Double Take

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A tall man with a hooked beak for a nose and heavy eyebrows stared over the wooden slats of the fence.  He wore grey sweat pants pulled up over his hips and a thin long sleeve t-shirt that outlined sharp shoulder blades and bony shoulders. Thin wrists and long, pale hands stuck out from the ends of the sleeves.  He was like a scarecrow hanging onto the fence, scaring off the birds and small rodents.

“Mike, what are you doing?” a woman asked from behind him, suddenly arriving, and seemingly appearing from out of thin air.   She had shiny, black hair and wore a pair of neon green tennis shoes and a matching athletic top.  

He gasped and tried to step back.  He stumbled, finding he was already against the fence without any additional room for his long legs to stretch.  Then he realized several things; it was just Lani and she must have walked over, she therefore did not appear from out of thin air and in conclusion, he decided that witchcraft was likely not involved.  He felt relieved and relaxed back into his original watch over the fence.  

“Hey…” he gave a sheepish greeting at his exaggerated reaction.

Lani narrowed her eyes as she tried to understand what he was doing staring over the fence.  It was not lost on her that his neighbor, Shelly, was young, single, and often sunbathed in a very itty, bitty polka dot bikini.  Lani’s heart rate increased as she felt an anger rise from her gut into her chest as she watched him continue to peer over the fence without shame or remorse.

The sound of a wail, presumably Shelly, broke her chain of thoughts. 

“Princess,” she cried out.

Mike waved her forward and motioned with his heavy eyebrows to look over the fence. 

Lani crept up to the fence and saw that Shelly was not the target of the man’s attention.  Rather, it was a lump of fur that lay on its side in the grass. 

“Something’s wrong with Princess,” Mike whispered in an astute observation.

“Help!” Shelly called, perhaps sensing a nearby audience, “someone help me with Princess.”

Shelly knelt down next to the dog as Mike and Lani made their way around the fence, leaving one yard to enter another. 

“She just got back from the groomer and I let her out and the next thing I know she’s on her side breathing like that.”

The dog was on the smallish size but not so small to fit in a purse.  Its fur was longish but not long enough to get knotted, and it wore a bedazzled pink collar, not bedazzled enough for Dolly Parton, but bedazzled enough to suit a dog named Princess.

Princess lay on her side, she drew in ragged gasps of air.  Her side rose and fell as she stared straight ahead with unseeing, dull brown eyes.  

“This is not good,” Lani surmised as she knelt next to Shelly and the animal.

“What happened? What’s wrong, Princess?” Shelly asked, not believing the scene as it unfolded in front of her. 

The dog slowly breathed in and out and then gave one last puff of air.  Its side did not rise again as Shelly and Lani kneeled next to the animal and Mike towered above the gathering.

“Princess, princess, can you hear me? Hang in there with me.  Princess?” Shelly ran her hand along the dog’s side and held her head in her hand.  

“She needs CPR. Chest compressions.  Step back, Shelly.”

Lani crossed her index and middle fingers on the dog’s chest and pumped to the beat of “Stayin’ Alive” by the BeeGees, just like she learned for an infant in Beginner’s CPR.

“This isn’t working, I have to get her to the vet,” Shelly whimpered. “I’m going to get the car. Will you bring her out to the drive way?”  

Lani exchanged glances with Mike.

A vet was not going to help Princess, there was nothing shy of a water-into-wine, roll away the stone type of a miracle that would bring that dog back to life.  It wouldn’t be long before she started to stiffen up with rigor mortis, hopefully, the vet could break the news about the miracle shortage before that happened. 

After the car peeled out with the dead dog stowed away into the backseat, Lani turned to Mike.

“What happened back there, really?”

“Princess was barking and I was picking up twigs in the yard.  She barked and barked and barked and wouldn’t stop and I stood up and looked at her.  That’s all I did, I swear, and she just sort of stopped and fell over onto her side,” he raised one hand and placed the other over his heart in a solemn oath of truth.

“You killed Princess?” Lani asked.

Her tone changed and she narrowed her eyes for the second time and started walking backwards towards the road, away from this yard and this man and this clear case of evil intent.  She repeated herself but this time, there was no question about it.  It was a fact and a statement, “You killed Princess.”

