EXCERPT: Brent: the Heart Reader



from Chapter One


MY FRONT room has 122 hard­wood planks that make­up the floor. It’s an exact count. Pre­cise. Some planks in the col­lec­tion have rip­ples, and all have the pati­na of wood that’s a hun­dred years old.

Din­ing room’s next. It was yes­ter­day, and I was more than halfway through the inven­to­ry of floor planks there when the phone rang. Dratz.

It had been a dif­fi­cult count because of the inter­rup­tions. I should have marked the planks that I’d count­ed to help me stay on tar­get. The liv­ing room had tak­en a week and a half, and the din­ing room was going to be as big a prob­lem. Why do I need this infor­ma­tion? Who the heck knows.

The call was for a tarot read­ing, and they were hap­py to do every­thing by phone. It was my only busi­ness yes­ter­day, and I was hap­py to get the work. She want­ed to know about some­body her daugh­ter was dat­ing.

First came the Five of Pen­ta­cles crossed by the Four of Pen­ta­cles. Ick.

Get a prenup,” I told her.

He seems so love­ly,” she said.

Then why the Sam Hill did you frig­gin’ call me, lady? I thought to myself.

Yes ma’am,” I said into the phone, try­ing to make it sound like I was smil­ing pleas­ant­ly.

Yeouch. Can I file for Workman’s Com­pen­sa­tion when I bite my tongue? I thought.

What do you see?” she asked me with a kind of British accent. I don’t think it was an upper­class accent, more like some­thing you’d find from a blue col­lar wom­an. I don’t even know if British work­ers have blue col­lars. May­be I’ll be curi­ous enough to look that up some day. Not.

The cards say there’s some­thing about trea­sure,” I told her. “There’s strug­gle com­bined with not shar­ing. It says stingi­ness is some kind of issue in there.”

Well, you’ve been right before,” she said grim­ly.

Keep that in mind, lady.

It cer­tain­ly puts me into a pick­le jar,” she added. Ick. I can already smell the vine­gar.

A few bucks that day from a phone call. That was it, and the cred­it card com­pa­ny was going to get its greedy claws into most of my prof­it. What’s most trag­ic is that the call made me lose track of my count on the floor. I was in dan­ger of not know­ing how many planks were in my din­ing room. I start­ed the count again.

I count­ed planks on the floor of the din­ing room because there was no tarot busi­ness, and that was how it was at Brent Tarot yes­ter­day.

Last week I played hide-and-seek with a squir­rel in the front yard. Freak­in’ squir­rel knew he was faster than me and taunt­ed me forever. Squir­rels laugh and bark, you know. He didn’t take our hide-and-seek as seri­ous­ly as I thought he should. Bloom­in’ squir­rel.

Click, click,” the squir­rel barked. I think that means neen­er-neen­er in squirrel’eze. Lame street squir­rel: no prop­er squir­rel would click like that.

Don’t shake that tail at me,” I warned him.

Click, click,” the squir­rel repeat­ed.

Some days I can do all sorts of things as I won­der how I’m going to pay the rent and keep the lights on. Those days are noth­ing but dust on my tarot cards.

Oh, for the qui­et— that was then. Today’s like a bunch of drunk­en gnomes who con­gre­gat­ed and brought out stacks of box­es and bags, each with a life­time sup­ply of wrinkly tor­ment and sleazy mis­chief. Hey, Louie, let’s go to Brent’s place… They went down to the U-Store-It and retrieved a bunch of dusty shenani­gans they hadn’t used in years, and they mushed it at my face like a mud­pie. And then they got on the gnome-phone to sum­mon all of their astral agi­ta­tors and trou­ble­mak­ers to come invent whole new ways to keep me at a motocross pace. My tarot read­ings were on a dou­ble black dia­mond path­way with blind curves and moguls.

If there’s one thing I hate, it’s mys­ti­cal moguls.

I was slammed, and the read­ings were all com­pli­cat­ed or full of dra­ma. It was so hec­tic that I had to turn peo­ple down who want­ed me to do read­ings. That means I was turn­ing away income, and I hate doing that. Some were reg­u­lars who’d be okay with a phone read­ing that evening.

