The broken mirror, the black cat and lots of good luck

Nikos was an ordinary man. One thing that he did not believe in was superstition. But when so many things that are meant to cause bad luck started bringing him good luck, he began to wonder …

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Nikos was an ordinary man. Nothing particularly good ever happened to him; nothing particularly bad ever happened to him. He went through life accepting the mixture of good things and bad things that happen to everyone. He never looked for any explanation or reason about why things happened just the way they did.

One thing, however, that Nikos absolutely did not believe in was superstition. He had no time for superstition, no time at all. Nikos thought himself to be a very rational man, a man who did not believe that his good luck or bad luck was in any way changed by black cats, walking under ladders, spilling salt or opening umbrellas inside the house.

Nikos spent much of his time in the small taverna near where he lived. In the taverna he sat drinking coffee and talking to his friends. Sometimes his friends played dice or cards. Sometimes they played for money. Some of them made bets on horse races or football matches. But Nikos never did. He didn’t know much about sport, so he didn’t think he could predict the winners. And he absolutely didn’t believe in chance or luck or superstition, like a lot of his friends did.

One morning Nikos woke up and walked into the bathroom. He started to shave, as he did every morning, but as he was shaving he noticed that the mirror on the bathroom wall wasn’t quite straight. He tried to move it to one side to make it straighter, but as soon as he touched it, the mirror fell off the wall and hit the floor with a huge crash. It broke into a thousand pieces. Nikos knew that some people thought this was unlucky. ‘Seven years’ bad luck,’ they said, when a mirror broke. But Nikos wasn’t superstitious. Nikos wasn’t superstitious at all. He didn’t care. He thought superstition was nonsense. He picked up the pieces of the mirror, put them in the bin and finished shaving without a mirror.

After that he went into the kitchen to make himself a sandwich to take to work for his lunch. He cut two pieces of bread and put some cheese on them. Then he thought he needed some salt. When he picked up the salt jar, it fell from his hand and broke on the floor. Salt was everywhere. Some people, he knew, thought that this was also supposed to bring bad luck. But Nikos didn’t care. He didn’t believe in superstitions.

He left the house and went to work. On his way to work he saw a black cat running away from him. He didn’t care. He wasn’t superstitious. Some builders were working on a house on his street. There was a ladder across the pavement. Nikos thought about walking around the ladder, but he didn’t care; he wasn’t superstitious and didn’t believe in superstitions, so he walked right underneath the ladder.

Even though Nikos wasn’t superstitious, he thought that something bad was certain to happen to him today. He had broken a mirror, spilled some salt, walked under a ladder and seen a black cat running away from him. He told everybody at work what had happened. ‘Something bad will happen to you today!’ they all said. But nothing bad happened to him.

That evening, as usual, he went to the taverna. He told all his friends in the taverna that he had broken a mirror, spilled the salt, seen a black cat running away from him and then walked under a ladder. All his friends in the taverna moved away from him. ‘Something bad will happen to him,’ they all said, ‘and we don’t want to be near him when it happens!’

But nothing bad happened to Nikos all evening. He sat there as normal, and everything was normal. Nikos was waiting for something bad to happen to him. But it didn’t.

‘Nikos, come and play cards with us!’ joked one of his friends. ‘I’m sure to win!’ Nikos didn’t usually play cards, but tonight he decided to. His friend put a large amount of money on the table. His friend thought Nikos was going to lose. Nikos thought he was going to lose.

But it didn’t happen like that.

Nikos won. Then he played another game, and he won that one too. Then somebody asked him to play a game of dice, and Nikos won that as well. He won quite a lot of money. ‘Go on then, Nikos,’ his friends shouted, ‘use all the money you have won to buy some lottery tickets!’ Nikos spent all the money he had won on lottery tickets. The draw for the lottery was the next day.

The next day after work Nikos went to the taverna again. Everybody was watching the draw for the lottery on TV. The first number came out, for the third prize. It was Nikos’ number. Then the second number, for the second prize. It was another of Nikos’ tickets. Then the first prize. It was Nikos’ number as well. He won all three of the big lottery prizes.

It was incredible. It seemed that all the things that people thought caused bad luck actually brought him good luck.

The next day Nikos bought a book about superstitions from all over the world. When he had read the book he decided to do everything that would bring him bad luck. He left empty bottles on the table. He asked his wife to cut his hair for him. He accepted a box of knives as a gift. He slept with his feet pointing towards the door. He sat on the corners of tables. He put a candle in front of the mirror. He always left his hat on the bed. He always left his wallet on the bed. He bought things in numbers of six or thirteen. He crossed people on the stairs. He got on a boat and whistled. And with everything he did, he got luckier and luckier. He won the lottery again. He won the games of dice in the taverna every evening. The things got crazier and crazier. He bought a black cat as a pet. He broke a few more mirrors, on purpose. He didn’t look people in the eye when they raised their glasses to him. He put loaves of bread upside down on the table. He spilled salt. He spilled olive oil. He spilled wine.

