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You know that little voice in your head that is you? This one has company...

The Indian and the Fortune Teller


Richard Thieme


            Standing at a gas pump in front of a convenience store, his hand on the cold nozzle, Bobby Jakus wondered if he were going crazy. 

            He was certainly a long way from clarity or balance, a long way from the far shore toward which he might not even be sailing. How could he know, prior to arrival?  How could the fragments of a mind know in advance if they would coalesce again, when the mind is the means by which one knows?  Bobby J navigated by faith through dark waters, shrinking from the cold spray—cold, yes, he knew he was cold, that was an ineluctable fact, calibrated to quantifiable feedback—Bobby lapsed from his internal focus which kept him unaware of the cold and found himself in his body, dancing in the frigid wind in a vain effort to stay warm. He watched the flurry of dollars and gallons and listened to the periodic ring of a bell on the slow pump. The bell, he believed, was an echo of the voice of an angel here in the grosser material world, chiming glad tidings in the bleak midwinter. Ring ring! Ring ring!  Every ring was a note of hope: Hold on, Bobby! You may be more frozen than chosen, but hang on! We’re with you!

            Those words were a paraphrase of what had been written through his cramped hand, translating the message through the course circuitry of his body/brain. He wrote in a trance in a shaky ragged script. They taught him how to let go and slip into an altered state like a suicide sliding into the icy waters of the lake. He loved and feared that tainted state, not knowing why. He negotiated a compromise with his crotchety feelings and vowed he would never go there during daylight, he would discipline himself to wait until sundown. Unaccountably his memories of Alaracon’s recent communication set off qualms of anxiety fluttering in his chest. He felt as if his sternum were a wishbone, waiting to be split.

            He didn’t need spirits to tell him he’d get the short end.

            Anxiety swelled in his chest like expanding gas. He felt as if an elevator had suddenly dropped too fast. He needed a distraction. He jittered at the gas pump as far as holding the nozzle would allow, dancing in a semi-circle, covering his disquiet with incongruous  behavior.

            The spirits had rules, but he couldn’t always figure them out. They almost never spoke directly during the day. Maybe it was something about wavelengths of light and calibrating vibrations between states. At most they impinged on his thoughts, mostly with impressions, manifesting a sense of presence around the curve as it were of his mind. He could feel them hanging back in the shadows, waiting for the right time. Mostly they encouraged him or—if they articulated words he could hear—gave advice. Watch out for that Ford Taurus! Stay on the curb! Turn at the next corner!

            Sometimes they chastened him with stern directives.

            He always took their advice. When he failed to see the Taurus, the voice would say, see? We helped you avoid a disaster. Or if he stayed on the curb and nothing seemed to happen, the voice would say, see? We kept you safe. Or, a word to the wise. Or, a stitch in time.

            The clunk of the gas tank coming full shut off the flow. He squirted in a little more, making it even, and went inside and paid with cash. The middle-aged half-bald Indian man, Lakshman Noorkhan, made change instead of conversation. He disliked working at the Stop-n-Go but was happy to have a job. He spent long days and some nights selling gas, candy, pepperoni sticks and doughnuts to people like Bobby Jakus.

A radio played behind thick glass plastered with ads for the lottery. Bobby studied the numbers. Should he buy a ticket? He left the coins and three singles in the depression and stood still, listening to the faint pop rock, then looking at a cappuccino machine across the store, fixing his attention on an arbitrarily chosen ... material thing ... material thing ... so their guidance, if they chose, could slide into his mind.

The coffee dispenser took on the look of a cappuccino machine that was looked at. A person without discernment might think he was staring at nothing. Lakshman Noorkhan watched from behind the glass. The young man’s behavior was no more bizarre than most. Nobody, nothing said a word. No one wanted him to get rich quick.  So he took his money and left and got back into his battered Mini, waiting before he pulled away.

            Again, no one spoke. The air was dead, heavy. His breath fogged the windshield. No marks appeared in the mist. He turned on the ignition, then the heater, and watched the vapor dissipate.

