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Authors: Gail Cleare

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BOOK: Destined
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Rolando and Isabella Reyes were a
beautiful young couple with shining dark eyes and hair. They had a one-year-old
daughter and lived across the hallway from Siri. Isabella congratulated me on
hiring her friend, complimenting my wisdom. Isabella seemed outgoing and full
of fun. Her husband was more restrained, a little shy.

Tom Rodgers introduced his friend
James Godard, who was a carpenter and worked with Tom at a local construction
company. Wearing a brown plaid flannel shirt and jeans, James was very
attractive in a huggable All American way. His large, calloused hand engulfed
mine. He seemed like someone I might enjoy knowing better.

 
“Well, are you pleased?”

Laurel’s voice came from behind me as
I stood in the open front door looking out into the street. The sun was going
down, and the streetlights dotted the sidewalks with bubbles of light.

“Everyone had a wonderful time, don’t
you think?” she asked, coming to stand beside me. We leaned in the doorway
cozily, two old pals.

Laurel had been in the kitchen
cleaning up, supervising her staff as they re-packed the van.

“We actually made some pretty good
sales,” I said.

“Most of the merchants from the
neighborhood were here,” Laurel said.

“Thank you so much,” I said, “I could
never have gotten through it without your help.”

“Sure you could Emily, you’re the
perfect hostess,” she said. “Give yourself some credit, too!”

Across the intersection, we could see
that the Green Thumb was hopping with business. All the outdoor tables were
occupied, and we could see John serving cocktails behind the bar on the
glassed-in porch.

“I guess I’d better get back across
the street,” she said, and excused herself to check on her clean-up crew.

I heard voices behind me coming down
the stairs, and Mr. Paradis appeared with his European friend. They shook hands
formally, and Anton Novak slipped out the front door, saying “good night” to
him and “
au revoir

to me.

We locked eyes for a moment as he
passed, and I couldn’t help wondering when our next encounter would occur. He
was definitely flirtatious but even aside from the question of his marital
status, as far as I knew he traveled constantly for his business. I was not
terribly interested in a one-night stand, no matter how attractive the man
might be. And frankly, I didn’t trust him. There was something kind of
threatening about his smooth, practiced charm. He made me feel awkward and
unsophisticated.

“Ms. Green is in the back, I presume?”
Mr. Paradis interrupted my thoughts, waving his checkbook in the air. I nodded
and he wended his way toward the rear of the building.

I stood alone in the doorway looking
out into the street for a moment longer. I thought about what the children had
said, “Welcome to Paradise!”

“Paradise,” I whispered aloud. I
thought about what that word meant, to me.

I didn’t believe in conventional
religion, but didn’t really consider myself an agnostic, either. I took a
practical view of life and death, assuming that this is our one chance on the
planet and we’d better make the most of it.

From time to time, however, I did get
a sense that some kind of “higher power” might exist. Also, there did seem to
be something very true in the idea of karma, the concept that your actions have
an effect on your future “luck.”

In my personal view, paradise is much
more likely to be a state we might achieve by pursuing experiences to evolve
ourselves while here on Earth, rather than a magical place to go after leaving
it.

From the mouths of babes, I thought.

Henry Paradis was the kind of reader
who sat in one position, immersed in study, for such long hours that his knees
would get stuck and he’d have trouble walking when he finally stood up.

He truly
concentrated
when he read. The kettle could boil,
the phone could ring, the smoke alarm could go off, the world could end, and
Henry would read on and on. A person could even stand in front of him clearing
her throat repeatedly and not be in the room, as far as he knew.

I understood this about him now and
had come to terms with it.

When I went up to say goodbye after
everyone else had left that night, I found my employer in his office, sitting
in his reading chair. I was prepared to back out the door and sneak off, but
then I saw the three Chinese coins on the table. He was reading the
I Ching
. Intrigued, I stepped into the room.
He immediately looked up at me.

“Welcome,” he said. He seemed alert
and stimulated.

“We’ve finished downstairs now.
They’ve all gone, I locked up,” I said, coming closer to take a seat in the
chair opposite his. I was very curious, having read about this but never having
seen it done before.

