Old Dogs

COLLECTION


I am
losing it
I thought
as I crossed the street
focused more upon the house
than the busy four lanes
of noontime traffic
a simple dwelling
almost identical
to the rest
on the block
save for the sign
in the yard

                   SISTER CELESTE
     Palmistry - Astrology - Fortunes

I knocked
on the door
and it was opened
by an elderly woman
dressed in a shiny
black and gold satin robe
wearing chains adorned
with medallions
crucifixes
and skulls
her long gray hair
framing a pasty face
highlighted by only
her piercing
brown eyes

"you have
troubles
my son
please
come in"

troubles sister?
I had been drinking
heavily
for six straight days
and was in the throes
of alcohol poisoning

yes sister
I had troubles

she motioned me
into a dimly lit room
and sat me
at an oblong
wooden table
covered with
an ornate bedspread
of some type
and laden
with tarot cards
colored scented candles
and various artifacts
of Christianity
the black arts
and Native American
trinkets and charms
but
to my chagrin
no crystal ball

she sat
across from me
in a plush lounge chair
and commanded me
to make
my request

I asked
for a reading
and she quickly
reached across
the crowded table
and grabbed my limp
lifeless wrists
looking down
at my sweaty palms
then closed her eyes
and began to moan
much as I had
that morning
while trying to get
out of bed

suddenly
her eyes opened
and she stared
into my soul

"you are
an intelligent man
a caring man
but a man
who is lost
a man
who no one
will help
a man who
no longer has faith
in the world
or himself"

I nodded
dumbly
but smiled
inwardly

should
I tell her
that I actually
was an ignorant
self-consumed bastard
whom everyone
had tried to help
but had finally
given up
on me
as lost?

she probably
would not appreciate
the obvious contradiction
to her introductory
pronouncements
so I let
the opportunity
pass

then
she arose
and pulled me
up and over
to a side table
where a large
free-standing crucifix
gaudily coated
in bright gold paint
loomed ominously
beneath
a low-wattage
wall lamp

she forced
my hands
upon Christ's cold
plaster body
and began to mutter
an arcane litany
of Biblical
lyrical
and cartoon
incantations
pausing intermittently
to have me repeat
selected
segments

"yes!
I can feel
His power
now reach quickly
into your pockets
and cast
all of your money
before his mercy
so that
he may remove
the source
of your sorrow!"

I had
about eighty bucks
and some odd change
so I laid it
all out
knowing
that I had
still more
in my money belt
and also back
in my motel
room

I could see
her surprise
as she momentarily
lost her cool
upon seeing
the amount
of her take
but she only
let down her act
for a few seconds
before leading me back
to be seated
at her table

she shook
her head forlornly
and clicked her tongue
as she again
took my hands
and looked sadly
into my eyes

"God
has told me
that a curse
has been put
upon your suffering soul
someone in your family
has bet against
your happiness
and success
and that
the only way
to remove
the bad magic
is to equal
the wager
and free the way
for God's
blessing"

so...
in other words
God wanted a payoff
some protection money
to brighten my future
so that my life
could proceed
along a more
fortunate course
I only had
to come across
with the amount of green
that He had
in mind

I asked
Sister Celeste
for the final balance
due to
the Lord

"He has told me
that $500
has been wagered
against your tormented
mortal existence

and for this
small token
of your little money
a path
will be cleared
for you
to heaven"

the bitch
was trying
to get me
to pay
the rent

I jumped up
with clarity and fire
in my bloodshot eyes
and raced
to the door

"yes Sister!
I see the truth!
wait for me here
and I shall return
with the money
and we shall
celebrate
my blessing!

thank you
Sister!
thank you!"

I bolted
for freedom
and waved to her
confused countenance
once safely across
the boulevard
then jumped
into my car
and sped
away

later
I found
a familiar bar
and entered
it's sanctuary
of drunken escape
pulled out
a hundred
and bought a round
for the
house

I would
buy off
my own gods
but still retain
the curse
of me