The Brotherhood #13
By Mark W. Meier
Prophet of Death
Inside the eatery you waited to be seated. Friday nights were popular for dining out. One of the wait staff asked you how many were in your party. He made a grease pencil notation on the piece of plastic covering a diagram of the dining room, and you waited, shifting your weight from one foot to the other.
About ten minutes later Amy arrived. I didn’t linger to listen to your small talk while you waited for a table. Another group lingered over coffee and ordered another round of fried cheese curds, keeping you waiting for another twenty minutes.The speaker in the ceiling played an instrumental version of a classic hit by Duran Duran. I nudged the volume up, and a moment later . . . .
The little things.
Eventually someone vacated their booth and the two of you sat. A moment later a harried member of the staff took your drink order and vanished.
After an awkward moment of staring at each other, you broke the silence. “I’m curious about why you agreed to tonight. It’s kind of sudden.”
Amy’s bashful smile melted your sappy heart. Humans. What a waste of matter.
“I’ve seen you around.” She flushed in embarrassment. “You’re kind of cute.”
Flustered, you looked everywhere but at her. Finally you were able to respond. “Uh, I, ah, don’t r-remember seeing you around.”
Casanova was no doubt bashing his head into the nearest solid object – his casket would be handy. I didn’t need to interrupt graceless conversation, so I let you stumble around in your own steaming pile of refuse.
Amy adjusted her shirt and pushed some curls behind her ear. Probably they were nervous habits which were seldom indulged. “Well, to be truthful, I’ve only seen you four or five times. I was coming home from work and waited in my car until you either drove off or went inside the building.”
You frowned. “Why didn’t you introduce yourself?”
“I don’t walk up to strangers and start conversations for no reason.”
You raised a hand to placate her. “No offense intended. I just wish we’d met earlier. You mentioned a job. What do you do?”
“I work at the Hy-Vee on Flammang Drive. I’m a part time cashier, but I’m looking for something better. Maybe I’ll get full time hours soon. That’ll help.”
The ineptness of the conversation had ended, so I made a patron’s fingers slip as she lifted a glass of soda. Two tables away from you the plastic tumbler dropped, and I gave it a bit of English to spray sugary cola all over the table and several others seated there. Three of them jumped to their feet to avoid the scattering flow, but failed. They did, however, overturn chairs and angered others who wanted a quiet meal.
The two of you only glanced over for a moment, but otherwise ignored the commotion. Unfortunate.
“What do you do, Andy?”
“I’m an astrologer.”
The hesitant silence returned. Maybe I should have had you bring up your profession sooner.
“Really? Someone who reads star charts and birth signs?”
“Absolutely. There’s a science to it.”
Time for more distraction. Just for fun.
She blanched. “Don’t you know astrology is nothing but a scam?”
You’d gotten that reaction for most of your career. Nodding, you didn’t take offense. “For most, I’m sure it is. I used to give trash predictions until recently. But my forecasts have been getting pretty accurate lately.” Your chest swelled a bit. I could work with pride.
The only reason you’d earned your new nickname was because of me making them pan out in reality. Most of the time your predictions were written with me giving you the words. And now with the Marshal Service taking an interest, my plans were progressing nicely.
Amy still seemed skeptical. “Well, what kind of things have you predicted that actually happened?”
A waitress interrupted, bringing your drinks and taking your order. Amy selected the roast beef – with Friday’s special of free fries – and you saved yourself a bit of money by taking the grilled cheese po’boy, also with the fries. You’d rather have the roast beef yourself, but your funds were limited despite your recent good fortune.
After the waitress hurried off you said, “Remember that singer, Bether?”
Amy nodded. “Sure. Very sad what happened to her. I’ve heard her sing. Nice voice.”
“She asked me if it was time to expand her career, and I told her she should. Bookings tripled overnight, and she was on her way to being a household name.”
Amy frowned. “Do you think if you’d told her to stand pat for another year she might still be alive?”
“It’s possible.” You shrugged. “I warned her about wearing scarves. If she’d followed that advice she’d be alive, too. I’m accurate now.”
Her frown deepened. “Okay, try me. Tell me something about me using your astrology.”
“It won’t be much. I can’t do a full chart off the top of my head.” You gave her an ingenuous smile. “I’ll need your birth date. To do a full workup I’d need even more information.”
Amy finally smiled again. “Birth date, huh?”
