Madame Zuleikha, Reader and Adviser, had wisely decided not to rent a storefront. She was doing just fine in the large front room of her apartment. Velvet curtains hung in the big bay windows that overlooked a porch with gingerbread trim– quite elegant. She put a discrete drawing of a palm with fortune lines in her window as she was not zoned for business. The Mosque, the one on Elmwood by the car wash, was aware of her, but live and let live.
She felt Milo’s presence before his shadow darkened her door.
“Well Milo,” she said, “It’s an honor. My first prediction is that you can’t afford to pay me. But I’ll read your cards anyway. I don’t get many of your kind.”
Milo tipped his hat in a very old-fashioned way. Madame Zuleikha skipped the usual mystification and cut to the essentials of reading. One candle and a few moments to clear her mind.
Since, after all, Milo was not paying, she laid out a quick 3-card spread on her purple velvet tablecloth.
Five of Pentacles–A wounded man on crutches and a woman in rags desperately seeking shelter in a blizzard. Not in a wilderness. They walk the streets past warm fires and lighted windows in a city where they are not wanted. “Heard from Mary lately?” Zuleikha asked with a meaning look. Milo scowled.
The Hanged Man- “That’s you, Milo. See how serene he looks, hanging upside-down by one foot. Hanging was too good for you. And you always did have a different take on things.”
The Wheel of Fortune– “Milo, how long you going to stay on the wheel?”
Milo shrugged. “Long enough, I daresay. Since you read my fortune for free, I will return the favor, Vanya Litovska. I see you gone before a year and a day.”
The fortuneteller looked disdainful but dropped one of her cards on the floor. Milo picked it up, and handed it to her. Number 1. The Magician.
He tipped his hat again and strolled out her door, his shadow stretched long in the sunlight.
Sure enough, she was gone before a year had passed. Across the street from the Mosque, in the old empty theater, a Spanish Assemblies of God congregation staked their claim. Madame Zuleikha was soon visited by concerned Christians, who bore the urgent message that a very warm place awaited her in the next world if she did not give up her practice of divination.
She decided to seek a warmer place in this world. She pulled together all her selves, American, Russian, Roma. Vanya Litovska said goodbye to the February slush of Providence and caught a train to New York City, on the way to New Orleans, where they understood her craft and her business.
Got no money to pay the rent, but he’s handy, Milo Stranger Part 5–A Room