The Argonauts finish setting the stage with the calliaphone in the center. Veronica sits at a stool behind it and powers it up. Like an electric kettle, bubble and hiss, it comes to life after five or so minutes. She reapplies her lipstick as waits. Veronica pumps the pedals a few times to fill all the boiler pipes that vent to the whistles. It will take a more time to get up enough lasting pressure to play a song. Veronica is playing an intro for the band, and then she’ll fade behind Valerie as a backup singer.
Jaebal attaches a light fixture to its front. It is shaped like a snowflake inside of a star. She unwinds cables to the sound mixer and the outlet strips. It’s a small venue so most of the instruments will be acoustic. Two microphones are set equidistant apart along the center of the concrete block.
“Test, test, one, two,” Bixxter has been recruited to officiate. Mike turns a few knobs on the mixer and Nathan is at the back door of the house. “Test, test,” booms Bixxter, “one, two, test.” Nathan raises the roof to signal a little more volume. “One, two, buckles my shoe. One, two, the clowns must not boo who, who.” Nathan gives the all good. He returns to his position on the stage and picks up his horn.
The activity and Bixxter have drawn a crowd of clowns as guests move towards the stage. Comma returns to the grill, removes the grate and dumps some more coals onto the ashes. The band will play a couple songs, and then, eat. He picks up a tray near the picnic table and sets out 3 x 4, 12 cups on it and carries it over to the beer. Chili is stationed to serve. He pumps the keg and looks up.
“This is for the band,” Comma says.
“The host who will be the toast.” Chili sighs and fills the cups one after the other as Comma holds the tray.
“You sir, are a man of much honor. Thanks for helping out.” Comma says. “Later, we’ll sample some tequila, and maybe some tincture.”
“Tincture, what is that?” Chili puzzles, “I’ve never heard of it.”
“I’ve a friend who has a startup, a Mary Jane business, and he’s experimenting with the perfect edible oil product.” Comma adds.
“Oh. Is it safe?”
“Well, no FDA, USDA approvals yet, but he claims it is all organic.” Comma reassures.
”I don’t know, man.” Chili shakes his head, and continues to fill the cups. “It sounds kind of skivvy.”
“No, not at all. He’s forthright and makes it with vegetable glycerin. He’s looking for the perfect mix of potency and palatability.” Comma says. “Totally organic.”
“Yes. You shake it with tequila, ice, and lime. It’s like a cross between a mojito and margarita.” Comma encourages. “It is good.”
“Well, I’ll definitely participate in tequila shots.” Chile finishes the last cup.
“We’ll save it for later. Invitation only, Dude.” Comma finishes, turns, and heads toward the band.
Steve McSwain walks up the driveway at 1313 Devonshire and rings the doorbell. There is no answer. He knocks loudly on the white oak door; still no answer. He shakes his head and smells his breath. McSwain doesn’t detect any hint of the Mary Jane cookie, but he can feel it in his eyelids. He walks back to his truck, and Sefa is watching him for signal. He looks at the Ford and shakes his head, no. Sefa rolls his eyes and brow skyward, raises his arms, hands up, shoulders scrunch. His brother, Scooter, is fast asleep, his head against the corner or the cab; his mouth is wide open, and although Steve can’t hear him, Scooter appears to be snoring.
McSwain climbs back into his truck and takes out his phone. He calls the dispatcher at the Vanilla Shed. “This is Selene, Mr. McSwain, I just got a call from Ms. Andreessen, and she said they would be there in 15 or so.”
“Good, but it’s getting late.” He answers. “I don’t know if I am going to make the drop at Caltrans in Berkeley?”
“Sure, you can. They’re running late too.” She assures him. “Are you feeling alright; your voice sounds different?”
“I’m fine; just a little tired. Traffic is going to be hell, and.”
“Don’t worry,” she interrupts, “it’ll work out.”
“I am worried and this job is cutting into my personal life as well as my contract price.” McSwain explains his frustration in hushed tones.
“I’ll make it worth your while, Mr. McSwain. I’ve already noted overtime for this delivery.”
“Thanks for that, but if I can’t make the train…” he is interrupted again.
“You’ll make it. I spoke with the client and they’re aware of the situation. Ms. Andreessen said she’s been stuck at the dentist with her daughters, but she’ll be there in 15 minutes or less.” Selene declares with friendly confidence.