The more superstitious things he did, the luckier he became. He went into the taverna and started to tell all his friends what he thought.

‘You see!’ he told them. ‘I was right all along! Superstition is nonsense! The more things I do to break ridiculous superstitions, the more lucky I am!’

‘But Nikos,’ replied one of his friends, ‘don’t you see that you are actually as superstitious as we are? You are so careful to break superstitions, and this brings you luck. But you are only lucky when you do these things. Your disbelief is actually a kind of belief!’

Nikos thought hard about what his friend said. He had to admit that it was true. He was so careful to break all the superstitions he could, that in some way he was actually observing those superstitions.

The next day, he stopped spilling salt, chasing away black cats, walking under ladders, putting up umbrellas in the house and breaking mirrors. He also stopped winning money on the lottery. He started to lose at games of cards or dice.

He was a normal man again. Sometimes he was lucky, sometimes he wasn’t. He didn’t not believe in superstitions any more, but he didn’t believe in them either.

‘Nikos,’ said his friend to him, ‘it was your belief in yourself that made you lucky. It was your self-confidence that helped you, not superstitions.’

Nikos listened to his friend and thought that he was right. But however rational he still believed himself to be, he always wondered what would have happened if he hadn’t broken that mirror …

Chris Rose

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Submitted by Khin Yee Mon Khaing on Sat, 07/08/2021 - 06:48

I guess there are many superstitions in my country. I believe some superstitions for instance the shout of a bad bird at night. Its voice makes me unlucky. I don't believe some superstitions. If we do the good things, the good things comes and vice versa.

Submitted by TuPapaSito329 on Wed, 07/04/2021 - 19:13

In my country if you steal a cow you will have 100 years of bad luck

Submitted by Aliya848 on Wed, 24/03/2021 - 18:54

We have a some superstations in my country. For example if girl will seat in front of table’s corner she can’t marry seven years. Also if you will eat food off the knife your life will sharp as a knife. Another superstition is if you will whistle at home you aren’t going to have money. Finally if you will meet women with empty bucket your day will unlucky.

Submitted by usmanmaan0073 on Mon, 15/02/2021 - 23:30

It is very incredible story. A person who has no believes about superstitions is less confused while making decision that are very critical n his/her life

Submitted by Madhushree on Sat, 26/12/2020 - 16:24

I think in all the country have superstitions. It's depend on the people, somebody is believe that and somebody isn't believe that.

Submitted by Thinthinmyoe on Thu, 24/12/2020 - 14:40

I think some superstitions are breaking glasses, the bad voice of birds and shouting of the cow at night.

Submitted by BlaiChan on Sun, 06/12/2020 - 04:17

I know some of superstitions in my country for instant sleeping in the evening , cutting nails at night, putting our head towards the west and so on. If you do that something bad will happen to you for their reasons respectively. But nowadays people do not believe in cutting nails at night anymore I guess.

Submitted by danisep on Sun, 15/11/2020 - 04:43

Now I can just remember some traditions that happen in December for instance some people used to swallow twelve grapes one for every month of the year that comes and make twelve wishes, also they used to run around the street with a suit case with lentils inside with the purpose to travel in the next year, and they wear underwear yellow I don't know why too!

Submitted by Mazoon AL.Ghssani on Sat, 03/10/2020 - 20:17

In my country, seeing lots of black cats means that something bad will happen to you .For me I don't believe these superstitions.

Submitted by Stela Stoycheva on Tue, 18/08/2020 - 17:24

In my country is interesting that if I put my woman bag on the floor, I will be poor; that with black cat if cross your way you will be unlucky.... and many others :)

Submitted by Gulnaziya on Tue, 28/07/2020 - 15:14

Personally I don't believe in superstitions, but in my country there are a lot. For example, people say that if you are staying in a house which has been built recently and, if you are going to sleep there at night for the first time, you can make a wish and the possibility that it might happen is very high.

Submitted by 350223525 on Tue, 02/06/2020 - 03:03

There are many superstitions in my country, For example, if someone sneezes at the beginning of a job, they stop it and cancel it. Or if the broom hits your foot, it means that they are slandering you And many other superstitions that have no end

Submitted by Lila Naem on Thu, 28/05/2020 - 09:39

First I would like to thank you for the interesting stories that really help to improve English reading and other skills as well. As for the superstitions in my country, we have some of them, such as we believe if you feel itchiness in you right hand for a long time, that probably means you will get some money and if you feel itchiness in you left hand, you will see or shake hand with somebody. Another superstition is when you dream if your tooth fell down, this means one of your relatives will die. For me, I try not to belive in such things even if, I am sometimes worried if something bad will might happen because of them.