            They saved him a ton of money. Twelve times this month he might have bought tickets but no one told him to go ahead. Later, a guide said his numbers would have lost.

            Jakus pulled into traffic and abruptly turned right, heading south.

            Thinking, hmmm. Why do they want me to do that?


            Sitting upright and relaxing at the same time, Bobby positioned his hand with the pencil in it above a piece of empty paper. He allowed his forearm to rest gently against the table’s edge, his palm on the bottom of the page. The tip of the pencil barely touched the paper, not making so much as a whisker.

            Closing his eyes, he heard the furnace blasting hot air, tires churning in snow under his window, Mrs. Mortimer’s dog Buster barking faintly from above.

            The snow was really coming down. A girl must have fallen in a snow bank and gave a penetrating high-pitched shriek. Then quiet again. The wind moaned through his leaky wood-frame window and made the shade flap. Twelve candles in wrought-iron stands were placed at precise intervals around the room. Whale songs accompanied by Andean flutes played through muted quadraphonic speakers. Aromatic incense lent its suggestive fragrance to the mix. There was little furniture in the room. His guides had told him a week ago to get rid of the old sofa and he dumped it over the back balcony that night. It was still in the alley, last time he looked, covered with snow. Big pillows arranged around the room and a nightlight from the bedroom looked on the hardwood floor like the light of the moon.

            He sat at the table, waiting, breathing deeply.

            He felt the first flux of warmth closing in around him, white light protecting him as always. Once again the invocations worked. He snuggled into his well-protected space and allowed them to come closer, waiting for them to connect like Soyuz docking at the space station with a mild jolt.

            They squeezed in from all sides like a contracting sphere, the manifestation of their incorporeal intelligence palpable. Many or one? Who was coming? He couldn’t tell. He felt a telltale pressure in his brain, the hair on the back of his neck bristling. He shivered with excitement: this was the phase when they calibrated their intentions to his receptivity, testing his readiness. They needed to lower their vibrations, come down in syncopated steps to his level, while Bobby honed his receptors, refining the grosser elements of his mind. They were both as it were turning dials, tuning in to each other. Now he extended the internal mechanism, unfolding at the edges, making himself open to their probe.

He reached out with mental energy, feeling  ...

            ... a light touch. Yes. Then, very gently, coupling.

            Hey, Bobby J!  Here we are!

            His hand without his mind doing anything started to move. The pencil point drew loops as the spirits moved into closer control of an apparatus they were still learning to manipulate. The loops and whirls grew closer, denser, darkening the page. Suddenly the pencil paused; he inhaled deeply, letting them settle. Delicate, this adjustment was. He had to get out of the way or nothing would happen. This required courage, they explained, not control but on the contrary letting the spirits move into his body and brain, his body/brain they called it, which they described with elegant mathematical precision from the multi-dimensional perspective they apparently inhabit all around.

            The pencil began to write slowly, then faster and faster. The instrument (that is, Bobby J) was imperfect. “But,” they explained, “you’re all we have. You of all the people on this planet have been chosen because you are perfectly suited to our task. You must proclaim our message to the world. You are an aperture, narrow and defective, yes, but still, a means of deliverance—if you obey. Your destiny has been intended from all time and eternity. You have been prepared for this moment from birth. Before birth, in fact. We attended your development in the womb. Do you remember that your mother was sick in the fifth month? Yes? Yet she—and you—survived. <flutter of a chuckle in the shadows of his mind> Yes, Bobby J, that was us, ensuring your safe delivery.

“We will illuminate your path, and you will see that things you believed accidental were in fact achieved by design and with our help. You will see your future before you like golden footsteps in the darkness – but also the price you must be willing to pay. That price will be revealed slowly as you become capable of understanding your fate and embracing it. 

            “Do not be afraid. We will be with you and give you what you need.

            “Accept this message with gratitude.”

Bobby tried not to let his ego swell which they warned him would interfere with their plan.  He grinned inside his head each time they showed him to himself as he would become, letting him see clearly who he was meant to be. What human would not bloat with self-importance, seeing the unique role they would play in the cosmic drama? With discipline, however, and assistance, his ego could be held in check.

