It started out innocently enough. Jeanie and I had been friends for several years, meeting first in the lunch room of Hafler, Lambert, and Sloan. Considering everything that was to happen to us in the future, I might be tempted to ascribe our meeting and friendship to the occult or to supernatural forces, but it really was all the things we share in common: we’re both in our thirties, both women, both secretaries in the same building, and…we both can’t get a date. Oh, I don’t mean that neither one of us can’t get a date, I mean neither one of us can get a good date. Have you tried dating lately? No matter how good he looks on Make-a-Match, no matter how attractive his Facebook bio sounds, you know you’re going to be stuck with a Wally Cox look-alike whose table manners are very close to the Piltdown Man. Jeanie and I put our heads together and decided it was because we’re divorced. Neither one of us would go back again; we’d rather drink poison first, but you’d think that in this day and age the stereotype of a divorced woman would dry up and blow away. I compare notes with Jeanie all the time; some might call it gossip; after all—that’s how the Friday Night Ouija Club came about. We’ve found that on first meeting, a man will be very sweet, very solicitous, but somewhere between the salad and dessert he will reveal that he only sees divorced women one of two ways: either you’re so thankful to get a date you’ll put up with anything, or you’re past the point of caring and you’ll “put out” for anything!
Hope springs eternal, so we haven’t given up entirely, but after a long dry spell we decided to fill those date-less Friday nights with wine and a movie. Preferably with either popcorn or a thin-crust pizza, no extra cheese because we’re both dieting. Right.
We began our friendship swapping horror stories over a tuna-on-rye in the cafeteria. At Hafler, Lambert, and Sloan, I, Susan Hutchinson, am considered something of a miracle worker in the litigation section of the firm. Jean Walcott, my doppelganger-in-divorce, is the whiz-kid in the anti-trust end. Nobody wants to admit it, but a law firm like HL&S would fall apart in a heartbeat if we two decided to tell everyone to “stick it” and rode off into the sunset. Papers wouldn’t get filed; motions would go unrecorded; it would all grind to a halt. I’m constantly ringing up Judge Adam’s chambers because he won’t take either Mr. Sloan’s or Mr. Lambert’s call. Judges can get persnickety like that.
It all started innocently enough. Jeanie came over one Friday night, dressed in our soon-to-be-uniform, sweats and pink tennis shoes, and we shared a bottle of wine (well, a bottle and-a-half). That first night, we never even made it to the movie. We spent so much time giggling over my last date’s hair snafu that the night was gone before you knew it. Oh, it wasn’t that the poor guy, who we’ll call Paul Allen Alessi at 1638 Rosemont Lane (512) 555-1703 and drives a red Beamer, was struggling with a hair piece—no, he had the opposite problem. Hair, healthy natural hair, was growing everywhere. Apparently it was Superman hair and impervious to a knife or scissors, because the tsunami of chest hair coming out of his shirt collar made the air bag in his other car, an Audi, redundant.
Anyhow, misery loves company so we progressed to meeting at my Georgetown condo every Friday night. I have to confess that a lot more than one bottle of wine was consumed most nights, but our nail polish technique grew to be the talk of our respective offices. We dissected the new Tom Hank’s, the new Bruce Willis’, and we spent a fortune on old, romantic movies on Pay-Per-View. We bemoaned our lack of kids, the infidelity of our exes, and laughed at the not-so-subtle attempts by some of the associates to involve us in some extra-curricular office activity.
Jeanie is a smart, no nonsense, down-to-earth kind of gal and the best kind of friend a girl could ask for, but she surprised me one Friday night by bringing over not a movie, but her mother’s old Ouija board, liberated from a hallway closet and wrapped in an old royal-blue car coat.
“Sorry it’s so dusty,” she said, as she blew her old dust into my new-ish home. “I haven’t looked at this old thing in years.”
“I haven’t seen one for sale in decades. I think my brother and I tried it out one time and he tried to creep me out by pushing the ‘heart thing’ to spell k-i-l-l S-u-e.”