What the hell is in freak­in’ ret­ro­grade? I asked myself. Every­body want­ed time with the sage. That’d be me. Brent and his Tarot. And everybody’s dra­ma was sen­si­tive and tan­gled and bizarre.

The crazy thing is that the whole day was noth­ing but an over­ture for my last two clients. The uni­verse stored a cou­ple of lol­la­paloozas for its great finale. Note to self: next time the uni­verse gangs up with all its gnomes and sala­man­ders, run like hell and take a job putting price stick­ers on bananas or run­ning the machine that cre­ates those bright­ly col­ored thumb­tacks. Any­thing but tarot around the­se dement­ed peo­ple with their unruly souls.

My next-to-last read­ing would be a total night­mare. The wom­an was in a foul mood. She had one of those spir­its that dripped angst, and I tried to fig­ure out how to lay out a meta­phys­i­cal drop-cloth so cleanup would be eas­ier. She brought an emo­tion­al stench to it that stunk up my entire house. She buzzed and radi­at­ed her prob­lems so the dra­ma oozed into every crack in my front room. A hun­dred year old house has plen­ty of cracks and hid­ing places for spir­i­tu­al gunk, so it was going to take me forever to get rid of her ooze. I was going to have to wash the draperies in frank­in­cense or burn them in myrrh.

Her emo­tion­al bag­gage smelled like corpse flat­u­lence. No kid­ding. And if you can’t smell somebody’s foul tem­per, thank every one of your gods and god­dess­es. Hire a whole new crew of guardian angels just so you can thank them too.

Oh, and she had all the answers, so I didn’t real­ly know why she came for a read­ing. The wom­an had ‘tude for days, snap­ping around with a fraz­zled soul that looked like hair that’s been bleached a few too many times. The edges of her aura were actu­al­ly frayed and flap­ping around in the astral breeze. Ick.

Corpse flat­u­lence is an unmis­tak­able aro­ma that link­ers for weeks in your mem­o­ry.

I com­mis­er­at­ed with her spir­it guides halfway through the read­ing. She’d exhaust­ed me in just a few min­utes, and they got her all day every day.

I’d turn over a card, and she would launch out into some tirade about this or that. On a good day, I’d just smile and think about her mon­ey. When the LOVERS card popped up, she lit into her daugh­ter who’d got­ten preg­nant by a Lati­no boy. She had issues with Lati­no boys, and she wasn’t the slight­est bit con­cerned that I didn’t appre­ci­ate racist tirades. I want­ed her to stop, but I didn’t want her to get so mad that she’d leave with­out pay­ing.

The Nine of Pen­ta­cles threw the old bid­dy into a storm of vit­ri­ol over her son.

See,” she said. “He’s hog­ging all his mon­ey.”

I see all those coins as being a token,” I told her.

Token for what?” she said in a huff. “It’s mon­ey! They’re coins.” They’re pen­ta­cles, wom­an. Do your own read­ing, if you’re such an expert,

Well,” I said, “money’s a token you get in exchange for your life’s work. All the­se cards usu­al­ly are tokens for some­thing, but it doesn’t have to be wealth. Five point­ed stars on each coin can be peo­ple. Five points is like a head, two arms, and two legs. It can be trea­sure, but it doesn’t have to be mon­ey. The nine card shows a lot of those tokens. To me, it can mean grat­i­tude.” You’d need a six point­ed star because you have two heads.

My son just moved in with his boyfriend,” she screeched. “Boyfriend!”

We didn’t even get to the boyfriend’s race. He might have been Lati­no, too. She was stuck on his gen­der and the body parts he was undoubt­ed­ly stick­ing into her son. The boyfriend might be fondling and stroking her son’s parts. Who knew the Nine of Pen­ta­cles was load­ed with such intrigue? It’s a love­ly card usu­al­ly, very ground­ed.

Mar­riage?” she sneered. “They invit­ed me to their wed­ding. Of all the dis­gust­ing— .”

I didn’t see a con­nec­tion between the nine card and the son’s new boyfriend, so all the wheels fell off my read­ing some­where. Get off The Lovers card, wom­an. We’ve moved on. We’ve turned over oth­er cards.

