In the Cards

To Patti I found the deck in the back of one of my grandfather’s desk drawers — he had died in his sleep two weeks earlier and the family was just getting around to taking anything of sentimental value from his house. This was a deck of tarot cards, nice ones, too: large pieces of thick paper and I would almost swear they were handmade and hand drawn. No one else in my family was even vaguely interested in this kind of stuff, so I didn’t say anything to either my brothers or my mother, who were in various other rooms in the house. Instead, I tucked the deck away in my pocket and kept going from room to room. I got home about an hour before I expected my wife, so I had a chance to look the cards over more closely. It was a nice deck — definitely one of the most expensive I had ever seen. The cards were not made of paper or even thin cardboard like most; these were thin, stiffened pieces of leather with the designs carefully carved and dyed in. I looked through them carefully — there are 78 cards in a standard Tarot deck, each with a distinctly different design, unlike a pack of playing cards, and each of these was singularly impressive. What really stood out, though, were the backgrounds. Like playing cards, a Tarot deck is divided into four suits: wands, cups, swords, and pentacles. Though in this deck every card had a different picture, each suit shared a common background. A house. The wands showed the front, the cups and pentacles each showed a side, and the swords pictured the back. It was my grandfather’s house. I could tell most easily from the swords, which pictured fairly clearly the big apple tree with the tire swing my gradnfather was always proud of. I remembered playing on that swing when I was younger and would visit him on holidays. It was unmistakable. I realized then that my grandfather must have either made the cards himself or had them done especially for him. This, I thought, is a real tarot deck; it makes all the others look like factory-made fakes. Half an hour later, Kara came home, and she was also impressed by the cards. After abut fifteen minutes of studying them, including the pictures of the house, she climbed the ladder into the attic and dug around up there for a good twenty minutes. When she came down she was carrying a small pile of books. “Look at these,” she said, putting them on the dining room table. “These have been up there since we moved in.” She examined the cover of each volume after blowing off the dust that had gathered, and read the titles out loud. “Understanding the Tarot, Interpretations of the Rider Tarot, The Tarot and You, Mysteries of the Tarot–” Back in college, when we had met, Kara and I had gone through a period of playing with Tarot cards before moving on to more-worldy pursuits. But, like me, Kara had trouble parting with any good book, and these had been packed away for the past seven or eight years. “Let me see that one,” I said, when she got to Legends of the Tarot. She passed me the book and I flipped to the Table of Contents, somehow remembering something from that particular volume. “A-ha! Eureka, I’ve found it, yippee and all that!” “What have you found, oh victorious one?” she asked, putting down the copy of The Tarot as Fortune-Teller she had been flipping through. “Unsolved Mysteries of the Tarot,” I said, quoting one of the chapter titles. “I thought I remembered this one.” I scanned the pages of the chapter. “Here we go. Listen to this: ‘There are legends regarding the extraordinary powers of insight of certain Tarot decks made by the gypsy-like nomads of northeastern Yugoslavia.” I looked at Kara. “I don’t know why, but I remembered reading that in here a long time ago. Anyway, Belgrade is in northeastern Yugoslavia.” She looked momentarily perplexed. “Belgrade?” Then she remembered, nodding. “Your grandfather lived there, didn’t he?” “For eight years,” I answered, then thought about it. “But wait — that doesn’t explain how the deck has pictures of his house engraved in it. That’s in Jersey.” “Hmm,” she answered, getting a speculative look in her eye, “I guess it doesn’t, does it? Maybe he described it to whoever made them.” “Maybe. Or showed them a picture.” “Four pictures,” Kara pointed out. “What does that book say about those Gypsy decks?” she asked. I scanned the next few pages. “It’s a bunch of fiction stories — people who use those gypsy decks and that sort