Jun 29 2012
. Guy looked at the wall clock. “He’s going to call in the next five minutes.”
. “Guy, how can you know?” Joe asked.
. “Just trust me alright. I got my sources.” They had been hanging around the central “courtyard” of Feles Crassus Inc.’s third floor. The well of ancient times had been converted into a coffee island with tables and chairs at the center of a vast field of small office cubicles. There were only a few people there. Most everyone had, or was preparing to leave for the night. The a half a dozen faithful that remained in courtyard were waiting to find out who would get the coveted prize, to head the new project. It was a lucrative contract that would not only provide a suitable feather in the chosen’s cap, but was also a sure indication for future promotion.
. “He’s not going to call.” Stu shook his head. “Old Man Culus is going to make us stew all weekend. He’s an ass.”
. “Yes he is,” Guy agreed. “But, he is going to call, and he’s going to do it in two minutes. And, I might, add, he’s going to give the position to me.”
. Toni threw him a look. “How can you be so sure you’re going to get it?”
. “Because I’m the guy,” said Guy.
. Everyone groaned, but most accompanied it with a smile. Guy was one of those people who always seemed in control, who always landed on his feet.
. It drove people like Stu crazy. Stu had tremendous talent, but for some reason he always found himself playing second fiddle to people like Guy, doing ninety percent of the work and getting ten percent of the credit. “I hate that guy,” Stu murmured to David. “I especially hate that his name is ‘Guy.’ I mean what kind of a name is that!”
. David smiled. He had been Stu’s friend since college. “Relax, Stu. Don’t let Guy get on your nerves. He’s alright, and you’ll get your due. What goes around, comes around.”
. “Yeah, yeah.”
. “Hey,” said David. “Now’s your chance, Stu. You’ve been dying to ask Shelia out for months. She’s right here. What do you got to lose?”
. “You mean besides my dignity, self respect and the fantasy of possibilities? Oh, I guess, nothing.”
. David pushed him in Shelia’s direction. “Go on. Tell her about that new place. She’s in a highly emotional state now. Ready to either celebrate or be consoled. Go on.”
. Stu shot Dave a look of incredulity, but he slowly moved over to where Shelia was standing.
. “Can you believe him?” Sheila asked Stu as he approached him, indicating Guy with a nod.
. “Um, no, I can’t,” confessed Stu, honestly.
. Sheila smiled. “I mean, I probably don’t have much of a shot at the project. I’ve been here les than a year. But, you Stu. You’re really talented. I think you have as much of a shot as Guy does.”
. “Really?” Stu was suddenly captivated by the sparkle in Sheila’s eyes. He stared a little too long and her eyebrows rose. “Um, Shelia, there’s this new club. It’s supposed to be really different. They have this guy there that supposedly can read people’s fortunes. I was wondering …”
. The second hand hit the twelve and everyone grew quiet. No one’s phone rang either.
. “He’s not going to call. See I told you,” said Stu.
. Everyone seemed to hold their breath. Ten seconds later, Guy’s cellular started playing the song, “Ego”. Guy smiled. “So sue me for fifteen seconds.”
. “Oh shit!” Stu closed his eyes and waited for the bullet. It had been Guy’s phone that rung. Everyone knew what that meant.
. It was confirmed by Guy’s smile. “Yes, sir. Thank you sir. I wouldn’t let you down.”
. As Guy hung up Stu’s phone rang. It played the classic tune, “Bohemian Rhapsidy.” He swallowed hard before answering. When he finished the call, he looked to where Shelia was standing. She was no longer there. He walked over to where her.
. “I didn’t get it.”
. Shelia offered an expression that aproximated sympathy. “Oh, I know.”
. Stu shrugged. “Well, anyway, maybe we can console each other. We could go to that place I told you about …”
. “Well,” Sheila demurred. “Guy offered to take us all out to celebrate. I mentioned that place you told me about too. He said it sounded edgey. So come on, you’re going to come with, right?”