It could be a reminder that we should have grat­i­tude (nine) for the choic­es (Lovers) we make. That’s an inter­pre­ta­tion that fits into my world view, but I wasn’t going to try to get the lady to under­stand sub­tle con­cepts such as grat­i­tude. Any­way, the Lovers was already… wait, the daugh­ter and her boyfriend… the son and his boyfriend. All her chil­dren had found mates, and it was time for the wom­an to make her own life choic­es (Lovers). The card were say­ing the wom­an should be hap­py for her chil­dren. Okay, I’m bet­ter now. Cards win again! Gosh, they’re smart about stuff.

Poor, unfor­tu­nate wom­an: I felt sor­ry for her. I felt sor­ri­er for the kids. I want­ed to feel sor­ry for them all at some great dis­tance, but she was pay­ing to be close to me. I always set a lit­tle timer on tarot read­ings, because I can lose track of time. A client wants one hour, so I try not to spend all after­noon on the read­ing because my oth­er clients want my time too. The timer con­spired to tick slow­er than usu­al. I stared at it’s dig­i­tal dis­play count­ing down in slow motion. I threat­ened it: Tick faster or I’ll feed you to those cheeky squir­rels out­side! It didn’t lis­ten.

I want­ed to run out­side and shake my fist at the heav­ens and order the earth and plan­ets to spin faster. Let’s get a move on. That woman’s mak­ing me nuts.

The Sev­en of Swords card remind­ed her of her hus­band.

He’s cheat­ing on me,” she said.

Yeah, well I would too, Lady, I thought, visu­al­iz­ing her with a hat made of pis­ta­chio ice cream. I added a love­ly pair of pop­corn ear­rings for good mea­sure.

Okay, that’s your time, ma’am,” I said, not want­i­ng to give her any free min­utes.

But what should I do about Lory?” she snapped. The preg­nant daugh­ter. Back to real­i­ty. The pis­ta­chio hat would have to hang on a few min­utes longer.

Does she want to mar­ry the baby’s father?”


Then be hap­py for her,” I shrugged. “Be the best grand­moth­er you can be.”

She didn’t like my answer, but the timer told us that her time was up. You get up on the wrong side of your broom?

See the eight of swords here?” I said, point­ing to an upside down card, as my timer con­tin­ued to beep. “It’s reversed. You feel like you’re trapped now, but see­ing the card upside down tells me that it’s all in your imag­i­na­tion. You can break out of it if you want.”

She just stared at me for a min­ute while the timer beeped. Then she put my mon­ey on the table and walked out the screen door with­out say­ing a word, with­out giv­ing me a tip. Bless her heart, I thought, and it was the kind of bless­ing that told the Lords of Kar­ma that I was wash­ing my hands of the wom­an. They could do what­ev­er they want­ed because I had blessed her and released her.

Harm ye none, I thought. I know the rules, but it didn’t stop me from giv­ing the Lords of Kar­ma per­mis­sion to swoop down with a much-need­ed course cor­rec­tion. I real­ly thought she could use a smoke, but it’s not my place to sug­gest phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal reme­dies of murky legal­i­ty.

The whole room was all buzzy with her ener­gy. Some peo­ple come by and dump all their psy­chic tar in my home, and they just assume that’s okay. Just because they pay me for a read­ing, they think they can jet­ti­son all the sludge from their life. I have to clean it up.

The room felt awful. I was depressed just walk­ing around, but I had to act fast because I had anoth­er read­ing. One more read­ing and the day would be over. Yip­pie.

I had to get ready for that last read­ing. I didn’t want to do anoth­er read­ing, but I had rent and insur­ance and util­i­ties. I have a kind of rou­tine between read­ings because I’ve been doing this for years.

First, the cards. They were ruined for the day.

Sor­ry, guys,” I told the cards. “We’ll get you cleaned up.”

I have an alabaster box that I use to clean tarot decks full of gunk. It gets rid of all kinds of ethe­re­al detri­tus, and it works great for me. It’s like dip­ping white cot­ton in a bowl of bleach. Die, meta­phys­i­cal ick­i­ness.

