My Psychic Life Coach

by Thomas MUNDT
 

Duane isn’t returning my calls. He’s my Psychic Life Coach (or “PLC,” for those of us in the community), and while portions of his outgoing message are difficult to decipher due to the prominence of planetarium music in the mix, I’m certain I can hear Duane announcing that he’s taking A Leave of Absence of Indeterminate Length. There are no mentions of emergency contact info, no referrals to reputable interim PLCs in my area.

With each subsequent call, all I hear is Shirking of PLC Responsibilities and Breach of Fiduciary Duty, and I immediately consider filing reports with both the Department of Professional Licensing and Regulation and the Better Business Bureau. It is only after a long, warm bath with Epsom salt, however, that I shelve my whistleblowing and walk next door to confront Duane face-to-face, client-to-PLC.

§

I’m about to knock again when Duane’s figure finally materializes through the screen door. He’s not wearing a shirt and there is a Scarlet Macaw parrot perched on his forearm, its talons opening and closing and drawing faint trickles of blood. He smiles like he just caught me in a lie.

“It’s good to see you, Reginald. Welcome.”

Duane’s home smells like a Bath & Body Works and, in the living room, there is a young woman sitting cross-legged on an ottoman, eating almonds from a Ziploc bag. She is also sans chemise, her stringy black hair long enough to drape her bosom, and she doesn’t avert her eyes from Barefoot Contessa to acknowledge my presence.

“I’d introduce you to Oksana but I’m afraid that, unless you are fluent in Estonian, the same would be fruitless.”

“You’ve abandoned me in a time of crisis, Duane.”

§

We take our tea on the back porch. It is there that Duane informs me that, effective immediately, he’s unilaterally ending our PLC-client relationship. He’s walking away from the trade altogether, actually, has already accepted an entry-level call center position with a regional auto insurance carrier. He directs my attention to the stack of unassembled moving boxes resting against the siding of the house, indicates his readiness to uproot and re-seed in Skaneateles, NY by month’s end.

“I’m reluctant to classify it as a ‘retirement,’ per se. But it feels permanent, Reginald. This economy has made beggars of us all.”

Duane insists that I not take the severance personally, reminds me of the book of business it took nearly thirteen years of Life Coaching to amass, the tens of hundreds of dollars he will be walking away from and the valued clientele to whom he must bid farewell. Today’s unscheduled appointment will be pro-rated, he continues, my initial $350 retainer refunded with interest.

“I’d be remiss, Reginald, if I didn’t suggest you press forward with a new PLC. You’re a wayward vessel, in need of mooring.”

He suggests I contact Glenda at the Agency, so that she can review my Current Needs. Ultimately, he believes Rayanne will be best suited to assume his post, what with her being a Chickasaw medicine man in a past life and the owner/operator of a functional ’98 Toyota Tercel in her current.

“She’ll come to you, Reginald. Just give her fifteen, twenty…”

“I don’t want Rayanne. I want you.”

I bring up the frayed wires, the wet floor at that Steak ‘n Shake. The exhaustive inventory of disasters averted due to Duane’s timely soothsaying. I can feel my Panic Dam swell and bulge, the wellspring of doubt on the other side poised to flood my brain and drown my future. It is then that Duane reaches across the card table, presses his gummy palm against the top of my right hand. Our eyes are magnet halves, mine wet with fear and his bloodshot from all the caffeine, inextricably locked in place.

“Reginald, why did you come to me today, seeking counsel?”

I tell Duane about Melissa, about the trips to Starved Rock with the journeyman roofer. How she returns home well past 10:30 pm CST, our agreed-upon weeknight curfew, smelling of curly fries. Could her heart belong to another?

Duane settles back into his tattered lawn chair, arms folded in deliberation.

“That bitch is definitely stepping out on you, Reginald.”

§

I scroll through the profiles at PsychicPsource.net in search of Duane’s successor but find nothing but charlatans. Bekah’s Power Rating is a robust 4.9 out of 5, but her primary focus appears to be reuniting pet owners with Golden Labs who break free from backyard barbeques and end up in Oregon. Mistress Sindee claims to have predicted the collapse of Lehman Brothers back in the mid-80s but couldn’t prophesize HAROLDWINNICK1’s gout. And so on.

I power down, fold the laptop over. Through the bay window I watch as Duane and the Estonian woman set up long folding tables along the sidewalk, drag boxes of useless bric-รก-brac to be liquidated. The makings of a garage sale.

Soon, Duane will embrace a new era, its high-quality nature presumably clear as crystal to him for years by now. He’s already foreseen his meteoric rise to middle management, his career trajectory the stuff of legend within the industry braintrust. He already knows he has a touch lamp, adequate stapler refills. He will have benefits, health and otherwise. He will have everything in his Central New York Valhalla and time will Swiffer away our mentorship period from memory, a mere dust bunny on his life’s Formica.

As for me, I will simply be. I will sit idly by and watch as Melissa finds herself, mainly in the company of other men. I will take strange comfort in her romantic meanderings, manifestations of Duane’s final revelation. I will contemporaneously consume foodstuffs with dangerously-high levels of trans fats and high-fructose corn syrup, and for no good reason at all.

I will accept that total, irrevocable ruin awaits me around every corner, skulks through every shadow, ready to bludgeon me with my own terror.

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