First Time

Faith sits behind a desk in her home office like a telemarketer. She’s on the phone talking real estate, lawsuits. This person owes her twenty grand. That person even more. She is concerned about getting the lights on in an apartment complex she owns in the next town over and spends our first half-hour together dealing with such issues, oblivious of me and the reason I’ve made a hundred dollar contribution to see her.

She is enormous.

And much older than pictures make her appear. She wears a huge green dress that looks like a cheap pair of drapes. A down slipper covers her right foot. Her gangrenous left is wrapped in gauze and bandages. The skin that shows above them is scaly and dark brown. Her hair is a tall gray beehive. Her eyes have fudge-colored bags beneath them. She has a big diamond on her hand, a crucifix around her neck. Her desk is littered with a ton of odds and ends. A magnifying glass is mounted smack in the middle of it to overlook a light box that illuminates the palm prints she relies on to make a living. She eventually uses both tools to begin reading the two copies her secretary made of mine.

“There’s something about the letter R that’s very important.”

“R?” I ask.

“The letter R.”

Faith Monroe, to repeat, is a large woman. Large in spirit, reputation, and physical size. She is a regular on radio and TV programs across the country. Both the CIA and Scotland Yard have sought her out on occasion. Dozens of detectives swear by her. And my best guess is she tips the scales around three hundred pounds.

One of her phone lines rings again. More business to take care of. More real estate. I’m still thinking about the letter R angle when she sort of becomes someone else.

“He’s a very hard man. Very hard. And she is more of a tender soul, and so he needs a little tenderness is all.”

“Hard?”

We are briefly interrupted by Faith’s grown daughter, Mary. Something about dinner. Faith tells her to fetch another glucocontrol tablet. Says she’s getting tired.

“Very hard,” Faith says. She then asks me to hold on while she buzzes her secretary to see about the next client. I take this as a sign my time is up.

“Now give me a hug and get out of here,” she says.

I hug Faith while she remains seated in her chair and then hop down a set of short stairs back into the cramped reception area connected to the office where I’d initially entered her home. Close to a dozen missing persons signs are taped to the wooden door Faith’s secretary has cracked open in order to see me off. Most are little girls. All are white. Angel paraphernalia, framed press clippings, a color photo of Ruth Warrick, and numerous references to Christ cover the rest of the darkly paneled walls. An industrial looking coffee maker sits on a table directly under a TV mounted high up on the wall. From here the whole operation reminds me of a cheap rental car office.

Second Time

Faith is now bound to a wheelchair due to a recent broken leg.

“The R,” Faith says, yawning as she looks through her large magnifying glass at my palm print. She’s simultaneously polishing off a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs.

“R’s still there?” I ask. “Is that the problem?”

Faith yawns again. Ever since her injury she’s been working out of her bedroom, which is windowless and poorly lit. We are more or less sitting in the dark.

“There’s wings to fly here,” she adds, pointing to the bottom of my palm print. “See those wings?”

I don’t see any wings.

“See ‘em?” she repeats, using a pen to make an outline of her discovery. “Why don’t you go down and Xerox this,” she says of the palm print she’s already started to dissect.

Faith has a determined look on her face when I return from using the copier. She starts fiddling with numbers on the palm, mumbling them to herself. She leans back in her wheelchair, moving her eyes away from the room’s only source of light. She turns her head slowly in my direction and looks me right in the face.

“The letter R will come into play,” she says.

She starts tracing some more lines in the palm with her pen and magnifying glass. We sit in silence for what feels like two minutes or more. I take a sip of the tea her daughter made for me. Faith tells me she needs to go potty. So do I. When I return from the bathroom down in the reception area, she is already back in her wheelchair and consulting a black hardcover book with no dust jacket. She starts doing her thing with the numbers again. Faith then stops and remains still for the longest period yet. She appears confused, like perhaps she’s lost her train of thought.

“See,” she finally perks up. “I see him flying. Those wings. I don’t know if he wants to learn how to fly, or if it’s always been a—

“Learn how to fly?”

Another long pause. Faith turns again to look at me. Her eyes are like two headlights rapidly approaching on a dark country road.

She gets a phone call, but Ray, her second husband, picks it up after about five rings in another room. She tries to hear but can’t tell who he’s talking to.

Faith drops her pen on the desk for a second. She asks me to help her put on a sweater, saying she’s freezing. She points to the one she wants hanging on the door handle. I drape it around her, which is not easy since she’s all but poured into her wheelchair. She then goes back to the palm and starts doing all kinds of elaborate tracing. She makes several circles, tilting the paper at different angles.

“And there’s an R here—a big R!” she says, nodding wildly and just about shouting out the letter.

“Does it tell what’s gonna happen? Am I gonna get—

Faith cuts me off like I’ve made some terrible mistake. She seems insulted by my abrupt attempt to pin her down.

Third Time

Faith begins ornery and on the attack. She’s pissed at her new secretary for not taking a print of my palm. I defend the woman by saying I’d assured her it wasn’t necessary since I still have the copies from both times before. Faith will have none of it. Everyone provides a print on every visit. Period. She doesn’t care if it’s her own mother waiting to see her. The secretary is to get a print.

“Won’t happen again,” I promise upon returning from downstairs, two copies of a fresh print in hand.

“No it will not.” Faith nods. “Now sit down. Over here.”

“Excuse me?” I stumble. She is no longer using a wheelchair. Her broken leg has become severely infected so she is operating out of her bed.

“Sit,” she says, instructing me to take a seat beside her. I’m no expert, but I know Faith has mastered one thing as a world renown medium above all else, the use of long pauses to make her point. A few minutes pass in eery silence before she places her right hand gently on my stomach, then slowly lowers it into my lap. If there’s an R in helping hand job I’ve learned through experience it requires patience, plus three hundred bucks, a magnifying glass, and light box to find it.

“Spread those wings, softy,” she whispers while pulling my legs apart. “The future’s got nothing to do with why he’s here.”