“Okay,” Steve submits, “it’s in your hands.”
“Good. Just let me know when you leave for the train.” She adds.
“Will do.” He answers.
Bridget pulls a card off the deck and lays it above the other two on the spool. “This card, the Queen of Wands, is your destiny or goal.” She looks up at Ethan and he meets her eyes.
Queen of Wands
“The Queen of Wands represents nurturing introspection with a vivacious and warm personality. She is like the Greek goddess Hera; she represents our basic instincts and home. Her thrown is solid, but unending at the top, meaning infinite possibilities. She wields a long strong staff as the controller of her fate, and the two lions at her side are her authority. The black cat implies that the Queen has nature at her command. The sunflower, a golden orb, attests to her fiery passion as well as successful in the fields.” Bridget describes.
Ethan nodes his head, his eyes are wide open following her lips.
”If you can figure out who you are, something you are spending time doing at this moment, your confidence will increase immensely giving you great power.” Bridget forecasts.”
“Whoa,” Ethan replies. “If only.”
Bridget smiles, “or, this could be a women already in your life whose strength and nurturing compassion will boost your confidence and life.”
Lieutenant Inspector Emily Cochran pulls up behind a 70’s Chevy van that is bellowing bright white smoke. It has a mural of horses’ tails and their Asses painted on the back doors, but most of the detail is lost in the nauseous cloud. Are you sure this is the exit,” she points ahead and turns her head to Seven for a second.
Seven coughs, instinctually, since no smoke is getting into the cab. “Yes.” He lowers his head to the right and covers his mouth. “Doesn’t this cruiser have a GPS?”
“Really Seven? Nothing is coming in,” she laughs, “I’ve got the vents closed.”
“I can still smell it,” he gasps again, “I think it’s brake fluid.”
“You know, the old myth that you can clean out your carburetor with brake fluid, but it smokes like hell till it burns off.”
“No. I can’t say I ever heard that one.” She answers. Cochran exists off the freeway at University Avenue. “The GPS works both ways,” she says. “It’s turned off. I don’t want the company to know about this side-trip.”
Bridget sips from her cup and looks up at Ethan. He follows suit and giggles.
“Bridget, do you really believe in this?” He asks.
“That’s a tough question to answer.” She takes another and then a slow, deliberate breath.
Comma sets the tray of beer onto a spool table next to the band as they watch him. He unloads it and looks up. “I got you all some beers. We have wine too at the lunch table.”
“Thanks man,” Nathan says, walks over, and picks up one of the plastic cups. He takes a healthy swig. “Taste great,” he nods at comma. The rest of the band joins him.
Comma smiles back and he caries the tray over to the power outlets. He checks the connections and removes the kink out of a power cable. Jaebal looks over his shoulder, frowning. He stands and turns to her. “It looks good.”
“Do you think I could get a burger later?” She asks.
“Sure. I’ll go cook some fresh. Come on over when you can.” He smiles and turns to walk away, but stops and turns back. “Let me know, if you or the band need anything, okay?”
She smiles back at him and motions with her head. Comma looks at the other band members, but they are busy tuning their instruments. As the host, he announces again, “If anyone needs anything, just let know.”
“Right on boss.” Nathan tips his beer.
“You’re the man.”
“Suds man,” all the band members laugh and tip their beer to him.
Comma blushes and returns to the BBQ grill. He sits one burger each for all of them and few more hot dogs on the grill. His meat tray is empty, so he reaches down to a cooler and pulls out several chicken breasts and another large porterhouse.
The smell of roasting meat wafts over the crowd and Bridget draws another card off the stack. She places it to the right of the two crossed cards. It is the Ace of Swords. Ethan studies it from his side of the reading.
“I do and I don’t.” Bridget answers. “I know that’s a strange answer, but I can’t imagine that a few colored images on bit of paper could possibly predict anything about the future.”
“Really?” Ethan is stumped.
“Yeah, but after lots of readings, I’ve noticed a strange effect.” She pauses and takes a drink. “The images are like common clichÄ events, and yet, as historic or whatever type of cards the teller is using, they’re open to so much interpretation that the client opens their life to the possibility and links it together to the everyday.”
“Whoa, like a Rorschach test?” Phoebe chimes in.
