A Whisper of the Whistler’s Ghost

Incidental memory, colored glass,
fast focus five favor forever pharmacy.
The fortress fluctuates–the final, final–
last latitude of lassitude levitate
laterally lend the lexical leer pear,
(saucer snow milk melt) mirror
participant prime dime (rhymes)
deter disagree designates disappear
disillusioned.

[“Hello Seven.” She says]

Juncture journey’s on fervor’s pyre
rocks non-wood wood bash
bag and wag, lag with a sole snag
over a flag at a summertime beach.
Participate perpetually grind granite
into sand and sand slag sand
out of shoes symbols synch,
waltz repeat as bytes pixelate.
Fluctuate, smudge, flicker, flash
fidget clock hand ticks forget.
Objects orient in abstract snow,
static and flack in a stasis dynamo
rumor, whisper, puff, and wisp,
(static stasis stereoscope filter,
dissipate)

[Seven shakes his head and blinks his eyes.
He furls his brow and stares at empty space.]

Abstract to act actual soil soul and sorrow,
words or pictures on parallel pathway steps.
A fool and his memory, his property and pride
reminisce with fidelity’s familiarity clarity
and fabricate fortune phantasm fantasies.
Spirit or sprite sputtering spectacle
ghost compost, or female form (data),
A hallucination? A single shot of mescal?
Mescalito melancholy carves a conundrum.
The needful necessary crisp air astral alleyway O2
are steps and door through shadow and light,
cigarette, cigar, pipe, or pre-roll preponderance.

[“Of all the moments,” Seven sighs, “this one now?”]

The straw man in the alley raises his viola.
Out of tune horse hairs flicker as its bow
bends bulk on the outward friction abrasion.
He brays, bumps bear, and squeaks;
yips, yaps bulk slide staccato stiffener
and starts a stolid song sad in a minor key.
Through eyeless parse, erratic, and bittersweet,
the fiddler smiles with missing teeth.
He flicks quick his wrist wrinkle and
shakes his shaggy coif with a wink,
forces a fatigued grin, dandy spin.
Wiser eyes shutter shut and into the fog
he casts a whistle true to tonight’s thistles.
Lilith lithe alights behind my eyes.

[Seven recalls Lilith’s scent, perfume and not.]

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By All Indications, She Arrived Intact

Blue-sky boulevard and green sea
the one route (bus) glides interface,
shivers, rumbles, diesel spent
over miles, concrete, reflective paint.
Asphalt ubiquity and texture,
time In the lapse pluperfect (pre-past)
mythos method enter intermission;
pretense insects intersect intent,
awhile underground submarine
evading memory and probability,
cache come, caught, and cursory.

[Must update my news reader, Seven thinks
to himself as he pushes smudges around
the dirty screen of his smart phone.]

To the land rust/lust and sand soft,
where wind at her shoulders rustles
fair hair and song lucre lend
barrow sail, AC generator sparks
gap consequence and ghosts,
stagnant sweet sweat repose.

Heckle, Jeckle, and Leopoldo
on the wind wing wander
the lackadaisical largesse whisper
wisp zephyr black coat, black
eyes, and black heart, vilely viscid,
alight airless on scrub scrap’s edge.

Waves ripple, crash, and swish
Love and machine wash mécanique,
repeat cycle cylinder certitude
syncopate certificate and synapse,
snip, snap, tap, clack, and click.
Call yourself on the phone, anodyne
methadone, nirvana-done make believe.

[Seven (VII) sips the tequila,
then two full gulps of the hops, dank.]

Click clavicle clavier clear enough
penumbra pale ale aberration piper,
calaboose less than cold and less
than full ice melts as ice often does.
Cuticles consummate in colors captivate
rich skin tones and chemical cure
while chills challenge ceaseless slack
and boots befit their fetterless feet.
Dreamers do the same as they always do,
sand castles under hat in a potato sack
or flame on sticks to not pick up quick,
existential bits and trick tar/-bytes.

Nicotine null bee stumbles at sunset,
so back on the one (bus) route recruit,
reality in the verity veracious spin spun
spent wink wonk recall peck probable
pollen to honey to pollen to honey echo
blossom myth of insects in perpetuity,
and (repeat.)

[“Hello,” VII says as she bumps him with her large case
while sitting down on the stool next to him at the bar.
“Sorry,” she blushes and stuffs it at her feet.]

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It Always Starts in a Bar

Boat tail comic book angel(beta)
summer into autumn treble
castanets and silver under toe
pistol plank the walk willow
too fallow and too frequent
barley bumps and bluster crisp
pause through the window blouse,
and wash out the anima mundi.

[What are you drinkin’?]