Jeanie held up the “heart thing”. “Planchette, my dear—it’s called a planchette, but you’re right. It’s a heart.”
And it was. The indicator was a polished rosewood heart with three tiny felt-covered feet on the bottom.
My place on Camden Place is a one bed, four-room efficiency, if you count the slot where the hot water heater is, and I love it. One of my favorite places is the boxed window nook where I can just sit my big can down, enjoy a cup of coffee, and watch the D.C. traffic below. I directed Jeanie to put the Ouija board and its “heart” there while I uncorked the wine and let it breathe—on its way to my lips.
We didn’t know it at the time, but some invisible line was crossed that night as we sat at my kitchen counter on high-backed bar chairs, drinking wine and staring at the Devil’s oracle.
“Did your mom believe in that mumbo-jumbo?” I said.
“Oh, I don’t think so. When dad and mom were still alive they used to drag it out at holidays and try to scare my Aunt Maude into thinking that my uncle, who was pushing up roses at the time, was talking to her from the grave. Mom was a hoot! All these communications from the grave were always Uncle Paul telling my aunt to sell the jewelry and give the money to my mom.” Jeanie laughed. “I don’t think my aunt ever caught on that mom was fiddling the ‘heart’, but then again, she never sold her jewelry, either.”
I thought of my own parents. “Mom and dad caught religion late in life. They’d consider playing with that as ‘dishonoring’ God or something. Mom probably threw ours out.”
Jeanie didn’t say anything. After the week at work, in which we both were trying to put out fires caused by our billing accountant, she looked as tired as I felt. Jeanie’s red hair was pulled back in a clip and her lipstick was caked in the corner of her mouth. The board sat in a corner of the window nook, daring us in silence. We sat, sipping at the wine, till a little mischievous gleam came into Jeanie’s eyes.
“Oh, to hell with it! It’s just a game.” She looked at me, “Want to give it a whirl?”
I said, “Of course!”— took a big gulp of chardonnay, retrieved the board and planchette, and Jeanie and I sat Indian-style facing each other on my white shag carpeting.
Staring at its lettering and numbers, I said, “How does this thing go? It’s been a long time.”
Jeanie arranged the board so that we both faced a side, the lettering running a straight line from her sneaks to mine. Then she placed the “heart” in the center of the board. “We put our fingertips on the heart, relax, think pure thoughts, and see what happens…no, wait! We have to ask it a question. What should we ask it?”
I thought a moment, the wine flushing my cheeks. “Sex, of course…” I giggled, “I get to ask first…”
We both put on our most pseudo-serious expressions, me nearly giggling out of control, laid our fingertips on the “heart”, and I intoned, “Oh mystic board of the Ouija, will I soon meet a tall dark, handsome stranger?”
The heart jiggled. I looked at Jeanie, a half-smile on my face, and said, “you faker you…!”
“Don’t look at me!” Jeanie said.
The “heart” slowly moved to point at the word “yes”.
I said, “No fair cheating. You have to…”
My doorbell rang. I had forgotten about the pizza.
It’s a straight shot from where Jeanie sat to my front door and as I got up and answered the door I heard her laughter cut short when she saw the pizza boy.
This was no boy. This was freakin’ Clint Eastwood circa the year the movie “The Beguiled” came out! His dark black hair was slicked back just-so, he towered above me and he was wearing a tight, short-sleeved black t-shirt that made his arm muscles look like Sherman tanks headed for Berlin. I must have stammered something because he said, “I said ‘I have your pizza here’.”
My hand went involuntarily to my hair and I regretted choosing my worst pair of sweats. I said, “I…I’m sorry. How much did you say?”
He flashed a 100 megawatt smile. “Sorry—I didn’t. That’ll be $14.50, please.”
