As Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple observed now and again, women of a certain age are generally overlooked. Even old hippies with purple streaking their silver dreadlocks, gold sparkling their remaining teeth, and art bedecking their long arms may find themselves practically invisible. Even when they incarnate the very essence of joie de vivre.
After fifty, very few heads turn. After fifty-five, very few notice. After sixty, very few see. And after sixty-five, crones walk invisible among us.
This suited Calliope Twisp just fine. Like Miss Marple, she realized while watching the cavalier dramas of the young, that “old people know how valuable life is and how interesting.”
And being practically invisible made it even more interesting.
Of course, escaping notice also helped Calliope professionally.
She was a tarot reader. She was also a certified counselor, a licensed massage therapist, an AHG registered herbalist, an accredited life coach, and a licensed private investigator. Sometimes, the dark corners brought to light through a tarot card reading required a bit of follow-through in order to achieve resolution for her clients, and those additional degrees, certifications, and licenses provided the needed supplemental resources.
“Is it true that you only charge ten cents for a reading?” Reiko Ikeda asked when she showed up for her first appointment with Calliope.
The lean red-haired woman shot her a mean-eyed squint.
“It absolutely is true!” said Calliope. “It’s the other stuff that costs more.”
“Other stuff? What other stuff? What kind of scam are you running?”
“It’s no scam,” said Calliope. “It’s simply that sometimes, some problems, require a little bit of extra push. I never want to do more. I always hope that a client will simply stop with the tarot reading. But, old as I am, tough as I am, I have yet to learn to say no. So when somebody needs help, I step up to give it.”
“For a fee, of course,” Reiko observed.
“Well, more like an exchange!” Calliope laughed. “Money is simply energy, after all!”
Reiko sat down for her reading.
“I’ll stop after one reading,” she said. “Just to help me get clear on this one thing.”
“I hope you do!” said Calliope. “I’ve got all the cases I need at the moment! It would be refreshing, for once, to do a single reading and be done!”
But Reiko didn’t stop after a single reading. They never do. The first reading provided such depth of insight into Reiko’s lifelong pattern of deflecting intimacy through inappropriate anger that, before she hardly knew what was happening, she was writing a check for fifty dollars and signing up for weekly consultations with her life-coach herbalist, who always sent her home with a baggie of fresh mint, dried chamomile, or chopped oregano.
“I feel better already,” Reiko said after the second session. “I even accepted a date with this guy I think is kind of cute, rather than shooting him down with snarkiness.”
Calliope had enough clients to fill most of her days with sessions, research, and investigations. She saw Baako Jang to help him get over his creative block.
“The Five of Pentacles!” Calliope said at his latest reading. “Oh! This is good! You have the resources you need. Can’t you see? You just need to ask for help.”
“What’d you put in this juice, man?” Baako asked. “This is wicked stuff!”
She saw her neighbor Geeta Rasoya, who always seemed worried about her son.
“Raj deserves a promotion!” Geeta insisted. “Why doesn’t he get one? It’s racism. It’s not my son. He works as hard as anyone! I’ve got a good mind to walk right down and have a word with his manager!”
“Weren’t you asking about your nervous stomach?” Calliope replied. “That reversed Eight of Wands that keeps popping up in your readings clearly speaks of the dangers of interfering. Let’s focus on what we can change, rather than on our suspicions.”
She saw students who wanted to cultivate focus, athletes hoping to improve performance, people who were stuck, people who were unstuck, and others who simply wanted to be something different in some other place.
At the moment, her most intriguing case was the one presented by Aadhya Banerjee.
Aadhya had been a successful caterer who was just making the career move to become a bartender. She had a gift for mixing healthy drinks. Even her signature sparkling water, with its secret ingredient of flower essences, made people feel relaxed and happy.
Aadhya had a nice apartment in the neighborhood and a smart, funny, talented daughter who was advancing up through the scouting ranks.
She also had one very big mystery.
“I don’t understand what this Page of Cups is doing in your reading,” Calliope said. “you seem so confident. What is this one area where you lack experience? Where you’re unsure?”
“I can only think of one thing I’m unsure of, really unsure of,” Aadhya answered. “It’s the father of my child. I don’t know who Shanaya’s dad is.”
“And you want to know?”
“And you can’t just… eliminate the possibilities?”
“It’s not like that,” Aadhya said. “You see, I don’t know who the possibilities might be. It’s not that I slept with so many. It’s that I slept with nobody. Shanaya’s dad was a donor. She came from, uh, one of those kind of banks.”
“A sperm bank?”
Some things were best left in the dark.
There were reasons that donations were made anonymously. There were medical consent forms, legal agreements, contracts.
Calliope tried to get her to change her mind, to leave it be.
“Let it rest,” she said.
“With each day, I just need to know,” Aadhya replied. “It’s not that Shanaya is unhappy. She’s not. She’s doing great. It’s just that… I walk through the city, and each guy I see, I think, maybe that’s her dad. What if it’s him? What if he’s right here in this city, and she never gets to know him?”
Calliope drew a card. The Knight of Wands. Adventure. Adrenaline. She knew that Aadhya would pursue this, alone or with help. Calliope might as well step up to be the one to help. Maybe, if she helped in the right way, Aadhya would be able to see past her curiosity and find a wiser response.
The first reading was only ten-cents. But it always seemed to cost a world of trouble.