I was wish­ing I could just put my whole house into my box, but the box was too small or the house was too big. Is there some mag­i­cal prop­er­ty with alabaster? Heck if I know, but a few hours in that box seems to get my cards back to a neu­tral state. It’s prob­a­bly just my imag­i­na­tion, and that’s fine. I don’t care how the box works: it just works. I need­ed to get all of that hate­ful racist’s crap off my deck of cards. I gath­ered up the tarot cards and car­ried them to the kitchen and put them in the box. I washed my hands with cold water, hop­ing to get all that woman’s emo­tion­al phlegm off me. Skin holds onto psy­chic cooties, but cold water sends every­thing down the drain.

She could call for anoth­er read­ing, but I decid­ed that I’d be busy that day. What­ev­er day she want­ed to come back, I was going to be busy.

That’s so not like me, but she was a vile crank.

I picked up one of the fresh decks I keep in the kitchen, the Han­son-Roberts deck. I put it back down. I was not in the mood for fluffy bun­nies today; not after that last read­ing. May­be a goth deck. May­be some­thing with drip­ping blood and gore and gob­lins and ban­shees and scalawags. Attack of the Major Arcana: film at eleven.

There’s a blank deck in my col­lec­tion. It’s real­ly for mak­ing your own tarot cards, but I always want­ed to use the blank deck for a read­ing. The back­ing looks like any tarot deck, but the front of each card is blank. If I’m real­ly psy­chic, then I shouldn’t need pic­tures. Right? I’m not real­ly psy­chic, so it’s just my lit­tle joke.

I grabbed two decks: Mor­gan-Greer and Yea­ger.

Yea­ger isn’t as tra­di­tion­al as my reg­u­lar Rid­er-Waite cards. I love the Yea­ger tarot, and I need­ed to be around some­thing pleas­ant after spend­ing an hour with that hor­ri­ble wom­an. Peo­ple who come for read­ings expect a tarot deck that looks like a tarot deck. Yea­ger doesn’t. It’s sen­su­ous and sexy and lush and com­fort­ing with­out resort­ing to fluffy bun­nies and pret­ty cherubs. Yea­ger is the deck I use when I’m by myself. It’s a won­der­ful deck but hard to find. Each card is almost square, not rec­tan­gu­lar like most decks. I pro­tect my Yea­ger cards because they’re almost impos­si­ble to replace the­se days. I think old­er ver­sions are sex­ier. Some­body made the artist tone things down at some point. It was sure­ly a prude at U.S. GAMES, the pub­lish­er of most decks.

God­dam prudes.

Yea­ger was going to sit on the table and be my com­pan­ion at the next read­ing. Yea­ger cards are so adorable that they’d dis­tract me too much to do a read­ing with them. I’d be quite hap­py just know­ing that Yea­ger was near­by.

Mor­gan-Greer would be the deck to use. It’s a lit­tle plain, but it has nice art­work. The lads pic­tured are cute. That racist put me off Rid­er-Waite for the rest of the day. Mor­gan-Greer was a pret­tier Rid­er-Waite, and I could use pret­tier. I won­dered if there was room to add “adult day care” to my sign out front.

God­dam day care.

Next to pre­pare: the main room. I had to ban­ish that woman’s spir­i­tu­al mucus. That part was fair­ly easy: smudge. I can light a leaf of dried white sage and walk around to clear any space. There’s some­thing about the smoke from smol­der­ing white sage that sends ener­gy scur­ry­ing for safe­ty. What­ev­er a room feels like, smudg­ing gets rid of it. It’s like cre­at­ing a kind of cos­mic vac­u­um. White sage doesn’t fill up a space with lit­tle cherubs singing Kum­baya. It would get rid of them too. Burn, lit­tle cherubs. You and your nasty lit­tle Kum­baya. Death to the fluffy bun­nies. White sage gets rid of every­thing, and a blank slate is what I need­ed. The alabaster box leaves things nice and smooth, while white sage just leaves things emp­ty.

Brent Tarot,” I said into the phone. If the caller want­ed to get a read­ing, it would have to be anoth­er day.

