Ace of Pentacles

Submitted into Contest #152 in response to: Set your story in an oracle or a fortune teller’s parlor.... view prompt

30 comments

Drama Speculative Suspense

It’s easier with the drunk girls—especially the loud-mouthed ones who travel in packs. Dressed in sparkly tops, short skirts, and wobbly heels, they wear “Bride To Be” paper tiaras or “Nifty-to-Be-Fifty” ballcaps. 

On weekends, I expect them after the bars close. They burst through my door, tittering, eyeing the darkened reading room with glassy cows eyes. They half expect a fallen angel or an imp to peek out from behind the beaded curtains. 

But it’s just me here—and the cards. 

“We’re here for the $20 special,” they bleat. 

My smile doesn’t reach my eyes. I know what they want—otherworldly comfort. So I give it to them, my eyes dark, rimmed in kohl, unblinking. I hold their gaze with an authority they’d rather not question. 

Yes, your boyfriend-ex-boyfriend-fiancé-husband-ex-husband still loves you. He’s been preoccupied with work-bills-traveling-porn-sports-his friends. But soon his heart's affections will be rekindled and burn with the same passion for you as when you first met. Of course you and he are twin flames. Be patient. 

They exhale, wondering how I know the sorrows lodged in their troubled hearts. With teary eyes and a laugh, they nod in relief. Sure, they’ve prayed to God for answers, but the heavens—as always—are silent on this as with other matters.

They want tangible confirmation.

Let’s see what the Tarot cards say. 

I slowly flip over the king and queen of cups. 

Ah. This is good. Your man is becoming more in tune with his inner self. He wants to work things through in his own time. Perhaps before the next full moon you’ll see his attention and affection increase. As for the queen, the cards say you must show him divine grace and understanding. 

More tears. More nods.

Complicit in my fraud, the cheeky tarot cards reveal an upside-down king instead of one that’s right side up. Classic reversal. None of what I said will happen or come true; both the cards and I know it. Frankly, so does the woman in question. 

So what is the truth? Lady, your boyfriend-fiancé-husband would gladly dump you if it were convenient for him to do so. If you are a sidechick, you deserve being left on read. If you have to ask me if he loves you, then he doesn’t. And no, your ex isn’t coming back either, so cut the cords, release the connection, delete his social media, reclaim your energy, and move on.

That would be the truth. That would save them a lot of heartache. But the cards and I never tell them what they need to hear. Since when is there money to be made by telling people the truth? 

Perhaps you’d like to see my selections of love tokens? A rose crystal or a garnet amulet would help immensely. As you know, Mercury is in retrograde

They nod again, but neither one of us knows what that means. Since when have the other planets given a fiddler’s fart about this one? 

If one of the inebriated women buys something, then they all will. They coo, holding up jars of ointments, sticks of incense, mystical trinkets, and good luck charms. Obsequiously, I cater to the weakest willed one in the group, the one who desperately wants to believe that someone knows something about the future.

I do know the future, my dear.

In the long run, we won't have one. 

🜋 🜋 🜋

The middle aged men come after work—alone, hands jammed in their pockets. They’ve passed by my shop several times before. They walk away the first time, but they eventually come back. 

Their fathers are dead, their wives are cold, their children are distant, and they have no real friends. Maybe golf buddies. Maybe a co-worker to talk about the game at lunch. 

But who can they go to for guidance and direction? 

Middle aged men aren’t afraid of much—except for looking weak. With me, they can pay for the privilege of letting their guard down, if only for a moment. 

They may have secondary concerns—but I always lie to them about their first: “What do I do?”

Financial worries etch lines around their haggard faces. Their spouses are disappointed in them. Their offspring require payment for therapists and attorneys and rehabilitation centers and detox centers and unaffordable schools. Wasn’t it their job to keep everyone safe? These failed men, these silent men. They watch closely as I shuffle and reshuffle the cards.  

I flip over the Ten of Pentacles, symbolizing a secure family, where everyone is provided for.

The tarot cards are mocking my client now, and I smack them on the glass table—ostensibly to get them into an orderly pile. 

Behave, I threaten. But the cards listen to me as well as this man’s children listen to him. I prevaricate to give him peace, quoting scripture of all things: The cards remind you that you should raise a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it. The cards say patience is required at this point. Do not lose hope. 

