A Fortune Teller and an Uncertain Future: More from Mexico

What’s news for horror writer Paul D. Dail?

Cover image pending

I was honored recently to be asked by Andrew Hudson to write the foreword to an anthology he is assembling, Somewhere in the Shadows.  I was hoping to have an actual story as part of the anthology (also an honor that he should ask), but the timing with the birth of my son just didn’t allow it.  However, I can personally recommend some of the writers in this anthology, including my TESSpecFic groupmate Jonathan D. Allen (and I look forward to seeing the pieces by some of the others).  I’ll keep you posted as release date gets closer.

What does the future hold?

I have no idea.  I’m just happy to get this post up this week.  I have a couple of ideas for next Friday, but we’ll just have to see.

But without further ado…

This is another segment from my travelogue on my trip to Mexico in 2003 with my good friends, Kim and Brenna.  Chronologically, it follows an earlier segment I wrote about working on a sweat lodge, and if you want a fuller background before starting this piece, just let me know.

Otherwise, all you need to know for this piece is that we were staying in a hostel in Ejido Erendira (Coyote Cal’s) run by Shirley, a mix between Spanish and indigenous Indian, and her husband.  The day before, after reading some of my writing, Shirley had offered to analyze my dreams.  I had hedged.

And NOW without further ado…

The Final Day  

The wind rose to a fevered pitch this morning to announce our departure, tearing in from the East, threatening to actually fulfill my nightmares of sending us out to sea.  The tent expanded and imploded with popping sounds as I waited, tossing and turning in the early morning light, for the Big Bad Wolf.  After awhile, I realized the two girls were doing the same.  Finally someone made a joke or maybe a colorful expletive in regards to the relentless wind, and it was all we could do but laugh.

Not a single morning had been spent in the tent much past 7:30, usually as a result of the first morning sun putting us to a slow simmer.  All we wanted for our last night’s sleep was one cloudy morning, but today the wind threatening to flatten the tent on top of us and the flapping of the loose tarp on the unfinished Inipi conspired to keep us awake.

I feared perhaps I had summoned the spirits of the East with a vengeance.  New life, new beginnings would find their way into my life whether I was ready or not.

Attempts to sleep on a couch in the hostel were foiled by a shrill whistling through poorly sealed windows and a door without a latch that wouldn’t stay shut.  During breakfast, Shirley made a couple comments about it being the worst wind she had ever seen in the area.

After breakfast and a gathering of everyone’s information that reminded me of the last day of a Summer Camp for twenty-somethings (a category of which I would fit into for just a few more months), we battled the wind, stuffed the tent in its bag and the bags in the Civic one last time.  I stopped by the office to say my goodbye to Shirley.

“You’re leaving?” she asked.

“Yeah,” I said.  “We need to get back stateside.”

“Can you spend five minutes talking with me upstairs before you leave?” she asked me.

I looked over at Kim and Brenna, confirmed that five more minutes wouldn’t be a problem, and followed Shirley upstairs to the little hallway by the sliding glass door opening to the sundeck.  There was an oversized stuffed chair next to a little table by the door.

Although nothing happened of a sexual nature (whether the girls believe that or not), Shirley looked at that moment like a girl much younger than what I was guessing to be her years.  She wore a thin, loose blouse of Spring colors and a pair of jeans, and her long black hair was pulled over and wrapped in a braid on the right side of her head.

“Have a seat,” she told me.  “Relax.”

It was a strange moment.  Not necessarily uncomfortable silence, but I wasn’t sure if I should say something or wait for her.  Finally I closed my eyes and opened the floodgates of my thoughts.  Seven days of culminated emotion.  It felt like a release even though I didn’t say a word.  But I do think Shirley caught some of it.  This may sound crazy, but when I sat in the chair, I had a feeling that this woman had a gift, and at first, I was weary of the silence for fear that I might say too much.  But finally, and maybe with a little prompting, I opened my mind, and maybe let her in.  I’ve had times like this with other people which I won’t expand on at this point, but which were strong enough to convince me that these things can happen.

After a moment’s silence (or maybe too much noise), she spoke.  “So, you’ve just learned to relax.”

“Finally,” I said and sighed deeply.  “It’s been a long time since I knew how, and I really only started to learn again a year ago.”

“It’s good,” she said, her voice light.  “I sense you’ve had a lot of strain, even trauma in your life.”

I nodded.  She took one of my hands in her own and began to massage it, one of my favorite things.

“Once you learn to relax,” she continued, “this trauma will find a way out of your life.  Often it’s in the form of dreams, and you have to let those dreams out so you can release those fears.”

I understood and agreed with most of what Shirley was saying but kept to myself the fact that I had to hold on to some of those nightmares, because a part of me thrives off them.  I can’t go on writing non-fiction forever.  We spoke a little more before another lull.  Then she asked me an odd question.

“Do you have any other questions for the universe?”

I ran my fingers over my mustache and looked out the glass door.  Part of me felt that she was referring to herself in the universe-person, while the other part wondered if she was just asking on more of a free-advice-from-a-stranger level.

“My only question is an unfair one,” I said.  “A question about what happens next.”

“You wouldn’t want to know,” she said.  “The knowledge of the future very often only serves to change it.”

“That’s why I said it was unfair to ask,” I said.  And I believed it.  I wouldn’t want to know.  Dante Alighieri put fortune tellers and the like on their own level of hell, where they circled for eternity with their heads on backwards, weeping into the slashes on their back.

Or at least that’s what my translation said.

