Thursday, January 20, 2011
With the onset of winter temperatures dipping into the teens, I went over to check on my neighbor, Zelda, a ninety-eight-year-old psychic palm reader who doesn’t get around like she used to when she was twenty. Those are her words not mine.
The thing about checking on Zelda is the heart rate. She sleeps a great deal of the time and when she’s in a deep sleep, it makes my heart rate climb until I’m able to determine whether or not she’s still alive. Other people used to check on her, but that came to a halt last summer. Now, I’m the only person who does it.
Lucky for me, she was up and around, and opened the door after my second knock.
“What do you want?” she asked holding the door of her trailer cracked open two inches.
“I came to check on you and see if you’re all right.”
“Oh, it’s you,” she said, opening the door wide. “I thought it might be Leon, or one of those encyclopedia salesman.”
I stepped in and closed the door to keep the cold air out. “Zelda, no one sells encyclopedias door to door anymore, and Leon doesn’t check on you after what happened last summer.”
“What happened last summer?” she asked, before walking over to a table with a crystal ball in the center of it. She took her usual seat. She doesn’t use the ball for readings. It’s the kind that has a snow scene in it, and if you pick it up and shake it, it looks like it’s snowing inside the ball. Eddy gave it to her for Christmas, because he couldn’t think of anything else to get a 96 year-old psychic other than a crystal ball. In exchange, Zelda gave Eddy a reading and told him his generosity exceeded all of his expectations.
“Don’t you remember when the people from the mortuary came out and loaded you in the back of a hearse?”
She picked up the ball and shook it. “Why did they do that?”
“When Leon came in to check on you, he couldn’t get you to wake up, so he called them to come get you.”
She winked at me and said, “I knew what was going on the whole time.”
I eased into the chair on the other side of the table and said, “Even when you rose up from the medal table and asked the mortician where your clothes were?”
She let out a little giggle and covered her mouth. “First time a man had seen me naked in a long time. He jumped three feet in the air.”
I made myself a mental note to tell Leon he longer needed to feel bad about having Zelda hauled off in a hearse.
“You look like you’re okay. Do you need anything?”
“Yes, I need to tell you something. I think it may be important.”
I knew what that meant. She wanted to give me a psychic reading.
She reached for my hand and I opened my palm for her. She studied it for several seconds and then went into her normal trance. The one she had perfected over the years.
Ten minutes later, she opened her eyes, pushed my hand away, and said, “Another rejection is on the way.”
To me, that was good news. I had ten queries out so one rejection out of ten was of little concern.
“That one will be followed by nine more,” she added.
I stood. “Zelda, it would be nice if you could lie to me just one time. Just one time, I’d like to walk out of here feeling good about my chances of getting published.”
She placed her fingertips on her temples. “Wait, there’s more. Your novel will be published in the near future.”
“Really?” I sat back down and leaned in close to her.
She pulled her hands down. “No. You should have said twice. I gave you your one time.”
I left Zelda’s trailer and stopped at my mailbox to retrieve the contents. On the way to my door, I sorted through several bills until I found a letter from Rosebud Romance. I knew asking that Editor-In-Chief to get a second opinion couldn’t hurt. What other reason would she send me a letter other than to inform me she has reconsidered her position? I was so excited I dropped the other mail on the ground and ripped open the envelope.
Dear Mr. LaBloom,
It was a pleasure to meet you at the conference. Thank you so much for allowing Rosebud Romance to consider your novel, SIR TRUCKALOT AND THE OBESE MAIDEN, for publication. Although I told you I felt your story had a limited audience, you were kind enough to insist I take your synopsis and first three chapters back to my office and pass it around to my editors for a professional opinion.
I am so glad I did. I am happy to inform you that several of my editors, actually, all of them, agreed with my initial assessment.
I walked into the kitchen and placed the bills onto the counter.
“Hi Honey,” my wife said. “Is Zelda okay?”
“Her usual self.” I tossed the letter into the trash under the sink.
I nodded and said, “Actually, it’s a rejection confirmation from that Romance Publisher I had my hopes set on.”
She walked over and put her arm around my waist. “Oh, what do they know?”
“That I apparently don’t know anything about romance?”
She whispered into my ear, “I must respectfully disagree with that.”
I threw my arms around her. “What’s for dinner?”
She leaned her head back. “Wild Alaskan Salmon prepared just the way you like it.”
“Have I ever told you how much I love you?”
She put her head on my shoulder and squeezed me tight. “Not less than twice a day since we were married.”