It’s Carmel­la from MysticWays.com,” she said. I buy some of my oils and incense from them. “I’m return­ing your call. Tell me, how’s my favorite whole­sale cus­tomer?”

I’m your only whole­sale cus­tomer.”

It’s true. Mys­tic Ways does retail, but they let me slide through at whole­sale prices because I buy things every week. Every­thing real­ly is for resale, so they’re okay with it.

I got a cus­tomer,” I told her.

Just the one, dear?” Carmel­la asked.

One of many,” I said. “I’m what the uni­verse uses when it needs a pro­to­type for New Age retail.”

Con­grat­u­la­tions,” she inter­rupt­ed.

Fun­ny. My cus­tomer has a han­ker­in’ for drag­ons blood.”

Does a kilo sat­is­fy such a han­ker­ing?” she asked.

Make it two,” I said. “And who do I need to sleep with to get that shipped out today?”

That would be me, dear,” Carmel­la said.

I’m gay, Carmel­la. Does that mat­ter?”

Not to me, sweet­ie.”


We are here to serve, dear,” she said in a play­ful­ly mock­ing voice like she was read­ing it from a script. “Same ship­ping address?”

Yup, thanks.”

Which cred­it card do you want to use?” she asked.

Yours,” I said. “Can we put it on your card?”

Don’t make me go get that box of druid bad­ness that I keep for dead­beat whole­sale cus­tomers.”

Yes, ma’am. Let’s use my Mas­ter­Card you got on file,” I told her.



Yup. Any­thing else?” Carmel­la asked.

Well, I was think­ing…” I said.

I’ve warned you about that,” she nee­dled.

I know,” I said. “You what? Nev­er mind about that. Do you still have ceram­ics?”

Some, check the web­site and let me know what you want.”

Okay, thanks.”

That’s one hell of a New Age store, or at least Carmel­la is one hell of a sales maven.

I lit a leaf of dried white sage and then blew out the flame. Smoke rose from the leaf, and I waved my free hand to send the smoke around.

I was whistling Kum­baya as I walked through the room with my smol­der­ing sage leaf when I heard him singing on the porch: “Kum­baya, my lord, kum­baya.”

Sor­ry,” I said through the screen door.

When I turned around, I saw him. I almost had a heart attack. The most studly spec­tac­u­lar gor­geous hunk in the whole and entire world was stand­ing out­side my front door, and he was ser­e­nad­ing me through the screen. He instant­ly owned my every breath and con­trolled every beat of my heart.

I have an appoint­ment,” he said.

Bab­ble, bah, buuu, bab­ble,” I think I said. How can I car­ry on a con­ver­sa­tion with this guy? There’s no way for me to con­cen­trate.

This guy would be beyond eye can­dy, if I could get through the read­ing with­out hav­ing a stroke. I’d prob­a­bly fall down with the vapors, with foam com­ing out my nose.

Swarthy and mys­te­ri­ous with a stub­ble beard and a smile that made me want to get sun­glass­es.

I wouldn’t mind gaz­ing into his exotic eyes for fifty min­utes. Bed­room eyes, if I’m not mis­tak­en. Spark­ly and dark, framed by an almost black eye­lash. Come fuck me eyes. Mmmm.

So out of my league. He didn’t look Euro­pean descent, but I couldn’t place his ances­tors. He was on the dark side but didn’t appear Mex­i­can or African, and I doubt­ed he came from India. He was from some kind of per­fect breed­ing stock.

I was going to have to wipe lots of drool off my tarot deck lat­er.

Tako­da,” he said.


I’m Tako­da.”

North or South?” I said.

Fun­ny,” he chuck­led. “North Tako­da: I get it. Hey that’s the first time I heard that one.”

Oh, Tako­da is his name. Stu­pid Brent. Stop insult­ing the gor­geous hunk.

First time today,” I said meek­ly, feel­ing every inch of my stu­pid­i­ty.

It’s Sioux,” he said. “And I’ve heard all the court­room jokes about that too.”

No Sioux jokes then. Boy named Sioux?”

He shook his head and grinned. Melt. And I thought the pack­age couldn’t get bet­ter, but his grin lit up my room.

