“A black cat crossing your path signifies that the animal is going somewhere.”

—Groucho Marx

Thanks for checking out the Summer 2022 edition of the River & South Review. While I’ve worked on other literary magazines in my time, this is my first time actually writing the customary letter from the editor. And like any diligent editor, I took a careful look at what my predecessors wrote in their letters for past issues. Some were thorough and clearly spent a lot of time on crafting a small essay of a letter with something approaching a dozen paragraphs, hitting every note they wanted to, thanking everyone profusely, talking about their hopes and dreams, and so on and so forth.

And instead of doing any of that, let’s talk about that black cat in the opening quote. It’s such a down-to-earth quote, isn’t it? Powerful, even. But this quote got me thinking about a lot of things. For one, it’s an obvious riff on the fact that black cats crossing your path was often seen as a bad omen. And I suppose for some people, it still is. Not me though. I’ve never actually had the misfortune of having a black cat cross my path. I should probably get out more so that it can eventually happen to me and I can cross it (the cat crossing my path thing, not the cat itself) off my bucket list. Maybe someday.

However, another thought just occurred to me. Specifically, if indoor cats counted. Say you visit a friend and their black cat crosses the hallway you’re walking down, does that still count? Whose responsibility would it be on if you were indeed cursed? Furthermore, if we supposed that black cats crossing your path did indeed possess the ability to foredoom your fortune (whether or not it was existent prior to the black-cat-crossing), how would it work? Would it be as soon as the cat’s path intersected your own? Or merely traversed your lane perpendicularly? Or does it have to complete the spell that is crossing my path completely?

And what about Catwoman? If we supposed that she existed in the real world, unknown vigilantes notwithstanding, would she be perpetually hexed? What about those poor cats that she put in her motorcycle bags in this year’s Batman movie? Does she become a moving hex, cursing unwary motorists as she travels about? Does every left turn Catwoman makes at an intersection become a mass cursing incident with dozens of hexed souls?

There are just so many questions to answer about the mysterious black cat and the superstitious belief about crossing my path, which is another reason I selected the aforementioned quote. And to save you the trouble, here it is again: “A black cat crossing your path signifies that the animal is going somewhere.”

Being that we’re all writers, readers, and generally sentient beings, I have no doubt that there are a dozen other ways to interpret deeper meanings from Groucho Marx’s quote, such as the fact that maybe the black cat is a metaphor. Perhaps it’s one for that accursed stranger visiting town to start yet another story, a cat that genuinely is bad luck, or something more obscure, like a pandemic. Maybe River & South Review is the cat. But sometimes, a cat is just a cat, no matter how much ruin it might or might not bring you.

And at the end of the day, isn’t that what it’s really all about? The cats that cross our paths on the roads we travel? The answer to that is no, probably. 

Of course, I also know that depending on where you get your news from, it has been pretty grim. Between the war in Ukraine, a pandemic on its umpteenth revision, and a treasure trove of good news domestically, there’s a lot going on. So much so that you might even consider the current happenings as the result of a truly massive black cat crossing our planet’s path in recent history. And doesn’t that raise even more questions? Like when did this cosmic black cat specter hit us with not just its left hook, but its right hook too? Did this happen back in 2012 or did we collectively miss the fifty-year-old memo in the planning department over in Alpha Centauri? 

Whatever the case, I’m sure we’re all ready for Mr. Bones’ Wild Ride to be over and for some good news to start creeping back in our everyday lives. You might even be looking forward to there being some highly anticipated story involving a black cat in our latest issue of River & South Review as a small morsel of good news. 

It is at this time that I must regret to inform you, dear reader, that there are no stories or poems featuring black cats in our latest issue of River & South Review. Truth be told, I’m also wondering if any of our past submissions have ever featured black cats. It’s unlikely, but you’ll never know unless you look. And thanks to the digital age we all live in, you can read through any of our past issues online if you are determined enough.

But if that sort of thing isn’t your cup of tea, don’t feel too bad about it. Instead, I’d recommend checking out our most recent issue. We’ve got a solid selection of poems, a sublime selection of creative nonfiction, and a sophisticated selection of fiction for your reading pleasure. So grab yourself a light snack and/or drink, stop pressing your tongue against your teeth, relax your shoulders, and kick up your feet as you peruse our issue’s curated creative work— we’re confident that it won’t disappoint.

[adjective] regards,

William Billingsley
Managing Editor
River & South Review