Submitted by cittàutopica on Sun, 15/03/2020 - 15:46

There are many superstitions in my country, which are the same one I read in the story; but there are others, as keeping the fingers crossed or abstaining from eating at the table when the tablemates ar thirteen or seventeen.

Submitted by sqam7521 on Sun, 15/12/2019 - 08:48

I believe this line is not correct in your story, "He didn’t not believe in superstitions any more, but he didn’t believe in them either." Please check and let me know if it is correct. If yes, Why? If no, Why? Thanks in advance!

Hello sqam7521

Thanks for asking us about this. Occasionally, we do miss mistakes in our texts, but in this case, the sentence is correct. This essentially means that Niko doesn't know what to think about superstitions: he doesn't not believe in them (meaning he doesn't absolutely deny them), but he also doesn't believe in them (he's not sure they are true).

Does that make sense?

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Smiley1 on Fri, 13/12/2019 - 23:25

People in some countries believe that seeing a black cat and throwing away ceramics cause good luck. And it seems to me obvious that Nicos was too tired to control well his terminal nerves of his hands when the broke the mirror and spilled the salt. In my opinion, it all depends on what one believes in oneself!

Submitted by fidaasiddig on Sun, 24/11/2019 - 12:39

Hello The LearnEnglish Team There were section of topics named ( I want to talk about , and a grammar topic explain how to organize many adjectives in one sentece) I couldn't find them Thanks

Submitted by Kirk on Sun, 24/11/2019 - 19:44

In reply to by fidaasiddig


Hello fidaasiddig

The 'I want to talk about section' is now part of the Audio zone. You'll find some of the old recordings there, and very soon we will be adding some new ones. Next year we will also release some more recordings in that same section.

The page on the order of adjectives is Adjective order.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Catalina Pazmiño on Sun, 13/10/2019 - 12:23

Even thoght I am considered to myself as a rational person, and I don't believe that good or bad luck come from superstitions. I think that this a nice story to practice reading comprehention skill and vocabulary, I really enyoyed it. But If you want to improve your economic, the only thing you have to do is work hard on it. In other hand if you like to play making bet, you have to get a lot of information, or increase your knowledge about the subject you would like to bet. Personally, I don't like to make bets.

Submitted by Caterina Siligardi on Mon, 30/09/2019 - 23:14

Many superstitions met in the Nico's story are shared in my country also. There are other superstitions , as the inopportunity to offer pearls for gift, because they bring tears.

Submitted by parisaach on Mon, 22/07/2019 - 06:07

people in my country have some wrong beliefs about special days of year some of them are relegious and some of them are cultural, Maybe we can't name them superstitious, The first group are mostly relegious beliefs, and the second group are part of our tradition. for example according to our relegious beliefs people shouldn't be happy in some special days of year and the people who be happy, dance,etc on those days are sinful. and according to our traditions people think staying home at 13th day of new year which is named "13Bedar" bring them bad luck and they should go out on that day. We also have some other traditional beliefs about new years for example people say: you will do all year the thing you do when new year starts. or they say you should tie the greens in 13th day of new year. Ok I think I mostly talk about traditions I don't know if they are superstition or not. but there are something that I'm sure you call them superstitious for example in my country people specially old ones believe that black cats are jinni, they say number 13 brings bad luck, my mother tie a scarf or cloth when we lost something and says ' I don't let The daughter of fairy king marry until bring the things that we lost.' and we usually find the lost things.

Submitted by Cheeseontop on Mon, 24/06/2019 - 10:14

I’m from Vietnam, people believe in that when your eyelid twitching something will happen to you. If your left eyelid twitch it means good luck will happen to you and it is the opposite with your right eyelid. And people also believe that it is not lucky if they sweep dust away their house at the first day of Lunar New Year. They don’t do anything such as sweeping, cleaning or washing clothes. And I am rational, I don’t believe in that. It is not logic, bad luck or good luck are just ordinary things people have to face in life.
I'm a student 10 years old from Vietnam and I think these things that our ancestors believes in are a bit ridiculous, but one thing I dislike that is at the end of the year, we must bath with a special water from a plant and it is disgusting.

Submitted by Shan on Tue, 26/02/2019 - 14:42

I am from Pakisan in my country when people cut their nails they don't throw the cut peices in home because they say it brings poverty. Once i was coming from park i saw a black cat ran infront of me i felt worrt and was thinking that something bad could happen on the way bad i was driving a bie i saw a black in front of me i could stop the bike went over him but thanks God i was safe

Submitted by Marte93 on Tue, 05/02/2019 - 20:17

Mostly these superstitions are common in my country, however there are others like "Friday 13th" or "Tuesday 13th" like days with bad luck. Another else less common is to leave an umbrella back the principal door in a house.

Submitted by TatsianaBaravik on Wed, 23/01/2019 - 10:43

Many of those superstitious people still believe in my country, especially an old generation.