Surely, you joust?
Michael Dilts, who split $250 prize money a while back for an entry into a previous contest, has decided his luck will be enhanced with a Tarot Card reading. Perhaps the deck has been stacked against him…You decide.
Love and the Tarot Deck
Michael R. Dilts
What could be more surreally appropriate to the early Twenty-First Century than a “Renaissance Festival” in the middle of Arizona? I had objected strenuously to the pointless anachronism of the above, but my companions were unmoved by my protests, even after they discovered the admission fee was $25 per head.
It wasn’t even a scenic desert setting, just a gravel lot upon which the Hollywood façades of an Elizabethan village had been propped on pinewood frames. A huge hand-painted sign over the admission booth depicted a knight in plate-armor taking a spear to a Disneyland dragon. I groaned silently.
I took refuge from the stifling heat in the shade near a vendor tent, slouching with a studied boredom that was wasted on my friends, who ignored me. A costumed figure brushed past me, then grinned through Gypsy make-up and beckoned alluringly.
“I have something for thee, m’lord,” she murmured in amateur Shakespearean English.
I appraised her – the broad velvet dress, tight-ribboned corset, protruding bosom – and shook my head.
“But thy friends have crossed my palm with coins of the realm,” she insisted.
I saw now that they were watching and trying not to giggle too uproariously. I had a choice. Either run like a loser, or push on thorough and regale them later with my witty account of the adventure they’d forced upon me. I chose.
Her tent smelled heavily of incense and cheap perfume. She gestured to a folding table and chairs of unabashedly modern manufacture.
“I have no idea what I’m supposed to do,” I explained.
She smiled again, almost predatorily, crooked yellow teeth contrasting with the white make-up caked on her cheeks.
“Dost know how to shuffle?” she inquired, still in character.
I nodded and reached for the deck of cards at the center of the table. They were frayed and grimy, some barely even legible. Hardly a surprise, I noted, given the lack of regard for her own dentition.
“Just keep shuffling?” I asked aloud.
“Thou must needs find the card differing from its neighbors.”
“There is no Great Alchemy at work,” she assured me. “Thou needst only feel rather than think.”
At the word “feel,” I felt a knot form in the pit of my belly. Not a knot of fear, I decided, but the result of a kind of irrational tension.
I noticed that one of the cards did indeed feel different – silkier and somehow “brighter” in my fingers. I looked at the card and saw the image of woman sitting on a throne in front of a curtain decorated with some kind of exotic fruit. Her skin was smooth and white as cream, and her hair was raven-dark, but it was the expression on her face that arrested me – enthralled me.
She was an ink impression on a piece of dirty cardboard, but I recognized at that moment the significance of the odd sensation in my belly. I was in love with her.