 

Short Fuse

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Norm raised his hand feigning respect, “I was just wondering,” he started and hesitated, “I already know the answer, but I want to hear you say it.”

A silver bracelet fell down his forearm with his hand still in the air. He wore a turquoise ring on his middle finger that was as large and obnoxious as his personality.

He continued. “Do you think it is necessary to read poetry in order to write it?”

The instructor also wore silver; hammered half-moons dangled from her ears.

“Yes, you have to read…”

“Wait a minute, I wasn’t finished with my question,” he interrupted the instructor’s soft stream of words.

A snarl started to spread over my face.

The instructor took a deep breath and removed her glasses, a two-step, Norm-deflecting technique to regain her inner peace.

Without waiting for the instructor’s response, he continued. “What I was driving at…”

Norm went on but I could no longer hear him. I did not practice Norm-deflecting techniques. Red filled my eyes and the room went silent. I could only hear the pounding of blood in my head and feel my heart beating in my chest.

Like battle drums. Boom. Boom. Boom. They demanded action.

I leapt from the back row up and over the shared table-desk with the war cry of a wild Borneo monkey.
“Aieeeeeeeeeeeee….”

I landed square on Norm’s fat back and he stopped talking.

“Shut up!” I thought I screamed and shook his head mercilessly.

Later, I learned my words came out as a continuation of the newly acquired Borneo monkey language.

Norm grabbed at his chest as his eyes bulged out and his greasy, worm-lips moved with wordless gasping.

It looked like he was mouthing either, “Get help,” or more likely, “I’ll sue you for this.”

A few minutes later the ambulance arrived and Norm was carried out on a stretcher.

The drumbeat no longer called for battle;it announced victory.

It’s been a few months and I now have a lot of Norm-and-others-like-Norm deflecting techniques to use. The judge won’t like to hear this but even after all of the therapy, medication, and electroshock, I can’t help but to feel like a hero.

A certified, bonafide hero.

The April Fool

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Freedom doesn’t mean much until it’s gone.

Deb never knew about the danger of healthcare until she started to really use it. Her diabetes got out of control, so she started going to the ER. She became what is called a “frequent flier” and got tagged as a high cost patient. A team was quickly dispatched to figure out what was driving these frequent visits and put a fix to things before the costs rose any higher.

The team sent her for testing and to specialists for this and that, they reviewed her medications and medical records and came to a conclusion. She was a slow learner with a poor memory and should no longer work, live by herself, handle her own medications or finances.

Wow, what an amazing conclusion made by the team. She should be made an inmate in someone’s home, better yet, maybe have her arrested and taken to prison for being too much trouble, medically speaking.
The team looked around the office once they reached their conclusion for someone to give Deb the good news. Her problems were over. The team had figured everything out.

“There’s really no point in explaining the tests to her, it’s not like she’ll remember.” One team member said to the uproarious laughter of his colleagues.

“You are always good for a laugh,” one woman in scrubs said, red in the face from the funny joke.

They put their heads together in a huddle, like a team preparing to take the field, and came out of it with a plan.

They chanted, “Send in the social worker, send in the social worker, send in the social worker.”

I nodded and straightened up my shoulders, stood a little taller and prepared to take the invisible chains of future bondage into Deb. The team lined up and patted my backside as I walked past them and said encouraging things, like “Go get ‘em” and “Keep your head up.”

There was no time for stretching or to run a few plays first, I had to get to Deb before they did.

I knew what to do.

I walked into the room and closed the door. Deb sat on a chair with a massive purse overflowing with Kleenex’s and crumpled papers on the chair next to her. I stood in front of her and put my hands on her shoulders.

In my most serious voice, I whispered, “You need to leave right now and never come back. Go as far as you can and then keep going. Don’t answer any calls or sign paperwork from these people; they want to take your freedom from you. They want to take your life.”

She cocked her head to one side and looked blankly at me for a minute. Then she started laughing showing her strong white teeth. It was a big, hearty laugh that surprised the team, waiting outside, listening with a cup to the door.

“You people are always joking in here. April’s Fool’s Day, I get it. How much longer is the wait?”