“Yes, yeah I never thought of it that way, but it’s all about the interpretation in the moment of the act of reading.” She is excited. “I’ve encounter some strange consequences that I can’t explain, and yet, the act of telling a fortune creates this opportunity for the questioner to pause and analyze themselves through the images on the cards.”
“So, you’re like a spiritual shrink,” Ethan says, “a paranormal psychiatrist?”
Bridget laughs, “I don’t think I would go that far. I’m not certified. I don’t have a medical degree. I can’t write you a prescription or note from the doctor.”
“A supernatural psychotherapist, a spirit therapist…” Ethan continues.
“Not really, I just provide a language and an opportunity for the client to figure it out through abstraction of the problem and with a little style.” Bridget explains.
“This is fascinating,” Phoebe adds. “You two are in sync or something.” She takes a swig of her wine, and sits her knife on the table. “I’ve got to go,” she points both fingers at herself “hostess. “I’ll be back in a minute. I want to see how this turns out. Do you two want anything?”
“I’ll take another hot dog.” Ethan says.
“I’m fine.” She answers.
“And drag it through the garden,” Ethan adds.
“Chicago dog!” Phoebe cries out.
The clowns turn and chant, “Chee ca goo, chee ca goo, doggie, doggie.” The acrobats join in, “chee ca goo, chee ca goo,” and the clowns answer doggie, doggie.”
Bixxter stands and adds in his deep base voice, “growin’ in the garden with gnomes.”
The band joins in with a little jazz improvisation. “Chee ca goo, chee ca goo, goo, goo,” sing the clowns followed with “doggie, doggie, doo,” chant the acrobats, and finally, Bixxter in basso profondo, “growin’ in the garden with the gnomies.”
The chant continues for several musical bars, until Nathan calls everyone to the races with his horn. Loud laughter and whoops fill the afterglow with a run on the keg. Chili is still pumping and pouring.
“Wow. I’m having a great time.” Ethan says.
Bridget takes another card off of the stack without looking and places it to the right of the crossed cards. She points at it, “this position is you’re past foundation, or events and influences in the recent distant past that are influencing current moods.” Bridget glances down for a moment. “The Ace of Swords is a strong card with resolute positive action.”
Ace of Swords
“No way.” Ethan says.
“The hand emerges from a dark cloud and grips the sword with resolve to achieve the best result of your question.”
“Although you may have had trouble in the past, you’ve solve them in a successful manner. You are determined to win the laurel and prosper.” Bridget finishes.
Ethan thinks back to the pearl pin on his coat that his favorite aunt gave him. His hand drops back and feels the pearl. It warms to his touch. He remembers that moment on the train when he smote his enemy with conviction and without any negative consequence.
“I’m an instrument of karma,” he whispers to himself.
“What?” Bridget asks.
“Oh, nothing. I’ll tell you later.” He says.
A black Prius pulls up to the garage at 1313 Devonshire. Steve McSwain sits up straight in his vinyl seat, and short-toots his truck horn. The two brothers in the Ford are both asleep. A woman gets out of the car and looks back at the truck. She brushes her hair, smiles as big as she can, and enters the house.
Steve McSwain gets out of the truck with his paper work and walks up the driveway to the house. He knocks on the front she points both fingers at herself door and a comely woman answers. She is wearing a white linen skirt and aquamarine peasant top.
“Hello,” her voice is pleasant and level.
“Hi, Ms. Andreessen. I have a delivery for you from Vanilla Shed” McSwain says. He hands her a form to initial next to the current time filled in. “Initial here, please.” He adds emotionlessly.
“I’m sorry I am so late. I ran into some problems at the stylist and the Pri (short for Prius) is acting up.” Ms. Andreessen answers.
“No problem, Madame. I glad you got home safely.”
She smiles and hands the clipboard back to him.
“I’ll back the truck closer to the door and then unload.” Steve accepts the paperwork and smiles back. He turns around, but before he can leave.
“I’ll leave the door unlocked. Just come and go, as you need. I’ll show you where to sit my furniture.” She says as he turns around
McSwain smiles again and nods his head. The outer door is a glass door. She turns and disappears inside. He walks out to the truck and pushes up the rear-rolling door. It slams into the ceiling. He looks around the corner of the cargo bay and the brothers are still asleep. Duh. I should back into the driveway before lowering the dock, he thinks to himself. No more pot at work.