of–oh, wow!” “What?” asked my ever-curious wife. I held the book open and passed it across the table. “Check out the picture on page 217.” “So,” she said, glancing at it. “It’s a design on the back of a–” Her voice trailed off as her eyes left the book and looked at grandfather’s deck on the table. The design on the back of his cards was exactly the same as the one illustrated in the book. “Andrew–” I raised my eyebrows and shrugged my shoulders. What was I supposed to say? “Well,” I finally said, “We’ll just put that down as ‘something interesting’ and treat the cards like any other deck. We’ll wrap them up in–what is it, wool?” “Silk.” “Whatever. If I remember, we’re supposed to sleep near them, right?” Kara nodded. “So we’ll put them under the pillow tonight and sleep on them till Friday. We can read up on how to do a reading and try a spread Friday night.” “All right,” she said, after thinking about it, “But they go under your pillow.” * * * That night I dreamed of being in the desert. Kara was with me. She was planting a tree in the sand. * * * Wednesday morning was Kara’s turn to make breakfast; I came down earlier than usual and saw her sitting at the table, fiddling with the cards instead. She must have slipped them out from under my pillow. Bacon was sizzling on the stove, coffee was brewing and toast was in the toaster. I stood behind my wife and rubbed her shoulders. “Mmm,” she said. “Something told me you wouldn’t be able to resist the lure of the cards,” I told her. “Um, Andrew?” “Yes, dear?” “I think you should take a look at them.” “Hmm?” She had spread five cards face-up on the table: the Six, Seven, Eight, Nine and Ten of Swords — the suit which showed the back of grandfather’s house. But something was missing. The tire swing wasn’t there. Kara must’ve read my mind. “The roof is slightly different, too,” she said. “It’s a lot less slanted — I’d swear. And the windows are also different.” She looked up at me. “No way.” I said, but didn’t believe myself. The pictures were different; I knew it, Kara knew it, and the cards certainly knew it. “What about the other suits?” “They’re all slightly changed from what I remember, but maybe I’m remembering wrong,” she answered. But I knew she didn’t remember wrong — Kara has a great sense of detail like that. The cards had changed. That night we put them under the pillows again. According to the book, three nights sleeping with them like that would allow the cards to pick up the person’s ‘aura.’ We should wait at least that long before attempting a reading. I had no problem with that. * * * That night I dreamed the tree Kara had planted was beginning to grow. I watered it. Grandfather’s house was nearby, and as I watched it began to change, slowly, until it looked like– * * * “Our house,” I said, pointing at the background of the Eight of Swords. “Look at it — that’s our backyard, almost — and that just about looks like our big window.” Kara didn’t say a thing. I continued. “Look at the Seven of Wands! That’s our house, our mailbox, our lawn!” Now she nodded slowly. “I know.” I flipped through the entire deck; every card had a background picture of our home. Ours. Not entirely, though — there were still some features clearly distinctive of my grandfather’s house: some of the windows were divided into four or six sections instead of one large picture window. The color was wrong, too; the cards still pictured a red brick building instead of our white, aluminum-sided one. It didn’t seem to matter, though. Before going to sleep we read about how to perform a reading. Again, we wrapped the cards in a silk handkerchief and put them under the pillows. * * * I dreamed of being in my front yard, standing with Kara by the tree we had just planted. It had blossomed, and small red fruits hung from its branches. I picked one and ate it, savoring the juice– * * * Friday morning was bright and clear, and I woke up feeling as if I had slept for a week. Kara was already downstairs making breakfast (her turn again) so I took a long, disgustingly hot shower. I came downstairs clean, refreshed and decidedly ready for just about anything. “Good morning,” said Kara, smiling and kissing me hello. “You too?” I asked. “Me too what?” “You feel like you had the best night’s sleep ever? You’re all smiley and bubbly.” She thought for a second and nodded. “Yup.” I returned her nod, thinking to myself a moment. “Look at the cards