I shook my head, “For you, not much longer. Your troubles are just about to be over.”

Free Time

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Ida struggled with most everything. Her kids were wild-bad, her paycheck was too small, and now her health was in a downward spiral. She tried not to think about any of it too often. Like her ma, and her ma’s ma before her, she trudged forward in life until the day that she felt would come sooner than later.

Today, she quite literally trudged through the snow and ice up five blocks to her home from the bus stop. Her entire body ached. She cleaned all day, mopping and sweeping, scrubbing and dusting. Day after day, the routine was the same. It was easy. There was no thinking involved, she could check out and go through the motions. It was the physical effort that was slowly draining her of life.

All she could think now was how to put one cold foot in front of the other in order to reach her front door. Dull pain came from her frozen toes in the end of her cheap shoes. Snow had melted through the canvas and soaked into her thin socks. Ida tried to make herself remember to wear an extra pair of socks for the walk home tomorrow.

What does it matter? she argued with herself. You’ll be home soon enough, just like every other day. She chastised herself, Stop complaining. Think about those Johnsons, they have it worse than you on any day of the week. What you need to do is drop off a plate of food for them next time you get a chance.

Ida felt good about this plan. The Johnsons were her neighbors with too many kids and never enough to eat. They weren’t too proud to beg or above filching anything that wasn’t tied down for resale elsewhere. Somehow they managed seven people in a two bedroom apartment. It was more chaotic than cozy.

“Oh, Praise the Lord,” Ida shouted as she stepped onto the broken and cracked front steps of her apartment building. Almost there, she told herself and willed herself inside and up two more flights of stairs, one step at a time. Finally, she made it through the door and collapsed onto a ratty red couch. It was covered with a number of pillows in various sizes and colors, equally as ratty as the couch.

Silence greeted her. The wild-bad kids were out running the streets again. At least they turned off the tv before they left, she thought. She used to try and fool herself when she left them for work by saying, “At least they have that nice group of friends.” Now she knew they were in a gang, not that she liked it. There was little that upset or shocked her these days. What could she do?

A fly buzzed past her from the window and landed on the wall. It watched her with as much curiosity as a fly in a section-8 apartment could muster while navigating around drafts and strips of fly paper. Ida shook out a handful of pills from a bottle in her purse. The fly crept closer to see better, hopeful of something to eat. It flew to her shoulder in joyful anticipation.

“Shoo fly,” Ida said. “I’m tired and hurting. I need to rest.”

Disappointed, the fly buzzed by her face and off to investigate the kitchen again for real food.

Ida grabbed a crocheted blanket from the back of the couch and pulled it over her aching body as she gulped down the handful of pills and prepared to sink into the dark oblivion of sleep that would leave her rested just enough to get up and do it again tomorrow.

No more, no less.

Believers: Fiction

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It was early in the still-black morning when I awoke with a shriek. The numbers on my wrist watch floated like a glowing orb above my face as I held my arm up and tried to determine the time. Time was a part of the living world and knowing my place in it meant I belonged. As I made out the numbers, the dream image began to slip from my mind and like smoke, it was gone.

Yet, I still felt it. Long after a fire burns out, the smoke lingers. Likewise, I had a chill and felt a sickness in my stomach, something was wrong. I grabbed for my sleeping husband out of instinct as my lifeline to the living; he would surely ground me. I found his hand and did not feel calm, instead, a slow panic started. It felt strangely cold and stiff.

Then I opened my eyes and screamed for the second time of the morning.

I held the skeleton hand of my husband. His smooth, cool wedding ring slipped off into my hand. The cat, startled from my cry, leapt from the foot of the bed and scrambled to hide behind the curtain. A ray of bright moonlight streamed into the room, illuminating the bones resting on the pillow next to me.

When I stopped screaming, I didn’t wonder long at what happened.

This was vodou.

Earlier the day before, he balked at the cost of admission to the Field Museum which included a pass to a special exhibit. This special exhibit had come straight from Haiti and was an immersion into vodou (also known as voodoo, but not to be confused with Louisiana voodoo).

There was no way for him to have known that the cashier not only practiced vodou but had also mastered the darker side of it.