Red wing cattail reed,
her hair hangs like heat and
hurricane-eye of the storm,
drops to her shoulder glimmer,
sure sign sequence soliloquy
salute a conquistador’s uproar;
sympathetic, symphonic, symmetry
as remains and remnants revel reveal.

[Rattle dice, slam cup.]

Scrape shoe leather laminate,
probable patterns permeate
philosophy and pink churn
Summer wanes in rains of
wailing asphalt, ozone, oil,
burnt tire rubber residues.

[Tequila neat and a beer, well, Seven answers.]

Mescalito, the scorpion point period
(God) guards golden gossamer
windmill threads of consciousness.
spectacles, spats, splinters, spurious
glee, and sulfur cream delight.

Vinyl cracks under weight undulate
(under-verse) wooden creaks, groans
gobble pretense selfie smear lips
stick smack napkin nod nearby.

[Cazadores?]

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I have chosen my side.

Some family, friends, and acquaintances may be upset with my anger toward the election outcome. That is okay. You are welcome to un-friend me, un-follow me, or re-group me. I will not be offended or hold it against you. If Donald Trump had been a respectful person who understood and appreciated the honor it is to serve this county and it’s strengths, then I might be disappointed, but I would give him the chance he deserves to succeed.

Donald Trump is not that person, and I am as angry as a walloped nest of killer bees. I have had quite enough hate speech and hateful opinions and religious bigotry to last a lifetime. I will no longer placate or turn away from it, but will confront it directly with humor, with facts, with all and everything in my ability. If you cannot handle that, then don’t keep company with me. It’s a win/win as far as I am concerned.

I am not a perfect person. I have many flaws and work everyday at reducing them. I try to keep my mind and heart open. I see no other way to be a better person, not just rich or popular or powerful. To me, “an unexamined life is not worth living.”

The GOP have obstructed President Obama at every turn, and disrespected him and his family as well as the office of the President. I may not always agree with Obama or his policies, but I know his heart is in the right place. By not hearing his SCOTUS appointee, the GOP has shown their contempt for the Constitution and all the citizens of this country. I used to respect the GOP as a group of fiscal conservatives who put country above ones self. I hoped that they would disagree and debate based on the tenants of their party and compromise appropriately. As beige as it may seem, I’ve never joined either party. I tend vote for positive solutions to real world problems facing all of us. I believe in a two or more party system and that good government requires compromise. Opposing sides sit down and debate to a mutual conclusion that will work for the most Americans, not just special interests, single agendas, single belief systems, or even their own constituents. Not an easy thing in my opinion, but no one has ever claimed that it would be. Now the GOP just wants to starve the government and the common good, while robbing it of its resources and making themselves rich. The other party has a corruption problem as well, and my belief in both has weakened substantially.

Trump is a narcissist, a white supremacist, a misogynist and a menace. He is too quick to anger, too quick to react, seeks revenge instead of persuasion, builds walls instead of bridges, and holds all and any difference of opinion with absolute disdain. He has never had to deal or accept personal responsibility for his failures. He has never served anyone, but himself. Government is about service not profit. Instead, he derides our diversity, our multitude of customs and languages; our personal spiritual beliefs that make this country strong, to divide, manipulate, and exploit us. It’s rigged; it’s beneath him; it’s just words. No, Mr. Trump, words matter and have consequences; and the words of the single most powerful person on the planet have far reaching consequences.

I will give to Mr. Trump and anyone he associates with or believes in the same amount of respect he gives to veterans, the handicapped, to women, to the LGBT+ community, or to anyone who is not his race. I will no longer tolerate or roll over to bigotry, racism, or misogyny. If the tin-pot dictator with the little fingers was looking for a fight over civil liberties, he’s got one, and I’ve chosen my side.

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33 Wild Is the Wind

Joel dances with a clown who has long Raggedy Anne’s type hair; it’s a slow dance to a slow song, Wild is the Wind, recorded by David Bowie in 1976, and written by Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington in 1957. The two are holding each other close. Their face paint smears to a colorful Rorschach test as they kiss, deeper and deeper. Joel moves his hands down the middle of her back and cups her buttocks. She blows into his ear.

Ethan looks up at them and back at Bridget. Cochran is still studying her phone, trying to place where she has seen the person in the photo. She’ll have a better image soon. She looks up and Ethan looks away. Suddenly he is dodging her glances, but she is too caught in a search of her own memory to notice.

“Would you like to dance?” Bridget asks Ethan. Before Ethan can answer the music stops.

“The Argonauts are going to take a break, and will return shortly. Please welcome to the stage, Mr. Magisto.” Bixxter announces.