The man and I look at each other. He remains silent, pays my fee, and leaves without another word.

Hope. Bah! 

The cards and I and Emily Dickinson all know that hope is a thing with feathers—and usually a dead thing.

🜋 🜋 🜋

I have my door wide open on a quiet night, hoping to entice someone to come in. 

Frankly, the cards and I are bored with each other. They are tired of my questions, and I am tired of their answers. We both know good and evil have access to the truth—and that truth is fixed. What is, is. 

I shuffle and reshuffle the cards. The tarot cards try to slip from my fingers but my hands are too agile. 

I don’t hear the woman entering the reading room. When I look up, I am startled by her piercing gaze.

We’re closed. I’m—I’m sorry, I stammer.

“Deal the cards for me,” she asks. She puts down a substantial sum of money.

I hate her, but I must do as she requests. 

With our eyes on each other, I flip over the first card—a reversed Messenger of Death. We look at the upside down skeleton, dressed in black armor, riding a white horse.

I look at her, a drawn face devoid of emotion.

“Ah yes, I am resistant to change. It’s true,” she says. She knows the cards better than I do.

I turn over the next card. Another Messenger of Death, but this card is right side up. 

“And another change is coming. You would think both of us have had enough change for one lifetime. Mothers with dead sons shouldn’t have to experience much more, don’t you think?”

I remain silent. 

“Ask the cards again.”

The cards will not tell us. 

“I need to know where my son iseven if you don’t care where your bastard burns.”

My eyes flash, a dozen curses for her and her own wretched son on my lips. The cards grow cold in my hands. She’s cruel, but she has a point. My son was a bastard in every sense of the word. 

I firmly shuffle the tarot cards, my eyes downcast. 

Both the cards and I want her to leave. 

“Ask the cards.”

The cards will not tell us, Mary Christine. 

“Deal the cards,” she orders. She places more money on the glass table. Again, I am bound to deal.

I shuffle the cardsfaster this time. They warm in my hands at first, then glow hotter with each pass. The edges of the cards flicker like hot embers as I deftly shuffle, over and over.

I flick one card out of the deck, placing it face up without looking.

The Lovers. 

The woman looks at the card in disgust. With a pass of her hand, she changes the card to The Judgment, with Gabriel the archangel blowing his horn over the graves of dead men. The ghouls emerging from the open graves on the card look suspiciously like our sons. 

I stand and walk towards the door.

The tarot cards have had enough, too. Another card flips over on its own accord: The Empress, symbolizing maternal care. Oh how much I loved my son! 

Enraged by unchecked grief, the woman reaches out to pass her hand over the card to change it to The Devil, but the glass table shatters, shards covering the woman from head to toe. 

🜋 🜋 🜋

After she leaves, the reading room's lights flicker and grow brighter. 

The tarot cards have arranged themselves into a tidy pile on the floor. I flip over the first one.

The Hermit. 

The deck makes me laugh. 

So I am, my dear friend. But in the afterlife, we will be reunited with my son, won’t we?

I flip the next card over and see the Ace of Pentacles. One of the best cards!

With teary eyes and a laugh, I nod in relief. 


July 01, 2022 01:03

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30 comments

Michał Przywara
17:43 Jul 01, 2022

A fascinating story. This one seems to blend reality with the supernatural -- though I admit I had to look up some of the cards to get their meaning, as I'm not that familiar with tarot. The narrator has a strong voice, and she's established by the first two scenes. I love that opening line, by the way. Very attention grabbing, and sets a darker tone. So we get the sense that she's a businesswoman, and she doesn't much respect her customers. She's jaded, maybe bitter, and she thinks she's better than them. Or, at least, she thinks they're ...

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17:58 Jul 01, 2022

Michal, Again. You are a treasure to read. At this point, I write solely for your insightful commentary. I decided to write this on a couple of levels: the sacred and the profane; the sublime and the ridiculous; the temporal and the eternal; the petty and the serious. Drunk girl, sad dads, and a melancholy mother -- all framed around love/hate, good/evil, purpose and meaning vs. nihilism. As for the over the top religious imagery, I'm not into Tarot either -- but it is rife with it. Just like the cheeky cards, I couldn't resist: Mary Chri...