The cashier looked back and forth between us as we discussed the cost, listening big with her small ears. Large hoop earring swung with each turn of her head, tugging at her brown earlobes, lower and lower. I sensed an ally in her. Female intuition.

“Think of the cultural experience,” I reasoned.

“You will take more away from it than you know,” the cashier added with a nod.

She looked at the line behind us and gave an impatient grunt. She began to drum her long, natural nails on the keyboard of the cash register, clicking against each key. Our connection was wearing thin, quickly.

When we finally decided to check it out and bought the tickets, the cashier gave me a wide smile of forgiveness. We had clearly made the right choice and it didn’t take so long. On handing the tickets over the counter, her face fell into a scowl when my husband reached for them. Silently, she watched us walk away and muttered something when she thought we were out of earshot. Apparently, he was not included in the alliance.

“Next,” she yelled out behind us for the couple behind us to come forward.

I looked back to give farewell wave of appreciation and she was gone. The ticket line remained but the cashier was nowhere in sight. She must have gone on break, I thought. Good for her.

We walked off to explore the museum, forgetting about the cashier and her words, in our shared tourist joy.

It took a few hours, but the cashier delivered on her promise. She conjured up the help of a mischievous skin and organs snatching spirit and sent it over state lines to punish, perhaps, and to send a message.

Point proven, it was worth the admission fee, but I didn’t need to be convinced.

We are all believers, now.

Image:http://theculturetrip.com/caribbean/haiti/articles/vodou-flags-between-the-terrestrial-and-the-spiritual-/

Additional sites about vodou:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haitian_Vodou

The Bird’s Oatmeal

“Strange, isn’t it?” the woman asked and stared out the window.  

She dried a wineglass as she did so, carefully wiping the crystal dry.  There were only four glasses left from the original set, she thought with sadness.  Clumsiness would be her downfall as it had been for much of her wedding china.

“What?” her husband asked, blissfully unaware of the broken glasses and dishes.   Each broken piece was treated as evidence of what his wife called “the dropsies” to be disposed of as quickly as possible.    

“The light, it’s just so eerie.  Everything looks fresh and alien at the same time.   The grass doesn’t seem real, it’s like each blade was just shaved from a block of green.”

She’s such an unusual little dreamer, the man thought as he flipped through a pile of letters.   

He got up and peeked out the window, the sky was dark.  Yet, the trees and grass were illuminated from just a few cracks in the heavy clouds.  He pushed the window up and warm air rushed in bringing the smell of rain and dirt.

The outside world was dry and still.  Leaves hung motionless from branches and then began to shiver as a gentle wind blew in and began to swell.  The gentle wind turned into a bullying gust and roared around the trees, shaking the limbs and branches.  Flowers and leaves flew up into the air and swirled with bits of dirt and dust. 

The window slammed shut on its own with a loud bang.  The man jumped back wine and knocked a wineglass from the rack.  It crashed to the ground and the set was reduced once again.

The next morning, the man left before the sun was up for work.

An alarm went off and the woman lay in bed, fighting the desire to fall back to sleep.

Throwing off the covers, she knew that she had to get up and go to work if she wanted to keep her job.  She shook her head, no, that wasn’t right.   She couldn’t care any less about the job, but her husband minded.   He cared a good deal that she was employed and they were able to pay the bills. 

She looked out the window and gasped.  The yard was covered with broken limbs, branches, leaves and random pieces of trash caught up in the storm.  Water still dripped from the edges of the window.  The woman wrapped herself in an old coat, slipped into a pair of rubber garden shoes and stepped outside.

The sky was overcast and the air felt damp and cool.  It must have stormed all night, she thought, trying to remember if she heard thunder or lightning.  Still wondering, she started to pick up the debris and soon had an armful that she dropped next to the house.  She planned to bag the pile up after work and shuddered at the thought of how she had to spend the next eight hours of her life.

A rustling in the grass near the pile she just dropped caught her attention.   It didn’t slither or weave back and forth, which provided some comfort as she leaned closer to investigate.

“A baby bird!” she exclaimed. 

She crouched next to the bald little creature as it flapped its wings and hopped up and down.  It begged for help with each chirp.  Food, shelter, a sweater, anything will do at this time, it seemed to say.

