Drama Fiction Adventure

“I have to go.”

Rachel sat there for a moment transfixed on her iPhone. Then, shot up explosively from their table with the white tablecloth stained by spilled red wine. Without a beat, she was on her phone. She barked furiously into the receiver.  She held it in front of her mouth about six inches from her face. Her head jerked forward with punchy exclamations. She turned her back to him and walked out.

Jacob was left sitting at his table in the River Palm Terrace in Edgewater, a half-finished filet on his plate and a single unfinished Kettle One Martini besides. An untouched San Pellegrino with lemon slices bobbing on the surface also remained. He signaled the waiter for the check.

When Jacob arrived at the valet stand, his wife was long gone. A Marlboro Red was perched between his trembling fingers, and its ember glowed red with each desperate drag. A hazy veil of smoke swirled around him. 

He slipped the attendant two crisp twenty-dollar bills, and got into his black Mercedes convertible, lowering the top and speeding out of the parking lot with a guttural growl. 

Rachel was not answering. He kept dialing as he drove down River Road. His wedding-ring tapped the smooth custom piano black steering wheel.

Jacob’s life seemed to him to have been a series of disappointments. He had attained all the hallmarks of a good life, but none of his accomplishments had satisfied him. He obsessively focused on protecting what was his. Like a medieval lord erecting an edifice around his castle complete with moats, machicolations, outer walls, and fortified defenses, Jacob had meticulously planned out his life in a desperate attempt to cheat fate and secure his future against every invading force that might disrupt his plans. 

Only, he had failed to bring into submission the one locked away with him, making his stronghold a prison. Rachel was a chaotic storm in his perfectly ordered life. An untamable and devouring beast that prowled with unwavering focus, an unshakeable predator, impossible to escape.

He kept looking down at his phone as the hum of the engine disrupted the still spring night. Jacob’s nerves were on edge because he did not know the nature of the trouble he was in. Restless eyes darted back and forth, alert to the looming dread just around the corner.   

Anxious for news, Jacob looked for a place to pull off and found himself turning into a small fortune-teller’s shop on the side of the road that he had always noticed with curiosity. 

A prominent neon sign read BELA BASHEMATH’S PSYCHIC EMPORIUM. Two red curtains were pulled back inside the window. A crystal ball sat on a stand in the middle of the window frame, set on two crimson red pillows with gold embroidery and gold tassels. An ornate series of five interlocked dreamcatchers hung down to the side, adorned with a beard of eagle and hawk feathers. Other protective charms were displayed on the stool of the windowsill. A piece of blue topaz was set on a stand. A solid gold bee hung from a string, spinning, its stinger encrusted with purple amethyst stones.  By the crystal was a spinning mobile with fish carved from pink coral swimming in a never-ending loop. A slab of quartz also sat on the sill, acting as a stand with a large piece of mother of pearl displayed on a gold placement in the shape of a gold oyster shell.

Jacob walked in through the heavy doors and the air tasted musty in the dimly lit inner chamber. Old lamps with bronze bases and stained art glass were set on tables around the foyer. One lamp had varicolored peony blossoms, another had quoizel violets, and yet another fruits and vegetables in vibrant yellows, reds, and greens. 

As Jacob entered a bell rung and an old grandfather clock chimed. As a door creaked open, a jingle of chimes announced the fortune-teller.

“I am Bela Bashemath,” the old Jewish gypsy said, appearing before him in an oversized white linen blouse with flowery ornamentation. She wore an ornate red head wrapping with stiches like pizzelles, and it held back swaths of wild yellow and grey curls. Big gaudy gold hoop earrings were set off by hanging strings of pearls. She had too many bracelets to count and rings besides. 

Her owl-like eyes were covered with thick gold-framed lenses. Beneath a web of wrinkles an inviting glow emanated from within. It was as if the passage of years had gifted her cheeks with an otherworldly radiance, a faint glimmer that hinted at an ancient wisdom that could unearth the mysteries of one’s hidden future.