He was still smiling as I turned to get my purse. Jeanie was making “goo-goo” eyes at me, trying to break what little composure I had, and I threw her darts with my eyes as I tried to find the right change.
I handed Clint a wad of bills. He said, “Err…this is a bit much, Ma’am. Let me make you change…”
I could hear Jeanie roaring behind me.
As he traded bills around, I stammered, “I…if you don’t mind me asking, err—saying; I was expecting the usual boy that delivers. Is he sick or something?”
Again that killer smile. “That’s Joey, my boy. Yeah, he’s got a bug or something so the ‘ole man is taking up the slack for him. If I knew I was going to meet a pretty woman like you I wouldn’t have complained so much about helping him out.”
My knees were doing something funny. I said, “Aren’t you sweet? Listen…” I pointed to Jeanie, who was trying to bury her face in the shag rug. “…my friend and I were just having some wine. Would you like to join us?”
“I’ll have to take a rain check. Unfortunately, I have another three hours of deliveries and I want to see that my boy holds onto this job. I’m trying to teach him responsibility—by doing his work for him.” He favored me another smile, handed me some money and the pizza, and turned to go.
As I watched him walk to the elevator, I called out, “Don’t be a stranger!” and immediately closed the door, hopefully cutting off Jeanie’s howling laughter.
She was literally crying as I sat back down, pizza box in hand.
“The look on your face!” she said, “I wish the others in the office could have seen that!”
I put the pizza beside us. I looked at the Ouija board, then at Jeanie.
“A tall, dark, stranger” I said.
I looked at her, she at me, and neither one of us moved. Abruptly Jeanie startled and said, “Me next!”
We placed our fingers on the “heart” and Jeanie said, “Oh Ouija board, Rodger Colman has asked me out. Should I have a drink with him?”
The heart slowly moved till it pointed at the “no” word. I was just about to say something smart-alecky when the indicator began moving to letters.
The felt pads on the heart made a shuffling, scraping sound as it spelled out n-o-t-s-a-f-e.
Rodger Colman was the young paralegal that worked out of acquisitions on the ground floor. Even my assistant, who is no spring chicken, had the hots for him.
“’Not Safe’? What does ‘not safe’ mean?” Jeanie said, a mock-hurt look on her face.
I said, “It means office romances are not a good thing. We ought to know—we’ve seen enough of them go kaflewy.” I took my hands off the heart, grabbed the pizza box, and handed Jeanie a slice of sausage and black olive, cupping my hand to avoid dripping on the carpet.
Jeanie was still play-pouting. “Oh sure. Suze gets her dark and handsome. All I get is the big brush-off. What’s the matter with Rodger Coleman, huh? What…?”
We heard the slow shuffling of the Ouija heart.
Jeanie’s eyes held mine. She had both hands on the pizza slice, its bulk frozen halfway to her lips. My own hands held my slice. Slowly, we both let our eyes drift to the board as the heart spelled out, in maddening slowness, d-a-n-g-e-r.
Jeanie screamed and threw down her pizza, missing the board by inches. She jumped up, ran to the kitchen, and poured more wine into her glass and drank all of it as fast as she could swallow.
“Tell me I did not see what I just saw!” she demanded.
I was spooked, but I said, “You didn’t. I’ve read about this. It’s auto-hypnosis. You have a few drinks, you get worked up a little, and you see things that aren’t really there. It’s human nature.” I liked being the voice of reason.
Jeanie said, “But you saw it, didn’t you?”
“Uh huh.” I joined her at the counter. “Read it in Time magazine just yesterday. They say that’s where mass hysteria comes from. You get a big suggestion, I catch a whiff of it, and we see the same thing. That’s where all the UFO stuff comes from. Think about it: it all started with the pizza boy—man. He was so close to what I was thinking of that when he showed up at the door, the suggestion was put into our minds and bingo…we were off to the races!”
“Here, I’ll show you…” I led her by the hand and made her sit down in front of the board.