            “You must become small, oh smaller, you must become smallest of all to do this work.”

            The pencil – that was Trance 14/October 22 – wrote gibberish after that, words obscuring words until the paper was a mess. He scrutinized it later in the bright kitchen light but couldn’t make sense of anything.

            “Don’t be anxious if some messages are lost,” they said in Trance 14B/October 23. “We will repeat anything of importance. The monitor of this process, after centuries of preparation, is adept.”

             He was letting them in now, letting himself surrender, moving into a deeper state. His head fell forward. Bobby J belonged to them now, letting them work out their higher purpose through his slouching body, chin on chest. He gave himself up for the greater good, aware that his body/brain was a channel for the correction of a planet unaware of its peril. Catastrophe was imminent unless an intervention. Bobby J was the means of intercession.

            The pencil wrote across one page and then another. His left hand shuffled fresh pages to his right which scribbled words he neither saw nor understood until he read them later—words of great spiritual power, words of encouragement, words of wisdom.

            Sometimes their messages illuminated the essential nature of things. Sometimes they told deep truths of the multi-dimensional universe, how it worked, although the details were not always consistent. Sometimes their playful exchanges reminded Bobby J to have a sense of humor.

Sometimes they delivered gentle discipline to keep their pupil on track.

            And sometimes ... sometimes specific instructions were given that Bobby J learned had better be carried out.

            Better be carried out, Mister. Better be carried out.

            Or else.


Buster barked and barked, the goddamn little dog did not want to shut up, and on some level, despite his commitment to remain on the spiritual plane needed for the work, the incessant barking massively pissed off Bobby J, Servant of the Compassionate Light and means of grace to unborn millions.

Alaracon, his guide that night, demonstrated compassion, his Cheshire-cat-like smile inner lit like a Halloween lantern. 

“All truth must navigate a mine field of interruptions,” Bobby’s hand wrote without knowing it. “Life is lived via seeming detours, but there are no dead-ends. Everything connects to everything else.

“That little dog is true to its nature. So must you, Bobby J, be true to yours, to our teaching and to our invitation.”

Buster’s barking nevertheless pricked at Bobby’s trance and awakened his ego-consciousness. He felt himself rising through levels of awareness toward the surface of his life. He felt as if he were moving through thermoclines into warmer surface waters. His hand wrote more slowly, then made loops and squiggles, then stopped.  He held the pencil for a moment more, then let it fall. It rolled off the wooden table and dropped to the floor. His head came up at the sound and he opened his eyes.

The candles had burned down and only a few flickered, their wicks in pools of melted wax. Bobby shivered, feeling the chilly room for what it was, an empty tomb of an apartment. When the spirits departed it felt like good friends leaving town. He rose stiffly from the table and blinked twice rapidly, trying to calibrate to the physical plane. Paper covered with illegible inspired script was all over the table and a few sheets had fallen to the floor. He walked around them to the window and looked out. For a moment a medieval village slept under a blanket of snow. He rubbed his eyes, closed them for a long moment, looked again: the familiar city street had reappeared, West Byron Street in Hunting Hill, a neighborhood waiting for gentrification, twiddling its run-down thumbs.

Parked cars looked like loaves of snow and streetlights burned without heat in the winter night. Not a creature stirred, not even Buster; the ratty terrier stopped barking at last, probably eating his owner’s slippers, maybe the sofa. The sidewalk below had disorganized holes stomped in the deep snow by somebody’s boots and where the girl had tumbled into the snow bank the snow was disheveled. Maybe she tried to make an angel in the snow. Maybe some guy pushed her down. Maybe she slipped.

Across the street on the corner, in a retail strip too brightly lighted for this silent night, a luminous two-faced clock on a neighborhood bank proclaimed the time. Bobby chuckled. The time by which his species marked off days and years was irrelevant to the grand scheme. Whatever the time, it was neither wrong nor right.