You grinned. “Can’t do my job without it.”
She gave you her birth date, and you had to work to recall your charts. These days you used a computer to calculate these things, so you couldn’t remember the details as readily as you did before you had a laptop.
“You’re a Sagittarius, which means you love freedom. You’re usually happy, hate routine, and trust people – sometimes too readily.” You took a sip of your drink to give yourself time to ponder. “You love to travel. Some think you’re too quick to forgive people who betray you, and you don’t like letting people down.”
Amy scoffed. “That’s all pretty general. Tell me something specific.”
“Okay, let me think.”
The overhead speakers, playing a jazz rendition of a Styx song, popped.
I needed to keep you from concentrating. You were winning her over and I knew it.
You didn’t look up, even after a third attempt.
“You’re smart, and you know it. Many times you don’t listen as much as you should, and you try to joke your way out of things when you’re caught at it. It doesn’t always work.”
“Some of that’s true,” she said thoughtfully.
“You’ll just have to wait to find out.” Coquettish, to be sure.
The waitress brought your meals, and again small talk dominated. I tried to trip a fifty-something man on his way past. He’d have fallen into Amy and spilled her lemonade as she drank, but he caught himself on the edge of the table.
“Oh, excuse me,” he said. “Getting clumsy in my old age.”
Amy stood and took his elbow. “Not so old. You’re about my age, I’d guess.”
“Then you look young for your age.” He patted Amy’s shoulder and continued on his way to the restroom.
Amy stabbed a french fry with her fork and dipped it into a pool of ketchup. “What about my future?”
“You eat fries with a fork?” You looked askance as she chewed.
“I don’t like greasy fingers.”
You adjusted yourself deeper into the booth’s seat. “I usually have a computer, so I can’t just pull a prediction out of my hat.” After taking a bite of your po’boy you looked at Amy with intensity. Using your fingers you ate a french fry without ketchup.
Amy smiled at you and speared a fry. She held it up for you to see. “Like that.” She dipped for ketchup.
You cleared your throat. “Okay, here’s the best I can do. You’re going to have – maybe already did have –a series of love interests that won’t pan out. You’ll keep in touch, and eventually a good job will present itself through one of your former boyfriends. There will be a significant tragedy in your near future, but it will only make you stronger.”
POP! POP! POP!
You were doing the prediction, and I needed you to rely on me to get things right. For some reason I couldn’t touch you at the moment, and the woman wasn’t at fault.
Amy looked up. “What’s with their speakers? Seriously? They need some maintenance guys here.”
You were in the zone, ignoring her comments. “You take religion seriously, and wonder why others don’t…And that’s all I can tell for now.”
Amy nodded. “Yes, I do take my faith very seriously. I wonder why a person’s eternal fate doesn’t make them think more about the afterlife. Sure, it seems like a long way off, but what’s eighty years compared with, well, eternity?”
You wanted to bite your tongue, but the topic of religion was already out there. “Some don’t believe there is an afterlife. Why would anyone think that much about a fantasy concept?”
Amy looked over your shoulder toward where I stood. “Satan’s best trick is to make people think he doesn’t exist.”
I backed away from her. She gave me what humans called “the willies.”
“Astrology exists.” You gave her a frank stare. “Your Bible essentially denies its existence.”
“Not true. The Wise Men were astrologers.”
I needed a distraction. A waitress with a massive tray filled with food walked past, so I tipped it off the hand it was balanced on. Cheap plates dumped their load, slid across the table, and broke on the floor. Food scattered across the waiting family. They ended up wearing the entrees instead of eating them. The mess was wonderful.
You laughed. “I guess someone’s about to get fired.”
Amy said, “I hope not. Accidents happen.” She touched her pendant and subvocalized a prayer.
I grumbled and reluctantly moved away from the waitress I’d been about to make fall again. She’d look better with her face planted in the family-size steaming basket of french fries that had landed intact. Too bad. Grease burns were delicious.
The manager of Newton’s emerged from the kitchen, and the waitress blushed as she received a dressing down. If she objected too much she risked getting fired. Another waitress moved to help clean up the mess, but the manager waved her away.
“Where were we?” You thought a moment, then looked up as the bell on the door tinkled. Woods walked in, and your conversation with Amy halted. “Amy, it looks like I’m going to have to cut this short.” You turned beet red and pointed over her shoulder. “Someone wants to speak with me.”
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