The woman looked around, no nest, no mommy bird, no worms.  This is bad for you, baby bird.

The bird locked eyes with the woman and starting hopping towards her, uninhibited by the fear that should have sent it in the opposite direction.  Desperation leads creatures and humans alike to make peculiar choices, not easily explained or repeated, but driven out of the need to survive.                

Unable to watch a creature suffer, the woman held her hands out and scooped up the chirruping bird, against all warnings she ever heard.

She brought it inside and made a cozy home out of a Kleenex box for the bird and called off work for the day.  

The bird grew fat and healthy on oatmeal and crushed worms.  It moved out of the Kleenex box and into an old wire cage that the woman found filled with colorful scarves at a thrift store.   She had a standing order for a box of night-crawlers each week at nearby bait shop.  Glossy, blue feathers covered the bird’s body.  They trailed behind the bird, a royal train of color.  Each morning, it woke the couple up with trills and tra-la-la’s as it flew into their room, hungry for crushed worm and oatmeal.   It took to riding on the man’s shoulder and cuddling on the woman’s neck in the evenings.  During the day, the bird flew about the house without restraint.

They grew old together, the couple and the bird. 

The woman shook her head, no, that isn’t right. What bird eats oatmeal? That’s just what you like for breakfast. 

The bird locked eyes with the woman and hopped toward her.  

“What kind of life could we really give you?”

It kept hopping, closer and closer, demanding a decision. 

Hold-out

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The man sat on an upturned bucket next to a jug of cheap wine.  He stared out the window with bleary, blood-shot eyes.  Despite all logic and the warnings of his wife, he knew he was making the right decision.  What was he anyways, as a man without a home?  I’ve never lived in an apartment and I’m not about to start, he reasoned.

A car slowed in front of the home and pulled into the drive.  The man’s heart beat quickened.  He walked to the window and peered out from the side to avoid detection from the outside.  A couple stepped out from each side of the car, beaming with excitement.  It was time to take a stand, the man thought, they’re here. 

The man heard the front door open and steeled himself for what was to come. 

“Oh my God, someone’s here,” the woman exclaimed.

Muddy boot tracks led down the hallway to the den and the door was shut. 

Why was the door closed, the young man silently wondered with a sick feeling, afraid his wife was right.  He tried not to jump to conclusions, but instinctively wanted to protect the woman from whatever was on the other side of the door. 

“Stay back here while I check the door,” he said.

 He bravely walked forward and tried to open the door.  It was locked.

“Try to push it, maybe it’s just stuck,” his wife tried to help.

 “I can’t turn the door knob, it’s definitely locked,” he said over his shoulder.

“Who’s in there?” he demanded.

“Listen kids, the deal’s off.  I’m not leaving,” the man behind the door explained in a gruff voice.

 His mind was set, this was his house.  Paperwork from the bank could never change that, he thought.  He would find the money the bank wanted.  He looked around and put his hand on the wall, I put this up.  I ran electricity into this room and I built that staircase.  Why should I walk away from all this and let a pair of brats move in?

The man paced back and forth, I bet they never did a full day’s worth of work in their lives.  They don’t deserve this.  He was more resolute than before, he would move back in and they would leave.

The pair heard the man clomping back and forth in heavy boots.  They knew exactly who was on the other side of the door and worried what it would take for him to leave their house.   There was nothing left to negotiate, the deal was done and money already changed hands.

“You need to leave before I call the police,” the young man said.

“Do it, I’ll explain that I’m the rightful owner and you are trespassing,” the old man yelled through the door.    

“There’s something wrong with this guy.  What if he has a gun? ” the woman whispered. 

Indeed, on the other side of the door, leaned neatly against the wall was a shot gun.  It was the man’s just-in-case-insurance policy that he had taken out as precaution.

“Ok, I’m calling the police now,” the man announced and dialed 911.

The woman walked back towards the front door and called Brenda, the real estate agent who sold them the house.  They had just closed a week ago and went out to dinner afterwards to celebrate. 

“Brenda, we have a situation,” the woman said quietly into the phone.  She quickly explained the predicament with confidence that Brenda would have a solution. 