yet?” I noticed that she had taken them downstairs. “Not yet,” she answered, bringing breakfast over to the table, “I was waiting for you.” “In that case–shall we?” I unwrapped the deck and flipped through it while my wife looked over my shoulder. The transformation of the deck was complete. Each of the four suits showed a clear picture of our house in its background. Otherwise, the cards remained unchanged. Otherwise, ha. Kara sat down and shrugged her shoulders. “Think we should try a reading?” “Later tonight,” I answered. “We’ll go out to dinner and a movie, come home around eleven and try it then.” “Sounds good.” Dinner and the movie were both very good, and when we finally got home around 11:30 we were psyched to try Grandfather’s cards. They weren’t Grandfather’s any more, my wife pointed out, indicating the picture on the Seven of Swords which clearly showed our backyard. Kara had Mysteries of the Tarot ready (it had a fairly general section on card interpretations), so we cleared off the dining room table and unwrapped the cards. “It says here,” said Kara, reading from the book, “That we start with a card which best expresses the situation in question. It’s called a ‘significator.’ You’re supposed to remove it from the deck and shuffle the rest of the cards until you feel they’re ready. ‘The reader then lays out the cards in the following manner–‘.” She showed me the diagram in the book. “Let’s put the book on the side and keep it open to that diagram,” I suggested. “We can shuffle the cards and refer to the book.” “OK. Do you want to shuffle or should I?” I shrugged. “You can.” “Your grandfather,” she replied. Again I shrugged. “What should we use as the–” “Significator,” she answered, “We’ll use the ten of pentacles.” “Why? And how do you know?” Kara smiled at me. “I’ve been reading those books we dug up. Ten of Pentacles represents the family and the home and things like that.” I smiled. “I’ll take your word on it.” I went through the deck until I found the card, then placed it face up on the table. “Now what?” “Shuffle the cards,” Kara said, “Until you get the feeling that you’ve shuffled them enough.” I carefully picked up the remainder of the deck and began mixing them. After four shuffles, I placed the pack face down in front of my wife. She picked them up and glanced at the diagram in the book. “OK, here goes. I’m going to put them all face down and we’ll turn them as we go.” She placed one on top of the Ten of Pentacles, and read aloud from the book. “This covers it.” Then she laid one horizontally across that: “This crosses it.” Then one below those first three cards, “This is beneath it.” One to the left of the first three, “This is behind it.” One above, “This is above it.” One to the right, “This is before it.” Then she placed one to the far right and slightly below the original three: “Our feelings.” Three more went above that card: “Outside opinion”, “Hopes or fears” and finally, “Final outcome.” She placed the rest of the pack across the table, away from the spread. “That,” she said, “Is that.” I looked at the layout spread on the table, and then at Kara. “Now we turn them over, right?” “One at a time,” she answered, moving “This Crosses It” to get to the card underneath. “OK,” she said, “This covers it.” She flipped the card. King of Pentacles, upside-down. I picked up the book and turned the pages until I found the description, then summarized it out loud. “‘An elderly statesman–steadfast–money earner–concerned with the family and the estate.'” I turned to my wife who was already looking at me, and raised my eyebrows, questioning. “The card that covers reflects the general environment of the question,” she said. “Or something like that. Whatever. It obviously represents your grandfather.” I thought for a moment. “But the card’s reversed — upside-down. That changes the meaning, if I recall correctly.” Kara shook her head. “It means that it should be looked at differently that if it was right-side-up–at another angle. In this case, I guess it’s reversed because your grandfather’s um–dead.” Of course. “You have been reading up, haven’t you?” She nodded. “On my breaks. Some of the people there think I’m crazy.” “You are.” I kissed her cheek. “Onward.” “The next card crosses it — something standing in the way of solving whatever problem the cards are reading.” She turned the card. Two of Swords. “‘Indecision’,” I read, “‘Balanced