ÂŠ 2013 Ronen Divon, All Rights Reserved.
Gerald's chest was on fire, his heart about to explode. Out of breath, he didn’t dare slowing down, let alone stop running. “This is not REALLY happening, not really happening, not really happening...” his mind repeated like a broken record. Was the sound of shoes hitting the gravel behind him, growing nearer? Was his chaser closing the distance? “Not really happening...” huffing and puffing. The destiny reading he had done earlier said nothing of the sort. Yet here he was, sprinting like his life depended on it. Earlier that morning Gerald was holding an Instant Take Five lottery ticket in his hand. “Aren’t you going to play it?” wondered Tammy. “Not yet,” said Gerald, sounding hesitated. “Why?” asked Tammy, her tone of voice really saying ‘now what?’ She had known Gerald since Middle School, some fifteen years ago; yet his borderline OCD, combined with a set of distinct world views, was something she still found indigestible. “If I scratch it now and it’s not my time to win, this ticket is worth nothing,” explained Gerald in a whisper, as if revealing a secret nothing short of national security. “Really?” responded Tammy, not bothering to hide her cynicism. She liked Gerald, actually she liked him a lot, but there was so much of his foolishness she was willing to tolerate. “Let me share some privileged information with you.” “What?” asked Gerald, turning his head with sincere interest, completely oblivious to her undertone. “The lucky, or, in your case, more likely unlucky numbers, are already imprinted on this ticket,” blurted Tammy, somewhat embarrassed as she wasn't expecting him to take her so seriously. “Whether you scratch it now, tomorrow or never, it's not gonna make any difference. The numbers underneath this ticket's silver coating are already there.” “Not so,” insisted Gerald, pausing for a moment. He then continued, as if speaking to a child, “There is a bigger picture here which you, and even I, cannot fully comprehend.” “Yes?” said Tammy, her cynicism rekindled, “I am all ears”. She had a Déjà vu of having this conversation with Gerald before. “It is all about timing. When it’s my time to win, these will be the winning numbers!” Gerald's voice rose unintentionally, causing some people at the busy Manhattan street corner, where he purchased the ticket a short while ago, to turn their heads briefly in his direction. “So if you are not gonna to play it,” asked Tammy bemused, ignoring the light rain that just started, “why did you buy it in the first place?” “You really don’t get it, do you?” exclaimed Gerald, agitation creeping into his voice, “these may be my lucky numbers, but only when the time is right.” “Then how in hell can you tell if and when to scratch the card?” questioned Tammy now getting upset herself. “I need to consult my I-Ching” said Gerald, and, finally losing his patience, added, “Let’s go. It's raining and my lunch break is almost over,” as if the two events were somehow mysteriously interconnected. He turned his back on Tammy and marched on, mumbling to himself in a voice barely audible, but loud enough for her to hear, “I can't believe how ignorant she can be sometimes.” Back at the office Tammy was gazing at her computer screen. An unopened email from her boss was marked private. She was waiting for this to happen. For a while now she had a sickening feeling about getting laid off. The marketing firm Tammy worked for was downsizing. She would not be the first to go. There were telltale signs she may be next – catching quick glances by some of the senior management, hearing her name mentioned in a low whisper here and there. Tammy's fingers caressed the computer mouse but her mind refused to send a command ordering her pointer finger to click the email open. She released the mouse and picked up the phone, dialing a number. © 2013 Ronen Divon, All Rights Reserved.
