Three nights later, the doorbell rang and Gil and Max ran to answer it. Chris Kane stood at the door with a bouquet of flowers in one hand and a small bag of gourmet dog treats in the other. Gil turned toward the stairs and yelled: “Kori! Time to go.” He turned back to Chris, hand on the knob, body blocking the doorway. He did not invite him in, just stared at him while Max sniffed the bag.
“Oh, yeah,” Chris said. “These are for Max.”
Gil opened the bag and without taking his eyes off Chris, tossed a biscuit in a high arc. Max made a mad dash across the room, snatching it from the air. One corner of Gil’s mouth quirked up when Max took the first crunching bite, but his gaze didn’t waver.
Kori appeared and Chris sighed from relief and appreciation. Kori smiled, waved and disappeared into the kitchen. After a few more moments, Gil took the flowers and went to join his sister, but when Chris took a step to follow, Max ceased his crunching and growled.
“Oh, they’re beautiful,” Chris heard her say from the kitchen. “Do me a favor and put these in water?” He heard the smacking of lips as cheeks were kissed.
“Avery should be home by ten. Gil needs to go to sleep by then.”
“Awww, Kori,” Gil whined.
“Alright. Ten-thirty.” Apparently that pleased Gil because Chris heard no argument.
“You be careful now.”
An older female voice. One Chris couldn’t identify.
“I will.” Another kiss. “Thanks, Aunt Stella.” Ah, yes. The neighbor.
“Well, whether you’re early or late, you know where you’ll find me.”
“Asleep on the couch and pretending not to be.” More laughter and then she was standing before him, smiling.
“What are you doing in the doorway?” Kori asked, the smile brightening.
“Waiting for you. What else?”
Kori laughed and he grabbed her arm and led her away.
“The more you delve into this stuff, the more that comes up,” Aunt Stella said. She and Gil sat at the kitchen table each with the remnants of a glass of milk and the cookie crumbs to go with it. Aunt Stella shuffled a deck of Tarot cards, tapped them tight and placed them in front of Gil. “That’s why people keep all their little secrets and don’t want to bother with them. It’s just too much for some to think about.” She smiled at Gil. “You’re still young, though. How many secrets could you possibly have?”
“Now what do I do?” Gil asked, impatient.
“Cut the cards three times to the left and then stack them up again on the pile to the right.” Gil did as instructed and waited on Aunt Stella’s next move. “We’re just going to do a short past, present, future reading right now rather than go through the whole song and dance of a lifetime reading. Although…” She placed a hand under her chin and played with an errant whisker, something her eyebrow tweezers had missed. She furrowed her brows, further accentuating the small, almost scar-like indentation that had formed over the years in the center of her eyebrows as a result of this exact facial expression. “Nah, let’s just do this.” Waving a pudgy hand to erase all contrary thoughts, she placed it on top of the cards, fanning them across the table before Gil. Although Aunt Stella had several Tarot decks at home, she preferred Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot Deck as it conveyed more of a feeling of beneficence on the reader than say, the Egyptian Tarot which was to her mind overly preoccupied with the twin themes of death and destruction.
“Pick three cards and place them right to left facing down.”
Gil acquiesced and looked up, doe-eyed at Aunt Stella, waiting for the next instruction. She pushed the remainder of the deck together in a pile and set it aside. Had any of the clergy members, all males, of the Greek Orthodox Church to which Aunt Stella belonged been here to witness such adroit familiarity with the work of Satan they would have blushed crimson and then blue for lack of oxygen. But despite the ecclesiastical indoctrinations of the church, it could not, for all its gumption, usurp such traditions, steeped in mysticism and superstition, that had survived among Greek women since the seers and high priestesses of the temple brought to light the oracles at Delphi.
“You know, my mother had the Sight. She could tell you who was on the phone the minute it rang.”
“Wow. Really?” Gil asked. “I wish I could do that.”
“You can. You just need focus. And some training.” Aunt Stella tapped the first of the three cards Gil had turned over. “My sister inherited my mother’s gift. She can read the cards just by looking at them. Not me, though. I need the book.” She flipped through The Tarot Book, by Angeles Arrien, its pages worn and rounded from overuse. She placed her hand reverently on the cover and closed her eyes. “My second bible,” she said, opening her eyes. “Shall we start?”
Aunt Stella picked up Gil’s first card. “This is your recent past.”
“Why didn’t you get your Mom’s gift?”
“It only goes to one woman in the family, usually the first born, but that varies. The others get some things, sympathetic leanings and what not, but usually only one gets the whole enchilada.”
The enchilada reference triggered a visceral reaction and Gil’s stomach grumbled loudly. Aunt Stella pushed her basket of treats his way and looked up the first card in the Angeles book. Gil pulled out a white-chocolate chip and macadamia nut cookie, so loaded with nuts that there was barely enough dough to hold the cookie together.
“What happens if there’s no girls?”
“Sometimes it skips a generation. Although boys can get it, too, if that’s what you’re asking. And sometimes it does run through the male line. Your father’s told me more than once about your grandmother. Apparently she had it. I think he was always a little disappointed that he didn’t have a full-fledged dose of it, although he was very intuitive, especially for a man. Still, he didn’t rise to your level.” Aunt Stella reached across the table and squeezed Gil’s hand. “He was so proud of you.”