She waived him into her divining room, and they sat across from one another at a round table with a red tablecloth, with a deck of tarot cards to his right side. As she sat, she closed her eyes and began a series of breathing exercises. Music began to play from an old record player, with the mystical sounds of a Sitar humming intricate patterns that cascaded like falling water, marked by a deep droning, carrying Jacob away on a river of longing notes.

“Let us see what the present situation holds.” She turned over the first card, the Tower.  Bela gasped and her face fell. “Disaster. Upheaval. The current order is overthrown. The ground will shake underfoot. Lightning will fork from the heavens setting the stabilizing structure ablaze.”

“Let us see what guidance fate has for you, in your time of trouble.” She turned over the second card, the Hanged Man. Bela gasped again, this time shaking her head side-to-side, and whispering, “no, no, no…”. She looked up and stared at Jacob, saying, “Prisoner, await judgment. Look on in chains as blood is shed. The world burns around you. Your fate is set, and you have no part to play. There is nothing you can do to prevent what lies ahead.”

“Let us see what the resolution will be.” She turned over the third card, Death. This time, Bela nodded as if she expected this result. “Harbinger of change. The Reaper’s scythe severs the ties of the past, harvesting its lessons—and clearing the way for new seeds and shoots to gain sustenance and grow up in place of dead things.”

As she looked up the trance was lifted and the music shuttered, leaving the dark room in a pall of eerie silence. “That is all. Your reading is done.”

Jacob had listened incredulously, disbelieving the pronouncements he was given. He sat gazing into her unyielding eyes. 

“If my fate is sealed, then what good is free will?”

“Do you fancy yourself the author of your own story?”

“If not me, who else is writing it?”

“Perhaps, you are not wrong. You have a role to play. Like the Captain of a ship with a destination itinerary, you are set on a one-way course, yet, you have no control over the storms and troubles you encounter in the way. It is for you to determine how you meet these pre-ordained obstacles; it is not yours to circumnavigate the unknowable. If it were given you to set a smooth course, nothing would happen at all—what reward can there be in a peaceful journey?”

“If I cannot forestall disaster, what good is it to have a vessel that is equipped with a wheel at the helm and rudders at the rear to change course?”

“Ahh, but there will be changes in course. And there will be forks in your travels. Only, you must sail through them and react, so that your logs bear the marks of these changes on you and on your journey. You will not be the same on arrival at your destination as the one who set out to sea. The one who sets out holds all hope and possibility in his palm. The one who arrives bears the consequences and wisdom of the turbulence of the reforming seas on his brow.”

“Can you tell me of the specific trouble I am in?”

“You already know. You have always known. How can I tell you what is in you? That would be like telling a crow it is a crow. Like the ferryman, the crow is a harbinger of destruction and a herald of new worlds. As are you. As are we all. Such curses are insignias on our souls, and these are not easily broken.”

Bela stood up and patted Jacob on the shoulder. “Go. All is as it should be. You have what you need. All does not come to ruin in the end.”

As Jacob got back in his convertible, he saw the screen of his iPhone in the passenger seat. The text message had two words, “Test results.”

A few minutes later as he walked into Rachel’s apartment, he saw her with her hands in her face, hunched over on the kitchen island. He walked up behind her and put his hands around her shoulders.

“It will be alright,” he lied to her. How could anyone have a terminal illness at such a young age?

Looking up at him through wet eyes, she said, “but how can this happen to me now. I am pregnant with your child.”

Jacob believed in God, but he uttered a single prayer as his rage quelled within, “Don’t do this to me, you monster.”

September 01, 2023 19:59

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Mary Bendickson
08:51 Sep 03, 2023

Sounds like he needs to trust that monster.


Jonathan Page
20:11 Sep 04, 2023

Thanks Mary!


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Philip Ebuluofor
18:56 Sep 02, 2023

Don't want to hear that part. Terminal D. Fine storyline.


Jonathan Page
20:40 Sep 02, 2023

Thanks Philip!


Philip Ebuluofor
15:55 Sep 07, 2023



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Tom Skye
18:47 Sep 02, 2023

This was a funny read. Nice way to bring two very different scenarios together for one pay off. Great work


Jonathan Page
20:40 Sep 02, 2023

Thanks Tom!


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