A middle-age man in black tux from the 70’s, ruffled shirt and cuffs, bright pink cumber bun, and pink sequin shoes walks into the stage area. He wears a pink top hat and bows for he audience. Mr. Magisto is carrying a vintage, leather bound suitcase. He throws the case forward, parallel to the ground and four legs pop out of it. The case opens lands softly, like a street salesman’s sample case.

Phoebe returns to the table with a larger glass of wine and a pitcher of beer. She sits next to Bridget. Emily is tapping on her phone and doesn’t notice. Seven grabs the pitcher and fills his glass. He offers to pour for everyone else.

“To start, I’ve an old trick that everyone has seen before. I will pull the definitive rabbit out of my chapeaux.” Mr. Magisto bows and his top hat falls forward into his hand. He twirls it across the brim and displays the empty hat to the audience. He turns it and stops it on all sides to show it is free of hidden compartments. Mr. Magisto sets it on the suitcase with one hand and raises the other hand to the sky. A wand appears in his raised hand, and he waves in several circles, first above his head and then above the hat.

“Shim shim, abracadabra, sis boom, beer mug.” The magician pulls a full mug of beer out of the hat. “Oops,” he raises it to the audience, “a toast to our most gracious host.”

Everyone that is watching stands and follows his suggestion, tipping a glass in Phoebe’s direction. She stands and waves.

“Really guys, I love having all of you over. It’s a marvelous thrill.” She curtsies and bows her head.”

Everyone is clapping, cheering, clicking, snapping or toasting.

Mr. Magisto waves his wand over the chapeaux again and says, “hipity, hopity and mopsy, flopsy and fuzzy tail.” He reaches in and pulls out a white rabbit with long pointy teeth. It’s a hand puppet and the magician struggles with it as the puppet tries to bite him. “That’s the most foul, cruel, and bad-tempered rabbit that I’ve ever seen!” He yells in a deep booming voice. “It’s got a vicious streak a mile wide! It’s a killer!” He yells.

The partygoers laugh and clap. They recognize the vicious rodent from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Mr. Magisto continues to struggle with the puppet to get it back into the hat, but the rabbit has him bent over backwards, just at his throat. Tail fuzzy, floppsy, mopsy, and hippity hopity,” a flash of light appears and wall of smoke obscures Mr. Magisto.

The magician reappears with a small hand fan blowing the smoke away. “Phew, folks, that was a close one.” He looks down and realizes that his pants are missing, showing his pink sequin boxer shorts. “But not without its due.” He bows.

The audience roars with laughter as a string of toilet paper hangs out from one of the legs of the shorts.

“Thanks Seven” Bridget stops shuffling her cards and hands Seven her glass. “Would you like me to tell your fortune?”

Seven thinks she is talking to him, and as he is filling it, he says, “Yes. Def…”

“I think our wonderful hostess is first.” Bridget replies.

“I don’t think I’m going to be able to sit for that long.” She shakes her head. “I may need to organize another beer run?”

“I can do that?” Seven offers.

She sighs, “Give me a moment. I just want to sit for a few breaths.”

“I’m going to find a bathroom.” Ethan interrupts and stands.

“It’s inside,” Phoebe directs, “through the kitchen, to the work room and turn right.”

“Okay.” He turns and walks toward the house.

“I can do a single card reading, if you like?” Bridget says.

“Do I have to think or say anything?” Phoebe asks.

“Not really, you just need to think about your question, touch the card cut, and then draw one.” Bridget instructs.

“Sure.” She answers. “I’d like a full reading, maybe some other time though.”

 

Steve McSwain’s phone rings, “damn it,” he yells to his windshield.

“Are you going…?” Selena, distribution manager with Vanilla Shed, asks but is cut off.

Before Steve can respond, his phone’s speaker setting stops working. He stops in front of a driveway and picks it up. “Sorry,” he is still connected, “my phone is acting up now.” He shakes his head, “What did you need?”

“Are you going to make it?” Selena repeats.

“It’s going to be close,” he says.

“I just wanted to let you know that my boss has authorized double time, if you need to work tomorrow.” She explains.

McSwain sighs, “I didn’t say I would?”

“I know, but it will be worth it to us, if you do. Otherwise, we’ll have to find someone else to pick the order up off of your truck.” She says. “I mean, either way is fine with me, but you’ll have to be there for the exchange.”

“Damn, I hadn’t thought of that.” Steve chuckles. “I had plans, but I guess you’ve got me either way.”

“That’s right.” She replies. “Vanilla Shed appreciates your professionalism and work ethic.”

“So, I get the same as today, but twice as much plus mileage tomorrow?” He affirms.

“Yes.”

“Okay, okay, but I’m still going to try and make the train tonight.” He pulls back out into traffic and guns through a stop sign in a less then California Stop.