Gil pulled out another cookie.
“That’s enough now. You’re not going to be able to sleep.”
“Yes I will.” He bit into it while Aunt Stella read Gil’s first card.
“The Six of Swords. Excellent. And not surprising, actually. The Six of Swords represents science.” She showed Gil the page in the book depicting the card as if that were sufficient to prove its meaning. “Objective communication is represented by the planet Mercury. See it there at the top. Then there’s Aquarius at the bottom, and it’s associated with ‘originality, innovation and pioneering work.’” She squeezed Gil’s arm and smiled. “This is good, Gilly. It symbolizes the creative mind that pulls ideas from unexplainable sources of inspiration and communicates them in a way people can understand without feeling threatened.”
“It’s the TDU! You see the TDU in the cards!”
“Right there in a full-color spectrum of light,” Aunt Stella said. Gil allowed himself a moment’s smile, but replaced it with a stern countenance.
“Does it say how it’ll do?” He bounced the heel of his foot up and down, the ball of his foot stationary on the floor, a habit born of nervousness.
“Hhmmmm. I’m surprised.” Aunt Stella raised her eyebrows at him. “You usually don’t care about those things.”
Aunt Stella locked eyes with him, a penetrating gaze; he looked down and studied the lines on his hands. She moved over to his side of the table, turned his face to hers.
“You’re not your father. You can only do what you can. I know you feel the burden of trying to save the world for him. And your mother. You can’t help but get that from your parents. But Gilly, you’re only ten, honey, and practically still a baby.” She squeezed Gil then released him so she could look in his eyes. “He’ll be proud of you no matter what you do.” Aunt Stella placed Gil’s head on her massive chest and he shed a few silent tears.
“I thought you said you weren’t psychic?” Gil said, sitting up to wipe his eyes.
“Well, maybe just a little.” Aunt Stella blushed and smiled. Gil reached for another cookie then stopped in mid-swipe and looked up at Aunt Stella first, the question in his smile.
She sighed. “Alright, but that’s it.”
Gil stared at the Six of Swords as he chewed. “What else does it say?”
“I don’t know. Why don’t you turn over another one?”
He flipped a card to see a man hanging upside down, bound at the ankle by a snake hanging from an Egyptian Ankh. He dropped the card. “Am I going to die?”
“Ah, the Hanged Man,” Aunt Stella said. “No, you’re not going to die, but you have to forget about everything you are if you want to move past the ego to a place where things really start happening. Break old habits. Release your fear. You’ll do great things.”
“But I don’t feel afraid of anything. I mean, sometimes I’m afraid of ghosts, but only the ones I don’t know, and sometimes the dark, but only if Max isn’t around.” At the mention of his name, Max raised his head, opened his mouth, revealing a full set of molars, and yawned. Gil scratched him behind the ears. Max put his head down and went back to sleep.
“How about this? The only limitations on you right now – since this card deals with the present – are those you put on yourself. Capice?”
Gil nodded. “What’s the last one say? The future card?”
“Turn it over.”
Gil popped the last bite of cookie in his mouth and flipped the card.
“The Seven of Wands. Excellent.”
“What’s that mean?”
“It means stand by what you believe. Don’t compromise and trust your intuition.”
Gil sighed, folded his hands on his lap and looked at the cards. “Do they say anything else? Because I’m not sure I understand.”
Aunt Stella smiled and reached for the deck. She handed them to Gil who wrapped his hands around them. “Concentrate,” she said. He closed his eyes for several moments and then put the cards on the table. “Now fan them out and pick one.”
Gil flipped over a card from the middle of the deck, “The Star,” a card from the major arcana. Aunt Stella smiled.
“More of the same, Gilly. Get out there. Do something wonderful. Be the gateway for the light to come through you and out into the world. And don’t be afraid to shine.”
“Is that it?” Gil put his hands under his chin and slumped in his chair. “Aunt Stella, how can I do this by myself if I’m only ten?”
“What about Avery? Can’t he help you?”
“Yes, but…” Gil looked around behind him to make sure Avery hadn’t suddenly appeared out of thin air, and whispered to Aunt Stella, “I think I need more help than that.”
“I don’t know, Gilly. Let’s see.” Aunt Stella pointed to the cards. “One more.”
Gil scanned the row of cards, his eyes running up and down, his fingers barely touching them until of their own volition they seemed to stop and hover about one card. Aunt Stella nodded and Gil turned over the card.
“Ah, that’s what you were looking for.” Gil stared at the card: “The Prince of Disks” depicted a man with a strange helmet sitting in a chariot being pulled by a bull. “The architect has arrived.” Aunt Stella consulted the Arien book. “See that double helix right there? It indicates an ability to build new worlds.” She stopped and smiled. “Gilly, meet your new partner.”
Gil stared back and forth between Aunt Stella and The Prince of Disks for a full minute before speaking: “Thanks, Aunt Stella.” He threw his arms around her, kissed her on the cheek, and went upstairs to bed.
to be continued. . .