forces–a choice–perhaps between the rational and what appears to be irrational.'” My wife frowned. “Interesting.” “That’s not quite the word I was thinking of.” She smiled. “It’s almost as if the cards are challenging us to believe in them.” “Maybe they are. Keep going.” “As you like.” She reached for the next card. “What’s ‘Beneath It’ is a past experience relating to the whole thing.” She turned it. The Devil. I made the appropriate comment: “Eek!” “Don’t worry,” said Kara with a laugh, “It’s not quite that bad. Check the book.” I did. “Oh, OK,” I said after reading the description, “It means ‘bondage to the material–spiritual blindness.'” I looked at Kara. “The cards speak again.” “So they do. Let us continue.” She indicated the next card. “What is ‘Behind’ is an influence just fading out into the past.” Eight of Swords — a woman, bound and blindfolded, surround by eight swords. “Hmm,” I said as I read the meaning, “Another one. ‘Bondage and blindness to all but the rational and scientific.’ These cards are definitely trying to tell us something.” Kara looked thoughtful. “What’s interesting is that the two ‘bondage to the material’ cards both showed up in the past.” “Hmm. Keep going. What’s next?” “‘Above It’,” she answered, “Future influences.” The Tower — lightning, thunder and two people falling from a collapsing stone tower. “And it means–” I said, flipping through the pages, “Ah, it means ‘the end of material bondage–the collapse of existing institutions.’ Curiouser and curiouser.” My wife raised her eyebrows in agreement. “I wonder if this is–normal?” “I wonder if we are. Go ahead — turn the next card.” She reached for it. “This is ‘Before It’ — um, future events, instead of just influences.” Ace of Wands. “Aces mean beginnings,” said Kara. I was already turning the pages. “Ah — Wands have to do with spiritual things. So–in the future, we’ll begin something–spiritual?” “It makes sense,” she said. “All the cards so far are telling us about the end of spiritual blindness and stuff — the Ace of Wands is the logical conclusion. A spiritual beginning.” I smiled. “Good show, Watson! Shall we continue?” “Oh, quite.” She touched the next card. “These are our — or your feelings.” Five of Cups — a figure, turned away, looking at three spilled cups. Two unspilled ones are out of its sight. “It means,” I recited, “‘Loss, but with something left over–perhaps unnoticed.'” “Your grandfather dies and you got these cards from him,” said Kara with an air of satisfaction. “Brilliant deduction. I tell you, though, there really is something weird about the way all this is fitting together–” “Uh huh.” “–but maybe it’s just our imagination.” I concluded. Kara wasn’t listening. Her eyes had doubled in size and she was staring at one of the cardsw we had flipped — the King of Pentacles. “Oh my God.” “What? What?” “The King. Look at the King!” I did. “So?” “Look at the background — the house in the background.” I examined the card more closely. In the suit of pentacles, the house was shown from the side. It was a red-bricked side. It was my grandfather’s house. I grabbed the unused part of the deck and flipped through the cards, checking the Swords especially, to see if the tire swing had reappeared. It hadn’t. The rest of the deck still showed our white-sided house; only the King of Pentacles — the card which represented my grandfather — had his house on it. “It’s almost as if the cards remembered their old owner,” said Kara, almost whispering. I nodded, and decided to get off the subject, quickly. “Let’s finish up the reading. Just forget about that card.” Kara pointed to the next card, and when she spoke, I could hear the nervousness in her voice. “This represents the feelings of the people and forces around us.” The Magician. “‘The ability to direct the forces and abilities around to serve–power and control–‘ Well, someone out there has faith in us.” I smiled. Kara smiled back nervously. “Hopes and Fears,” she said, turning the next card. The Hermit, reversed. “Upside-down it means ‘Lack of — or fear of — spiritual guidance’,” I said. “Are you afraid that these cards really do mean something?” Kara wasn’t smiling. “Damn right.” She paused. “The last card is the Final Outcome,” she said. “No sense adding suspense.” She flipped it. Death. I gulped a breath, very quickly. My wife gave an involuntary shudder, and took a deep breath. “It only means change,” she