Steve walks over to the Ford, the driver’s side, and leans in the window. He pushes down on the horn.
“Wha╔what the╔where am╔” Sefa bolts straight up and bangs his head on the roof. He looks toward the window while rubbing his head, and Steve is red-faced, holding back a laugh. Sefa’s mind clicks in gear and he says, “not funny, man. Not funny.” He stretches his arms out in front of him and turns to Scooter who is snoring heavily. “Damn.”
Steve raps his knuckles on the doorframe; “I need one of you to back me into the driveway.”
Sefa shakes scooter as hard as he can to no effect. “Okay.” He steps out of the Ford and stretches again. Sefa shuffles quickly to catch up to McSwain who is already climbing into his cab and starting the Harvester at the same time. His shuffle turns to a jog, as McSwain puts the truck in gear and begins backing.
Sefa directs the truck to about 10-feet from the door. The Harvester’s cab is still in the street, so McSwain turns on the hazards and hops down from the cab. He lowers the power ramp at the back half way and steps up into the cargo bay. Sefa returns to the passenger side of the Ford and opens the door. Scooter’s arm drops out, and nothing else moves but his rising/lowering chest. Sefa shakes him again, but nothing; he tugs his hair, but nothing; he pulls on his arm to no avail.
”Damn it, Scooter!” he says out loud. Only one thing to do he thinks to himself and opens the glove box. Sefa takes out one of the Mary Jane cookies and moves it back and forth under Scooter’s nose. His mouth closes and he stops snoring. He sniffs through his nose deeper and deeper; Scooter’s eyes open half way and his arms slowly reach towards the smell. Sefa slugs him hard in the arm with his empty hand and pulls the cookie away. Scooter’s eyes open wide and he turns to Sefa and smiles.
“I was having this amazing dream about green cup cakes floating around my head, singing a Bob Marley song.”
“Scooter,” Sefa sighs.
”Yes. They were smiling at me and encouraging me to eat.”
”It’s time to unload, brother.” Sefa pulls on Scooters arm and he slowly stands up out of the truck.
”Guess what song?” He says as they walk toward the delivery truck.
”I don’t care brother. It’s late, lets go.” He walks faster pulling his brother along faster.
“Come on, man,” he whines. “It was a cool song.”
McSwain tosses crumpled, plastic sheeting and some cardboard corners out of the cargo bay.
”Green.” Scooter slurs and points at the cardboard. “The singing cup cakes where that color green.”
Sefa shakes his head. Hearing Scooter’s statement, Steve pokes his out of the cargo bay. “What?” he puzzles
”Nothing, Steve.” Sefa shakes his head, side to side. “ Don’t listen to my brother when he wakes up from a pot dream.” He hops up onto the loading ramp, and gestures to Scooter to follow. They both step up to the cargo bay.
McSwain operates the lift to even with the bay floor. “Let’s move the couch onto the ramp, then we’ll carry it in.”
”Here’s your,” Phoebe lowers her voice and looks around, “Chicago dog.” She sets it on the spindle table and pauses for another round of the chant. No one notices and she sighs.
Ethan and Bridget laugh, but not too loud. Ethan picks up the dog and takes a bite, “perfect.” He swoons at Phoebe, “thanks.”
Phoebe reaches down and cuts another piece of her steak, and sticks it in her mouth. “Gotta,” she chews, “go.” She winks at Ethan, and heads back to the grill.
Ethan swallows his bite and goes for another; a pepper falls on the ground. “Oops,” he shrugs and smiles.
Bridge pulls another card off of the stack and lays it face down below the two crossed cards. “This card is the immediate past. Actions and influences that pass in this moment.”
”Like,” he chews, “like,” and realizes he’s speaking with his mouth open. His shoulders scrunch down, and he bends a little at the waist, “sorry.” He blushes.
Bridget smiles at him, “It’s good you feel as comfortable as possible. The reading goes better.”
The heat fades from his face, but as he takes a third bite and hiccups, “shit.” He sits the dog down and hiccups in earnest.
Bridget giggles. “Try holding your breath,” she suggests.
