Like African meerkats standing sentry near their tunnels, the café patrons sitting at the windows watched the old red VW beetle lurch the wrong way down Sherman Avenue. Just as the driver, who the patrons could now see was a woman with a wild head of hair tied up in a swirly bun, closed in on an empty parking space, they saw that a man in a Lexus had designs on the same spot.
Oakey asked who the hell the wrong way lady was, and the Whittler said, “That’d be Helen, the psychic.”
Helen backed up, then did a slow sweeping K-turn and nosed her Bug inches past the waiting Lexus. Then she got out of her car, dug around in a purse as big as a bowling bag for some coins for the meter, and headed for the café.
The customers—amazed by her chutzpah and parking skills—waited for her to come in, but Helen stood in the entrance checking the notes and posters on the bulletin board: Baroque concert in the Methodist Church; Studio for rent on Noyes; the Knotty Girls knitting group. Then she counted how many tabs had been torn off her announcement of Psychic readings and Aura Adjustments. Only one? It was still winter, she thought. People should be depressed. They had a right to be depressed. With the ups and downs most humans faced during a long holiday season, broken New Year’s resolutions, not to mention the snow, Helen had every reason to hope.
But nothing doing. The fish weren’t biting. She’d even lowered the fee for a first reading by ten bucks. And still nothing. Strange. People didn’t seem any happier. Still, only one tab was gone. Worse, someone had stamped “BULL----” right across the top of her announcement.
Helen pulled the tack out of the old flyer and put up her shiny new eye catching orange announcement, “New Year! New Energy!” As she did so she infused it with all the positive energy she could muster. Then she turned, opened the second café door, and entered to a sea of curious eyes.
Seeing her favorite seat unoccupied, Helen smiled at the harmony of the Universe and said, “Hank, dear, today I shall have a chai latte.”
“Feeling British today, Helen?” he queried.
“Yes, quite.” Then she added, “Oh, and a scone with raspberry preserves, if you would be so kind.”
“No can do, Helen. How about half a sesame bagel, toasted, like usual, and a schmear of cream cheese with chive?”
Helen beamed and said, “Quite good. That will do.”
Two minutes after Helen had taken her seat, the guy who’d been driving the Lexus banged through the front doors, red-faced. Spying Helen gazing beatifically at her perfect steaming chai latte, he bellowed: “YOU! Lady! That’s a one-way street! Where the HELL did you learn how to drive?”
He navigated through the tables and chairs and book bags until he was directly across from Helen, who was still smiling, thinking good thoughts, radiating her aura and natural reiki energy, her balanced chi, and warming up her third eye.
“You’re an idiot,” he said and demanded to see her license.
To which Helen replied, “I’ve been expecting you. Please, won’t you join me?”
Completely caught off guard, Mr. Lexus lost all his snarl. Dazed, defeated and emptied of words, he melted onto the café stool opposite Helen, who proceeded to offer her analysis of his psyche and the “issues” he was having “in a certain region” of his body. By the time she finished her reading, he was not only completely spent, he could only stammer, “How, I mean, how do you know all this?”
Helen placed a hand on his arm and said, “I have a gift, sweetie.” Then she held out her hand and said, “But I’m a businesswoman, too. That’ll be 20 bucks.”
The other patrons didn’t know it at the time, but Helen did. From now on Fridays would be prime psychic reading time at the cafe.
That day’s events just added to the patina that set the café apart from all the others. You can buy worn out old furniture, but you can’t make up stories like that.
It was also the same day that Jimmy D lit up his cruiser to pull over a Fed Ex truck and ask Clash Gordon to check the tracking number on that package and find out who sent Hank a Valentine’s Day card with an Enya tune.
Episode 14 will appear Tuesday.