said, smiling, “Not that bad.” I had the book in front of me. “It means ‘drastic change, upheaval and rebirth’.” I looked at Kara, “Like the Tower.” “Uh-huh. And if you look at the entire thing, it’s saying the same thing five different ways: old bondage to material and rational things, a great change, then a spiritual awakening. I’ll bet the cards themselves are gonna have something to do with it.” “You’re probably right.” I leaned back in my chair. “Kara, my spiritual awakening can wait ‘til tomorrow. Right now, let’s go to bed.” * * * That night I didn’t dream at all. * * * Saturday meant shopping and other such errrands in the morning, and since our plans for the afternoon had been cancelled, we had it all to ourselves. That evening we decided to try another reading, this time with Kara shuffling. The cards fit together just as well this time, and again left us with nervous knots in our stomaches. The reading showed love in the past, a recent conflict and a renewal of the old friendship in the future. The final outcome: reconcilliation. “I don’t know,” said Kara as we scooped up the cards and rewrapped them in the silk. “I really can’t think of how it could apply to me.” She shrugged. “Maybe the cards aren’t magic or anything after all.” Sunday morning, her friend Patty called. When Kara got off the phone, she had a look of shock on her face. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “That was Lisa Baron,” she said, and when I looked confused: “We were best friends a long time ago — back in college — but we had a falling out and lost touch. She looked me up just to say ‘Let’s get together’.” “The cards were right.” “Too right,” she said. “Andrew, it’s scary. I mean, thinking that they have some sort of power or whatever. It’s like having someone peeking in the window. It’s–it’s not private.” I gave her a hug. “I know.” She and Lisa had a wonderful time that afternoon. * * * On Monday my editor gave me a story assignment I was able to finish in a few hours, and he gave me the rest of the day off and I got home early. Kara wouldn’t be home for another two-and-a-half hours, so I considered it an omen and decided to do something to make her feel less threatened by the cards. I went through the book carefully, noting down which cards would suit my purpose. Then I went to the deck itself and removed the cards I had chosen and set them up as if I had done a real reading. Basically, I had the spread set up so that it said that in the past we had some financial trouble (which was true), then we had stabilized, and in the future we were in for a windfall of material success. When my wife came home, they were waiting for her. “Wow,” she said after going through the book to look up what it all meant, “Looks impressive. Planning to rob a bank and claim the cards made you do it?” “What d’y’mean?” I asked, innocently. She smiled. “The engine of your car was cool — I slipped in the garage and had to grab the hood — so I know you’ve been home for a while. Admit it.” I shrugged. “I throw myself upon the mercy of the court.” She laughed. “You almost had me–almost. It’s too bad; I’d’ve liked to believe it.” The phone rang. Neither of us moved. I waited for the third ring before picking it up. “It’s for you,” I said, handing it to Kara. She took it. “Uh-huh–yes, Captain–I sure do–really?–no, I didn’t–why, thank you sir!–yes, sir!” She hung it up, half smiling, half frowning. “I guess I shouldn’t have spoken too soon,” she said, staring at the layout of cards on the table. “That was the precinct. Remember those three kidnappers I helped track down last month?” I nodded. “Well, there was a reward offered. I had forgotten all about it, but someone didn’t, and processed it. There’s a check for $20,000 waiting for me. They want some photos for the paper, too.” There was no enthusiasm in her voice, just an expression of total shock. “Wow,” I managed to say. “Uh-huh.” We both stared at the spread of cards, then at each other, then at the telephone. Then Kara started to laugh. I watched her turn red before I found myself starting in, and soon we were both flushed and bleary-eyed on the floor, leaning against the wall. Then we started in again. We kept this up for ten minutes, alternating between catching our breath, giggling quietly and laughing hysterically. Finally, our fit complete, we sat together on the sofa, Kara resting her head on my shoulder. “I don’t