“I was afraid of this with him,” Brenda responded gravely. 

The woman heard Brenda yell to someone in her office, “We’ve got a hold out situation on Central and 50th.”

“Honey, hang in there and don’t worry.  I’ve dealt with this before and I’m on my way.”    

The woman breathed a sigh of relief, there was a name and a protocol for this circumstance, and it would all be over very soon.  

If only…

“When are you getting up tomorrow?” the man asked his wife.

The man focused on setting the alarm on his phone, while his wife sat on the edge of the bed and pulled off her socks.  She threw the socks, one after the other, to the floor.

“Whenever I feel like it,” she replied without looking at her husband.

The man raised his eyebrows, silently questioning the sock-less woman next to him. 

“I quit my job today and I’ll tell you why I did it,” she said calmly.

The man listened attentively and wondered how his wife had kept her little secret from him for so long.  Usually, she was bursting with excitement when she had a piece of news to share.   He felt conflicted, he was relieved his wife finally did what they had discussed so many nights, but upset that she waited so long to tell him.  I’m sure she has her reasons, he though t and waited.  She always filled the silence if he waited.

The woman continued speaking as she fluffed her pillows.

“They tried to make me work on Good Friday,” she explained with a straight face.

Her husband laughed in disbelief. 

“It wasn’t the guns, gang bangers, bed bugs, drugs or abuse that did it for you?” he asked.

“Nope,” his little wife said, settling down into her freshly fluffed pillows.

She breathed a sign of relaxation.  Her pillows felt perfect as her head sank down, surrounded by downy feathers and cotton. 

“I never minded all of that,” she said, reflecting on the day. 

Her husband propped himself up on one elbow and stared at her in confusion. 

“What? Really?” he asked.

“Yup, the clients were never really the problem.  It was always the management, safe in their clean, little offices, pushing papers and pressing for more rules and deadlines.   My clients were just trying to get by from day to day with next to nothing.” 

She reached over and turned off her bedside light with a click. 

“How could I begrudge them for surviving?” 

For Baby

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A polished, dark car pulled off of the highway into the parking lot of a rest area/truck stop.  The car parked next to one the last piles of dirty, melting snow, a memento of the long winter.  Crushed beer cans and a bag of discarded fast food was balled up by the trash can.  There was a set of restrooms with glowing vending machines.  Off to the side of the restrooms were wooden picnic tables with a swing set and a rusty slide.  Although being a place to accommodate most people in need of a break from the road, the rest area was eerily empty. 

The driver’s side door to the only car in the lot swung open and a pair of long legs belonging to a woman stepped out in a pair of perfectly tailored and pressed khakis.  She adjusted her sunglasses, straightened her jacket and took a deep breath.  Immediately, she started walking around the snow pile and scanning the brown grass under the slide.  Her phone rang from inside of her pocket; she squeezed it to silence the noise.  She was on a mission and not to be distracted or deterred.

—-

On the way to the rest area, the woman stopped at a coffee house and ordered a double shot Americano.  She thoughtfully stared out the window of the shop with the cup in one hand. 

The woman whispered, “For Baby,” as she brought the cup to her mouth.  

She drank the hot liquid with purpose; it was for the strength and speed to complete her single most important task.

—-

After the woman walked the entire grounds of the rest area, she dejectedly got back into her car.  She put her hands on the steering wheel and pressed her forehead against the cool steering wheel.  She was searching for a sign, a scrap of pink satin or ribbon, a white shoe or sock.  Anything would do, if only she had something to give to the family.

She felt a strange sense of responsibility that weighed heavy on her chest for what happened.  It was a thought on her brain before going to sleep at night and when she awoke in the morning, it was still there.

Baby was out there, maybe buried under that last pile of dirty snow, her dark, plastic lashes closed over real glass eyes, waiting to be found and reunited with her inconsolable four year old owner.      

Two Brown Boys: a psychic reading.

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The day was cold, of course, it was February in Indiana. 

“Whoa,” the woman said, as she tried to stop at an intersection. 

The brakes in her car were useless against four tires packed with ice and an untreated road.  She scanned the intersecting streets for danger.  No cars in any direction, she gratefully noted with the mildest sense of relief. 