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Kevin Broccoli
16:09 Jul 07, 2022

"Middle aged men aren’t afraid of much—except for looking weak. With me, they can pay for the privilege of letting their guard down, if only for a moment." A lot of great passages to grab, but that one jumped out at me. I almost took this prompt but I couldn't figure out any way to give it some insight, and I think you did that so well. So many supernatural/horror stories are really based in pain and loss rather than just a jump scare. Bravo!

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00:43 Jul 08, 2022

Kevin -- You are the most creative person in this gin joint. How you don't win every week is a mystery to me. :)

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Carolyn Brown
04:51 Jul 06, 2022

You have an inconspicuous way of showing that the endless past and the mundane present are all just the same human story. Your satellite characters could be from any age or facet of the human condition except for the details attached to each. They are just real. And then... you put so much character into the cards!! It's brilliant. The cards are as bored and frustrated with the same old human concerns as the main character. They have humour, strength and loyalty, show companionship, naughtiness, and cheekiness. And yet, no afterlife to...

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Avery Mossop
22:49 Jul 05, 2022

Hi Deidra! What a fun read! I’m impressed with your tarot card knowledge! Love the part when the cards are mocking the client. Such a fun detail!

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01:37 Jul 06, 2022

Of all the characters, I think the tarot cards are the most sympathetic :)

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Dave West
20:33 Jul 05, 2022

Love it! Sums up my own feelings about fortune tellers: "sceptical but there must be something in it".

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21:58 Jul 05, 2022

I know, right?

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Jim Firth
08:44 Jul 03, 2022

Deidra, Misbehaving tarot cards (whether figuratively or literally) is a really cool idea! And this deck seems to be a bit cheeky; almost as if it is a character of its own. The narrator seems jaded yet playful at first when the women and the men visit. Then it got quite intense at the end when the--old rival?--appeared, which was unexpected and gripping! Nice job!

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12:35 Jul 03, 2022

Hey Jim! I actually was thinking of Disney's Aladdin and "the rug" for some reason when I decided the Tarot Cards had consciousness. Panpsychism, why not? And personifying inanimate objects is hilarious to me...(come to think of it, Disney does that a lot. Pretty much the entire Beauty & the Beast vibe.)

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Jim Firth
13:10 Jul 03, 2022

Panpsycism, that's a new one for me. I like it. I borrowed from Disney in my story this week as well! My genie hides inside a pot noodle rather than the traditional magic lamp though :)

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Riel Rosehill
18:09 Jul 02, 2022

I'm really enjoying the fortune teller stories this week! And I just read Michał's essay on it, no words left to say (not like I COULD have said any of those!) Loved "hope is a thing with feathers—and usually a dead thing." - my favourite line.

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12:31 Jul 03, 2022

Riel, you are the BEST. Thanks for hacking through another "Madame Spooky" story. The judges are going to get a lot of the same thing to read this week, I suspect. Just goes to show it's not so much the "what" but the "how" that makes a story. Shakespeare just recycled a bunch of old stories, but he did it with style :) Looking forward to having you on the podcast with JC in a couple weeks. WOO HOO

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Ace Quinnton
17:26 Jul 01, 2022

A story for me? A new financial or career opportunity, manifestation, and abundance is what the Ace of Pentacles means. Incredible as usual. This story is basically my life when the pessimistic side comes out of the basement. The audience is fooled by my charm and pretty lies, but one will always see right past it. every. single. time. Amazing job, Deidra!

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17:30 Jul 01, 2022

Absolutely, Ace. All for you :) Thanks for being the first comment - WOO HOO

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Ace Quinnton
17:44 Jul 01, 2022

I feel so ✨SPECIAL✨ and I'm going to cry happy tears. Thank you so much. It's not even my birthday yet, but this is the greatest present I could receive. When I get the chance, I'm going to write a story all for you, just to pay the favor back. What did I do deserve this generosity from you? When I first got Reedsy, you're the first one I followed. I look up to you, a lot actually. I really needed this today. You are an amazing miracle worker, Deidra.