. Stu forced a smile. “Oh,” he managed.
. Guy came up and slapped Stu on the back. It was just a little too hard. “Hey Stu, buddy. You coming? No hard feelings right?”
. Stu led the group to a side street off the main drag of bars and clubs that populated the entertainment district of downtown. A half a flight down from street level was a pair of thick curved wooden doors that marked the entrance to Fortuna. Shelia thought it looked mysterious, like a passageway to another dimension. She bristled with anticipation. A light pink neon sign framed the curved dark wooden doors. The sign, in simple script read, “Fortune Favors the Bold.” Guy liked it immediately.
. “Well, let’s go in,” Guy decided and descended the steps to push open the wooden doors. Everyone else followed with Stu bringing up the rear. The entranceway opened into a large wood paneled room. Though there were few people in the club, it was still early, the air vibrated with energy. Small round tables, suitable for standing at, were arranged in neat rows on three sides around a square dance floor. A raised platform hosting a mike stands, a drum set and a keyboard was set against the far wall. On the right side of the club were more tables, larger and closer to the ground. Further to the right, along the wall was a full bar that came towards the group and then curved further to the right about fifteen feet from the entrance. The bartender, who was standing at the apex of the bar talking to two patrons, looked up as the group entered the club. He raised his hand in a gesture of welcome and then returned to the two customers.
. At the far end of the bar, sitting at a table nearby, facing the entrance, his back to the wall, was a lanky figure with long black hair and a narrow face. His eyes seemed fixed upon the newcomers but no welcoming gesture was forthcoming. There was nothing to indicate that the man had any special role in the club, but it was clear that he had, nonetheless.
. “That must be him,” Shelia whispered.
. Stu started to answer. Guy cut him off. “Yeah, I hope so. This place isn’t exactly hoping Stu.”
. “It’s still early,” observed Stu.
. “Yeah, well, I hope this guy is interesting. Come on Shelia, let’s go check it out. David, you get us all a round a drinks okay? Here’s my credit card.” Guy handed David his Visa and put his arm around Shelia guiding her towards the man sitting in the corner. Stu stood looking after him.
. “Are you sure you’re not afraid?” Guy whispered jokingly. “I bet the guy’s a fraud anyway. Let’s have some fun.”
. “What are you going to do?” Sheila became alarmed.
. “Don’t worry, I’m not going to do anything, but I’m not going to let this guy con me either. You know he can’t be for real right? It’s just an act.”
. “What you don’t believe it’s possible to read someone’s fortune, predict their destiny?”
. “I make my own destiny.”
. They arrived at the table. The man looked at them but didn’t say anything. Shelia noticed the most intense grey eyes she had ever seen. They seemed liquid.
. “Are you this palm reader?” Guy asked.
. The man offered a thin smile and gestured towards the chairs on the opposite side of the table.
. Guy startled. He hadn’t noticed the chairs before. He recovered quickly and sat down, offering his hand to the man. The man shook Guy’s hand, and startled again. Something was strange. He looked at the man’s palms. He hadn’t any lines on his hands.
. The man noticed Guy’s stare. “It’s called congenital missing dermatoglypic. Very rare.” He held his palms out. They were smooth.
. Shelia sat down, her unabashedly open. “Wow, I’ve never seen anything like that before.” She looked at the palm reader. “Is that why you can tell the future?”
. The Palm Reader’s face broke into a grin.
. “He can’t tell the future,” interrupted Guy.
. The Palm Reader’s grin grew wider. He winked at Shelia. “Well, I can predict that you’re going to but me a drink,” he said evenly.
. “Well, I might have,” offered Guy, his own face now smiling. He had this fakir now. “But, now I’m not, just to prove you’re wrong.”
. “You already did.” The Palm Reader nodded in the direction of the bar. Guy and Shelia turned around. David was just getting the credit card back from the bartender. He noticed them watching him and waved. A few minutes later, he was buy there side with four mugs of beer.