“Gerald speaking,” came the voice on the other end of the line. “I got the email,” whispered Tammy quietly. “The email? Are you sure?” inquired Gerald, his voice painted with concern. “I am quite sure; it’s from her and its marked private, and the subject line says “Please come see me,” replied Tammy. “Listen,” said Gerald emphatically, “it’s just about five o’clock. Pretend you didn’t see the message, take your stuff and leave. I will meet you by the subway station. I am leaving my office right now so I can be there in about 5 minutes.” “But not knowing what the email says - I won’t sleep all night,” said Tammy, her voice already sounding tired. “If it's the news you fear you won't sleep anyhow. Listen, leave it to me. I will explain when we meet.” “Not real happening, not real happening... run, don't look back, damn it! Me and my big mouth.” Getting off the path, north of Central Park's Great Lawn, Gerald's right foot gave way and he crashed to the ground. Gripped by fear, Gerald rose instantly back to his feet, continuing running, ignoring the sharp pain in his ankle. It was getting dark. Very few people were in this area of the park, most of them joggers plugged into their MP players. He could cry for help, but if anyone even notices him, how would he explain all that had happened? He must reach Tammy's place. It was closer than trying to reach his own apartment. If he could only lose the chaser. “Think, think!” he urged himself, “if it's not in the I-Ching destiny reading it cannot happen. The I-Ching is never wrong.” But then another frightening thought struck him, “what if I read the I-Ching wrong?” Hours earlier, shortly after 5pm, Tammy met Gerald by the 42nd Street Grand Central subway station. “I am listening,” she said. “Not here. Let’s go to your place. I'll do a reading,” he replied. Forty five minutes later the two of them were sitting on the floor at Tammy's apartment. Gerald had a small timeworn book laid open by his side. A notepad, a short brown pencil and a small red bag, were scattered all around them. “This is the first time you are actually showing me a reading,” said Tammy realizing in surprise that despite Gerald mentioning the I-Ching, The Book of Changes, for years, he never actually showed her how it is done. “You never showed much interest,” replied Gerald, reaching out to the red bag. That much was true. Tammy was not into what she considered a bunch of superstitious nonsense. But today was different. Today her future seemed to be dependent on it, and she was desperate enough to give this ancient Chinese system of divination a try. “This system is very old,” Gerald explained, “Some date the I-Ching as far back as 1000 B.C.” He paused for a moment, looking at the I-Ching book, his fingers gently caressing its worn cover. “It’s based on the Yin-Yang, the two elements that represent EVERYTHING in existence. Yin and Yang are interconnected and interdependent. One gives rise to the other. All of creation is a manifestation of the Yin-Yang interplay, which--” “Okay, okay,” Tammy cut Gerald short, “I get it. It’s all very ancient, wise and mysterious. I don’t need the details. Let’s just get on with it.” Gerald exited Central Park onto East 83rd Street. He slowed down a little and turned his head back. No one was behind him. Did he lose the chaser or was the punk following him from afar? Tammy lived all the way east, on York Avenue and 83rd. Gerald, feeling sweat pouring down the small of his back, switched his pace to fast walking. The pain in his right foot was pulsing but not as sharp. Thank God he didn't twist his ankle with that fall. The early evening breeze made his wet body shiver. Passing by a Pizza © 2013 Ronen Divon, All Rights Reserved.
