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My tarot card reader’s first card was The Jackass. Hey, I said, that’s not even a real Tarot card! She merely held up the palm of her hand. You bought the businessman’s lunch special, did you not? I couldn’t argue with her. The next card was The Plumber. I stifled my tongue. In quick succession: The Bodega Owner. The Platypus. The Prince of Teapots. The Refrigerator
Repairman. The Dry Cleaner. The Driver’s License Clerk at the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Death. Death? Oh, come on! Again, the upraised palm. Death is not always literal. Sometimes it just means the bathroom is out of order. I had to ask: What about me? She told me for the
answer to that question I needed to upgrade to the platinum package, for which she would throw in a scalp reading and coupon for a free car wash at the Ultra-Shine down on 149th Street. Hastily, I forked over the extra twenty-five clams. You are at a crossroads, she said. You can go one way, or the other. Yes! I said. Which way? Exactly, she said. I’m confused, I said. Are you telling me to follow my heart? NO, she said, slamming her hand on the table. Your heart is a liar! Your heart is a thief! Your heart is a betrayer! Then I follow my head? I asked. NO! She slammed her hand down again. Your head is a monster! Your head is a trickster! Your head is a fool! So—what do I follow? She swept the cards from the table, said, How should I know? and vanished in a puff of smoke. Hey, my car wash, I began—but I knew she was gone forever, for such are the vagaries of the fortune teller. Caveat emptor, I thought. Next time, I would just buy a fortune cookie.
James Brunel has published short fiction in Linea and in The Portland Review. He lives in Western Massachusetts and sometimes in other places, no two ever at the same time. You can make him very happy by visiting his web site “Apropopolis" at jamesbrunel.com, where you can read more of his work.
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