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The Soothsayer’s Gift

The Soothsayer’s Gift

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I am the tarot reader of Vashon Highway. I sit outside in a ten-by-ten pop-up tent on a commuter island, only accessible to the mainland by ferry. As I perch in my folding chair, plying my trade, streams of cars chug past at regular intervals. People stare out their windows at my setup. They are not in need of spiritual insight.

In an hour, I will go across the street to Subway for a six-inch vegetarian sandwich. I’ve heard the buns are made from the same chemicals as yoga mats. However, this could be an urban legend. I’m hungry and inclined to take chances with my health. Also, I’m an optimist. There is no way a pessimist could be out on this highway.

A young man pedals towards me on a decrepit bicycle, then grinds to an uncertain halt in front of my tent. “Are you a tarot reader?” he asks.

I nod and indicate the cards in front of me. “That’s cool,” he says, glancing at the deck. “I like the Star card.”

“It’s my favorite,” I assure him. “Would you like a reading?”

“No,” the man replies. “I’m on my way to see my spiritual master.”

He rides in circles for a couple of minutes, deep in thought. Finally, he waves goodbye and takes off down the road, rear wheel wobbling on the bumpy surface. There is a sudden burst of ferry traffic, and finally stillness again. I buy my sandwich and devour it, yoga mat chemicals and all.

A few minutes later, I spot the man on the bicycle. He bears down upon me relentlessly, with a sense of urgency that would have alarmed a less intuitive person. I smile politely as he comes to a halt in front of my tent. “How was your visit with your spiritual master?”

“I’ve just been riding around,” the man says. “I’m going there in a little while. Can I look at your deck again?”

I glance from right to left, but no one is queuing up for a consultation. “Okay,” I reply.

He dismounts from his bike, scoops a card from the table, and stares at it. “The Sun. That’s another good one.”

I nod slowly, and he returns the card to the table. He climbs on his bike, gets ready to leave, then reconsiders. Tilting his head towards me in a conspiratorial manner, he whispers, “You want some bud?”

“Sure,” I say, without hesitation.

He plants his feet on the ground and yanks a filthy backpack from his shoulders. Looking furtively from left to right, he unties a nylon rope at the top of the pack.

I don’t understand the reason for his subterfuge. Marijuana is legal in Washington state. Still, the man is taking no chances. He peels the pack open. It is filled to overflowing with loose marijuana buds. He reaches deep into the interior, pulls out a bulging handful of cannabis. “I’ve got more than I can use. Do you have a place to put it?”

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I grope underneath my folding table and extract my purse, I flip it open with one trembling hand and extend the other. The man presses the cannabis into my palm and smiles.

“Thanks so much.” I clench my fingers around the bundle and place it in my purse without looking to see how large it is.

My benefactor stares intently at the road, afraid to meet my eyes. “No problem. Thanks for the conversation. I’m going to see my spiritual master now.” He tightly secures the pack with the rope, hoists it over his shoulders, and pedals away.

I peek inside the purse, run my fingers over the buds. There are a lot of them. My purse is completely stuffed with marijuana. The man has given me nearly a quarter ounce of high-grade cannabis. Moist, fragrant clumps cover my bills and debit card.

Meanwhile, my benefactor rides his bike furiously along the main highway, with a couple of extra pounds of marijuana bursting through the seams of his backpack. His spiritual master will be very glad to see him.

Well, I certainly didn’t see that one coming.

Cover image courtesy of Tom Waterhouse via Flickr

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