Hi, I’m Brent,” I said, prov­ing to the uni­verse that I have thou­sands of awe­some lines of ban­ter to use in the pres­ence of one of their gods.

Cool, since your sign says ‘Brent Tarot’ I sort of fig­ured, but it could have been a lucky guess.”

Gor­geous and cheeky,” I said.

White sage,” he observed. “Is that a hint of Nag Cham­pa in the back­ground?”

It is. You want me to light anoth­er punk?”

Incense punk for my after­noon hunk. Mmmm.

There are a cou­ple of oth­er things he could light too.

Here, let me,” he said as he took a stick of Nag Cham­pa out of its box on my tarot table. He lit it and put it into one of the zil­lion incense hold­ers I keep around.

When Tako­da had the incense burn­ing, I walked up and stood in front of him. It’s not my nor­mal rou­tine, but I took both his hands and let myself feel his ener­gy engulf the room. The nice thing about white sage is that it cre­ates such an ener­gy vac­u­um that any new astral force will rush in. I want­ed to bot­tle what Tako­da was ooz­ing.

Sioux ener­gy, if that’s what I was feel­ing, was amaz­ing. He just about knocked me over like a Van de Graaff gen­er­a­tor or Tes­la coil. There’s lit­tle chance I can main­tain my seren­i­ty for the entire read­ing.

Com­po­sure. Pro­fes­sion­al­ism.

Tako­da did such a num­ber on me that I knew I couldn’t do a read­ing. My heart was rac­ing. My blood-pres­sure was peg­ging. My pants were get­ting tighter and tighter from the growth down there. Ouch: crotch pinch.

Sev­en, eight, nine, ten. I breathed deeply and exhaled slow­ly. Tako­da did the same. I squeezed his hands, and he squeezed back. He was calm­ing his mind for a read­ing. I’ve done so much tarot that I usu­al­ly don’t have to do the deep breath­ing before I start. Tako­da made me get back to the basics just because of the way I was react­ing to him.

What love­ly pheromones, you have, I thought.

Stop! I was about to cum in my pants. Very pro­fes­sion­al, Brent! Shame on you, Brent.

Sit,” I said as I stepped back. May­be if I stick to short one-syl­la­ble words, I won’t embar­rass myself too much.

I thought most Native Amer­i­cans had round faces and strong noses, but Takoda’s face was long and angu­lar. His skin was dark like I’d expect from an Amer­i­can Indi­an, but his face wasn’t what I’d expect. He had a beard that was short stub­ble, like he want­ed to look like he just didn’t shave for the day.

He was mak­ing me change all my pre­con­ceived ideas about Native Amer­i­can men.

Yea­ger,” he observed. “Sweet.”

Wow, you’re prob­a­bly the only per­son in this zip code who rec­og­nizes Yea­ger tarot.”

I use it for med­i­ta­tion,” he said.

Com­plete wow,” I glowed. “Me too. We’ll be using Mor­gan-Greer for the read­ing. I nev­er did a read­ing with Yea­ger.”

Could be inter­est­ing,” he said with a wide grin. Was that a sparkle com­ing off one tooth? The god­dess is into spe­cial the­atri­cal effects now?

May­be next time. Here,” I said as I pushed the Mor­gan-Greer deck toward him. “Shuf­fle. Add your ener­gy.”

He shuf­fled. I watched. Adored. Fan­ta­sized.

That’s inter­est­ing,” he said when he saw the first card. It was the Page of Wands. It’s one guy in a bowler hat, hold­ing a big wand. I want­ed to hold this guy’s wand, but that wasn’t on the agen­da. In the Rid­er-Waite deck, the lad is obvi­ous­ly on a flat plain or desert. Most decks have the same kind of image. Morgan-Greer’s draw­ing is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent, but Rid­er and Greer both do a young man hold­ing a big stick. Greer does a close-up, so it’s hard to know that. You just have to know your decks. He’s in a yel­low shirt or smock or some­thing, and yel­low makes me think of intel­lect. The Page cards usu­al­ly mean change of some sort. I put the Page in the mid­dle of the table and turned over the next card.

The Tow­er. Dratz.