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Delia Tomkus
13:48 Aug 25, 2022

Why hello! I have returned from a very busy summer only to find that you have written more showstoppers! Tarot cards have always intrigued me, though I am not entirely sure I believe them(my only reading was from my best friend at his kitchen counter, so I am open to the possibilities). I love the fact that while the narrator may not associate much to their job, they still believe in the cards. It was cool how you incorporated the cards into the story as well, especially in the end. I was wondering(I could google it I suppose, but why not a...

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Tania Shawn
05:34 Aug 05, 2022

I want to thank a very kind and powerful psychic who brought back my ex wife who left me she told me she wants to be alone and left me and the kids I was devastated everyday i keep thinking how i would live without her one day i was online when I found Priest Ade website then i contacted him, He told me not to worry she will be back in 24hours after he cast his love spell i had some doubt though but i just did all he instructed and had a little faith, To my greatest surprise the next day she was back to me and the family she told me she was ...

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Tania Shawn
05:34 Aug 05, 2022

I want to thank a very kind and powerful psychic who brought back my ex wife who left me she told me she wants to be alone and left me and the kids I was devastated everyday i keep thinking how i would live without her one day i was online when I found Priest Ade website then i contacted him, He told me not to worry she will be back in 24hours after he cast his love spell i had some doubt though but i just did all he instructed and had a little faith, To my greatest surprise the next day she was back to me and the family she told me she was ...

Reply

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Tania Shawn
05:34 Aug 05, 2022

I want to thank a very kind and powerful psychic who brought back my ex wife who left me she told me she wants to be alone and left me and the kids I was devastated everyday i keep thinking how i would live without her one day i was online when I found Priest Ade website then i contacted him, He told me not to worry she will be back in 24hours after he cast his love spell i had some doubt though but i just did all he instructed and had a little faith, To my greatest surprise the next day she was back to me and the family she told me she was ...

Reply

Show 0 replies
Tania Shawn
05:33 Aug 05, 2022

I want to thank a very kind and powerful psychic who brought back my ex wife who left me she told me she wants to be alone and left me and the kids I was devastated everyday i keep thinking how i would live without her one day i was online when I found Priest Ade website then i contacted him, He told me not to worry she will be back in 24hours after he cast his love spell i had some doubt though but i just did all he instructed and had a little faith, To my greatest surprise the next day she was back to me and the family she told me she was ...

Reply

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Tania Shawn
05:33 Aug 05, 2022

I want to thank a very kind and powerful psychic who brought back my ex wife who left me she told me she wants to be alone and left me and the kids I was devastated everyday i keep thinking how i would live without her one day i was online when I found Priest Ade website then i contacted him, He told me not to worry she will be back in 24hours after he cast his love spell i had some doubt though but i just did all he instructed and had a little faith, To my greatest surprise the next day she was back to me and the family she told me she was ...

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L. E. Scott
21:55 Jul 07, 2022

I'm not familiar with tarot card reading, but this is a pretty compelling story. At first glance I thought "the woman" was a stranger, but it seems the two have history together. The fortune teller/narrator starts out acting like they hate their son and by the end they're begging the cards to tell them they'll be reunited with him. (Using gender neutral pronouns because I didnt want to assume the fortune teller is a woman.) Am I totally off base in thinking their sons have some kind of entanglement with one another?

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23:58 Jul 07, 2022

Definitely an entanglement that causes both mothers great pain. I like to leave a little to the reader's imagination. Choose your own adventure :)

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Ava Raim
02:27 Jul 05, 2022

This is great! Love the fortune-teller's perspective and the mystery and supernatural sprinkled into your take :)

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01:38 Jul 06, 2022

Thanks, Ava :)

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Jay Mc Kenzie
07:55 Jul 04, 2022

Hey Deidra! I really enjoyed what you did here. In my mind, the mc started out as a jaded charlatan, and I pictured her in a really cheap and nasty little store stroking the egos of the unfortunate. With the arrival of the other woman, the piece took on a much older tilt. I particularly enjoyed the unanswered questions posed here. You made us work and I was invested. I also thought of Mary, mother of Jesus, when I read this.

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01:39 Jul 06, 2022

Jaybird -- you award-winning writer and Mom-of-the-year! You don't have time to read my drivel, but I'm glad you did. I'm a huge fan of you :)

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Jay Mc Kenzie
03:25 Jul 06, 2022

I do have time and I love it! Big fan of yours, so there!

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