included.

One morning Joe telephoned at sunrise. He had written a poem about me. As I listened, my neck tingled. Until that moment I had regarded him as a friend. Now I was a love object and suddenly he was taller and seemed incredibly desirable.

That night I kissed my ladybug pin good night, a ritual that continued as Joe began my days with phoned poems and ended our evenings with kisses. By now I knew the stock market was in the cellar, which is why he had no money, and why his wife had dumped him. It was also why he never took me out. No matter. He liked my kids. And they liked him back.

He had been married for five years to a woman named Irene and had a son. Why I asked him what attracted him to Irene I don't know. What he answered was the part that worried me.
Irene was tall and had big breasts and small hips. "I love that in a woman," he said.

I was built like an avocado. O for 3.

That night as I struggled to sleep, I realized I would have to make Joe need me so much that my physical shortcomings would be irrelevant. So the next day I sold him on my becoming his writing teacher. Let's face it, his poems weren't going to get him a job. I would teach him how to write press releases and stories. I knew there was going to be an opening in the promotion department of The Daily News.

My nights and weekends began to feel like a dress rehearsal of "Pygmalion." Joe was my creation and he blossomed. I loaned him a typewriter and taught him to type. I even took him shopping and bought him clothes so he could make the right impression. And Joe got the job.

Then one night he told me his son's birthday was the next day. That meant he would be seeing Irene again, of the big bust, small hips and low tolerance for failure.

"Do me a favor, Joe," I urged. "Don't wear your new suit. And don't tell Irene about the job." He promised. And off he went. The next day was Saturday and Joe didn't call. Another day and night. Silence. I called Joe's apartment. No answer.

I took the telephone out on the patio where I could sit in a comfortable chair and dial his number every few minutes. Hours went by. Since it was a holiday, I kept telling myself Joe might have gone to the beach and forgotten to tell me. Still, deep down, I was beginning to feel the sharp edge of panic.

Then I saw it. A ladybug had alighted on my white slacks midway up my thigh. A sign! My mood lifted like a fog. My luck was going to change. This time he would answer. Sometimes you just know things.

For the 99th time, I dialed his number and let it ring. And ring. And keep on ringing.

And then I looked at my legs. The ladybug was gone. In its place was a dark spot, spreading slowly on my white slacks, in an ever-widening stain.