He obliges her, but hiccups, again. Ethan takes another drink of his beer and holds his breath again; he hiccups. “Damn it.” He chugs the beer and hiccups in the middle. Beer covers his chin, his shirt, and onto his pants. He stands up. Bridget is laughing out loud and the red has returned to his cheeks. He stand up to brushes the foam off of his jeans and “burp.” Bridget face is red with laughter, and across the party, burps spread like the bark of dogs. Ethan turns, looks round the yard, and wonders, was it intentional? He frowns for a moment and looks down at Bridget laughing. A light or the setting sun catches on the Phoebe’s Santoku knife and he squints. All is quiet.
Bridget stands and dabs his jeans with a towel Phoebe left on the table. She’s breathing hard as her laughs fade to a jaw wide smile. “Are you Okay?”
”Yes.” Ethan exhales, but continues to blush.
”You’ve got to admit that was funny.” She exclaims.
”Yeah,” he exhales and exclaims. “Clowns.”
The both sit, and she regains her concentration. She points at the cards, “See the Fool, even when he is upside down, can not play enough tricks.”
Ethan sighs and smiles at her again.
”Okay.” Bridget pauses, where was I.” She looks down flips over the card below the two crossed cards. It is The Chariot, upside down.
Breathing normal now, Ethan asks, “a chariot?”
”Your plans in the past have been upturned and you’re having a hard time facing it.” Bridget says, “but that is in the past you’re facing a new phase of personal growth.” She turns the card right side up and shows its details to Ethan. “See the driver’s expression, how it looks unsure and his posture is nonchalant?”
”Yeah.” Ethan answers
”He holds a strong staff, but doesn’t seem to direct its purpose. He’s acting without thinking.” She adds. “ Even the horses appear indirect, like they have free reign.”
”And reversed?” Ethan wonders.
”Yes. In combination with the other cards, your troubled actions are ending, maybe in failure or they’re just over. Ethan, you will start a new path in life; perhaps with help.” Bridget smiles at him.
He blushes, “thank God,” Ethan sighs loudly; and then looks around to see if the clowns are listening again.
Steve McSwain lowers the lift with the couch on it to the ground. The two brothers are sitting on it. The couch is still wrapped in a plastic sheet. Sefa takes one end and Scooter the other; they squat at the knees and lift it up off the lift and head towards the door. Steve repositions the lift to halfway and hops down out of the cargo bay. He catches up and passes them. He knocks on the door, and Ms. Andreessen, who is sitting in her formal living room, goes to the door and opens it.
”It goes in our family room at the back of the house,” she says. She leads them to a hallway. “Be careful of the paintings, they’ll scratch you.” There are several large classic portraits on both sides of the hallway. One depicts a older gentleman in 18th century dress, standing next to a carriage; and the other, is a woman, dressed similarly, sitting on bench in a garden. Their expressions are sour and detached. They do not fit the dÄcor or the proportion of the space.
”They’ve been in our family forever,” she says, nonchalant. The three follow past the formal living room, past another hallway to the left, and into a high ceiling great room. The kitchen and dinning space is off to the left. “I have the perfect place picked out,” she points, to a sideboard turn toward the dining table, “in front of the Kinsey, please, facing the television.”
”Kinsey Mam?” McSwain is not sure what she is talking about.
”Sorry,” she points to sideboard, “my father made that sideboard for us. My maiden name is Kinsey.”
”Okay,” McSwain says. Sefa and Scooter carry the couch to its place and sit it down.
”Center it with the sideboard,” Andreessen says.
They oblige and move it a foot to the left. McSwain watches.
”Hum,” she says, “let’s see how it fits with the other pieces.”
”Good. I’ll wait to remove the plastic till we have all of them in place.” McSwain says.
”Great.” She says.
The three turn and walk back to the truck.
”Let’s get the love-seat next,” McSwain says. All three climb to the back of the truck and McSwain un-boxes the love seat. He leaves the plastic wrap on. “Take it inside and I’ll unbox the chairs.” The brothers ride the settee down as Steve operates the lift. Just like before, each takes an end and they are off.
Steve turns attention to the chairs. He unboxes them, but they don’t match the cover of the other two pieces. “Shit.” He says out loud. Steve takes out his camera and takes a picture of the chairs. He jumps down form cargo bay and jogs back indoors. He catches the brothers just as they sit the settee at a right angle to the couch at the back wall.
”The two chairs go opposite,” Ms. Andreessen points to the space across from the settee.