“Thank you. Thank you Steve. You’re a life saver.” She says. “I owe you.”

McSwain sighs, “I may still make it tonight.”

“Go Steve. Go.” She cheers.

He smiles to himself and pushes harder on the accelerator. I’m going to make it, he thinks to himself. He turns a little to fast onto 5th Street in Berkeley. His tires squeal and he breaks quickly to slow enough to make the turn without stopping fully and without pitching the truck over. “SHIT.”

 

Lieutenant Emily Cochran’s phone beeps; it is a text message. “GOT HIM. Img nxt.”

Cochran smiles, clinches her fist, and pumps the air in a down stroke; “yes,” she says out loud.

Everyone’s at the table turns to look at her. Seven turns and says, “Well, hell yes. I think?”

“Sorry. I just got a break on the case.”

“The one you not working on any more?” He replies.

“Hey, it’s not you on the video from BART.” She answers.

“Phew,” Phoebe exhales, “I thought it might be me.”

“Is it the person that pushed someone onto the BART tracks?” Bridget asks. “I read about that this morning; it sounds horrible.”

“Ye…” Seven starts to say.

Cochran punches Seven in the arm.

“Ouch,” he looks at her sternly. “I was going to say, yeah. I don’t think chief dick-n-boots is going to appreciate it.”

Cochran shakes her head.

“Here, pick a cut.” Bridget says to Phoebe. “Think about your question.”

Ethan returns to the table. His face is covered in clown make up. Everyone looks up.

Bridget laughs out loud, “you’re so cute; like Picasso on meth.” She riffles the two cut stacks together and pushes them into a one. She separates them into unequal stacks and farrows them again, and repeats.

Everyone laughs at the joke and Ethan turns read, highlighting his clown face. “I ran into my friend, Joel and could not escape him or his new girlfriend.” He sits back down at the table and Cochran’s phone beeps again. She focuses solely on its screen.

“Are you thinking of your question?” Bridget asks Phoebe, and cuts the deck again. “Choose.”

Phoebe chooses the stack on the left and Bridget farrows them. She fans them out on the edge furthest from here, face down, and instructs, “Think about your question and choose one.”

Phoebe pauses for a moment and touches several of the cards as she watches Bridget’s eyes. She pulls one out of the deck and lays it down on the table in front of her.

Bridget flips over the Death card. It is facing Phoebe.  RWS_Tarot_13_Death

The picture from the BART station camera comes in full onto Lieutenant Inspector Cochran’s phone and she looks up at Ethan. He is watching her closely and as soon as their eyes meet, her pupils constrict. The clown makeup is not enough; she recognizes the person in the photo.

The blood drains out of Ethan’s face as Emily reaches for her belt. Ethan jumps up out of his chair, knocking the spool table forward. It topples onto its side, knocking Lieutenant Cochran and everyone else out of their chairs. It rolls over Seven and he laughs out loud. The near full beer pitcher hits Cochran on the chin. She sees stars.

“ETHAN,” Bridget screams as she joins Phoebe on the ground; both are covered in wine.

Phoebe’s knife is lying in front of him and he quickly bends down to retrieve it. Phoebe is the first to stand and looks over the mess. Seven can’t stop laughing as his torso is under the empty wind area of the spool. He grabs hold of its inside edges to stop it from rolling further.

Ethan turns to run with knife in his hand in front of him; and bumps hard into Phoebe, knocking her down, and landing on top of her.

“OH MY GOD,” Bridget yells.

Ethan rolls off her, stands up, and looks down at Phoebe. The knife handle is upright, titled towards her feet with the sharp end embedded just below her ribs. Her mouth and eyes are wide open as she looks down. Her body shutters. Blood is flowing out of her wound and soaking the front of her top.

“NO.” Ethan shouts and runs for the door. The party goes silent as he enters the house.

Lieutenant Inspector Cochran is up fast and after him. She pulls the black 9mm semi-automatic out of her belt, and pulls its slide back to chamber a round as she runs.

Chili hears looks to the ruckus and lunges at Ethan as he sprint by him. Ethan is too fast and a glancing blow leaves him on his back.

“911, someone call an ambulance.” Bridget screams and rests Phoebe’s head on her lap. Her face is pale and paler. Bridget motions toward the knife, but doesn’t know to remove it or not.

“My Love, NO.” Comma screams as he comes upon the scene. He grabs her hand and reaches for the knife, but stops. “NO, NO.” He cries out. “Stay with me. Don’t leave me.”

The party is silent and the guests gather around the scene. Smiles and cheers, jokes and magic, music and revelry are replaced with reverent whispers and an eerie quiet. The face paint and smell of beer, the buzzing of an amplifier and pressure sigh of the calliaphone turns the once happy affair into a nightmarish shadow. A breeze picks up off of the bay.