know,” I said finally. “Maybe there’s something to those cards after all.” My wife moved her head from my shoulder and gave me a look of surprise. “Maybe?” “All right — don’t start laughing again — so there is something to them.” I walked over to the table and examined the layout I had constructed. Kara stood next to me. “Don’t touch it,” she said. “Why not?” “Just leave it here. We’ll eat out tonight. I’m curious — if nothing else happens by tomorrow night we’ll forget I suggested it, OK?” I agreed, somewhat reluctantly. “I’m worried,” I admitted. “Oh, really?” Kara smiled. “About what?” “That the cards are doing something. I don’t like playing with–forces I can’t understand.” “You mean can’t control, don’t you?” “No,” I answered, “It’s not that. I don’t know — maybe we’re changing history or something.” “These are tarot cards,” said Kara, “Little pieces of leather. Not a time machine.” “Whatever. I’m just not sure I trust them.” “For twenty thousand dollars, I’ll trust almost anyone.” “–or anything,” I added. We slept that night with the layout still on the table. The next day, Kara found a three-month-old lottery ticket. After a glance at the spread on the table, we called the lottery office. We had won a little over two million dollars, two months ago. They would be happy to start payments as soon as it was verified. We celebrated by both calling in sick the next morning and taking the first available flight to Las Vegas. We left the cards on the table, of course. We stayed there through the weekend and returned home Monday evening, $362,000 richer, not to mention another $250 we found in an envelope on the street. Needless to say, we were very happy when we got back. I unlocked the door, and Kara had already taken the mail from the box. After getting our bags into the house, we went through it, piece by piece. “Wow,” Kara said, looking at whatever was in the first envelope. “Let’s hear it.” “It’s from Shop Rite,” she told me. “Remember that contest they had, oh, I guess it was a month ago or so?” “Yeah–” “We won.” She wasn’t letting any excitement into her voice; it was a simple, matter-of-fact statement. “What did we win?” Another one of those obvious questions. She read from the letter. “One electric blue Supercharged Toyota MR2, courtesy Gray’s Toyota. Please respond by–” She looked at her digital watch. “–tomorrow, to claim your prize.” “Wow,” I said. “That’s what I said,” Kara pointed out. “Next letter. Who from?” “Brandow Funds,” she said. “I’m terrified to thin what this one is.” “Wow. That’s a broker I used to use, a long time ago. Open it.” They wanted to know if I was interested in selling the electronics stock I had been given as a gift when I was six. I had earned about eight thousand dollars over the past week, but they expected it to start going down. They recommended I take my money now. “Mail like this should come every day,” Kara said, “Oops, maybe not. This one’s from the phone company.” I opened it, took out the letter inside, and scanned it. “Now I’ve seen everything.” “What is it?” “The phone credit card we lost? They never cancelled it. Someone made about twelve hundred dollars worth of calls on it.” “WHAT?” I smiled. “It’s an apology from the phone company. And a year’s free long-distance.” “I won’t say a word,” said Kara. “No, I won’t.” She didn’t think I saw her shoot a glance at the dining room table. She opened the last letter. It was from the IRS. “What was that about ‘now you’ve seen everything’?” “Oh no.” “Oh, yes. It seems the IRS has made a minor computer error. This–” She held up a small piece of paper, “–is a tax refund from three years ago. Six hundred twelve dollars and seventeen cents.” We ate out a lot, and didn’t use the dining room table at all. Wednesday brought news from a bank in Vermont, where we lived for a few months. An old account of ours (one we had completely forgotten about) was still active. Did we want the $5,000 that had accumulated? On Thursday, Publisher’s Clearance House informed us that we had won $2,417,000 in their sweepstakes (now do you believe that it’s legit?). We did. I didn’t even remember sending the form in. On Friday, a pocketbook I had found a month ago was still unclaimed, and therefore became my property. It contained two thousand dollars, cash. “Enough!” I shouted on Saturday when American Airlines called to tell us that we had won two round trip tickets to anywhere in North