Placing my fingers on the heart, I said, “We ask for something that can only be answered, say—tomorrow. Then, in the light of day, when nothing happens, we see that this is just two crazy old broads with a little too much wine. Okay?”
Jeanie seemed a little shaky, but she said, “Okay.”
“Good. Okay, I got it.” Jeanie put her fingers on the heart.
“Oh magic Ouija board, Monday’s lunch always has soup. What kind of soup will it be?”
Jeanie said, “I think you should have gone for something with a yes or no answer. I don’t…”
The heart began to move.
t-o-m-a-t-o was spelled.
“There you go. We’ll go to work on Monday, meet in the cafeteria, and see what Helen comes up with. The odds of it being tomato are about one-hundred to one. Sound reasonable to you?
Jeanie seemed more secure. “Yes. Monday it is.”
Taking my hands off of the “heart”, I grabbed my glass of wine, raised it in toast, and said, “Here’s to the Friday Night Ouija Club.” We drank.
Jeanie said with bravado, “I nominate Susan Hutchinson President! Do I have a second?”
I said, “Second!”
Now we were getting giggly again. “I nominate Jeanie Walcott for Secretary, due to her enormous experience in filing, typing, and taking dictation from idiots! Do I have a second?”
We put the board and its accessory into my closet next to the ironing board and filled the night watching a rerun of “Bell, Book, and Candle”. The irony was there, but we both ignored it in favor of more wine and mooning over the young Jimmy Stewart.
The weekend passed as it always does: too quickly, with shopping and dry-cleaning and the weekly dusting of furniture. Spent, and a little bored, on Sunday night I treated myself to a long bubble bath and hoped that the “pruney-ness” of my fingers and toes would be gone before work tomorrow.
Monday came and I had forgotten about the Ouija’s prediction till the noon hour rolled around and I headed for the fourth floor.
Hafler, Lambert, and Sloan is no fly-by-night operation. One of the oldest law firms in the Washington D.C. area, the three-person name is deceptive. HL&S are the only partners, but they employ over fifty associates, paralegals, assistant associates, and of course, the real backbones of the company, legal secretaries like Jeanie and me. HL&S occupies all of the Wharton Building at the intersection of Thomas Jefferson and “M” in Georgetown, and if you can deal with the way the carpeting seems to pull at a girl’s high-heels, it’s a pretty nice place to work. The executive dining room is reserved for the three-headed-monster and clients, so we working girls have to brown bag it or settle for whatever Helen and Joe the potato-peeler put in front of us in the cafeteria.
I met Jeanie coming in through the front door of the cafeteria, taking in the sterile grey of the walls. My office is a pleasing blue, I’m sure the color chosen for its psychological benefits, and you have to wonder who chose slate grey for an area you would soon be digesting food in.
No smell gave it away. The cafeteria always has a smell but it’s not of food. It’s some kind of mix of disinfectant and dust, stale air and rust. Jeanie and I got in the short line with our trays, waited patiently for the runty guy from the first floor to make up his mind about chicken or beef sandwich, and finally approached Helen the cook—who was ladling out big steaming bowls of…tomato soup.
Jeanie and I looked at each other but didn’t say a word. We both accepted a bowl and moved off to our customary table by the window. The tables, pale Formica with picnic-style seats, are hard to navigate with a skirt, but we seated ourselves and proceeded to engage in a silent battle with our eyes.
Told you so.
We both looked at the soup and back up.
Finally I waggled my eyebrows and said, “It doesn’t matter. It’s just a ‘goof’—a fun thing and when the odds stack up so that the board gets something right, well, we get a big laugh out of it.”
“What about the “danger” part? I…”
We were interrupted by a body clumsily settling itself in the seat next to Jeanie. I looked at the man and it was…Rodger Coleman.
“All right if I join you ladies?” he said.
I can’t say the Ouija didn’t influence my feelings. All of a sudden, I didn’t like the guy.
“It looks like you already have,” I said.