Phoebe takes a beleaguered breath, she tries to talk, but can’t get enough air.

“Quiet, quiet, dear love. Save you strength.” Comma says as tears begin dropping onto her torso.

Phoebe tries to focus, but her eyes are more and more blurry. She tries to breath again. “I, I love, I love you, Comma.” She manages in a whisper.

“No, no, save your breath; don’t leave.” He repeats.

She tries to draw one more breath and looks up. Her eyes are wide open and focuses on his. She tries to speak, and her eyes go quiet.

“No, no, how could this happen?” Comma’s voice quivers. His face is covered in tears. He takes her head out of Bridget’s hands. He kisses her on the cheeks and mouth, and hugs her head close to his heart. Comma sobs.

 

Steve McSwain’s phone rings again. It’s Selena. “I think I am going to make it.” He shouts and laughs into the receiver. He doesn’t give her a chance to respond and hangs up. McSwain rushes through a stops sign, a little short of a California stop, and pushes hard on the accelerator again.

 

“Oh my God,” is all Ethan can repeat as he makes his way out of the house’s front door and towards the street. Where do I go? What do I do now? He thinks to himself as his legs open up to a full sprint.

“STOP, STOP.” Cochran yells as she clears the kitchen and sees his back in the entryway. The bent-wire outer security door slams shut. “There’s nowhere to go.” She shouts and aims her 9mm. pistol. Can I hit him through the door? She questions herself. It’s too risky. “STOP, POLICE, STOP.”

Ethan turns to look at her as she steps through the front door with her gun raised.

“WHAT THE…” McSwain slams on his brakes pushing his chest hard against the seatbelt.

The screech of rubber raises a cloud and then a loud thud. Ethan Tremblay lets out a gasp as his rib cage compacts, his neck snaps, and he flies through the air. He lands on the asphalt and tumbles several feet in an unnatural flail of arms and legs in opposite directions along bad angles. He lays crumpled on the ground. His eyes are full open and the makeup on his face is pitted and smeared on one side. His heart was stopped in a single moment.

Lieutenant Cochran down paces her dash and drops her gun to her side. She shakes her head and holsters it. Seven, Bridget, and Joel are the first through the front door.

“This is Cochran,” she says into her phone. “Chief Cummings, I have some unsettling news about the Fitzgerald case. She walks over to Ethan’s body and leans down to check his pulse, but it seems pretty obvious that he is dead.

An ambulance arrives and the techs stop at Ethan’s body. Cochran motions them to the backyard of the house. “This one is gone.” She says. They hand her a white sheet from the gurney, and she covers Ethan’s body.

Sweat replaces the blood pumping out of Steve McSwain’s face. He is breathing fast and gripping his steering wheel tight. He doesn’t move.

More of the party streams out of Comma’s house as the emergency technicians dodge them in the opposite direction. One holds the door open for them.

Lieutenant Inspector Emily Cochran stands, “Yes. It is he. I am sure Chief Cummings.”

“I’ll contact the Berkeley Police and be there in half an hour. Don’t let anyone leave.” The Chief instructs.

“I’ve an ambulance and a victim on scene. I know her and will send her on.” She answers.

“Good work, Cochran, but Internal Affairs is going to have questions.” Chief Cummings adds.

“Yes, sir.”

“I’ll bring them with me, but do not say anything until we talk, understand?” He commands her.

“Yes sir, yes.” The consequence of actions settles on Emily Cochran; she weeps.

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glister

rush
pile and ruffle,
[crash in slow around the edges]
dunes of a turquoise sky and cloud
rise up along the empty curve.
orange and yellow ochre wisps
remember when we first met lips
and knelt along the barbwire moon?

sticky pecan blooms and salty skin
cicada tymbals snap and pop [repeat]
fingertips soothe the heat and muscle;
an anti-lullaby out wails the wind.
high beam headlights illuminate
dirt reflections on asphalt paint,
along the midnight tango and pass,
Creole embrace and sunflower rasp.
Morpheus’ breath is on the burgeon hoof
[as shadow billows grumble of electricity]
a smile and casual exhale, no pretense,
ruby eyes, cheeks, and tongue,
a flick of the wrist,
glister.

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32 The Seven of Coins (reversed)

       Bridget pulls the reading into a tighter formation. “We should finish during the break,” she picks up the deck of ignored Tarot cards and and offers them to Ethan.

       “I don’t see how you can concentrate on that at this party,” Seven adds.

       “I didn’t think this would take so long.” She answers. “This party is too fun.

       Emily looks up from her plate. “Seven, don’t be rude.” She smiles at Bridget.

