Opposites attract, so I’ve heard. Some call it magnetism. But unlike the lowly lodestone, people eat, sleep, and have opinions. Though drawn irresistibly to each other, sometimes, one or two of a couple feels stuck. What quantum switch transforms attraction into repulsion?
Bret and Erin met at the Harmonic Convergence in Sedona. En route to a favorite camp site, he meant to stop for gas and the crowd enveloped him. There was so much color and light and movement. He’d never seen anything like it. And Erin appeared amidst the kaleidoscopic moment, at the swirl’s peaceful center. Bret couldn’t understand feeling he’d discovered a deep source, a self-generating force within her. After a few minutes talking with Erin, Bret felt he’d fallen into the vortex, and he didn’t even know what that was.
His cowboy hat made Bret stand out. You could pick him from the crowd at any distance. His easy smile (with the accent on ‘ease’) made Erin want him by her side. Her smiling eyes drew him close and they hadn’t parted since, except for obvious hygienic reasons. And not always then.
Painted mandalas decorated her ancient VW’s wheels. The sticker peeling from the off-kilter bumper read, ‘My other car is a broom.’ Bret thought that hilarious. He found out though, her tarot lacked a ‘humor’ card.
Bret’s almost new pick-up sported a gun rack, which often held a rifle or two. His prized possession, its title lay a few months out of reach.
Over time, their conflicting world views began to chafe. Try as they might, reconciling their diametrically opposed concepts of reality did not come as easily as saying ‘yin and yang.’
His ironic inquiries, unwittingly delivered a discordant note of disdain to Erin’s discerning ear.
One morning, Bret entered the kitchen. A haze of sage incense stratified through the room. Erin sat at the table holding her quartz obelisk, suspended by a silver chain.
“Hey, beautiful. What’s up?” he asked.
“Nothing. Just tuning my pendulum.”
“I’ll turn on the radio. It has speakers. What station you want?” She gave him a blank look. He reset. “Anything I can help with?”
“Actually, it’s more about calibrating it to my aura. Not to a radio crystal, silly. The pendulum helps me make decisions.”
“How did you decide to use a pendulum?”
“It works for me. The elementals respect it… and don’t meddle much.”
“Elemental my dear Watson…” Awaiting a laugh, not forthcoming, he sneezed.
She looked askance. “Sneezing… that’s an omen.”
Bret blew his nose. “Ahem… No doubt caused by the evil spirits inhabiting sage smoke.”
“Sage effectively reduces negative vibes. Take note.”
Sighing, she returned to her crystal, suspended over the table. The gentle swing of the obelisk gradually moved into a circular clockwise direction.
Bret commented, “I love when my clock’s pendulum helps it determine the time.” Erin tried ignoring him. “I know a guy who uses double headed coins when consulting the I Ching.”
Reflexively, Erin hit the table. “But that’s cheating!”
Bret laughed, “It’s optimized outcomes. Minimized risk.”
“Really? How can you expect a true reading if you game the system?”
“Ahh… So, truth is your desire?” He leaned in and whispered. “FYI, I don’t game the system. I observe patterns. I don’t force my prey to the trap. I set traps on the paths they already follow.”
She sat back. “Simplistic thinking. So concrete. I’m talking about the spirit, not hunting and killing innocent creatures.”
“Erin, it’s not about killing, but getting what you want. Whatever that might be. Same goals different tools.”
“Very different goals.”
“So, you cast a spell randomly? You have no purpose? No expectations, or desire for the outcome? What’s the point?”
“I avoid committing crimes against the universe.”
Bret nodded. “Guilty as charged. Sentence me to hard labor in the Venusian nougat mines.”
Erin mused, ‘Don’t tempt me… But Uranus would be more apt.’ She shook off the thought. “Karma’s genius is in equalizing things. Like after a duck lands in a pond.”
He couldn’t resist. “I love duck.” Noting her displeasure, he tacked. “I look for actual behavior. That duck will take flight again. I don’t waste my time herding clouds. And I don’t seek peppermint flavored unicorn spoor.”
“If you don’t look for it…” She sighed and gave him a look. “Sheesh! Why must I always end up with the guy whose moon is in Scorpio?”
“’When the student is ready, the teacher appears,’ just popped into my head.” She rolled her eyes. “But I just paid off my truck. Let’s go for a ride.”
“Oh, boy… You’re inviting me to go kill things?”
“Uhm, okay. That wasn’t the plan. But if you want to… I was thinking more about lunch. At a restaurant. Let someone else do the slaughtering, today.”
“Give me five. I need to wrap this up.”
Erin turned away. He watched her vague gestures. She whispered incantations so softly, he couldn’t make them out. The sage dissipated. In a few minutes, Erin announced she was ready. He doffed his cowboy hat and they left.
They exited the building into the sun. Bret indicated his truck, parked down the shady street. They walked arm in arm.
Erin slowed and said, “You know, Bret, sometimes I think you love your truck more than me.”
He smiled and bantered. “It’s almost new, after all. So it’s way less maintenance…” She stopped. Realizing how that sounded, he reeled it back. “I meant it as a joke, Erin. I promise, you are anything but high maintenance… Come on.”
Without warning, a crow dove out of the sky and plucked Bret’s Stetson from his head. Its caw sounded like raucous laughter as it rapidly regained altitude. Bret grabbed at his head and flailed after the bird, but too late.
Erin gasped. “Wow! Are you alright?”
“Yeah, it got my hat. But not me.”
“Let me see.” He bowed his head and she felt his scalp. Smoothing his hair, she then gave him a noogie. “Yeah, no scratches. That was weird!”
They heard a scream from down the street and looked toward his truck. The tree shading it swayed with a deep groan. Splintering wood popped like gunshots as the tree toppled onto Bret’s pick-up. People yelled and ran. Branches snapped as the tree settled. Birds rose and circled, calling raucously.
Bret screamed, “No!” He ran up to the truck, obscured by foliage. Erin caught up to him. A high pitched squeal cut the air as a tire went flat. The truck settled.
“My truck! My new truck…” Bret wailed.
Erin patted his back. “Wow! Mercury really is in retrograde…”
“What can I do?”
“For one thing, don’t pay off your car loan and then invite some old tree to crush it.”
Incredulous, Bret gave her a look. “That’s it?”
“The mirrors broke. If you touch a shard to a gravestone, the elementals cancel the curse.”
“The tree broke the mirrors, not me.”
“…Said the guy who parked under the fallen tree. Own it, Bret. You’ve heard, ‘break it, you buy it’? Well, you bought it.”
Staring, Bret stepped back. “Wait a minute. That crow saved my life. Our lives. If it hadn’t stolen my hat, we would have been in the truck…”
Erin pulled her phone out. “You want me to call your insurance? And 9-1-1 will want to know...”
A crowd had gathered. Traffic snarled.
“Erin… look at me. Did you have something to do with this?”
She scoffed, touched his arm, and smiled her prettiest smile. “Come on, Bret. You don’t believe in all that superstitious bunk.”
With arms outstretched, he moved around entranced, as if seeing the world with fresh eyes.
Erin made calls. Lights flashing, a squad car pulled to a stop. The cop strolled around, assessing the situation. She spoke into her radio and began directing traffic. A helicopter hovered.
Bret’s hat dropped at his feet. A black feather stuck out from the headband. The crow soared away. A chorus of cawing sounded from the trees.
His eyes followed Erin as she gave him a most mysterious smile.