“Yes, you must become acquainted with the night,” his guides had instructed (the spirits liked Frost, Wordsworth and Eliot a lot, quoting them more than other poets). “To become a warrior of the light one must plunge into the darkness. One must navigate a zone of annihilation before one can read the luminous letters written in flaming script in the night-blue sky. Only then will you know that you have reached the far shore. Only then can you choose to return.”

Bobby twisted his head to try to look up through the window. Moon and stars were hidden by an overcast sky. Citylight reflected from the snow and back from the low clouds. The scene was inside a snow globe waiting for someone to shake it. Bobby J felt suddenly as lonely as he ever had in his life. He yawned and stretched and realized he was hungry. He heard faint laughter through the bedroom wall which meant someone was watching a monologue, Letterman’s or Leno’s. He had been gone a long time. Yawning more, he walked into the kitchenette and searched the fridge, finding cold pizza in a plastic baggie. He put it into the microwave on a paper towel and, while it turned in the microwave merry-go-round, went back and carefully assembled the drifted pages in an order which sort of made sense.  Then returned to the kitchen and read the first page by the dim light of the microwave.

“It is time to begin your training. [huh? I thought that happened long ago.] We have given you the parameters of your mission. Now you must demonstrate yourself able of execution.” [capable?]  You must be disciplined. Able to follow instructions. Be attentive under any and all. [circumstances? situations? what?] Watch our hands waitfully as a good sub waits upon his dom. Be a compliant bottom, Bobby. Be willing to do what we say when we say it. Be willing to delay pleasure. Not see consequences. Willing to let whatever. Act as if.

“This is the hour of your kniting [knitting? knighting? what the hell did that mean?]”

The light went off and the motor stopped. He opened the oven, burning his fingers on bubbling crackling cheese. “Damn!” he said, sucking his fingers, then scooping up the square of paper towel fused with melted cheese, hitting the overhead light in the other room and sitting to eat.

He ate around the edges of an amalgam of paper-and-pizza while he read.

“The circles of intersecting levels of planetary influence are many—many to our eyes although we do not have eyes we are like eyes we are like living wise eyes all-wonderful beings.  We see far. But the many we see seems few to you because you see say red blue yellow and do not know that infra red and ultra violet much less radio or x-rays or the long ones even exist. We see the spectrum and struggle to say in your few dimensions what it looks like to you little cave fish blind in subterranean streams but infinite to us.”

[what are your bodies like? his higher entity-self asked]

“Everything will be revealed. We can tell you now that all bodies are apertures through which light shines. Each according to its frequency. Each is designed to amplify and modulate a particular frequency. We see the entire spectrum because we are intermediaries between high and even higher forms and lower grosser forms like you. Your species sinks to the pond bottom like detritus. If we manifested in your part of the spectrum we would seem translucent, gelatinous like jellyfish, or we would be diaphanous, glowing with inner light.”

[are there higher beings than you?]

[laughter in many multi-dimensions sounding a lot like munchkins hiding while the good witch, fresh from her bubble, helpfully clarified]

“Oh yes! Yes! We are barely little more than thus. There are realms of beings communing one with another in outwardly bounding links or loops. We are what some call messengers or angels or spirits of light. But that is not our essence. That is how you fit us into your myths. We are fashioned—“

Bobby let the paper go and used both hands to separate the messy paper from the pizza. It seemed an apt analogy for trying to find nourishment in the crumbs they dropped through multiple dimensions.

He read their expository passages over and over again, searching the obscure repetitious text for clarity and meaning. He longed for a map illuminating the universe instead of fragments, in part because he craved to begin teaching. They insisted that his actions would demonstrate his knowledge and then he would be ready. But Bobby wanted more: he wanted his actions to seem like miracles which he would know were causal events in a rule-based universe the levers of which he alone knew how to use. Once people understood that what he did was basic, they would listen.

Not like now. Now, no one listened. He sent the revelations, edited with care, to magazines and papers but they never appeared. He put some on a web site but received no hits. He wrote a blog call Voice of the Compassionate Light but no one read it. He began MySpace and FaceBook pages dedicated to spreading the word but everyone avoided them, refusing to link, refusing to be friends. He created an avatar (Shadow of Alaracon) in Second Life, but no one paid attention to his preaching.

