Mysterious Fortune

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LATE JUNE, 2000 OR 2001

I was in high school, or perhaps it was the summer I graduated. I was out and about in the city of Worcester, Massachusetts. I lived in a small town just outside it at the time. I was with my buddy Tommy in my beat up ’87 Mustang convertible, and wanted to get a cup of coffee at the coffee shop I had taken a liking to, but Tommy didn’t like the place so much so we compromised and went to a local book store that had a restaurant / cafe inside. This was the Tatnuck Bookseller, which has long since closed.

As we approached the bookshop, an old woman addressed me – she had roughly a dozen plastic shopping bags spread around her that she had been rifling through. She asked me for a cigarette, and when I made eye contact with her I got the impression she was blind – Her eyes were almost entirely cataract, all clouded and misty, and it seemed that she looked through me rather than at me. She explained that she had just bought a pack but couldn’t find it, that she must have dropped it somewhere. So I gave her one and went outside. I puzzled for a moment that she pegged me as a smoker, because I didn’t have one lit when I saw her, but shook it off.

When we got into the cafe, it was clear that they were closing up for the night, and we decided not to keep the waitstaff on just so we could order coffee. So we went back out, and the woman was still there – this time she asked for a ride to the pharmacy down the street where she had just come from with her dozen or so cumbersome shopping bags. “The doctor told me I should walk”, she said, “physical therapy, you know… I was hit by a car last year and I need to build up strength. But I’m so tired…” So of course I obliged, Tommy had to get into the back of my tiny car and she with her burden of bags got into the front. As we rolled toward the street, she made a remark about the two of us being musicians. “How’d you guess?” I asked, and she said that she just “knows things”. I asked if she was psychic, and she said she was “known to be.” She explained that she read Tarot, and I told her that I had just started learning it myself. (In fact, I got my first deck at that same book store…)

So she offered me a reading, which was no small task inside a tiny convertible, but we pulled up under the street lamp at the edge of the pharmacy parking lot and she produced a deck of cards wrapped in an ornate cloth, with an honest-to-goodness crystal ball, and proceeded to read my fortune. I don’t remember all of the details, and Tommy was barely paying attention, being a skeptic. She did say that she saw pregnancy in the cards, which was terrifying to me for obvious reasons. She insisted there was a blonde woman in my life that was a romantic interest, and I was baffled – My girlfriend at the time was of Egyptian descent, very far from blonde. At any rate, when the reading was done she scooped up her ephemera and got out of the car, taking her bags out one by one. The last bag was full of fresh cherries, and she offered me a few. I took them and she took the bag, Tommy moved to the front, and she bent to pick up her purchases – and that was the last I saw of her. I was stymied by the reading, a bit befuddled, and as I ate the cherries I tried to run over what she’d told me with my friend… but he was distracted by the fact that after bending for the bags she never reappeared. Only a minute or so had passed so I got out of the car and looked around – fairly large parking lot, nowhere she could have gone to even if she could move very quickly, but with her age and burdensome load she was carrying there was little chance of that. Her name was Clara, and I’m left with the conclusion that perhaps she didn’t survive being hit by a car…

As a capstone to the story, being as shaken up by the reading as I was I maintained little-to-no contact with my then girlfriend. The next time I saw her was a week later, at a party for Independence Day – unbeknownst to me, she had bleached her hair and was totally blonde!

Submitted by Liminal Ambassador A.P. Strange