The Summoning Game

I wasn’t sure about inviting Lucy to the seance, because she has this sort of manic-tragic thing going on right now, and really what we need tonight is more of an open energy. But poor Lucy, she has nothing else to do but wallow, and if I left her alone with herself all weekend, I would be distracted thinking about her psyche, so of course I end up calling her and she ends up strolling into my living room a sort of re-sheveled version of who she was last week. When she arrives we are in the middle of finding Trinket, a lost toy poodle, using numerology, and so the floor is a mess of charts and I think Lucy was expecting a party but I don’t have the chance to get up and explain to her what’s happening, so I just pat a space on the picnic blanket next to me and she glides over and dazedly falls to her knees and perches there, a loaf of anxious fabric and quivering nerves. Marty is describing images to us from his chart and Lucy keeps looking at Marty like he’s Willy Wonka and she’s Charlie, and I have to nudge her and hand her a chart of her own, and she says “Thanks.” I hand her a pencil. I tell her, fill in all the fives and all the combinations of threes and fours and then tell us if you see anything in the chart. She diligently begins.

“Cactus,” Marty continues, “dry places, thorny places, a rose garden, Aïsha, are you getting rose garden?” “But if it was a rose garden you would just have a rose right?” Aisha pushes her glasses up her thin nose. “I think dry is more likely, maybe… a hay loft? an attic?”

“Trinket can’t get upstairs on his own.” That’s Trinket’s owner, Megan. Very downcast, very serious about her lost pet. I’ve never really liked small dogs but I can hardly admit this to myself right now because you can’t bring stuff like that into helping other people, you have to just be in their shoes, in a sense. That’s why I love divination, because you’re required to be outside of yourself, which is the only way to be mindful of someone else’s troubles, and to get to the bottom of any mystery. I believe in it and I don’t. You can convince anyone of anything, really, and usually the conviction that you’ve reached the truth — or even that the truth is out there to be reached — is healing. Ghosts, heaven, alternate realities, past lives — are all just ways of stretching existence so it doesn’t feel so short. If you nurse this desire in someone, the desire for something magical to happen, for material pain to be transformed, sometimes the desire itself can be transformative. In other words, if you want to believe something, you’ll convince yourself it’s true. I’m not really doing anything, except maybe providing a sort of odd-ball therapy with a paranormal twist. And sometimes, it’s just about finding someone’s little dog. So we throw a series of suggestions into Megan’s lap, and she glumly thanks us, and we finish by handing her all of our charts so that she can study them on her own at home. “Lucy, would you like a turn? Is there anything you want the group to help you with?” Lucy’s eyes flicker as if she’s staring into a kaleidoscope. I can tell she’s wading through a giant mess of things she could offer up but is probably too nervous and too new to share. “That’s ok, you can just watch for now.” I run my fingers over her shoulder and wink. She smiles. Flirting. Always calms people down. Even nervy self-professed non-flirters like to be winked at here and there, it makes people feel human, grounded, desirable.

Lucy unfolds her arms and sinks down off her heels to sit cross-legged on the blanket. There we go. I shake out my sleeves, take a long breath, hold it, one, two —who is our next guest? — I breathe out. I feel someone move across the circle and let my gaze open there. Two someones. The Moody twins, Adam and Anthony, are shifting with anticipation. They are younger than the rest of the group, boys really, just out of high school. Moody happens to be both their name and their disposition, and they never seem to be too concerned with distinguishing themselves from one another. Adam clears his throat and Anthony speaks, “As you — most of you — know by now, we are looking to get in contact with our older — “Our baby brother—” “Our stillborn older brother.” “And we’ve tried lots of methods —” “Flashlights, ouija —” “Fibonacci sequencing —” “At this point, we are sort of resigned to the fact that he was too young—” “He doesn’t know how to speak with us.” “But we want to know more about his death. The day he died might be numerically —” “Numerically significant.” “It’s also his birthday.” The air within the circle is still, kind of uncomfortable, and sorry. I’m trying to figure out how to shift the group into a more productive state, because grief really belongs to the griever, and it’s better if you can work within something chaotic and messy like sadness, instead of trying to clear it up. More silence, more shifting. They all look at me, and I tell myself I dislike this gaze, the expectant surveillance of my pupils. I tell myself to dislike it, but being humble and self-effacing is not in my nature. Soliloquizing is. I can’t help but enjoy moments like this when I get to instruct the group: « Let’s remember, as we fill out our charts, that the numbers are randomly arranged. We are not creating the past or future, only discovering it.” I let this sink in for a bit and then continue, “The numbers are both a birth and a death date, think about this as you read your images. You might see two of something, repetitions —” Lucy taps my shoulder — “A rising-falling motion — yes?” “I think I need to step outside for a bit.” She wants me to come with her, but is too polite to ask. I squeeze Lucy’s shoulder and she stands up and wanders towards the back porch. I pass out the papers then leave the group with their charts and follow her out the back door. In the mini fridge on the porch, thank goodness, there are a couple beers, and they are cold in our hands and on our lips as we sit with our legs through the railing, staring into the dark abyss of the garden. We don’t say anything for a long time. I can tell she’s thinking of Saturn from the way she’s pulling at the skin on her neck. In the far corner of the garden, something moves. “I think you have possums,” Lucy finally says.

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