Rodger didn’t say anything, merely arranged his fork and spoon and looked thoughtfully at Jeanie. After a minute he took a bite of his sandwich and said, “So, Jeanie—have you given any more thought to joining me for a drink one of these nights?”
I know Jeanie, and I could see wheels turning in her head. The soup. The board. Danger.
Finally she said, “Oh, Rodger. I’m not putting you off; it’s just that this week is a bear. Maybe after the weekend?”
Rodger smiled. “Sounds good to me, but I’ll hold you to that.”
He is good looking. A little young in my opinion; twenty-nine to Jeanie’s thirty-two. He must come from money because I know what paralegals make and he dresses better than that salary would allow. In addition, housing in the area doesn’t come cheap.
I said, “How are things in Whitman’s office?” Cal Whitman is one of the many first-year associates, slogging away at twelve-hour days somewhere in the back of the second floor, chained to the albatross known as billing, billing, billing.
“Oh, you know—it’s a dungeon and I’m the moat keeper. Not for long, though. I expect to rise through the ranks soon.”
Fat chance, Charley, Paralegals are the lowest rung on the ladder. There are forty associates standing in line in front of Rodger Coleman. It didn’t speak well of Rodger Coleman’s intellect if he didn’t realize it.
I said, “Well, good luck.” And Jeanie nodded her agreement, paying more attention to the soup than to Coleman. Coleman finished his lunch and, throwing a breezy “see ya” over his shoulder, got up and headed for the door. Jeanie was getting up, too.
I said, “That guy gives me the willies. You’re not still considering going out with him, are you?”
Her eyes looked dark, worried. “I’m not sure. He seems nice, though.”
“So did the Hillside Strangler.” Jeanie gave me a reassuring squeeze on the shoulder and went back to work.
The week went by without event; the usual routine that never really is routine; organizing my boss’s schedule, keeping track of a million appointments that he never seems to make on time, and the trauma of breaking a nail on my word processor. Jeanie and I kept our lunch dates and managed to avoid the subject of Rodger Coleman altogether.
The Friday Night Ouija Club met right on time; 8pm with Gyro sandwiches on the menu. After some wine and the Gyros, we brought out the board and took our positions, our wine glasses buried deep in the carpet’s shag to stay upright.
“You go first.” Jeanie said.
I had been hoarding a question all week. I said, “Oh magic Ouija board, I lost a hoop earring weeks ago, it’s my favorite pair, and for the life-of-me, I can’t find it. Tell me, oh mystic oracle of the unknown: where is my earring?”
Jeanie said, “I love that pair. They were my favorite, too. I…”
The heart scraped its way to the line of letters and spelled out: s-h-o-e
“Oops! Sorry, magic board. Wrong answer. I said ‘earring’.”
Jeanie said, “No, silly! It means ‘shoe’. It’s in your shoe.”
As customary, I was wearing my usual sneaks. I said, “I think I’d feel that earring if it was in my shoe.”
Jeanie playfully rapped her knuckles on my head. “Duh. You have more than one pair of shoes, don’t you?”
Giggling like little girls, we jumped to our feet and hustled into my bedroom. Pushing a row of dresses aside, we pulled every pair I own out of the closet. Jeanie struck gold on the third pair, a pair of black flats that I hardly ever wear.
“Ta Da!” Jeanie said, holding the wayward loop aloft. “The Ouija strikes again!”
My hand went involuntarily to my ear. “I…I never would have thought to look there. I must have dropped it accidently and it fell in there.” Jeanie put the hoop in my hand.
“Goody! Now I’ve got something new to borrow. C’mon, I want my turn at the board.” With that, Jeanie took my hand and dragged me back to our seated positions on the rug.
Placing our fingertips on the heart, we both looked at each other like co-conspirators and Jeanie said, “Magic Ouija board, we gals need some money. Bucks, moo-la, cashola—the old greenbacks. Where can I find some money?”
