The bar was as noisy as ever and so we had to shout to be heard over the mayhem. A stale rock song blared over the questionable sound system. The Celtics and Lakers were playing on the TV up over the bar, and there was the usual din of chatter, arguing and whooping that was a normal Friday night around here.
She slid in so quietly that at first no one noticed she had joined us.
Slowly we all focused on her…a woman plopping down at your table is always welcome in a bar and in her case she was more than welcome. She hadn’t said a word yet but her long bright red hair, falling in a wild cascade of curls, got our attention. But it was more than the way she looked. She had taken full command of the table. In our guy dreams she was there to hit on one of us. Turns out, she promised even more.
We were skeptical at first, when she pulled the small clear glass ball out of an ancient fabric bag. The bag was decorated with moons and stars and mystical creatures and the whole setup seemed pretty weird. But that hair, and now her blue eyes, had us in their grip. Her fingers danced lightly around the ball caressing it and promising to reveal precious secrets. Our eyes were fixed on every move of her long delicate fingers. She could have been selling vitamins; we would have sat spellbound for hours. She told us of the history of the ball, her voice breathy and sensuous telling a tale of ancient princes, and tragic lovers. As she talked of the passing centuries she described the movements of the stars and constellations so vividly we found ourselves looking at the ceiling of this dive bar like it was the eternal heavens.
She was leaning in close now, very close…inches from our faces. I could smell her perfume, the erotic animal smell of her perspiration…her breath on my cheek.
“In your hands, could be the secrets of the ages. But be aware of what you ask for. People have sought great power and been consumed by it, or gold beyond belief and been buried beneath it.” She looked away from us for a beat, as if peering through the smoky bar haze for an eavesdropper, someone not entitled to hear the secrets. Clearly, we were special. She turned back “Or, a love so great that it drives you mad. But if you ask for modest things you will gain modest things…one at a time. As often as you please.”
“So we could get rich by asking if for a few dollars over and over again?” Leave it to Rob to go right for the money.
“Don’t ask for riches, ask for answers. It will answer any question you want, and with the answers you will get all things in their season.”
We huddled for a minute: “Any question at all?”
She nodded “Any question at all.”
Sam, who was always on the make, had an idea “say…we could ask it which girls like us. I mean that way we wouldn’t have to guess!”
She raised an eyebrow and shrugged “If that is what you want of course.”
“Okay” I said, “give us a demonstration.”
Sam blurted out “Is Raquel from 2nd floor Morrisey into me?”
She waved her hand over the ball, it started to glow pink, then darkening, darkening until it became a deep crimson red. She tossed her hair back in a flourish and said triumphantly “It would appear so! In fact, very much so.”
Before any of us could say anything else, Sam had shelled out $100 and the mysterious redhead had disappeared, leaving the ball behind. Sam immediately dashed off to call Raquel for a date while I tried to conjure up the innermost thoughts of one Candy Casey. All I could get out of the ball was a foggy gray.
Sam came back to the table, obviously dejected. “She told me I was a swell guy and that she thought I should ask her roommate out.”
“The one with the cat statues?!” Rob asked derisively.
Sam shot him a look. “Yes the one with the fucking cat statues.”
I still hoped to salvage the situation “she seemed okay to me.”
Rob rolled his eyes “you just wanted to swap saliva with her. We were had.”
I shrugged, “I dunno, maybe we were just doing it wrong.”
Just then our waitress came over to see about refills and spied the ball on the table. She looked at the ball and then looked at us and laughed. “Bought a crystal ball eh?”
Sam answered indignantly “Yes, and it is supposed to have all the answers. It’s going to tell us which one of us you’re hot for.”
“I’m hot for all of you. It makes for good tips. Did any of you brain surgeons happen to turn the thing over?”
We all stared at her.
“I thought not.”
She took the ball and flipped it over. “Oh look! There is a shiny emblem on the bottom of it! Maybe it’s a Royal Seal or…” she dropped her voice to a tone that suggested something too good to be true “the Makers Mark!”
Almost in unison we blurted out “well can you read it? It wouldn’t be English right?”
She looked at it carefully “I think I can just make it out. Oooooh. It says…It says…”
“What for gods sake? You’re killing us.” I almost yelled.
“It says ‘Made in China’. You dumbasses want another pitcher?”
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