joint, the scent of melted cheese sent a twinge of hunger down his belly. He realized it had been hours since he last ate. No time for that now. Tammy’s place was his safe haven. “I will go first,” Gerald said, “so you can see how it's done.” “Okay,” agreed Tammy. “I am going to ask a question and then drop the coins,” explained Gerald. “After that there are some calculations involved, out of which an answer will come. That part is somewhat complicated if you are just starting so please bear with me while I do it.” Tammy nodded in approval, her face clearly showing anxiety. Gerald asked aloud, “how is my financial future shaping up?” He shook the coins clung in his palm, as if shaking dice, and then opened his hand. The quarters rolled onto the floor, making a metallic high-pitch sound. It reminded Tammy a coin game they used to play as youngsters. She looked at Gerald and smiled. Totally absorbed by the rolling quarters, Gerald missed her glance. The coins rolled for a moment and then laid flat. “Two tails, one head.” Gerald read and drew a straight line in his notebook, writing the number 7 by its side. He repeated the process 5 additional times, ending up with a hexagram made of two straight lines at the bottom, and 4 broken lines on top. Consulting his notebook, sketching some more notes and mumbling words such “this is a changing Yin, that a changing Yang”, and “Mountain over Water,” Gerald was utterly focused on what Tammy perceived as a bunch of baloney. Yet she also found herself intrigued, like watching a stupid reality show on TV; a combination of revulsion and attraction. Finally Gerald said “my luck is changing, and for the better! I am going to scratch the tickets. Damn it, I am going to go to the Deli down the block once we are done here and buy a Power-ball ticket! There is still time – I think they stop selling tickets at 9pm.” He was beaming like Tammy never saw him before. “I don't think I've ever seen so much luck in my reading!” he added. Still, Tammy didn't seem convinced. “You know,” she said, “I always thought you to be a smart guy. But this is plain and simple stupid. You really believe that dropping a random bunch of coins and reading it heads and tails can tell you your fortune? Wow...” Gerald considered this for a moment. He didn't seem to take offense at what she said as if he expected that much. “You know what?” he said after a moment, “let’s give it a test run.” He got up to his knees, put his hand into his pocket and pulled out the Instant Take Five ticket he purchased earlier. Sitting down, he picked up one of the quarters and started scratching. Tammy, wearing a skeptical expression, watched him silently. She couldn't see the numbers being revealed on the ticket as his hands at work were covering most of the ticket, so she watched his face instead. His expression was of high concentration and very serious. She suddenly felt a pang of boundless care for him. No, it was more than just caring, not wanting to see him hurt; it was a much deeper feeling she didn't dare name. She quickly discarded it. They were just friends, very good friends, but nothing more. His face muscles didn't move one bit, not even when he was done. She felt bad for him. She couldn't imagine what he must feel seeing his lifelong belief in the I-Ching shuttered in an instance. Gerald silently raised the scratched lottery ticket, holding it in front of her face. She could clearly see three $5,555 amounts revealed, the maximum winning possible for this type of game. Her jaw dropped. Gerald’s face radiated. “I know you would say it's just plain luck,” he said before she could utter a word, “but this is exactly what all of this is about: luck, understanding luck, working with your own personal timing so you find fortune on your side. Luck is not as random as we think.” Tammy was simply speechless. “Now let's do your reading,” said Gerald collecting the coins. “You need to ask the question; this is your fortune.” Tammy looked at him confused, but then collected herself and asked “Am I being laid off?” © 2013 Ronen Divon, All Rights Reserved.
“You asked a yes/no question,” said Gerald. “I-Ching questions should be open-ended. Give it a moment and try again with a larger sort of question,” and a moment later he added, “It’s critical the question you ask is what's really on your mind. The I-Ching answers what's on your mind, not what you verbalize, so focus your mind on what you really want to know and then say it.” Tammy stared at him a little dazed and then asked, “How is my career path going to look like?” Gerald nodded in approval, shook the coins in his hand and released. The quarters rolled on the floor, circling once, twice, and then falling to lay flat. He started taking notes. Reaching Tammy's apartment building, Gerald continued walking. He passed by it, reaching the end of the block, stopped, turned around and looked carefully, wanting to make sure no one was following him. A couple of