”Ms. Andreessen,” McSwain queries her. He hold the picture of one of the chairs in front her.
”Yes.” She looks down at the phone.
”Are the covers on your chairs supposed to be different from the one on the couches?”
”Uh,” she studies the picture on the small screen of the smart phone. McSwain begins to sweat as she studies it for a long time.
”Yes,” she says. “Those are my chairs. I ordered something complementary as not to be to monochromatic. They may eventually go in another room.” She explains. “They’ll match in there.”
McSwain lets out a gasp of relief. “But, you still want us to place them here across from the settee?”
”Yes, yes. We’re having a family event next weekend and I’m guessing the husbands will be in here watching some sport or another on the TV.” Ms. Andreessen describes her plans.
McSwain and the two brothers head back to the truck. Sefa is smiling ear to ear. “I heard your relief, Boki.” He says and continues smiling. (Boki is Hawaiian for chief.)
McSwain looks at his watch. “I think I am just going to make the train in Berkeley,” he says.
”Yeah, man, it’s getting late. I’m going to have to feed scooter again.” Sefa says.
McSwain pauses at the truck, his mouth is hanging open in disbelief, and then the two laugh as all three men climb up.
Steve unboxes the second chair as Sefa and Scooter position the first on the lift. Sefa activates the lift, and then turns to Steve. “I hope you don’t mind?”
”No, no. You seem to know what you are doing.” He answers.
Scooter unloads the first chair, still and rides the lift back up. The brothers position the 2nd on the lift and ride it down. Steve returns it to its stowed position,
hands Sefa the clipboard, and climbs halfway down out of the cargo pay. Steve grabs the handle on the ribbed door and pulls it down as he jumps down. It slams shut. He replaces the lock.
”Go ahead take that one in, and I’ll sit here and finish my paper work.” He instructs.
The brothers carry the chair up to the door, but must turn it on its side to get it through. It must be deeper than the other pieces. They return quickly and haul the 2nd chair in. Turning it on its side as before. McSwain follows them.
Ms. Andreessen is sitting on the couch. “Right beside the other.” She calls out. “Okay.” She stands and walks toward the television. She studies the configuration for a moment.
”Do you guys mind if we switch the chairs and the loveseat?” She looks at McSwain.
”No. What ever you like, Ms.” Steve McSwain answers.
The brothers switch the two chairs with the settee as Ms. Andreessen watches.
”That separates the room better, but it doesn’t work as well with the two chairs in here,” She explains. She pauses studies it again for a few moments. “I think it works better the other way,” she says.
The brothers are watching McSwain and he nodes his head yes. The two switch furniture back.
Ms. Andreessen steps up to the two chairs and angles them into each other. “I’m going to need a table to go here,” she says. “I think I have something in back.”
McSwain looks to her instruction to go for a table that is not in the order. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll get one of my sons to bring it up.” She finishes.
Steve tells the brothers to take the plastic sheets off. He turns toward Ms. Andreessen. “Here, I’m going to need your initials, here,” he points to a line on the contract.
She does as asked.
”And, your signature here,” McSwain points to a line on the last document. He tears off yellow copies for her and keeps the rest.
The brothers gather up the plastic sheets and head for the truck.
”Wait, wait,” She says and reaches for her purse on the dining table. She opens a pocket on its face and pulls out several bills. She hands each of them a twenty.
”Thank you so much for your help,” she says.
McSwain takes the twenty in one hand and lightly shakes her hand with the other. Her hands are on top of his; it’s very old school. The brothers smile, bow their head two her, and each pockets the twenty.
At the truck, “I didn’t expect that,” McSwain says.
”Forty should cover Scooters snack.” Both men laugh
”I hope so,” Scooter shakes his head.
”Are you guys unloading at the next stop?” McSwain asks Sefa.
”Do you know where we are going?” McSwain wants to be sure. There won’t be time to get lost.
”Yes. No problem, boss.” Sefa says.
”We’ll need to get their fast, so I don’t think we can stop for a snack.” Steve adds.
”What?” Scooter chimes in.
”Don’t worry, he’ll manage.” Sefa smiles and the two had for their truck.
McSwain climbs into his cab and calls the Vanilla Shed to report his progress.
“Good,” Selene says. “It’s going to be close, but I think you can make it and unload in time.”