My boss takes a bubbling sip from his caramel latte and steam from the drink fogs his glasses. His lips are wet and pouting, his eyes are weak and watery. They don’t match the power he’s struggling to project from behind his desk, a giant oak sonofabitch that’s been in his family for generations.
He sets the latte down and purrs, “So, Michael, how can I help you?”
“Well, Sir,” I begin slowly because I know this is going to be a tricky bit of business, “I have something I’ve been meaning to discuss with you.”
Images flicker across in my mind and progress forward in a stuttering stop motion animation. It’s Mr. Forsythe nodding his head, taking notes, some back and forth, I go back to my desk and continue working at the same level of pay. I need a stronger prompt to get a read.
“I’ve been working here for six years now and things are good. I think I make a significant contribution to the team.”
Forsythe nods, “You’re one of our best writers, Mike. The distributors all love your fortunes.” I imagine he knows where this is going. He picks up a pen and clicks the end with his thumb and the nib pops out. He puts the tip of the pen on a piece of company letterhead and draws a big open circle around the logo. Sun Chang Fortune Cookie. It’s a near perfect circle. I suppose everyone needs to be good at something.
The images in my head tell the same story. Me, at my desk, no raise. So I decide to try something different.
“How’s Mrs. Forsythe? I haven’t seen her around in awhile.”
His eyes snap to mine and a little frown ruins his pout. The images in my head scramble and I can’t see what happens further out than a few seconds. Now I’m getting somewhere.
You’d be a asshole, too, if you could see what I see. Everyone’s potential history playing forward in your mind and you can’t shut if off. Drinking helps but drugs make the visions harsh and painful. I’m not a doctor and I have no idea why any of this happens. Years ago I met with Dr. Oliver Sacks and he walked away with a tip on the Lakers game. I walked away with nothing.
I’ve had a precognitive ‘gift’ since I was able to think and it’s completely useless. Oh yeah, I can see a few seconds into the future or maybe, if someone is a vegetable or total couch potato, a few days. Destiny, you see, is bullshit. Oh, it’s there and guiding everyone around but it’s fickle and any piece of stimuli might make it shift from moment to moment. Like a cracked windshield the threads of fate keep splintering and gaining momentum until they are a total mess that no one could possibly see through. Not even me and, believe it or not, I’m one of the best.
There are all kinds of psychics out there, people with real abilities to amaze and astound, but when it comes down to it we’re worse off than the rest of you. I knew a telekinetic, real powerful for someone with that particular gift and, I swear to God, he could bend spoons with his mind. Big deal. It took him ten minutes to do with his mind what I could do with my hands in two seconds. That’s the way it goes. We don’t stop assassination plots, we don’t don’t save lives. We’re not super-soldiers. We can barely take care of ourselves. Party tricks and gambling buddies. That’s the best we got.
I’m at Duane Reade and some guy is looking at a romantic Hallmark card. Not a card for husband and wife, just a plain ol’ shmoopie card about destiny. It's nonsense. Love and hard work, that’s the key to a relationship. Fate has nothing to do with it. I get a rare deep vision that takes me through his date. I see images of her reaction to the card and I know it won’t work. I walk past him and put my shoulder into his back. He stumbles and turns to face me. “Hey man...” he says. I see the girl letting him down so I use both hands to push him backwards. Suddenly I’m seeing him leave the Duane Reade without the card and I feel good about myself.
I’m at a bar and slug a guy in the temple. He crumples and his buddies kick the shit out of me but at least he doesn’t grab the waitress's ass. Swell, I'm a hero.
I’m in Vegas, winning hand over fist at the blackjack table with my friends and they love me.
I’m at dinner with co-workers and one of them gets a fortune that I wrote just for her. I see which cookie she is going to grab and substitute it with one I have palmed in my hand. It says You’re co-worker Michael gives amazing cunnilingus. She reads it and spits crumbs across the table. We all have a good laugh and a few hours later she realizes I exaggerated my abilities.
I can always find parking at the mall.
Mr. Forsythe takes a cautious sip of his latte. He knows all about me. Six years ago my job interview made me a celebrity because it led to the firing of several long-standing Sun Chang employees. I got the job, I write good fortunes. Very few people like me floating around. He’s evaluating what I could possibly see in his future.
My ability doesn’t tell me peanuts about someone I can’t see. Thankfully I discovered the secret to writing good fortunes has nothing to do with my special skills. I make my fortunes general. I make them all-inclusive and tease at truths the reader suspects about himself or herself. I give them something better than they deserve. A future bright with success and love, but believably so. I don’t make them superstars. I just tell them what they want to hear.
“Okay, Michael, tell me what you’ve got.” says Mr. Forsythe. I see myself telling him about his wife and another man, an executive in a sharp gray suit. There’s a cozy hotel in South Haven. It’s right off the beach and they’re sipping margaritas, holding hands while they bury their toes in the sand. It’s bullshit. I don’t actually see any of this but I give him what he wants to hear. The images flicker past and I see him asking what I want for the information and I give him my price.
I'm smiling when I leave his office and, for the moment, my future is looking pretty good.