Marianne put on her gauzy, colorful peasant blouse and long billowing skirt. She reached into the drawer and pulled out a purple scarf that complemented the colors in her blouse. She wrapped the scarf loosely around her neck in an effort to cover the folds that women of a certain age refer to using a term describing a part of the bird commonly served on Thanksgiving. She opened the large jewelry box that her grandmother had bought her for her 21st birthday. She selected a pair of large hoop earrings and several strands of beads in varying lengths and put them on.
In the bathroom, she sat down on the edge of the bathtub facing the vanity and pushed the switch causing the frame of the magnifying mirror to light up. A small gold colored basket held her make-up. She brushed some dark pink blush on the apple of each cheek before carefully applying black liner to her upper and lower eyelids and several coats of mascara to her lashes. She reached for the tube of deep mauve lipstick and colored her lips, smacking them a couple of times. A glance in the mirror reflected a gypsy woman.
It was time to go to work. She got into her son’s battered Volkswagen and backed out of the garage of her suburban home. She only used this vehicle to drive back and forth to work. The Maxima stayed in the garage for now.
At the downtown section of this bedroom community she drove into a driveway and parked on the grass behind a tiny house. There was enough room for two other cars.
Marianne unlocked the back door and entered the house into the kitchen. She immediately put the teapot on the stove. Then she pushed aside the curtain separating the front room from the kitchen and kicked off her red shoes. They landed perfectly – one standing up and the other lying next to it. Even though it was a sunny day, she lit scented candles to set the mood. Everything was ready, so she walked around the little table to the front door and flipped the sign over from “Closed” to “Open.” Above the door was one word painted on a piece of wood: READINGS.
The kettle was whistling. Marianne walked back to the kitchen and put an aromatic teabag in a china cup. As she poured the water and rested the cup on the saucer she heard bells jingling as the front door opened. Returning to the candlelit room, Marianne saw a young woman standing tentatively inside the door.
“I made you a cup of tea,” she said to the stranger.
“How did you know…I’d be coming in?” the woman said.
Marianne smiled cryptically.
“Have a seat,” she said. “Make yourself comfortable and have a sip of tea.”
The stranger sat down with her back to the door and Marianne sat opposite her. On the table was an unadorned wooden box. Marianne tapped it three times before opening it. Looking down, as if she didn’t know what she’d find inside, she hesitated. Then she took out the deck of Tarot cards.
“Relax,” she told the stranger. “I know you’ve never done this before but I’m glad you decided to come today. It’s the perfect day for your first reading.”
The woman put down the teacup and Marianne handed her the cards.
“Shuffle them three times,” she said, “and then put them on the table.”
The woman looked frightened but she picked up the cards and did as she was told.
Marianne tapped the deck three times and picked it up. She started arranging the cards face down in a circle on the table. Then slowly, one by one, she turned them face up, starting at the top and working her way around the in a counterclockwise direction.
“I’m Marianne. What’s your name?” she asked.
“Eleanor, something’s troubling you. According to the cards, you’re having a problem relating to a job. Have you recently left your job?”
“Yes. I was laid off last week,” she said.
“Ah, and I see you are worried about how you’re going to pay the bills.”
“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” said Eleanor.
“You see this card here? The five of coins? That tells me that you have lost one job but another will turn up quickly. It won’t pay as much but you’ll like it better.”
“Really?” Eleanor asked hopefully.
“Yes. The card to the right is the Queen of Hearts. That means that your new job will bring you a new relationship that will affect your life in a positive way. A new friend,” Marianne told her.
The reading lasted about 15 minutes. Eleanor finished her tea and was smiling when Marianne gathered the cards up and put them back into the box. Eleanor opened her purse and took out two bills, a twenty and a five. She was glad she had come in. She wondered what she would be doing at her new job. She thanked Marianne, stood up and left.
Marianne had grown up thinking that her grandmother had special powers that gave her the ability to read cards. Otherwise, how could she be so accurate?
“Nobody comes to a reader when everything is going well,” her grandmother had explained. “People come when they are worried or depressed. The goal of the reader is to send them out feeling better than when they came in. You simply use common sense.”
Marianne reflected upon how easy it was for her to make people happy. She, too, had been laid off due to the recession. She had to think outside the box in order to find a way to pay her mortgage. Two weeks ago, she had searched in a drawer for the Tarot cards and got creative. She had never done readings but her grandmother’s words had not been lost on her.
Excerpts from Leroy Cooper's memoir as told to me during conversations that took place during the 2 years we knew each other. I also write humor, flash fiction, celebrity interviews, real and made up stories--see if you can guess which are which.