The parchment shade on the old brass
floor lamp cast a yellow glow onto the low table between the two chairs, where
he laid the open book. He had a little notebook in his lap too, with a pen, and
he had been taking notes. I saw a hexagram inscribed there, a figure composed
of a series of six stacked solid or broken horizontal lines. The broken or
solid lines are achieved by throwing the coins and getting various combinations
of heads or tails. So the results are determined by the luck of the toss. Each
hexagram has a specific interpretation and spiritual lesson to be learned, as
described in the book, which refers to itself as
The Oracle
.

“What does it say?” I asked him. “Did
you ask about the success of the business?”

 
He smiled at me and put pen and notebook down on the table.

“It says, ‘It furthers one to cross
the great water,’ which is very good!”

“Really!” I said. “But, do we have to
go find a lake or something? Or, is that a symbol?”

“Exactly,” he nodded. “‘Crossing the
great water’ is a large, important enterprise, something big and complicated, an
investment of time and resources.”

“I see. Like, re-opening the store.”

“Yes. It
furthers
us to do this. It will be to our
benefit.”

“Things are going to go well for us!”
I was impressed.

“Yes. That’s what it says tonight.”

“Do you consult the Oracle often?”

He leaned back in his chair and pushed
the tips of his fingers against each other thoughtfully.

“I discovered the wisdom of the
I
Ching
many years ago,
when I first traveled through Asia with my wife, Margaret.”

“When did you wife pass away?” I had
wondered about this, but hesitated to ask.

“It was 1992, in December. Cold, that
year. She had breast cancer, you know.”

“I’m so sorry, it must have been
awful.”

“Yes, it took her very quickly,” he
said, his expression solemn.

“Oh yes, I’ve heard that,” I said.

“I suppose the speed might be a
blessing, though.” He stared into space.

“Yes, perhaps it is.”

“You never know, do we?”

“No, no, we don’t.”

“After Margaret was gone, I closed the
store, you know.”

He looked at me briefly over the top
of his glasses.

“Oh, that was what happened?” I said. “I
wondered.”

“Yes.”

“I see.”

“I just didn’t have the energy any
more,” he said quietly.

He looked down for a moment. I reached
across the table and touched his sleeve. I leaned into the pool of yellow
light.

“But now we’re supposed to cross the
great water, right?”

He smiled at me and patted my hand.

“Yes, Emily. We shall cross it
together.”

With
his touch, a flash of the young man he must have once been came to me. I saw in
my mind a young American making his way along a crowded street by the docks in
some Asian port. When my eyes cleared Mr. Paradis was gazing into them with
interest. He looked a bit sly for a moment then he picked up the brass coins,
rubbing them between his fingers.

“You have a lot of wonderful things
ahead of you, my girl. Let me assure you of that!”

“What? Oh no, you mean my future, you
asked about me?”

“Of course, you are part of the scene
now,” he said, perking up.

“The Scene? We have a Scene?”


The
scenario, the scenario. Part of the picture, around here.” He waved his arm in
a vague circle.


Ohhh, I see. Well?” I demanded,
curious.

“Well what?”

“Well, what did it say about me?”

“Only good things. Success and great
happiness,” he pronounced firmly.

“Totally? Wow. OK, that sounds good,”
I tried to be persuasive. “Don’t suppose you want to be more specific?”

“No, I don’t think so. Not tonight.
Not yet.”

“I thought not. OK. Well, I’d better
be off then,” I said, getting up to go.

“See you in the morning!”

“Yes, see you tomorrow,” I replied,
feeling very glad of the fact.

He picked up his book again and
started to read. As I left the room I glanced back, just to confirm that he was
deeply entranced already, caught in the spell of the magical words. No real
need to tiptoe quietly away, but I did anyhow.

The Hierophant
THE
CONVENTIONS OF SOCIETY

Description: The
Heirophant card symbolizes conventional religious authority.

Meaning:
 
The conventions of society, traditional religion, the preacher.
Criticism of those who are different.

In the days and weeks that followed, things started to
settle into a pattern. I still spent most of my time off alone, but working at
the store all day distracted me from my boring personal life. At home, I was
depressed and lonely. I couldn’t wait to get back into the shop to talk to my
employer and Siri, who was working there part-time now. When I arrived at work
I fell on them like a ravenous beast, pumping my employer for esoteric trivia
and making Siri tell me all the latest neighborhood news. Business was good, steady
and growing. Our ads in the paper were starting to pay off. We sent out a
postcard to the list of collectors, and they began to respond.

BOOK: Destined
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ads

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