Peo­ple hate the tow­er. It’s big and mean. There’s fire and smoke and light­en­ing bolts. Peo­ple are fly­ing out of its tiny win­dows.

I used to hate that card,” Tako­da said. “Then I real­ized I was iden­ti­fy­ing with the human bod­ies.”

You’re the tow­er, and you’re being cleansed.”

He nod­ded. It’s great doing a read­ing for some­body who’s been around tarot. Only peo­ple who’ve spent lots of time around tarot cards would know that. He knows the cards and could prob­a­bly do his own read­ing, but he came to me. I had to pay atten­tion. You can’t slack through a read­ing when the client knows the cards.

I saw a tear in his eye so I stopped and sat qui­et­ly. I was wait­ing for some sig­nal from Tako­da that I could go on.

My lover died,” he said.

Sor­ry,” I said, want­i­ng to kick myself for not hav­ing some­thing bet­ter to say. I reached across the table and put my hands on top of his.

It was a year ago,” he cried. “Tow­er card tells me to let him go. Right?”

May­be, but I don’t think The Tow­er casts off loved ones by throw­ing them out win­dows,” I whis­pered. “Tow­er card speaks to you here. All I got’s opin­ion.”

He nod­ded.

We just sat there for ten or fif­teen min­utes. He stared at the two cards on the table. I stared at Tako­da. He didn’t seem to want to con­tin­ue the read­ing, so I qui­et­ly turned off the timer.

There’d be no pay­ment for this read­ing, and that isn’t like me. The uni­verse has to stay in bal­ance, so Tako­da would even­tu­al­ly have to do some­thing for me as pay­ment for my ser­vices. He’d prob­a­bly offer mon­ey for this ses­sion, but I knew we weren’t going to fin­ish the full spread of cards. He might insist. I just want­ed to be there for him because I knew it was the right thing to do.

AIDS has tak­en so many men. I don’t know how I’d react, but I knew it must have been hard on Tako­da. So sad. I almost start­ed cry­ing to think that Tako­da might be infect­ed like is late lover.

He fought can­cer for so long,” Tako­da said.

KS?” I asked. That’s the AIDS can­cer.

No, not HIV,” he said. “Brain can­cer.”

I am so sor­ry, Tako­da.”

He cried.

We thought we had it whooped,” he whis­pered, “but it kept com­ing back. He was in so much pain, and there was noth­ing I could do.”

Were you with him?”

Tako­da nod­ded.

Then you did what a lover is sup­posed to do.”

But he died,” Tako­da cried.

He crossed over to some­place,” I said soft­ly. “We all do that. Every one of us. It’s part of liv­ing.”

Can­cer but not HIV-relat­ed. That doesn’t make it any eas­ier on my new friend, of course. It’s still can­cer. It’s still the death of a young man. A man in his twen­ties shouldn’t have to bury a lover, regard­less of what took him. It made me so sad for Tako­da, and it was obvi­ous he was fight­ing to hold on to Rune. His faint­ly brown aura told me that Tako­da was hurt­ing. His psy­che was a mess, accord­ing to the blobs of gray in his body’s ener­gy. Poor guy wasn’t this bad when he walked into my house for the read­ing, but his spir­it was crum­bling right before me. I was glad we stopped the read­ing because it was obvi­ous­ly not doing him any good. We could fin­ish it lat­er, but the read­ing served as a kind of astral triage. I had to get my client into meta­phys­i­cal inten­sive care.

His aura was so dim and small that I had to go back to the basics of see­ing spir­i­tu­al col­ors. I looked at the wall about a foot to the left of his head, and that’s the only way the aura final­ly came into view. It was faint and dull, with wavy lines like warm car hood makes on a cold day. At first I didn’t see any col­ors, but I kept my eyes on the wall and that awful brown start­ed to make itself known. Gray blotch­es came lat­er. Tako­da need­ed help, may­be more help than I could offer. But I had to try.

The sun was mak­ing the main room dark­er by the min­ute. I lit a can­dle.

Wait here,” I said as I got up to go into the kitchen. I got Tako­da a glass of water, and I brought back a box of my pri­vate spir­i­tu­al good­ies.

Thanks,” he said as he took the water. “Sor­ry. I don’t usu­al­ly cry like that.”