       “I didn’t realize this party would be so intense.” Bridget answers.

       “I don’t mind.” Ethan says. He takes the top card off of the deck and after Bridget places the deck on the table, he hands it to her face side down. She flips it over and places in the ninth position, to the right of the crossed cards and directly above the 8th card. It is the Tower.

The Tower

The Tower

       “That doesn’t look happy,” Seven comments. Everyone at the table looks at him. Oh shit, did I just say that, he thinks to himself. “Sorry. I’ll shut up.”

       “That’s the best thing you’ve said all evening,” Emily says and takes a drink from her soda.

       “People always assume the worst with cards like this one, but it rarely means what the image implies.” Bridget explains. She smiles at Ethan. “First, this position of the reading is your inner thoughts and emotions…”

       “Upon the ground.” Seven says and laughs. He bunches his brow and his smile goes flat. “I’m still thinking out loud.” No one laughs, “sorry, sorry, it is a bad, a very bad habit.”

       “I will poke you again,” Emily adds and points her fork in his direction. “Shut the fuck up.” Everyone at the table laughs.

       “As I was saying, the ninth position represents your inner thoughts, emotions, hidden desires, and anxieties of the future. But importantly, as you can see, you are not alone.” Bridget points at the card.

       “Yes. Two of us are falling to the rocks.” Ethan says.

       “Not you too.” She looks sternly at Ethan. Emily offers her the fork, but she shakes her head, no. “Those rocks are around and associated with the tower itself.” She explains. “The Tower represents the status quo, and it’s destruction just means that something new is in your future.”

       “Oh.” Ethan acknowledges.

       “The lightening bolt from the right is the path you’ve been on, and it destroys your perception of your progress, the crown or the status quo.” Bridget continues. “The two people, a man and a woman are falling into unknown space. They are not falling on the rocks. We don’t actually know what they are falling into, but whatever their path was, it is no longer valid.”

       “Why lightening?” Seven asks.

       Everyone looks at him again. “Good question.” She answers. “You’ve been in a rut in a sense and the only way out is a naturally violent or sudden change of the future.”

       “So, dramatic change is a now?” Cochran asks.

       “Exactly. It is neither right or wrong, bad or good; it’s just going to happen very fast and obliterate everything from before.” She finishes. Perhaps they will be together, perhaps not. They are on opposite sides of the tower, but are falling out of the fire. See starlight around him?” Bridget points at the card.

       “Yes.” Ethan says.

       “She’s falling out of hers, so safety and the hearth are not the right direction. The man, the prince, the king, whatever is his role; he is surrounded by positive change. Change can be abrupt or violent, but doesn’t mean the future is dark.” Bridget explains.

       “I’m a little foggy on this card,” Ethan inquires. “Obviously violent change is not always the safe thing, and not necessarily a bad thing.”

       “Yes, yes,” Bridget bends over and kisses Ethan on the cheek. “You’ve got it perfect. This card is about change and you should not be afraid.” She adds. “Change, even violent change, is usually positive.”

       “I see.” Ethan leans backs, stiffens his neck, blushes, and smiles.

       Lieutenant Inspector Cochran’s phone beeps. It’s another text from Officer Sergeant Rice with BART. “65% not long now.” And, a photo is attached to the text. Emily downloads it to her phone and opens it. Seven notices what she is doing and leans over to see. The picture is a man in a letterman’s coat with a couple of pins on its breast, his neck, and the bottom half of a face just to the tip of the nose.

       Emily studies the photo for a moment and looks up. “Hum,” she says to herself. Something is familiar? I can’t quite place it? Then, her eyes scrunch up and she frowns. I thought I was off of the Fitzgerald case. Seven is watching her intently.

Celtic Cross

Celtic Cross

        Bridget sips from her beer and offers the deck again to Ethan. “One card to go,” she says. Everyone at the table watches as Ethan draws another card. He hands it to her face down. She flips it and sits in the 10th and final position, directly above the ninth. It is the Seven of Coins, reversed or upside down.

       Another text comes in from Senior Lieutenant Inspector Randal Cummings, Cochran’s boss. “See it? 20?”

       

       Steve McSwain creeps slowly to University Street off of I-80 and exits. I’ve got to make some time he says to his self. He lifts the GPS off the floor of the cab, reboots it, and places it on the dash. It is slow. “Work, damnit, work.” He says out loud to the device and swats on the far side. The GPS rocks back an forth on the dash a and reports, “acquiring satellite,” and a progress bar shows on the display “YES!” He shouts. He creeps up to the intersection at University, and the light is red. McSwain clicks on the GPS screen and taps to his saved locations. He picks the Amtrak station on Horton Street in Emeryville.