This is to be expected, they explained. “Thus has it always been,” Alaracon said. “Thus will it always be.”

Every rejection renewed his dedication and he plunged into the universe they described, a recursive structure like Escher’s etchings or Godel’s theorems, one that paradoxically required one to be inside to gain entry.

Whenever he had almost attained a higher level, he found himself sliding back down a moebius strip to a level he thought he left behind. The universe turned into a game of chutes and ladders, one he could never win. When he expressed frustration, his guides’ munchkin laughter crackled like static in his brain, giving him a headache. Again and again they explained that when he had grown to the appropriate level, that recursive slide to GO would cease, he would find himself standing on the top rung of a ladder in a way that seemed miraculous, then the ladder would vanish and he would remain suspended in the air, both platform and dancer, figure and ground, and he would understand ... everything.

But first, they said, the struggle. Then the garden. You must learn, Bobby J, when to hold and when to fold. When to raise and when to walk walk walk away away a way a way ...

 Their fading voices ricocheted in his brimming brain. Then a final remark:

“This is Big Toy time, Bobby J, so learn how to climb. Next will come Big Boy time when you fly.

“So forgive us, beloved disciple, for what must seem repetitious. These are your multiplication tables. This is drill. Transcribe faithfully. Study without ceasing. You are like young Luke on Tatooine, we are like little green Yodas, smiling, kindly and wise. With tough love must we train our pupil. Not for nothing have we come.”

Bobby J sighed. Thanks, guys. That really helps.

He reread the pages, sorted and stacked them and punched in holes and put them into a black binder. His book was getting thick. Ragged pages crinkled from repeated readings, so many passages meaningless from scrawl or smear, interpretive translations neatly printed in ink between the lines using words he hoped were analogous or close. 

Fear suddenly throttled his heart which pounded loudly and he hugged himself tightly, afraid he would fall. Perspiring profusely, he raced to get into his parka,  pulled his woolen cap down onto his forehead, tightened the drawstrings of the gray-blue hood and hurried downstairs to the street.

The still windless night waited, a few large flakes of softly falling snow in the quiet sky and drifting snow all around. Faraway sounds were absorbed by the snow, quieting the city. The distant rumble of an elevated train. Then a snow plough scraping snow into banks along parked cars came loudly down Central into the empty intersection and disappeared with a soft Doppler fade to the west.

Bobby shoveled out his auto and slid through the slippery streets to the Stop-n-Go. Lakshman Noorkhan nodded silently inside his glass cube when he entered. Beef and pepperoni sticks, cigarettes and beer, hot cashews in a brightly lighted glass display, freshly popped popcorn, chocolate old-fashioned doughnuts, elephant ears, éclairs, apple fritters, pershings, donut holes and vadas, all competed for his cash. The radio was low and played nothing he knew. The Indian looked out at the world patiently and waited.

“How fresh are those doughnuts?”

“Fresh?” He shrugged. “Today. Very fresh.”

“Uh-huh,” Bobby said. Looking around at candy bars, swizzle sticks, rows of flashy wrap and crinkly see-through packaging. He looked at a peanut butter cookie full of chocolate chunks and almost bought it. But someone said or thought no. Instead he said, “I’ll take two of those fritters.”

The Indian used tongs to take two puffy fritters flaking with icing and put them into a paper bag. Bobby slid exact change through the slot and said thanks. The proprietor put the bag in the drawer and the doughnuts surfaced on Bobby’s side.

Bobby J ate the first one standing there, flexing his cold toes on rubber matting covered with slush. He smelled strong Lysol from the store room and washroom. He looked closely at the guy behind the glass, a man he had seen a million times, but never saw the look in his eyes or expression on his face. He had seen only an impassive  brown face with dark eyes. Now he saw Lakshman Noorkhan, an Indian from a real town beside some real river, more than that, he saw the man.

The contours of the man’s anonymous life shifted into closer focus. Like desert turning into hills and growing grass in a program that made things morph, Lakshman Noorkhan became three dimensional.