cars were passing by, an old lady was walking the opposite side of the street, heavy grocery bags in her hands; nothing out of the ordinary. He slowly walked back and entered the building. Gerald pressed the intercom button for #5F and waited. No answer. A minute passed by. He rang again; still no answer. Pulling out his mobile phone, Gerald hit Tammy's speed-dial number. The phone rang once and then went to voice-mail. Not good. She was supposed to be home this evening. What could have happened? He was at a loss as to what to do next. Leaning against the wall opposite the lobby's intercom box, Gerald slid down to crouching. He needed to think. When he did Tammy's reading there were changing lines, indicating multiple reading options. He pretty much ignored the path that had to do with the post-change period as it seemed less important. Maybe it was a mistake. He needed to remember what that was, and decode it. It had to do with her getting involved in a relationship. Maybe that is why he didn't want to read it. He told himself it's not related to her career so it doesn’t matter, but deep inside he knew his motivation for ignoring it was quite different. He was just not ready yet to admit what it meant to him. A few moments after finishing the sixth drop of coins in Tammy's reading, Gerald got up and stretched. He lent Tammy a hand and they both moved to sit by the kitchen table. His notes at hand, Gerald was trying to make sense of what he saw. “I'll give you the gist of it,” he finally said. “Your hexagram is Chun: Initial Difficulty, Water over Thunder. It means that you are facing a period that includes growth potential from a fresh start, maybe with some initial difficulty.” “Oh my God!” exhaled Tammy, “I am being fired!” Gerald didn't respond. He paused for a moment, examining her face, and then, reading from his book, added, “Whatever may transpire, can develop in any direction. You need to accept any help that is being offered to you, make a plan and stick with it. You must allow the situation to resolve itself. Do not interfere; play along.” Tammy looked depressed. Gerald felt his heart sink. “You actually have a dual reading,” he said glancing at his notes, “but the other part is not for the present; it’s about the future so we can ignore it for now,” his eyebrows wearing a frown. Tammy nodded but he doubted she heard him. They sat in silence for a while. Finally Gerald said “come on, it's not the end of the world. It's actually not a bad reading. You are going to go through a change, and, once it's resolved, it will all be for the best.” He then added in a cheerful voice, “come, let’s go get my winning Power-ball ticket! I am going to win, and with that money neither one of us will ever need to work again!” Tammy forced a smile and said wearily, “You go. I am really not in the mood.” Gerald knew better than to insist. “Okay,” he said, “but keep your phone nearby. I will call you as soon as the drawing is over.” “I am not going anywhere,” said Tammy. Gerald got up and walked himself out.
© 2013 Ronen Divon, All Rights Reserved.
Being a little superstitious, rather than buying the lottery ticket at a corner store, not far from Tammy's place, Gerald decided to walk all the way down 5th Avenue to 66th Street, to his favorite Deli. When he reached the place it was already 7PM. With a $600 million dollars -- this week's winning prize, a line formed in front of the register. A large banner carrying the Lottery slogan, 'Hey, you never know,' hung on the wall behind the attendant. Ten minutes later Gerald was holding a Power-ball ticket in his hand. He had never been so excited in his life. “This is it!” he called aloud, pulling unintended attention to himself. “This is the winning ticket!” The Deli cashier smiled. He must have heard ticket buyers say that same line a thousand times, but for Gerald it felt like a slip of his tongue. The information about him winning should have been kept a secret. He should not have announced it aloud. Looking around nervously he noticed a young man, dressed like a punk, standing in line and staring at him with interest. Gerald felt anxious. He folded the ticket and shoved it into his pocket. Exiting the store, Gerald intended to walk across Central Park to his apartment on the Upper West Side. It stopped raining some time before and the air felt fresh even if damp. Walking into Central Park, Gerald heard someone shouting from far behind, “Hey you!” Being a trained New Yorker, Gerald ignored the call. The shouting persisted, “Yes, you, the would-be winner of the Power-ball drawing!” Gerald felt his heart sink, his stomach contracting in horror. He half turned and recognized from afar the young man who stared at him just a short while ago. “He is after my ticket,” thought Gerald. “But the I-Ching had nothing of this sort predicted. My luck was so favorable. How can it be?” The man was approaching Gerald quickly. Newspapers headlines of past years, about