I looked at my half-full wine glass imbedded in the carpet. I couldn’t detect any movement of the glass—but the wine was undulating like an invisible finger was swirling the contents.
The “heart” slowly spelled out t-r-a-s-h
I said, “Trash? I’m not throwing out good money in the trash! This thing is on the blink.”
Jeanie’s face looked like the Cheshire Cat. She said, “Really? Show me the earring.”
I said, “Good point.” We both got to our feet, both of us moaning as our aching knees cracked, and we went to the kitchen, and the small trash container under the sink. I produced some paper towels and we spread the small contents on the paper. I saw some old dental floss, a few egg shells, and a pile of artichoke leaves that I had picked off the plant when I had it for dinner Wednesday. Stuck to the side of one leaf, secured with a mayonnaise-y glue, was a slightly greasy twenty-dollar bill, staring us right in the face.
I was dumbfounded. “How in the hell did that get there?”
Jeanie had separated the twenty from the slime and was dancing around the kitchen, waving the bill above her head. “Whoo—hoo! Twenty smackers, baby! I hear the manicurist calling!” Abruptly she stopped and said, “You are going to share, aren’t you?”
I said, “Of course. You did say ‘we need some money’. I would have thrown that twenty out with the trash if not for your question.”
Jeanie was headed for the board. “If not for the Ouija board, you mean. Let’s ask it for some more!” Jeanie motioned me over as she excitedly sat in front of the board.
Once we had our fingers on the heart, Jeanie said, “Oh Supreme Prognosticator of Camden Place, we need some more dough. ‘Show me the money’!”
The heart appeared to wander, and then finally settled on the printed word goodbye.
“Aw—that’s not fair! Phooey.” Jeanie pouted.
I said, “I guess it doesn’t want us to get greedy.”
“Well, I take it as a sign it’s time to go home. I finally said “yes” to Coleman and I need a good night’s sleep. He’s taking me to ‘Egos’. The Friday Night Ouija Club is officially adjourned.”
I didn’t say anything. “Egos” is the new trendy yuppie bar on DuPont Circle that has a waiting line and a very particular maître de. No woman wants to see her friend live in fear so I was thankful that she hadn’t taken the board’s words about Rodger Coleman seriously. At the same time, I had an uneasy feeling about him. Inside, I kicked myself: Damn it! It’s just a game—a trick of the mind. I subconsciously remembered the earring; I subconsciously remembered the money. It’s no different than some famous pop star “dreaming” his latest hit or some author waking up with the idea for his or her new best-seller. To show my contempt for it, I put the board and its planchette in the window box and let it stare at me.
Once Jeanie had left, I double-checked all the locks and sat on the couch, drinking more wine and thinking about my mother’s Ouija board. I couldn’t remember her doing anything specific with it, only feeling that in general she disapproved of it being in the house.
A thing can’t be evil, can it?
Saturday morning came and I busied myself with the usual weekend chores: I donated some old clothes to Goodwill, paid way too much for a little clutch handbag that matched my one non-black pantsuit, and spent half-a-day trying to make deviled eggs only to end up chopping them up to sprinkle over salads.
I was just filling the tub to take a long soothing bath when I heard a soft chafing sound.
Chuff…chuff…chuff—it sounded like two pieces of paper rubbing themselves together. The sound seemed to be coming from the living room. My heart skipped a beat. My worst nightmare was coming true. I have a gas fireplace that I never use and my mind slipped to an image of the pipe that supplies the gas leaking out into the room and exploding in a big ball of fire. I raced into the living room, the bottle of bath salts still in my hand, sniffing the air for the tell-tale odor.
There was none.
In the window box nook the Ouija board leaned up against the glass. The “heart” was making a slow scrubbing motion, over and over, spelling out the word g-a-s.
All by itself.
I felt my own heart pounding in my temples. I looked at the heart, I looked at the fireplace. I smelled the fireplace. There was nothing. I looked again at the heart and it had come to rest on the padded cushion set in the window.