Inside of her chest, her heart pounded and sent a rush of blood to her head.  The woman felt the hot life force pulsing in her temples and fill the vein that ran across her forehead. 

“Please stop,” she pleaded with her car, as she slid sideways towards the stop sign.  

Finally slowing to a stop, the woman opened her eyes.  She realized that she had squeezed them shut in preparation for an impact, as though not seeing it happen would make it hurt less. 

“Get it together,” she told herself, and continued to drive. 

The radio blasted the voice of Phil Collins as she firmly placed her gloved hands at ten and two on the wheel.  She resolved to be cautious, but was not deterred from her mission.

 

The woman sat across from the psychic on the edge of her chair.  They were separated by a glittering, sequin covered table.  The psychic straightened the shimmering cloth out, and explained, “It’s good for gathering energy.”

I’m not ready for this, the woman nervously thought.  Fears of becoming a psychic junkie crossed her mind, becoming desperate for answers and contact, willing to spend her last twenty dollars for just a few minutes.

What if too much of the past or future was revealed or it opened her to the darkness?     

She looked at the closed door and suddenly felt imprisoned in the small room.  A deep well of vulnerability lay just beneath the woman’s thin layer of skepticism and confidence.  She slid back in her chair, until her back was straight and her feet square on the ground.  The chair gave her a form; she sat erect and expressionless. 

The psychic curiously watched the small woman, contained and controlled.  She was amused at what could have compelled this stranger to sit at her table.  

The women carefully sized one another up. The psychic appeared scattered and free.  Her messy blonde hair was thrown up into a clip, leaving dark, brown roots exposed.  She crossed her legs at the ankles, showing maroon socks with leather sandals.  

“Before we get started, I must know your sign,” the psychic asked dramatically. 

The woman took a tiny sip of something from a paper cup she had been clutching, “Aries,” she spluttered, choking on her words and the liquid.  A second later, her inner skeptic broke through and she thought, Shouldn’t you know that already? 

“Yes, I could tell,” the psychic confirmed, as though reading the woman’s mind.

“An Aries, quite naturally.  You are very head strong and passionate.”  The psychic’s eyes were closed as she pressed both index fingers to her temples.    

“I’m seeing brown boys.  Two, little brown boys in your future,” she said, as she channeled her spirit guides from the cosmos.   

“Are you married?” the psychic asked as an afterthought. 

Duh, the woman thought as she turned the diamond ring and wedding band on her left hand, the woman replied, “Yes, I am, but he isn’t brown.”

“Doesn’t matter,” the psychic said, “they’re in your future.”  

The woman unconsciously leaned closer to the psychic. Her dark eyebrows furrowed in question as her brain worked to make sense of what the psychic just prophesied.

“Pick three,” the psychic said after she set a pile of tarot cards in front of the woman on the sparkling tabletop.

Compliant as usual, the woman drew three cards from the middle and placed them face down.

“Another two, now.”

With an inward roll of her eyes, the woman slid two more cards from the top of the deck and placed them face down, as well.  

The psychic flipped over the first card, “Ah, I see.  You must follow your heart.” 

She flipped over a second card and commented, “Very good, the creator, you will have no problems getting the brown boys.”

Then she flipped over a third card, and a dark shadow crossed her face. She flipped over the next card, and pursed her lips without saying a word. 

The psychic left the last card unturned on the table and held up the deck to the woman, “Go ahead, pick one more.” 

The woman pulled out one last card, as asked and flipped it over. “Death?” she asked, reading the name of the card.

“Nothing to worry about, it really means you will have a new start.  Just do what you want and enjoy yourself. Everything is just fine, nothing to worry about,” the psychic said and glanced at her watch. 

“Time’s up,” she announced. 

The psychic stood up and she placed her hand on the woman’s shoulder.  She looked deep into her brown eyes with real concern.

“Take care of yourself, ok.   This one’s on me.  Don’t worry about paying.”

“Thanks,” the woman gushed.  “Wow!  That really is great, I feel like a million bucks.  Nothing to worry about. Wow!  I guess the doctors don’t know everything, huh.”

The woman walked out and the psychic watched with sadness in her eyes and thought, No, they certainly don’t know everything.