Central Park murders, flashed in Gerald's dazed mind. A moment later he started running. Tammy wasn't home and it seemed her mobile phone was off. Gerald felt nauseated. First Tammy is being laid off, then this whole ordeal with the chase, and now Tammy is gone even though she was supposed to be home. Where was his luck? He needed to breathe fresh air. Opening the lobby door, Gerald got back out to the street. The cold felt good. He took a deep breath and turned to watch the East River, his mind entangled and distracted. A taxi was approaching the curbside by Tammy's building but Gerald didn't notice. While the passenger was paying the cabby, suddenly someone tapped Gerald’s shoulder from behind. Gerald turned in a start and found himself facing the young guy from the Deli. From the corner of his eye Gerald saw Tammy exiting the taxi. “Oh my God,” he thought, “he is going to kill me. Tammy will intervene and he will kill her too!” Gerald quickly dipped his hand into his pocket, pulling a piece of paper and handed it to the guy. “Please,” he begged, “here, take it, it's yours. I don't want it.” By that time Tammy joined them, a puzzled look over her face. “Please take it,” continued Gerald, “just don't hurt us, please.” “What is going on?” asked Tammy looking at Gerald and then at the guy. “Don't ask me,” said the man, “this guy is crazy. He dropped his lottery ticket at the Deli. I tried giving it back to him but he run away. I felt bad for him since he was so convinced it’s the winning ticket that I ran after him, but let me tell you – he sure can run...” Gerald looked at the man with total incomprehension. “I already gave up,” added the good samaritan, “and was heading home - I happen to live not far from here, when I noticed this loco by chance,” and then, turning to Gerald, he pulled a lottery ticket from his inner jacket pocket and handed it over. “Good luck,” he muttered as he turned to leave, “looks like you really need some...” Gerald stared at the ticket in a state of shock. He then looked at the piece of paper he was about to hand over to the guy. It was a washed-out shopping list left in his pocket from some days before. By the time realization settled in, the young man was about to turn the corner. “Thanks man! Really, I am so sorry, thank you so much!” Gerald shouted. The guy, without turning, lifted a hand in acknowledgment and disappeared. Tammy wrapped her arm around Gerald and walked him to a bench overlooking the East River. © 2013 Ronen Divon, All Rights Reserved.
“What happened to you?” he asked her, “I tried calling but there was no answer.” “Oh,” said Tammy and pulled out her mobile phone, “I shut it off when I went into the meeting. I forgot to turn it back on.” “What meeting?” asked Gerald, “so late in the evening? You didn't mention a meeting. You said you would be home.” “After you left,” explained Tammy, “I simply sat and cried. Suddenly my phone rang. It was my boss. I debated whether to take her call but figured what the heck, I may as well get it over with,” She paused for a moment, then continued, “She told me she was sorry to have missed me at the office but she needed to speak with me. She asked if I could meet her for a cup of coffee. She said she realized it's somewhat nontraditional. We set to meet and so I headed back to midtown.” “Being laid off after working hours,” grunted Gerald, “that is really taking downsizing to a new low.” “Well,” said Tammy, her face beaming, “I am not fired. On the contrary, I am actually being promoted! I am going to be in management now!” Gerald turned to her stunned, and then, without realizing what he was doing, reached out, hugged her and gave her a lengthy kiss that was more than just friendly. A long moment passed with both just staring at each other, a little shaken by the sudden impulse. They then turned back to look at the river, each wrapped in thoughts. Somewhere in the distance a tower-bell rang nine times. A scent of melted cheese from a nearby restaurant assaulted Gerald’s nostrils. “I am starving,” said Gerald and got up. “Come,” he lent Tammy a hand, “let's go celebrate your promotion.” “It's just past 9PM,” Tammy stated. ”Isn't that the lottery drawing time? We should go celebrate your winning,” she smiled. “Nah,” said Gerald, “I am not going to win. Either I read the coins wrong or else I am starting to doubt this whole I-Ching thing.” “It's actually starting to grow on me,” said Tammy. “Maybe you can teach it to me one day.” She paused, and then added, “At any rate, you still have the Instant Take Five winning ticket, don't you? That is no small chunk of change.” “I do,” said Gerald, “but you are paying for dinner, Big Boss...” He smiled, his eyes shining in deep affection. “I will,” she smiled back, “but when you win the Power-Ball, you are taking us on a cruise.” “Not going to happen,” replied Gerald, “I am not going to win.” “Hey,” said Tammy, “you never know...”
© 2013 Ronen Divon, All Rights Reserved.