. He placed the beers on the table and handed Guy his credit card. I figured you’d want to buy this guy a drink too, so here. How’s it going?”
. Shelia and Guy turned back to look at the Palm Reader. Sheila gasped. “How could you have known?”
. “Oh come on,” protested Guy, “Anyone could’ve figured that out. He probably got a signal from the bartender or something.”
. “Yeah, probably,” offered the Palm Reader nonplussed.
. David shifted uncomfortably. “Did I do something wrong?”
. “No, you’re cool David. We’ll join you guys in a minute, okay?”
. David took the hint, smiled and raised his beer. “Cheers.” He said, and went to join the others who had claimed a table near the bar.
. “How did you do that?” Shelia asked the Palm Reader.
. Guy started to protest, but the Palm Reader cut him off. “Guy will tell you how it’s not that difficult. Like in sales or marketing, right Guy?”
. Guy stuttered, “Uh, yeah.” Had David or Shelia mentioned his name? He couldn’t recall. This character made him uncomfortable. Maybe it was the eyes. Who had grey eyes?
. “You just need to know how to read the signs, the body signals, group dynamics. In fact, most of us, do it every day, without even thinking about it, right Guy?”
. Guy sat up straighter. “Yeah, of course, Shelia. It’s like knowing when you’re going to close a deal, even before the other guy does.”
. The Palm Reader smiled. “Of course. Like the deal you closed today, right. You got the promotion, to head the new project, Guy, but you knew you would, of course.”
. “Uh, yeah,” Guy became uncomfortable again.
. “And now you guys are all out celebrating.” The Palm Reader smiled. “Even the losers, right Guy?”
. “Um, yeah, well they’re not really losers.” Guy shifted uncomfortably. “We all work together.”
. The Palm Reader just nodded. “Of course when it all unravels …”
. “What are you talking about now?” Guy became defensive.
. “Who knows what the future holds?” But the Palm Reader said it as if he did know.
. Shelia became excited. “Is it written in our palms, do you think?”
. “Of course not,” Guy protested.
. The Palm Reader smiled.
. “Have him read your palm,” suggested Sheila.
. “I’m not going to have him read …”
. “What are you afraid of, Guy?” The Palm Reader asked calmly.
. Guy looked at him. He didn’t like this. Guy couldn’t figure out this guy’s angle. “So, anyway, what’s your name?” Guy tried to find some type of edge, something.
. “We all have names, sometimes we wear them sometimes we don’t; sometimes they fit us, sometimes they don’t. Just call me the Palm Reader, everyone else does.”
. Sure they do, thought Guy. He sighed heavily. Shelia was clearly into this whole experience. Well, it couldn’t hurt. “Okay, what does it cost?”
. “What?” asked the Palm Reader.
. “A reading. You know. What’s the scam?” asked Guy.
. “No scam. If you want me to read your hand, just give it to me.”
. “Do I get it back?” asked Guy, with a laugh.
. “Maybe.” The Palm Reader offered a friendly smile, but a chill ran up Guy’s spine, as the Palm Reader took his hand and turn the palm up for examination.
. “This is exciting,” Sheila offered.
. Guy looked at her with a wry expression. “He’ll probably predict that we’ll become great lovers.”
. “No,” said the Palm Reader evenly. “Not even mediocre ones.”
. Guy rolled his eyes.
. “Is there another woman in his life?” joked Shelia. “Does he have a wedding in his future?”
. “Well,” offered the Palm Reader. “He has one in his past.”
. “What?” Guy tried to pull his hand away.
. “You were married Guy? I didn’t know that.” Sheila was particularly amused.
. Guy rolled his shoulders. He squirmed in his seat. He looked at the Palm Reader. “Well, I. How could you know?”
. The Palm Reader shrugged. He held Guy’s gaze with those liquid gray eyes. “It was a short affair, a lark. You went to Vegas. Got the marriage annulled, though after a few days, right? So maybe it doesn’t count.”