I put my head back and laughed as hard as a human being possibly can. I had done it! My fear of the gas had made me imagine the whole thing! I had willed myself into believing the board was telling me something—warning me about something. The gas. I couldn’t wait to tell Jeanie about the whole episode. I had just turned to go take my bath when I heard the chuff…chuff…chuff sound again.
Chuckling to myself, I turned and the heart-shaped indicator, suspended in air on the board, was spelling a word I couldn’t quite make out. I was waiting, promising myself to take a week off from work, when I finally made out what the heart was spelling.
It spelled: e-g-o-s
The bottle of bath salts exploded on the floor as I flew to my closet, grabbed my coat and raced for the elevator.
The cab ride was a blink of an eye—the Hilton and the Parisian Embassy building a blur outside the window. When we drew up to the curb, I threw every dollar I could find in my purse at the irate cabby and flew into Egos, the doorman cursing and waving and obviously not anxious to tangle with a mad woman in sweats, dress code-or-no-dress code.
I found Jeanie and Coleman at a small dot of a table, the place so packed that I had to fend off elbows everywhere just to get close enough to shout over the din.
“Come on!” I yelled, grabbing her arm.
I’m sure my hair was all over the place and I looked demented. Her dazed confusion at seeing me there made her mouth pop open.
“Suze? What are you doing here?”
I was on a mission. I said, “Come on!” pulling her to her feet, toppling over their drinks. Coleman, rising and trying to get away from the spilled liquids, wiped his pants and said, “Christ! What do you think you’re doing?”
It was so noisy that I had to yell. “You’re in danger! There’s no time to explain! You have to come with me now!”
When I said “danger”, all life went out of Jeanie’s face. I had a death grip on her arm and the normally muscular tone of her flesh felt like cotton. Coleman, to his credit, could see something was wrong.
“Now look, Susan. I know you don’t like me all that much but really, we’re just having a drink and as you can see from the crowd here…” he gestured at the people around us, “…she’s in no danger from me. She’s perfectly safe and…”
We were already moving. I dragged Jeanie through the crowd, dodging waitresses and tables, and headed for the exit; Coleman scurrying behind us, trying to catch up. Just before we broke out into the street, my peripheral vision caught a small red rectangle suspended on the wall and I yanked on the fire alarm as quickly as I could.
Stumbling across the street, Jeanie and I stopped at the bus-stop sign at the Madison Street juncture. Coleman came running up and was about to say something when all of our attention was drawn to the shrieking, screaming flood of people running from the door to Egos.
Then the building exploded.
The blast came from the back of the brick building, so the people exiting through the door were unaffected but panic was everywhere. As my heart hammered in my chest, I looked at both Jeanie and Coleman and I just shook my head. Their hands were locked in one another’s.
They found out later that a small cooking fat fire had burnt into a gas line—the gas line not having been serviced since it was first installed decades ago. Most of D.C. is like that. The infrastructure is crumbling and even in the Capital of the world’s only remaining superpower, there’s not enough money to repair everything and buy guns and bombs, too. The papers say that if some quick-thinking bystander hadn’t set off the fire alarm, many more people would have been killed. As it was, the kitchen crew never stood a chance.
A week later, the Friday Night Ouija Club came to order.
We had slices of pizza arrayed around us, and the requisite wine balanced wherever it would stay and not tip. The fire, of course, was not lit—but I had the heat up in my condo to ward off the autumn chill. We placed our fingertips on the board’s accessory and prepared ourselves for whatever may come; be it lost keys, found fortune, lost lives.
I looked up and said, “Would you like to begin?”
Rodger Coleman, the Friday Night Ouija Club’s new Sergeant-at-arms, smiled and said, “Oh magic Ouija board, is my future wife in the room tonight?”
The Friday Night Ouija Club
A Short Story by Daryl Buckner
Copyright Daryl Buckner © 2013
All rights reserved