Shhh,” I said. “Come sit with me.”

We walked to some pil­lows on the floor in the cor­ner of the main room, and I closed the front door and turned off my “OPEN” light. Tako­da took his glass of water. I took my box of spir­i­tu­al good­ies and the can­dle. When he was com­fort­able, I rum­maged around in the box. It was just dark enough that I had to hold the box near the can­dle.

Ah, there you are,” I said to two pieces of sil­ver yarn. I tied them togeth­er loose­ly.

We sat qui­et­ly. Tako­da was cry­ing gen­tly. He was so adorable, even through the tears. I loved how he wasn’t afraid of look­ing ten­der and lone­ly. Tako­da obvi­ous­ly missed his lover a lot.

What was his name?” I asked.

Rune,” he said.

Sioux name?”

No, he was Swedish.”

Well, you obvi­ous­ly have great taste in men,” I said. “I’m Swedish too, or so I was told.”

That got a grin.

Okay, here’s what I want you to do. Take this yarn.”

He took it, and I closed his fin­gers around it.

There are two pieces,” I told him. “One is you, and the oth­er is Rune. Hold them as long as you want. I’ll be here all night if you want. When you’re ready to say Good­bye, untie the two pieces.”

Sil­ver string?” he said.

Tako­da looked con­fused.

I think this may be an old Native Amer­i­can rit­u­al. The point is that Rune needs his free­dom. He can’t go where he’s sup­posed to be while you hold on so tight­ly. You’ll always remem­ber, but you have to let him go. When you untie the yarn, say Good­bye to Rune. The two pieces of yarn are in a knot, like you’re hold­ing onto Rune. That’s been okay up to know, but you need to let him go. Lov­ing­ly, but you need to release Rune to go on.”

He was cry­ing when I got up.

Why sil­ver?” he asked.

Halfway between white and black. It isn’t good or bad. It isn’t on or off. It is what it is.”

He nod­ded. I real­ly didn’t know why sil­ver to tell you the truth, but Tako­da didn’t need to know that.

Remem­ber every­thing you guys did togeth­er,” I said soft­ly. “Remem­ber the sights and sounds and smells. Be grate­ful for the time you had. Be hap­py. Be sad. Remem­ber. It’s your last time togeth­er on this plane, but he needs his free­dom. He needs your per­mis­sion to move on and com­plete the cross over. You’ll always car­ry him in your heart… your mem­o­ry… but Rune needs to move along. When you undo the knot, see Rune cross­ing over. It’s all mys­ti­cal and won­der­ful in its own way. The knot is the sym­bol of you let­ting Rune con­tin­ue what you both know he needs to do. It real­ly is a won­der­ful expe­ri­ence. Take as much time as you need. A min­ute… an hour… all night… it’s up to you. When you and Rune are ready, untie the yarn and watch him rise into the light.”

Tako­da nod­ded as he stared at the knot­ted yarn.

I qui­et­ly moved to the far side of the room as he sat qui­et­ly.

I sat on the floor again­st the far wall and let Tako­da say farewell to his lover. He nev­er moved. He’d smile and cry. He held the yarn tight­ly in a fist. Min­utes became hours.

The next thing I knew it was morn­ing. I’d fal­l­en asleep.

Tako­da was gone. There were two sep­a­rat­ed pieces of yarn on the tarot table. He left me two hun­dred dol­lar bills and a note: “Thank you for let­ting the old ones speak through you. And lov­ing from your heart.”

Wow,” I said to the sep­a­rat­ed yarn as I put them into my alabaster box for clean­ing. Two hun­dred dol­lars: the uni­verse was in bal­ance. May­be Tako­da under­stands about ener­gy exchanges.

He’d put a blan­ket over me before he left, and he locked the front door on his way out.

That was epic,” the uni­verse seemed to say.

Thanks, guys,” as I put the Mor­gan-Greer deck on top of the two sep­a­rat­ed yarn pieces in my alabaster box. The deck felt won­der­ful, so the box’s job of scrub­bing would be sim­ple. I could almost use the deck as-is, but I didn’t want to cross-pol­li­nate my read­ings.


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