America. But it wasn’t enough, not for the cards, anyway. Every lottery we entered, every investment we made, every stock we bought made us more money. Our broker sent Kara a birthday card. American Express sent us a personalized Platinum Card invitation. The President of the State Lottery Commission had seen us in his offices so much, he invited us to dinner. Almost a month after it began, Kara and I sat down, calculator in hand, to figure out exactly how much we had. “Oh, my,” I said after twenty minutes of button-pushing. “Oh, my.” “Yes dear, what is it?” “Are you ready?” “Go for it.” I smiled. “28 million, 469 thousand, 317 dollars in cash–” Kara whistled. “–plus about 212 thousand in merchandise–” Ooh!” –and about 12 thousand in stocks,” I finished. “We,” said my wife, “Are rich.” “Quite,” I replied, smiling at her. “We have cash to last us fifty years at $569,000 a year, before taxes. Comes to over $300,000 after. And I’m not even thinking about investments; we can live off the interest.” “I knew I married you for a reason.” She kissed me. The phone rang. “Don’t put your calculator away yet,” she laughed, picking up the phone. “Hello–yes it is–yes–oh–oh, I’m so sorry–uh-huh–yes–yes of course I will–right.” She scribbled something down on a piece of paper. “We’ll be there–thanks–goodbye.” She hung up, not looking happy. “What was it?” Kara took a breath. She stared at me a full ten seconds before saying anything. I saw tears begin to form in her eyes. “My aunt Sarah died last night. She left me something in her will — the reading is next Tuesday.” I didn’t say a word. I didn’t have to. Kara sat down across from me and took a deep breath. She held my hand, and I felt it shake slightly, and watched a tear roll down her cheek. “Andrew, all this money we have — it had to come from somewhere. We just never thought about it before, because it was OK when it came from casinos and lotteries and stuff, but–well, something’s wrong when it starts coming from–from people. Like Aunt Sarah.” And for the first time in a long while, Kara begin to cry. I held her against me, knowing there was nothing to be said, or done. In a few minutes she looked at me again, her eyes red and puffy. She wiped them and blinked a few times. I just looked at her. “Do you really think–” “I don’t know what to think. But think about it — we’re rich. We have enough money to live comfortably the rest of our lives, and then some.” She sighed. “Let’s pack up the cards now, before someone else dies.” I looked at my wife (God, she was beautiful even with tears in her eyes), at the figures I had just written down, and at the spread of tarot cards on the table. I nodded. What had we done? “You’re right. We’ll put them away.” We undid the spread and packed the deck away in the attic, wrapped in the silk. I wondered if putting them away would start a trend of bad luck, and we’d end up giving all the money back, somehow. At least, that’s what happens in the movies. No, it didn’t happen; the money, it seemed, was ours to keep. * * * On Tuesday we went to the reading of the will (Kara received five thousand dollars and some stock certificates, though at that point we didn’t care) and then over to her aunt’s house outside of Hartford. We paid our respects and stayed several hours, until most of the guests had left. Then Kara told me that she’d like to look around upstairs to see if there was anything of sentimental value she wanted. We searched the bedroom and attic, where my wife picked up some old photo albums. Then I went into the basement while she checked the other upstairs rooms. I saw it in a corner down there — a long, flat wooden box on top of a small table. It had been well cared for; the box was clean and dustless. I carefully undid the small latch and opened it. The inside of the box was lined with soft fabric, and my eyes widened when I saw what was inside. It was a Oujia board, but a handmade, not storebought, one. It was made of oak as far as I could tell, and the letters on it were burned in, the whole thing covered with a coating of shellac. The corners and edges were plated with what I assumed was gold. I lifted it out of the case and saw that the moving piece of the oracle was made of gold as well. I replaced the board and closed the box, tucking it under my arm. I didn’t think anyone else would want it, and it might be good for a rainy day. Maybe we could talk to some ghosts.