Now I wouldn’t be so severe, but I do believe that regardless of whether or not these people actually have “the vision,” we shouldn’t be privy to it.  Because anything you hear about the future will effect how you act in the present, when in reality, I prefer to just act in the present, and let the future play itself out as it will.

But I won’t say that I’m not intrigued by the possibility.  And when I looked into Shirley’s eyes, the color of gold and bronze, and her pupils narrowed to a pin head, I lost myself as she looked back into me.

“I’ll tell you a little of what I see, though,” she said, her voice down closer to the earth.

And she proceeded to give me just enough, without any details, but detailed enough, to send me on my way with a sense of calm and a renewed conviction in many of my own beliefs.

I think there was a little magic in what she said, so I’ve never shared it with anyone (and don’t plan on starting today on my blog), however…

“What I will give you,” Shirley said just before I left, as the last threads of her words slipped away in the wind, “is a little bit of sage advice.  Take care of what you need first, and don’t worry so much about what you want.  When your needs are taken care of, your wants may change.”

And that was the end.  With a hug and a request that she send out a prayer for me at the sweat on Saturday, we climbed in the Civic and left Coyote Cal’s.  Maybe for good.  Maybe not.

end of excerpt

What do I want from you?

Granted, Shirley wasn’t calling herself a “fortune teller” per se, but just the same, have you ever been to a fortune teller?  What was your experience?

Check back next Friday to see what I’m going to post.  It’ll be a surprise to us both.

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13 thoughts on “A Fortune Teller and an Uncertain Future: More from Mexico

  1. Oh those things sure can happen.
    I don’t know anymore if I like them as much as I used to. In the past I would wait for them and try to make them happen. I thought they were very important and I got a thrill from them. TO be honest–and you know this about me from my writing–I believe people have gifts and some are very sensitive and in tune. I don’t know where it comes from and the older I get the more it scares me a little. Not quite in a bad way–but close. I am attracted to trouble in the spirit realm I think and do better when I do NOT poke around.
    But that is this week.
    Great post.

    1. Try to make them happen, eh? Yet another one of those conversations we need to have over a drink or two someday. Looking forward to the day we all meet in person. But glad to know you might change your opinion on this next week 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Hope you have a good weekend.

  2. Wouldn’t it be fun to all get together and do a seance.
    See–it’s a slippery slope with me Paul…

  3. Sounds like way more than an interesting experience. I think I’m moving too fast through life for moments like those. (I’m working on simplifying, though.)

    1. I’m probably at the same point in my life right now, Marie. But back when I wrote this, things were a little simpler for me.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Hope you had a good thanksgiving.

  4. Too bad Shirley’s final advice to you couldn’t be shared with all those people who battled to be first in the doors at Walmart, Best Buy, etc. last night, but maybe not everyone can distinguish between needs and wants. I very much enjoyed this post, Paul.

    1. Agreed. Especially after the YouTube videos I just watched with you, right? 🙂

      I think many people often confuse what they think they “need” with something that they really just “want.” Glad you enjoyed the post.

  5. I haven’t ever been to a fortune teller. I’m afraid my sceptical nature would have me giggling, leaving behind an offended soothsayer. I’m not ruling out the talents of those people who are hyper sensitive to body language and vocal clues that give them an almost supernatural insight. I think that’s why I read so much fantasy. It’s so far from my beliefs that it is truly a way to escape my world for a while.

    1. Kodi, you make me laugh. I love the way you phrased your comment. A skeptic to the last word. So for you, the disbelief is heavy, but the suspension of said disbelief as far as storytelling is concerned isn’t too much of a burden 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by. Good to hear from you here. Hope to see you in person one of these days.

  6. I’m afraid I’m something of a sceptic when it comes to precognition and the like, though I must admit that I did once consult a psychic, more out of curiosity than conviction. It could just have been a matter of guesswork, but she did mention some things about my life that I doubt she could have found out in some other way. It was interesting – not enough to destroy my scepticism, but enough to make me question it momentarily.

    One thing I do absolutely agree with is the comment “Take care of what you need first, and don’t worry so much about what you want.” I’ve spent so much of my life worrying about fulfilling my desires that I occasionally forgot to fulfil my basic needs, which is perhaps a reflection of the desire-driven culture we live in. This is one respect in which I think we could learn a lot from other cultures.

    1. Yeah, it’s a tough call. Part of me is definitely skeptical. You know, the old thing, “if they say you’re going to meet someone in a red dress, all the sudden you start looking for someone in a red dress.” On the other hand, there is that undeniable side of me that thinks there are some people out there with the genuine capability. A much smaller number than the total amount of people who claim to have the vision, but still some of them. Reminds me of the X-Files with Peter Boyle as the reluctant clairvoyant. A good one if you haven’t seen it.

      And the “needs” is a tricky one as well (and I’m glad people are picking up on that part of this post). If we think about ol’ Maslow, the foundation of the pyramid is, of course, the physiological, but once those needs are taken care of, there are still more “needs” above that are considered psychological. Desires? Passions? I think for some of us, those are more needs than wants. A bigger house and a Harley? Probably more of the “wants.” 🙂

      Thanks for your thoughts.

  7. Omg, too funny… I know these people that you speak of… Just plain ole burnouts that live off what his daddy built. She is long gone by the way.. Left with a lonely traveller I hear.

    1. Greg, no kidding. Did you travel through at some point? I’d love to hear how you know this information. It was definitely an interesting experience. I’m sure if I was traveling down that way again, I would have stopped in for nostalgia’s sake. Probably wouldn’t have stayed too long, though.

      I may email you if you don’t respond here. Thanks for your comments.

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