       “Acquiring satellite,” it reports again with a progress bar.

       “Shit, finally,” he says to it.

       “Turn right on University to 6th street, then left.” The GPS’ voice is soothing and reassuring.

       I might just make it he says to himself as he rolls though a yellow light and turns. Traffic is moving steadily, as he turns left on to Addison. “FUCK ME!” McSwain yells out and bangs his fist on the steering wheel. He backs up to a queue that is two blocks long. He can see two CHP patrol cars on opposites sides of the street with an Emeryville local and an Albany local as back up. Each car has two officers. What the hell is this, he thinks to himself.

       The California Highway Patrol (CHP) directs cars to pull up to the officers. After rolling down their windows, drivers are politely asked how they are doing and where they are going. A sniff and quick observation, blood shot eyes or nonrestrictive pupils are a sign of DWI or DUI. Seatbelts? All in eyesight of the officers is fair game for estimation of sobriety or other indiscretions. If the driver or passengers hesitate, sweat, or are suspicious in any way, CHP will ask for identification. No real sign or indication of intoxication from the driver, but any deviation or disgruntlement insures an ID check. It they ask someone to pull over out of the queue, CHP will run their ID, issue citations, or search with further scrutiny; but they say it’s not out of spite. The other officers back up the CHP; they watch and overlook you and your vehicle for any other obvious violations. It’s the law in California that if a trooper asks, you have to show your driver’s license.

       The queue moves steadily, and perhaps, I was over anxious. Steve thinks, relax. However it is inevitable that someone will be an ass. A belligerent, petulant child will want to know who the hell these cops think they are? Why don’t they catch the real criminals? They don’t have to show my papers to anyone. Two cars ahead, an older gentleman in a suit begins tussling with the officer at the window. The outcome is always the same.

       The hydra of blue arms pulls him out of his seat (no seatbelt). He’s a dumbass. He takes a swing at an officer, is immediately tased to the ground, and handcuffed. I don’t know where they came from, Steve wonders, but 4 more officers take him to a waiting white van. The trooper signals the next car to come around as another drives the car onto a side road.

       It is almost impossible to subdue a hydra. Cut one head off and two more take its place and so forth and so on and on. This asshole is taken into custody or just subdued with a very expensive ticket. It’s the CHP’s discretion, but some self-righteous ass always slows the line down. I wonder what the statistics are on it? The costs? Steve thinks. He taps his fingers on the wheel.

       Steve McSwain rolls down his window as Officer Williams steps up onto the Harvester’s sidestep. “How are you doing today, sir? Where are you headed?” He looks around the cab as Steve McSwain answers.

       “Hello,” McSwain smiles, “I’m trying to get to the Emeryville Amtrak station to make a delivery connection for Vanilla Shed.”

       “Do you have a BoL?” Officer Williams ask for a bill of lading, which describes the contents of the truck and its destination.

       “Sure.” McSwain reaches over the seat to a Manila folder and sits it on his lap. He ruffles through it, and then offers the sheet through the window.

       Balancing on the step while holding the rearview mirror, the trooper takes a quick look and recognizes the Vanilla Shed logo. “That won’t be necessary,” he says. “You’re a little too soon off the freeway?” The officer inquires.

       “I’m tying to catch the train at this point, sir.” Steve says, “It’s going to be tight.”

       “I see,” Officer Williams takes one last look at the cab, takes a deep breath, and looks long into McSwain’s eyes.

       “Are you searching for someone?” McSwain asks and smiles.

       “No; nothing like that. We’ve had reports of several intoxicated drivers from large parties in the area. We’re just trying to keep everyone safe, sir.” He says. “Thanks for your help.”

       “Always, sir.” Steve answers and nods his head in agreement. Shit. Don’t sweat, he thinks and stiffens up. If he smelled my lunch dessert, I would already be out. Relax, relax, and breathe.

       Officer Williams steps down as McSwain’s phone rings. “You’re not going to answer that are you?” The officer shouts in a friendly manner up to the cab.

       “No sir. I always use hands free or pull over to the side of the road.” Steve shouts back.

       “Good work. Drive safely.” Officer Williams signals McSwain to continue on his way.

       Steve McSwain looks in his rearview mirror to see if the officer is watching. He pulls over to the side of the road for a moment to check his phone. It was Selena from Vanilla Shed. Shit, he thinks to himself. Did I say yes? I can’t remember. McSwain sighs and dials The Shed.

       “Hello, Mr McSwain, this is Selena.”

       “Yes.”

       “I have some bad news. The train has made up time, so where are you?” She asks.

       “Damn, you’re not going to believe me, when I tell you. I just got stopped at a sobriety check point.” He answers.