Bobby knew who would take credit. Then he heard them laugh and felt a push.

Still, he waited, resisting the nudge. Sure enough, they were at the Stop-n-Go, they were everywhere, they were inside the fritter, inside his body/brain. Yes, they wanted him to, now! He resisted again, looking at the stuff on the shelves, not really seeing. Halfway there and halfway back, he made them press. Speak now, Bobby J: we insist that you speak, said a voicelet behind to the right. But instead of fulfilling their request, Bobby moved up an aisle, jittering once more. Arms akimbo and legs quaking, looking silly in the digital film the owner would examine the next day, he stared at hostess cupcakes, hohos, crumb cakes, donettes, boxes of donuts (plain cake, powdered sugar, chocolate chocolate, nutty ones), Twinkies and lucky puffs, fruit pies (cherry peach and lemon), cinnamon rolls, coming around in front of a cooler holding sodas, sweet teas, juices, bottles of water into the next aisle, looking at twizzlers, jolly ranchers, chuckles and gummies, little snickers, Swedish fish, lemon drops and juju mix, night crawlers and gummy worms, caramels and peanut clusters, Mars bars, big Snickers, Hershey bars, M&Ms of all kinds (peanut plain and almond, green and red and yellow and blue), trail mix and nibbles, chewies and licorice bits—

Goddamn it Bobby J! NOW!

“Mister, I don’t know what you’re after,” Bobby said suddenly and forcefully to the Indian who started. “But I am supposed to tell you to hang in.” He looked closely at the other’s surprised features but saw more than surprise. “I can see how much you’ve suffered. It’s a long winding road all right.  I can see that. But it won’t always be like this. Something better is coming. Everything will come together. Please be patient and wait until it arrives. The universe has better things waiting downstream than you can imagine.”

Lakshman Noorkhan tilted his head while the familiar but unknown customer spoke. He didn’t know what to say to this young guy standing there among the candy and doughnuts with white icing on his mouth, looking at him so intensely. That was OK with Bobby J.  He wasn’t looking for a response. The thing is, his job is, deliver the message. Just the message. Then, his anxiety diminished for a moment, he can go home.

The two men stared at one another in silence in the late night well-lighted shop. A bell rang when an auto drove over a signal hose, a car or the voice of an angel singing in the night. Through the shadowy glass and his own reflection, Bobby watched a guy in a yellow-and-black plaid jacket and leather hunter’s hat with flappy ears come in and give Noorkhan a twenty, then go back out to pump.  

While Noorkhan inputted the twenty and set the pump to pump, Bobby rushed out and got back into his car and skidded off, eating the second fritter with one hand and fishtailing around a corner, heading back to his little apartment, no longer a cold tomb but a warm cave in which twelve candles had burned down but in which the wicks nevertheless remained arranged in a twelve-wick circle surrounding the table of revelation in one of three apartments (1G, 2G, and 3G), only one of which, however (his!) had been touched by a spiral of stars funneling a vortex of energy into a portal (let those who have eyes to see, see) in a freezing night breaking free at last from its icy chains and exploding like Roman candles, sparklers of light spidering into the suddenly celebrating sky.


That wasn’t the end, however. That was barely the beginning.

The next morning, Bobby Jakus applied for a job. He knew he had to, had known it for a long time. But Alaracon said he better get off his ass and do it. So he did.

            The big guy—“Call me Juicy Fruit,” he said—looked at his application and laughed. “That a real name? Jakus?”

            “No. I made it up.”

            The big guy thought about what would happen if he hit the kid, not too hard, just

knock some courtesy into his fool head. Instead he said, “You think being an asshole will get you a job as my assistant?”

            Bobby remembered last night’s lesson and bit his tongue. Practice, that’s what they told him. Just practice.

            “No. I don’t.” He took a deep breath. This was a new behavior but he did it.  “Sorry.”

            “Huh.” It took JF aback. But it worked. “What you been doing? What was the last job you had?”

            “My last ‘job’ job was working on a garbage truck. My real job is messenger.”

            “Yeah? Like on a bike?”