. It counted alright. Guy stuttered. “How?” He had never told anyone about that. No one knew. This time he succeeded in pulling his hand away.
. The Palm Reader smiled. “Lucky guess, I suppose.”
. “Really, Guy, you were married?” Shelia was telling everyone about their encounter with the Palm Reader. Everyone was enjoying the retelling, except Guy.
. Guy scowled. “Look, you know, sometimes a guy will do stupid things,”
. “Whatever it takes,” offered Joe.
. “Yeah, whatever it takes,” added Stu, “unless of course you have some self-respect.”
. “Lay off, Stu. It’s Guy’s night.” Toni placed a hand on Stu’s shoulder.
. “So you think this guy is genuine, the palm reader I mean?” Shelia asked.
. “I heard,” David looked both ways, consparitoraly, “that he reads palms for free, but when someone wants him to change something, he takes them to the cleaners.”
. “What are you saying? That he can change someone’s fortune?” Shelia looked over at the Palm Reader.
. David tried his impression of Vincent Price, “The Palm Reader: Your Destiny is in His Hands.”
. “That’s ridiculous.” The contempt was thick in Guy’s throat.
. “Of course it is,” agreed Stu.
. Guy looked at Stu. Rarely had the two ever agreed.
. “Just repeating what I’ve heard,” offered David.
. Guy bristled, and sank onto his stool. “Let’s find another bar.”
. “Oh come on, Guy. You should be celebrating. Don’t be such a sourpuss.” Toni draped her arm around Guy’s back, but the young executive shrugged it off.
. “You can’t tell me you believe in that stuff,” Stu offered.
. Guy scowled as Stu. “I just haven’t figured out his angle, yet that’s all.”
. “Maybe he did a quick search on Google when he saw you walk in Guy. What does it matter? Let it go. Have a beer. Celebrate, for tomorrow we’re back to the grind.” Joe laughed at his own joke. He had been celebrating for the both of them.
. Actually that was an idea. Guy looked over his shoulder at the Palm Reader. The bar was a crowded now, and the line for those waiting for a palm reading was considerable. Yet, as soon as Guy’s eyes focused on the Palm Reader, he looked up and gave Guy a smile. Guy wondered if there was an app for that.
. He hoped this guy wasn’t for real. The Palm Reader’s words echoed in Guy’s ears, “of course, when all this unravels …” It didn’t seem that Shelia had paid much attention to those words, but they pierced Guy’s heart. Of course, he didn’t really believe this guy was genuine. He couldn’t know the future. That was ridiculous. We create our own destiny. Of course, if he hadn’t been able to figure out Guy’s past. He had been dead on. But that was past. The future was a different story, wasn’t it? Of course it was.
. “We make our own destiny.” Guy pushed himself up from his seat. “Give me a beer!”
. “That’s the attitude.” David slapped a hand on Guy’s back and a beer into his hand.
. Guy downed the beer and smiled. But when he stole a glance at the Palm Reader, he caught the man’s eyes resting upon him. Guy force himself to look away, and keep the corners of his smile from dipping.
. As the evening wound down the group from Feles Crassus Inc. Made preparations to leave, a waitress came over to Guy and handed him a sealed envelope.
. “What’s this?” asked Guy, “Your phone number?”
. She made a face. “No.” Her tone was bored. In her line of work, she had heard it all. “It’s from the Palm Reader. He says to open it up when you feel the need.”
. “What does that mean?” Guy asked, exasperated.
. “Oh, you’re a big boy, I’m sure you’ll figure it out.”
. Guy looked towards the Palm Reader. He was looking straight at him. When their eyes met, the Palm Reader nodded with a smile. Guy didn’t like the smile. And he liked the sensation in his hands even less. It was as if a chill ran through them. Guy stuffed the envelope into his jacket pocket. He’d worry about it later, if at all.
. Guy shook his head. This was ridiculous. He would not play along. “Let’s go,” he called to his friends, as he herded them towards the door. He wanted to put as much space between himself and this place as possible.