       “Already? Seems kind of early?”

       “I’m never going to make it.” Steve says then wonders if the Samoan brothers followed him off the interstate. Shit, I hope not, he thinks to himself and looks again in his rearview. There is no sign of them.

       Selena sighs and is quiet on the other end. She holds the silence, waiting.

       

       Emily shifts in her seat and types out a reply to Cummings’ return to the office. ”10-4.” It’s standard, old school, cop-book talk for yes, but it has same number of characters.

       “The Seven of Coins, reversed,” Bridget says, “ is the summation of all influences of this reading.The cards together cast a possible future.”

Seven of Coins

Seven of Coins

       “Okay.” Ethan replies. He looks at Seven, waiting.

       “I’m not saying shit here,” Seven blurts out. “I see coins and my name.”

       “The image on Seven of Coins reversed, means that all though positive change with a little upheaval is in the air, be sure and check yourself, so not fall through it complete without any self-awareness.”

       “So, fight the change?” Ethan asks

       “No. Change is inevitable, and potentially catastrophic.”

       “Catastrophic?” The pitch in Ethan’s voice rises.

       “No, sorry, I guess I mean tumultuous. You know, quick and extreme, but not necessarily bad.” Bridget repeats.

       Inevitably, “catastrophic, how can Seven,” Seven points at himself, “and coins be a bad thing?”

       Emily nudges him and raises her fork. Her phone beeps again.

       ”See the questioner is resting his chin on his staff contemplating, staring at the bush and its fruit. The coins can be physical gains or experience. His legs are open, so be open to what you have gained in the past. The green bush is upside down on the right; your riches or experiences of the past should not be totally ignored. One coin has fallen to the ground to the left, to the future where we all must go; so contemplate the changes coming, but don’t forget what you have gained or learned in the past.” Bridget interprets.

       Ethan smiles and nods his head. He listens as he maintains eye contact.

       “Overall, your outlook is change.” She gestures at various cards as she continues. “We’ve seen that something traumatic has awaken introspection in your life. She points at the Chariot, the Fool, and the Knight, all reversed. You’ve had an encounter and it has reawakened passed desires and signposts to your progress. Bridget motions toward the Lovers, and the Queen of Wands, and the Ace of Swords. You’ve stalled a little, and your friends, new and old, will help you complete the changes in your path or re-energize old plans. There are new people in your life,” Bridget smiles, touches the Lovers, and bats her eyes, “and they may be the spark of new energy and a new way.”

       “@75%, +speed. Full n hour.” Lieutenant Inspector Emily Cochran reads the text from Sargent Rice with BART. A photo is attached and she opens it. Her phone beeps.

       “Busy tonight,”Seven says. “I thought you were off except for paper work?”

       “Embrace the change, even if it is dynamic and intense.” Bridget continues. “But, don’t forget everything that has gotten you to this moment.” She points at the Seven of Coins, reversed. Don’t forget your plans, your relationships, or your gains. Keep them in mind as you work through it. And know, that you are not alone.”

       Lieutenant Inspector Cochran’s phone beeps again. “20?!?” The message is from her boss, soon to be chief, Senior Lieutenant Inspector Randal Cummings. Emily ignores Seven.

       “Is everything okay?” Bridget asks Emily.

       Emily opens the photo attachment. The nose is complete and all it lacks is hair and eyes. She is quiet in thought. Where have I seen this?

       “It’s this horrible case, we got kicked off of, the Fitzgerald case. Her boss is hot to blame me for a murder.” Seven says.

       “MURDER, whoa?” Bridget replies.

       “Yes, some girl got thrown on the trac…” Seven’s breath is knocked as Cochran punches him hard in the diaphragm.

       “How horrible.” Bridget shutters. “Would you like a reading?” She collects her cards and begins shuffling them loosely.

       “No. I am going to have to go in a minute. Maybe some other time” Cochran smiles, looks across the table at Ethan, then back to her phone.

       Blood drains out Ethan’s face. He pants and sways in his seat as a bead of sweat forms on his forehead. It can’t be he thinks to himself and looks directly at Cochran studying her phone. He turns his head to the left and up then to the right and up.

       “Are you okay?” Bridget turns to him and grabs hold of his arm.

       Joel, Ethan’s friend who brought and introduced him to Bridget, returns to the table. “I’m going to become a clown.” He announces. His face is fully painted and every one looks up at him.

       “Welcome back, the Argonauts.” Bixxter bellows, claps, and points at the band. “Could I get a few clowns up here for some clowning around, and non-clowns, feel free to dance. They play another Tom Waits song. Bixxter sways, skips, silly walks in place to the syncopated rhythm of Big in Japan.

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