Light the candle. Shuffle the cards. Focus. Cut the deck into three piles with your left hand then put them all back together. Do not leave the cards unattended. Do not let the candle go out.
By 24, you’d had your cards read hundreds of times at the kitchen tables of your grandmother, your aunts, your mom. Yet, this was the first time you’d had a reading from Aunt Murl- the oldest of the great-aunts, the one with the sailor’s mouth who could talk to the dead beyond the veil, the one who played bingo several nights a week at the Elks lodge, the one whose advice you wanted most of all.
Aunt Murl sat across from you, squinting through her glasses while a thin plastic tube pushed oxygen into her nostrils. She turned over your cards one at a time – the two of hearts, followed by the two of spades, then the jack of hearts, and the wish card. The sides of her mouth turned up at the sight of the final card, the wish card. She nodded her head, and said “My mother was a reader–she could read tea leaves, cards, bones, the stars, anything. When she was a teenager, she somehow or another convinced her folks to let her borrow their car, it had a rumble seat in the back. Every heard of that before? A rumble seat is a seat in the trunk, of course there were no seatbelts or anything back then, just extra room for people to ride. My mother gathered up some neighbor girls and drove to the edge of town to visit the reader and get their fortunes told. They were young stupid girls who only asked about love and marriage. The reader read each of their cards, gave them some advice, and when it was my mother’s turn, the reader didn’t even look up, she just said “you come back tomorrow but come back alone”. So they loaded up in the car, two in the front and two in the trunk. On the way home that car was hit by a train. Back then there were no train lights or anything and the three neighbor girls were killed instantly, the only survivor was my mother. She went back to that reader and some years later became her student. My mother taught me. I’ll teach you.”