            “Something like that.”

            Jakus surveyed the boiler room. The noise of machinery filled the underground cavern. They sat on torn vinyl chairs beside a chipped Formica table. Other chairs scattered in shadows, coffee stuff all over the table. A brown sofa with stuff on it too, mostly clothing. A couple of big pillows shaped to fit the big man’s head. Old porn magazines spilled from a stack on the floor like playing cards. Jakus saw Leg Show, Big Jugs, Hustler and a glossy cover with a dom in red latex or leather, he couldn’t tell which, ready to whip. 

            Naked bulbs in a humid forest of wet pipes. Drips and a stream running down the concrete floor to a drain. The big guy sitting in a work shirt and torn jeans, his barrel chest bigger than Bobby’s whole body. Buttons straining, buttons stretched. The guy’s huge hands dangling between his thighs like hams. Not a guy to mess with, no one had to tell him that.

            Jakus looked at the steady drip from a pipe wrapped with a wet rag. The door to the boiler room was open, letting him see a receiving desk, its empty shelf, wire mesh, stairs going up to an outside platform.  Nobody was out there, near as he could tell. Nobody here but Juicy Fruit.

            The big guy said, “Look around. This is where we work, most of the time. Upstairs is offices. Those we clean, three floors anyway. The fitness center on six, that they do themselves. Condos are not our problem. Just offices and the retail places. Sometimes we help with the entrance, we help Frank in summer on the lawn, trim bushes, pick up trash. Your job is three days a week, four in warmer weather. Pay is hourly, no benefits. Want it?”

            Bobby sighed. His body/brain said no but they made his mouth say yes. “I guess. When do I start?”

            “Tomorrow morning. Saturdays we start at seven. Cool?”

            Bobby looked at the big guy sitting on the too-small chair in his uniform shirt with his name written in threads, holes in his jeans’ knees.

            “I’d prefer a later start.” 

            “Yeah?” the big guy laughed. “Write down everything you prefer. I’ll give it to the shop steward.”

            He laughed loudly until Bobby looked away.

            “Like I say, start at seven.” He looked him up and down. “Garbage truck. What did you learn on a garbage truck?”

            “I learned when they hit the curb and you’re standing in the garbage to hold on. I learned that if you fell, you better just lay there, looking up at the sky. I learned how to hide tools so if reporters came around, your super wasn’t embarrassed. I learned that Frank liked to fuck Marie, his wife, all weekend long at their cottage on the lake. I learned that a guy named Red collected loans on weekends but was always nice to me. Then again, I never borrowed money from his friends. I learned to pay dues to a union that never held meetings. I learned the usual Ranger Rick in the City stuff, where gays met in rest rooms, where pedophiles pounced. A couple of times we found fetishists with cameras photographing legs and feet.”

             The big guy chuckled. “Summer in the city. Yeah, they all around. Okay, then, Bobby Jakus, you know all kinds of shit. Well, at seven in the morning, you start to learn some new stuff.”

            You’re an apprentice, Alaracon had told him. We will provide an occupation that teaches patience. At your quantum level, needs require money to meet, so you must work. We will ensure that you have enough, but you must accept what we provide.

 Continue to learn, Bobby J, continue to wait.

<How long, oh friends, his higher mind cried, how long?>

Perhaps weeks, perhaps months, perhaps years, his reluctant hand wrote helpfully. Wait for a clear statement You will know when it arrives.

And we will be with you, always.

            In addition, Clairon sang in that high unmistakable voice, Do not sit on the edge of your chair, waiting for the bell. Sit back. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

Suddenly in the sodden basement, rainbows around the light bulbs as if he had been swimming in a chlorinated pool, a sound like a trumpet blared in his ear:  “You’re a janitor’s right-hand man, Bobby J! Good for you!”

As if it was something to celebrate.

It is, someone insisted. It’s perfect for learning to live small. Learning to be transparent to your purpose. Learning to forget what you must nevertheless always remember, that you have been chosen for unique things.

            “All right,” he said with a sigh, coming around through the back door into his life. “I’ll be here at seven.”